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WHAT IS CAUSING COVID SLEEP TROUBLES (COVIDSOMNIA)?

Dr. Mersad Alimoradi 08 Feb 2022
WHAT IS CAUSING COVID SLEEP TROUBLES (COVIDSOMNIA)?

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Are you finding it harder to sleep during the pandemic? Well, you might have “covidsomnia” or “coronasomnia”. That’s the name we give to sleep troubles associated with COVID-19.

Insomnia was not really rare before the pandemic. Around 20% of people already complained of having sleeping troubles even without the COVID-19. However, studies show that sleep problems have increased by 37% since the pandemic has started. And many things can explain this.

The economic, social, and mental impact of the pandemic has significantly altered our ways of living. Lockdowns and home office. Online lectures and late bedtimes. Such changes have disrupted our sleeping habits and are now causing coronasomnia.

That sleep problems are linked to higher levels of psychological distress is a concerning fact. In time, poor quality sleep can take a toll on both your mind and body causing problems such as:

So, if you’re finding it hard to sleep during the corona season, this article will clear things up. We also have some tips to help you sleep better and defeat covidsomnia. Read on!

What is Covidsomnia?

Covidsomnia or coronasomnia are two new words that have been popularized by some authors to describe COVID-related sleep troubles.

Ever since the pandemic started, sleep specialists have witnessed a significant increase in the number of patients complaining of sleep troubles. Since then, many researchers and doctors have been linking the increased sleep disorders during corona to the pandemic itself.

Symptoms of coronasomnia include:

  • Insomnia - Inability to fall asleep or recurrent sleep interruptions
  • Oversleeping
  • Waking up too early and then falling back asleep (sleep-wake cycle troubles)
  • Nightmares
  • Being tired and sleepy all-day

You don’t have to be infected to have covid insomnia. The condition is caused by the mental effects of the raging pandemic. The social, economic, and emotional impact is believed to be causing it.

Working from home, lockdowns, and social restrictions have caused us all mental stress and a feeling of isolation. Working irregular hours and overconsumption of media has disrupted our wake-sleep cycle. These are all potential causes of sleep problems during corona.

Does Corona Really Cause Sleep Trouble?

At first, the link between corona and insomnia was not very clear. However, as more and more patients started complaining of sleep issues, sleep specialists started to search for a connection.

Since then, several studies have found an association between the COVID-19 pandemic and insomnia.

One study performed in the UK showed that insomnia has increased from a pre-pandemic prevalence of 17% to 25% during COVID. In China, researchers have found that insomnia rates have jumped from 14.6% to 20%.

Today, covidsomnia is considered an indirect result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sleep specialists take it seriously and actively try to find a way to treat it.

What Is Causing COVID Insomnia?

The link between corona and sleep disorders is being actively researched. Every day, new studies are being published to help understand the relationship better.

So far, sleep doctors believe that it’s multifactorial. Several causes play a role in causing covidsomnia. Most of them, however, have to do with how corona has changed our daily lives.

Disrupted Daily Routines

Our body’s physiological processes, including our sleep-wake cycle, are all controlled by our biological clock. Our brain gets used to our daily routines. It predicts how your day usually goes and adapts your bodily functions to work more efficiently.

For example, if you always wake up for work at 7 AM, your body soon gets used to it. You don’t even have to use an alarm. You’ll wake up at 7 AM on your own, even on a Sunday. That’s how impactful routines can be on our biological clock.

Now cue corona. Ever since the pandemic started, routines have become a thing of the past. Every day, there are new restrictions. Working hours have become fluid. We work from home and attend meetings at irregular hours. Some days you go to the office, some days you work from home, some days you don’t work at all.

The same goes for students as well. Learning hours are constantly changing to adapt to online learning and online examination.

All of this has confused our brain and disrupted our biological clock. When your body can’t find a pattern to know when to work efficiently and when to preserve energy, you start having sleep troubles. It’s hard to fall asleep or to wake up because your brain is always adapting to new routines.

This is possibly another main cause of corona-associated sleep disorders.

Mental Stress

Sleep health has been long-known to be affected by our mental health. Those who feel mentally stressed and anxious tend to have less healthy sleep habits.

Studies show that the rate of mental illness has increased significantly ever since the pandemic started. Anxiety, stress, and depression are much more common than they used to be.

