CHICAGO, Ill. – The pandemic has been affecting how Americans rest. Some have experienced better sleep and odd dreams, while others are left exhausted.
With no morning commute and nowhere to drop the kids off, the stress of the pandemic coupled with a lack of scheduling anchors can lead to sleepless nights.
“They could have difficulty falling asleep or what I'm seeing most commonly is difficulty staying asleep,” said Dr. Cathy Goldstein, an associate professor of neurology specializing in sleep disruption at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
She says being stuck at home with unusual schedules shifts our internal body clocks, known as circadian rhythms, in unhealthy ways.
“Now, we don't have to get up and go anywhere. So, I see people push their clocks later and they're falling asleep later at night and then they're sleeping in,” said Goldstein. “And so, the subsequent day, they can't fall asleep.”
“Pandemic-induced insomnia” or “COVID-somnia” she says is also being compounded by over consumption of media on laptops, cell phones and tablets.
“They also allow us to bring little miniature suns into the sleep period,” said Goldstein.
A recent survey from Sleep Standards found that 98% of Americans developed sleep problems post lockdown and 68% feel stress or find it hard to sleep even after the lockdown.
According to pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts, between mid-February and mid-March as the outbreak began ramping up, prescriptions for sleep medications jumped nearly 15% compared to the same time last year.
“We have seen an increase in prescriptions for insomnia medications. But we do recommend patients try lifestyle changes or OTC, which are over-the-counter supplements,” said Dr. Jessica Nouhavandi, lead pharmacist and CEO of California-based Honeybee Health.
Things you can do to combat “COVID-somnia” include exercising early in the day, setting an alarm to wake up at the same time each day, and disabling the snooze button. You can also try winding down several hours before your fixed bedtime and put your devices away at least two hours before you hit the sack.
One other tip Goldstein recommends is using amber blue blocking lenses to help with screens and energy efficient bulbs that emit blue spectrum light.
“So, by putting on those glasses four hours before bedtime, you're getting rid of that circadian disrupting light. So, that's a huge help,” said Goldstein. Experts like Nouhavandi say sleep is even more essential while trying to confront the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The lack of sleep directly affects not only your physical health but your mental health.”