By all accounts, 2020 was a year for the record books, and as we warily enter 2021, there’s no denying the impact that the last year has had on the collective American psyche.
“The world lately has been stressful and overwhelming, to say the least,” says Wayne Connors, Managing Director of Active Communication Cabling Ltd. “We have witnessed a global pandemic, high unemployment rates, risk of getting sick, protests and conversations about social and racial injustices, and much more in just a few short months.”
A recent Safety.com study revealed startling facts about the lasting impact of 2020. Security concerns were the reason that up to 61 million U.S. adults experienced a loss of sleep in 2020, with women more susceptible to sleep loss than men. Despite overwhelming advancements in technology, Americans just have too much to fear these days.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has produced significant stress, anxiety, and worries about health, employment, and financial hardship,” says Dexter Grima, Founder & CEO of VitaBright. “For most people, their homes are their havens where they expect to be able to feel safe and secure. However, sadly, during this unprecedented time of uncertainty and fear, problems such as high crime rates can often leave people feeling anything but safe even in their own homes.”
Grima warns that this can affect you in other ways, too. “When you feel unsafe and on edge, it can affect many different areas of your life because it can cause a lot of stress and put you and your loved ones under immense strain.”
Breaking from technology
To understand more about the relationship between stress and sleep, we talked to Dr. Pietro Luca Ratti, MD, Ph.D — a sleep expert and Neurologist for WhatAsleep. He talked to us about the direct effects of the COVID pandemic, as well as all of the other stressors that 2020 dished up like candy.
“Well, the constant consumption of negative news is definitely affecting us all, and not in a good way,” he said. “We are always filtering through social media on our phones and we see lots of terrible, scary things, including news about riots, killings, shootings, and more. We try to block it out and act like we’re not affected by it, but we really are.”
The security industry is noticing these effects, too.
“It’s no secret that Americans are worried about their safety,” said Kristen Bolig, the founder of SecurityNerd. “58% of U.S. citizens report that they worry about their safety every single day. Their biggest concerns are being the victim of a violent crime or facing property crimes.
These fears, while very real, are not triggered by a proven increase in crime, according to Bolig. “Although there is no evidence that violent crimes are on the rise, the visibility of violent crimes has increased. Viral videos and increased media coverage of crimes may be adding to these concerns.”
So, what is one to do?
11 Steps to Take to Sleep Better by Not Worrying about Home Security
Based on expert recommendations, here are some ways to step up your security around the home so you sleep better.
- Perform a lock check.
We’ve all done it before, where we are lying in bed, and suddenly, no matter how hard we try, we cannot rid ourselves of one nagging thought: “Did I lock the front door?”
To settle those thoughts, create a consistent nightly routine where you check your home’s windows and doors to ensure all are locked and secure. It may be hard to remember at first, but use your phone to set a reminder so it becomes a part of your regular routine before you tuck into bed. Post-it notes on the lightswitch or bathroom mirror are also easy ways to give yourself a quick reminder.
- Install proper exterior lighting.
James Surrey, Founder and Chief Editor of Review Home Warranties, hailed the benefits of quality lighting outside of a home. “If you need a cost-effective way to fortify your home, keep your outdoor area lit in the evening, even once you go to bed,” he says. “It’s obviously not a fail-proof method, but you’ll rest a little easier knowing that burglars might be deterred by the light. Sensor floodlights are especially a good choice for the front porch. The wider the light beam, the better.”
VitaBright’s Dexter Grima also encourages homeowners to consider their landscaping. “Avoid dark, overgrown corners in your landscaping. Robbers are looking for houses they can get into without being seen. Homes covered by overgrown trees, shrubbery, or shrouded in darkness give burglars a better chance of getting in and out with ease.”
- Utilize door jammers.
As a violence and cybercrime expert, attorney, and consultant, Alexis Moore regularly coaches victims of abuse on safety measures for their homes. She tells us, “Ensure you have the basics — sturdy deadbolt locks on all doors, locks on garage doors, and side gates. Lock your car and all of your doors at night.” These are simple steps that everyone should take, but they’re easy to overlook.
There are additional precautions you can take, too.
More advised us to “take extra care that windows are secure, including sliding glass doors with additional protection. A wooden dowel in the track is a great tool, as that way, the window and sliding doors cannot be easily removed and pried open.”
Joel Lim, Founder and CEO of Defiel, encouraged thoroughness in your review of your home, particularly your doors. “Make sure you insert deadbolts or replace old ones. Then, I recommend you install metal frames and add a steel conduit.”
- Use a noise machine.
Some light sleepers may find themselves easily awoken and disturbed by the little things that go bump in the night. Things like the heater kicking on or a branch against a window on a windy night can all be frightening distractions that keep your worries at the forefront.
A white noise machine or box fan could be an easy solution to drown out little noises that could be keeping you awake each night. There are also several apps that provide customizable soundtracks for sleep, using a combination of nature and everyday sounds with soothing music.
- Get a dog.
Our 2019 Safety.com Home Security Survey found that about 36% of Americans use a dog in place of a traditional security system.
“A dog is a great companion and often serves as a wonderful burglar alarm,” commented Moore. “During the pandemic, many are adopting pets from shelters.”
Any kind of dog can be an excellent deterrent, as burglars are often hesitant to cross Fido. No matter the size, your canine companion also serves as a built-in alarm and security system.
- Cover your windows.
