Sleep issues aren’t a new problem for many Americans. For years, more than a third of Americans haven’t been getting enough sleep. Sleep deprivation has been dubbed a “public health pandemic” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Before COVID-19, sleep deprivation was already a problem. COVID-19’s impact on daily life has resulted in an increase in the number of people suffering insomnia. Four out of 10 persons say they have had difficulty sleeping as a result of the pandemic. Sleep scientists have dubbed these sleep issues “coronasomnia,” a combination of coronavirus and insomnia, due to the stress of living in a worldwide pandemic.
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.” An increase in mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, is another example of a tandemic.
What Is Coronasomnia?
There has been a surge in sleep disorders including anxiety, despair and stress during the pandemic. Coronasomnia, which is associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, differs from ordinary insomnia in that it is linked to worry and depression.
During the pandemic, many people experienced the onset or worsening of their coronasomnia symptoms. Coronsomnia is also caused by factors peculiar to living in a worldwide pandemic, including as the loss of a daily rhythm and an increase in media exposure. Dr. Singh’s mnemonic device “FED UP” summarizes various stressors:
- Stress as a result of mounting debt.
- Anxiety and depression.
- Distinction from the crowd.
- Concerns about one’s career.
Why does coronasomnia happen?
You’re not the only one who’s having trouble sleeping due to the pandemic. 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.
Dr. Drerup explains that “the epidemic has brought on an increase in stress and worry, as well as the impact of the uncertainty and the constant onslaught of information we are exposed to at this time” as the reason for an increase in sleep disruptions. People’s regular habits and levels of activity have been altered, and this may have negatively affected their sleep.
However, the pandemic has also brought new levels of uncertainty to many people because there is no end in sight. Last year’s insomnia was worse by this absence of expiration date.
Pandemic fatigue, or COVID burnout, is affecting our ability to sleep, according to Drerup.
“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.”
Sleeping patterns can be disrupted as a result of spending more time at home, she adds. When you spend more time at home, the light-based cues for wakefulness can be disrupted. Your circadian rhythm can be kept on track with regular exposure to sunlight and natural light.”
She also mentions that because so many of us are still working from home, some of us may keep alternative hours or even sleep in. It’s not always a good thing, however; sleep deprivation can make it more difficult the next night and contribute to the vicious cycle of insomnia, making it even more difficult to get to sleep.
Dr. Drerup says that, in addition to the stress caused by the epidemic, social isolation and quarantining can exacerbate depression and interfere with sleep.
Symptoms of Coronasomnia
Coronsomnia’s symptoms include:
- Anxiety-induced sleep problems, such as inability to fall and stay asleep
- Increased tension and anxiety.
- Anxiety and depression symptoms, such as intrusive thoughts, have worsened.
- Sluggish sleeping patterns.
- Increased daytime tiredness, reduced concentration and focus, and a low mood are all signs of sleep deprivation.
Insomnia and mental health issues have been linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to numerous research. Before the epidemic, 24% of people reported difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep. That rose to 40% during the pandemic. Between 15% and 42% of those with sleep onset insomnia (difficulty getting to sleep), the prevalence increased significantly. Experts believe that the number of people suffering from some sort of insomnia has risen by 37% since the beginning of the pandemic outbreak.
During the pandemic, four out of ten people have reported experiencing at least one mental health symptom. There has been a threefold increase in the number of people suffering from anxiety symptoms since 2019. It’s tripled for depression.
During the pandemic, people’s sleep patterns have shifted as well. There has been an increase in the amount of time people spend napping during the day rather than sleeping at night. As a result, they’re delaying going to bed and waking up by up to 39 and 64 minutes, respectively. As a result, many people report that their sleep is less restful.
Who’s at Risk for Coronasomnia?
Coronasomnia symptoms can affect anyone, however some people are at more risk than others, including:
- Patients with COVID-19
- Frontline workers
- Unpaid caregivers
- Essential workers
- Young adults
- People of color
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. A majority of patients (75%) have 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 with COVID-19 patients.
COVID-19 is more prevalent in these people, therefore they are more concerned about infection and work-related stress owing to supply shortages. As many as 80% of these medical staff report sleep disturbances – twice as many as those who do not work with COVID-19 patients. Compared to men, women were 40% more likely to suffer from sleeplessness.
