Dr Viny Kantroo, Senior Consultant, Pulmonology, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi
Coronavirus and the related topics have now been talked about for more than a year. From the fear of catching the virus to losing your job, it has been giving sleepless nights to many. With decreased sleep levels our bodies become more prone to producing harmful stress-aggravating hormones, hence we end up feeling more anxious and worried. It can also prevent your mind to rest and hence you end up getting bad insomnia. This is a vicious cycle, which unfortunately keeps perpetuating. Thus stress leading to insomnia and vice versa is well known phenomenon.
COVID and any news related to it is stress-causing factor for many. It makes people anxious, not only about their health risks but also about how their entire life can take a new direction with the associated changes which COVID caused in terms of social, economic and financial burdens. Consequently, people are complaining of a spectrum of sleep related disorders ranging from insomnia (inability to fall and stay asleep) to hypersomnia (sleeping excessively and at unusual hours). This has been given the name COVID-somnia OR Coronosomnia.
On adding further to this medical experts say that sleep-related problems can be linked to the fear of catching the virus and hence dying from it. However, it can also be related to other problems which the virus has caused. These problems are varied and are related to medical and non-medical causes. Losing one’s job or business, financial instability, and limited work- social life balance, loss of contact with other people/relatives, and the social stigma attached with the disease are some of the reported stress-causing situations for many.
People have had to miss seeing/meeting their loved ones at their critical states and death beds. Many people have got better but unfortunately died suddenly due to COVID-related complications. This can be extremely distressing. Not being able to perform the last rites of many elderly relatives has taken a huge toll on mental health.
Here is what can be done
- Stop Worrying : While this can be difficult but it is not impossible to train our mind to think positive. Whenever necessary take the help of doctors and psychologists to help protect your mental health. While taking precautions to avoid having COVID is essential, at the same time we should not be constantly absorbed in COVID related deaths and news. Most things do not change with excessive worrying instead being positive and hopeful does help to evolve out of difficult situations. Try and keep connected to your loved ones and speak about your innermost feelings with them. They will help allay most of your anxiety. We all should not forget change is inevitable and thus the present situation will change for good.
- Eat Healthy & Exercise : Our diet has a significant role to play in stress levels. Eating healthy and in moderation can help maintain our blood pressure, sugar levels and maintain a healthy weight. Exercise not only has positive effect on physical health but it takes care of many mental health issues as well by secreting ‘happy hormones’. Being fit will also give you good immunity to fight not only COVID but many other diseases. Avoid too much alcohol at all costs. In addition to its deleterious effect on immunity it can lead to multitude of other physical and mental health issues.
- Try Following a Routine: Disruption of normal routine is quite evident in our lives. I have to think about managing my son’s online classes before going to work every day. Hence, managing things as per a schedule can eliminate half the level of stress. It’s good to follow a routine in terms of daily tasks, waking up, sleeping on time and rearranging our routine as per the needs. While being less on sleep, it’s good to go to bed early as this can help you relax. A relaxing bath before the bedtime can help in sound and refreshing sleep. In addition also avoid sleeping too much during the day which can rob you off the sleep at night leading to disturbance in hormonal milieu causing predisposition to development of insulin resistance.
- Avoid Using Smartphones and Gadgets before Going to Bed: Using a phone or tablet can make your mind more alert and absorbed in thoughts which prevents from falling asleep. In addition we all tend to read the ‘Numbers’ involved in COVID related deaths and disease. This can be extremely harmful for your sleep. The light emitted by these devices have an effect on your ‘Sleep hormones’, altering not only your sleep cycle but also your hunger/satiety hormones which are closely related to ‘sleep hormones’. These hormones can further cause insulin resistance predisposing to metabolic syndrome. Also avoid sleeping near gadgets as the constant beeping throughout the night can be disturbing for a sound and sustained sleep.
- Maintain a Gap between Your Supper and Sleep: Make sure to keep a good gap between your meals and bedtime as sleeping immediately after consuming food can make you feel bloated and hard to get a peaceful sleep. Eating too close to one’s bedtime is a huge deterrent to sound sleep as well as the proper digestion & assimilation of food. Keep at least 2-3 hours gap between the last meal and bedtime. Caffeine should be avoided before going to bed, as it leads to alertness reducing sleep.
- Spend That Ideal Me Time: It’s good to read or listen to soft music before going to bed. This can also be any activity which makes you feel good including having a brisk walk or a quick dance jig which creates an ideal situation for a sound sleep.