Coronasomnia: what to know about sleep issues during the pandemic

Coronavirus in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — ‘Coronasomnia’ is a word being thrown around a lot lately for people whose sleep has been disrupted by the stresses of the pandemic. While it may not be an actual medical term, there is some truth behind it.

Doctors at the Penn State Health Sleep Research and Treatment Center say they’ve definitely noticed a change among patients they see and in research. Multiple surveys show there has been an increase in sleep issues, including insomnia.

“There has been a very large study across 30 countries that has shown that about 36% of the general population has sleep problems,” said Dr. Julio Fernandez-Mendoza, a clinical psychologist at Penn State Health.

Since coronavirus has flipped the world upside down, reports of tossing and turning at night have skyrocketed.

Some people are having sleep issues return, while others are developing new problems.

Those include difficulty falling asleep, maintaining sleep and waking up too early.

“Our brain keeps time by the type of behaviors and routines that we have,” said Dr. Fernandez-Mendoza.

For many of us, that’s all changed during the pandemic.

“Eating, exercising or even engaging in social activities at different times than we used to,” said Dr. Fernandez-Mendoza.

There’s also anxiety about infections, jobs, finances and the unknown.

People are looking for answers.

Dr. Fernandez-Mendoza says in the U.S., there was a nearly 60% increase in online searches for “insomnia” during the first five months of 2020.

“Those queries on Google peak at around 3am,” said Dr. Fernandez-Mendoza.

Still, restlessness is not always insomnia.

Experts say chronic insomnia is when when you have sleep disturbances at least three times a week, with symptoms like fatigue and irritability, for at least three months.

Whether your problem is temporary or long-term, doctors say it’s vital to maintain the same wakeup time and don’t stay in bed when you’re not sleeping.

“Do not lie in bed awake trying hard to sleep,” said Dr. Fernandez-Mendoza.

Clinical psychologists tell us that can actually make things worse; if you can’t fall asleep within 15 to 30 minutes, get up and out of your bedroom.

“Do something relaxing, boring, something that induces the sleepiness,” said Dr. Fernandez-Mendoza. “The moment you start to feel dozy, go back to bed. If you cannot fall asleep again, repeat that as many times as you need.”

If you do have those symptoms of chronic insomnia, it is recommended you see a doctor.

Dr. Fernandez-Mendoza shared six rules for people who are stressed with the pandemic and all that comes with it:

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