Rachael Gilpin, a writer for FollowMyArrow, outlines the effect of coronavirus on sleep.
The coronavirus has turned our world upside down; businesses and schools closed, isolation from friends and family, travel uncertainty, numerous job losses, and of course, the fear of the virus itself. On their own, each of these factors can trigger stress and combined, it becomes a perfect storm that can impair our health and well-being.
Since the pandemic began, I noticed that my own sleep patterns changed. I would consistently wake up in the middle of the night and experience more nightmares - both of which were rare for me prior to 2020. Initially, I didn’t consider a link between the pandemic and these new nighttime habits, but digging a little deeper, health experts say the stress from Covid is impacting our rest.
As Sleep Advisor points out, stress affects rest by causing our anxious thoughts to keep us up at night. Tension and worry can come from a variety of factors such as a job, family problems, or a health scare.
A pandemic, whose repercussions are felt by all of us around the world, can certainly be considered a traumatic situation. Now, medical professionals are labeling the loss of sleep brought on by Covid stress as ‘Coronasomnia’, and like the virus itself, it affects people of all ages. They add that while insomnia was prevalent before the pandemic, the number of cases has significantly increased since then.
Why Does Covid Affect Sleep?
The most significant reason behind Covid’s effect on sleep is the stress that arises from it. Some parents, for instance, had to work from home while their kids were also going to school remotely. Others weren’t able to work because their employer had to close down for safety protocols. Then, there’s the overarching fear of getting sick or the mental fatigue of the pandemic that we’ve also seen among us.
However, experts with the University of California, Davis say there’s another contributing factor as to why more of us are experiencing insomnia right now: disrupted schedules. Most working adults were used to getting up in the morning and going to work for the day, perhaps hitting the gym in the evening after they’re done. Likewise, children and teens had routinely gone to school and maybe also participated in extracurricular activities such as social clubs or school sports.
When the pandemic hit, though, our daily routines came to a screeching halt. Not only did this present a circumstance in which we could easily throw off our work and sleep schedules, but we also weren’t getting social stimulation. Health authorities say a lack of social stimulation and a poor sleep-wake schedule could lead to insomnia.
Is Insomnia a Symptom of Covid-19?
While sleep deprivation is considered a byproduct of the pandemic, is it a direct symptom of the Covid-19 virus itself? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), insomnia is not listed as a direct symptom of the coronavirus. However, other symptoms such as a sore throat, nausea, and diarrhea could still cause sleep loss.
Tips to Reduce Stress and Sleep Better
As we wait for life to return to normal again, we can take steps to improve our shuteye in the meantime. Virus or virus, though, quality rest is vital to a healthy mind and body, which is why even after Covid is long gone, we can still take advantage of these tips for better sleep.
Stick to a Schedule
As mentioned above, our disrupted schedules can contribute to insufficient rest. To counteract this, create a sleep-wake schedule for yourself and stick to it by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day.
Don’t skimp on that daily routine either, especially for those of us working from home. If this pandemic has you feeling out of sorts, this will build a structure to your day and should help you feel more confident and productive.
Avoid Screen Time Before Bed
Some of us may enjoy scrolling through social media or catching up on the latest news before hitting the sack, but experts warn that tech devices can make it harder to fall asleep. First, we are constantly reading and hearing about the virus during the day, and being hit with more news before bed could have our minds racing, making it more difficult to relax. Secondly, these screen gadgets emit a blue light that has been found to suppress the production of melatonin, an important hormone that helps induce sleep.
Create a Relaxing Bedtime Routine
Rather than reaching for our cell phones, we can find other ways to wind down at night that don’t include staring at a screen. This could include drinking some chamomile tea, reading a book, or taking a warm bath. Find something that works for you and let that be your regular bedtime ritual.
Don’t Take Naps
Working from home also presented its own unique set of challenges, including the temptation to take a nap in the middle of the day. However, an afternoon snooze could leave you feeling less sleepy come nighttime. Instead, you could go out for a walk if you need to recharge for a bit.
Practicing breathing exercises can also help us lower our stress levels. According to UChicago Medicine, ten slow deep breaths should help when you have trouble falling asleep. Meditation and yoga are other popular methods of relaxation that also focus on the breath.
Improve Your Sleep Space
Our bedroom can certainly impact the quality of our slumber, and by making it more sleep-friendly, this could help us rest easier. Investing in a good quality mattress, blackout curtains, and keeping the room cool are just some of the ways to upgrade your sleep environment.
Find Outlets to Relieve Stress
When dealing with stressful situations, it’s essential to find healthy ways to minimize negative emotions. Even though the pandemic limited access to activities we may have used to unwind, this is where we have the opportunity to get creative and find new interests such as painting, photography, or hiking. Our usual hobbies may be on hold or not feel like they used to, but that also means we can expand our horizons and perhaps, discover new things we love.