When “Coronasomnia” Strikes: Why the pandemic is affecting the way you sleep

A local expert weighs in on why it’s so difficult for many Americans to fall asleep, and ways to combat insomnia.
A local expert weighs in on why it’s so difficult for many Americans to fall asleep, and ways to combat insomnia.
Updated: May. 12, 2021 at 8:49 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - With millions of Americans now vaccinated against COVID-19, experts are saying it’s a light at the end of the tunnel. But so many people are hitting a wall -- unable to stay focus or feel rested -- just as we’re rounding the corner to getting back to normal. The reason might be your sleep.

Many specialists are coining the phrase “Coronasomnia”: insomnia induced by high stress brought on by the pandemic, and the overall change in lifestyle.

“Sometimes we treat sleep as a luxury and not a necessity, and that really becomes an issue long-term,” says Dr. Kathryn Williams, Pulmonary & Sleep Physician with ProMedica Hospital. She says there has been a rise in the number of patients suffering from insomnia, and says the pandemic is a major factor.

According to the American Sleep Association, 50-70 million Americans suffer from some form of sleep disorder.

“Your body has a sleep drive,” said Dr. Williams. “It needs that amount of exhaustion or actual physical exertion during the day to feel that sleepiness at night. So that can make a big different in how sleepy you feel when you get to bed. I have a lot of people that say ‘Look, I feel exhausted. Mentally, I’m there. But I get into bed and my body is just not ready to fall asleep, or my mind starts to race.’ Because that’s the time in the day when things are quiet, and all of a sudden your mind just starts to spin, to go.”

Some key triggers of “Coronasomnia” or a sleep disorder: stress, changes to our daily routine, lack of exercise, and overuse of technology. So how do you get that “sleep train” back on track?

“We try to recommend keeping as normal of a sleep schedule as you can,” added Dr. Williams. “So going to bed at the same time, waking up at the same time -- which is often difficult when you’re maybe working from home, or have different responsibilities. Certainly kids being at home, other family members, caring for sick family members. It can be very stressful.”

Tips for a more restful sleep:

  • Stick to a schedule
  • Get in the habit of daily exercise, or simply stand and walk more frequently
  • Meditation
  • Eliminating screens/use of technology at least two hours before you plan to go to sleep. The glow from these screens stimulates the brain, keeping you awake.
  • No caffeine late in the day (avoid after 2pm.)
  • Avoid working in the bedroom
  • Avoid napping during the day
  • Be consistent about when you eat your meals during the day, and make healthy food choices
  • If you are using a sleep aid, like Melatonin, do not use more that 5mg each night

If you’d like to learn more about Dr. Kathryn Williams and the ProMedica Physicians Pulmonary/Sleep Medicine - Toledo, visit their website or call 419-291-7555.

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