The COVID-19 pandemic has led to feelings of stress and anxiety among a large section of the population. (Read more: How to deal with the anxiety of living through a pandemic)

The helplessness that this global health crisis has brought among people (given that there is no treatment or vaccinations approved for this new coronavirus infection yet) has meant that governments around the world have had to resort to public health measures on an unprecedented scale to tackle this problem.

Nations all over the world have imposed strict restrictions on the movement of people, banned inter-state and international travel, and public transportation of all kinds have been suspended. These measures have been imposed to ensure physical distancing, the act of maintaining at least three feet of distance from everyone else to minimise the risk of infection.

The large-scale lockdowns have also meant that all places of public gatherings have been shut down. This includes gyms and fitness centres, leaving little room for a person to carry out their regular routine of physical activity. (Read more: Why you should avoid mass gatherings right now)

Long hours of working from home, performing daily chores and the uncertainty about the overall situation has crept into the people’s minds, so much so that many have been experiencing sleep deprivation or having trouble sleeping.

It is no secret that physical exercise is an effective way to induce or improve your sleep. But how to get more exercise at a time when gyms, yoga studios and swimming pools are off-limits to get our daily dose of exercise? And what else can you do to improve your sleep? Read on to know.

(Read more: Why you should avoid mass gatherings right now)

  1. Sleep deprivation during lockdown
  2. Why is exercise important for good sleep?
  3. Exercises to help you sleep better
  4. Other ways to improve sleep during the lockdown
  5. Takeaways

Among the many hashtags made famous during the COVID-19 pandemic, #cantsleep has been resonating with people globally. Many have expressed their inability to get restful sleep ever since lockdowns began around the world.

While the National Sleep Foundation based in the United States recommends an average of 7-9 hours of sleep for adults between the ages of 18 and 64, a British sleep survey conducted done a couple of years ago observed that citizens were getting only 5.78 and 6.83 hours of sleep on average.

This sleep deficit appears to have only been compounded by the outbreak of this global pandemic.

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The quality and duration of sleep have become all the more important in these times. Getting a good amount of sleep helps one maintain positivity, reduces stress and helps the body get adequate rest to recuperate and gain energy to remain active during the course of a day.

While there is no particular exercise that can induce sleep, all kinds of physical activity are encouraged to improve your quality of sleep. It allows the body to spend all excess energy and helps the muscles and tissues in the body to stretch and strengthen. Those who follow a particular lifestyle that includes intense physical activity are advised to get proper rest and sleep to help them recuperate for the next day.

Read more: Working out during lockdown

As mentioned before, all workouts and exercises can bring you closer to your goal if what you want is to fall asleep without difficulty and to improve your quality of sleep. That said, the American sleep foundation does have a few recommendations for specific exercises that can help you sleep better than before. (Read more: Household chores as a means of exercise)

  • Aerobic exercises: Aerobic exercises are movements that are repetitive and rhythmic, and are aimed at getting your heart rate up. They have been known to improve overall sleep and are even used as a method to tackle problems such as insomnia. The World Health Organization recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercises every week for adults, and activities such as brisk walking, running, cycling or other similar rhythmic movements can be beneficial towards achieving your weekly targets.
  • Weight or strength training: Resistance training with additional weights or bodyweight exercises are performed to build muscle strength. They are said to improve the quality of your sleep, as the body requires rest for the muscles to recuperate after putting them through a series of strenuous movements. (Read more: Weight training)
  • Yoga: Although considered to be a low-impact series of exercises, yoga is a combination of relaxing poses and stretches that requires your body to move while focusing on your breathing. If your workout goal is to get better sleep, then pick a series of asanas that are well-known for reducing stress. According to the sleep foundation, those who perform yoga for eight weeks on a daily basis are likely to fall asleep quicker and for longer periods.

While exercising regularly is one way to induce or improve your sleeping patterns, there are a few other things you must follow to ensure you get the amount of sleep you need on a daily basis.

  • Follow a routine: It is extremely important to break down the 24 hours of the day to manage your routine better. It is easy to lose track of time when working long hours from home. However, ensure that you maintain a schedule that is not very different from your usual routine, which includes waking up and going to sleep on time. Keep the timings of your meals in order, as well as the tea or coffee breaks you may need while you’re working from your study.
  • Light and dark: Even though India is approaching its peak summer season and people may be tempted to darken their rooms to keep the indoors cool, it is always a good idea to take in as much sunlight as possible, as it plays an important role in helping you sleep better. Staying indoors pretty much throughout the day makes it difficult to differentiate between day and night, but it is important to filter as much light indoors as possible, and gradually block it out towards the evenings. If you do not have access to sunlight in your homes, try to consume foods rich in vitamin D to make up for it.
  • Avoid napping: It is very easy to become distracted at home while working or become bored with the absence of a social life. People resort to watching TV or whiling away time aimlessly in those situations, which can result in boredom, and may prompt you to take a nap at odd hours of the day. Sleeping during the day can affect your quality or duration of sleep at night.
  • Shut down devices: As it is, the presence of screens all around us has played a role in reducing the amount of overall sleep we get. Now, sitting in front of a laptop, even at home, can make matters worse. Try to reduce your exposure to various screens, such as laptops, smartphones and televisions as much as possible, especially after logging off from work.
  • Regulate your eating and drinking: It is easy to fall into bad habits when spending large amounts of time at home, but it is important to watch what you eat and drink to help you sleep better. Limit the amount of caffeine you consume throughout the day; numerous cups of coffee will contribute to your lack of sleep at night, so avoid it. Drinking alcohol, especially binging on it, will also disturb your sleeping patterns.
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Feelings of fatigue, restlessness or weakness are compounded with sleep deprivation, and it is important for the body to get its required amount of sleep on a daily basis. Physical activity is important to not only keep you engaged and avoid boredom, but it also helps you tire quickly and achieve the amount of sleep you need.

Other factors are also important in order to get good sleep, especially in the times of a national lockdown, and all the above-mentioned factors help in warding off feelings of negativity and isolation, thus helping you get a peaceful night’s sleep to take on the next day.

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