Sleep disorders in times of COVID-19: how they affect us

With the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, a whole series of new situations have also arrived that pose a challenge to overcome. Adapting to this situation in which there is a significant risk of becoming infected and contagious, on the one hand, and the need to adapt to a context of economic crisis and very limited freedoms, on the other, is a source of stress, anxiety and others. psychological phenomena with the ability to wear down our mental health if we don’t manage to manage them well.

One of the areas of our lives where this is most noticeable is the way we sleep, and the quality of sleep we can enjoy. This rest process is sensitive to emotional disturbances, and that is why In times of COVID-19, it is normal for insomnia and other related problems.

The link between sleep disorders and the COVID-19 crisis

When we sleep, the physiological functions of our body associated with the system of attention to the environment and flight from dangers, on the one hand, and the psychological processes associated with the state of consciousness, on the other, take a backseat to give priority to a series of repair and reconfiguration processes of the nerve cells of our nervous system, among other parts of our body. That is the functions that have to do with immediacy are put aside in favor of the maintenance tasks of our body and mind, whose benefits are noted on a broader time scale.

However, when we are going through a time of stress and anxiety, our body learns to be much more sensitive to the stimuli sent by the environment, and to the memories of what worries us: in cases like this, the main thing is assumed it is to face an imminent risk or danger, before which every minute counts in order to prepare well and react on time. For this reason, there are difficulties in falling asleep and in maintaining it with the level of depth that we need to rest well: these stress mechanisms remain latent even when we have apparently “disconnected” from our environment when sleeping.

This means that in some crisis situations in which there is a problematic element in our lives that remains for many days or even weeks and months, it is easy for anxiety to not only stop being useful, but it can become an added problem. In the case of the COVID-19 crisis, these kinds of ingredients are present.

Tips for better sleep

Follow these guidelines so that the context of the coronavirus pandemic does not impair your ability to sleep well.

1. Avoid accumulating stressful tasks in the last hours of the day

Make sure that the hours before going to bed do not involve experiences that generate stress or that require a lot of physical effort or attention and concentration. In this way, your biological clock will adapt to make the brain especially active in the first two thirds of your day., and not after.

2. Even in confinement, don’t let your life de-structure

The fact of following a schedule and maintaining a series of habits that shape the usual activities you do during the week is important so that sleep problems do not appear. In this way you will avoid temptations that will keep you up at hours when you should be resting, and at the same time you will maintain a regularity regarding the time of day in which you fall asleep, so that there is no lag between when you sleep and when you should be sleeping according to your responsibilities and obligations.

3. Maintain a rich social life

The fact that in certain circumstances we must prevent contagion by not getting physically close to others does not mean that we need to be able to count on contact and dealing with others; we are social beings. Luckily, on the Internet it is relatively easy to socialize even with real-time conversations without needing to be where the other person is.

These relaxed moments talking with others work well as a way to “disconnect” from the typically intrusive and stressful ideas, which prevents the psychological rumination that many times it appears when we are in bed when we try to fall asleep.

4. Exercise

Moderate exercise is also a valuable resource to keep stress at bay, because it leads us to “reset” our attention and turn it towards the stimuli and sensations of the here and now, in addition to providing immediate incentives (running for half an hour, reaching certain amount of push-ups, etc.).

5. Eat well

If you don’t eat well, it’s easy for digestion problems to cause you trouble sleeping. This implies both not feeding yourself mainly indigestible products or with inflammatory potential, and ingesting all the nutrients you need so that your body does not go into a state of anxiety due to the lack of energy and available resources. The pandemic is no excuse to save time and dedication to buy what you really need, or to relieve stress by bingeing on ultra-processed foods.

6. At home, distribute tasks

In situations like this it is easy for homework assignment problems to escalate. If you feel overloaded or overloaded, reformulate the distribution of responsibilities, also including the little ones in what they can contribute so that the family works well.

Are you looking for psychotherapeutic support?

If you are interested in having professional psychological support through therapy or counseling sessions, please contact us. In PSiCOBAi We work helping people of all ages both in person and online by video call.

Bibliographic references:

  • Del Río, IY (2006). Stress and sleep. Mexican Journal of Neuroscience.
  • Dement, W. (2000). The promise of Sleep: A pioneer in sleep medicine explores the vital connection between health, happiness, and a good night’s sleep. New York: Random House.
  • Dew, MA et al. (2003). Healthy older adults’ sleep predicts all-cause mortality at 4 to 19 years of follow-up. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65: pp. 63 – 73.
  • Subirana, SR, & Adell, M. À. M. (2014). Treatment of nocturnal restlessness and insomnia in the elderly. FMC-Continuing Medical Education in Primary Care, 21 (2): pp. 104 – 112.


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