The coronavirus has impacted every aspect of our lives. It has disrupted the ways we work, sleep, study, and live. This has caused a significant increase in stress and anxiety among the population.

Since sleep and mental health are strongly related, researchers now believe that the stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic are the main cause of covidsomnia.

More Media

Since the pandemic started, outdoor activities have been very restricted. We spend much more time sitting at home.

This has led to a significant increase in media and news consumption. People are always on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or other social media and news websites. Especially before bedtime.

Consuming so much media and news can be stressful to the brain. You're showering your brain with (mostly) disturbing news as the pandemic causes havoc to the world. This automatically leads to anxiety - a main cause of covidsomnia.

More Blue Light

The corona pandemic has pushed most of our human activities online. We now study, work, do shopping, socialize, and entertain ourselves mostly through a computer or phone screen.

The problem with electronic screens is that they emit blue light. Blue light is okay during the day. It tells your brain that it’s daytime so that it’s more active.

However, we’re not used to being exposed to blue light during nighttime. When this happens, your brain thinks it’s still daytime, and hence tries to stay awake longer.

Blue light disrupts our biological clock and hence our sleep-wake cycle.

Who Is At Risk of Covidsomnia?

Well, all of us are at risk of developing sleep troubles due to the impact of the corona pandemic. Nevertheless, some people are more at risk:

  • Front line workers: Doctors, nurses, and other essential workers are the most affected by the pandemic. They work long and irregular shifts, deal with death, and risk their health. All of this can cause sleep troubles due to corona.
  • Those infected with COVID-19: Infection with the virus can by itself cause sleep disorders. Shortness of breath, sleeping at the hospital, persistent cough, and other symptoms can keep you awake at night.
  • Those with major life and routine changes: The more life changes you experience because of the pandemic, the more you are at risk of developing sleep troubles.

Women, younger people, and people of color tend to also be more at risk of developing corona-associated sleep disorders.

Tips to Improve Sleep During The Corona Pandemic

Covidsomnia can be managed the same way regular insomnia is managed. The solution lies in improving the quality of your sleep and adopting healthier sleep routines. Here are some tips that can help against coronasomnia:

  • Reduce blue light exposure: Limit your daily use of electronics to the daytime. At nighttime, you can use blue light filters for your devices. These are usually applications that filter out blue light and make your screen look more red.
  • Avoid stressful news and media: Don’t spend your free time reading news about the economy and the pandemic. These will most likely be stressful and will make your brain automatically anxious.
  • Reduce caffeine consumption: Avoid drinking too many caffeinated beverages (e.g. coffee and tea). Limit yourself to one serving daily, and avoid drinking such beverages after sundown.
  • Don’t work where you sleep: If you’re working from home, you should try to work and sleep in different rooms. This way, your brain knows that when you enter the bedroom, it should start conserving energy and preparing to sleep.
  • Have a fixed schedule: Develop a strict routine so that your brain can get used to your sleeping and working hours. Have a set bedtime and an organized daily schedule. Avoid oversleeping or starting work late.
  • Don’t nap too much: A 10-20 minute power nap during the day is okay. However, any more might be harmful to your sleep-wake cycle and will likely make you feel even more tired than you were.
  • Meditate: Meditation can help clear the mind and balance the mood during the pandemic. It’s one of the best ways to deal with stress and anxiety and will surely help you sleep better with a clearer mind.
  • Do sports: Doing sports is proven to improve physical, mental, and sleep health. Try walking or jogging for 30 minutes, 3 times a week, and see how your whole life can change.
  • Set the mood for sleep: When it’s bedtime, make sure that you set the mood for sleep. Dim the lights, turn off anything causing noise, close the bedroom door, and maybe play some relaxing music.

There’s no one solution for corona-related sleep issues. However, all of these tips and tricks can help you sleep better during a pandemic. Try them out and see which one works best for you. 

If you believe that you might have covidsomnia, consulting a sleep specialist would be a great option. They can rule out any other issues causing you sleep troubles and help you get better sleep quality.

To search for the Best Sleep Disorder Treatment in India please use the Mya Care search engine.

About the Author:
Dr. Mersad is a medical doctor, author, and editor based in Germany. He's managed to publish several research papers early in his career. He is passionate about spreading medical knowledge. Thus, he spends a big portion of his time writing educational articles for everyone to learn.

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