Covid And Sleep: Better Slumber During The Pandemic May Help Protect Your Health
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt daily living, researchers are taking a closer look at one requirement for health that many people take for granted: sleep. And theyve concluded, perhaps not surprisingly, that improving our sleep schedule and quality is an important part of coping with these stressful times and defending against COVID-19. Were all affected by the pandemic in different ways, said Chandra L. Jackson, Ph.D., a research investigator with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and an adjunct investigator with the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities. Many people are sleeping less or longer than they need to, which can make people feel groggy, unfocused, and even irritable throughout the day. Some are sleeping at different times or getting a lower quality sleep than before the pandemic.
The pandemic has led to disruptions in our work, home, and family life that has subsequently impacted sleep, Jackson said during a recent NIH-hosted / live event. Financial strain, illness, housing insecurity, and being an essential worker on the pandemics frontline, all induce anxiety that negatively affects sleep, she explained. Even staying at home all day can affect sleep in some people, especially those managing a house with children who are normally at school.
Everyone has trouble sleeping from time to time, he added, but its important to work on optimizing you and your familys sleepespecially now.
Why Do We Experience Nightmares When We Are Stressed
With the constant barrage of bad news surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, it’s no wonder many people are struggling to sleep well at night. The quiet solitude of night can provide the perfect environment to ruminate over our fears. But why do we experience bad dreams when we finally do drop off?
“We all dream. The reason we remember them sometimes is because the state of sleep we usually dream in – our REM sleep, a very light, different stage from deep sleep – is interrupted somehow,” Romiszewski says. “Part of the reason people are remembering their dreams more now, is because their sleep is more disrupted.” This might be because of noise, caffeine, stress or another variable.
“The content of our dreams is a little more complex to break down. Indeed any stress and anxiety if not dealt with during the day is going to have an impact on your sleep. What happens to you during the day can certainly play out in your dreams,” Romiszewski explains.
“Whether that’s the global overall feeling of anxiety affecting you, a direct link to what you watched on TV before you went to bed, or the change in your routine due to isolation, all of these could change the content of your dreams.”
However, it’s important to understand that this is normal during a period of high stress.
COVID-19: how does the coronavirus pandemic affect your sleep?
Why Are We Talking About Sleep
Many people recovering from COVID notice that their sleep has changed when compared to their sleep before they became unwell.
Some people find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep, and others find they wake up earlier than usual and cant get back to sleep. It might be that you are waking up feeling unrefreshed, like you havent slept at all, in which case you might find it helpful to also read the information on fatigue.
Feeling Tired Vs Fatigued
Many of us, however, arent getting enough rest because we are anxious. Not sleeping because we suffer from anxiety and its close cousin, depression, feed into each other, Luckers said. It can be hard to separate the two. If youve been cleared by a medical doctor and you still wake up feeling tired, then your exhaustion is likely mental which is fatigue.
Most of us are in some state of exhaustion or fatigue, said Shawn Blue, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor at Jefferson University Hospital. We feel stuck. We are pooped, and no amount of sleep can help.
The tricky part is that we are dealing with different kinds of exhaustion. Here are tips to help us to push through:
What it is: No matter how much you try to concentrate, your brain jumps from idea to idea.And frankly, you find it hard to sit still for long periods of time. You have a lot of projects on tap, lots of ideas simmering, but little to no motivation to get anything done.
What you can do about it: Try to stick to a schedule. But give yourself a lot of breaks. Sitting at your computer for hours on end doesnt allow your brain to unwind, said Jaime Zuckerman, an Ardmore-based clinical psychologist. Now that the weather is breaking, go outside and take a walk. Start a garden. Walking activates the positive chemicals in our brain. And when you return back to your task, you will feel better. The fog will be lifted, and you will be better able to focus.
What Does A Sleep Cycle Look Like
Sleep is made up of several stages varying from light to deep sleep with periods of rapid eye movement sleep . During REM sleep, the eyes of the sleeper move quickly and jerkily under the eye-lids. This is the stage of sleep in which dreaming occurs. It is common to wake up during lighter stages of sleep and this is not something to worry about.
Creating A Sick Room To Avoid Infection Spread
But if you or a loved one do become infected, it is essential to try to prevent others in the household from becoming sick. This is especially critical if you have someone living in your home that is at high risk for complications.
While social distancing is recommended when you go out, it is difficult to do when youâre at home. But it is important to try to create a sick room if someone in your family has tested positive for COVID-19.
