The View

Good sleep health more important than ever, UB sleep researcher says

Some tips for good sleep.


Published August 4, 2020

“Just as practicing hand hygiene is a vital part of the response to this pandemic, good sleep hygiene behaviors and habits are much needed now more than ever to fight off anxiety and depression, and boost our immune system during this time of uncertainty. ”
Misol Kwon, PhD candidate
School of Nursing

The unprecedented changes of routine and behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic have led to disruption of good sleep health, another factor in the decline of quality life and adverse health, according to a UB School of Nursing PhD candidate and behavioral sleep researcher.

“Healthy sleep is important to physical, cognitive and psychological well-being. However, people facing the stress of the pandemic are increasingly experiencing poor sleep health, which includes irregular and ill-placement of sleep and wake-up times, difficulty falling or maintaining sleep, and feelings of non-restorative sleep,” says Misol Kwon, who is a student member of several national sleep research associations.

“Advantages of good sleep include optimal brain functioning — which affect mood and memory — and physical health, such as keeping a strong immune system and regulation of hormones,” says Kwon, who teaches an undergraduate course on sleep research under the guidance of Grace Dean, associate professor in the School of Nursing.

“Good sleep also leads to the ability to perform at our best while awake, which includes being vigilant and attentive, and that keeps us safe,” Kwon says.

These health benefits are especially important during the current pandemic, she says.

“I have had one of my dear patients tell me, ‘Sleep is not part of my priority right now. I have far more important things to worry about, like rescheduling my elective surgeries and taking care of my teen kids,’ ” Kwon says.

“I cannot imagine how disruptive this pandemic has been for many. But I want to note that healthy sleep is not only necessary to cope adaptively with the stress of the current crisis, but also is highly beneficial for our physical and mental health,” she says.

“Good sleep health helps us cognitively function better and make better decisions, enhances our mood and energy level, and improves our psychological well-being, especially in times where isolation and home confinement can make us more vulnerable to adverse mental health conditions.”

To help those with a good night’s rest, Kwon compiled a list of sleep tips to restore what she calls healthy sleep. And by healthy sleep, she means having quality sleep, as well as the sufficient seven or eight hours a day for adults recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

  • First, set a schedule and routine for wake-up time and bed time, even if it requires using that alarm again. Having a structured day routine like changing out of your pajamas, going for a walk, showering, having a meal — all done at similar times — can be beneficial.
  • Have your mind associate your bed only with sleep and sex. Avoid studying or working, and watching movies and news channels from your bed. This includes — “and I am slightly guilty of this,” she says — avoiding checking emails or social media in bed upon waking. This only prolongs time in bed you are not sleeping.
  • Our internal body clock — also known as the circadian rhythm — drives our sleep-wake cycles by working in sync with light and darkness. So embracing that natural, bright, morning light by drawing the curtains or going for a morning walk can really cue your body to get going, and feeling charged and alert.
  • Similarly, the presence of artificial light like electronic devices at night can disrupt the circadian rhythm. So keep lights dim around the house and avoid using electronic devices one to two hours before bedtime. This helps the body naturally produce melatonin and prepare for sleep.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Avoid or minimize taking naps during the day.
  • Choose familiar and relaxing activities around bedtime. Read a book. Write in a journal or do a puzzle. Pray. Practice mindfulness activities. Listen to something calming. Avoid strenuous exercises right before bedtime.
  • Make sure to keep your sleep environment comfortable, clean, quiet, dark and with a cool temperature. You can use white noise like a fan to block out environmental noise.
  • Last but not least, substances like caffeine, alcohol and nicotine should be used with caution. Avoid caffeine, including caffeinated tea and soda pop, at least six hours before bedtime. Alcohol may initially help you fall asleep faster. However, during sleep, a stimulating effect occurs causing sleep disruption. Nicotine has a direct stimulant effect, and is associated with insomnia and sleep disruption as well.

“Just as practicing hand hygiene is a vital part of the response to this pandemic,” Kwon says, “good sleep hygiene behaviors and habits are much needed now more than ever to fight off anxiety and depression, and boost our immune system during this time of uncertainty.”