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How to deal with pandemic-induced insomnia

Having trouble sleeping these days? You're not alone. Sleep specialist Dr. Suvarna Palla has some advice on how to calm our brains and get more rest.
Credit: Andrea Piacquadio

PORTLAND, Ore. — Right now, we're spending more time at home than usual, which would maybe make it seem like we would be getting more sleep.

But many people (myself included) are sleeping less, because it turns out, having a global pandemic lurking around can be a little distracting. So you may have spent many recent nights laying awake in bed for what feels like forever, just waiting for your brain to eventually get tired enough to shut off.

Sleep specialist Dr. Suvarna Palla always helps patients with issues like this at The Portland Clinic Sleep Center. People come in to work on various sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, restless legs, and of course, insomnia.

The sleep center is currently closed, but the sleep issues definitely have not stopped.

If you're having trouble sleeping right now, you are definitely not alone. Dr. Palla says it can mostly be attributed to anxiety over work, finances, and health.

And from many years as a sleep specialist, Dr. Palla has learned a lot about the downsides of not getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep can cause memory issues, mood changes, and weakened immunity against viruses (which is clearly something we want to avoid right now).

So, what can you do if you've spent way too many nights laying awake in bed?

Here are a few habits Dr. Palla recommends:

  • Set a consistent wakeup time (yes, even on the weekends)
  • Limit the use of electronics before bedtime (she recommends 2-3 hours before you plan to get into bed)
  • Do physical activity and exercise during the day
  • Get into bed only when you're sleepy, not tired
  • Only spend 20 minutes in bed trying to fall asleep. After 20 minutes, get out of bed and move to a different place, and read something boring until you get sleepy

The goal, Dr. Palla says, is to train your brain and body to know that getting into bed means it's time to sleep. So the bed is only a place for sleeping (no, it can't also be your work from home desk).

If you have any other tips and tricks you've tried yourself, send them our way. I'll be awake, waiting for your advice while trying to get off my phone and fall asleep...

Cassidy Quinn is the host of Tonight With Cassidy on KGW. But right now, like many of you, she is working from home, trying to focus on the happier things going on in the world. Tonight With Cassidy is currently on hiatus, but you can watch previous segments from the show here, and follow Cassidy on Twitter @CassidyQuinn (if she's having a bout of insomnia, you can definitely find her tweeting into the way too early hours of the morning). 

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