Pandemic Stress: Covid and Sleep Problems
The latest situation of coronavirus resurgence has everyone rattled. Pandemic stress. Anxiety and Covid. Covid and sleep problems. After more than 18 months of varying degrees of pandemic stress, everyone is feeling the effects, including kids. Worrying comes with every news report, social post, or school bulletin we see. In times like these, managing stress is a must.
How well we sleep—or don’t— is often a good indicator of our overall health. Too many of us already struggled to get enough sleep before pandemic stress was added to our lives. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve seen a high number of Covid-related sleep issues reported. For example, constant anxiety and Covid worries quickly led to increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances. All have a negative impact on sleep quality. High levels of stress and sleep problems are directly linked to addiction and many other serious health conditions.
It’s understandable that the resurgence of the coronavirus and continuing uncertainties can cause distress and sleepless nights for many. But if problems with sleep are becoming the norm, you’ve got a bigger problem on your hands. You may need professional help to get a handle on what’s disrupting your rest, because there may be underlying sleep disorders like insomnia, sleep apnea, or other problems in play. And make no mistake, children struggle with sleep issues as well, especially in stressful times. The CDC reports the following general signs and symptoms of stress:
- Feelings of fear, anger, sadness, worry, numbness, or frustration
- Changes in appetite, energy, desires, and interests
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping or nightmares
- Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes
- Worsening of chronic health problems
- Worsening of mental health conditions
- Increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances
Why Stress Management Matters at Every Age
Stress is not just something we feel - it’s also the body’s built-in physiologic response to danger. When stress arises, our “fight or flight” instinct kicks in. Cortisol and adrenaline hormones flood into the bloodstream, constricting blood vessels, and raising blood pressure and pulse rates. Over time, these physiological changes can begin to adversely affect our general health. Pandemic stress also affects children and teens, including behavioral and sleep problems, nightmares, a range of mental health issues, as well as problems focusing, learning, and retaining knowledge.
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. It’s good to be informed, but hearing about the latest situation of coronavirus constantly can be upsetting. Consider limiting news to just a couple of times a day and disconnecting from phone, tv, and computer screens for a while.
- Take care of your body
- Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate
- Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals
- Exercise regularly
- Get plenty of sleep
- Avoid excessive alcohol, tobacco, and substance use
- Continue with routine preventive measures (such as vaccinations, cancer screenings, etc.) as recommended by your healthcare provider
- Make time to unwind — Try to do some other activities you enjoy
- Connect with others — Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling
- Connect with your community- or faith-based organizations — While social distancing measures are in place, try connecting online, through social media, or by phone or mail
If sleep problems are impacting your life or your children’s lives, make the recommended lifestyle changes that improve the chances of getting more sleep. Regular exercise, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, and avoiding excess caffeine and alcohol can all help promote better sleep quality and duration.
If pandemic stress or related sleep issues like insomnia, nightmares/night terrors, or disorders like sleep apnea are impacting your life, consult a sleep specialist today. Working with a health professional specializing in sleep can help you to develop an effective plan to ease stress, treat any underlying sleep disorders, and get back to sleeping soundly again.
*This post contains general information about medical conditions and potential treatments. It is not medical advice. If you have any medical questions, please consult your doctor.