Coronasomnia: How the pandemic may be affecting your sleep

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An increasing number of people have been reporting sleep disturbances since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Pharmaceutical sleep prescriptions have increased 20 percent over the last year. One doctor has dubbed the current sleep crisis “coronasomnia.”

Taking steps to improve sleep habits is important for not just COVID-19 prevention, but for overall health and wellness.

In early February, the United States hit an important milestone: More people vaccinated for COVID-19 than diagnosed with COVID-19.

After a year of mask wearing, physical distancing, income loss, and the deaths of more than 500,000 Americans, this welcome news signaled a potential light at the end of the tunnel.

So why are so many people feeling like they’re hitting a wall now — unable to sleep, work, or function — just as we may be rounding the corner to something a little closer to normal?
There’s no denying the last year has been stressful.

And enduring stress — like so many of us have experienced recently — can have lasting consequences.

“Stress can have a negative impact on sleep,” behavioral sleep medicine provider Lisa Medalie, PsyD, recently explained.

She went on to say that stress is a known trigger for insomniaTrusted Source — trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.

“Stress activates the autonomic nervous system, causing a release of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol,” Medalie, who created DrLullaby, said.

“This then causes the heart rate and blood pressure to increase, putting the system into fight-or-flight mode.

” With cortisol pumping though the body, she said falling asleep can be quite challenging. And when people lose sleep as a result of stress, they’re more likely to experience difficulty modulating thoughts and emotions the next day, contributing to further stress.

It’s a cycle far too many people have likely grown accustomed to over the past year. Pandemic lifestyle changes are a factor, too

But it isn’t just chronic stress that’s impacting sleep cycles. People have also had to deal with inconsistent schedules, homeschooling kids, work loss, financial impacts, and elevated screen time — all of which can contribute to sleep deprivation.

“Our routines and habits have been disrupted,” said Dr. Rhonda Mattox, the president-elect of the Arkansas Medical, Dental, and Pharmaceutical Association and an integrative behavioral health psychiatrist.