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COVID-19: Is The Lockdown Disrupting Sleep Patterns?

COVID-19 lockdown has affected the day-to-day activities of people worldwide. There's a change in the work-life system, daily routines, meal timings and the most important, sleep pattern. According to a survey carried out by Wakefit, a company based on innovative sleep products, around 67 per cent of people have reported alteration in their sleep schedule since the lockdown.

Sleep and mental health are linked to each other. Prolonged isolation due to quarantine and restrictions around the world have introduced or worsened mental health problems. People are struggling due to a lack of social activities and movements and this is causing an impact on their mental, social and psychological well-being, leading to disturbances in the sleep patterns.

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How Has It Affected?

Insecurities due to COVID-19 pandemic is the main cause behind sleep disturbance in people. The increase in the number of infected cases, mortality rate, deteriorating economy, unavailability of vaccines, job security, family's health and financial problems are giving sleepless nights to many. Although these are the core reasons, there are a plenty of other problems too which are directly affecting mental health.

Disturbance in sleep pattern due to anxiety is acknowledged by around 49 per cent of people, says a survey by Wakefit. However, the other reasons are binge-watching and working late hours. The data also shows that there's an increase of 40 per cent in late-night sleepers due to the lockdown. People who were going to bed before 11 p.m. are now sleeping late at night due to stress. There's also an increase in people who are sleeping for less than six hours.

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Sleep Challenges Due To The Pandemic

COVID-19 lockdown has affected everyone's sleep pattern in a different way. From healthcare workers to people working at home, from older people to those who are admitted in hospitals, all are facing variations in their sleep patterns. Some of the challenges faced are:

  • Anxiety: Naturally occurring anxiety due to a pandemic is common. People are worried about the health of their loved ones, especially older members, a family member with preexisting medical conditions or kids as they are more prone to the virus. Also, the concerns of income, job and savings are increasing. Uncertainty over these concerns is increasing anxiety causing sleep problems.
  • Isolation: Due to the lockdown on travel, many people got stuck in foreign countries and job locations. This has left them isolated and alone. Also, the isolation of suspected cases, hospitalisation of confirmed cases and deaths of loved ones have caused depression, potentially affecting their sleep patterns.
  • Increased Screen Time: Lockdown has increased the screen time as many people now are either connected on their laptops due to official work or binge-watching due to boredom. A study published in the International Journal of Ophthalmology says that increased exposure to blue light causes dry eyes, macular degeneration, cataract, hormonal imbalance and inhibits melatonin secretion in the brain. [1] Low levels of melatonin causes sleep troubles and affect both the quality and quantity of sleep.
  • Disruption in daily routines: Changes in all aspects of life due to the lockdown have made lives difficult for people. Before people live by a schedule, like waking up in the morning, going to the gym, dropping kids off at school, timely meals and many others. As there are several restrictions imposed now, schedule have has been affected. Also, the anxiety of not going to school or work has made people sleep more during the daytime.
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Is It Affecting Our Immune System?

Good sleep is all we need to maintain proper body functioning. Sleeping for at least eight hours is considered best for our body. Even one day of disturbance in sleep pattern can impact a lot on our immune system. Prolonged lack of sleep due to the lockdown has disrupted our immune system. A healthy immune system is the need of the time and disturbance in sleep pattern is adversely affecting it.

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How Is It Affecting Our Mental health?

Good sleep heightens the brain function while lack of it causes impairments and decreased cognitive performance. Sleep deprivation affects our attentional functions, long-term memory, decision-making capability and working memory. These factors affect our mental health and cause decreased alertness, slow response behaviour, slow cognition, stress, anxiety and other related problems. A study says that lack of sleep affects our cognitive functions which are related to prefrontal cortex like language, divergent thinking and creativity. [2]

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What To Do

  • Set up a bedtime routine: Wake up on time and go to bed on scheduled timings. Set an alarm and stop hitting on the snooze button again and again. Also, avoid too much exposure to mobiles during the night as they may interfere with your sleeping.
  • Get proper daylight: When you wake up early and take natural light outside, your circadian cycle is affected positively. It is an internal sleep cycle that works in the background of your brain. When it is normal, all the bodily functions work properly while disturbance in it causes anxiety, mental problems and lack of sleep.
  • Avoid prolonged naps: Around 20 minutes of nap during daytime is considered beneficial to improve alertness, performance and mood. Prolonged naps may cause you difficulties in sleeping at night. Avoid more of it during the daytime so that you can sleep on time at night.
  • Count your blessings: Staying positive is a kind of stress release. The best way to stay optimistic during a pandemic is by counting your blessings. There are many people in the world who are deprived of food and life. You should consider everything around you as a blessing as well as make efforts to donate or distribute foods or other essentials to people in need. This will make you happy and may help you get a peaceful sleep. Don't forget to practice social distancing.
  • Avoid drinking and smoking: According to WHO, smokers are vulnerable to COVID-19 infection due to their compromised respiratory system. Avoid alcohol and smoking, in fact, quit them as they may disturb your sleep cycle.
  • Tackle your stress: With all the bad news going around on social media, your stress is likely to increase. Also, the health of your loved ones may make you stressful and worried. Learn to tackle your stress by seeing the positive stories of people who have successfully fought COVID-19.
  • Meditate or perform yoga: Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation and deep breathing exercises help cut down your stress levels and make you feel positive. Meditation and yoga improve your sleep pattern and help you sleep better. You can also perform other mindful activities like listening to music and reading for better sleep.

To Conclude:

People around the world are struggling, just like you, under the lockdown and dealing with a pandemic for the first time. It is greatly affecting our mental health and causing trouble in sleep patterns. The best way is to relax and remember that lockdown is for the protection of ourselves and our loved ones and we are not alone in this.

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