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Welcome to the Coronasomnia Era

Here’s everything you need to know.

Raise your hand if you’ve recently tossed and turned in an attempt to get some sleep, but to no avail. You’re not alone. In fact, the steep increase in insomnia across the globe officially has a name: coronasomnia. After all, who could’ve predicted that our lives would still be riddled with pandemic talk 18 months after we first went into lockdown? Some borders remain closed, social isolation feels like a norm, and the Lambda variant is allegedly on the way. Add to that the barrage of new information – and misinformation – that we receive on a daily basis and it’s a miracle we’re sleeping at all. With that in mind, we tapped Tuna Bereket, Clinical Psychologist at Priory Wellbeing Centre, for her insights. Here’s what we learned.

Coronasomnia Is Real

“The ‘coronasomnia’ phenomenon has been used to describe coronavirus-related sleep disorders, including insufficient sleep, poor sleep quality, insomnia, and disturbances in sleep/wake schedules associated with physical and emotional morbidity in the COVID-19 pandemic. We have been receiving many enquiries related to sleep disturbances, which highlights how some people in the UAE have been significantly affected by coronasomnia.”

Several Factors Can Play a Role

“The uncertainties associated with COVID-19 have exposed many people to increased levels of stress and anxiety as a result of challenges such as social confinement, limited daylight exposure, financial pressures and insecurity, home-schooling, and general changes in daily routines – all of which increase feelings of loneliness and isolation. When you are feeling stressed and anxious, your body produces cortisol, the ‘fight or flight’ hormone. Cortisol makes it harder for the body to get into a relaxed state of mind. To help combat this, it is important to try to maintain your daily routine, exercise, and eating habits included.”

A Range of Symptoms Have Been Reported

“Symptoms of coronasomnia include difficulty falling and staying asleep, increased stress levels, symptoms of anxiety and depression such as intrusive thoughts, increased daytime sleepiness, impaired concentration and focus, and a poor mood.”

Some Are More Prone to Coronasomnia

“Patients with COVID-19 are most likely to experience coronasomnia due to symptoms of the illness that make rest difficult, such as breathing and coughing. Additionally, we have also seen women, young adults, and many frontline and healthcare workers – who have been exposed to the challenges of the pandemic from up close – grapple with it.”

Anxiety and Insomnia Are Intertwined

“There is a negative correlation between the levels of anxiety and sleep – the higher your anxiety levels, the less sleep you will enjoy. Getting more rest may help combat feelings of anxiety. Both sleeping habits and the environment are essential components of ‘sleep hygiene’ and, by concentrating on these two elements, going to bed will become a more pleasant experience and facilitate a consistent routine to enhance sleep.”

Sleep Hygiene Can Help

“Steps to improve sleep hygiene include making your bed more comfortable, eliminating sources of sleep disruption like light and noise, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the afternoon and evening. You can also take a bath, read a book, or play some relaxing music – all can help the mind to switch off and prepare itself for sleep.”

As Can Relaxation

“Trying relaxation techniques can help identify ways to get rid of anxiety and make it easier to fall asleep quickly and peacefully. Relaxation exercises may be a component of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and can help break the cycle of worry and rumination. Deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, and guided imagery are just a few approaches to relaxation that can help put your mind at ease before bed or if you wake up in the middle of the night.”

Professional Help May Be Necessary

“If anyone is experiencing persistent sleep problems, it is important to seek professional support like CBT, which will entail working with a therapist to treat underlying mental health issues such as anxiety. In some instances, medication may be recommended. In the short term, some sleep medicines may help ease coronasomnia symptoms. Also, lifestyle changes may help. This can include adjusting your daily schedule and avoiding caffeine and exercise close to bedtime.”

Everyday Habits Go a Long Way

“In terms of practical tips to try, a diet that includes plenty of water, fruits, and vegetables in addition to at least 30 minutes of exercise per day is recommended, as is turning off screens at night – at least one hour prior to bedtime. Also, try breathing and relaxation exercises such as breath focus, body scan, repetitive prayer, yoga, and meditation.”

Interested to learn ways to improve your health and overall wellbeing? Read more in our Wellness section.

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