COVID-19’s effects have included increases in mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and substance usage, which may not come as a surprise at this point in the epidemic.
In addition to such problems, current findings indicate that sleep has been harmed. The pandemic has fuelled a huge rise in insomnia, with nearly 60% of people reporting a rise in sleeping issues since the outbreak began.
COVID-19 disease (symptoms or viral exposure) isn’t the only cause of insomnia, according to new research published in the Journal of Sleep Research. Concerns about COVID-19 have also had a role.
COVID-19 exposures, COVID-19 anxieties, and sleeplessness were studied by Penn Medicine researchers led by Lily Brown, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry and director of the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety.
They discovered that the severity of COVID-19-related worries was linked to higher levels of insomnia symptom severity than COVID-19-related exposure, implying that COVID-19-related worries were a better predictor of insomnia than COVID-19 exposures.
Brown explains, “We’ve discovered that worrying about COVID-19 worsens sleeplessness, regardless of real risk.” “These discoveries have an influence on the care we can deliver.
It’s useful because, whereas risk exposure may or may not be controllable (depending on one’s employment, for example), changing one’s approach to managing fears is extremely doable.”
Future research will look into ways for treating insomnia and anxiety at the same time to determine if this improves outcomes.
Do you find yourself having more anxieties than usual? To begin with, Brown clarifies that worrying is not the same as fixing problems. It will not assist you to prepare for the disasters that may befall you if you sit and stew over them.
Second, Brown suggests catching yourself if you find yourself in a worry spiral. Third, use mindfulness techniques to bring your focus back to the present moment. Fourth, consider whether the concerns that keep cropping up are potential or actual issues. If chronic worries are interfering with your life in any way, you should get help from a therapist.
There are also evidence-based (i.e., research-backed) techniques to help folks who are having trouble sleeping. These suggestions are appropriate for anyone attempting to improve their sleeping patterns and habits.
“We toss around the term’sleep hygiene’ a lot in pop culture and even in health care settings as the kind of practices we aspire to acquire to improve sleep,” Brown says. This is typically seen as behavioral adjustments, such as restricting phone use in bed or reducing coffee consumption.
Many people who struggle to get adequate sleep are already aware of these guidelines. Brown says that while good sleep hygiene is vital, it’s often insufficient to manage sleep disorder symptoms. However, thanks to measures established in cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, there is more that can be done to improve sleep.
The first suggestion may seem counterintuitive, but Brown actually advises decreasing time spent in bed.
“People who suffer from insomnia tend to follow a pattern. Because they are getting less and less sleep, they are going to bed sooner and earlier.
For example, if they can’t sleep until 3 a.m., they may go to bed at 8 p.m. in the hopes of getting more sleep, but they simply end up spending more time awake in bed “Brown clarifies. “Instead, concentrate on getting the most out of your sleep. You want to spend roughly the same amount of time in bed as you do asleep.”
To do so, move your bedtime back while maintaining the same amount of time awake. It may sound counterintuitive, but when people become more exhausted earlier and earlier, they are able to get more sleep over time. Brown cautions that if you utilize this approach, you must wake up at the same time every day.
Another strategy is to avoid sleep if you want to improve your nighttime sleep—skipping naps. Brown advises reducing naps, especially if one is delaying bedtime in order to fall asleep faster once in bed.
“Make sure you’re not counteracting your efforts with additional nap time,” Brown advises, “since this can backfire and you won’t truly get more sleep.” “It may sound contradictory, but sticking to a routine and refusing to nap will eventually cause you to grow tired enough to go asleep at a more normal hour.”
Of course, there’s the advice to restrict screen time that many people have heard. This can be used in a variety of ways. First and foremost, if you haven’t fallen asleep after 15 minutes, get out of bed and engage in a calm activity such as reading a book.
However, because of the impact of screen light on sleep, Brown emphasizes the need of avoiding reading, surfing on your phone, or watching television.
Second, room scrolling (constantly reading depressing news) can disrupt sleep. However, putting your phone down before bed can help you avoid becoming engrossed in distressing content, which can disrupt your sleep.
Brown explains, “These are just some of the tips we talk about in cognitive behavioral therapy.” “So, if you’re following this advise and still having trouble, don’t be afraid to seek expert assistance.”