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Pandemic stress and sleep

Losing sleep can affect your health 

FEELING TIRED? STRESSED? Do you know that today ends in a “y,” but you can’t remember which day it is? If you said yes to at least one of these, know that you are not alone. The COVID-19 pandemic is causing millions of people to lose sleep and that can come at a major cost to your overall health and well-being. 

The pandemic has caused shifts in individual sleep routines in several ways. We have been forced to change our routines, including many of us who are now working from home or who have lost a job. We are facing increased stress and anxiety. Both of these factors may affect our ability to maintain an adequate sleep-wake cycle; we may develop irregular sleep schedules and shift our typical circadian rhythm patterns. Lack of social interactions during the day also can lead to more intense and dramatic dreams at night, which can be stressful. 

Sleep deprivation, or inadequate quantity or quality of sleep, can lead to changes in mood, performance and health. If you are experiencing poor concentration, mood irritability, poor decision-making and lack of energy, you may be suffering from sleep deprivation. A lack of sleep also puts us at a higher risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, obesity and diabetes. Excessive daytime sleepiness can lead to drowsy driving accidents and workplace injuries. 

Here are some changes to consider in your day-to-day routine to focus on sleep hygiene. Reserve the bedroom for sleeping—don’t use it for your work, children’s schoolwork, meals or exercise. Keep a consistent routine, bedtime and wake up time. Make sure you’re getting adequate hours of sleep (typically seven-10 hours per night). Talk to your doctor if you continue to have any concerns about your sleep. 

MARTHA ROSENTHAL is a sleep medicine specialist in the division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at UK Sleep Disorders Center.

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