Tackling Sleep and Stress in the Age of Uncertainty

Tackling Sleep and Stress in the Age of Uncertainty

COVID-19 has essentially everyone in the U.S. stressed. In a recent survey, Pillow Insider concluded that over 90% of participants said COVID-19 has affected their sleep. Nine out of ten people… yikes. Breaking down those numbers even more, 43% of respondents reported disturbed sleep patterns, with 23.4% reporting they are sleeping less and 23.7% saying they are sleeping more than they used to.

So other than turning to medications, what can we do to squash our stressors and get back to sleep?

Routine maintenance

If you’re currently unemployed, furloughed, or working from home with more flexible hours, chances are your routine has taken a nosedive. As humans, we often find unstructured days unpredictable and a little frightening.

Taking advice for new retirees is a great way to get your schedule back. According to a study by researcher Ana Zisberg, performing basic activities such as eating, dressing, and bathing at the same time every day was found to improve sleep quality. Start with a bedtime and a wake time, then go from there. Drink your cup of coffee, get dressed (even if it’s just changing into a different pair of sweats), and stick to as much of a schedule as you can.


Meditation is an incredibly powerful tool for stress reduction. In fact, meditation is linked to increased self-awareness, patience, and creativity, as well as a reduction in negative emotions.

In our experience, meditation can be a little difficult to get into, especially in the age of constant distractions and racing thoughts. This is where guided meditation comes in.

MoojiTV is our personal favorite, and it has been around forever. The organization is run by Jamaican spiritual leader Mooji, who has such a calming and supportive presence. He guides you through meditation, helping you as your thoughts stray or as you become impatient. His themes are incredibly nurturing, and helpful for anyone who needs to quiet their mind and be reminded of their own self worth.

We’ve linked a few different meditations below; go ahead and try them before bedtime! We recommend starting with just ten minutes and building up to longer practices!

Low-impact exercise

According to the American Public Health Association, “not only does low-impact exercise come with the benefits of improved strength, lower blood pressure and reduced stress, but such a workout also cuts down on the risk of musculoskeletal injury.”

Low-impact exercise, such as yoga, walking, and tai chi, allows you to focus on breath and gentle movement. In the days of quarantine, we find YouTube yoga is incredibly accessible and fun. Our two favorite teachers are Jessamyn Stanley and Adriene Mischler; both are so encouraging and thoughtful in their practice, inviting anyone and everyone on the mat, regardless of fitness level. We’ve linked some of our favorites from them below (suitable for beginners!)

Jessamyn Stanley

Yoga With Adriene

Put. Down. The. Phone.

According to Pillow Insider’s survey, over half of all respondents pointed to increased screen time as a major factor in their out of whack sleep patterns. This comes as no surprise, as many of us are spending more and more (and more) time on our phones and computers, both working and almost robotically scrolling.

The habit, however embarrassing to admit, is a wildly difficult one to break. And it’s not our fault?—our phones are constantly being redesigned and updated to keep us on them. In How to Break Up with Your Phone, journalist Catherine Price explains that “many of the same feel-good brain chemicals and reward loops that drive addictions are also released and activated when we check our phones.” Yikes.

If this sounds like you, it’s time to start actively trying to break the habit of reaching for your phone. The first step? Take a look at what you’re doing. “Don’t give in to ,” Price writes, “but don’t try to make it go away. Observe it. See what happens.”

In her book, Price lays out a 30-day plan, beginning with observing exactly how we interact with our cell phones. The more we understand and recognize our habits, the more we can consciously work to change them.

Work your mind and your hands offline

Do a puzzle. Learn chess, solitaire, or an instrument. Knit, play Scrabble, cook. When engaging our brains and our hands, it’s much easier to let the rest of the world fall away.

Encourage the people you’re self-isolating with to do some activities with you, or if you’re alone, do them yourself! You’ll be working your brain in a way that’s beneficial for both the long and the short term.

Not only will you be improving your memory and working both sides of your brain, but you’ll also be working to relieve stress. By focusing on one thing, you’re ridding yourself of extraneous thoughts—one of the defining characteristics of meditation.

Limit the news

Anxiety is the top factor affecting our sleep patterns, according to the respondents of Pillow Insider’s study. It’s a no-brainer that removing some stressors?—like the attention we give to the 24 hour news cycle?—will help. We’re not recommending totally ignoring the news, but we do think you should limit your intake to once daily. After all, there’s a difference between well-informed and over-informed.

Jacqueline Bullis, quoted on McLean Hospital’s website, says this: “In the long term, increasing our anxiety by feeding into this belief that if we have enough information, we can control what happens… The more we seek certainty over what will happen in the future, the more anxious we will feel. It is impossible to be 100% certain of what the future holds regarding COVID-19.”

Take a step back, pause notifications on your news apps, and check only when your schedule permits.

Be kind to yourself

You’re not going to make all these changes and adaptations over night, and that’s okay! Give yourself reasonable goals, slowly incorporate some or all of our advice week by week, and we bet you’ll begin to feel lighter and more grounded. You’ll start to feel your stress melt away a little bit, and, of course sleep more soundly.