Are you having difficulty falling asleep or getting a good night’s sleep? Presently, sleep problems worsen for individuals with a history of insomnia. For those who have not experienced sleep problems, they may face interruptions in their sleep or have difficulty going to sleep. Dr. Douglas Kirsch, past president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, said that the problems go away when a trigger is resolved if a person has occasional insomnia.
However, there’s no way to relieve oneself from the constant influx of distressing news, Dr. Kirsch said. That would entail more sleep problems. According to family doctors and sleep specialists, many people who are feeling frustration, anxiety, and grief— regardless if it’s about the pandemic, their finances, racial disparities, and unrest in the US—fail to fall asleep. Sleep problems also occur due to disruptions in schedules and isolation brought by the pandemic.
Reports On Sleep Quality and Insomnia
Sleep Standards, a website that seeks to inspire better sleep through research-based sleep health advice and more, surveyed 1,002 healthcare workers who are presently working in health institutions in the US, with 53% of respondents being male and 47% being female. 51% of healthcare workers rated their sleep as fair, while 14% said they slept excellently. On average, healthcare workers in the US sleep for five hours a day during the pandemic.
The most common sleep disorders experienced by US healthcare workers were insomnia (41%), nightmare (27%), and narcolepsy (5%). Only 21% did not experience any sleep disorders while 6% experienced other sleep disorders. 84% of healthcare workers were worried about bringing COVID-19 home from work. In another study by Chenxi Zhang and colleagues of Frontiers, an open-access publisher of peer-reviewed scientific articles, the authors found that 36.1% of 1,563 participants experienced symptoms of insomnia according to the ISI (Insomnia Severity Index) score. Depressive (50.7%), anxiety (44.7%), and stress-related symptoms (73.4%) were prevalent among medical staff.
Respondents from the insomnia group were more likely to be in the 18-25 age range (versus 21.5% versus 16%), have a high school education or below (3.2% versus 1.5%), and a bachelor’s degree (79.8% versus 74.8%). They were also more likely to be nurses (70% versus 59%), work in an emergency room (5.9% versus 2.7%), and work in an isolation unit (22.5% versus 12.9%).
Those from the insomnia group were also more likely than those people from the non-insomnia group to live friends or colleagues (21.1% versus 15.2%), thinking that the psychological support from the news and social media is not helpful (11.9% versus 5.9%), and spending five hours or more reading information about COVID-19 in the last week (21.8% versus 16%).
The insomnia group was also more likely than the non-insomnia group to feel strong uncertainty about effective disease control (27.8% versus 13.4%). The authors found that the insomnia group was smaller than its counterpart, with respondents having a doctoral degree (5.9% versus 9.8%). They were also doctors (22% versus 33%), with sub-senior (8.2% versus 11.4%), and senior (1.8% versus 4.6%) titles.
The non-insomnia group was also more likely than the insomnia group to live with their family (50.4% versus 61%), think that the psychological support from the news and social media it very helpful (18.8% vs 27.1%), feel not so much (30.7% vs 48.1%), and have no feeling (3.6% vs 1.1%) on the uncertainty regarding effective disease control. The group was also known to exhibit sub-clinical (39.7% versus 42.7%), mild (42.7% versus 23.9%), and have minimal/no depressive and anxiety symptoms (14.5% vs 69.0% and 19.3% vs 75.6%).
What Are the Obstacles to Getting A Good Night’s Sleep?
Disruptions in schedule may make it harder for you to adjust to a new routine, explained SleepFoundation.org, a national sleep foundation. If you are not working or had your hours reduced, you may be tempted to oversleep but oversleeping may cause grogginess, irritability, and loss of focus.
Grief and depression can be exacerbated due to stay-at-home orders, which have the potential to contribute to sleep problems. Additionally, increased (or excess) screentime for work or leisure can affect your sleep. Screentime—especially late into the night—can stimulate your brain to make it harder for you to relax and to suppress the production of melatonin, a sleep production.
How to Get Quality Sleep During the Pandemic
1. Get Your Interrupted Schedules and Exercise Routines Back On Track
Kirsch said most people exercise to relieve stress and anxiety to help them sleep better. But stay-at-home orders prevents us from going to gyms and other establishments to exercise, disrupting our workout regimen. Kirsch said there are fun and engaging exercise classes being streamed online, which is a great workaround for social distancing measures.
You can also exercise using bands, weights, a jump rope, or anything that could increase your heart rate. “Whatever you can do to get the body moving will help lead to a better night's sleep," Kirsch added. You should also try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, including weekends. Avoid using your devices late at night. If you have a “late” daily routine, you can readjust it by waking up at the same time each morning even if you stayed up late.
This exercise will be hard, but it can condition your body to fall asleep earlier. Kirsch commented, “Your body likes to know when it's going to go to sleep and get up, and that allows it to function optimally.”
2. Use Your Bed for Sleeping
It is important for your mind to associate your bed with sleep, according to sleep experts. If you work remotely, don’t work from your bed. Avoid bringing your laptop into your bed when watching shows and movies. If you spend 20 minutes tossing and turning, it is recommended to get out of bed and do a relaxing activity under very low light. Then, go back to bad and try to get some shuteye.
3. Take Advantage of Relaxation Techniques
Yoga, deep breathing, listening to calming music, quiet reading, and stretching are some techniques you can add to your routine, which can help improve your sleep. Moreover, avoid overwhelming yourself with COVID-19-related news by reducing the time you spend on social media, scheduling a call with your loved ones to talk about any topic other than the pandemic, bookmarking one or two news sites on a certain time of the day.
People should establish a good sleep schedule to make it easier to fall asleep. They should also avoid consuming too much caffeine and alcoholic beverages. However, if problems persist, individuals should contact their doctor for an online consultation.