Suffering From ‘Coronasomnia’?

Combatting insomnia during the Coronavirus pandemic

Before the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic even began, millions of people already suffered from insomnia. Many people relate to waking up in the middle of the night, tossing and turning, and reaching for a book or their smartphones to pass the time or browse until they are sleepy again.

However, during the pandemic, many more joined the ranks of the sleepless due specifically to the changes to our routines and the additional emotional, physical and financial stresses brought about by the virus. This kind of insomnia, caused or exacerbated by the pandemic, has coined the nickname Coronasomnia and this article will provide you with guidance on how to minimise it.

Having peace, happiness and healthiness is my definition of beauty. And you can’t have any of that without sleep

– Beyonce

The changes Covid-19 forced upon the global population include job losses, working different shift times, working from home, finding themselves separated from friends and family and stuck indoors in isolation or lockdown. It also involved eating different foods due to changed shopping habits or food shortages caused by delivery issues. In contrast, many frontline workers were obliged to work much longer hours with challenging or more stressful situations than previously accustomed to. This is all a perfect recipe for anxiety and sleep disturbance.

The bottom line is that adequate sleep is critical to our health and wellbeing to ensure healthy brain function, good physical performance. This includes maintaining a strong immune system and robust mental performance, including deflecting depression and anxiety.

Here are some suggestions from sleep experts on how to fix sleep deprivation:

  • Establish a daily routine. This will help regulate your circadian rhythms (body clock). If you are based at home instead of going to a workplace, get up at a regular time (not too late!) and create some structure to the day by beginning with having a shower and getting dressed even if you are not leaving the house, establishing set meal times and exercise time, and having a wind-down period before bed during which you avoid things which raise adrenaline or stress levels.
  • Ensure meals are well-balanced and nutritious to ensure optimum physical performance, including boosting the immune system. Don’t fall into the trap of eating ‘comfort foods’ – fatty, sugary foods or unhealthy take-away meals, and don’t drink caffeinated drinks before bed.
  • Try to include some form of exercise during your day (walking, yoga, dance, aerobic workout, weightlifting, sit-ups – whatever suits you) and don’t be tempted to nap too often during the day. Don’t exercise before sleep with the mistaken assumption it will tire you – it will in fact, have the opposite effect.

The nicest thing for me is sleep, then at least I can dream

– Marylin Monroe

  • Maintain your usual contact with friends and family if you are unable to be with them in person due to social distancing / lockdown restrictions: interact remotely using technology to hand such as your phone and social media, which will combat loneliness and foster a sense of wellbeing conducive to sleep. If, conversely, you find yourself confined to the house for a lengthy period with partner and children (perhaps quarrelling, noisy, or otherwise stressful), try to find some quiet time for yourself in a separate room to re-charge.
  • Wind-down time may include gentle yoga or meditation, a warm bath with homeopathic bath salts or relaxing essential oils, or listening to some calming music. Many health professionals suggest avoiding the news which may cause anxiety, distress or fuel depression – even more-so during wakeful night time hours.
  • Don’t fall asleep on the sofa leaving lights or a television on. Make sure you go to bed properly at the same set time each night. Recent research suggests 10 – 11 o’clock will not only help you sleep better but reduce risk of heart disease. Make sure the bedsheets are clean, fresh, and the temperature comfortable. Ensure you turn off the lights and don’t use blue screen gadgets such as smartphones, tablets or laptops for at least an hour before sleep. Blue screen time has been clinically proven to negatively impact our natural sleep patterns.
  • Don’t stress about not sleeping! If you wake in the night, don’t toss and turn for hours – if you try for half an hour and cannot sleep, you can get up, perhaps make a warm milky drink or herbal tea, read for a little, then return to bed to try again.
  • Consider supplements: Tryptophan (an amino acid which your body cannot make itself) converts into 5 HTP, then serotonin (a mood stabiliser), then melatonin, which improves your brain’s ability to sleep and regulates sleep patterns. Tryptophan can be consumed within a diet high in whole milk, tuna, turkey, chicken, oats, cheese, peanuts and certain fruit, such as bananas. Alternatively, 5 HTP or melatonin can be supplemented. If you don’t remember your dreams, this could also be a sign of vitamin B deficiency.

If you have insomnia, it’s important to know you’re not alone; there are millions of people also struggling with their sleep. Talk about what you’re going through with others, including your doctor, and continue trying new things to help manage your insomnia.

– Christina Applegate

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