Getting good sleep during the covid-19 pandemic

Coronavirus stress and sleep

Coronavirus COVID-19 is a new infection that has spread around the world in recent months. This is a pandemic. This virus is very infectious, so it is easy for it to spread from person to person. To prevent COVID-19 from spreading too quickly and too widely, governments all around the world have placed restrictions on what people can and cannot do. There has also been a lot of media reports about COVID-19 and the associated economic impacts and health effects of this virus.

All of these things can easily make people anxious and stressed. This is natural when there are many unknown factors. Fear and anxiety can cause strong emotions in adults and children, which may result in difficulty sleeping. When our sleep is of a poor quality, or if we cannot get enough sleep, we may not be able to function normally during the day when we are awake.

Sleep is important

Sleep is as important as a healthy diet and exercise. Inadequate sleep can induce and/or make our feelings of anxiety and stress seem worse (see Anxiety and Sleep). We may not be able to think clearly or make sensible decisions, making it difficult to concentrate at school or work (see Memory, Thinking and Sleep). We can become upset, angry and irritable more easily. This can all have negative effects on our relationships with family, friends and in our workplaces.

Inadequate sleep can also affect our physical health. When we do not get enough sleep or if our sleep is disrupted this can negatively impact our diet, physical activity levels and even blood pressure levels.Inadequate sleep can also affect our physical health. When we do not get enough sleep or if our sleep is disrupted this can negatively impact our diet, physical activity levels and even blood pressure levels.

Importantly, sleep helps us fight off infection. When sleep is of poor quality it can impair our immune response. In addition, poor sleep might result in ‘flare-ups’ of other chronic illness/diseases.

  • Sleep is involved in the regulation of immune cells, that is cells that fight off infection.
  • People who are sleep deprived have increased risk of contracting a virus when exposed to it.

Getting a good night’s sleep

As we try to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important we prioritise our sleep and health.

If worrying about COVID-19 is stopping us from falling asleep, or keeps us awake during the night, there are things that we can do to reduce the worry and improve sleep:

  1. Limit media exposure. Be sensible about what you learn about COVID-19. Check official web sites (such as Do not pay too much attention to gossip and some media reports, which may be exaggerated, or may simply be guessing what might happen.
  2. Make time to unwind. Spend some time relaxing and watching, listening or reading about things that have nothing to do with COVID-19. This is especially important in the hour or so before going to sleep, so that you can go to sleep with a relaxed mind.
  3. Take care of your body. As much as possible keep a normal routine throughout the day. Get some exercise, eat sensibly, do not drink too much alcohol, and avoid caffeine close to bed. Make sure that you do something fun and have a laugh during the day.
  4. Connect with others. If you have specific concerns, try to deal with them before going to bed. Simply talking to some-one you trust about your worries can often help. Get some advice from a trusted person who might be able to help you solve the problem. Social distancing does not need to equate to social isolation.
  5. Take care of your mind. If the worry is still on your mind as you are getting ready to go to sleep, sit down quietly, think about what the issues are and how you might deal with them tomorrow. It may help to write these things down, including a list about what you plan to do about them during the next few days. You may also like to try using a smartphone app called ‘Smiling Mind’ which has helpful short mindfulness activities to help you relax.
  6.  Your bed is predominantly for sleep. You want to achieve a strong connection between your bed and successful sleep (i.e., falling asleep and staying asleep easily). If you go to bed and find that you cannot get to sleep, or if you wake up during the night and cannot get back to sleep because of worries, get up and do something relaxing in dim light that is quiet and away from the bedroom. Go back to bed when you feel ready to fall asleep.
  7. Keep a regular sleep-wake routine. As much as possible we should keep a normal sleep routine. Going to bed at the same time each night, and getting up at the same time each morning is important for getting a good night of sleep
  8.  Managing fatigue. Also remember that even if you did not get much sleep, or it seemed to be poor sleep, it is not the end of the world. You will get through the next day all right and if you are quite tired, you will probably sleep better the next night. If you are extremely fatigued and sleepy you may need to have a coffee or take a nap to function normally and safely (see Caffeine and Sleep and Napping for more information).
  9. Sleep is like a butterfly. You cannot reach out and grab it and catch it. If you stay quiet and still, the butterfly will come to you. It is the same with sleep. You cannot force yourself to go to sleep, so do not try. Simply allow yourself to be relaxed and quiet, and sleep will come to you.

More information about sleep

You may also like to check out some of the below Sleep Health Foundation fact sheets that may be helpful in optimising sleep during difficult times, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Anxiety and Sleep
  • Good Sleep Habits
  • Preventing Chronic Insomnia
  • Sleep Mistakes
  • Technology and Sleep

If you are required to self-isolate and stay indoors for an extended period, then you can find additional helpful sleep tips at the following link:



Helping our Malaysian healthcare workers get the rest they need


Sleep is probably one of the most valued commodities for our healthcare workers now serving in our public healthcare facilities in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Tiredness and a lack of sleep are among issues faced by our healthcare workers especially front liners who are putting in the extra hours on a daily basis.

