It’s safe to say Coronavirus has disrupted many parts of our daily lives. It’s changed the way we work. It’s pushed back important plans. And it’s transformed how many of us view our health.
On top of all of that, sleep experts are noting that COVID-19 has changed Americans’ sleep patterns. Unfortunately, not necessarily in a good way.
Pre-2020, one-third of U.S. adults reported experiencing insomnia, making it one of the most commonly reported sleep disorders. And that number has been steadily climbing in the last year.
So what gives?
The most obvious reason is that we’ve all been under an enormous amount of increased stress. Threats of job loss, worried about keeping up with bills, concern for loved ones who are vulnerable to the virus, loneliness during lockdown, and more. The pandemic has put our mental health under some serious strain.
Stress and anxiety are common contributors to sleep problems, including insomnia. On the flip side, sleep deprivation can increase feelings of stress and anxiety. It’s a vicious cycle, and a tough one to get out of.
Another contributor to the current surge in sleep issues is our shifting sleep patterns.
Pre-COVID, most of us were able to maintain at least somewhat regular daily routines. We worked set hours of the day, ate our meals during specific times, hit the gym during an opening on our calendars, and so on.
But once the pandemic hit, our calendars virtually disappeared. Outside of conference calls and virtual happy hours, there was very little structure to our days.
Without that structure guiding us, our sleep schedules got completely thrown off. We fell asleep whenever we could whether that was three in the afternoon or three in the morning.
Pre-pandemic, sleep experts had already been warning about the effects of blue light on our body’s circadian rhythm.
During COVID, we started to spend significantly more time with phones, TVs, and laptops, which had become one of our only links to the world outside of our homes.
Exposing your eyes to blue light too close to bedtime can prevent your body from producing the melatonin it needs to grow sleepy and drift off to sleep. By pushing back the time you fall asleep, you ultimately push back the time your body will wake up, essentially shifting your circadian rhythm.
The big concern of poor sleep is that it can weaken our immune system and lead to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, among other serious diseases. Sleeplessness can also lead to weight gain and blood pressure issues.
So how can we overcome coronasomnia?
One of the first things sleep experts always recommend is to have a set sleep schedule. Make sure you have a set bed and wake times and that you keep it consistently every day, even on weekends.
If you’ve been experiencing recent sleep problems, doctors also recommend you do an audit of your sleep hygiene practices. Make sure that you’re only falling asleep in your bed – not on your couch. Set up your bedroom to be the best environment for you to fall asleep in. Keep it dark and cool, remove any screens from the room, and only use the space when you’re ready to fall asleep.
Lastly, if you’ve developed chronic insomnia during the pandemic, or your sleep problems have grown worse during coronavirus, you should consider reaching out to a doctor. Sleep medicine includes treatments like prescription medications, supplements and herbs, as well as cognitive behavioral therapy. A doctor can help you determine what the right path to better sleep is for you.