It sounds like a horror movie and for some, it is, but in real life: the “coronasomnia” or “COVIDsomnia”, the sleep problems caused by the long COVID-19 pandemic are spreading like another pandemic within the pandemic.
To such an extent that the specialized journal Medscape, which analyzes the most searched and used clinical terms on social networks each week, dedicated an article to “coronasomnia” in early February.
As every year on World Sleep Day (March 19), experts lavish their advice to sleep better and remind us that sleep is one of the pillars of health and that lack of sleep causes all kinds of diseases and dysfunctions. of the organism. The motto of the day is “A regular dream for a healthy future”:
A recent study recalls that poor sleep damages the immune system and therefore makes us more vulnerable to coronavirus as well.
Interestingly, the first studies revealed that the first confinement improved our sleep by at least one hour. However, with the repetition and multiplication of restrictions, isolation and economic impacts, more and more studies detect a true epidemic of insomnia and sleep problems.
According to the studies, around 40% of patients state that since the pandemic restrictions they sleep worse and between 60% and 70% that they do not have a satisfactory or restful sleep. The problem is that this situation leads many to resort to sleeping pills. According to different studies between 20% and 30% of people have used sleeping pills.
Coronasomnia does not affect everyone equally. According to the study “Escalation of Sleep Disorders Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic: An International Cross-Sectional Study” from the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, one of the most consistent, women are more exposed to insomnia from the pandemic. Being in quarantine is another aggravating factor as well as age (31 to 45 years), the reduction in physical activity and the economic impact of the restrictions.
The report concludes that “the changes imposed by the pandemic have led to an increase in people who report having sleep problems around the world.” The authors call for further research to detect and treat the social groups most susceptible to these disorders “that is, women and people with insecure livelihoods subjected to social isolation.”
An interesting clue as to why restrictions affect our sleep was published in the journal Nature. According to the authors, the changes in habits linked to the pandemic but also the reduction of exposure to daylight due to the confinements have a strong impact on our biological clock.
In India, a study has found that coronasomnia has a significant impact also among hyper-connected children, mitigated in part by the habit of performing rituals and chanting mantras before going to sleep.
Another branch of the coronasomnia, still very unknown, are the effects of the COVID-19 infection itself on sleep. A study in China revealed that almost a third of patients in a Wuhan hospital had trouble sleeping six months after they had overcome the disease. It could be added to the long list of symptoms of the mysterious “long COVID”.
How to get vaccinated against coronasomnia?
Experts remember that sleeping pills should be considered as a last resort, since among other problems they can cause addiction, and should always be obtained under medical supervision.
Interviewed by euronews, the neurologist at the Portuguese Sleep Medicine Center Teresa Paiva explains that the quality of sleep depends a lot on personal attitudes “Those who have negative attitudes, who say ‘I’m sick of this, I can’t take it anymore, this is the worst what happened to me ‘, they are [las personas] who have poorer quality of sleep. It’s the irritability [asociada a la pandemia]. We have defined a calamity index and the worse this index is, the worse the quality of sleep is. “On the other hand,” people with positive behaviors, such as gardening, manual activities, learning things, going out of the house, having fun, discovering things , listening to music or writing, they have a much better quality of sleep “, he emphasizes.
“Going out for an hour a day is not bad as long as you go out in the morning and sunbathe. You can get a lot of sun at the window. The problem is that at home people can have positive behaviors, but also many negative ones,” he warns Teresa Paiva.
Among the most negative behaviors with an impact on rest, the neurologist highlights “spending the day in bed, doing nothing, spending the day watching television or on social networks or on the mobile phone”. “They are very negative behaviors,” he reinforced.
The tips for better sleep are no different from the usual ones outside of pandemic times, but they are perhaps more difficult to follow:
Maintaining a routine schedule helps the body prepare for sleep Avoid screens in the hours before bed Engage in sufficient physical exercise
Avoid large or difficult to digest meals before going to bed
Avoid exciting substances such as alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, or sugars
Use stress and worry management techniques
Sleeping in a nice, dark and cool environment
If we have sleep problems, it is better to limit or avoid naps during the day
The way we manage our rest and free time, even if we are not in a pandemic context, affects our health and mental capacity, and Teresa Paiva reminds us that the responsibility to fight this virus does not only lie with political leaders.
“The choice of a good quality of life, sleep and well-being is also an individual responsibility. Not only the State has this obligation. The State has the obligation to vaccinate us, but we also have a responsibility with our own health,” he defended the neurologist.
In Spain, the Ministry of Health advocates a whole range of healthy lifestyles that will improve the quality of our sleep, following the motto of this World Sleep Day 2021: “A regular sleep for a healthy future”.
Councils of the Institute of Applied Neurosciences (Argentina)
Massachusetts General Hospital Councils
Tips from the Mayo Clinic
Experts point out that more and more citizens are “disconnecting” from the information linked to the pandemic, due to fatigue from the coronavirus. This can be good for relieving anxiety and stress as long as it doesn’t turn into “forgetting about the pandemic” and giving up basic protective measures.
On the other hand, some specialists remember that yes, sleep problems were already an important pandemic even before the coronavirus pandemic. In general, the people most exposed to “coronasomnia” are those who already had insomnia problems and bad sleep habits before the pandemic.