The COVID-19 pandemic triggered sudden sweeping changes to our daily routines. Everything from work schedules to social calendars has been impacted, and those unexpected changes are more than inconvenient. They're also having a big effect on our physical and mental well-being. For many, the quarantine has been more than a hardship — it's led to health problems, including sleep-related issues.
The pandemic has been linked to increased rates of depression, anxiety and substance abuse, as well as worsening chronic health conditions. Because quality sleep is needed for optimal physical and mental health, poor quarantine sleep habits could impact millions of children and adults.
If you are struggling to achieve restful, regenerative sleep during the coronavirus pandemic, you are not alone. Sleep problems are already common, and the added stress, uncertainty and disruption of the lockdown has only magnified preexisting tensions and health problems.
A recent survey taken by the Italian Association for Research and Education in Sleep Medicine revealed the widespread impact of the quarantine on sleep habits. More than half the respondents reported a lower quality of sleep in the month following the pandemic's onset.
Another survey, reviewed in the American Journal of Managed Care in June 2020, reveals that:
The survey also found that 52% of participants go to sleep later post-lockdown, a finding that could be attributed to the loss of regular work and school schedules, heightened stress levels and poor eating and exercise habits.
The majority of respondents also believe they had healthier overall sleep habits before the COVID-19 quarantine and that sleep problems have persisted post-lockdown. Most reported that stress and anxiety have led to their pandemic sleep problems, and about one-quarter said that the lack of a consistent sleep schedule has made it difficult to get the sleep they need.
Despite the ongoing stress, anxiety and related sleep disturbances caused by the quarantine, some people have found ways to embrace the lockdown as an opportunity to improve their health and wellness.
Many of those who found themselves working from home during the quarantine discovered they were able to use the time they would normally spend commuting to and from their workplace to catch some much-needed sleep. Others used the free time in their daily schedule to start working out, meditating or cooking healthy meals, all activities known to support healthy sleep habits.
While it's perfectly normal to struggle with sleep during the pandemic, there are several simple things you can do to combat COVID-19-related sleep disturbances:
You might also want to limit your time on your social media, especially if your feeds are filled with content you find to be stressful or triggering. While it is important to stay informed and connected with friends and family members, the 24/7 news cycle can escalate stress, anxiety and fear.
Some have had success with melatonin, a hormone that is produced by the body to regulate the sleep cycle.
Cannabidiol (or CBD) has also been reported to help with sleep. Although CBD is derived from the cannabis plant, cannabidiol is not psychoactive and will not make you feel "high."
Avoid checking your phone right before you go to bed, and seek out relaxing activities that help lower your stress levels. Reading a book, cuddling a pet or rediscovering old hobbies are just some of the ways you can manage your COVID-19 stress, and that can help you achieve the sleep you need.
© 2021 American Sleep Association.