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Lack of sufficient sleep - and the many sleep disorders resulting from it - has become a major cause of worry globally in recent years. There is considerable evidence that proves that insufficient sleep can cause a plethora of physical and mental health problems, including heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, accidents and adverse performance in professional spaces. 

The current COVID-19 pandemic has greatly added to this concern about insufficient sleep and sleep disorders like insomnia, hypersomnia, parasomnia and circadian rhythm sleep disorders. This is primarily because the COVID-19 pandemic is an unforeseen global public health emergency which has infected millions, caused the deaths of thousands and halted the lives of billions through lockdowns. 

Such an immense crisis is bound to generate different types of stresses and anxieties, which can, in turn, lead to disrupted sleep, lack of sleep and sleep disorders. Isolation at home, lack of sunlight and exercise, rescheduled work-sleep patterns, etc have an added effect on this situation and can also intensify sleep problems. 

This is the reason why focusing on getting enough sleep is important during this pandemic. Given that there is no cure or vaccines for COVID-19 yet, this disease is likely to continue affecting people across the world - if not due to direct infection then by issues like sleep disorders and other mental and physical ailments. You should learn how to get adequate sleep and rest to maintain optimum health standards during the pandemic and beyond it.

  1. Why is sleep a casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic?
  2. Stress and anxiety
  3. Disoriented daily routine
  4. Increased family- and work-related stress
  5. Isolation and depression
  6. Fatigue
  7. Increased screen time
  8. Why is sleep important during the COVID-19 pandemic?
  9. Tips to improve sleep during COVID-19 pandemic
  10. Doctors for Sleep during COVID-19 pandemic

While it is true that the COVID-19 pandemic affects those who are infected or are at risk of getting infected most of all - and this includes patients as well as healthcare workers, essential service providers, etc - almost every single human being currently alive is affected by it indirectly if not directly. 

Read more: How to deal with the anxiety of living through a pandemic

Anxiety regarding the disease is all-pervasive and stress about the pandemic is high among people of all age groups, professions, races and genders. This is primarily the reason why sleep has become a casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic on a global scale. The following are some of the main reasons why you and others around you are probably unable to sleep well.

From the fear of you or your loved ones catching COVID-19 to the anxiety about falling sick due to other diseases during the pandemic, there is a lot to worry about presently. Job losses and economic anxiety add to this as well. Many people are stranded or separated from loved ones during the pandemic, which makes it all worse. 

Read more: Mental health tips for people living away from loved ones during a lockdown

Isolation and social distancing also add to this burden of anxiety. Stress and anxiety about this disease and its physical, economic, social and personal effects are the primary cause of lack of sleep for most people around the world. Because this disease has brought about unprecedented change, and there is not much decline in its spread on a global scale, there doesn’t seem to be an end date in sight for this crisis - which further makes it impossible to imagine when you might get a complete sigh of relief and a good night’s sleep.

With work-from-home the norm of the day for most adults and school closures affecting the lives of children, it’s obvious that the type of life most people have been living for years on end have suddenly been unsettled and rearranged. You might be facing a complete lack of routine or one that is absolutely new and messing with your body clock during the pandemic. 

Read more: COVID-19 prevention and care tips for parents with young children

What’s more, is that travelling to and from work, school, markets, movie theatres and other leisurely places has come to a complete standstill. Getting essentials during a lockdown has become a stressful event that does not occur (and should not occur) every day. With your body and mind grappling with details of this new type of life, peaceful sleep does not comes naturally to most, especially not adults.

With all adults (except essential service providers) both working from home and managing their families at home, a work-life balance is beyond imagination. In fact, as both worlds have merged, there is added pressure to perform better on both fronts - especially for people who have pre-adolescent children.

Read more: How to help your children cope during a pandemic

There is no concept of vacations, holidays, family travel, etc, which makes it even more difficult for families to break the mundane everyday routines as a unit. On the work front, private as well as public sector employers are unsure about when they can fully reopen services and whether they will continue to be able to retain all employees. This adds a further cause of disturbed sleep for earning members of the family.

Read more: COVID-19 prevention steps every office must take after the lockdown

Not everybody has the luxury of staying with family and loved ones, and not everyone has the means to maintain constant communication with friends. Even if they did, a sense of isolation is bound to creep in - and added with other causes of concern currently affecting people all over the world, feelings of depression could arise. Depression and lack of sleep, as well as sleep disorders, have a deep link. Depressive mood disorders can cause insomnia, hypersomnia or parasomnia - depending on how the individual mind works.

Read more: How to protect your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic

Living through a pandemic involves chronic stress due to a plethora of things to worry about. Chronic stress not only causes physical symptoms like headache, indigestion, heartburn, constipation and diarrhea, but also leads to fatigue. Now fatigue - especially due to psychological factors - can make you feel unrested and tired even after a full night’s sleep. Excessive fatigue can also lead to hypersomnia, and in rare cases, insomnia.

