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How nurses can get better sleep during COVID times

Updated: Feb 16

Like so many issues during the pandemic, sleep is not one nurses can afford to let slide


DrLullaby's founder, Lisa Medalie, PsyD, DBSM contributes to this AJC article, giving tips for getting better sleep to nurses working in this tough time.



Sleep tips for nurses working into the wee hours


Could this list get any longer? Well, yes, You and your wide awake self are also coping with the loss of daytime structure that “can upset nighttime sleep schedules,” according to board-certified clinical psychologist Lisa Medalie, a behavioral sleep medicine specialist at the University of Chicago Medicine. She wrote in the UChicago Medicine blog, “Inconsistent bedtimes and wake times can shift the pressure, or urge, to sleep, making the ability to fall asleep less predictable. Finally, depressed mood, more downtime and low energy can increase long napping, making it harder to fall asleep at night.”


“It’s not easy to function at our best without easy access to our usual coping skills (e.g., social support, exercise, etc.) while sheltering in place,” Medalie explained. “Adequate sleep can maximize your potential for having better days under these circumstances. Optimal sleep helps regulate mood, improve brain function, and increase energy and overall productivity during the day.”


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And look at sticking to a schedule the rest of the day as much as possible, too, Medalie added. “Commit to daily activities (e.g., exercise, meals, socializing) at certain times to build structure to your days. This will support a regular bedtime and wake time,” she said. “Set cell phone reminders to anchor your schedule, and as a reminder to turn off screens an hour before bedtime.”


Stay away from electronics close to bed, especially news updates. “People are spending every waking moment getting one last look at their screens (news updates, COVID-19 education, social connections),” Medalie added. “The blue light from these screens tells the brain to stop producing the sleep hormone melatonin, which can lead to trouble falling asleep.”


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Don’t weaponize sleep. It’s important to remind yourself that while more sleep sure would be nice, you don’t have superpowers to guarantee that outcome. Try doing your best, but realize you might have to accept less than complete success. “While sleep is important, try not to fret about it!” Medalie advised. “Worrying about sleep just turns into more stress. Instead, just do your best to get to bed on time and follow these tips if there are problems. Remember to always come back to ‘controlling the controllables.’ You can’t control the outcome of your efforts, only the efforts themselves.”