Sleep issues aren’t a new phenomenon in the United States. For years, more than a third of Americans haven’t been getting enough sleep. The CDC refers to insufficient sleep as a “public health pandemic” because of how pervasive the issue is.
The lack of sleep was already a problem before the occurrence of COVID-19. People are having more trouble sleeping than ever before because of the tension, anguish, and anxiety caused by COVID-19 and its ramifications on daily life. Nearly half of those affected by the pandemic have experienced difficulty falling asleep. “Coronasomnia,” a term coined by sleep scientists because of the stress of living in a global pandemic, refers to these sleep issues.
One of the “tandemics” that Dr. Abinav Singh, a board-certified sleep medicine and internal medicine Medical Director of the Indiana Sleep Center, refers to as, “an epidemic caused by, made worse by, and runs in parallel with the pandemic.” Mental health issues like anxiety and depression are another example of a tandemic.
What Is Coronasomnia?
As a result of the epidemic, there has been an upsurge in sleep disorders and indications of worry and sadness. Coronasomnia differs from ordinary insomnia in that it is associated to the COVID-19 epidemic, rather than anxiety and sadness.
During the epidemic, many people developed or worsened their symptoms of coronsomnia. In addition, living in a global pandemic has its own set of peculiar ramifications for sleep disorders like coronsomnia, such as disruptions to one’s daily routine and an increased reliance on media. Dr. Singh has used the acronym “FED UP” as a way to remember these stressors:
- Anxiety about money
- Anxiety and depression
- Separation from other people
- Concerns of a business nature
Why does coronasomnia happen?
The epidemic isn’t the only reason of insomnia, so you’re not alone. There has been a “increase in sleep disorders, notably insomnia,” adds Dr. Drerup. According to a study published last year in the United Kingdom, “the number of persons experiencing sleeplessness jumped from 1 in 6 to 1 in 4 during the peak lockdown period in China, while insomnia rates in China rose from 14.6% to 20%.” In the first five months of 2020, there were 2.77 million Google searches for “insomnia” in the United States, an increase of 58% over the same period in the previous three years, according to a report published in the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
According to Dr. Drerup, the rise in sleep disorders is attributable to the pandemic’s heightened stress and worry, as well as the influence of the uncertainty and constant barrage of information we are currently subjected to. We’ve all been thrown off our typical sleep schedules and habits because of the disruptions.
Not only is the pandemic a major source of anxiety for many individuals, but there appears to be no end in sight. This year’s sleep deprivation is made worse by the fact that there is no expiration date on the product.
We’re suffering from COVID burnout, or pandemic fatigue, which is affecting our ability to sleep,” Dr. Drerup explains. “Not being able to participate in ‘regular’ activities, such as going to large meetings or public locations, has contributed to this experience, as has hiding in a house and homeschooling.”
With many of us still working from home, she notes, some people may be able to sleep in a little longer than others. A side effect of this is that it might make it more difficult to get to sleep the next night, which can feed the cycle of insomnia.
While the epidemic is causing a lot of fear, social isolation and quarantining can also lead to depression and sleep problems, Dr. Drerup says.
Symptoms of Coronasomnia
Coronasomnia is characterized by the following symptoms:
- difficulties falling and staying asleep are some of the signs and symptoms of insomnia.
- Stress levels are rising.
- Anxiety and sadness signs and symptoms such as racing thoughts
- Inconveniently timed bedtimes
- As a result of sleep deprivation, symptoms such as increased daytime slumber, reduced concentration and focus, and a sour mood are commonplace.
There has been an increase in insomnia and mental health concerns during the COVID-19 epidemic. About 24% of the population was affected with sleep maintenance insomnia before the pandemic. That rose to 40% during the pandemic. The prevalence increased from 15% to 42% among people who had sleep onset insomnia, or trouble falling asleep in the first place. Experts estimate that the number of persons suffering from some sort of sleeplessness has risen by 37% since the beginning of the pandemic in 2001 to the present.