It appears COVID-19 is spread through contact with droplets from a sneeze or cough of an infected person. In addition to breathing in droplets, you can also contract the disease through contact with a surface contaminated with the virus. It is possible to get the infection by touching the surface and then touching your nose, eyes, or mouth.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , setting up a sick room may help prevent others in the home from getting sick.
Whether it is a bedroom or guest room, select an area in the home, which is preferably near a bathroom. Make it a space set aside for your sick family member. Other family members should avoid the room. If it is your partner, try to sleep in another room.
Place everything the person needs in their room, such as the following:
- Hand sanitizer
Asymptomatic Covid And Super
You can’t tell who is infected with COVID-19. Look around you; it could be anyone. The problem is that some people spread more virus than others. The average person with COVID infects 1.3 to 3.5 other people. If you infect more people than this, you’re called a “super-spreader.”
- have an occupation which gives them a high contact rate with other people, such as a shopkeeper, a hairdresser or a waitress
- travel frequently; they may often use public transportation or be globetrotters
- participate in group events or mass gatherings, for example, sing in a choir or attend regular church services
- not comply with infection-control measures; studies show up to of people carry on as normal in a pandemic and don’t stick to the rules
- just spread more virus, for reasons which are unclear, possibly genetic.
Data from previous outbreaks has shown that 20% of the population are responsible for 80% of infections.
Most people would not want to unknowingly infect another person. Any of us could be infected. It’s imperative we all act responsibly and follow the infection-control rules.
What does all this mean? It means you can never tell who could be infected with the virus. That’s why to stay safe, you need to keep at least six feet away from other people who are not in your household, cover your nose and mouth with a face mask, wash your hands regularly and carefully follow all the rules on social distancing.
Why Do We Yawn
Answering this question is not nearly as easy as defining the action. There are a number of theories about why we yawn, but remarkably little good research on this topic. There are several agreed upon causes for yawning, however.
First, it that when changing elevation rapidly as in an airplane, you will both voluntarily yawn and also involuntarily yawn to try and equalize pressures within your ear. This works and is an accepted reason for yawning.
Another indisputable cause of yawning is called social empathy. What this means in plain English is suggestion. If you see someone yawn, or if you read about yawning some people will yawn. In fact psychologists have proven that the more empathetic you are, the more likely you are to yawn when someone else does. There has been fascinating research about the hierarchy of this suggestion. If you are very close to a person emotionally, you will yawn if they do. The rank order of this suggestion is family, friend, stranger. The closer one is to the person who yawns, the more likely one is to yawn as well.
Related to arousal is the common phenomenon of yawning upon awakening after sleep or nap. This is further evidence that yawing is a stimulation and arousal reflex rather than the opposite.
Interventions For Optimal Sleep Health
If you are struggling to sleep for reasons such as anxiety related to work it may be useful to consider practising behavioural therapy programmes – have been shown to be effective in addressing insomnia related to anxiety. This type of therapy includes cognitive behavioural therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy. Various options are available and a consultation with a sleep physician or psychologist to determine the best option.
Sleep medications, such as hypnotic medications and over the counter prescription sleeping pills, should be avoided as much as possible. Consider the risks and benefits of taking these medications and it is best to seek medical advice of a sleep physician wherever necessary.
Underlying the principles of behavioural therapies is the concept of mindful practice and a mindful state. Mindfulness is defined as a state of practice which validates and accepts and approaches thoughts and emotions and behaviours in a non-judgmental but inquisitive manner. Healthcare professionals should be mindful of their emotional and mental health. Mindfulness reduces sympathetic nervous activation which keeps us alert and encourages parasympathetic nervous system activation which allows us to translate into a state of slumber.
Healthcare professionals are often involved in shift work and this can impair sleep and daytime functioning. Ways to deal with shift work can include:
How Can You Combat The Pandemic Stress
There are a number of ways we can improve our sleep experience cutting down on screen time before bed, a better diet, more exercise but Dr. Drerup has some suggestions about how we can approach these aspects with the pandemic in mind to help relieve stress before bedtime.
Take a break from the news
To say theres a lot happening in the world these days is an enormous understatement. And while its good to stay informed throughout the day, try to avoid oversaturation of news and other bad habits like doomscrolling. This is especially important in the evening.
People are very connected to the news these days and watching the news before bedtime in the evening. But this is setting you up to have those worries, those anxieties at night, Dr. Drerup says. Avoiding that stressful news or other information before bed can help ease those feelings of anxiety at least a little bit.
Stay on schedule
As Dr. Drerup mentioned, a lot of stress comes from an upending of our daily routines. But, she adds, you can get some relief by creating a daily schedule and routine and sticking to it. Try to keep a consistent bedtime and a consistent waketime no matter the day of the week, she says.