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. Because their immune systems and cognitive performance weaken when they don’t get enough sleep, they’re more likely to get sick and be less effective at their jobs.
Unpaid caregivers’ mental health deteriorated throughout the pandemic as well. Unpaid carers were three times more likely to begin or intensify their substance addiction or contemplate suicide between May and June of 2020. Sleep deprivation can be exacerbated by substance addiction, which may raise the likelihood of relapse in the long run.
Students and Coronasomnia
Coronasomnia affects students and young people more severely than adults, as seen by the greater delay between when they go to sleep and when they wake up. Since the outbreak, the average student has delayed going to bed by 39 minutes, more than twice as long as the average adult has waited.
Delaying bedtime has helped some of these students to sleep on a schedule that is more in tune with their circadian cycles. Teenagers endure a shift in their circadian rhythm, which causes them to feel exhausted later in the day. When students have to get up early in the morning to go to school, they have a tougher time getting enough sleep. However, university students have been able to sleep and wake up later due to the pandemic stay-at-home orders, resulting in an extra 30 minutes of sleep per night.
The pandemic, on the other hand, has had a negative impact on the mental health of certain students. After the pandemic, the percentage of people with mental health issues rose from 23% to 37%. 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?
Our everyday routines have been completely upended due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Parents and kids adapted to homeschooling, while millions of workers moved to remote work, were furloughed, or were laid off. People have suffered the death of loved ones and the ravages of disease. Many people are in a constant state of anxiety about their jobs and health as well as how long the current situation will last. It’s understandable that individuals are having difficulty sleeping because of all the changes taking on at once.
From natural catastrophes to terrorist attacks, stressful life events can have a long-lasting impact on mental health and sleep patterns. One such event is a global pandemic.
Your sleep architecture is influenced by everyday emotional stress, limiting the amount of time you spend in slow-wave sleep. However, big life traumas, such as divorce or the death of a loved one, have a greater impact on sleep. Slow-wave sleep is reduced and REM sleep is increased after a severe stressful event. People are also more likely to wake up during the night after such an event. After the event, these effects can linger for up to two years.
Cortisol, a stress hormone that works in opposition to melatonin, the sleep hormone, rises in response to stress. 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.
When we’re confined to our homes, the epidemic has added an additional stressor to our lives. With less newness in your life and more work and parental duties, you’re more likely to feel the strains of living with only a few individuals. 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. When we stop participating in these activities, we become more socially isolated, which might have an adverse effect on our mental health. Our sleep was greatly aided by our regular activities. Getting to and from work, eating, working out, and attending social gatherings all served as time markers (also known as zeitgebers) to help us maintain our circadian rhythms, or sleep-wake cycle. Some of these processes became more flexible after the COVID-19 outbreak.
These alterations caused phase-delay insomnia in some patients. They began extending their sleep and awake hours. Additionally, despite sleeping for longer periods of time, they reported poorer sleep quality. People with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and stress were more likely to have these symptoms.
A lack of a regular routine makes it more difficult to maintain your circadian rhythm. 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 causes a self-fulfilling cycle of poor sleep and anxiety. People’s stress levels rise, their moods deteriorate, and they become groggy as a result of getting less sleep. People who are having trouble getting out of bed may take a nap, but this might lead to more sleep issues later in the day. Also, sleep loss can lead to an increase in unhealthy food cravings and a decrease in your desire to exercise. Weight gain can be a side effect of these changes, which raises your risk of developing sleep difficulties.
The long-term health repercussions of chronic sleep disruption include cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression if left unaddressed.
Increased Media Consumption
People have greatly increased their media consumption during the epidemic in order to stay up with the latest information on COVID-19. Almost all of these actions have resulted in an increase in mental anguish. Increased media consumption and more frequent news checks have been linked to an increased degree of anxiety in both adults and children. The more media a person consumes, such as television or social media, the more fearful they get.
People are consuming more media at night, right before they go to sleep, which is a problem. As a result, individuals are spending more time on their electronic gadgets, such as binge-viewing and monitoring the news on their smartphones. Shorter and less peaceful sleep can be connected to more time spent in front of a screen.
Exposure to blue light increases with increased screen usage. Blue light is perceived as sunlight by your brain. Cortisol levels are kept high while melatonin is suppressed by exposure to this light at night. Instead of feeling rested and ready for sleep, you’re more awake and agitated.
How to tell if you’re running low on energy.
