How sleep helps during times of crisis?

When the power goes out, sleep can become a luxury. In the midst of a crisis, it’s important to get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can lead to a number of problems, including making you more likely to have a fall or sustain an injury, developing depression or anxiety, or even full-blown post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Getting enough sleep will help you stay physically strong, keep your spirits up, make informed decisions, stay sharp during times of crisis, and maintain the stamina necessary to survive calamity.

Make sure you have adequate sleeping quarters

You need a dry, comfortable, safe place to sleep, free from environmental disruptions like noise, light, and bad air quality. A bed is ideal, but a couch, reclining chair, or air mattress will do in a pinch. If you have an RV, that’s an option, too.

If you have nowhere to sleep, ask a friend or family member if you can stay with them, or look into shelters or hotels.

Your #1 Priority: Be Safe

Sleeping in the aftermath of a disaster is hard for many reasons: personal loss and grief, property damage, fear and uncertainty, ongoing hazards, economic hardship, physical injury and illness — and even basic logistics. After a disaster, it can be difficult to find a safe and comfortable place to sleep. If your home is flooded, or your house has collapsed in a quake or is currently burning down, you may not have a place to sleep.

The American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA) cannot ensure that every person victimized by a natural disaster will find quality sleep, but we can help you address some of the challenges you may face.

If you can’t find a 100 percent safe space right now, please try to find one as soon as possible. Find a shelter, ask for help or a place to stay with friends or neighbors, and leave your home for now if you can. It’s important to do this soon, because disaster repairs can take months. Living in unsafe or unsanitary conditions immediately after a disaster while waiting for rebuilding assistance—which could be weeks away—is a guarantee you won’t be able to sleep well.

While it’s understandable that you may not want to evacuate your home, it’s still better to leave, collect yourself mentally and physically, and return when conditions are livable.

If you must sleep outside (even if only for a few hours), make sure you are in a safe place away from rising water, structures that could shift or collapse, out of direct sunlight, and protected from the elements.

But please, go to a shelter or find a better location with a safe interior after that.

Practice the best sleep hygiene possible under the circumstances

The best way to get good sleep is to follow some simple sleep hygiene practices.Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. This will help to regulate your body’s natural circadian rhythms.

  • Try to filter out noise as much as possible. At this time, there may be more noise than usual from things like sirens, earth-moving equipment, and utility trucks. Wearing earplugs or listening to white noise can help.
  • Filter out light as much as possible. There may also be more ambient light than usual, from things like task lighting for utility repairs, shelter floodlights, and fires. Wearing an eye mask or hanging sheets over windows can help.
  • Filter the air and water. Both may be polluted at this time. If you have access to air or water filtration systems, use them. Be vigilant, as both air and water can carry harmful contaminants that you can’t see but could impact your sleep and overall health.
  • Stay cool. Use fans or AC, if possible.
  • Keep your sleeping space clean and tidy. Odors and microorganisms can build up in cluttered and unclean spaces, making it harder to relax.
  • Avoid stimulants. Coffee is at the top of this list for a reason. Drinking coffee after lunch may lead to poor sleep onset later, excessive sleepiness the following day, and new dependence on caffeine. This is not a healthy habit to get into during times of stress. Choose decaf or herbal options that don’t have caffeine in them after noon. And don’t use drugs (over-the-counter, prescription, or illegal) for a pick me up. Adequate sleep is the best energizer.
  • Bedtime rituals can be a great way to wind down and relax before going to sleep. Maybe you already had some rituals before disaster struck, such as reading, yoga, listening to music, aromatherapy, or taking a warm bath. Returning to these rituals can help you feel more grounded and familiar. Even just the regular habit of brushing teeth, washing the face, brushing the hair, or moisturizing the hands and feet right before bed can do wonders for relaxation. Personal hygiene during rough times is considered a valiant, but necessary, act of self care.
  • Being physically active during the day can help improve sleep onset and quality of sleep at night. If you are cleaning up or volunteering for a shelter, this may be pretty easy to accomplish!
  • It can be really hard to eat right during the aftermath. You may be relying on shelter supplies, your own emergency kit, or carry out brought in by others. Make the best of it, and try to eat at times more conducive to sleep at night (at least 2 hours before bedtime) and wakefulness during the day (breakfast, first thing in the morning).
  • Also, stay hydrated. Stress and post-disaster climate and conditions (heat, humidity, wind) can zap us of fluids. Dehydration leads to daytime fatigue. A glass of water at bedtime (the colder the better) can also help with sleep onset.

if you use a CPAP machine

Get Battery Backup

If you have a backup power supply, you can continue therapy during a disaster. Many CPAP forums offer creative tips for rigging to a marine or car battery. To get the best advice, visit the manufacturer of your particular PAP machine and see what they recommend.

Manufacturers will give instructions for hooking up PAP to a car battery, free-standing marine battery, or portable battery backup. Follow their advice to prevent voiding the warranty later, should something go wrong.

If you want to use your existing machine with an auxiliary battery, you may need an inverter. Check with your manufacturer to see which inverter (or other accessory) you’ll need. You can also buy a backup battery that’s customized for your machine. They can be costly, but for some people, it’s worth it.

Have a second machine

If yu have a spare CPAP machine, make sure you pack your go bag. Check that everything is there, including any extra batteries you might need, and make sure it’s stored somewhere safe. You should also check that the humidifier is working properly, and that you have enough bottled water.

Stock Up on Distilled Water

Make sure you have enough distilled water for your humidifier for a period of at least a week. Water is a rare commodity in disaster-stricken areas and having ample supply is always a good idea.