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Sleep in the Pandemic: Why and How to Catch Better Z’s

Almost thirteen months to date into the pandemic, a lot of things still look different: drive-thrus are more popular than ever, we’ve realized that we can do almost anything outside, and we know which masks bring out our eyes. But one unfortunate adjustment that many adults have made is that we’ve disrupted our sleep schedules, and this can have serious consequences. 

A team of researchers at the University of Missouri, led by Dr. David Gozal, reported in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine that 58% of adults from 49 countries are unhappy with their sleep quality, and a different study found that more than 33% of adults from 59 countries reported an increase in sleep disturbances over last year. 

What’s the reason for this? 

Some adults just struggle with sleeping under normal circumstances. But the world we were thrust into – seemingly overnight – isn’t helping much, either. Schedules are all over the place, with work, school, and leisure all thrown together into indistinguishable days at home. Additionally, we know that stress contributes to sleep disturbances, and many adults are struggling with additional stressors, from financial to domestic to concerns over the coronavirus itself. Many people find themselves changing their diet and exercise patterns to cope with increased isolation, and these changes can also cause disruption in our normal sleeping patterns.

Why does sleep matter?

Poor sleep can contribute to poor brain health, heart health, and overall wellbeing. Michael Gradner, Director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona’s College of Medicine, commented that sleep, “impacts so many systems in the body.” Sleep deprivation weakens the immune system and can even make vaccines less effective, per a National Sleep Foundation study. Researchers are currently exploring the link between sleep deprivation, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. 

At AED.US, we are champions of heart health, and we want to highlight that worse sleep can contribute to worse cardiac conditions. Inadequate rest can increase risk of obesity, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes. Additionally, when we don’t rest enough, our bodies produce a hormone called ghrelin, which makes us crave food, specifically carbohydrates. It also activates a part of the brain that regulates our eating and satiety, and can give us cravings for sweet and salty foods. While this might be harmless in moderation, over time this can contribute to worse heart health and increased risk of heart disease.

How much sleep do you need, and how do you get it?

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get seven to nine hours of sleep every night; seniors over the age of 65 should aim for seven to eight hours of quality sleep. And what is quality sleep? The National Sleep Foundation covered that, too: a good night’s sleep is classified by waking up no more than once, falling asleep within 30 minutes of getting in bed, and being asleep for 85% of the time that you spend in bed.

You can achieve this by making it a priority, setting strict wake and rise times like you might for any other important activity in your daily routine. Setting a bedtime routine can help trigger your brain that it’s time to go to bed, and this could include a shower, a bath, journaling, or reading a book. Minimize screen time before bed: investing in an alarm clock allows you to leave your phone in a different room while you catch some Z’s. Melatonin might help, but sleep experts warn you not to become reliant on any medication in order to doze off. Something that seems simple is making sure your environment is sleep-conducive. Pick up some black-out curtains, a sleep mask, and some ear plugs, and set your thermostat to a temperature that’s most comfortable for you (for the average person, this is right around 69 degrees). 

And in the meantime…

If you need some shut-eye during the day, we recommend the coffee nap. Drink a cup of coffee immediately before dozing off for 15-20 minutes. The chemical in your brain that’s responsible for making you tired is called acetylcholine, and when we sleep, we break this chemical down, hence that well-rested feeling. Coffee blocks acetylcholine, but it takes about 20 minutes to get into your brain after you drink it. This is how the coffee nap works: you rest, clear out some of that sleepy chemical, and by the time you wake up, the coffee has kicked in and will work even better than it would have before the nap. Of course, this isn’t a long-term solution, but neuroscientists recommend it in a pinch. 


Written by Blaire

Written by Blaire Czarniecki 
Customer Service Director

Blaire attended the University of Tennessee where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Human Ecology- Child and Family Studies. She has been in the AED industry for 8+ years and is the Director of Customer Service for Coro Medical. Blaire is also an American Red Cross-certified CPR/AED/First Aid Instructor, highly trained by each manufacturer on their specific AEDs, and knowledgeable regarding ALL State AED regulations and legislation.

 

Last updated April 14, 2021