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Corona-somnia: can’t sleep due to Covid-19?

It’s been a tough year and if you’re having insomnia, you’re in good company – much of the world has it, too. Corona-somnia is rampant.

We are all fatigued by this ongoing pandemic which has created a world where more people are struggling, often fighting anxiety and depression. Worries about health, work, school, the economy, and isolation conspire to disrupt sleep. So more of us report difficulty in falling asleep and staying asleep.

Many people have reported having stranger dreams than they had before the COVID-19 lockdowns began. Google says searches about strange dreams, sleep and insomnia are at an all-time high.

This pandemic and the social confinement have produced unprecedented changes in our daily routines. Restrictions surrounding social confinement have upset daily routines that typically serve as timekeepers for sleep-wake rhythms to remain in synchrony with the day–night cycles. And with so many people working from home, it can begin to feel that work becomes a 24 hour per day responsibility, blurring the distinction between work and home.

Health care workers have been particularly hard hit as many are regularly exposed to Covid and must cope first-hand with its aftermath on a daily basis.

For others, staying home more results in more screen time whether computer,
T V or phone and much of what the media reports is negative. So who can relax in such world as this?

Now, the importance of sleep cannot be ignored. Not only is sleep restorative but it is like an inflammatory cleansing process, removing waste from the day, and helping us process our lives. Poor sleep is associated with many maladies, including weight gain. And recent report found that people who get 5 hours or less of sleep a day are at greater risk of developing dementia.

So what can be done to help us sleep better give the pandemic pandemonium? Cognitive behavior therapy which focuses on ‘sleep hygiene’ is the most effective aide. Examples: no smoking or drinking before bed, no working from bed, sticking to the same time to go to bed and same time for awakening.

1.  Keep a normal daily routine: If you’re working from home, keep the same schedule as if you were going to work, Allocate half an hour before bed as ‘wind-down’ time. That means relaxing in a room with dim lighting and engaging in a non-stimulating activity.

2. Environment: A dark room and a room temperature somewhere between 65 and 70 degrees consists of the perfect sleeping condition.

3. News Break: Reading the news during this time is not good: recommended. The last thing you want to do is hear about the death rate or symptoms of coronavirus right before bed,

4. Exercise: it reduces stress and helps maintain the normal biorhythm. But do earlier in the day not right before bedtime. Give your body some time to cool down and slow down

5. Avoid screens in the bed. The blue light from cellphones, tablets and computers signals our bodies to stay awake and not release melatonin. This means TV, computer and please put down that cell phone.

6. Your bed is for rest: Don’t use your bedroom, and especially your bed, as your office. You want to train your brain that this is the place where you rest.

7. Naps: Take a nap if you need it but not too late in the day.

8. Get some sunlight: It helps keep our circadian rhythms in pattern so we produce melatonin at night, not during the day.

9. Waking up: If you wake up in the middle of the night (insomnia for sure)  and can’t sleep, get out of bed: A change of scenery helps you reset, but keep lights low and don’t do anything that gets you excited.

10. Melatonin: Melatonin can help but it is not a sleep inducer rather a sleep regulator. Different people respond differently to it.

11. Go easy on the alcohol and caffeine: They both throw off your sleep patterns. Alcohol can help you fall asleep, but not necessarily stay asleep or sleep well. Not all sleep is equal and drug induced sleep is not quality sleep.

12. Meditation: Try learning to meditate with one of the many apps available. It can improve sleep and it emphasizes the importance of our mind-body connection.

Finally, with vaccines rolling out, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. But people don’t know how long that tunnel is. In the meantime, we try to persevere, one day at a time, knowing that pandemic corono-somnia won’t last forever.

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