Dr. Eve Van Cauter, Chair of Sleep Number’s Scientific Advisory Board, has some tips on how to maintain a routine that will ensure you get enough sleep — and stay healthy.
Fall is normally a time associated with going back to our regular routines — but this year, of course, things look a lot different. Can you speak generally to the importance of having set routines, in terms of our health?
Routines are very important. Quality sleep is a priority and should be considered a pillar of health and well-being, on par with good nutrition and physical exercise.
Consistent sleep and activity patterns have a positive impact on our overall sleep quality. Most relevant to the current pandemic, there is strong scientific evidence indicating that insufficient sleep and poor sleep quality have an adverse effect on the immune system and may make you more susceptible to viral infection. So by maintaining good sleep habits, you can boost your immunity and increase your resistance to the coronavirus.
Many people are still finding themselves at home all day, unable to adhere to the usual routines they may have had in the past. In this new normal, should we still be trying to follow set sleep routines?
Yes. Managing sleep during this pandemic is especially important because it helps your immune system. By following a set routine, you will decrease your risk of getting infected with Covid-19 in the first place.
If you do contract the virus, one of the first symptoms you may experience is fatigue. And you shouldn’t resist this overwhelming need to sleep. It may help reduce inflammation and the severity of your symptoms, and help speed up your recovery.
Additionally, when we have a vaccine, if you don’t get enough hours of good quality sleep before immunization, your response to the vaccine and its effectiveness may be compromised. That also applies to the week after!
What are some of the negative health impacts of not adhering to a sleep routine? Conversely, why are sleep routines so beneficial?
Our bodies’ internal clocks are supported by consistent sleep routines. If you adhere to a routine in which you go to bed and wake up at about the same every day, you can minimize the possibility of adverse health effects.
Multiple well-documented studies have shown that insufficient sleep and poor sleep quality increase the risk and the severity of a wide range of conditions, including obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
For anyone who is struggling to establish a routine right now, what advice would you have for them? Do you have tips for getting on a schedule?
Try to keep normal sleeping habits by setting up your sleep-wake cycle and sticking with it. Plan the day, and be careful not to let the evening drag on until wee hours. Seek bright light exposure in the morning and avoid it in the evening. (Exposure to natural daylight is a powerful tool for keeping the biological clock in sync.)
It is also important to remember that a good night’s sleep comes after a good day of activity. Getting physical activity into our daily routines reduces levels of anxiety, which can have a tremendous impact on your sleep.
Would you be able to share your own sleep routine during this hectic time? We’d love to hear how an expert is sticking to a routine.
My sleep routine has not been changed by working from home, partly because I have enjoyed flexible work schedules for several years. I always have a daily list of tasks to accomplish and I love to be able to cross out as many items as possible by the end of the day.
Exercise ends my workday almost every day. Then I make dinner and try to have a relaxing evening. My bedtime starts between 10:30 and 11:30 pm, and I aim for 8 hours each night. No alarm clock needed!
This interview has been edited and condensed.
This originally appeared on Medium.