There are a lot of things we can live without, but sleep isn’t one of them. Many of us don’t get the sleep we need in normal times, let alone during a worldwide pandemic. In fact, fear of catching COVID-19 and grappling with everything that’s changed because of it has given rise to a new term for this type of insomnia called “coronasomnia.” Coronasomnia is caused by two main culprits: disruption of routine, and ongoing stress and anxiety.
No wonder that a new condition, dubbed ‘coronasomnia’ by the experts, has been identified. Anxious nights tossing and turning have been exacerbated by the lifestyle changes enforced upon us by lockdowns. ‘People aren’t as regulated in their sleep/wake life as they used to be,’ says consultant neurologist Dr Andrew Westwood. The British Sleep Society found that not only the amount, but also the quality of our sleep has been negatively impacted.
Economic hardships, disruption to daily routines, and the uncertainty of not knowing when the pandemic will end have hiked stress and anxiety – both of which are not sleep’s best bedfellows.
If you’re having trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep and are experiencing more intense dreams – you’re not alone. According to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, COVID-19 has increased online search queries for insomnia worldwide, with the number of queries peaking around 3am.
As we re-emerge into society, we have the potential to put this period of restlessness behind us. Such moments of re-adjustment are unique opportunities to carve out habits and adopt patterns and behaviours for the new state of play.
But here’s some welcome news. Even with everything that’s on our minds, we can take steps to combat coronasomnia and get restorative rest.
Change Your Approach
The sleep researcher Dr Els van der Helm agrees. ‘Your brain needs to compartmentalise - this is work, this is my private life, this is my time for sleep. That becomes really difficult when you’re suddenly working from home more often. For many, the past year felt like sleeping in the office. All of life’s contextual cues were thrown off - and these prompts are really important to signal your brain to become drowsy.’
One important approach is to flip our attitudes towards day and night. A good day should help you sleep well, yet we frame a good night’s sleep as setting us up for the day. ‘You should start thinking about sleep hygiene from the moment you wake up,’ says the neuroscientist and author Dr Tara Swart.
Yet, too often the question of sleep arises only as the head hits pillow. ‘Aside from obvious don’ts, like looking a t smart-screens before bed, that’s when you have least control,’ says van der Helm.’ The real influence is in how you spend your days. You want a notable contrast between day and night, with days full of activity, bright natural light, mental stimulation, and positive social contact.’ All in elements of our daily life we are pleased to have returned to.
With things reverting to being more differentiated, the familiar weekday and weekend rhythms return. However, when you have one routine during the week at work and another at weekends, perhaps characterised by later bedtimes and long lie-ins, it culminates in exhaustion - or social jet-lag - come Monday morning.’ The more consistent the schedule, the better your sleep.’
While it is tempting to catch up on sleep over the weekend, going to bed and getting up at the same time every day is much more beneficial to the quality of your sleep. Follow these 4 steps to slumber:
- Set an alarm to go to bed.
- The brain needs signals to trigger melatonin release at night. Condition yourself. The consistent timing of meals, brushing your teeth, or using a particular scent can all signal your brain that it’s time to sleep.
- Wake up at the same time regardless of when you go to sleep.
- Go outside every day. When you are exposed to a lot of bright natural light, you have a bigger contrast between your day and night, which helps you sleep.
How To Get You Sleeping Again
There are simply ways to address coronasomnia. It starts by setting boundaries. First, it is important to only use your bedroom for sleep – not for work – so that the brain recognises it is a place of relaxation instead of stress. Second, even if you are spending most of your days at home, be consistent with your daily routines, bedtimes, and wake times.
If you’re prone to worrying and ruminating once your head hits the pillow at night, try using a guided meditation right before bed or read a book. A weighted blanket may prove useful, too. These tools will help you unwind and signal your brain that it’s time to sleep.
Finally, remember the healthy habits that can help relieve insomnia and improve sleep. These include daily exercise, getting sunshine early in the day (which helps to regulate the body’s circadian rhythm), and turning off screens at night.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
Let there be light
Getting more natural light, particularly morning light, keeps our 24-hour sleep-wake cycle regulated.
Nix napping at night
A 10–20-minute power nap can boost alertness and focus. Anything after 4pm can disrupt your evening sleep.
Cool it on the caffeine
Try to reduce your caffeine intake especially later in the day or evening when you’re winding down.
Exercise boosts your mood and helps you sleep better, and sleep helps you exercise better. they feed each other.
Clear the clutter
A clean, clutter-free sleep space promotes calm and relaxation. Add in lavender aroma to up the tranquillity.
Cut back on the news
Staying informed in good. Addictively watching the evening news is bad. It can amp up adrenaline and sabotage sleep.
Keep it cool
Lower the heat before turning in. studies show between 60- and 67-degrees Fahrenheit is best for a sound sleep.
Stick to a schedule
Get up and go to bed at the same time every day. It keeps your internal clock steady and makes it easier to fall asleep.