You’ve certainly heard a lot lately about “hitting a wall” from folks in your social circle. There’s a good chance you’ve been there yourself.
Now that you’ve been suffering from chronic stress and poor sleep for months, your energy levels have plummeted to the point where you can hardly function.
Mattox described his weariness as “difficult thinking straight.” An inability to recall information or difficulty keeping one’s eyes open are two symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
She added that when someone is exhausted, they may appear abrupt and grumpy to other people. Even if they look to be intoxicated, they may not be.
Mattox remarked that lack of sleep has the same effect on the body as drinking alcohol. Going 17 hours without sleep had an effect on our attentiveness that was comparable to the consequences of a 0.05 percent blood alcohol content, which is deemed legally impaired.”
Solutions for Better Sleep During COVID-19
The good news is that there are several ways to battle coronasomnia and get a good night’s sleep throughout the pandemic. By optimizing your sleep hygiene and developing daily and nightly habits, you can reduce your stress levels.
Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
What you do before and after bedtime is known as sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene is similar to dental hygiene in that it focuses on healthy practices that help you get a good night’s sleep. Improve your sleep hygiene by implementing the following tips:
- Remain committed to a regular sleeping pattern. Get seven to nine hours of sleep a night, and stick with your schedule every day, even on the weekends.
- Long naps should be avoided. While a 20- to 30-minute power nap can rejuvenate and reinvigorate you, going beyond that time frame can make it more difficult to drift off to sleep at night.
- Sunlight is essential to your health. Our circadian rhythm is regulated by light. Wake yourself up and restore your circadian rhythms by spending some time outside or near a window in the morning.
- Make your bedroom a sanctuary of peace and quiet. Clutter and stress-inducing items like work papers or your computer should be removed from your bedroom.
- Reduce your alcohol intake. There’s some truth to the idea that alcohol might help you fall asleep, but it can also affect the structure of your sleep, making it less peaceful and restorative. 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. Caffeine can interfere with sleep, so avoid drinking it within six hours of going to bed. 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.
- Eat your meal early. Avoid eating late at night, which can cause indigestion and a restless night’s sleep. Consume little amounts of sleep-inducing foods like almonds, milk, or tart cherry juice at night.
Establish Daily Routines
As a result of our daily routines, our brains are given a sense of when it is time to eat, work, feel alert, and sleep. A sense of normalcy can be achieved by establishing and adhering to a daily routine. 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. If you can, take your breaks outside if at all possible. Taking a stroll in the morning can help clear your mind, re-energize you, and strengthen your normal sleep-wake cycles.
It’s also important to separate your work and sleeping areas. While it may seem like you only have a short distance between where you sleep and where you eat, this can nevertheless assist your brain link your bedroom with rest. Stay away from working in your bedroom or bringing work-related items into it. Avoid working on your bed if you have a small apartment and use a standing room divider to separate your workspace. 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 the day, establish a nightly ritual. The brain recognizes that it’s time to sleep when you do the same routine every night. At least an hour before you go to sleep, put away your electronic devices and dim the lights. Reading a book or having a bath is a great way to unwind. Try a guided meditation or soft music to help you relax.
Relieve Your Stress
Stress can make it difficult to sleep, whether it is a pandemic or not. Stress reduction and better sleep may be aided by regular exercise, writing, and a vacation from the news.
Exercise Every Day
To have a good night’s rest, it’s important to get some activity every day. Stress and anxiety can both be greatly reduced with regular physical activity. 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
We are experiencing a mental overload as a result of the pandemic’s frightening 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. Write down all the things that are making you feel anxious. Anxiety can be relieved by writing down your thoughts and replacing bad sentiments with positive ones. Plan your worry time for a few hours before you go to bed so that your thoughts don’t continue to churn 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. Don’t read the news or look at social media. Anxiety-inducing news items might trigger your sympathetic nervous system just when you need to de-stress. Plus, being up to date on news means exposing your eyes to more blue light at night, which has been shown to interfere with restful sleep.
Recognize that although things may be difficult now, they will improve.
Getting the vaccine may also help to reduce your level of anxiety a little bit. For now, make use of the advice provided above to help you sleep better.
Consult your physician if you’re having trouble sleeping. In addition, they can make suggestions such cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), which has been shown to be effective in treating insomnia. When it comes to CBT-I, research demonstrate that it is just as beneficial via telemedicine as when provided in person.