During this unprecedented time of the Covid-19 pandemic, many people are suffering from problems that are not directly caused by the virus itself. One of those problems is coronasomnia. Coronasomnia is a sleep problem that stems from the issues relating to the virus, also known as the “new normal.”
What is Coronasomnia?
This new normal means that people are no longer going about their days as they did before the virus began taking lives. Working from home, avoiding gyms, and staying away from friends and family has affected sleep and wake cycles, causing coronasomnia. Sleep troubles can also stem from worries about finances, family, friends, and the community.
How Lack of Sleep Can Affect Your Immune System
If dreading the disease is keeping you awake at night, you could become even more at risk for getting the virus. Lack of sleep can affect your immune system. As numerous research studies show, people who do not get enough sleep are more likely to get sick after exposure to a virus. Being overly tired can also slow down your recovery from an illness.
Sleep helps the body recover from the activities of the day. If you’ve watched the news about the coronavirus, you may have heard of cytokines, which help fight infection. While you sleep, the body releases cytokines that help protect the body in stressful situations, including inflammation, illnesses, and during actual stress. If you don’t get enough sleep, your body does not produce an adequate amount of cytokine antibodies.
Factors that Contributes to Coronasomnia Sleep Issue
The issues that contribute to coronasomnia are varied, but at the heart is the new normal, which is vastly different from the old one. Routines that we’ve enjoyed for decades have been completely changed and not in a fulfilling way. Our COVID-19 routines are far from fun as few are eating at restaurants, listening to live music, or enjoying amusement parks. We are also staying far away from our loved ones for fear of infecting them.
Our previous normal included a variety of activities that kept our brains and bodies moving. Now our routines are so routine that our circadian rhythms are off. So at our cellular levels, our bodies are changing and sleep is the first sign of something being out of sorts.
Sadly, once you develop insomnia, it is difficult to overcome it. The lack of sleep creates anxiety about not getting enough sleep, so the cycle just continues and you end up not sleeping well.
For example, many people find themselves needing to nap because they are so tired. But, after a long daytime nap, they are unable to fall asleep at a normal evening time. So, after being exhausted by all of the stress of COVID-19, the added stress from not sleeping creates more anxiety, which creates more sleep disruption.
Then, after nights of poor sleep, you begin to gain weight. This causes health problems like aches and pains as well as reflux, so you are regularly awakened by those issues.
Eventually, after uncountable nights of poor sleep, you develop issues like depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, and more. These problems increase your risk of catching COVID-19, so you lose more sleep over those worries.
And, the cycle continues.
How to Fight Coronasomnia
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to fight coronasomnia and the problems connected to it.
Stick to a Routine
Even though the routine created the problem, not having one will make matters worse. It is important to include variety in your day, especially if you are working from home. Give yourself something to look forward to each day to make your routines interesting.
The human body was designed to move and when you are inside the house all day, you don’t get much movement. Working from home most likely means you are sitting most of the day. Therefore, you must find time to exercise during the day. If you cannot commit 30 to 60 minutes each day, schedule at least 10 minutes of movement per hour.
Set a timer for 25 minutes. Work for this 25 minutes, then spend the next five minutes moving. Repeat this throughout the day. If you can’t get outside, you can do these exercises:
- Walk up and down the stairs for five minutes
- Do five one-minute planks
- Do five minutes of lunges
- Jog in place for five minutes
- Do calisthenics like jumping jacks and sit-ups for five minutes
If you move for five minutes every half hour, after an eight-hour day of work, you will have 80 minutes of exercising!
Don’t Take Naps
If you are a regular napper, it’s time to train yourself to stop. Naps can keep you awake at night, especially if you take long ones.
Get Some Sunlight
One benefit of the COVID-19 pandemic is that people are spending more time outside than they have in the past. Unfortunately, many parts of the United States will become cold in the fall and winter which makes it difficult to get outside and into the sun. It is incredibly important for people to go outside, even on cold days. The sun provides vitamin D which helps the body fight disease.
Decrease Screen Time Before Bed
The light from screen time can confuse the body before bed. The body produces melatonin to get better sleep, but the artificial light from electronic devices stimulates the brain rather than calms it for the night.
If you are reading the news or checking social media before bed, you could be raising your stress levels. The bad news of the day or the issues on social media causes your brain to think, so you have difficulty falling asleep. Rather than read the screen, read a physical book before bed.
Don’t Use Your Bedroom As Your Office
Your bedroom should only be used for bed-related things like sleeping and sexual activity. When you work in your bedroom, you instantly remove the relaxing quality of that space. Your brain will think you are at work, so you will have difficulty calming down and relaxing for the night.
Limit Your Exposure to the News and Social Media, Especially in the Evening
In the evenings, screen time needs to be limited. There is so much bad news happening all over the world and electronic devices are your easy access to it. The drama of the news and social media will activate your brain, making it difficult to get restful sleep. What you watch can infiltrate your dreams and prevent you from moving through the necessary sleep stages.
Go Easy on the Alcohol and Caffeine
You might find it relaxing to have a glass of wine before bed or a cup of coffee after dinner, but in reality, these behaviors will keep you awake. Caffeine stimulates your brain and alcohol lead to abnormal brain behavior, so your sleep-wake cycle is affected. You might feel sleepy after drinking booze, but you won’t sleep well.
Beware of decaf coffee and foods like chocolate. They still have traces of caffeine and can keep you up at night.
Don’t Eat Dinner Late
Your coronavirus routine might have you eating at all hours of the day and night. But, if you eat late at night, you could have difficulty falling asleep. Your body is busy digesting, so you might be uncomfortable in bed. If you have trouble with acid reflux, laying down could increase the likelihood of the reflux occurring.
If you eat carbs and protein before bed, your body will have too much energy and you will need to move to burn it off. You might also notice that you gain weight because you are eating too many calories and not moving to work them off.
Try Learning to Meditate
Meditation can help you fall asleep. It can also help you avoid the stress related to daily coronavirus news and activities.
Create an Ideal Sleeping Environment
Make your bedroom a relaxing place. Have comfortable bedding and the ideal cool temperature. Make sure your room is dark. If you have pets, close the door so they do not interrupt your sleep.
With a few adjustments to your new normal, quality sleep is on the horizon. If your sleep does not improve, you should talk to your health care provider about other solutions.