Unable to have a good night's sleep despite slapping on melatonin patches or sipping on lavender tea? No, you are not in love but you can blame the Coronavirus.
Dr Anshu Punjabi, consultant pulmonologist & sleep medicine expert, Fortis Hospital, Mulund says, "Interestingly, the word “insomnia” was Googled more in 2020 than it ever had been before. Experts call it ‘Coronasomnia’ - a condition caused by pandemic induced stress. But please note, it is not the virus that is causing insomnia but the circumstances."
Sleepless nights have become a norm for many ever since the virus upended many lives across the globe. If it's any consolation, you are not alone in burning the midnight oil.
According to a randomized stud of 150 people conducted in March last year by the International Institute of Sleep Sciences (IISS) in Mumbai, 25-30 per cent of the people were suffering from non-restorative sleep pattern. In fact, another study conducted a few months later in May by top psychiatrists and neurologists in the country revealed that the COVID-19 lockdown was associated with changes in sleep schedule and in the quantity and quality of night-time sleep. These changes are mainly associated with elevated rates of emotional symptoms.
A similar phenomenon was observed across the world. An August 2020 study from the University of Southampton, UK showed that the number of people experiencing Insomnia rose from 1 in 6 to 1 in 4, with more sleep problems in communities including mothers and essential workers.
HOW DOES STRESS IMPAIR SLEEP?
Dr Punjabi adds, "Everything that is going on right now makes people more vulnerable or stress sensitive. This is a vicious cycle! When you lose sleep, your emotions can feel more intense. Your ability to regulate emotions can also become diminished, so existing stressors become more stressful, and the ability to calm down becomes more impaired."
Some of factors that are currently affecting people are:
Worry about loss of job
Stress about financial instability
Fear of the virus
Limited or no work-life balance
Constant worry of improving immunity and health
Disturbed sleep schedules
But these can be easily managed. Dr Punjabi suggests a few tips to help you cope with stress causing Coronasomnia:
STICK TO A ROUTINE: Make sure you have a regular schedule for work, meals, exercise and sleep. Wake up at the same time every morning to help stabilize your circadian rhythm. (The circadian rhythm is how our bodies anticipate when it’s time to sleep and time to wake). Even if you work from home, get showered and dressed as going to work as usual. Sticking to a routine helps.
SCHEDULE IN WIND-DOWN TIME: Allocate half an hour to an hour before bed as wind-down time. Listen to soft music, if that help you calm your mind. Keep the lighting dim. Engage in a non-stimulating activity, like listening to calming music, doing crossword puzzles, or reading a good old-fashioned book. Deep breathing exercises are also a great wind-down activity. Bed must be inviting, change bed linen once a week.
STAY AWAY FROM MOBILE PHONES AND LAPTOPS: There is evidence that indicates that blue light from electronics can impact your circadian rhythm, keeping you wide awake when you’re supposed to be feeling tired. Therefore, stay away from mobile phones and laptops. Avoid net surfing just before bedtime.
STAY AWAKE FROM CAFFEINATED BEVERAGES AND ALCOHOL BEFORE BEDTIME: Caffeine from tea and coffee can stay in the body for up to eight hours, which is longer than most people think. Many people think a green tea may help but that’s not true. Alcohol does the same thing to your body.
KEEP A GAP OF AROUND 1 OR 1.5 HOURS BEFORE BEDTIME: It is always good to have a gap between meals and sleep time. It allows your body to digest the food and helps in a good sleep.
DO NOT LOOK AT YOUR CLOCK WHILE IN BED: Set the alarm for your usual wake up hour and then turn the clock around and go to sleep. Watching the minutes ticking by can become an additional stressor, further obstructing your ability to sleep
Despite all these efforts, if you do wake up in the middle of the night, get out of bed. Go to a different room that’s comfortable and quiet and engage in whatever activity you’d be doing during wind-down time. The final goal is to make you feel sleepy again.
Coronasomnia could be experienced temporarily, it is important that you speak to your physician about it, they would suggest simple steps or even medication, to help bring your sleep patterns back to normalcy.