Disturbed Sleep? You May Have COVIDsomnia

It is true, the pandemic is disrupting people’s sleep and a new sleep disorder named “Covid-somnia” is on the rise. Learn more about how to avoid and prevent it from turning chronic.

Increased sleep disturbances related to global pandemic have been coined as Covidsomnia by many sleep experts who have seen a recorded influx in sleep disorder and deprivation cases during the last few months. Social isolation and disrupted routines are possibly the biggest reasons leading to altering sleep schedules, unhealthy sleep patterns and insomnia. Fear and stress related to the pandemic is another reason people are losing sleep and becoming anxious or depressed. People who are worried about jobs, financial stability and health coupled with a lack of a routine are increasingly complaining of disturbed sleep patterns.

How is Coronavirus disrupting your sleep?

Simply put, any kind of difficulty in manifesting or sustaining sleep due to fear of the Covid-19 virus is termed as Covidsomnia. Just like insomnia or hypersomnia, it is also a sleep disorder that needs proper diagnosis for identification of the underlying causes so that appropriate medical treatment can be recommended. In most of the cases, committing to a lifestyle change proves to be an effective treatment to help cure and prevent Covid related insomnia or sleep disturbances.

Most common Covid-19 related insomnia symptoms apart from inability to get restful sleep or sleep disturbance include daytime fatigue, mood swings, irritability, loss of appetite and concentration, anxiousness and even short-term memory loss in some cases. There also exists a section of people who are able to sleep properly but feel disturbed due to abnormal dreams or nightmares related to the pandemic.

Common causes

The most common causes of sleep loss due to the coronavirus are directly or indirectly related to the pandemic. A survey done in China on 801 front-line health-care workers reported that in comparison to the general population, the Chinese health-care workers tested significantly high on a scale used to measure insomnia. Many sleep therapists across the globe have also reported a rise in the number of patients struggling with anxiety related to losing their jobs or chronic nightmares that are leaving them sleepless. A lot of people are also complaining about lack of sleep due to their current routines which has them spending hours in front of screens with limited or no access to natural sunlight. Increased consumption of alcohol and caffeine or dependency on sleep-inducing medication and its misuse is also messing up with people’s sleep schedules.

Excessive daytime napping due to disrupted daily routines is another common cause of sleeplessness or loss of quality sleep at night.

Effects of Covidsomnia on the human body

Most people suffering from Covidsomnia find it difficult to fall asleep within the first 20-30 minutes of lying in bed as their mind enters thinking mode in which negative thoughts, worries and stress keep the brain active. Some people even wake up in the middle of the night and are unable to go back to sleep for hours. This kind of disruption or loss of quality sleep can lead to:

  • Reduced ability to battle infections due to weak immune functioning caused by lack of sleep
  • Frequent mood swings and a severely compromised attention span
  • Feeling lethargic during the day
  • Weight gain or in some cases weight loss due to loss of appetite
  • Poor heart health
  • Risk of diabetic predispositions or hypertension
  • Heightened levels of stress and anxiety

How to deal with Covidsomnia and sleep better?

We are all aware that sleep boosts immunity and is a crucial restorative function. It is our body’s auto-repair mechanism to have us stay healthy both mentally and physically. It is natural to feel restless during a time when things are ever-evolving and there is a continuous risk of you being infected by a disease while dealing with the disruption it has caused to your daily routine. Acceptance of this new reality is the first big step to take to move forward and fight the virus.

Covidsomnia or to say loss or disturbance in sleep caused by Covid-19 can be easily prevented or treated by fixing your sleep schedule. In addition to this it is important to surround yourself with positive thoughts and optimistic people to help your mind stay clear of negativity. A healthy diet is important too, as much as it is to stay physically active.

Limiting screen time and the number of unnecessary daytime naps can also prove beneficial.

Why is sleep so important in times like these?

An important step towards building a healthy sleep schedule is setting up a daily routine. Loss of a routine because of the pandemic has been the number one trigger leading to unusual sleep patterns.

Since we did not have a fixed time to wake up or go to bed, eat, work or do any other activity we used to do pre-coronavirus, our body’s internal clock is confused. This clock is dependent on time cues like light to promote consistent and restorative sleep. During the day, we are exposed to sunlight, signaling our internal clock to let our body stay alert and awake. At night, the clock initiates the production of the sleep hormone - melatonin, causing us to fall asleep for the night. This sleep-wake cycle is of 24 hours and is also synchronized with the rest of our body functions. Hence if our daily routine is disrupted, it instantly disrupts our internal body clock too( also known as circadian rhythm).

Now that we understand the importance and relevance of our internal clock, here are some proven ways to fix your sleep schedule and align it with your daily routine:

  • Wake up and go to bed at the same time everyday to reinforce the circadian rhythm via a consistent sleeping pattern
  • Expose yourself to natural sunlight during the day to help your body feel awake and energetic
  • Indulge in regular exercise to tire yourself out and reduce stress to help boost sleep quality
  • Try Yoga Nidra - most powerful meditation technique
  • Limit the use of caffeine, nicotine and alcohol as these stimulants deprive you off of a deep sleep experience
  • Avoid long or too many short naps during the day
  • Ensure you have a relaxing environment, a good quality mattress and an ideal temperature maintained in your bedroom to fall asleep comfortably

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