Sleep disorders are not new. In fact, many people suffering from sleep deprivation already had a health issue before the Covid-19 pandemic took place.
However, as the pandemic continues to increase anxiety levels in daily lives, more and more people are reporting sleep issues than ever before.
This increase in sleep problems is so alarming that sleep experts have coined this phenomenon ‘Coronasomnia’.
What is Covid Insomnia or Coronasomnia?
Coronasomia or Covid insomnia is a phenomenon characterized by increased sleep issues as well as symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression during the Covid-19 pandemic.
While stress and anxiety are often linked to insomnia, coronosomnia symptoms are considered as the ones that started or intensified during the global pandemic.
In many cases, Covid-19 insomnia is directly linked to financial and emotional stress, uncertainty, and isolation due to this public health crisis.
Symptoms of Coronasomnia
Various studies have shown increased rates of sleep disorders such as insomnia during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sleeping patterns have also changed, with people sleeping less at night and napping more during the day. Sleep quality has also been affected when people go to bed later and wake up later.
Covid insomnia symptoms include:
- Insomnia symptoms, such as having great difficulty falling and staying asleep.
- Delayed sleep schedules in which people go to bed and wake up later than normal.
- Increased stress levels.
- Increased anxiety and depression.
- Increased daytime sleepiness.
- Sleep deprivation symptoms such as feeling tired, moody, irritable, and unable to concentrate.
Causes of Coronasomnia
To effectively deal with an issue, we must first determine its causes. Here are some common causes of Covid insomnia.
Increased stress is one of the main causes of coronasomnia. Major stressful life events, such as the coronavirus pandemic can increase cortisol, the stress hormone that has the opposite function of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
Under normal circumstances, cortisol levels rise in the early morning to energize your body for the day. Cortisol levels lower in the evening and melatonin levels rise to prepare you for bedtime. Stress disrupts this process, with cortisol levels remaining elevated even though it is time to sleep.
The Covid-19 pandemic has introduced many stressors to our lives, including having to stay at home, increased work responsibilities, and parenting duties.
Together with the uncertainties of this season, it is not surprising that the pandemic has played a role in the increase of sleep disorders, such as insomnia.
Loss of routine
To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, lockdowns and social distancing guidelines have been implemented in many communities.
As such, many people had their daily routines affected. Normal activities that served as time markers in our regular routine were suddenly gone. These changes make it harder to regulate the circadian rhythm, disrupting sleep and reducing sleep quality.
Increased media consumption
Coronasomnia can also be caused by increased media consumption. Frequently checking the news is related to higher levels of anxiety.
As people want to keep up with the latest information on Covid-19, they spend more time watching TV or scrolling through social media to stay abreast with the latest updates on the pandemic.
Increased screen time
Increased media consumption also leads to increased screen time. Exposure to blue light suppresses melatonin and elevates cortisol making it hard to fall asleep, and leading to more stress and anxiety.
Additionally, having to stay at home also means that adults (and kids) are more likely to binge-watch shows to fill their time or to take their minds off the pandemic.
Who is at risk of Coronasomnia?
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine discovered recently that 60% of people said they struggled with falling and staying asleep because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
While Coronsaomnia is a condition that can affect anyone, no matter what the age, there are certain groups of people who have an increased risk of developing it, including:
- Essential workers
- Unpaid caregivers
- Young adults
- People of colour
- Covid-19 patients
How to beat Coronasomnia?
While we cannot control the pandemic, we can take steps to promote our physical and emotional well-being.
Here are some things that you can do to ensure that you still get good, restorative sleep even in the midst of uncertainty.
Improve sleep hygiene
Sleep hygiene refers to the habits you have when it comes to sleeping. Improving your sleep hygiene will help to ensure that you get good quality sleep when your head hits the pillow at night.
Following are some strategies that you can try to promote sleep hygiene.
- Have a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends although it may be tempting to sleep in! Make sure that you have seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
- Keep your room dark and quiet when you are going to bed. Having lights on will disrupt your sleep. Your bedroom should be cool so that you can stay comfortable throughout the night.
- Clear your bedroom of things that may increase your stress levels such as work documents. Avoid working in the bedroom so that your brain associates the bedroom with rest and relaxation.
- During your waking hours, get your daily dose of sunlight. Our circadian rhythms are regulated by light so spending time outside or near a window can help get you on a regular sleep-wake cycle. Additionally, sunlight is also a good source of Vitamin D.
- Limit caffeine intake as it can stay in your system up to 6 hours after consumption. As such, try to have your last cup at least 6 hours before you go to bed
- Minimize alcohol consumption. While it can work as a sedative, alcohol can disrupt the quality of your sleep. Drinking alcohol can result in sleep being less restorative and may even cause you to wake up early.
- Dinner should not be eaten too late as it can cause stomach upset and disturbed sleep.
- Stop using mobile phones and other devices that emit blue light a minimum of one hour before bedtime. Blue light can disrupt sleep quality.
Establish daily routines
Daily routines provide cues for when to eat, work, stay alert and wind down. They provide ‘time markers’ and give us a sense of control that can help to reduce stress.
However, having to stay home for long periods of time due to the coronavirus can disrupt our usual routines.
Establishing a daily routine will help to fight against coronasomia. Clear times to eat, work, take breaks, exercise, and work can help your body to regulate and reinforce the sleep-wake cycle. A clear separation between work and sleep time is needed to ensure a good night’s rest.
Additionally, a bedtime routine can also help send signals to your brain that it is time to sleep. Unwind with the same set of activities every night. For example, a bath, some light reading, and listening to soothing music can help you to relax as you head for bed.
Reduce stress and anxiety
A large part of covid insomnia is due to the stress and anxiety that the pandemic brings.
Unemployment, changes in work schedules, dealing with kids and work during the lockdown as well as other uncertainties all take a toll on emotional health.
Here are some things you can do to relieve stress and coronavirus anxiety.
Studies show that exercising daily promotes restful sleep.
It is also an excellent way to reduce stress and anxiety. Additionally, exercise also helps you to maintain a healthy weight range. Just remember not to exercise too near bedtime as it's an activity that energizes your body.
Putting our thoughts on paper can help process emotions, reframe negative feelings and replace them with positive thoughts and emotions. Journaling can help ease stress and anxiety by clearing our overloaded minds of stressful information.
Meditation can also help to ease stress and anxiety. It can help us to stay calm and relax, promoting a good night’s rest.
Take a break from Covid-19 news
Sensational news on the pandemic can create unnecessary stress and anxiety. To avoid this, take a break from watching the news or scrolling through social media. Have a fixed time every day to catch up on the latest news if you must.
For example, only allow yourself half an hour before dinner to catch up on the day’s news.
Focus on positive Covid-19 developments, such as the rollout of vaccines. Additionally, only trust reliable news sources so that you are not affected by misinformation.
Safe sleep supplements
Natural and safe sleep supplements can also help you get some good quality sleep. Rilax is a natural sleep supplement that promotes relaxation and reestablishes your circadian rhythm to help you get the healthy and restorative sleep that your body needs.
Coronasomnia is not to be taken lightly.
If you find yourself having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep due to stress and anxiety from the pandemic, do take the above steps to promote restorative sleep.
Long-term sleep deprivation can result in more complicated health including heart issues and stroke. As such, it is best for both your physical and mental health to ensure that you get enough sleep every night.