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How COVID’s financial stress is impacting healthy sleep habits

Excerpts from a recent blog by Slumber Yard, an online purveyor of mattresses, offers a compelling argument to reconsider the importance of a good night’s sleep. Read the full article here.

Today, life remains largely uncertain for the millions of families who are suffering from financial and economic losses due to coronavirus. The American Psychological Association reports that for 72% of Americans, financial stress is a massive worry, with many families worrying about how to make the rent, let alone pull off a holiday miracle.

Coronavirus has been an economic roller coaster for many U.S. companies. While some sales later rebounded, the initial shock of COVID lockdown in February and March 2020 led to a nearly 9% decrease in consumer retail spending. As the Brookings Institute puts it, “The pandemic has created a demand shock, a supply shock, and a financial shock all at once.”

The pandemic crippled the economy in multiple ways. Shopping centers, strip malls and retail stores were all ordered closed in favor of social distancing and lockdowns, while quarantine and unemployment rendered demand to reduced proportions. With businesses and factories closed, supply has always been an ongoing issue, particularly as we enter into the holiday season.

COVID hasn’t affected all Americans the same, either. The CDC has attributed social inequities to COVID deaths among racial and ethnic groups, affecting these communities in ways such as housing, income, health-care access, education and occupation.

The Year Ahead…

As we enter 2021, many families are increasingly apprehensive about their finances with coronavirus still in effect. Unemployment still remains high, with many businesses forced to shutter due to extended loss from quarantine and social distancing. For those who have managed to keep their jobs, many have had their hours reduced or restricted, drastically affecting regular pay.

All of these financial worries can have a significant impact on your body’s ability to deal with and process stress. Over time, this stress can begin to manifest itself in different ways, attacking your body’s systems and creating significant health issues that can have serious repercussions.

It’s not easy living through a global pandemic, but it’s critical that you do all you can to manage your stress in healthy ways, so your body doesn’t pay the price.

What Financial Stress Does to our Sleep

Financial stress doesn’t just give you headaches – it can give way to more serious, chronic issues when you regularly face ongoing stress.

When your body faces stress, it protects itself by firing off extra hormones to help the body prepare. These hormones increase your heart rate and speed up your breathing rate, preparing your body for response and reaction to stressors. When you have extended, chronic stress, however, your body can become overstimulated, and it can create problems such as these:

  • Cardiovascular conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks and stroke
  • Gastrointestinal problems, such as gastritis, ulcerative colitis and irritable colon
  • Skin and hair problems, such as acne, psoriasis, eczema and permanent hair loss
  • Mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and personality disorders
  • Eating disorders, like obesity
  • Menstrual problems
  • Sexual dysfunction, such as impotence and premature ejaculation in men and loss of sexual desire in both men and women

To best understand the repercussions of recession, we only have to look a few years back.

Studies analyzing the 2008 economic crash show that a recession, such as this one with its high unemployment rates and decline in living conditions, can have a negative impact on residents’ health. Factors like reduced income and uncontrollable debt contribute negatively to one’s health, especially where mental health is concerned.

With residents sheltered into place, families are separated, friendships are lost and professional and social relationships are put on pause. This has an enormous impact on not only your physical activity but your mental health, as well. Not surprisingly, a financial recession contributes to poor mental health, substance abuse and even suicide.

Part of surviving an economic recession is being cognizant of budding issues as they occur so you can positively manage your stress.

This includes several common financial roadblocks that can be prevented with a little preparation and planning.

Potential Financial Roadblocks to Look Out For

Every year, there are certain financial obstacles that make spending and debt management all the more difficult. COVID has left too many critical parts of life uncertain, such as employment and health. More than ever, it is prudent to spend wisely: to pay off bills and stash cash away in an emergency savings fund.

Tax Season

Then, like clockwork, tax season arrives, bringing with it a list of hefty demands and tax payments. An experienced tax professional can help you prepare your tax filings and help you identify areas where you can perhaps save some extra money. Be sure to consider your current tax setup and look into what changes can be made to alleviate the tax burden and make tax time a little easier each year.

COVID-Related Expenses

In addition to job loss, pay cuts and company closures, there are other ways that coronavirus can affect your finances personally.

To help recoup lost business and keep the doors open, many businesses are now adding a coronavirus surcharge to the bill. Some industries are also facing serious inflation from reduced demand and supply issues. For example, a September 2020 CNBC article said that if you plan to remodel these days, it could cost you up to 50% more and 50% longer.

If you must make purchases during coronavirus, be sure to examine the bill carefully and talk to your provider about cost.

How COVID Has Affected Financial Stress

With cold weather sweeping across the country and exacerbating the disease, it is critical that you prepare yourself for the added financial stress that COVID can bring.

Financial stress can have an exaggerated, long term effect on your mental and physical well-being. When you’re worried about money, it can impact your life in ways that you never imagined. Overwhelming stress and anxiety can interfere with your sleep, keeping you up at night with worry when you should be resting. That fatigue will then rear its ugly head during the day when you are at work, impacting your overall job performance and ability to stay focused. It could even mean losing your job.

It’s not easy living through a global pandemic, but it’s critical that you do all you can to manage your stress in healthy ways, so your body doesn’t pay the price...

