Who else is tired of being tired AF for the past year and a half? Even before the pandemic hit, insomnia was a problem for many people. But add the world going to hell in a handbasket, and it cultivates the perfect storm for sleepless nights. I’m not talking about a few restless nights here and there. This is more of an ongoing, exhausting struggle. Spiraling out of control at 2:00 a.m. over what-ifs that became a part of our routine. Night after night, being unable to fall asleep or, waking up in the middle of the night became the new normal. Except, there is nothing normal about it. Our body needs sleep just as much as we need the air to breathe.
I remember, in early March of 2020, suddenly every store whose email list I subscribed to started sending out messages about physical locations closing. Everything was only available for pick-up only. While I’m sure it was meant to reassure us that everything was business as usual, it absolutely did not. I spent the next week or so consuming everything I could about Covid and hopelessly doom scrolling for hours at a time.
At the beginning of the pandemic, everyone (ahem, Republicans) assured us Covid would blow over in a few months. I mean, who could forget this gem: “I really believe they are going to have it under control fairly soon. You know in April, supposedly, it dies with the hotter weather.”
But we knew better. And so began the downward spiral of the quantity and quality of all our sleep. People who used to say they were such an insomniac because they missed one night of restful sleep have been rudely awakened to the reality of what chronic insomnia feels like. So, why are we becoming a nation of insomniacs? More importantly, how do we fix it?
How Does The Pandemic Encourage Insomnia?
It’s a vicious cycle, really. During the day, you’re at work worrying and feeling anxious about breathing in someone else’s Covid droplets. Or maybe you’re at home, but your littles are at school. You’re terrified that the kids, or adults, they interact with might be asymptomatic when they aren’t old enough to be protected by the vaccine.
These worries and anxieties are legitimate. If these things don’t keep you up at night, well, three cheers. For the rest of us, these worries are invasive and terrifying. Enough so that they likely are keeping us from getting good shut-eye. In fact, a UK study from the University of Southampton found the number of people experiencing insomnia rose from one in six to one in four since we’ve been living in the pandemic. That’s quite a jump, and one thing is for sure — we can’t continue to go on this way.
We weren’t sleeping because of overwhelming worry, but also there were just not hours in the day. And before you say we all have the same 24 hours in a day — just don’t. Our kids were at home, online, so those extra minutes we had to ourselves went to the kids. Work hours started earlier or ran later to accommodate their schedule. Millions lost their jobs, so their gig-job was worked whenever they weren’t caring for their kids. No wonder we kept getting by on less and less sleep.
On top of this behavior possibly bringing about insomnia, there’s a concern about our poor sleep increasing our risk of secondary mental health problems like depression. The cherry on top? We risk developing insomnia because we worry about Covid, but having poor sleep can wear on our immune system, making us more susceptible to contracting Covid. According to Vox.com, “Being chronically tired could be putting our health at risk — especially as Covid-19 continues to spread.”
For fuck sake, talk about a vicious cycle. But do not fret, all is not lost. Let’s talk about how we can we can get better sleep and avoid developing insomnia.
What Can We Do To Feel More Rested?
It’s not that naps and bubble baths aren’t fabulous because they are, but things like this aren’t going to fix our insomnia. Still, engaging in self-care is absolutely an important piece. Whether it means actually taking your sick time for a mental health day (because mental health is health), or something as small as picking up over-the-counter sleep aids to support your body’s natural sleep cycle. Fun fact, did you know that melatonin consumption jumped by over 40% in 2020? If that’s not a loud and clear message, I don’t know what is. But sometimes that just isn’t enough.
If you find yourself regularly having a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep, reach out to your primary doctor. In addition to over-the-counter sleep aids, your doctor might recommend prescription medication. And more often than not, they’ll also recommend therapy. In therapy you’ll be able to talk about what is on your mind, about what worries are really keeping you up at night.
Unfortunately not everyone will have access to resources like therapy. In reality, not even every person who needs a provider has one. And those who are suffering may have a hard time getting an appointment. Time and time again, this pandemic has highlighted systematic problems with inequality for all people with regards to economics and healthcare as well as much more.
Many employers also took note, adding more flexibility to their employees’ schedules. Cause y’all, we are all adults and definitely don’t need to be micromanaged. I mean, if we can get the work done, in less time, allowing us to catch a power nap, is there really any harm in that? Poor mental and physical health as well as problems like insomnia are symptoms of a greater underlying issue in our society. It’s time to build the new normal from the bottom up. But please, let’s not bring the whole not sleeping thing forward with us.
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