It’s not uncommon to have trouble falling, or staying, asleep. Especially after you've lived through over two years of a crisis like a global pandemic and there's a war going on across the world. The rise in insomnia at the start of COVID-19 was so prevalent, sleep experts started calling it “coronasomnia.”1
“Insomnia was a problem before COVID-19. Now, from what we know anecdotally, the increase is enormous.”
The ongoing stress from the last few years of moving into and out of restrictions, working from home in challenging circumstances, perhaps home-schooling children after an exposure at school, or having to go out to work and feel the risk of contracting the disease, all of these pressures can lead to sleepless nights. And our bad habit of “doomscrolling” the news before trying to sleep, or indeed, having electronic devices in our bedrooms at all, isn’t helping.
The importance of sleep
A growing body of research is showing that we take sleep for granted. Neuroscientist and sleep expert Matthew Walker published a scientific-research book on this topic a few years ago, Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams. Walker explains that a good night’s sleep has much wider benefits than feeling good the next morning.
“Scientists have discovered a revolutionary new treatment that makes you live longer. It enhances your memory, makes you more attractive. It keeps you slim and lowers food cravings. It protects you from cancer and dementia. It wards off colds and flu. It lowers your risk of heart attacks and stroke, not to mention diabetes. You’ll even feel happier, less depressed, and less anxious. Are you interested?” he asks in the opening chapters. Of course, the joke is that this “revolutionary new treatment” is consistently getting a good night’s sleep.
Nice if you can get it
Despite the many benefits, we often cut our sleep short. Sometimes (when we’re young!) it’s to enjoy a night out. It might be because the baby or a sick child is keeping us awake. Or it may be because after a long day of work, we crave some time to ourselves. But Walker says that regularly getting less than seven hours sleep a night is as damaging as regularly smoking or drinking to excess.
We haven’t all read the latest research, but we’re all aware that we should be getting better sleep. The trouble is, that’s not always a possibility. There will be times in life when getting enough sleep simply isn’t an option – such as in the middle of a global pandemic, when our daily lives have been disrupted and we’re under enormous stress. But the takeaway is that we should prioritize sleep whenever it is available. It is as important and has as much impact on our health and wellbeing as eating well and exercising.
So how can we help ourselves to sleep?
Top sleep tips
There are other techniques to try too. Staying active is important, of course, but some people find exercising too close to bedtime wakes them up. Relaxation and meditation are also beneficial for winding down.
The most important thing is to make sleep a priority. Good sleep can give us all a longer, happier and healthier life.
1 COVID-19 is wrecking our sleep with coronasomnia – tips to fight back, UC Davis Health, September 23, 2020, Accessed: March 24, 2021
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