COVID-19 has resulted in so many changes to our lives, habits, and routines. This includes our sleep patterns. At any given time, around 10% of the population suffers from chronic insomnia. The pandemic shutdowns have created many new challenges to restful sleep leading to even more sleep difficulties. Even people who were good sleepers now have problems.
A recent study reported a significant increase in internet searches for insomnia during the early months of the pandemic lockdowns in the spring of 2020. What’s even more interesting is that the searches peaked at around 3:00 a.m. on Sunday nights, which is typically the worst night for most insomniacs.
How the pandemic added to difficulty sleeping
“Coronasomnia,” a new term coined by sleep experts. It encapsulates the sleep problems related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Increased anxiety and stress are the most common contributors to poor sleep. The social distancing and quarantining made things worse and led to higher rates of feeling isolated and depressed. Surveys of sleep since the onset of the pandemic show more sleep dissatisfaction, poorer sleep quality, and even a signal for increased use of sleeping pills.
In addition to the increased stress and anxiety, the pandemic has created a higher level of precariousness for many people. Quarantines, school closures with virtual learning, working from home, and social distancing have altered our lives profoundly. Sunlight along with daily activities and routines helps keep our circadian rhythm on track. Being stuck inside the house disrupts the external cues our brains need to promote wakefulness.
Sleep loss adds up
Chronic insomnia contributes to serious health issues including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and weight gain. It also has a negative impact on our ability to regulate emotions and mood which can lead to interpersonal conflicts, lost productivity at work, and compromised relationships.
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