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USC Sleep Doctor Offers Tips For Better Rest During Coronavirus Pandemic

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — People across the country staying home to help slow the spread of coronavirus are experiencing a variety of sleep problems.

Stress from being on lockdown and anxiety about money or job concerns are both likely culprits for the sleep problems people have been reporting on social media under the hashtag #cantsleep. But Dr. Raj Dasgupta, a specialist at USC in sleep medicine, says all his patients at the moment have one thing in common.

"What I see across the board is that everyone is now becoming a night owl, meaning that they're delaying their circadian rhythm," Dr. Dasgupta said. "These are people that go to bed very late at night and get up closer to the afternoon."

Ironically, he says these people are doing pretty well because they're getting so much sleep, but they worry about what they'll do when the stay-at-home orders end.

Dr. Dasgupta said that keeping a set routine, exercising and keeping the weight off can also help with sleep problems. One of his patients compared the lockdown to his freshman year in college, except now he's gaining the COVID 19.

Gaining weight "can make sleep apnea worse, can cause heartburn at night," Dr. Dasgupta said.

Other tips Dr. Dasgupta offered is taking a hot shower or bath before bed time because the body likes to be cool when laying down, and warms up when it is time to get up, and trying out a weighted blanket.

People should also limit their caffeine and alcohol intake, which he says can lead to troubled sleep and nightmares.

Over-the-counter medications like melatonin and nighttime pain relievers should be taken sparingly and carefully.

"This isn't a time to try new things," Dr. Dasgupta said. "People are taking more melatonin than usual and my tip for everyone listening today is not how much melatonin you're taking, it's when you take it. It's all about when you take it."

But probably the best tactic for getting more and better sleep is to rise and fall with the sun.

"When you get exposed to bright sunlight, it really sets your circadian rhythm, it resets it nicely, so you've gotta have that motivation to get up. Don't hit that snooze button," he said.


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