While it’s natural to lose some sleep over temporary stress, the ongoing pandemic has made coronoasomnia a chronic condition for many.
Chronic insomnia is defined as difficulty falling or staying asleep for at least three nights a week that persists for at least three months. Over time, if left unaddressed, it can lead to health problems such as an increased risk of hypertension, obesity, anxiety, depression, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. It can also lead to a suppressed immune system, which can make the body less able to fight off viruses.
One study, in particular, observed what happens when people get less than six hours of sleep after being exposed to the common cold. Those who slept more than six hours were much less likely to develop the cold than those who slept less than six hours. “If you’re not sleeping well and exposed to a virus, there is likely an increased risk of developing it,” says Dr. Barone.
In addition, the pandemic’s frequent lockdowns and gym closures have led to more sedentary lifestyles. This can lead to weight gain, which in turn increases a person’s risk of obstructive sleep apnea, especially if they were overweight pre-COVID-19. “That can disrupt their sleep by having repetitive stoppages of breathing. While it’s not necessarily related to COVID itself, it relates to this pandemic and being quarantined for a long period of time.”
Mental health is also a significant factor to consider. “If somebody has anxiety or depression, the risk of insomnia is going to increase,” explains Dr. Barone. At the same time, insomnia increases the risk of developing anxiety and depression. “What tends to happen, and I see this in my practice all the time, is that they feed off each other.” Add a global pandemic and it’s a perfect recipe for perpetuated sleep issues.