All sleep experts from around the world agree that increased screen time has an adverse effect of sleep, and you should not look at any screens for at least an hour before bedtime. But during the pandemic, screen time has not only increased but also become a primary source of engagement. 

Read more: How to fall asleep

Working from home involves more screen time, and so does connecting every day with friends and family via digital devices and applications. With regular hobbies more difficult to maintain, watching movies, cartoons and tv series has also become a regular pastime. Overall, the effect of this increased screen time has been an increased disruption in sleep.

Sleep is a vital process that our body requires to be able to function properly and to maintain its immune system. During the COVID-19 pandemic, proper sleep and rest are even more important because you need to be at your physical and psychological best to be able to deal with the situation at hand and its many effects for a longer duration of time. The following are some of the main reasons why sleep is important:

  • Deep and undisturbed sleep can boost the body’s immune system, and conversely, sleep deprivation can reduce immunity.
  • Sleep improves brain function, and proper brain function is just what you need to stay on top of every situation this pandemic can throw at you.
  • Lack of sleep is linked to most mental health disorders, including anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder and depression. Keeping your mental health in order is what you need to keep up with the times.

Given the current situation of the world, you might find getting good sleep to be a challenge. Stress, anxiety and constant worry are all likely to stop you from getting it. But sleeping properly and getting enough rest are also equally important for your health. So, here are some tips you can use to improve your sleep during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Stick to a schedule: A good sleep-wake routine can bring a sense of normalcy even in the most abnormal times. Maintain roughly the same bedtime every night, and start winding down at least an hour before it. Keep a fixed waking time, and avoid the snooze button on your alarm strictly.
  • Get some exercise: Exercising during the day - even if it is indoors during a lockdown - is an effective means of de-stressing and getting a deep sleep of seven-eight hours. Regular daily activities help regulate sleep, and that’s precisely what you need during the pandemic too. (Read more: Exercises to do at home during the COVID-19 lockdown)
  • Maintain a bedtime routine: Switch off electronics and all sources of blue light at least an hour before bedtime. Use relaxation techniques to unwind and induce sleep. Yoga, stretching, meditation, listening to calm music and even reading a book can help with this.
  • Don’t work from the bed: Reserve your bed just for sleeping, and avoid doing any work - office or otherwise - from there. This also means avoiding bringing your laptop to the bed to watch a movie before going to sleep. Make your bed meticulously every morning and avoid it throughout the day for best results.
  • Limit naps: Staying at home for days on end and working from home might make you think that taking a nap or two during the day is a good idea, but it’s really not. A short, power nap of 30 minutes at most might be effective, but avoid stretching it out beyond that or taking a nap after 2 pm in the afternoon.
  • Get some light: Whether it’s by sitting next to a window or in a balcony, or by walking in your garden for 15-20 minutes a day, get vitamin D from sunlight at least once every day. Exposure to sunlight and vitamin D both help regulate sleep, and it’s best to avoid a vitamin D deficiency during a pandemic anyways. 
  • Check your diet: Avoid alcohol, caffeine, spicy and fried food for dinner. These can keep you up by causing acidity, indigestion and other problems. Eat freshly cooked food, and maintain a healthy diet during the pandemic. (Read more: How to eat healthy during a lockdown)
Dr. Arun R

Dr. Arun R

Infectious Disease
5 Years of Experience

Dr. Neha Gupta

Dr. Neha Gupta

Infectious Disease
16 Years of Experience

Dr. Lalit Shishara

Dr. Lalit Shishara

Infectious Disease
8 Years of Experience

Dr. Alok Mishra

Dr. Alok Mishra

Infectious Disease
5 Years of Experience

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References

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  2. Shah, Nilesh. et al. Indian research on sleep disorders. Indian J Psychiatry. 2010 Jan; 52(Suppl1): S255–S259. PMID: 21836688
  3. The Harvard Gazette. Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School [Internet]. Harvard University, Cambridge. Massachusetts. USA; Insomnia in a pandemic.
  4. SleepFoundation.org [Internet]. National Sleep Foundation. Washington D.C. United States; Sleep Guidelines During the COVID-19 Pandemic.
  5. UChicagoMedicine [Internet] University of Chicago. Chicago. Illinois. USA; Why it’s important to get a good night’s sleep during the coronavirus outbreak
  6. Michigan Medicine [internet]. University of Michigan. Supporting Sleep during the COVID-19 Pandemic
  7. MD Anderson Cancer Centre. [Internet]. University of Texas. USA; COVID-19 keeping you awake? Here’s how to get more sleep
  8. Huang, Yeen and Zhao, Ning. Generalized anxiety disorder, depressive symptoms and sleep quality during COVID-19 outbreak in China: a web-based cross-sectional survey. Psychiatry Res. 2020 Apr 12 : 112954. PMID: 32325383
  9. Roy, Deblina. et al. Study of knowledge, attitude, anxiety & perceived mental healthcare need in Indian population during COVID-19 pandemic. Asian J Psychiatr. 2020 Jun; 51: 102083. PMID: 32283510
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