The pandemic has also been associated with an increase in mental health issues, with 40% of those affected reporting symptoms. There has been a threefold increase in the number of people suffering from anxiety symptoms since 2019. It’s quadrupled in cases of depression.
As a result of the pandemic, many people’s sleep patterns have shifted. There has been an increase in the amount of time people spend napping during the day rather than at night. As a result, they’re delaying going to bed and waking up by up to 39 and 64 minutes, respectively. Poor sleep hygiene is one of the consequences.
Who’s at Risk for Coronasomnia?
Coronasomnia can affect anyone, however particular groups of people are more susceptible, such as those who have a history of sleep disorders.
- COVID-19-infected patients
- Workers on the front lines
- Caregivers who aren’t paid
- Staff members in high demand
- Young people
- Colored people
Because of the symptoms of the condition, such as difficulty breathing and coughing while trying to sleep, patients with COVID-19 are more prone to complain of sleep problems. Seventy-five percent of patients said they had difficulty sleeping.
Healthcare Workers and Coronasomnia
Sleep disorders, anxiety and depression, as well as disrupted sleep, are more common among front-line medical staff, particularly those who work closely with COVID-19 patients.
As a result of their increased exposure to COVID-19, these workers experience higher degrees of infection-related anxiety and supply-related stress at work. Medical staff who work directly with COVID-19 patients are twice as likely to report sleep disturbances as those who do not. Insomnia struck women at a rate of 40% more than it did men.
More than twice as many healthcare workers have reported anxiety and depression during the epidemic compared to the general population. Sleep disturbances are twice as likely to occur in depressed individuals.
Workers in the healthcare industry are already at greater risk of sleep deprivation, particularly those who work overnight or shift work. Poor sleep depletes their immune systems and impairs their cognitive abilities, increasing their vulnerability to infection and jeopardizing their capacity to execute their duties.
The pandemic also impacted the mental health of unpaid carers. Unpaid carers were three times more likely to begin or intensify their substance addiction or contemplate suicide between May and June of 2020. Insomnia can be exacerbated by substance usage, increasing the likelihood of recurrence.
Students and Coronasomnia
More severe effects are seen in students and young people, particularly when it comes to their bed and wake-up hours. The typical student has delayed going to bed by 39 minutes throughout the pandemic, which is more than twice as long as the average adult has delayed going to bed.
Delaying bedtime has helped some of these students to sleep on a schedule that is more in tune with their circadian cycles. It is normal for adolescents to feel fatigued later in the day because of a circadian shift. When students have to get up early for school, this makes it more difficult for them to obtain a good night’s sleep. During the pandemic stay-at-home orders, though, university students have been able to go to sleep and wake up at later times, resulting in about 30 minutes more sleep each night.
The pandemic, on the other hand, has had a negative impact on the mental health of certain students. The pandemic boosted the percentage of people with mental health issues from 23% to 37% in April 2020. More young individuals and women were affected, two demographics already predisposed to anxiety, sadness, and restless sleep. A lack of social interaction can contribute to feelings of loneliness and vulnerability in young people, which in turn can lead to symptoms of melancholy and anxiety.
What Causes Coronasomnia?
Every element of our daily existence has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Millions of workers were forced to work from home, were furloughed, or were laid off as a result of the government shutdown. Sickness and death have afflicted many people. Job security, health, and when things will return to normal are all questionable. You can see why some individuals are having difficulties sleeping with so much going on.
Stressful life experiences, such as natural catastrophes or terrorist acts, can have long-lasting effects on one’s mental health and sleep patterns. One such event is a global pandemic.
Sleep architecture is affected by even the most minor emotional stressors, which can reduce the amount of time you spend in deep, restorative sleep. However, sleep disturbances are more pronounced in the wake of important life events. People’s slow-wave sleep declines, their rapid eye movement (REM) sleep increases, and their risk of waking up in the middle of the night increases after a big stressful incident. They can endure for up to two years following an event.
In stressful situations, your cortisol levels rise. Melatonin, the sleep hormone, acts as an antagonist to cortisol. As melatonin production increases in the evening, your cortisol levels fall, allowing you to prepare for sleep. melatonin synthesis and the quality of your sleep suffer while your cortisol levels remain excessive.
