The continuation of the pandemic has impacted healthy sleep patterns for people across the globe. Research studies conducted to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on quality sleep have found an increase in anxiety, sleep fragmentation, and insomnia. Some of the main influences include frequent exposure to COVID-19 news, fears about contracting the virus, periods of quarantine, and frequent exposure to negative news.
The lack of adequate sleep is called sleep deprivation. Excess anxiety and worry can make both falling asleep and staying asleep more difficult. Sleep deprivation may worsen your anxiety and may result in the development of a poor sleeping cycle. Insufficient sleep can have a negative impact on your overall health.
Impact of increased screen time during the pandemic
During the pandemic, there has been an increase of screen time across all age groups as individuals increased their social media usage, watched more movies and online videos, and monitored news broadcasts. Research has shown a direct link between evening device usage and an increase in sleep disturbances. The blue light emitted from screens suppresses the body’s release of melatonin, a hormone that makes us feel drowsy. The decrease of the sleep hormone and the potential increase in anxiety stimulated by negative news can interrupt healthy sleep habits. Stress and overstimulation at bedtime may make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.
Why sleep is important to your health
Adequate sleep is important to your overall health. Healthy sleep habits can help strengthen your immune system to fight viruses and infections. When you do not get enough sleep, your immune system is compromised which weakens its ability to fight off infections such as those from viruses, or help the body heal from injuries. Adequate sleep may also help improve mood, lessen depression, and improve memory. Sleep is important to your overall health.
Try the tips below to calm anxiety and sleep better!
- Establish a consistent bedtime routine
- Practice good sleep hygiene (link to first article)
- Eliminate any stimuli that may cause anxious thoughts prior to bedtime (Such as news reports, social media posts, and conversations about stressful topics)
- Practice relaxation tips: deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, relaxing music
- Employ visualization to create a mental image and sense of well-being
- Set a “screen time” curfew for 2 – 3 hours prior to bedtime
(Turn off all screens, stop online interactions and gaming)
- Avoid conversations prior to bedtime about topics that are worrisome
- Keep a sleep diary to record sleep patterns to share with your family physician
Consult a professional
Anyone can have trouble sleeping from time to time for a short duration. However, you should consult your family physician if sleep challenges are prolonged or interfere with daily activities.
The Live COVID SMART blog series was developed to promote resilience in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Contributing authors: Beth Kerr, Lori Wiggins, Kim Griffin, Marcia Brown, Heidi Radunovich, John Diaz, and LaToya J. O’Neal. This work is supported by the Rural Health and Safety Education Program [grant no. 2021-46100-35459].
References Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, August 8). CDC - sleep and chronic disease - sleep and sleep disorders. Retrieved November 2, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/chronic_disease.html National Library of Medicine. (2021, June 3). Poor Sleep Quality and Its Relationship with Individual Characteristics, Personal Experiences and Mental Health during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Retrieved December 15, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34205195/ Sleep Foundation. (2020, December 18). Relaxation exercises to help fall asleep. Retrieved December 15, 2021, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene/relaxation- exercises-to-help-fall-asleep Sleep Foundation. (2020, December 6). Screen time during COVID-19 decreased sleep quality, study shows. Retrieved December 15, 2021, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/sleep-issues-worsened-by-quarantine- screen-time