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COVID-Somnia: Insomnia During COVID-19 Pandemic

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Sarah Bahader

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It is neither rare nor uncommon to observe a rise in sleep-related problems during times of disasters, this has been historically documented. No wonder the most-recent worldwide crisis, the coronavirus, has implicated many aspects in peoples’ lives. It has affected employment, finances, health, social life and psychological wellbeing. This crisis has also affected sleep and circadian rhythms in adverse ways.

            “Social confinement and isolation during COVID-19 might explain the increased incidence of sleep problems. The study suggests that the 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. Simple routines typically performed at fixed times such as waking up in the morning, showing up at work, eating meals, and maintaining social and leisure activities have all been disrupted by the pandemic and social confinement. A study conducted in Italy reported that younger adults went to bed later and got up later during the peak of the pandemic.”

       The immediate psychological impact of the pandemic suggests the need for rapid and concentrated interventions to help people in distress cope with the consequences of this crisis. It must be noted that sleep disturbances such as insomnia and nightmares may persist well after the pandemic, and such problems are often signs of psychiatric disorders, individuals who develop sleep disturbances during COVID-19 may be at greater risk for long-term adverse outcomes.

            “Many people recovering from COVID-19 reported having sleep problems as one of the prolonged symptoms, while a small percentage reported sleeping more than normal.” According to Dr. Meir Kryger, a sleep researcher and professor at the Yale School of Medicine, has seen patients with significant symptoms related to sleep. Some develop severe insomnia — a fear of falling asleep because they think something horrible is going to happen to them.

            Indeed, the crisis of the coronavirus is definitely impacting psychological health, and not in good ways. According to the above information, insomnia and sleep problems are among those impacts. A number of reasons/factors could be leading to sleep problems especially in people who have been infected by Covid-19. Quarantine and social confinement has changed daily routines; which may have resulted in disrupted patterns of sleep. Fixed routines help people maintain a healthy sleep schedule. Therefore it is important not to give up to the current absence of the past regular routines. Coping with the new circumstances is vital, to avoid unwanted consequences and to remain healthy and active.

            Isolation, stress, anxiety and fear are inevitable factors. Particularly with patients (including recovering patients), they reported sleep disturbances due to being infected with the virus. Their fear seems to increase with sleep. One patient named Franco (37 year-old) says “When I fell asleep or started to fall asleep, it felt like I would stop breathing and my body would kick awake and I’d be gasping for air”.

            Taking care of one’s health is mandatory. Healthcare professionals are there to help people through these difficult times. One does not have to suffer alone in a time when everybody is clearly not living their best lives or enjoying to the fullest. Do not let fear and anxiety control you nor your life. Seek support from the people around you, a friend, a sibling or a health professional can help. Never underestimate whatever you’re going through, and don’t underestimate your ability to get through it. With the right help, support; problems can be manageable. Whether it’s a sleep problem or major depression, psychological support works for everyone.

How to improve sleep health during the pandemic?

  • Reserve Your Bed For Sleep: do not use your bed while doing other tasks (such as working, studying, bringing a laptop into bed to watch a movie or series, etc.). If you’re having a problem falling asleep, don’t spend more than 20 minutes tossing and turning. Change your sheets frequently, and make your bed to keep your bed feeling fresh, creating a comfortable and inviting area to fall asleep
  • Maintain a Regular Sleep Schedule: Go to bed in a regular hour every night and stick to it
  • Digital Detox: Avoid using your phone for two hours before sleep time
  • Caffeine Detox: Stay away from caffeine 4-6 hours before bedtime. Instead, drink some chamomile/herbal tea as it aids relaxation and has calming effects
  •  Obtain a Daily Dose of Daylight Exposure: open windows to let light into your home during the day
  • Engage in a relaxing routine before sleep: Yoga, stretching or meditation exercises

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