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Covid And Sleep

COVID-19 and Sleep

For most people, the COVID-19 pandemic presented a new reality: spending most of the days inside their homes. Therefore, changes in lifestyle habits have become inevitable.

There is also the Herculean effort by the academic and scientific community, not only trying to find treatments and vaccines for the disease, but also in the search for answers and understanding the collateral damage to the quality of life of people who are in social distancing.

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For most people, the COVID-19 pandemic presented a new reality: spending most of the days inside their homes. Therefore, changes in lifestyle habits have become inevitable.

There is also the Herculean effort by the academic and scientific community, not only trying to find treatments and vaccines for the disease, but also in the search for answers and understanding the collateral damage to the quality of life of people who are in social distancing. It is worth stating that one of the properties of having good-quality, lasting sleep is better immune response in individuals, as well as energy recovery. That is, sleeping well also plays a role in fighting various pathologies, and can be essential for a better recovery from a possible viral infection, such as COVID-19.

But the question is: how does social distancing affect sleep?

The first answer is quite evident: going through this kind of situation generates apprehension, which can lead to chronic anxiety. Anxious people have a harder time sleeping, with poorer and less restful sleep.

The second aspect is related to how our body adjusts sleep episodes as a result of the individual’s interactions with day-to-day events and the environment. And this is where the authors of the work focus their considerations.

Initially, we need to acknowledge that sleep episodes are not completely separated from the time we are awake, there is an interaction between these two states. Exposure to natural daylight, eating habits, exercise and social interactions generate information for the body that regulates sleep episodes throughout the night.

And therein lies the problem. The pandemic generated a drastic change in people’s daily routine, negatively altering their quality of life. Many individuals still live cloistered in their homes, as the virus is still spreading.

Because of that, people are no longer exposed to natural lighting as they should, but are under artificial light inside their homes. Remote work means that most people are exposed to artificial light for several hours a day. As a consequence of this decrease in exposure to natural light and a higher incidence of artificial light stimuli, there is a dysregulation of sleep episodes.

 The decrease in physical activity also has negative consequences for individuals’ sleep. Physically active people in general have better quality sleep when compared to sedentary people.

In addition, social interactions, caused by people’s routine throughout the day, whether through work, meetings, studies, among other things, also play an essential role in the circadian timing system that regulates sleep episodes. As a result of the social distancing caused by COVID-19, all these events have been suffering alterations, be their consequences lighter or more severe.

The authors of the article cited a study done with astronauts, who were kept in isolation. Most astronauts developed sleep-related problems, and as a consequence, decreased performance in executing tasks. The causes of these problems are related to the loss of the daily routine. The astronauts were not under any routine condition, be it tasks, activities or exposure to ambient light.

So far, everything looks pretty bad. However, the authors also propose measures that can at least lessen the consequences of living in isolation. In the current scenario, if you are having sleep problems, it might be interesting to establish a daily routine. The main goal is to try to maintain the physiological and behavioral characteristics of the organism in agreement with the internal rhythm oscillator.

 

In a nutshell, the authors suggest some interventions to promote restful sleep during confinement: try to wake up at a regular time, sleep when you are sleepy, be aware of the effects of artificial lights and electronic devices, have an adequate duration of sleep, and try to reduce stressful situations, as they negatively affect sleep.

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