A Hudson Valley medical expert shares how to promote physical and mental wellbeing amid COVID-19 concerns.
Are coronavirus concerns keeping you up at night? Does every trip to the grocery store make you anxious about contagion? You’re not alone. As COVID-19 makes its mark across the Hudson Valley, taking steps to promote wellness at home is more important than ever before. Thankfully, an abundance of easy, affordable ways to continue to stay healthy are right at your fingertips.
At the top of the list? Healthy sleeping habits.
To learn more about how critical sleep is for overall wellbeing, we touched base with Dr. Theodore C. Gross, a qualified, accredited member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine whose practice is based out of Poughkeepsie. Here’s what he recommends:
Dr. Gross can’t stress the importance of a good night’s sleep enough. As he reveals, individuals who get eight hours of sleep have considerably stronger immune systems than those who get five or six. In short, sleep deprivation is directly tied to a decrease in the immune system. For those who snore (which affects deep sleep and REM sleep), Gross recommends sleeping on one side. He also notes that creating cooler room environments for bedtime ultimately helps with sleep.
Taking a hot shower before heading to bed “gets peripheral circulation going, which will cool the blood more quickly in your whole system, which cools you down and helps you sleep better,” he adds.
It’s crucial to find ways to keep our bodies moving while we are self-isolating, Gross observes. “We are becoming a more sedentary society so keep that in mind when you are home during this period.”
Plenty of Hudson Valley fitness classes have moved to streaming services for people to follow along at home. Outside of the house, a fast-paced walk around the neighborhood is a free, quarantine-approved option as well. Since this elevates heart rates, it’s a good idea to do this well before bedtime to ensure there’s sufficient time to unwind.
Make Time for Tea
Drink hot liquids, advises Dr. Gross. “In Wuhan, China, [doctors] are giving all of their patients three cups of hot tea every day,” he notes. “There are things in the tea that are helpful, but it’s also just drinking hot liquids and keeping hydrated.”
As for which types of tea to choose, he recommends sticking to decaffeinated versions or opting to drink caffeinated ones early in the day. “Caffeine has a half-life that is six to eight hours, so make sure to have it early afternoon, not anytime near bed.”
As many Hudson Valleyites find themselves with more time on their hands, now is the perfect time to pick up a new hobby – a healthy one – or learn something new. Dr. Gross notes the surprising health benefits from wind instruments, which strengthen the muscles in the neck.
As Gross notes, those muscles are important to maintain for proper sleep, especially as one ages. “The act of playing a wind instrument, where you blow out hard, actually strengthens your neck muscles so they’re less likely to collapse when you’re sleeping in REM and deep sleep.”
Be Mindful of Technology
Yes, many people are working from home via a computer or laptop. However, if technology time moves to close to bedtime, it threatens to disrupt any chance of a restful evening. “The blue light from these sources will block melatonin, which is a signal to sleep,” Dr. Gross explains. “Try to limit your exposure to these lights for at least two hours before bedtime.”
“Try not to panic, take all standard precautions – washing your hands, staying well hydrated, sleeping well – protect those who are most vulnerable, and try as much as you can to do your regular routines,” Dr. Gross says.
Things are going to pass. Do what you can to stay healthy. If the news is overwhelming, take a break from it. Remember, we are all in this together.