The pandemic has introduced many stresses to our lives, but being stuck at home is a stressor all its own. Having fewer people in your home, more work and parental duties, and less newness in your life all contribute to a higher level of stress. The lack of natural light, a major regulator of your sleep-wake cycle, and more possibilities to sleep in and nap can also diminish your sleep drive while you’re at home all day.
Loss of Daily Routines
Many “natural” aspects of life, such as hobbies and social activities, vanished overnight because of social distancing guidelines. As a result, we become more socially isolated, which has a bad impact on our mental health. Our sleep was greatly aided by our regular activities. Time markers (i.e. zeitgebers) such as commutes, meals, workouts, and social gatherings all played a role in reinforcing our circadian rhythms, or the sleep-wake cycle. Some of these processes became more flexible after the COVID-19 outbreak.
A phase-delay insomnia may have been caused by these changes. They began extending their sleep and awake hours. Despite spending more time in bed, they also reported poorer sleep quality. People with higher levels of despair, anxiety, and stress had more significant symptoms.
It’s more difficult to keep your circadian rhythm on track if you don’t have a regular routine. Sleep isn’t the only thing that suffers when the circadian cycle is thrown off. There are a number of biological functions that are regulated by your circadian rhythm. These include digestion and hunger, immunological response, and much more.
As a result, coronasomnia leads to a vicious cycle of insomnia and anxiety. People’s stress levels rise, their moods deteriorate, and they become groggy as a result of getting less sleep. To get out of bed in the morning, some people may take a nap, but this might lead to additional sleep issues later in the evening for those who did so. Reduced energy levels and an increased desire for unhealthy foods are two further effects of sleep deprivation. Sleep disturbances are more likely to develop if you gain weight as a result of these alterations.
The long-term health repercussions of chronic sleep disruption include cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression if left unaddressed.
Increased Media Consumption
People’s media consumption has skyrocketed in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, and they’re now turning to a wider range of outlets to stay informed. Many of these practices have contributed to a rise in mental health issues. Increased media consumption and more frequent news checks have been linked to an increased degree of anxiety in both adults and children. An increase in symptoms of dread is linked to a person’s exposure to various media, such as TV and social media.
People’s media use has risen sharply in the hours leading up to bedtime, which is troubling. Because of this, people are spending more time on their devices, binge-viewing shows and watching news on their computers and smartphones. Shorter and less peaceful sleep have been related to increased screen usage.
More time spent in front of a screen means more time being exposed to the harmful blue light it emits. Blue light is perceived as sunlight by your brain. In the evening, it raises cortisol levels and reduces melatonin production. Instead of feeling rested and ready for sleep, you’re more awake and agitated.
How to tell whether you’re exhausted and what to do about it
You’ve been struggling to sleep for months, and now you’re so fatigued that you can hardly get out of bed in the morning.
“It seems like problems thinking straight,” Mattox stated of his tiredness. An inability to recall information or difficulty keeping one’s eyes open are two symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
People who are exhausted may appear irritable and temperamental to others, she said. They may even appear drunk, as if they’ve had too much to drink.
Mattox remarked that lack of sleep has the same effect on the body as drinking alcohol. ‘Researchers showed that enduring 17 hours without sleep had the same effect on our attentiveness as a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05 percent, which is deemed legally impaired,’ said one researcher.
Solutions for Better Sleep During COVID-19
Coronasomnia is common during the pandemic, but there are various ways to counteract it. Improve your sleep hygiene, develop day and night habits, and reduce your stress levels as a starting point for your journey toward better health.
Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
The word “sleep hygiene” refers to a person’s sleep patterns. Sleep hygiene is similar to dental hygiene in that it focuses on healthy practices that help you get a good night’s sleep. You may enhance your sleep hygiene by following these tips:
- Maintain a consistent bedtime routine. Get seven to nine hours of sleep a night, and stick with your schedule every day, even on the weekends.
- Avoid snoozes lasting more than a few hours. Taking a quick 20 to 30 minute nap can give you a much-needed pick-me-up, but a prolonged nap can make it more difficult to sleep at night.
