Experts Explain How the Coronavirus Pandemic Is Affecting Insomnia
If you're having trouble sleeping, you're not alone.
The coronavirus pandemic has not only impacted our daily lives, but it's also taken a toll on stress, anxiety, and the ability to get a good night's sleep. According to a 2016 survey from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately one-third of adults were getting a minimum of seven hours of sleep per night (the amount recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine). Since the pandemic started, the numbers have gotten worse, says CNN. "Good sleep undergirds every aspect of mental and physical health, which we need to support now more than ever," Christina Pierpaoli Parker, postdoctoral fellow of clinical psychology and behavioral sleep medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, told CNN.
Overall, the quality of Americans' sleep seems to be declining, according to a recent study. But even more staggering are the correlated statistics: The number of prescriptions filled for sleep disorders between February 16, 2020, and March 15, 2020, increased by 14.8 percent, according to a report from pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts. Another 36 percent of Americans reported having trouble sleeping this summer due to stress about the pandemic, according to a study from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
"When we perceive a threat, we are awake. That's adaptive. That's good for us. Yet when there is a large threat in our environment like a global pandemic, one of our initial biological stress reactions is to not sleep so we can be prepared to deal with the threat," explains Jennifer Martin, professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Experts say that a pattern of poor sleep can lead to weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and depression. While insomnia typically only affects 10 to 14 percent of Americans each year, the CDC anticipates that those numbers will go up by the end of the year. Because of Zoom calls for work and the constant breaking news cycle, screen time is at an all-time high, which can also impact our ability to sleep soundly.
If you're having trouble sleeping, regular exercise and minimal screen time before bed can help, says doctors. And if you can't fall asleep within 15-30 minutes, try getting out of bed and walking around.