how to get good sleep in a pandemic

With the pandemic approaching a year, coronasomnia is more topical than ever as poor sleep directly affects immunity. “During sleep, our immune system releases proteins called cytokines,” says Dr. Ivana Rosenzweig, sleep doctor and consultant neuropsychiatrist at Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospital and lecturer in sleep at King’s College London. “Sleep deprivation can reduce the production of these protective cytokines, as well as antibodies and other infection-fighting cells.” Since some of these cytokines also promote sleep, this is another vicious cycle in which disturbed sleep can lead to impaired immunity, and vice versa.

This sleep-panic cycle is fueling the rise in insomnia, believes Prof. Espie. “Right from the start, we were hit by an overwhelming uncertainty,” he says. “People couldn’t process what was happening, and their sleep was the first thing to suffer. They panicked about sleep, which has led to more sleep loss and the cycle continues. ”

We now know more about the worrying impact of the pandemic on our sleep over time. And it affects both those who have had Covid and those who have not. “We are seeing an increase in new insomnia in people with and without Covid,” says Dr. Michelle Miller, associate professor of biochemical medicine and director of the University of Warwick’s sleep, health and social programs.

Studies have shown that poor sleep can increase the likelihood of contracting a virus like the common cold and possibly Covid-19 as well, says Dr. Rose branch. “Sleep deprivation has also been shown to affect how quickly you recover from an illness,” she says. In fact, long Covid – a syndrome in which Covid-19 symptoms can persist for up to months after the initial infection – is increasingly being associated with sleep disorders, oversleeping, or prolonged fatigue.

Prof. Espie is leading a 15-country study on why the pandemic has affected the world’s sleep so much. “Is it the change in our work processes, the increase in stress, the lack of daylight or something else?” He says. The results will be published early next year.

At the moment, he believes that one of the lesser-known reasons for coronasomnia is spending too long in bed when we work at home and are limited where we can go. “People need an individual level of quality sleep and that is different for everyone. Getting more sleep may not mean a good night’s sleep because if you need seven hours but nine hours in bed, the extra hours make your sleep more fragmented. That is a decreased sleep efficiency and the reason why more sleep is not always better. ”

Not feeling rested in the morning or feeling sleepy during the day can be a sign of poor sleep efficiency (see how to fix this below). When researchers at King’s College London surveyed more than 2,000 Britons aged 16 to 75 about their sleep during lockdown in May, a third said they slept longer but felt less rested. For those who got into financial difficulties due to the coronavirus, this figure rose to 42 percent.

“Unrefreshing, prolonged sleep – also known as hypersomnia – is emerging as a key feature of people’s sleep behavior in response to the pandemic,” says Dr. Rose branch. “Hypersomnia has long been associated with depression.”

And that’s the other problem with too little sleep: BSS research found a link to changes in our sleep patterns and increased psychological problems. This is in line with the University of Sheffield’s findings that the proportion of people with depression and anxiety tripled during the initial lockdown, with a corresponding quadrupling of those who tested positive for sleep problems.


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