She adds that now that theres some flexibility with work-from-home scheduling, you might decide to push your bedtime and waketime back a bit. Thats okay, she says, If it fits with your schedule and you dont have to change it around frequently, thats fine. Consistency is key.
Shine a light
When To Make An Emergency Call
If you’re concerned that your condition is getting worse, call 911 for help without delay.
Here are some worrying symptoms. This list is not exhaustive, just some common scenarios. If you are unsure, don’t delay. Get help.
- You’re increasingly breathless; it’s getting harder to speak
- Your lips, fingers and toes look blue
- You’re exhausted, agitated or confused
- You’ve got chest pain
Coronavirus Stress And Sleep
Coronavirus COVID-19 is a new infection that has spread around the world in recent months. This is a pandemic. This virus is very infectious, so it is easy for it to spread from person to person. To prevent COVID-19 from spreading too quickly and too widely, governments all around the world have placed restrictions on what people can and cannot do. There has also been a lot of media reports about COVID-19 and the associated economic impacts and health effects of this virus.
All of these things can easily make people anxious and stressed. This is natural when there are many unknown factors. Fear and anxiety can cause strong emotions in adults and children, which may result in difficulty sleeping. When our sleep is of a poor quality, or if we cannot get enough sleep, we may not be able to function normally during the day when we are awake.
What Do I Do If This Does Not Seem To Help
If none of the tips above seem to be helping, do make an appointment with your GP and they will discuss the options with you.
There are some medications that can be used for a short time to help to break the cycle of poor sleep, some can be purchased in pharmacies, and others require a prescription from your GP.
A specific form of psychological therapy has been shown to be effective this is called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for insomnia . It may be available free on the NHS through your local Improving Access to Psychological Therapies which you can access online or over the telephone. They may arrange for you to have access to an app you can use on your mobile phone to help establish healthy sleep habits. You can refer yourself to your local IAPT service without seeing your GP.
If intrusive memories about distressing experiences when you were in hospital make it difficult for you to get to sleep and/ or dreams about that time are continuing to disrupt your sleep then do mention this to your GP, or another health professional as these may be symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder . A specific form of psychological therapy that is effective in treating PTSD is called Trauma focused cognitive therapy and is also available free through your local IAPT service.
You can refer yourself to your local IAPT service without seeing your GP.
Find your local talking therapy service here: https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/find-a-psychological-therapies-service
Importance Of Sleep During The Covid
Sleep is paramount during the COVID-19 pandemic because of its vast benefits for both physical and mental health. These include:
- Improves mental health
For healthcare professionals sleep is a public health and safety issue. Poor sleep has been linked to mental health issues, physical health issues and is related to stress and anxiety. It is also an occupational health hazard in the context of healthcare where so many healthcare professionals are already in a fatigued state and overworked during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Sleeping pills are not commonly prescribed unless nothing else has worked, as they can have serious side effects and lead to dependency. They may be prescribed for short periods of time, however, to help you get into a routine of sleeping. Speak with your doctor before taking sleeping pills.
Challenges To Sleep During The Covid
- Disruption of daily life
- new daily schedule or even lack of schedule
- keeping track of time with no typical “anchors” such as arriving at the office, dropping and fetching kids from school
- stuck at home with low levels of natural light may reduce light-based cues for sleep and wakefulness
- sleeping more – oversleeping
- chronic stress from living through a pandemic
- physical symptoms such as headaches, memory laps and digestive problems
Why Do I Feel So Tired During The Day
If you are struggling with tiredness during the day, this may because you are getting poor quality sleep at night. People who are sleep deprived are more likely to feel groggy and sleepy when they wake up.
The medical term for this is sleep inertia. This is when a person feels dazed, weak or unsteady. Sleep inertia can happen because of illness, intoxication, a blow to the head or a lack of quality sleep. This sleepiness usually lasts between 15 and 60 minutes for most people, but in some, it can last for many hours.
Sleep inertia can affect people in the following ways:
Getting Care And Staying Safe At Home
You should go to an emergency room or immediately if you have:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- New confusion or inability to stay awake
- Blue lips or face
- Numbness in the face, arm or leg
- Any sudden and severe pain
- Uncontrolled bleeding
- Severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea
This is not a complete list. If you are concerned you may be experiencing a medical emergency, contact your provider immediately or .
