The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many aspects of our lives, but we might be overlooking just how much it is affecting our sleep at night. Physicians and researchers are seeing more patients that are having trouble falling asleep or who have developed a form of insomnia — something they are referring to as “Coronasomnia.”
Experts share that it’s no surprise that a loss of sleep can affect your daily productivity, increase risks of hypertension, depression, and other health problems. But during these times, there are a few reasons why people are having more difficulty falling asleep during this pandemic. Physicians say that COVID-19 has heightened stress and upset people’s daily routines more than ever before. More people are working from home and having their children learn from home as well. Not only can this provide more chaos and stress, but these changes have led to more bedrooms being turned into makeshift workspaces and offices. Since sleep experts recommend the bedroom should be an electronic-free space, then it’s clear how working from the bedroom can heavily disturb your natural sleeping patterns and cause further issues.
Physicians are also seeing that patients who already suffer from insomnia or patients who have anxiety are having even more trouble right now. Alon Avidan, a neurologist from the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center says, “With COVID-19, we recognize that there is now an epidemic of sleep problems.” Since lack of sleep or insomnia greatly affects a person’s quality of life, then added stress, anxiety, or worries related to COVID-19 are piling onto these disruptions and changing the natural sleep cycle even more.
Physician Abhinav Singh puts these sleep disruptions into one category, calling it “FED UP.” This acronym stands for Financial stress, Emotional stress, Distance from others, Unpredictability, and Personal and Professional concerns. These concerns are weighing on people, and doctors, physicians, and therapists are seeing more and more patients with these COVID-19-related issues.
So what are the main concerns people have from COVID-19 that are altering their natural sleep patterns? Bedtime and wake time delays are affected by living in one time zone and working in another. This delay (or increase) disrupts the circadian rhythm that regulates our sleep cycle. When we are deprived of exposure to natural light and are substituting artificial light from screens by working from home, then our body’s internal clock is confused about whether it’s bedtime or not. Daily routines, or lack thereof, can also interrupt our circadian rhythm. Mealtimes, travel time and downtimes have shifted as we have become normalized to working from home and social distancing. Another consequence of anxiety-affected sleep is dramatic dreams—these are nightmares, night terrors, and sleepwalking—dramatically impairing your quality of rest.
There are suggestions, though, on how to get back to your “normal” sleep habits. Create some downtime at night, remove electronics at least an hour before bed, and make time to be outside during the day. Being exposed to as much natural light as possible throughout the day will greatly help to fall into a better sleeping pattern. Although COVID-19 has likely affected everyone in some way, don’t let your sleep fall by the wayside.