INSOMNIA – Between refreshing herself from the stress of the workday and dealing with her anxiety by reading about the pandemic and politics, she gets the chance to surrender before midnight. After the 44-year-old marketer falls asleep, she typically wakes up two or three times before the alarm goes off around 6 a.m.
We cannot merely blame the pandemic. Insomnia was a problem long before this last crisis. According to 2016 data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one-third of American adults got a minimum of seven hours per night recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
Since the start of the pandemic, the numbers have worsened. Although there has been an 11.3% overall decrease in the number of sleep disorder prescriptions has fallen 11.3% since 2015, the number of sleep disorder prescriptions increases between February 16 and March 15 increases down 14.8%, according to a report by Express Scripts, pharmacy benefits manager.
More recently, 36% of Americans reported having difficulty sleeping this summer due to stress from the pandemic, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Finally, as people sleep more during the pandemic, data from another recent study indicated that their sleep quality is dropping precipitously.
The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated insomnia. Insufficient or insufficient sleep can increase the risk of chronic health problems.
There are many reasons for concern: Insufficient or insufficient sleep can increase your risk of chronic health problems such as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, kidney disease, heart disease, and depression. Sleep is also considered an essential part of the proper functioning of our immune system, which is necessary during a pandemic.
Poor Sleep Linked to Weight Gain in a 2-Year Smartphone Sleep Tracking Study.
According to the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine, poor sleep habits can also lead to weight gain.
That’s because sleep deprivation is associated with the dysregulation of hormones that make us hungry and tell us that we are full. Additionally, fatigue hijacks our motivation to exercise, and when we are tired, we usually make more impulsive choices about everything, mostly what we eat.
What’s plaguing us
There are several manifestations of insomnia plaguing us at this point of the pandemic.
The typical conditions is insomnia, a sleep disorder characterized by difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep or waking up early in the morning without going back to sleep for at least three nights a week for at least three months. Insomnia can include any or all of these symptoms and can affect a patient’s ability to function while waking, Pierpaoli Parker noted.
According to the CDC, insomnia typically affects 10 percent to 14 percent of American adults. This year, however, sleep experts say that based on the number of patients they see for the disease, the number has increased dramatically.
Not all people with formal sleep problems are diagnosed with complete insomnia; on the other hand, most sufferers are afflicted with anxiety about the world, and, as a result, fail to get the minimum amount suggested, resulting in chronic lack of adequate quality sleep.
Jennifer Martin, a professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, said both conditions are understandable because people are wired to stay awake in the face of danger, and we’re facing the first global pandemic widespread in 100 years.
“It would have been an unfortunate mistake of evolution if we were sleepy when there was a tiger outside of our cave, and we went to sleep,” Martin said. “When we perceive a threat, we are awake. That’s adaptive. That’s good for us. Yet when there is a large threat in our environment like a global pandemic, one of our initial biological stress reactions is not to sleep so we can be prepared to deal with the threat.”
Why we’re up all night
Experts agree that several factors contribute to our overall lack of sleep.
First on the list: routine disruption. Humans work following natural, internal processes that regulate our sleep-wake cycle and are repeated approximately every 24 hours. Known as circadian rhythms, they are linked to certain external factors that occur every day: sunrise, sunset, and more. Since most of us are spending more time at home, we are all thrown out of our respective natural routines, adding an overall sense of confusion and agitation.
Staying indoors, which lowers our exposure to natural light, also eliminates these circadian rhythms and sleep schedules, she said.
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The blue spectrum light generated by screens tells the brain to stop making melatonin, a hormone that regulates the body’s sleep-wake cycle, said Dr David Neubauer, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore.
Other factors that contribute to poor sleep habits include worries about money, anxiety about employment, and the all too understandable fear of catching Covid-19 and passing it on to loved ones.
For people officially diagnosed with insomnia, there are medicinal aids such as zolpidem (Ambien) and benzodiazepines (Xanax and Valium). Still, these needs prescriptions and are generally limited to a few weeks.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia, or CBTi, helps people identify the causes of their insomnia and adopt behaviours and habits to change it. It typically takes six to eight sessions to work – meaning patients experience relief about two months after starting treatment.
Jennifer Kanady, a clinical psychologist and head of clinical innovation for sleep at Big Health, a San Francisco-based medical technology company, said that “treatment is about breaking bad habits and retraining the individual to sleep soundly “. Stimulus control is one component of treatment, he added, and “strengthens the bed-sleep connection by limiting wakefulness in bed.”
For those who suffer from a chronic lack of adequate sleep, experts say it’s critical to return to a regular schedule, even if doing so means depriving yourself of sleep first to do so.
People should stay out of the bed if they can’t fall asleep (or go back to sleep) within 15 to 30 minutes, or as soon as falling asleep is frustrating, Pierpaoli Parker suggested. She added it’s essential to minimize exposure to something with blue light or a backlit screen for about an hour or two before going to bed. This means you won’t have a television or scrolling on your phone within an hour before bedtime.
Tactical changes to your daily lifestyle can also improve sleep patterns. Regular exercise is a good habit as it makes your body tired. Another good idea: make your room sacred. With so many people working from home, it’s essential to make sure the bed remains a place to sleep, not a place to be active, said Bill Fish, president of OneCare Media, which publishes SleepFoundation.org.
Tea, milk, and other drinks to help you sleep.
“Set up your bedroom as a sanctuary for sleep and sex,” Fish, a certified sleep science coach, said. “The more you do in there during the day, the harder it will be to recognize that it is a place to sleep at night.”
Another effective strategy, Kanady said, is to set aside 20 minutes each day to let go of worries and fears by jotting them down on a piece of paper. She said that by worrying at the same time and place every day, your brain would start learning that there are a particular place and time for care, and that worry will be less likely to disrupt sleep. Many sleep sufferers are willing to try anything. Meg Alcazar, on the other hand, a single mother living in Durham, North Carolina, has had enough.
Opinions expressed by CEO Weekly contributors are their own.