Insomnia is caused by any number of things – stress, anxiety, mental and physical unwellness, bad mattresses or pillows, etc. Basically, insomnia is not a new thing. That being said, when more and more people start losing sleep due to a once-in-a-generation pandemic, it’s anything but normal. With so many people around the world worried about COVID-19, losing sleep over it is bound to occur – thus coronasomnia.
What is Coronasomnia?
According to the American Medical Association, physicians and researchers are seeing signs that the pandemic is causing damage to people’s sleep. This disruption is due to increased stress and anxiety, leading to what some sleep experts are calling “coronasomnia.”
“We’re a society that has a lot of trouble with sleep in general. Now we're in a situation where with the amount of anxiety and stress, there's no doubt that it interferes with sleep,” said Dr. Ilene Rosen, a sleep medicine physician and associate professor of clinical medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “‘Coronasomnia’ is the term used for sleep problems related to the pandemic. It is the impact of the uncertainty and the barrage of information that we are getting.
“That uncertainty is being carried with you into your bed and affecting how you sleep and thus how alert you feel in the morning,” said Rosen.
COVID Insomnia on a Global Level
A recent report from the National Institutes of Health delves deeper into coronasomnia. The report highlights that natural disasters or war can contribute to sleep deprivation on a local level, but the COVID insomnia has been pushed to the global level.
“For many people,” states the report, “[COVID-19] has generated significant stress, anxiety, and worries about health, social isolation, employment, finances, as well as the challenge of combining work and family obligations. Such a major stressful life event is also likely to have impaired sleep and circadian rhythms, at a time when healthy sleep is particularly important to cope adaptively with this crisis and uncertainty about the future.”
“It’s a problem everywhere, across all age groups,” said Angela Drake, a UC Davis Health clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. She has treated sleep disorders and is trained in managing insomnia without medications. “Insomnia was a problem before COVID-19,” she said. “Now, from what we know anecdotally, the increase is enormous.”
Broken Routines and Coronasomnia
All of us are used to some sort of routine. For children, it’s waking up, going to school and playing with friends. For adults, it’s waking up and going to work with the possibility of social interaction with friends afterward.
When the coronavirus first hit and people started having to either work or go to school from home, the daily routines we had created over the years were broken. Social interaction was replaced by video chats. Physical interactions (handshakes and hugs) were replaced by social distancing and mask wearing. These precautions were (and still are) necessary for everyone’s health and safety, but it’s done a number on our ability to sleep and the onset of coronasomnia.
“We’re supposed to be up in the daytime and sleeping at night, but a lot of people are working and sleeping all these weird hours,” said Kimberly Hardin, a UC Davis Health, co-director of the sleep center and the director of the Sleep Medicine Fellowship Program. “Their circadian rhythms get out of whack. Those regulate every cell in your body. They affect your eating, digestion, immune response, and sleep. Once the master clock gets disrupted, everything else breaks down.”
Taking Its Toll
A poll released by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) found that nearly half of Americans (48 percent) are anxious about the possibility of getting the coronavirus (COVID-19), and nearly four in 10 Americans (40 percent) are anxious about becoming seriously ill or dying from the coronavirus. But far more Americans (62 percent) are anxious about the possibility of family and loved ones getting sick.
With anxiety levels climbing combined with a disruption to our routines and circadian rhythms, it’s no wonder why more and more people are trying to cope with coronasomnia.
“As human beings, we need some stimulation. We need some variety in our activities,” Drake said. “When our lives become so repetitive, the lack of stimulation and activities contributes to poor sleep.”
Ways to Fight Coronasomnia
There are many ways to combat insomnia, such as learning how to relax before bed. While COVID insomnia can be dangerous if it persists, its roots are still based in what causes “everyday” insomnia – anxiety and stress. The best way to fight coronasomnia is to have a plan and stick with it.
- Create a routine and stick with it: Especially if you’re working from home. Move around, take a lunch break, go for a walk, etc. Don’t stay behind the computer all day.
- Create a bedtime routine as well: Try to make it a habit of going to bed each night at the same time and waking up each day at the same time. Taking a nice hot bath or shower before you go to bed can help you.
- Don’t play on your phone in bed: The light emitted from your phone, tablet, or other devices can prevent your body from releasing the chemicals it needs in order to fall asleep. In short, just put the phone down.
- Don’t use your bed as your office: Don’t sit or lie in your bed and work. Keep where you sleep and where you work separate, which will help you sleep better in the long run.
- Try to exercise a little: Exercising during the day can help you sleep better at night, just don’t try to exercise right before going to bed.
- Don’t nap: A short nap earlier in the day won’t hurt you, but if it’s later in the day it can keep you up at night.
- Go outside for a little while: Get some sun and some fresh air. Take a walk around your neighborhood or even sit on your porch and relax for a while.
- Don’t eat late: You need to give your body time to digest your meal before going to bed. When you’re trying to go to sleep, your body wants to shut down all the metabolic work, including digestion. Try to give yourself a four-hour window between eating and going to bed.
- If you can’t sleep, get up: The more you struggle trying to sleep, the less likely you are to fall asleep. If you can’t fall asleep within 15-30 minutes of going to bed – or if you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep – get up and do something simple and monotonous in dim lighting until you’re ready to sleep.
- Cut back on news and social media in the evenings: The news has a way of making people more anxious and, while social media is filled with cute photos of puppies and kittens, it also has a lot of information that can increase your anxiety and stress levels. Basically, just give both the night off each night to help with COVID insomnia.
- Go easy on alcohol and caffeine: Most people know caffeine will keep you up, some think that alcohol will help you sleep. While it’s true alcohol can help you fall asleep faster, it won’t necessarily help you stay asleep or sleep well. Avoiding both before going to bed can help fight coronasomnia.
- Be careful with sleep meds: People might think, “Hey, I can’t sleep. They make sleep medicine for a reason, right? I’ll just take that.” Think of sleep meds like a Band-Aid. It only covers the problem; it doesn’t fix it. Over-the-counter sleep medicines can cause you to have fitful sleep, while prescribed sleep drugs can create a dependence.
If you find yourself having difficulty getting restful sleep because of your mattress, maybe it’s time to get a new one. We’re where to help you get your best night’s sleep. Visit a store today to find out more.