Can’t Sleep? You Might Have ‘Coronasomnia’
By Sharon Boehlefeld, Features Editor
April 23, 2021


Do you find it difficult to “sleep like a baby”?

Have you noticed more ads for relaxation and bedtime story apps?

The developers may be trying to take advantage of the rise in insomnia since the COVID-19 pandemic started. It even has its own name: coronasomnia.

“We’re a society that has a lot of trouble with sleep in general. Now we’re in a situation where with the amount of anxiety and stress, there’s no doubt that it interferes with sleep,” explains AMA member Ilene Rosen, MD, MSCE, on the American Medical Association website.

Dr. Rosen is a sleep medicine physician and associate professor of clinical medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

“‘Coronasomnia’ is the term used for sleep problems related to the pandemic. It is the impact of the uncertainty and the barrage of information that we are getting,” she says.

While apps may help some, there are other ways to cope with sleeplessness say a number of health experts.

1. Get out and get active

Something as simple as a walk around the block or in a nearby park will help you sleep better at night. Thirty minutes of exercise during the day is a target to aim for, but be sure to do this activity well before you start your new 30-minute bedtime routine. (See 2.)

Getting out also gives you time in the sun, and helps produce the brain chemical serotonin, which boosts your mood and promotes the calm feelings that dispel the stresses that can lead to sleeplessness.

2. Create a bedtime routine

As adults, people may stray from the bedtime routines that may have been a childhood staple. Experts from the University of California-Davis suggest slowing down at the end of the day. Turn the lights down about 30 minutes before your ideal bedtime.

Then spend some time away from screens. Reading an actual book — not an ebook — can help reduce the mixed messages that head to your brain when you look at a computer-type screen. This also might be a good time to try an audiobook from the library. Choose something light that relaxes your brain, rather than something scary or serious.

This may be a good time to meditate on a Bible verse or to pray the rosary. If you’d like to listen to the rosary, there are Catholic apps that include audio versions. You could also use your smartphone to
pray — in English or Spanish — with Bishop David Malloy at https://observer.rockforddiocese.org/decade-a-day.

3. ...Drink warm milk

There’s actually some science behind the old advice. The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences website says, “The ‘milk myth’ may have persisted because milk has small amounts of tryptophan, the raw material the brain uses to build both serotonin and melatonin.” While there isn’t enough tryptophan in milk to actually make you sleepy, it may help you relax enough to nod off.

4. ...Get up for a while

It may seem illogical, but if you find you can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes or so, get up. If you wake in the middle of the night and can’t fall asleep again, get up. Don’t fight the sleeplessness.

If worries about work or bills or family are keeping you awake, spend a few minutes making notes about what’s troubling you. It may help you get the worry out of your system and help relax you enough to get back to sleep.

If that doesn’t help, maybe keeping a “gratitude journal” is a good way to pass the hours in the middle of the night. Alternatively, you could try some other simple activity, such as assembling a puzzle, listening to music or doing some gentle stretching. Even slow, deep breathing can help you relax.

You might try a few steps from your bedtime routine to reinforce your developing habit.

5. Talk to someone

You may not want to disturb anyone else in the middle of the night, but God is always listening.

If you find your sleeplessness is more than an occasional problem, you might also consider talking to your doctor or other health care provider.

“Certainly sleep troubles are a common fellow traveler with depression, stress and anxiety, as well as grief and loss, and relationship troubles or break-ups, the typical issues that lead people to seek counseling,” says Richard Parsons, a counselor with Catholic Charities in the Rockford Diocese.

“And so, of course, our counselors work to help people develop strategies — much like those suggested … — to improve sleep hygiene, while they work at coping with or resolving the primary focus of counseling,” he adds.

But, he continues, “So many of the factors that can lead to sleep disturbance or disorders are medical, and if insomnia is the sole complaint people are having, they will typically start with their primary care physician who might evaluate for a sleep disorder, and in turn refer for a sleep study or other testing that could inform diagnosis and effective treatment.”

Hospitals throughout the diocese have sleep disorder clinics, Parsons says, to which people suffering from “coronasomnia” might turn for help.

Resources

–...Catholic Charities, 815-399-4300

–...American Medical Association, https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/public-health/6-things-doctors-wish-patients-knew-about-coronasomnia

–...UCDavis Health, https://health.ucdavis.edu/health-news/newsroom/covid-19-is-wrecking-our-sleep-with-coronasomnia--tips-to-fight-back-/2020/09

...University of Arkansas for Medical Science, https://uamshealth.com/medical-myths/will-drinking-warm-milk-make-you-sleepy/

 

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