The windows are the eyes of your home, which means that would-be burglars are also able to peer into your home and observe your family. Be sure to use curtains, blinds or another kind of opaque covering to ensure that your privacy is preserved.
Some homeowners may also want to consider a fence, something Joel Lim suggests.
“For reinforcing your fence, check your state laws to verify the maximum height for a fence,” he advised. “If there isn’t a law, make sure it’s at least seven feet high. If fence spikes are legal in your state, I would recommend you use them as well.”
- Purchase a home security system.
Our survey found that although almost 75% of respondents reported that a home security system made them feel safer, 62% of respondents didn’t own any kind of security device whatsoever. According to that survey, renters and homeowners between the ages of 18-34 most frequently utilize security systems in their homes.
The truth is that a home security system is a massive deterrent to would-be burglars, with only 13% of convicted burglars saying they would continue robbing a home when there is a security system in place.
Don’t forget about your exterior security signs, either. Lim cited a study conducted by his team at Defiel, finding that “54% of burglars are deterred by a simple security sign. It is one of the most common things burglars look for, and a burglar would do anything to reduce the risk of being caught.”
“A security system is perhaps your best aid to feeling safe,” added Wayne Conners of ACCL. “It can also help satisfy you both visually and aurally, because you can have security cameras that allow you to see what is happening around your house, and you can have alarms that sound to alert you of intruders.”
Can’t afford a home security system? Victims advocate Alexis Moore offered another suggestion for those who have their cars in their driveways. “One of the best tools I have advised my clients who are victims of stalking is to have their car key by the bed, as most every car remote has a panic button. Often, that noise itself is enough to thwart off a burglar who doesn’t want to be noticed.”
- Install doorbell or surveillance cameras.
“The best way to protect your home is by installing security systems such as security cameras, motion sensors and alarms,” said Shayne Sherman, CEO of Techloris. “This will help to keep your home safe and secure while you sleep but also when you are away. Systems such as the Ring doorbell also prove to be very effective against home burglaries due to the 24/7 recording.
And according to VitaBright’s founder, Dexter Grima, “Security systems also provide you with an alert that your home has been breached and trigger a call to the police, which may minimize the amount of loss you experience from a burglary.”
Your home insurance provider will be happy about that.
Meditation is proven to help insomnia by naturally putting the mind and body at peace before bed. It helps to increase the sleep hormone melatonin while reducing your heart rate and blood pressure.
- Be neighborly.
“Getting to know your neighbors is a great way to build an all-around safer neighborhood,” said Grima. “Neighbors who are at least friendly with one another, if not [quite] friends, tend to look out for each other.”
Your surrounding neighbors can be an enormous asset, serving as a built-in security system that provides extra sets of eyes all around your property and community. Apps like NextDoor and Facebook are great ways to connect and network with your neighbors so you can share the latest crime information with one another.
- Don’t ignore your fear.
Just as you connect with your neighbors, don’t forget to also connect with the positive influences in your life, such as your friends and family, medical doctors, or religious figures. In addition to helping you stay calm and grounded, they can also provide critical safety, security, and mental wellness resources to help you cope with today’s challenging world.
Don’t forget about your home insurance
With all of the changes you make to your home to improve your home security, don’t forget to notify your home insurance provider. When you improve your home security, you reduce risk as a policyholder, therefore significantly reducing the likelihood of you filing a claim.
“One of the main things people often overlook when it comes to home security is their homeowners insurance,” said Matthew Jenson, Senior General Adjuster and Xactimate Level 3 Certified Estimator for Utah Public Adjusters.
He shared three ways that home insurance can benefit from improved home security:
“Your insurance will give you a discount on your rates if you have an actively monitored security system. This can easily offset the cost of the security system.”
“Your insurance will cover any damages to the home caused by the break-in.”
“Your insurance will cover the cost to replace the damaged or stolen items.”
“Remember,” Jenson told us, “you should always have a yearly inventory of your home so you know what is in your home. If you cannot prove that it was there, your insurance will not pay for it. We recommend taking a video every year and just walk your rooms and store the video in the cloud in case it is destroyed or lost. Also, if you have a large amount of jewelry, gold, or firearms you should list these in your policy as a separate item, as there are usually limits on your policy.”
No one knows what lay ahead for 2021, but with the uncertainty of today’s world, it’s more important than ever to get a good night’s rest to remain healthy. It may take some adjustment, but these tips can help you improve your peace of mind, alleviate that crippling fear, and find a way to count those happy sheep again.
The first steps to feeling safe are in your control, says Drew Neckar, MBA, CPP. The President of Security Advisors Consulting Group, a full-service security consulting and litigation support firm shared his advice with us.
“Developing an effective security strategy for your home or business must start with an accurate assessment of the probable risks,” said Neckar. “Most local police departments will provide data on types of crime that have been reported in an area and their frequency, which can provide a great starting point for determining what risks you face. Once this is determined, it is much easier to select methods to address and reduce the potential for either occurrence or severity of the crimes that truly pose a risk.”
VitaBright’s founder offered some additional perspective: “Feeling safe and being safe are different but intertwined ideas. Though safety can never be guaranteed, there are measurable ways to be safer — the things that statistically lower crime, like locking your doors and windows.”
“Prevention is the best way to improve the safety of your home,” he said. “Take action to improve your home’s safety. Once you do, you can rest easy knowing you’ve done what you can to create a home safe home.”
Here’s to a safer and healthier 2021.