We are all so tired, so why aren’t we sleeping? Restlessness dominated as a theme this past year. As we enter the anniversary of the beginning of quarantine and start to reflect back on our last moments of freedom, we could never have imagined this past year to unfold the way it did. Between sociopolitical unrest, health concerns, and a longing for a normalcy we didn’t know we would miss, many people are reporting that getting a good night of sleep feels like another thing we’ve lost to 2020. What’s happening? Why is this such a universal occurrence right now?
Many of us have been forced to live, work, eat, and virtually socialize all in the same spaces. This is especially true for those who have been quarantining with roommates or family members. Finding space that is all your own is hard to come by. Alone time used to mean taking a walk in the park, window shopping at the mall, or seeing a movie by yourself. While some public activities have started to open up, it still remains up for debate of how safe we feel in these spaces and whether or not it offers the same peace of mind. With fewer options available to us, more and more individuals are spending an increased amount of time living and working in the space that they sleep. Our bedroom becomes one of the few private spaces we can get these days and therefore it becomes a one stop shop for living.
When we live and work in the space where we sleep, our body associates bedtime to playtime. Our sleep cues that begin once we enter our bedroom where our brain associates our bed with fatigue and rest has now become the place where our entire day resides. Our brain, therefore, kicks into high gear the moment we enter this space. Sleep experts recommend, as a general rule of thumb, that our beds only be used for sexual activity and sleep. While it may be hard to find other spaces to work where you live, it is important to make sure that, if anything, you are not working on your bed itself. It’s so tempting to want to set ourselves up in such a comfortable place but we must try to work at a desk or other surface so as to block the brain’s tendency to make associations that don’t benefit our sleep hygiene. Sleep is a vital step in returning to our baselines at the end of the day. As an old Irish proverb once said “a good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures…”
Melissa Morrison, LMHC, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist and licensed mental health counselor with a master’s degree in mental health counseling from Boston College and a doctorate in clinical psychology from William James College. She is experienced in working with young adults, particularly undergraduate and graduate college students, focusing on issues such as anxiety, depression, LGBTQ+ identity formation, and substance use, among other issues.
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