Need an expert? COVID-19 and mental health: sleep and dreams during the pandemic

Posted on Thursday, May 7, 2020

Little girl sleeping with her teddy bear

During Mental Health Week, May 4-10, 2020, the University of Ottawa media relations team is highlighting experts whose research focuses on various aspects of mental health.

Members of the media may directly contact the following experts: 

Dr. Joseph De Koninck (English and French )
Emeritus Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences, School of Psychology

Sleep and dreams

Why are our dreams more frequent and more unpleasant during the pandemic? Why are we more likely to remember dreams during this difficult time?

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Stuart Fogel (English only)
Assistant Professor, Sleep Research Laboratory, Faculty of Social Sciences, School of Psychology

“Here are my 5 tips to get a good night’s sleep:

1) The brain craves regularity: Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Most people need 7 to 8 hours of sleep, but some adults and especially children and adolescents require more.

2) Our brains are tuned to the light: Dim lights are best before bed. Get bright, natural light in the AM. Avoid using devices with screens in the evening, especially in the bedroom. The light that devices such as smart phones, tablets, computers and televisions emit gives our brain the wrong (alerting) signal.

3) Keep it cool: Keep your bedroom on the cool side. Avoid very hot baths or showers just before bed. Your body needs to have a sudden drop in core body temperature at sleep onset.

4) Don’t get overstimulated: Avoid alcohol, caffeinated beverages, nicotine and other stimulants in the evening. Eliminate sources of daytime activity such as work, school, taxes, media consumption, if keeping you awake.

5) Wind down before bed: Engage in quiet, relaxing activities that do not get your mind thinking about your “to-do” list and worries. Keep a pad of paper at the bedside so you can write down and forget about busy thoughts for the night. This will help to free your mind for more important things… like sleep!”

 

Dr. De Koninck and Professor Fogel are both contributing to the Sleep On It! campaign that includes a section on how to promote good sleep habits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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