By Kyle Schnitzer
Forget insomnia. Call it “coronasomnia.”
The anxiety and stress brought on by the coronavirus pandemic has made changes to our once-almost perfect lives and created a medical mystery for more.
There’s been “shock hair loss” popping up around the US due to people experiencing extreme stress, only for their hair to rapidly fall from their head. Stress levels are at a decade-high causing people to have toxic dreams and shortened sleep.
In short: The COVID-19 pandemic has been a nightmare on our well-being.
A recent study found that 70% of Americans said their sleeping patterns have become inconsistent due to the ongoing medical crisis. Sixty-three percent of respondents even went lengths to say that they fear they will never be able to return to pre-pandemic sleep patterns because their current night’s sleep is so damaged.
So, now we’re left with coronasomnia. Heightened stress levels and strains interrupting our once tidy schedules have made medical experts question what the long term effects of the pandemic will have on sleep, with some calling it an “epidemic of sleep problems,” according to The Washington Post.
“Patients who used to have insomnia, patients who used to have difficulty falling asleep because of anxiety, are having more problems. Patients who were having nightmares have more nightmares,” one neurologist told the paper. “With covid-19, we recognize that there is now an epidemic of sleep problems.”
One thing experts have seen is how bedtimes and wake times are delayed. Per The Post:
Sleep physicians are seeing increasing delays of bedtimes and wake times. Avidan, of UCLA, said some of his patients are “living in L.A., but they’re on Honolulu time zone.” That disrupts the circadian rhythms that regulate sleep cycles, particularly by depriving people of exposure to natural light early in the morning, Avidan said. And it is exacerbated by the artificial light of screens — drivers of pre-pandemic sleep disorders and the way many now connect to work meetings, happy hours, entertainment and news.
Circadian rhythms are also affected by daily routines — and lack thereof, nowadays — such as meal times, riding the subway or hitting yoga class.
“Social cues are also circadian cues,” Singh said. And they have been ripped away.
ABC News 5 Cleveland spoke to experts who said circadian rhythm has hurt the way our lives have mostly gone as “unstructured and unscheduled.”
“Our bodies are designed to wake up with the sun and go to bed as the sun goes down, so that’s what we want to do. We want to simulate it, we want to live that,” said Dr. Sam Friedlander of the University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center told the outlet.
Friedlander said turning off smartphones, tablets, and even TVs can help due to reducing blue light but that means turning them off hours before bed, not just as you’re about to try to snooze.
He also said exercising in the morning or afternoon can be beneficial in the battle against insomnia.
“It’s really important to get light in the morning,” he said. “Get a walk or get some exercise, if possible, because the light is the strongest thing that resets our circadian rhythm, so if you get light, you want to get it in the morning and then avoid it at night.”