Some sleep experts have coined a word “coronasomnia” to describe sleep problems related to stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Coronasomnia is real and widespread. More people than ever are fighting a serious loss of sleep. It is affecting all age groups.
Sleep researchers are normally focused on primary sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy, or periodic limb movement disorder. But stresses of daily life can affect even healthy sleep.
Over the years scientists have known that psychological stress can have strong effect on normal sleep pattern. But it is not easy to define stress.
Stress can encompass all kinds of stimuli of varying amounts and duration. It can be physical stress or psychological stress or social stress. It can be acute or chronic, and high intensity versus low intensity stress. It is possible that different types of stressors may bring with them different impacts on sleep.
Sleep problems and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) are tightly interwoven. Plus, comorbid psychiatric disorders like anxiety and depression can cause or aggravate sleep problems. ADHD medications can cause insomnia. ADHD symptoms and the first-line interventions to treat those symptoms both elevate an individual’s risk for poor sleep.
Ask yourself what has produced unprecedented changes in your life to keep you awake at night. For many people, COVID-19 has generated significant stress, anxiety, depression and worries about health, social isolation, employment, finances as well as the challenge of combining work and family obligations and uncertainty about the future.
Are you putting on weight? Poor sleep can lead to weight gain, which causes problems like reflux that keep you awake. Lack of sleep can lead to depression, high blood pressure to higher risks for heart attack or stroke. Stress can make us more vulnerable to COVID-19, and knowing that creates more worries and more insomnia and more binge eating.
Whatever may be the cause of your sleep problem there are things you can do to help you get a good night’s sleep. Here are some examples.
- Try cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia. A sleep therapist can help you replace thoughts and behaviors that hurt your sleep with new behaviors and thinking that will help you sleep well.
- Have an exercise schedule during the day that will help you relax. Include yoga and meditation in your schedule. Have a physical trainer show you the right technique and encourage you to keep you going.
- Do not watch TV in the bedroom. Do not bring your laptop to bed. Life will go on without these distractions.
- Find time to spend outdoors in the sun. It helps to keep our circadian rhythms in pattern so we produce melatonin at night, not during the day.
- Don’t go to bed hungry. Don’t eat late in the night. You want your body to shut down all metabolic activity and digest your food before going to bed. Avoid nicotine, caffeine and alcohol in the evenings.
- Daytime naps can be good if they are limited to 30-minutes or less. Longer naps will keep you awake at night.
- If your partner is a snorer then he or she has to get some expert advice. This can be investigated and managed.
- Taking sleeping pills can be useful for short term use but it has risks involved for long term use. Different types of sleep medications affect the brain and the body in different ways. All sleep medications have side effects – most commonly causing people to feel drowsy, dizzy, mentally less sharp, or unsteady the next day. More rarely, people taking sleep medications have reported sleepwalking, hallucinations, memory lapses, and odd behavior, such as eating or driving while asleep. With most medications, long-term use can be habit-forming and stopping the drugs can lead to a rebound effect, where insomnia actually gets worse. Do not take sleeping pills without medical advice. Researchers have estimated people taking sleeping pills were as likely to be in a car crash as those driving with a blood alcohol level over the legal limit.
There is nothing new in this advice. It is not rocket science. What we need is discipline and perseverance. The end result can be a satisfactory night with good sleep. So, I wish you a good night’s sleep tonight and every night. Take care and be safe.
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