Published on July 01, 2020

The connection between Coronavirus and sleep issues

Lockdowns around the globe haven’t just curbed coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission – they've also helped people get more sleep. According to a study published in Current Biology, scientists found that, on one hand, the restrictions put in place due to COVID-19 reduced the mismatch between external (social) and internal (biological) sleep-wake timing, with an associated increase in sleep duration. Sleep quality, on the other hand, was slightly reduced. The improved sleep-wake timing can presumably be attributed to an increased flexibility of social schedules, for instance due to more work being accomplished from home. However, this unprecedented situation also led to a significant increase in self-perceived burden, which is consequent to the decrease in sleep quality.

While many people have an occasional sleepless night, regular disturbance of sleep can affect your mental and physical health, including the effective functioning of the immune system. One in three people has a sleep disorder, yet 95 percent of them remain undiagnosed. Sleeping disorders can affect you at any age and can seriously interfere with your body’s necessary restorative cycles. Sleep impairment can affect your physiology in many ways. For instance, people who have untreated obstructive sleep apnea have an increased risk for elevated blood pressure, atrial fibrillation and cardiovascular disease. Aside from obstructive sleep apnea, sleep deprivation can decrease our ability to perform as human beings and enjoy life. People who experience sleep deprivation are at a greater risk for motor vehicle accidents or on-the-job errors. In the current COVID-19 pandemic, sleep deprivation and poor sleep quality are known to make people more susceptible to the viral illness.

According to Google, insomnia has been one of the most googled terms in the past few weeks. Insomnia is the most common sleep diagnosis influenced by a person’s stress level or anxiety and occurs when a person has a difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep during the night. “Sleep is always important, but right now sleep plays an integral role in the effective functioning of the immune system,” says David A. Cohen, MD, Center for Sleep Medicine at Chestnut Hill Hospital – Tower Health.

There are many things you can do to get back on track with sleep. Try implementing a few of the following lifestyle modifications.

  • Establish a routine. Be consistent with daily rituals and try to wake up and end your day at roughly the same time.
  • Eat healthy and exercise regularly. Eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, veggies and lean proteins to keep your immune system running strong. Regular physical activity can greatly improve the quality and duration of sleep and can also help control your stress and anxiety.
  • Limit activities in bed. Establishing a positive association that your bed is for sleeping is very important. Avoid working on your computer, watching television, making phone calls or even reading in bed as these activities can increase alertness, making it difficult to fall asleep.
  • Avoid or limit naps. Frequent napping can affect the quality of nighttime sleep. If you do nap, make sure it’s no longer than 30 minutes.
  • No food or drink right before bed. The effects of alcohol or stimulants like caffeine or nicotine could last for hours and cause difficulty initiating sleep or even cause frequent awakenings.
  • Regulate temperatures. Make sure the temperature in your bedroom isn’t too hot. It’s been suggested that the optimal bedroom temperature is between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit.

Have you been struggling to get a good night of sleep? Whether you’ve had sleeping problems before COVID-19 or if they’ve only come on recently, focusing on sleeping well offers tremendous benefits for your overall health. The Center for Sleep Medicine at Chestnut Hill Hospital has reopened for in-lab overnight sleep diagnostic testing and is here to help. We have enhanced social distancing in waiting rooms and patient care areas and have implemented rigorous cleaning processes and procedures per guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health. The Sleep Center at Chestnut Hill Hospital is clean and safe, and our dedicated and skillful staff is ready to care for you. Our team of board-certified sleep medicine physicians treat every sleep disorder. Talk with your primary care provider to see what efforts can be done to address your sleep concerns.

For more information and to complete your sleep assessment, visit: CHSleep.org. Call 267-339-6462 to contact Dr. Cohen at the Center for Sleep Medicine. Schedule a study (referral required): 215-248-8400.