Hospital Sungai Buloh staff receiving Rilax
University Malaya Medical Centre staff receiving Rilax

To help our national heroes sleep better after their shifts, Livelife Sdn Bhd is sponsoring 400 boxes of Rilax sleep supplements for healthcare workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic at public healthcare facilities at Hospital Sungai Buloh and University Malaya Medical Centre.

We are indeed delighted to sponsor our Rilax sleep supplements to our heroes fighting this pandemic. Our healthcare workers are sacrificing time with family, friends and not forgetting hours of sleep to attend to the high numbers in patient arrivals during this time. We can only imagine the stressful time they are going through” says Aileen Chan, Chief Operating Officer of LiveLife Sdn Bhd.

“It is a time for all Malaysians to look out for each other and help where we can. Our healthcare workers are working around the clock battling this unseen enemy. It can be tiring being up on your feet for long hours and extremely hot under the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).”

“We are indeed touched by their sacrifice and service for the nation. They do deserve a good rest after their long shifts,” added Aileen Chan.

Rilax has been in the Malaysian market since 2007 and is available at major pharmacies such as Caring, Healthlane, AA, BIG, AEON Wellness, Tigas Alliance, Georgetown and other independent pharmacies throughout Malaysia, as well as on major online marketplaces such as Shopee and Lazada.

Rilax carton being opened by healthcare frontliners

Covid–19: Why sleep could be a lifesaver

A lack of sleep leaves us stressed, tired and likely to overeat – but it also leaves us open to infection.

Sleep could prove to be a lifesaver when it comes to Covid-19 – both in staving it off and minimising symptoms when it hits.

We all know that not getting enough sleep leaves us stressed, tired and likely to overeat, but it also leaves us open to infection.

While it’s too early for any studies to have been done on the effects of sleep on this particular coronavirus (Covid-19), in 2015 researchers in the US deliberately infected 164 volunteers with the rhinovirus (common cold).

The immune system is particularly boosted during 'slow wave sleep', the first third of the night when we sleep deeply

They found that the people who slept less than six hours a night were four times more likely to develop cold symptoms than the ones who slept for seven hours or more.

This is because you’re resting when you’re asleep. Through all the phases of sleep your body is building energy, fixing and repairing, but the immune system is particularly boosted during “slow wave sleep”, the first third of the night when we sleep deeply.

“During sleep our immune systems produces and distributes cytokines [a type of protein], and in particular T cells [a type of white blood cell which is crucially important to the immune system]. T cells identify and attach themselves to any infected cells in the body and destroy them – and the infection, too,” says sleep expert Jason Ellis, director of the Northumbria Centre for Sleep Research.

“If you sleep well, you’re not only producing more cytokines but also the T cells become even stickier and more effective at fighting infection.”

A lack of sleep, especially when induced by stress and anxiety, causes a “double whammy” because it creates the “flight or fight” response which activates an inappropriate response from the immune system.

“If you activate it, and it has nothing to do, it creates havoc by producing an inflammation response,” says Prof Ellis.

Depriving yourself of enough deep sleep by overworking does the same thing – so doctors and nurses working double or triple shifts right now are so much more vulnerable, and not just because through exposure to the coronavirus.

“Because it’s their ethical duty and what they choose to do, they’re putting themselves in harm’s way. And if you haven’t slept well before you get a virus, you’re already back-peddling,” says Prof Ellis.

When you have a virus, your body’s immune response will make you sleepy and tired while it does everything it can to fight infection and promote recovery. If you refuse to give in to the urge to rest and nap, it could prolong the illness, not least because your body needs to break out in a fever in order to fight the virus. And fevers most often occur during sleep.

But quite how fever helps in the fight is still relatively unclear, says Prof Mike White who drove a joint study between the University of Warwick and the University of Manchester that proved higher body temperatures drive the body’s immune system to fight infection.

“Fevers are not just a by-product of the illness or a sign that your immune system is doing its job,” says Prof White.

One thing is clear, though; sleep is essential for fever because in the relaxed state, body temperature tends to dip which allows fever to break out.

“During the day the body produces a lot of hormones to keep us walking, talking and reacting, including cortisol and adrenaline,” says Prof Ellis. “At night, you need melatonin to sleep while the production of cortisol and adrenaline reduces so, unencumbered by adrenaline, the fever breaks.”

If you’re just lying in bed and not sleeping, Ellis advises getting up (if you can) and being as active as you can which will help you to sleep when you need – in the form of naps, though try to keep it before 4pm so you can sleep at night.

So while anxiety levels are high and we’re all “sick and tired” of hearing about the importance of sleep, getting enough of it might never have been so important.