The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has forced many to endure extra stresses and anxieties in our day to day activities. Alongside the looming threat of the virus itself, there are financial worries as well stress and anxiety from the constant need to isolate and stay home. With fewer open venues for entertainment or unwinding, and positive social interaction at a minimum, these stresses can become overwhelming. This can cause us to have a harder time performing day to day tasks, having a healthy work life balance, or simply staying positive or optimistic. Ultimately, the effects of the pandemic negatively impact the quality and quantity of the most important thing we need: sleep. Having poor or inconsistent sleep makes it even harder to deal with the new stresses and anxieties caused by the pandemic. With these disruptions, you may become more susceptible to sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep deprivation, or potentially have a harder time fighting off infections like the Common Cold, influenza, or Covid-19.
The Importance of Good Sleep
In the short term, the additional stress and anxiety of the ongoing pandemic might seem trivial. You may have mild symptoms like a few sleepless nights or a mild case of daytime sleepiness. While having a few nights of poor sleep quality will not suddenly cause serious sleep disorders, the increase in stress and anxiety makes you more susceptible to developing sleep deprivation or insomnia. These could lead to other related sleep conditions, like sleep apnea. These sleep disorders are especially likely to develop if this new stress and anxiety is left unchecked long-term. The most important way to keep yourself healthy and happy is maintaining both good sleep quality and getting enough sleep every night.
The most common sleep disorder is sleep deprivation, which occurs when you don’t get a sufficient amount of sleep each night. Sleep deprivation might occur because of a lack of opportunity to sleep as opposed to the inability to sleep. During the pandemic, our daytime schedules might be drastically different, causing us to have less of an opportunity to sleep when we should. Much like insomnia, sleep deprivation can cause complications with day to day living, impacting our ability to focus at school or work. This can cause poor mood and irritability, as well as propensity for injury and accident, especially when carrying out task that require attention and concentration. Sleep deprivation can also lead to other specific sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and insomnia.
One of the more common sleep disorders, insomnia, is most likely to develop from the stress and anxiety of the pandemic. Insomnia can affect anyone, and two of the most prominent causes of insomnia are stress and anxiety. Under normal circumstances, many of us already struggle with a large amount of stress and anxiety. The pandemic has made that struggle more pronounced. These life stressors can often keep us up at night with worrying thoughts, preventing us from getting the sleep we need. Having to deal with the added stresses of the pandemic may cause you to develop short or long-term sleep insomnia. Insomnia can cause increased incidents of error, poor performance in school or work, depression and anxiety, excessive daytime sleepiness, and irritability. Even a just few sleepless nights can leave you mentally winded and unable to function properly during the day.
Other Health Impacts of Sleep Disorders
Aside from immediate symptoms and impacts, sleep disorders also put us at greater risk for various health disorders. These can range from high blood pressure, heart disease, to stroke. Sleep disorders can also lead to mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, creating a vicious cycle due to mental health’s effect on sleep. The immune system can often become weakened due to these stressors. Dealing with sleep disorders and their effects on sleep quality puts you at greater risk for illness. When dealing with viruses such as the flu or common cold, sleep is vitally important to getting back to good health. Not getting enough sleep is also proven to make you much more likely to get sick after exposure to a virus. The same is true for anyone who might become infected with COVID-19, thus making quality sleep extremely important.
Coping and Prevention
Stress and anxiety when life is “normal” can be difficult enough, but, with an ongoing pandemic, coping with added levels of mental, emotional, or even financial strain can prove taxing. Developing healthy coping methods is crucial to dealing with these added stressors.
Doing simple meditation, properly de-stressing before bed and adhering to a good nighttime routine are all great methods to prepare for rest, but there is still much we can do to alleviate these added stresses. It is important to continue being active, even if that means going for a walk outside or exercising at home. Maintaining a consistent schedule and avoiding substances harmful to good sleep, like alcohol, caffeine, or other drugs are also important when it comes to good sleep. Even though many opportunities for de-stressing are not available right now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t resources available for at home use as well. The CDC recommends taking care of your mental and physical health. So for those of you who may not feel comfortable going out and about quite yet, that’s okay! With these combinations of habits and keeping an eye on your stress levels before they get out of hand, make sure to maintain quality sleep as well as your mental and physical health, because sleep is the foundation of our immune systems.