Medically reviewed by
Dacelin St Martin, MD
Triple board-certified in Sleep Medicine,
Internal Medicine, and Pediatrics.
Covidsomnia: Corona-Related Sleep Troubles
COVID-19-related insomnia is not a myth anymore. It’s a fact. We even have a name for it now: “covidsomnia” or “coronasomnia.”
Before the pandemic broke, insomnia was not a rare condition. Nearly one-third of the population had some sleep trouble. You’ve probably had some sleepless nights yourself. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, did not make things any better.
Research shows that the coronavirus has increased insomnia rates by 37 percent compared to pre-pandemic rates.
Patients are complaining more of an inability to initiate sleep or stay asleep, waking up too late or too early, waking up multiple times during the night, and having nightmares.
What Are Coronasomnia and Covidsomnia?
Coronasomnia or covidsomnia are two new terms recently introduced to describe sleep problems related to the corona pandemic.
Since the pandemic started in early 2020, people have increasingly complained of sleeping troubles, including:
- Insomnia: trouble falling or remaining asleep through the night
- Sleep-Wake Cycle Problems: late bedtime, waking up too early, oversleeping, waking up too late
- Symptoms of Poor Sleep Quality: increased daytime sleepiness, poor concentration, memory problems
- Fragmented Sleep: waking up multiple times during the night
An actual coronavirus infection does not necessarily cause coronasomnia. The term refers to sleep troubles related to the pandemic and its impact on our sleep habits.
The pandemic has disrupted our routines and mental health. Wave after wave, people find themselves more isolated, lonelier and reminiscing on their previous lives.
Scientists believe that coronasomnia is strongly related to the stress and anxiety brought on by the non-relenting pandemic.
Is Coronasomnia a Myth?
COVID-related sleep troubles are a hot topic in sleep medicine and psychiatry research.
By now, we know that coronasomnia is not a myth. All studies and statistics show an increased rate of sleep trouble during the COVID pandemic.
One study in the UK showed that the insomnia rate has increased from 17 percent to 25 percent during the pandemic. Another study from China showed an increase from 14.6 percent to 20 percent.
As one recent review shows, clinically significant insomnia rates have increased by 37 percent from pre-pandemic rates.
Sleep specialists now take coronasomnia seriously and work relentlessly to help patients sleep better during the pandemic.
There are several theories to explain how the COVID pandemic is causing sleeplessness. Although there’s still no direct causal link, most experts theorize that there’s a complex multifactorial relationship between the coronavirus and increased insomnia.
The different social, mental, and economic impacts of the pandemic play a role in coronasomnia.
1) Stress and Anxiety
Mental health is strongly associated with healthy sleep. Researchers believe that the two have a bidirectional relationship, in which they can worsen or cause each other.
There’s no doubt that the deadly viral outbreak has caused us a lot of anxiety. Lockdowns, work from home, financial struggles, boredom, the death of relatives, and canceled vacations have all negatively affected our mental health.
Studies confirm that the pandemic is strongly associated with increased rates of mental illness, including anxiety, stress, and depression. It’s one of the primary mechanisms through which the pandemic might be causing us insomnia.
2) Altered Routines
All our lives, we’ve been used to somewhat the same routines: waking up, going to work (or school), getting back home, doing chores, and sleeping.
Regardless of your routine, it’s very likely that it’s been disrupted by the corona pandemic.
With lockdowns, irregular working hours, waking up late, and working from home, your day seems a lot less organized and more flexible.
This instability can confuse your circadian rhythm and prevent your brain from learning and adapting to your daily routine. Some authors suggest that this physiological change might be a contributing cause of covidsomnia.
3) Use of Electronics
Since the pandemic started, many everyday tasks have gone digital: work, studying, medical care, entertainment, and communication. We now do everything through a computer or smartphone screen.
Electronic screens emit unnatural amounts of blue light. Increased blue light exposure, especially at night, has been repeatedly linked to insomnia.
Moreover, increased news media consumption can cause increased anxiety and stress.
Who Is at Risk of Coronasomnia?
Anyone can get covidsomnia. The impact of the pandemic has affected every individual’s life. That said, some have been more affected than others. So, some people are more likely to develop corona-related insomnia:
- COVID-19 Patients: Corona infection can cause sleep problems. The annoying symptoms like coughing, shortness of breath, and fever are enough to cause sleepless nights. Moreover, the fear of death might also play a role. Nearly 75 percent of COVID-19 patients report trouble sleeping.
- Frontline Workers, Caregivers, and Essential Workers: Doctors, nurses, and other essential workers are at higher risk of covidsomnia. Working late and irregular shifts, physical and mental stress, and dealing with death all take a toll on sleep health.
How to Deal with Coronasomnia?
Dealing with covidsomnia is similar to dealing with non-pandemic-related sleep troubles. It’s mostly centered around simple changes in daily routines and sleeping habits, namely:
- Decreasing screen time
- Decreasing alcohol and caffeinated consumption
- Establishing a healthy sleep regimen
- Organizing your daily schedule
- Setting a consistent sleep-wake schedule
- Combating boredom and getting out of the house while abiding by lockdown restrictions
- Avoiding long naps during the day
These tips can help you improve sleep during the corona pandemic and get back on track toward a healthier daily routine.
If you still have trouble sleeping or suspect that you have more complex sleep problems, then visiting a sleep specialist would be the best next step for you.
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- Falkingham J, Evandrou M, Qin M, Vlachantoni A. “Sleepless in Lockdown”: Unpacking Differences in Sleep Loss during the Coronavirus Pandemic in the UK.; 2020:2020.07.19.20157255. doi:10.1101/2020.07.19.20157255
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