Why COVID 19 might be affecting our sleep pattern.
The world has been turned upside down from the coronavirus pandemic, and people everywhere are experiencing disruptions to sleep. For some people, this can include more trouble sleeping, less deep/comfortable sleep and some of us are having unsettling dreams out of our normal sleeping patterns. People have begun calling these “pandemic dreams.”
As the concept of dreaming is so complex, scientific research behind the reasons why we have the dreams we do is still inconclusive. However, experts believe that our dreams are a way that our brain log memories and information gathered from that day. Research also suggests that negative experiences in our lives lead us to have more negative dreams or, we are more likely to interpret our dreams negatively.
With so many of us listening or watching the news to get updates on the spread of the virus before we go to bed we are inadvertently setting ourselves up for a” pandemic dream”. According to research, exposure to unsettling news will affect our sleep and our dreams. This is because of our amygdala (the part of your brain which controls and regulates fight-or-flight responses), is active in sleep.
When our brain perceives that our life is under threat or a perceived what-if threat, our fight-or-flight response gets triggered resulting in the production of stress hormones like noradrenaline, which keep us hyper-aroused and hypervigilant even when we are asleep. When stress disrupts our sleep patterns we spend more time in a lighter REM sleep, where dreams happen as opposed to time in a deep sleep.
The Coronavirus is a threat to all of us and provokes some level of fear in everyone. Whether it’s fear of contracting the illness, losing friends and loved ones, the economic impacts for you, your job circumstances or future uncertainty. With this in mind, if you are watching the news before sleeping try to do something positive to clear your mind before sleep, such as breathing exercises or mindfulness, or even thinking of 3 things that have sparked joy that day.
Another factor to consider is the change to our usual routine, as this will also affect our sleep pattern. Whether this is because our bedtime routine has changed, we’re not getting enough physical exercise, we’re sleeping more lightly or we’re struggling to stay asleep, This will mean we’re spending more time in our REM sleep cycle, where dreams occur. In turn, this causes sleep disturbances and often leads to tiredness and grogginess the following morning.
Please remember you are not alone, and there are several ways we can help to improve our sleep pattern to ensure a better night’s rest.
Having a set sleep and wake time routine will help.
Limit your news intake, instead, stay informed earlier in the day. (mornings and perhaps late afternoon but not just before bedtime).
If you can, eat at set times making sure you are eating as healthily as possible and avoid drinking caffeine before bedtime,
Meditation practices help to shift our fear responses and promotes relaxation and sleep, practice them if you wake up in the night as well. There are some really good ones to follow on the internet or download an app.
Practice mindfulness, notice when your fear is heightened and use focused breathing techniques to quieten your mind and help to alleviate the potency of your fear. Try not to judge your thoughts and feeling, instead use a soothing gentle voice on yourself, this will help to promote the serotonin levels in our system. I imagine that I am speaking to a loved one or good friend, this helps me turn down my critical inner voice.
Connecting with others can be helpful. zoom, skype, Whatsapp, Facetime are all really good platforms to stay connected to friends family and the community.
Eventually, this global pandemic will pass until then, it’s important we all do our best to stay safe, connected, healthy and rested.
Be well and reach out if you are struggling Pip x