Without the steady income from regular employment, you are now thrust even deeper into the cycle, with new financial stresses mounting. The pressure can make you feel like you’re going to crack, and that stress and anxiety bleeds over into the rest of the family, as well.

How Kids & Teens Are Affected

When parents are under extreme financial stress, it’s only too evident to the children in the household.

As dependents, kids rely on their parents to provide them with their daily essentials. If money is running short, children will often be made all too aware by the loss of power or an eviction notice in the door. Even if your financial situation is not so dire, children are incredibly perceptive and can sense changes in mood and atmosphere. As a parent, you may feel that you are hiding these stressors well, but often, children still can sense that something is wrong.

This can lead to worry, and, with a general lack of understanding, kids can come to fear things that may not even exist. Suddenly, the entire household isn’t sleeping and suffering from the negative impacts of financial stress. As a caregiver, there are some things you can do to support your child when dealing with stress and anxiety.

  • Get active

Help your child get some exercise before or after dinner. While you want to work off some of that reserve energy, be careful not to exercise too close to bedtime, or your child may have trouble winding down for sleep.

  • Take a bath

Use a soothing lavender body wash that will calm the senses and prepare you for sleep.

  • Stretch or do yoga

The low-key activity will help your body slowly unwind for bed.

  • Keep a gratitude journal

It’s hard to remember our blessings when our minds are assaulted by constant stress, but a gratitude journal can help you stay positive during difficult times.

  • Consider a weighted blanket

Weighted blankets have skyrocketed in popularity due to their calming, anti-anxiety effects. While not proven safe for younger children, older teens and adults may appreciate the extra security that a weighted blanket provides.

  • Try chamomile tea.

Sipping some chamomile tea before bed can be a soothing and relaxing activity that makes the body sleepy and ready for rest.

How Adults Are Affected

For overextended adults, finding rest can be a little more difficult.

A study by the National Council of Aging, in cooperation with the University of Massachusetts LeadingAge LTSS Center, found that age is indeed a contributing factor to financial stress, with older adults harder hit. The study writes, “Older adults, in general, suffer declines in net wealth during large and unanticipated economic downturns and, unlike younger adults, they have less time to make up such losses to bolster their retirement savings.”

Sleep deprivation is a common symptom of financial stress and can have a negative impact on your mental health during an already difficult time. As sleep experts, we understand all too well the burdens that financial stress and poor sleep can have on your life. We can help you develop a game plan to protect and enhance your sleep while remaining focused on your financial goals.

It’s important to first assess what kind of sleep issues you are experiencing. Are you having trouble falling asleep? Can you call asleep easily but then awaken several times during the night? By understanding what specific sleep conditions you are experiencing, you can begin to find a proper solution and resolve them. Be sure to remain consistent in any changes that you make, enforcing a regular schedule of long-term changes.

Change doesn’t happen overnight, so you want to be sure that you are committing to positive, healthy changes that aren’t sustainable long-term. As a maturing adult, you may face additional financial struggles in the future, so it’s important to be prepared as much as possible.

Tips For Better Sleep

At the end of the day, you just need to rest. Giving your mind and body the opportunity to recharge is critical when you are facing financial and life stress. After the bills are put away and the kids have been put to bed, give yourself time to enjoy a relaxing bedtime routine that readies your body for rest. Not only will it calm your mind and put you in a healthy headspace before bed, but it can actually help you fall asleep faster.

When building your bedtime routine, consider each of these tips.

  • Stick to your sleep schedule.

Many of us tend to stay up later on weekends, but that can actually have an impact on your overall sleep health. You are more likely to have an easier time falling asleep when you maintain a consistent sleep schedule seven days a week.

  • Beef up your diet.

Proper nutrition and a healthy diet are pivotal to healthy sleep habits, so make sure you are eating a balanced diet with plenty of protein. However, be sure to give your system time to digest, or you could be kept awake not for stress but because of an over-full belly.

  • Spend time outdoors.

A combination of regular exercise and Vitamin D from the sun will help your body better maintain a regular sleep schedule by reinforcing times of wakefulness. It will also help you become more tired by bedtime, allowing you to sleep more deeply and soundly.

  • Rework your sleep space.

Over time, our mattress can go flat, and our sheets become threadbare, the curtains worn thin by time and allowing too much light into the room. Take the time to reassess your bedroom and consider changes like a new cheap mattress, a new set of sheets or fluffy, new pillows. Blackout curtains can help keep out light so you can sleep better without outside interference.

  • Avoid stimulants.

Caffeine and nicotine are two examples of stimulants that can interfere with sleep, so skip the evening coffee or smoke. Instead, have a warm cup of tea that will help relax the body for bed.

The Bottom Line

Coronavirus has been a difficult time for people all over the world, and many a sleep schedule has been affected by the growing financial stresses from things like unemployment and loss of income. Parents find themselves in an especially challenging position, now having to hide their financial stressors from already worried and all-too-perceptive children.

However, with the FDA reporting several positive developments regarding a COVID cure, business is slowly getting back on track as the economy slowly adjusts to this new normal. As a parent, it’s all too easy to stress about money and debt, but you are less likely to effectively handle these worries when you are sleep-deprived and unable to cope.

By establishing and maintaining healthy sleep habits for your entire household, you will be better able to meet the challenges of each day and maintain excellent financial management, even during a pandemic.