How are you sleeping lately? If you find yourself up much of the night, you’re not alone.
New research has found that many of us are suffering from insomnia due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So many people are experiencing a loss of sleep right now that neurologists who specialize in sleep disorders have coined the term “COVID-somnia.”
Working from home is one of the reasons for this increase in people having difficulty sleeping. A survey of 1,020 people now working remotely found that the changes to their daily routine were impacting their ability to sleep.
The survey, conducted for Sleep Standards, a website that provides research-based sleep advice and reviews of sleep-related products, found that over 20 per cent of Gen Xers (people who are 39 to 54 years of age) and nearly 10 per cent of Baby Boomers (those aged from 55 to 73) aren’t sleeping as well as they had been before the coronavirus pandemic.
Experts say this this is happening for several reasons. For one thing, many people are either off work or working remotely during the pandemic, and this takes them out of their usual daily schedule. Changes to your regular routine can disrupt sleep.
Strange dreams and disturbing nightmares are another type of sleep disruption that can be triggered by major events such as this pandemic, which has had a significant impact on the psychological and mental well-being of people of all ages.
Fear of contracting or spreading the virus, lack of work or economic worries, and social isolation are keeping us up at night.
“Our patients are suffering from shifts in their sleep patterns due to their fears about getting the virus, concerns about loved ones, not being able to go to work, not having social contact with others,” Rachel Marie E. Salas, MD, FAAN, associate professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep told NeurologyToday. “Some of them now meet the diagnostic criteria for chronic insomnia. They get into bed, the brain kicks in, they start worrying if they’re going to lose their job, if their family member is going to survive, and they literally cannot fall asleep.”
How to combat COVID-somnia
To help combat this widespread sleeplessness, and get some much-needed shuteye, experts suggest several strategies.
– Avoid daytime naps. These have become more common among people working from home.
– Cut down on afternoon and evening caffeine.
– Limit your consumption of alcohol. While booze can help you fall asleep, it actually impairs the quality of your nighttime sleeping.
– Keep to a regular schedule of waking and sleeping – preferable one that matches your natural routines.
– Reduce your light intake (especially from electronic devices) for an hour or two before bed.
– Don’t try to force yourself to fall asleep. If you find that you are tossing and turning, get up and do something relaxing until your eyes get heavy.
– If you are working from home, go for a morning walk. Dr. Daniel A. Barone, MD, explains, “If people aren’t leaving their homes because of fear of COVID-19, or if they’re not going to work as they once did, then they aren’t getting that daily exposure to sunlight in the morning. That can disrupt their internal clock.”
On the flip side, apparently some people are actually sleeping better since the pandemic. There is a subset of the population who are enjoying more restful sleep because they don’t have to get up as early for work or go through the stress of their daily commute.