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Sleep and Psychological Health in the Coronavirus Pandemic

Without a shadow of a doubt, the coronavirus pandemic has an enormous impact on our physical, mental, and emotional health. And, even though it may sound surprising, the pandemic affects sleep too. For that reason, we’ve come up with the following list of things you should know about sleep and psychological health in the coronavirus pandemic:

Acute Insomnia, and Possibly Chronic Insomnia, Rates Go Up

Typically, people experience short-term insomnia when something unexpected happens like an illness, job loss, natural disaster, etc. And, the coronavirus pandemic is also something that people didn’t expect to happen so it is normal that people start having troubles falling and staying asleep. Studies show that the prevalence of clinical insomnia has increased by whopping 37 percent.

Given the ongoing stress the majority of people are facing for more than half a year, it is not surprising that acute insomnia rates have increased and it also wouldn’t be surprising if chronic insomnia rates increase in the months to come. In medical terms, acute insomnia usually last for a few days or weeks, whereas chronic insomnia may last for 3 months or more.

The Closer to ‘Hot Spots’ the More Severe Sleep and Psychological Issues

In fact, studies show that the proximity to coronavirus outbreaks closely affects the severity of insomnia and psychological stress during the pandemic. But, proximity can refer different things including location and level of exposure and threat. Location proximity means that the person is close to the geographical site of the outbreak which may cause the individual to feel anxious, stressed, and sleep deprived.

Similarly, people working in hospitals and other places where there’s a higher risk of outbreaks are also very likely to develop a sleep disorder or psychological distress. Both these groups of people report having trouble getting a good night’s sleep, and the closer, the severe issues they experience.

Social Isolation Seriously Affect Sleep and Mental Health

During the pandemic, we are all advised to practice social isolation since it is one of the ways we could help stop the spread of the coronavirus, and of course, protect ourselves and our families. However, social isolation takes a huge toll on sleep and mental health. Usually, social communication is what provides us with support, fun, comfort, and a sense of belonging. Without being socially active we feel lonely and isolated which further impacts both sleep quantity and quality. In turn, sleep deprivation increases the feeling of loneliness and isolation. So, it’s an endless circle!

Our Circadian Rhythms Aren’t Synced

Our circadian rhythms regulate our sleep-wake cycles and other key body processes like cognitive functioning, metabolism, immune system activity, hormone production, etc. In other words, circadian rhythms are our internal clocks that function as timekeepers to keep our body functioning normally. And, even small timing changes can result in sleep, mood, and health issues.

And, since the pandemic has changed our daily schedules to a great extent, many people’s circadian rhythms got disturbed which also affect sleep. Research shows that bedtimes and waketimes during the pandemic have shifted to later hours compared to what people were previously used to.

As Psychological Distress Increases, so Do Sleep Issues

Finally, several different studies conducted in the last six months have shown the same results: the pandemic is increasing the numbers of people suffering from severe stress, anxiety, depression and other psychological issues. To be more precise, each of the issue may be present in one third of the world’s population, according to an analysis.

So, since psychological issues are closely linked to sleep, we can make a conclusion that one third of the general population is experiencing sleep issues too, as a result of stress, anxiety, depression, etc. Plus, the rates are even higher, up to 50%, among health care workers.

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