Coronasomnia: How The Pandemic Is Ruining Sleep
Before coronavirus, Americans had already been caught up in another pandemic: insomnia.
Pre-2020, nearly 1/3 of U.S. adults reported experiencing sleep problems. But with the never-ending list of changes that have come along with a turbulent last year, doctors have noted an increase in reported sleep disorders.
To eliminate any confusion, coronasomnia isn't the result of coronavirus itself; rather, it's a lack of sleep resulting from disrupted daily routines, increased stress, and poor sleep patterns that have come along with COVID.
It's something to take seriously as sleep experts warn that the effects can be significant.
Most notably, sleep deprivation can weaken your immune system, which is particularly important during a pandemic.
Additionally, lack of sleep can lead to a host of other health problems including increased risk of weight gain, blood pressure issues, and poor mental health.
These changes haven't gone unnoticed by those working in sleep medicine.
Prescriptions for sleep disorders reportedly increased by 15% right at the start of the pandemic, between February and March 2020.
What's Behind Coronasomnia?
There are several factors at play contributing to coronasomnia.
For starters, most of us have spent way more time in isolation than we normally would. We've socially distanced to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.
Additionally, the increased instances of working from home have created some bad habits. Without standard office hours in place, our sleep schedules have gone by the wayside. We're working and sleeping and doing everything else at all hours. There’s been little to no structure to our days.
And without many places to go, we've relied on what we have at home to stay entertained. This means more exposure to TVs, computers, and phones - all of which are sources of blue light.
More time looking at screens means decreased melatonin production. And without regular melatonin, our circadian rhythms get thrown off. All of the above contributes to worsening sleep patterns.
What Can Be Done About Coronasomnia?
There are plenty of options available for those experiencing sleeplessness.
For starters, it's important to keep consistent sleep and wake times. Make sure you're going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning. This remains true even on weekends.
Additionally, it's important to put away all screens that emit blue light at least an hour before bed to increase melatonin production.
Exercise is another key to healthy sleep. Sleep doctors say that even a brief outside walk first thing in the morning can help.
It's also important to practice healthy sleep hygiene habits. Pay attention to the temperature of your bedroom, making sure it isn't too warm. If you regularly nap, make sure you aren't napping for longer than 20 minutes a day. And keep your sleep space as dark and quiet as possible.
Last but not least, if you find yourself experiencing chronic insomnia - sleep issues lasting longer than a few weeks - be sure to reach out to a doctor.
A sleep doctor may recommend prescription medication, an over-the-counter supplement like melatonin, or cognitive behavioral therapy.