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Coronavirus making you stressed & sleepless? Here are tips to battle COVID19 related ‘Coronasomnia’

By Dr Anshu Punjabi

Is the growing number of COVID19 cases and the constant fear of another lockdown keeping you awake at night? Well, this is no surprise! Alarming headlines, health marshals at every nook and corner of the city, months of social distancing that rocked our daily routines, eroded work-life boundaries, and constant uncertainties causing more anxiety. These thoughts understandably are keeping people’s mind wired at night, or causing them to wake up in panic during the early morning hours –this is a clear indication of heightened risk of insomnia.

WHAT IS CORONASOMNIA?

Interestingly, the word “insomnia” was Googled more in 2020 than it ever had been before. Experts call it ‘Coronasomnia’– a condition caused by COVID19 induced stress. But please note, it is not the virus that is causing insomnia but the circumstances.

In March last year, International Institute of Sleep Sciences (IISS) in Mumbai conducted a randomized study of 150 people. This research reported that 25-30% were suffering from non-restorative sleep pattern.  Similarly, another study conducted in the month of May 2020 by top Psychiatrists and Neurologists within the country revealed that the COVID19 lockdown was associated with changes in sleep schedule and in the quantity &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?

Everything that is going on right now due to COVID19 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. Here are 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 & 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 indicatesthat 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 1.5HRS 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.

About the Author

COVID19

 Dr Anshu Punjabi, is a Consultant Pulmonology at Fortis Hospital Mulund

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