For the past 2 years nearly, everyone’s “normal” way of life, daily routines, personal versus work life priorities etc. have been turned upside down with no warning or time to create contingency plans. As a global society, everyone has their own “new normal” which looks and feels different to everyone else, as the effects of the pandemic have been collective, yet are so personal.
It’s no wonder that the increased stresses and anxiety from the pandemic, coupled with information overload, has created an increase in vigilance, which in turn will affect sleeping – from falling asleep, staying asleep and returning to sleep if awoken. After such a long period of this uncertainty, we as a people, are experiencing pandemic fatigue which again, takes its toll and affects our sleeping patterns. Not to mention, the increase in screen time and scrolling mindlessly as a distraction is not at all beneficial for our sleep health. Coronasomnia is most commonly used when referring to this type of impacted sleep due to COVID-19.
So what exactly is Coronasomnia?
Neurologists who specialise in sleep disorders and other professionals are seeing an increase in sleep disorders associated with COVID-19, a surge they’re terming Coronasomnia. Coronasomnia (or Covidsomnia) is the term which best describe sleep problems related to stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It comes at no surprise that Covid-19 and trouble with sleep go hand-in-hand. Stress is usually the main trigger for insomnia, falling asleep or getting back to sleep once awake. Coronasomnia is often more complicated than normal sleeplessness, as the worries extend further than the virus itself and can feel overwhelming on so many levels. It’s more often about how life has changed, the multitude of losses, health worries, financial concerns, loneliness, juggling new routines, WFH or returning to work, having no down time and of course, the uncertainty of what’s to come and when will this end.
The numbers speak for themselves. According to research from the University of Southampton, the pandemic and lockdown led to a rise in the number of people suffering sleeping problems from one in six (15.7%) to one in four (24.7%). In addition, there were 2.77 million Google searches for “insomnia” during the the start of the pandemic, which is an increase of 58% over the same duration in the previous three years (American Academy of Sleep Medicine).
Health effects of Coronasomnia
Stress and lack of sleep can have severe negative effects on your overall health. It’s often a vicious circle, as the means to help reduce stress such as exercise, often feel impossible when you’re so sleep deprived, yet in truth, would boost your body and mind significantly which would help with sleep. One of the biggest concerns is how it can impact your immune system, which in turn increases the susceptibility of other viruses. Studies show that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick. Furthermore, it can also lead to issues with worsening cardiovascular and metabolic issues, such as an increased risk of diabetes, weight gain and high blood pressure.
In addition, sleep deprivation can impact our emotional wellbeing and our moods. When you’re completely exhausted, it is much easier to snap at someone, explode at something trivial which seemingly looks insignificant, or generally feel low, not wanting to do much.
It also dampens our internal drive, motivation, morale and desire to be productive, be it at home or in the workplace. It taints our focus and concentration, which brings its own host of ramifications, which again, increases stress levels. Sleep directly impacts our cognitive functions, so things like memory and decision making can be impacted either positively or negatively by sleep.
- Decrease screen time before bed: The biggest nighttime no-no is electronics. Screens that emit blue light, which can deceive your brain into believing it is still daytime need to be reduced and ideally eliminated before bedtime. If you’re looking for a stable sleep cycle, especially if you’re stressed as it is, cutting out bright screens and loud noises is the place to start. Keeping engaged with screens sends your body into alert mode, meaning poor sleep and poor productivity. If you’re looking for late night alternatives, pick up a book, do a meditation or journal – whatever else gets you engaged, not energised.
- Avoid long daytime naps: A short nap of 20 to 30 minutes can refresh and energise you if it’s necessary, however, anything longer can make it harder to fall asleep at night. Napping during the day can potentially alter or disrupt your regular sleep routine. Especially if you’re in quarantine or isolation, try sticking to nighttime sleeping so once you’re out, it is not a massive adjustment to restart your sleeping routine.
- Avoid Sleep Deterrents: Consuming caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol close to bedtime may make it harder to fall asleep or interfere with sleep quality, especially if you’re already feeling stressed and on edge. If necessary, have your last coffee around 6-8 hours before bedtime. Or alternatively, switch to decaf versions or caffeine-free herbal teas. Excessive alcohol intake is counterproductive to a good night’s sleep, especially as there’s the assumption it will make us sleep, however the quality of rest is disturbed and broken.
- Establish an Evening Routine: Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, listen to what your body needs and tailor your sleep cycle to those needs. Getting around eight hours of good quality sleep is usually the recommended amount, but listen to your body; you may need more or you may need slightly less. Create a bedtime routine; from winding down, taking a warm bath / shower, chamomile tea, reading, meditating, breathing and more. Work with different nighttime routines until you find one that works for you. As long as you’re not collapsing on your bed from exhaustion, there are hundreds of products and practices you can put into play to help you sleep better and increase your productivity.
- Cut back on news and social media intake: We’re living in an information-overload society, where it is very hard to just switch off from the news of the world, especially COVID-19. There are so many varying opinions and we are often bombarded with so many conflicting messages and this can automatically increase our stress levels, which in turn may make us feel wired and turned-on, which does not assist with sleep, especially if you’re struggling already. Avoid the temptation to watch the news or use social media a few hours before bed. One way to do this is to pick one time a day to watch the news, possibly in the morning, rather than checking every hour.
Reducing Coronasomnia will not happen overnight, often all that is needed is consistency in these small ways to see results. There’s no harm in contacting your GP or healthcare professional if you haven’t been sleeping for some time. There are different alternatives which can be used, including CBT, talking-therapies, medical tests or medications if necessary. A healthy, well-slept person will be much more productive, engaged and able to juggle the many spinning plates, so to speak.
At Protectus Healthcare, we understand the importance of sleep and how it can impact your daily lives, above all the stressors and anxieties brought on by the pandemic. We have a range of health insurance policies to keep you covered so you can sleep at night knowing you’re protected. Get in touch and let us find the policy that best helps you and your loved ones.