It’s going to be quite a few years until we start to see the real toll that the coronavirus pandemic has taken on all of us.
Indeed, there will be many long–lasting physical and emotional damages that linger after this crisis is behind us. None of which will “just go away” once we can hang up our masks—and we’d be wise to recognize the struggle that lies ahead.
For me, personally, I know I’ll have to face and learn how to control the underlying fear that will accompany an eventual return to normalcy. But for many people, another phenomenon that has accompanied this collective trauma we’re all experiencing is “coronasomnia.”
Sleep patterns under siege
I’m always extolling the benefits of sleep. As a doctor, I’ve seen firsthand the physical, mental, and emotional health problems that arise simply because patients are struggling with insomnia.
So I can’t say these latest findings surprise me. But they are deeply concerning.
This data came from an international survey of roughly 3,000 people from 49 different countries. Among respondents, 58 percent reported being dissatisfied with their sleep. And 40 percent responded that their sleep quality had dropped since the pandemic started.
In the beginning of the pandemic, participants reported getting more sleep and had more vivid dreams (an indicator of better sleep quality). But that changed dramatically as lockdown progressed…
In the U.K., some 70 percent of respondents reported sleep pattern changes. Fewer than half reported refreshing sleep, while an equal number reported being sleepier after lockdown started.
And as sleep patterns shifted, the use of sleeping pills spiked 20 percent—with most people relying on over-the-counter sleep aids, which include antihistamines like Benadryl. (But as I regularly tell you, these seemingly safe drugs are risky to lean on, and may particularly affect your memory.)
A constellation of causes
Of course, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why sleep has been affected so drastically during lockdown.
Two-thirds of this survey’s respondents said that the pandemic had affected their mental health. And 25 percent reported drinking more alcohol.
Plus, people with suspected COVID-19 infections reported more nightmares and disturbed sleep rhythms. And other research shows that these infections alone can hijack sleep patterns, even long after the virus is cleared. (More than 25 percent of patients reported sleep troubles as long as six months post-infection.)
On the other hand, some respondents with mild COVID infections stated they slept two to three hours more. (As a note, the one thing I did notice after I got my first vaccine dose was more fatigue.)
Of course, this virus can bind to neurons and trigger metabolic disruptions in neighboring cells as well as infected ones. So when you consider the problems that sleep loss can cause by itself—low mood, anxiety, memory problems—we’re obviously looking at a recipe for disaster.
Especially when you look at the important role that sleep plays in strong immunity—including a strong immune response to vaccination. (Which is why I recommend adequate sleep before your appointment.)
So, if you’re struggling to achieve a good night’s sleep—remember, I like for you to aim for seven to nine hours of quality shuteye each night—get some help. (But not at the drug store.) You can start by investing in room darkening curtains or shades and being conscious of blue light before bedtime.
But there are several safe, natural alternatives as well. My top four supplements to help promote good sleep include:
- Melatonin. I recommend starting with as little as 3 mg every night before bedtime. You can go higher, slowly increasing the dosage in increments if need be. Just never exceed 20 mg. (If you’re waking up groggy, you’ve taken too much.)
- L-theanine. I recommend taking at least 100 mg before bedtime.
- Enzyme-treated asparagus stem extract (ETAS™). I recommend 200 mg before bed.
- CBD. Ioften find that cannabidiol(CBD) oil offers the best absorption and makes it easier to find specific dosages you may need for each individual concern. I recommend starting out with a small amount and working your way up until you reach the desired result. (This process
is known as titration.)
“Coronasomnia: Pervasive Sleeplessness, Self-medicating Raise Concerns of Sleep Experts.” Medscape Medical News, 01/25/2021. (medscape.com/viewarticle/944631)