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7 Steps to Get a Good Night’s Sleep During a Pandemic

The COVID-19 outbreak has left the world scrambling for answers. As we look for them, it’s vital to remember the important role sleep plays in building our immune systems.

Because sleep is a natural immune booster, making sure we consistently get a good night’s sleep is one of the best ways we can improve immunity and defend against viruses and disease.

I’m not saying sleep is a panacea for coronavirus or any illness. What I am saying, though, is this is an opportunity to practice the fundamentals.

There’s no debate sleep is a vital component of staying healthy and is necessary for your immune system to run as efficiently as possible.

Sleep fosters T cell production

T cells are white blood cells that play a critical part in the immune system’s response to viruses. Sleep deprivation, meanwhile, stops T cells from responding efficiently — and makes it more difficult for the body to fight back against illnesses.

The immune system’s response time is also improved by getting a good night’s sleep. By completing the four sleep cycles (which equates to roughly 6 hours of sleep), you’re supporting the release and production of cytokine, a multifaceted protein that helps the immune system quickly respond to antigens, which are toxins and other foreign substances. Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, highlighted this in 2019. Findings indicated poor sleep was the No.1 factor in determining whether someone would get sick after being exposed to the cold virus.

Get to bed

The coronavirus outbreak has understandably become a worldwide story in the past few months. By getting a full night of sleep, we help our bodies best fight back against potential threats. Here’s how to stay safe and healthy:

Give yourself an electronic curfew of 90 minutes prior to lights out. This means a media diet before bed (you need time to relax and destress). Remove blue light by wearing blue light blocking glasses; it will help you wind down before bed and help your body produce melatonin on the proper schedule.

Consider meditation or progressive relaxation before bed or while falling asleep.

Compile a gratitude list in your mind (while lying in bed, in the dark). Many people think stressful thoughts as they fall asleep (which makes sense; it’s the first time all day you get to think by yourself), but that causes increases in our fight-or-flight hormones. Thinking less-stressful or positive thoughts can help reduce stressful feelings and help with sleep (improves deep sleep and encourages more positive dreams).

Keep your schedule consistent. The more consistent your wake-up time, the more consistent your overall body function. Avoid extra napping if you are home bound. It will only disrupt your nighttime sleep.

Lower stimulants and depressants. Caffeine and alcohol — if you are already stressed, adding caffeine to the mix is not a great idea; it will only increase the unwanted side effects. Alcohol, while making you feel sleepy, does not allow for quality rest, which in turn, will make you feel even more stressed if you have a hangover the next day. It also makes you less able to fight a virus.

Take a hot shower or bath 90 minutes before bed. Wash off all those germs and increase your core body temperature. Your body temperature will decrease once you get out of the tub and help produce melatonin naturally.

Make sure your environment is clean. If possible, use HEPA filtration for your bedroom air. Wash sheets two times a week (in hot water); try to do an overall deep cleaning of your bedroom; you will be spending a lot of time there!

Michael Breus, Ph.D., is a Clinical Psychologist and both a Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine. He was one of the youngest people to have passed the Board at age 31 and, with a specialty in Sleep Disorders, is one of only 168 psychologists in the world with his credentials and distinction. Dr. Breus is the author of three bestselling books, Good Night: The Sleep Doctors 4-week program to Better Sleep and Better Health, The Sleep Doctor's Diet Plan: Lose Weight Through Better Sleep, and The Power of When: Discover your Chronotype. Dr. Breus appears regularly on “The Dr. Oz Show”, CNN, “The Doctors”, “CBS This Morning” and “Huffington Post Live.” He contributes to The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and The Dr Oz Blogs. He is the official sleep expert for Princess Cruise lines where he helped to develop the "SLEEP by Princess" program and the Princess Luxury Bed. For more information check out http://www.thesleepdoctor.com.