Health and Fitness

Why You’re Having Trouble Sleeping During This Quarantine-and What You Can Do About It

Anxiety and worry because of the unnatural situation can manifest through sleepless nights, and even physical symptoms like headaches and digestive problems.
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Are you having restless nights since the implementation of the so-called “extended community quarantine” (ECQ) less than two weeks ago?

It must be frustrating to frequently wake up in the middle of the night (assuming you’re getting some shut-eye at all), unable to go back to sleep, and have a multitude of things on your mind.

“The lockdown came as a shock to everyone,” explains Professor Nina Q. Era of the University of the East (UE), Manila to Esquire Philippines. “No one was ready for it. Along with the shock were questions, worries, fears, uncertainties. When will the lockdown be lifted? Are we safe? Are our savings enough to last for a month (especially for those who have a no-work, no-income setup)? When will life be normal again? What if I have COVID-19? These are just some of the questions that may cause a high level of anxiety that can manifest through losing sleep, difficulty in sleeping, being unable to eat or binge eating, and more.”

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Mental and physical manifestations

The Child, Adolescent and Family specialist says the increased anxiety level can be more difficult to manage for identified worriers, highly emotional or sensitive individuals, heads of family or breadwinners, and people with mental health issues prior to the COVID-19 lockdown.

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The sudden change can cause different feelings in each person. Some can feel restlessness, according to the professor at UE’s Department of Professional Education, College of Education. “This can be because of worry and anxiety,” she says. “We become fidgety, tense, emotional and it can physically manifest through headaches, migraine, digestive problems, palpitations, and back problems.

“The ECQ and the abundant time it gives to us (to stay home is the) perfect opportunity to overthink and exaggerate things. At home, simple issues can get blown out of proportion. We have time now to sit down and talk about our family issues that have not been resolved or talked through. It can be a double-edged sword: Will it be the right time to talk since everyone is relaxed given the (free) time or will it add insult to injury because everyone is feeling so stressed out?”

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Some people can also feel that they are losing balance, particularly people who are working and used to being busy every day. These individuals may feel disconnected from the world due to the lockdown with their inability to attend to responsibilities like they used to. Some may also experience depression “due to the rollercoaster of emotions and the ability to process the feelings, have limited movement, and have less face-to-face socialization.”

Something different to do

Professor Era, who is also a specialist at the Reintegration for Care and Wholeness Foundation Inc., a family and counseling center in Quezon City, maintains that we tend to develop and follow a routine, like waking up, eating, watching television, eating, sleeping and repeating all again the next day, when we stay home. This aggravates the feeling of anxiety.

“We need to consciously find a way to do something different every day—no matter how simple it may be," she says. "Tweaking the routine will be a great help. It will alleviate the feeling of restlessness and anxiety."

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Expressing the way we feel will definitely help, but she cautions to only share with people we really trust and not to so-called “friends” on social media. “A lot of times, it brings more harm than good.” It may not be in our best interest to disclose our feelings online when we are overwhelmed with so many changes.

Still, releasing our emotions gives us the feeling that someone has our back, the expert explains, which gives us some sort of security. “It shows you a different perspective,” the counselor posits. “Other people can give you a more logical explanation of the problem since they have the capacity to look at it more objectively. It can also affirm the feelings of other family members, especially children. A lot of times they are confused with how they feel. If they hear their parents opening up about their feelings, they will also do the same. This is the perfect opportunity for parents to walk their kids through the different emotions they may be feeling as a result of the crisis. This is a perfect learning experience for both parents and children.”

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Develop new skills

Channeling our energy into doing other things can help us get better sleep, Professor Era says. She suggests developing new skills like cooking, planting, or sewing. Find or rediscover an old hobby you used to enjoy, like reading a book. “Reading inspirational books can help us look at our crisis with a different perspective,” she explains. You can also listen to calming music while meditating. “Pray, pray, pray and connect with your God, or keep a journal and write your reflections and insights learned from the crisis.”

Exercise will help, adds Professor Era, who does counseling and therapy sessions with children and teenagers. “Doing so makes our body release chemicals called endorphins that trigger positive feelings. It also relieves pain and stress. Taking care of pets also helps with stress.”

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Joyce Reyes-Aguila
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