THE LEVEL – Sleep, our body’s proverbial “off button,” is becoming a scarce commodity in many households. Ask any one of 1 in 5 Americans getting less than the recommended seven to nine hours of it daily.
It has emerged as a leading casualty of the pandemic, according to Donn Posner, president of Sleepwell Associates and an adjunct clinical associate professor at Stanford University School of Medicine.
And it’s a serious one, said Posner at a Harvard University forum addressing the emotional and psychological effects of the pandemic.
TOO LITTLE SLEEP IS LIKE TOO MUCH ALCOHOL
As little as 24 hours of sleep deprivation can wreak havoc on our bodies impairing our judgement, concentration, and memory, while amplifying grogginess and irritability.
Just a day’s worth of sleep loss is comparable to having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.10%, the equivalent of driving drunk. Under federal guidelines, a 0.08% BAC is considered impaired driving.
If you have difficulty sleeping at least three nights a week for three months or more, you have a sleep issue.
PANDEMIC’S BABY – CORONASOMNIA
It appears the pandemic birthed a baby sleep experts coin coronasomnia. If you haven’t been infected by sleep issues, you may be soon, according to sleep specialists who report many of our “New Normal” habits hinder healthy sleep.
As more Americans turn off alarms, bring work and worries to bed and skip outdoor exercise altogether, insomnia rates are expected to rise.
A TEMPORARY PROBLEM OR A MORE PERMANENT STATE?
Short term insomnia generally resolves itself among the majority (72%) of those suffering from the condition, according to a study by the National Initiative for Tracking and Evaluating Sleeplessness (NITES) at the University of Pennsylvania,
But nearly 7% don’t, according to researchers who found that 6.8% of individuals with sleep issues will develop full-blown chronic insomnia.
Sleep problems may be related to medical issues like sleep apnea or medications, but for the majority of the “short on sleep crowd,” its root cause is pandemic-related worries and associated disruption of normal patterns.
Curbing them requires getting back to the basics, according to sleep experts, who recommend:
SET REGULAR SLEEP PATTERNS
Consistency can help get troubled sleepers back on track. Experts recommend you go to bed and wake up the same time daily, even the weekends. Although it seems counterintuitive, avoiding naps also helps if you are experiencing sleep difficulties.
REV UP IN THE MORNING. CHILL AT NIGHT
Your body responds to environmental cues like natural sunlight and activity levels, according to sleep experts who recommend getting up and exercising early, and gradually winding down activities a few hours before bedtime.
TELL YOUR HEAD IT’S TIME FOR BED
Start dimming lights and turning off devices and/or alerts at least two hours before bed. Most devices emit blue-wavelength light, which impede sleep. If you must use electronic devices in the bedroom, consider wearing amber-tinted blue light-blocking lenses.
Create a comfy “cocoon” for yourself and practice good sleep hygiene. The Sleep Foundation recommends keeping nighttime sleeping temperatures on the “cooler” side (65 degrees Fahrenheit). Block out noise with a fan, a white noise device or by wearing ear plugs to create a more soothing sleep environment. Comfortable bedding and calming scents like lavender have also proven to help support sleep, according to numerous studies.
Worrying about sleep only serves to contribute to sleep problems. Seek professional advice if minor sleep issues escalate.
Sleep is a sanctuary that deserves protection.