When we’re stressed out, sleeping can turn into a challenge. While many of us have suffered from stress on a daily basis even since before the COVID-19, the pandemic made our lives even more stressful. The pandemic quickly changed many aspects of our lives, and some of such changes weren’t positive.
There’s no surprise that many people now suffer from insomnia and other sleep disorders. According to statistics, 35.7% of the world population have sleep problems, with COVID-19 patients being the most affected group. As much as 74.8% of people diagnosed with COVID-19 suffer from insomnia or other sleep issues.
While stress-related sleep disorders are nothing new, pandemic-induced insomnia, or “coronasomnia,” is a particularly complex issue. In this case, the problem is rooted not in the virus itself but in its disruptive impact on all aspects of our lives.
Let’s figure out how exactly the pandemic affects your sleep.
How the Pandemic Affects Your Sleep
The pandemic has caused a lot of stress. First, we started to worry after reading the news and watching disturbing videos that illustrated the consequences of the pandemic. Many people were forced to cancel their trips, and then we entered the lockdown stage that changed our lives drastically.
Most of us expected stress and frustration because of the inability to spend time with our friends or go out for dinner. Few people, however, could expect how challenging staying at home with children would be. When children don’t go to school and you have to be with them all day, while also dealing with house chores and working remotely, stress accumulates very quickly, and its impact on your sleep can be severe.
Adjusting to the “New Normal”
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted our daily lives. The very process of adjustment to a new schedule and daily routine can take its toll on our physical and emotional health. For instance, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep track of the time when we don’t have our regular time cues.
Circadian time cues, also known as zeitgebers, include natural light, as well as various social and behavioral factors, like driving to work, taking kids from school, or going to the gym. These time cues are supposed to help our brain understand when it’s time to go to sleep. The pandemic changed our daily routines, taking away these cues.
Increased Screen Time
Working on Zoom, chatting with your friends online, and replacing all your outdoor activities with Netflix result in a significant increase in screen time. Although our devices enabled us to keep working during the pandemic and saved us from boredom, they also contributed to the development of sleep disorders.
Exposure to the light emitted by devices reduces the production of melatonin. This is a hormone that helps us fall asleep. Therefore, an increase in screen time, especially in the evening, can damage your sleep cycle and keep you active when you’re supposed to feel sleepy.
It’s difficult to imagine a pandemic without constant fear. Many people are afraid of being diagnosed with COVID-19 or infecting other people. Many of us have older relatives who are in high-risk groups, and even though vaccines have become widely available, now the Delta variant doesn’t let us just relax and forget about the dangers of getting infected.
We don’t know when the pandemic will be over, how it will impact our families, and what will happen to the economy. There’s too much uncertainty in our lives so anyone can start to experience symptoms of anxiety. In turn, anxiety can seriously damage your sleep.
7 Tips to Sleep Better
1. Limit your Caffeine Intake
Although caffeine offers numerous health benefits, its positive aspects come with a price. While caffeine may improve your performance and focus or even help fight a cataract, it can also seriously damage your sleep. Given that caffeine can stay in your blood for up to 8 hours, you should drink coffee carefully.
Don’t drink coffee in the evening and consider consuming less caffeine, in general. If you love coffee for its taste, you can always drink decaffeinated coffee that won’t mess with your sleep.
2. Develop a Sleep Schedule and Stick to It
If you’ve had troubles with falling asleep for a long time, adapting to a strict sleeping schedule might take some commitment. To stay healthy, we need 7 to 8hours of sleep. Make sure to allocate enough time in your schedule for sleep and stick to this schedule.
You may feel tempted to sacrifice your sleep from time to time to get more work done or do something else, but don’t forget about the long-term consequences of such decisions.
If you cannot fall asleep for 20-30 minutes, do something relaxing. Read a book, meditate, or take a bath, and go back to bed when you’re tired or bored.
3. Don’t Take Long Naps
Short naps (30 minutes or less) can be very beneficial for your cognitive performance and help you stay energized and well-focused. Long naps, however, can damage the quality of your sleep and make it more difficult for you to fall asleep.
Some people may want to compensate for the lack of sleep by taking long naps during the day, but such an approach may only make the situation worse.
4. Create the Right Environment
Make sure that your room has the right environment for sleeping. If you’re exposed to light during the night, you might experience problems with falling asleep, and the quality of your sleep may also suffer.
Keep the temperature in your bedroom slightly cool and minimize noise. High temperatures, light, and noise can seriously damage your sleep so you may want to buy blinds and earplugs and experiment with your thermostat. For most people, 70 °F is a comfortable temperature, but personal preferences may vary.
You can also improve your sleep if you include enough physical activity in your daily schedule. Hit the gym, start jogging, or do yoga to improve your blood flow.
Just don’t be too active in the evening. You may also simply take a walk outside every once in a while to get more oxygen.
6. Have a Relaxing Pre-Sleep Routine
Try to relax and clear your mind before bed. If you have problems with falling asleep because you cannot stop thinking about your tasks and worries, write them down and put them aside.
You may also take a warm bath, meditate, read a book, or do breathing exercises.
7. Consider Therapy
Sleep problems can be rooted in various mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. Sometimes, the best solution is to look for professional help from a GP and mental health professional.
A licensed therapist can help you figure out what the problem is and provide the necessary support.
While visiting a therapist in-person may be challenging for people with tight schedules or limited budgets, teletherapy may be a good option. On online platforms, you can talk to a mental health professional from virtually anywhere.
The pandemic has affected our lives in countless ways, and our sleeping habits have also been impacted by the coronavirus. We hope that our tips will help you sleep better and focus on the factors that have the most significant impact on your sleep.
Keep in mind that you may deal with sleep disorders, so don’t hesitate to talk to a professional if insomnia is just one of many symptoms that impact the quality of your life.