How to fix the way the pandemic might be affecting your sleep

Published: August 14, 2020 6:19 PM EDT
Updated: August 14, 2020 6:50 PM EDT

The coronavirus pandemic is interrupting sleep cycles across Southwest Florida.

We spoke to experts about the different ways COVID-19 is impacting our sleep patterns and how to get back on track.

When the pandemic first hit, Bill Fish found falling and staying asleep difficult. Fish is a certified sleep science coach with the Sleep Foundation.

“I was going to bed at the same time, but just trouble getting to sleep,” Fish said. “Me personally, I’m worried about my parents’ health. They actually live in Bradenton … Stress levels are at an all-time high, and it’s not easy for your body to get to sleep when you’re stressed out.”

Fish is far from alone in the region.

“The biggest problem that I have seen associated with the virus is insomnia,” said Mary Hoke, a registered nurse practitioner with Lee Health Sleep Lab. “And people have told me it’s directly related to the COVID virus.”

Hoke says stress and many other issues keep people up at night, particularly since more people are at home.

“Now, they’re a little bit more relaxed and what time they go to bed because they don’t have to get up at a certain time,” Hoke said. “They can run into a little bit of a chronic sleep debt as a result.”

And racking up that sleep debt or deficit is dangerous, especially during the pandemic.

“Good sleep actually bolsters or helps support the immune system,” said Dr. Chandra Jackson, an epidemiologist with National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Jackson said chronic sleep also been shown actually to make vaccines less effective by reducing the body’s ability to respond.

But, for the sleepless in Southwest Florida, there is hope.

Experts say, to decrease your sleep debt, make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary.

“I made a concerted effort to be like, ten o’clock, my phone is gone; I will try to read a book,’ Fish said.

Set a schedule and then stick to it, so you can rest assured that you’re paying down your debt.

MORE: Sleep guidelines and help during COVID-19 pandemic


The Sleep Foundation says, without a consistent schedule, some people are getting too much sleep. That can lead to weight gain, lethargy and a lack of motivation. Experts say the solution is the same: Set a schedule.

Not getting enough sleep can also lead to overeating, junk food cravings and increases risk of hypertension and certain types of cancers.

Other tips to help you fall asleep: Invest in a white noise machine to help you stay asleep, blackout curtains to keep natural light from waking you up, and make it a rule to have no electronics, not even your phone or a TV in the bedroom.