The outbreak of COVID-19 has caused a lot of pain to us, physically and mentally. The virus has not only made us physically ill but has impacted us mentally by forcing us to quarantine ourselves, which as a result has affected our sleep. The following are some of the ways the pandemic has affected our sleep.
- The impact of chronic stress
- Pandemic lifestyle changes are a big factor
- Streaming and binge habits don’t help
- The coronasomnia cycle
Let’s have a closer look at how these virus-related factors contribute to our lack of quality sleep.
The Impact of Chronic Stress
There is no doubt that the past year has been one of the most stressful times in our life. From witnessing so many deaths to having almost no interaction with another person, it has been quite difficult for all of us, personally and professionally.
Stress, itself is one of the most common reasons for not being able to sleep properly and experiencing the kind of stress that this year has brought with it is no exception to this.
According to Lisa Medalie, behavioral medicine provider PsyD, “Stress can have a negative impact on sleep.” Stress activities release hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol which increases the heart rate and blood pressure, which puts the body in fight or flight mode. This makes it quite challenging to fall asleep.
When we lose sleep due to stress, our mind is unable to function at an optimum level, we struggle to manage our thoughts and emotions throughout the day.
Many people have unfortunately become accustomed to this vicious cycle.
Pandemic Lifestyle Changes Play A Big Factor
The massive change in lifestyle has also contributed a great deal to our sleep. Having to deal with an inconsistent routine, which includes homeschooling, working from home, financial crises, unemployment and increased screen time, makes it very hard for people to fall asleep during these challenging times.
The lack of consistency in a person’s daily life can become very problematic for the mind and the body, especially for children who have become home-bound and are not getting enough time outside to refresh their minds, which is very important to get a good night’s sleep.
Parents who have kids studying from home, must then catch up with their work in the evenings, which means they don’t get the time to wind down because they are constantly busy with their daily activities, this can affect their sleeping patterns and thus not allow their minds to get the necessary rest that it needs.
Teens are known for staying up late to check their email and social media. They start to develop delayed sleep phase syndrome, however, during this pandemic we are seeing a large number of people developing the same habit especially those who are early birds are finding it difficult to maintain a good routine. According to Dr. Raj Dasgupta, an assistant professor of clinical medicine, “The best sleep requires a set bedtime even on weekends and holidays.”
According to Rhonda Mattox, the president-elect of Arkansas Medical, Dental and Pharmaceutical Association, “Our routines and habits have been disrupted, our downtimes away from the kids on our way home has been taken away from us. We don’t even get the few minutes of just sitting in the car outside the house.”
When our mind and body become stuck in this inconsistent schedule it tends to overwork and burnout, which leads to sleep deprivation.
Streaming and Binge Habits Don’t Help
As we all know, research has also proven that the more screen time we have the less quality sleep we get. According to Lisa Medalie, “even before the pandemic, one-third Americans were sleep-deprived due to screen time. Now with the pandemic, we are getting even more deprived of sleep because people are becoming more attached to their screens.
With so many kids and adults these days spending a lot of time watching tv, constantly checking their social media for updates and binge-watching shows in order to get distracted from the stress caused by pandemic, there has been a spike in the lack of sleep, which is dangerous for their sleep hygiene.
Lisa Medalie explains that Blue Light from electronics tells our brain to stop producing melatonin (hormone that controls sleep), hence staring at a screen before bedtime can prevent us from achieving a healthy sleep, which is especially important for the proper functioning of the body.
Despite all this research, we continue with these habits especially during this pandemic when we need some sort of distraction.
The Coronasomnia Cycle
We seem to be stuck in this vicious coronasomnia cycle, in which we are constantly thinking of health problems, homeschooling, financial problems etc. The stress of all these issues has caused fatigue and exhaustion amongst many people.
People are experiencing other health problems that are related to insufficient sleep, in this pandemic, this includes: elevated stress, mood swings, decreased exercise, and decreased light exposure with more time indoors.
According to Lisa Medalie, “Research shows that 58% of people are struggling with sleep, and there has been a 20% increase in sleep medication use.”
This cycle of constantly stressing daily problems, becoming sleep deprived and then experiencing mood swings, unable to manage thoughts and again stressing over day-to-day problems, is known as the coronasomnia cycle. And unfortunately, most of us are stuck in it for some time.
This vicious cycle of stress and sleeplessness can result in severe exhaustion.
What can I do to improve my sleep?
Here are some tips for you try to overcome coronasomnia and get a good sleep:
- Develop a routine: Set up a bedtime routine by taking a warm shower, reading a book, listening to soothing music, praying, yoga, doing some deep breathing. This will help you to relax your brain.
- Strive for cooler temperatures: Make sure the bed and pillows are comfortable, and the room is at a nice, cool temperature, ideally it should be between 60 to 67 Fahrenheit.
- Don’t watch tv or work in your bedroom: You want to make sure the brain knows that the bedroom is only for sleeping and relaxing.
- Avoid certain food and drinks: Avoid having drinks, coffees, sodas especially if you have insomnia. Chamomile tea would be a good one as the herbs in it will allow you to relax.
- Positive thinking: This is a stressful time for all of us, however, you should do your best to destress yourself by thinking positively and calmly instead of worrying so much which will only make your day work by not letting your brain function at its best. So try thinking positive thoughts before going to bed. As they say end your day with a smile, a good thought, and a grateful heart.
Can sufficient sleep help protect against Covid-19?
We heal when we sleep. A healthy immune system is essential in fighting off any kind of virus more than a sleep deprived immune system. Adults should focus on getting a good slumber and set a regular bedtime and wake up routine.
What is coronasomnia?
Coronasomnia is the inability to fall asleep or get a good quality sleep during the pandemic.
Sources: CNN, Healthline.