TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Even before COVID-19, medical experts were concerned about increasing rates of insomnia and its impact on physical and emotional health. Now, they’re saying the pandemic is making things worse.
Behavioral Sleep Expert Patricia Haynes says people’s sleeping patterns have changed substantially during the pandemic, increasing sleep deprivation across the board.
“It’s a stressful time right now,” she told KGUN9.
Haynes says sleep or the lack-thereof is a good gauge for stress and how stress is impacting the body.
“We’re seeing more sleep disturbances. So more difficulties staying asleep at night. We’re also seeing a major shift in sleep patterns in that people are staying up later and sleeping later. And we think all of that has to do with changes in routine and telecommuting,” she added.
This goes for both kids and adults.
“So sleep quality is one of the first places we look for in terms of mental health and sleep---is trying to improve that so then we can improve sleep,” said Haynes.
She says on average adults sleep about seven hours.
“But like 10 years ago that was eight hours of sleep per night. Kids need more sleep and they need more sleep depending on what age they are,” she told KGUN9.
So here are a few things folks can do to try to improve their quality of sleep.
“Set a consistent morning wake time and try to maintain that even on the weekends. Not eating close to bedtime. Dark, cool room. Quiet. All of those things help. Avoiding caffeine. Avoiding nicotine,” she said.
Haynes says you should also stay away from using your phone 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime because that stimulates your brain instead of slowing it down.
Which is why she also recommends not reading or watching television in bed.
“Long term effects of not sleeping well include cardiovascular issues, obesity, there’s mortality risk. We know sleep loss or sleep deprivation can also lead to problems with immune system functioning,” added Haynes.
She says you shouldn’t have an extra drink at night or overcompensate with melatonin to facilitate sleep because after a while, that won’t work either.
“We really need to work on finding ways to slow down our bodies and slow down our lives so that we can...um...so that we can sleep,” she told KGUN9.