For many of us, getting good sleep is a challenge in the best of times. The coronavirus has disrupted already iffy sleep schedules for many people, with one survey reporting an 86 percent increase in trouble sleeping and insomnia (1).
As challenging as the coronavirus era is, one of the most impactful things you can do to protect yourself is to get good sleep: Being well rested improves mood, helps with stress management, and supports your metabolism. Sleep is a core component of immunity, allowing your body to mobilize hormones and immune cells that are your body’s only natural defense against illness. For example, one study found that individuals who slept less than hours a night were three times more likely to get sick than those who got more than 7 hours of sleep (2).
During dreamtime is when your body produces disease-fighting white blood cells and sleep is necessary for production of the “master antioxidant” glutathione, which is the linchpin of your body’s ability to counter oxidative stress that compromises immunity. Sleep is also when growth hormone and other chemicals are released that allow your innate immune system to function (2). Conversely, lack of sleep leads to degenerative effects that reduce the number of immune cells and cause a compromised antibody response to pathogens.
Interestingly, about 40 percent of people are reporting better sleep since the start of coronavirus-induced lockdowns. Experts attribute this to the fact that sleep-wake behavior is more in line with natural biorhythms (1). Working from home allows many people to sleep later and get better rest.
This highlights that improving sleep starts with your daily schedule. Each person has a natural chronotype, which is defined as you body’s natural tendency toward being a morning or evening person. Studies show that if your sleep patterns sync with your chronotype, you will sleep better and have improved metabolic health and hormone levels. For example, men whose sleep schedule matches their natural chronotype have higher testosterone levels than those who are forced to wake up with an alarm (3).
Behavioral Actions That Improve Sleep
There are several behavioral actions that can improve sleep:
1. Sleep in darkness, covering electronic lights and using black out shades.
2. Expose yourself to bright light first thing in the morning to “anchor” your biorhythm.
3. Avoid blue light from screens or bright lightbulbs at night by using a blue light blocker on devices and turning off screens an hour before bedtime.
4. Set a regular bedtime and follow it on weekends to ensure you are giving yourself enough time to sleep.
5. Adopt relaxation techniques such as meditation or deep breathing to get in touch with anxiety and ease stress.
6. Use cool temperatures at night to mimic the ambient temperature outside to help you sleep.
7. Get regular physical activity throughout the day but finish intense workouts prior to 6 p.m. to allow cortisol to go down.
Nutrition For Better Sleep
Once you’ve got your sleep hygiene dialed in, it’s worth considering nutrition aspects that can support healthy sleep:
1. Limit caffeine after 1 p.m. and consider avoiding it entirely if you are a slow metabolizer.
2. Eat protein-centered meals during the day and carbs at night to balance neurotransmitters and ease stress before bed.
3. Ensure your vitamin D levels are adequate because lack of this vitamin impairs the sleep-wake cycle in the brain and is associated with insomnia.
4. Supplement with the anti-stress mineral magnesium to calm the body and clear cortisol so you can get a good night’s rest.
Supplements For Improved Sleep
Sometimes a sleep aid is warranted. There are two natural sleep supplements that are highly relevant in the coronavirus era:
L-theanine is an amino acid found in green tea that has pro-sleep, anti-stress, and immune support properties (4). It is thought to be most effective for sleep in people with anxiety or other psychological issues such as ADHD. One randomized study found that supplementation with 200 mg daily resulted in improved sleep, lowered anxiety, and led to better cognitive performance in young men and women (5). Pure L-theanine supplements are available, as are formulated sleep aids in which L-theanine is blended with other sleep-supporting herbs, such as our Sleep Soothe product that combines L-theanine with melatonin, valerian, PharmaGABA™, 5-HTP, as well as magnesium and niacin for more powerful results.
Melatonin is a hormone that is released by the pineal gland that regulates your sleep-wake cycle. One analysis of 19 studies found that taking between 0.5 and 6 mg of melatonin before bed improves sleep quality and quantity, and reduces insomnia (6, 7). A common complaint during the coronavirus is waking up in the middle of the night and being unable to get back to sleep.
Our Quick & Sustained Release Melatonin can help. By packaging the melatonin in a gel layer that erodes slowly as it travels through the intestine, a steady stream of melatonin is available over a 6-hour period to allow you to sleep soundly throughout the night. This is different from most melatonin products that are metabolized by the body within an hour from ingestion.
Final Words: Getting your sleep situation under control is essential because it will bolster your immune defenses and allow you to better deal with the challenges of the day. Start with habits, optimize your nutrition, and consider a sleep aid to help set you on your way to dreamland. Finally, if you suffer from middle of the night awakenings, consider a time-release melatonin to keep you asleep the full night through.
1. Blume, C., et al. Effects of the COVID-19 lockdown on human sleep and rest-activity rhythms. Cell. 2020. Published Ahead of Print.
2. Besedovsky, L., et al. Sleep and immune function. Pflugers Archives. 2012. 463(1), 121-137.
3. Randler, C., et al. Chronotype but not sleep length is related to salivary testosterone in adult men. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2012. 37. 1740-1744.
4. Cooper, E., Ma, M. Understanding nutrition and immunity in disease management. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. 2017. 7(4): 386–391.
5. Hidese, S., et al. Effects of L-Theanine Administration on Stress-Related Symptoms and Cognitive Functions in Healthy Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients. 2019. 11(1): 2362.
6. Leonardo-Mendonça R., et al. The benefits of four weeks of melatonin treatment on circadian patterns in resistance- trained athletes. Chronobiology International. 11 (2015): 1-10.
7. Costello, R., Lentino, C., et al. The effectiveness of melatonin for promoting healthy sleep. Nutrition Journal. 2014. 7(13), 106.