- Sunlight is essential to your health. Our circadian cycle is regulated by light, which is the most important factor. Wake up and reset your circadian rhythms in the morning by spending some time outside or near a window.
- Make your bedroom a sanctuary of peace and tranquility. Clutter and stress-inducing items like work papers or your computer should be removed from your bedroom.
- Avoid drinking too much alcohol. Even while alcohol is a sedative, it alters your sleep cycle, making it less restorative and less restorative in the long run. Dr. Singh says that drinking alcohol might increase snoring and possibly lead you to wake up early in the morning.
- You should limit your intake of caffeine. It’s best to avoid caffeine for at least six hours before going to bed to avoid sleep disruptions. In addition, people who consume more than 1,000 mg of caffeine each week—about 10 cups of coffee—are more likely to experience anxiety and sadness.
- Prepare your meal ahead of time and eat it as soon as possible. Eat your last meal of the day before going to bed to avoid a disturbed night’s sleep due to an upset stomach. At night, eat things that help you go asleep, such as little amounts of almonds, milk, or sour cherry juice.
Establish Daily Routines
As a result of our routines, our brains know exactly when to eat, when to work, when to feel awake, and when to retire for the day. Establishing and adhering to a daily routine might help alleviate stress. Work-from-home lifestyles might be monotonous at times, but routines help keep things on track.
Set a clear start and end time for your workday and mealtimes, as well as frequent breaks and exercise time. Take those breaks outside if you can. The benefits of taking a walk first thing in the morning include clearing your mind, re-energizing yourself, and reinforcing your sleep-wake cycle.
Separate the areas where you work from the ones where you sleep. Even if you only have to go from your bedroom to the living room, the association of your bedroom with rest can aid your brain. Don’t do any work in your bedroom or bring any work-related items into your bedroom. A room divider is a great way to separate your work area from the rest of the house if you live in a tiny space. If you’re going to use your bed for anything else, it should be for sleeping and having sex.
To help you wind down after a long day, follow a nighttime routine. As a way to help your brain know it’s time to sleep, you should do the same things every night. At least an hour before you go to sleep, put away your electronic devices and dim the lights. Spend some time resting instead, perhaps by reading a book or enjoying a long soak in the tub? Try a guided meditation or soft music to help you relax.
Relieve Your Stress
Even without a pandemic, it’s difficult to get a good night’s sleep when you’re stressed out. Stress relief and better sleep may be aided by regular exercise, writing, and a vacation from the news.
Exercise Every Day
Exercising on a regular basis improves one’s sleep quality. Stress and anxiety can be alleviated by regular exercise. Try to complete your workout at least an hour before going to sleep. Before you go to sleep, make sure you have time to cool down and relax after a strenuous workout session.
Clear Your Mind at Night
During the pandemic, our minds are being bombarded with stressful information. It’s easy to be swept up in the whirlwind of it all and lose perspective.
It’s important to set out a specific period each day to worry about the things that are bothering you. Put pen to paper and jot down everything that is causing you anxiety. Anxiety can be relieved by writing down your thoughts and re-framing your negative emotions with more positive ones. Set aside a specific amount of time for worrying before you go to bed, so that your mind doesn’t continue to race after you’ve fallen asleep.
Give Yourself a Break From the News
Do your best to avoid thinking about stressful things while you’re in bed. Avoid viewing the news or scrolling through social media, as these activities can have a negative impact on your health. Anxiety-inducing news items might trigger your sympathetic nervous system just when you need to de-stress. It’s also likely that you’ll be exposed to more blue light at night, which might disrupt your sleep cycle.
Take comfort in the fact that even though things may be difficult right now, they will improve in the future. A vaccination may help ease some of your anxiety.. Before then, use the advice above to get a better night’s rest.
Consult your physician if you continue to have sleep issues. Among the options available to you is CBT for insomnia, which has been shown to be an effective treatment option for the condition. CBT-I is just as helpful via telemedicine as it is in person for people who are still practicing social distance.
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