- The stress of the pandemic and public health restrictions have negatively impacted the mental health of many people.
- The researchers interviewed more than 11,000 people in 40 countries, with most of the responses coming from the United States, United Kingdom, Portugal and several other countries.
- People who spend less time outdoors during COVID-19 restrictions were more likely to experience a decline in sleep quality, physical activity time, and quality of life.
For many people, stay-at-home orders and other public health restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic have dramatically altered their daily routines.
This includes the time they spent outdoors, which, according to a new study, may also have had an impact on their sleep patterns and overall well-being.
“Social restrictions have altered all aspects of well-being, with quality of sleep, quality of life, physical activity and productivity deteriorating and screen time increasing. [in the midpoint]”, Wrote the authors in an article published on September 21, 2021 in the
The researchers interviewed more than 11,000 people in 40 countries, with most of the responses coming from the United States, United Kingdom, Portugal and several other countries.
People answered questions about their daily behaviors and lifestyle before and during social restrictions, including their work status, hours of sleep, and using an alarm clock to wake up.
The researchers found that many people experienced a decline in their quality of life, level of physical activity and productivity during pandemic restrictions. Many have also seen their screen time increase.
In addition, over 70% of people spent less time outdoors during the day when restrictions were in place. This drop in daylight exposure occurred on both work days and days off.
People with a larger decrease in time spent outdoors during restrictions were more likely to have larger declines in sleep quality, physical activity time, quality of life, and screen-free time .
In contrast, people who slept longer – and those who used their alarm clocks less often – were more likely to see improvements in sleep quality and quality of life.
However, not everyone was negatively affected during the restrictions.
“Numerous [study] participants also reported no changes or even improvements [in well-being]The researchers wrote. “Notably, more participants reported no change in [sleep quality] as deterioration or improvements.
Part of the impact of the restrictions on mental health may be due to the stress of the pandemic and the demand to stay at home.
However, the researchers said that reduced exposure to outdoor daylight and an increase in screen time could also have affected people.
These are the internal rhythms that regulate the sleep-wake cycle, as well as many other processes in the body.
Disturbances in circadian rhythms can occur from jet lag, shiftwork, and exposure to light from electronic devices at night.
These changes can cause sleep disturbances and can also lead to chronic health problems such as depression, diabetes, obesity, and seasonal affective disorder.
Other research found that regular exposure to natural daylight during the day can help keep people’s circadian rhythms in sync with the natural black light cycle outdoors.
This research also suggests that exposure to natural light may help people sleep better and improve their mental health.
Scientists continue to study the link between daylight exposure and physical and mental health. But for the authors of the new study, the implications are clear.
“Strategies to improve well-being within social restrictions… should actively encourage spending more time outdoors and maintaining good sleep hygiene,” they wrote.
In some areas with stay-at-home orders, exercise was seen as an essential activity, which allowed people to get out during the day. Extending this in future stay-at-home orders could help minimize the impact of restrictions.
Going out regularly is one of those mental health boosts that is good anytime, not just during pandemic restrictions.
There are other ways to take care of your mental health as well, especially at this time when many people are grappling with the stress of the pandemic.
A good night’s sleep can go a long way in improving your overall well-being and your mental health.
It involves more than going to bed on time. Your daily habits and activities, and even your food choices, can impact your sleep.
To improve the quality of your sleep, try to establish healthy sleep patterns, such as:
- getting up and going to bed at the same time every day, on work days and on days off
- set up a relaxing routine before bed
- do not use electronic devices at least 30 minutes before your usual bedtime, as the light from these devices can make it difficult for some people to fall asleep
- exercise regularly and eat a nutritious diet
- avoiding caffeine or alcohol near bedtime
- keep your room cool, quiet and dark
A big part of sleep hygiene is figuring out what works for you.
If you regularly have difficulty falling or staying asleep, or if you often wake up tired, talk to a sleep specialist or other healthcare professional.
They can identify underlying physical issues that could be disrupting your sleep and helping you get back to sleep.
A growing number of studies have discovered that it is possible to develop certain aspects of mental well-being through intentional mental training, even during a pandemic.
This includes dimensions of wellness such as awareness, connection, insight, and purpose.
“Well-being is a skill. It’s actually something that you can learn by doing, just like you can learn other skills that are learned through practice, ”said Richard J. Davidson, PhD, founder of the Center for Healthy Minds and professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
This does not diminish the need to change the external conditions that affect mental health, he said, including structural issues in our society that disproportionately impact certain groups.
“But there are things each of us could do to improve our well-being,” he said. “I compare it to taking care of our personal mental hygiene.”
Just as brushing our teeth is a simple daily habit that is important to our dental hygiene, Davidson said there are mental exercises that can be done every day for a short time to improve our well-being.
This includes mental exercises such as meditation and mindfulness-based practices, as well as other personal practices such as journaling and gratitude exercises.
Not everyone, of course, is comfortable with these. But even psychotherapy and creative problem solving have been shown to improve some aspect of well-being.
Davidson cautions that these methods are not a substitute for professional treatment for a serious mental health problem such as depression or anxiety.
However, he says doing these kinds of wellness exercises every day can help build your “mental resilience muscle” so that it’s ready when you need it.
“We need to engage in this practice regularly so that when we encounter adversity, we have the resources to help us get through that adversity with greater ease,” he said.