Everyone aims to have a happier new year, but drudging through another year of a global pandemic is daunting, especially if you’re having trouble sleeping at night.
According to a survey commissioned by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, more than half of Americans (56%) say they have experienced “COVID-somnia,” an increase in sleep disturbances, since the beginning of the pandemic.
Of the reported sleep disturbances, the most common was trouble falling or staying asleep (57%). Additional disturbances included sleeping less (46%), experiencing worse quality sleep (45%), and having more disturbing dreams (36%).
“COVID-somnia can be brought on by multiple stressors: fears about the pandemic, concern for loved ones, financial worries, and limited socialization,” said Jennifer Martin, a licensed clinical psychologist who is president-elect of the AASM board of directors. “The best way to get healthy sleep during these unprecedented times is to be intentional about your sleep habits and routines.”
So, what’s the difference between having occasional trouble falling asleep and experiencing insomnia? For one thing, insomnia involves both a sleep disturbance (problems falling/staying asleep) and daytime symptoms such as fatigue or irritability.
Men (59%) were more likely than women (54%) to report COVID-somnia sleep disturbances. Those 35-44 had the highest rate of COVID-somnia at 70%. Those 55 and older were most likely to report trouble falling or staying asleep.
It makes sense that so many people are having sleep problems since insomnia is often caused by stress or lifestyle factors, which have likely changed greatly during the pandemic. Maybe you find yourself spending more time on your phone or watching TV, or you’re not waking up at the same time each day.
Try out these tips to get your sleep on track for 2022:
Maintain a consistent sleep schedule – Most adults should try to get at least seven hours of sleep a night, regardless of pandemic-related changes to your typical work routine. It’s also important to go to bed and get up about the same time every day, including weekends.
Turn off electronics – Reducing your screen time helps your body prepare for sleep while avoiding the news and social media before bed can reduce stress. Turn off your electronics at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
Follow a relaxing evening routine – Start unwinding at least 30 minutes before bedtime with quiet activities like reading or meditating, or relax by taking a warm bath or shower.
Create a peaceful sleeping environment – A cool, quiet, and darkroom is best for sleeping. Keep TVs off and store smartphones and other devices outside your room. At the very least, set your phone to silent mode!
If these tips don’t help, you should talk to your health care provider about your sleep struggles. Most sleep problems respond well to treatment. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia is a highly effective, non-drug treatment for insomnia. For additional help with an ongoing sleep problem, you can contact an AASM-accredited sleep center near you.