When to Contact a Health Care Provider
When You Are Sick and Staying Home
If you are sick, stay home as much as possible. Do not go to school or to work, even if you are an essential worker. Only leave home to get essential medical care or to get basic needs such as groceries, if you have no other way to get them.
To protect others in your household from getting sick:
The NYC Test and Trace Corps can help you safely separate at home, including assistance arranging food and medicine delivery, pet care and finding a health care provider.
When taking medicine, remember that many products to treat fever, cough and other symptoms contain the same active ingredient, and you could be taking too much if you take more than one medicine. Follow the recommended dosage on the medicine label.
To check if you are managing medicines safely, contact the Poison Control Center to speak with a registered pharmacist or nurse.
When You Are Sick and Need to Leave Home
When You Need a Hotel for Isolation
For more information:
Even If You Have Not Been In Hospital Being Ill At Home Can Get In The Way Of A Good Nights Sleep
- Symptoms of COVID include breathlessness, a dry cough and fever; each of which can make it difficult to sleep. Another common symptom is fatigue which can lead to daytime sleeping which disrupts the day/night cycle.
It is natural to feel frightened about being unwell with COVID. This fear puts the body into a state of high alert . This prepares the body and mind for action, not rest and can make it almost impossible to sleep.
Are There Other Physical And Mental Health Conditions That Make Us More Likely To Develop A Sleep Disorder In Times Of Stress
Dr. Manber: Yes. Indeed many physical and mental health conditions may have disturbed sleep as one of its symptoms. Examples include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, night-time panic attacks, and physical conditions that cause acute or chronic pain. Sometimes medications used to treat physical conditions have insomnia symptoms as side effects.
Why Are So Many People Having Trouble Sleeping While Sheltering In Place
Elevated stress and an overload of information can keep the mind racing and elevate the bodys arousal system response, triggering insomnia.
People are spending every waking moment getting one last look at their screens . The blue light from these screens tells the brain to stop producing the sleep hormone melatonin, which can lead to trouble falling asleep.
Also, loss of daytime structure can upset nighttime sleep schedules. Inconsistent bedtimes and wake times can shift the pressure, or urge, to sleep, making ability to fall asleep less predictable.
Finally, depressed mood, more downtime and low energy can increase long napping, making it harder to fall asleep at night.
Coronavirus Insomnia: How To Fall Asleep Do Sleep Products Work Are You Sleepless With Worry
A stress-free, full night of sleep may be difficult to come by during the coronavirus pandemic.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought immeasurable stress to people in New Jersey and throughout the United States, and it is keeping a lot of people awake at night.
Along with the health risks associated with the COVID-19 outbreak, the financial instability and changed daily routines are added stress that can affect sleep, says Dr. Joshua Tal, a New York/Bergen County-based clinical psychologist who specializes in insomnia.
Ive definitely seen an increased need for sleep therapy during this time, Tal said. does seem to indirectly lead to heightened stress and thus heightened instances of disturbed sleep. … There are a whole lot of ways this is affecting peoples sleep, and its unfortunate because a lot of it is out of peoples control.
The biggest change Tal recommends is making sure is a sleep sanctuary.
When quarantined at home for long stretches, the temptation is there to spend much of the day laying in bed. That should be avoided, Tal says, adding the only time in bed should be to sleep.
And if you find yourself tossing and turning at night, worrying about the coronavirus and the stress it brings, the best thing to do is get up and move around.
You want to purify the bed environment and experience so when youre in bed, youre sleeping, Tal said. One of the biggest causes of insomnia is associating the bed with worrying.”
Adopt Healthier Daytime Habits
All the disruption and added stress of the COVID-19 pandemic may have caused you to develop some unhealthy daytime habits which can disrupt your sleep at night. Not only can poor daytime habits contribute to sleep problems, but a poor nights sleep can make these habits harder to correct, creating a vicious cycle. For example, you sleep badly at night so feel too tired to exercise during the day, which in turn makes it harder to sleep.
Keeping a sleep diary can help you identify which daytime habits and behaviors may be contributing to your sleep difficulties at night. These tips can also help:
Find new ways to connect with loved ones. Even if youre in quarantine or observing social distancing, that doesnt mean you should feel isolated and alone at this time. While nothing helps to relieve anxiety and stress like old-fashioned face-to-face contact, you can still stay connected via video link, phone, or social media. Scheduling regular contact with those who matter most to you can improve your mood as well as your sleep.
Eat a healthy diet. Many of us turn to comfort foods when were bored, stressed, or anxious. But these tend to be high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, which make it harder to fall and stay asleep at night. Limiting your alcohol and caffeine intake can also help to improve the quality of your sleep.
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