Coronasomnia Keeping You Up? Here’s How to Achieve Deep Sleep
Ever hit that 3 p.m. wall in the middle of your work day wishing you’d had more sleep the night before? You aren’t alone. More and more people are experiencing daily tiredness due to poor sleep since COVID-19 began.
With the pandemic in its second year, many people are still experiencing sleepless nights due to the tensity of working from home, returning to the office or the stress over the highly contagious delta variant — so much so that experts have informally dubbed the issue ‘coronasomnia.’
This phenomenon is impacting people across the globe. In the United Kingdom, a study conducted in August 2020 revealed that the number of individuals experiencing insomnia skyrocketed from one in six to one in four. In China, insomnia cases rose from 14.6 percent to 20 percent during lockdown, and a similarly high prevalence of insomnia was observed in Italy.
This issue is leaving many forced to zombie their way through a work day. For those with an attention disorder, it’s even worse since research has linked a lack of sleep with exacerbated ADHD symptoms.
Rest impacts nearly every type of tissue and system in the body; without it you can’t form or maintain the pathways in your brain that allow you to retain information or even create new memories. Insufficient sleep can also make it more difficult to concentrate and respond quickly.
Sleep can be divided into two categories: REM and non-REM. The night will begin in non-REM sleep with a brief period of REM sleep after, in a cycle that continues throughout the night approximately every 90 minutes.
Deep sleep, also known as slow-wave sleep, is one type of non-REM sleep. During this stage of the sleep cycle, your body and brain waves slow down, muscles relax and it may be difficult to awaken you. According to the CDC, the average adult needs seven or more hours of sleep nightly — including roughly one to two hours of slow-wave sleep.
“Deep sleep provides the most restorative sleep so it is necessary that we get enough,” said Dr. Bruce D. Forman, a Florida-based psychologist who specializes in treating insomnia.
To ensure you’re getting enough of that sweet, restorative slow-wave sleep, the most important thing you can do to get more is to allow yourself adequate total sleep time, says Katherine Hall, a sleep psychologist and professional sleep coach at Somnus Therapy, an online sleep therapy program.
The second step should be establishing a sleep schedule.
“Routine is key,” Hall says. “You should keep your ‘bedtime’ and ‘wake’ time as consistent as possible. Yes, even on weekends! Consistency is likely to result in more restful and restorative sleep.”
Alex Savy, certified sleep science coach and founder of SleepingOcean.com agrees.
“It means going to bed and waking up at the same time (approximately) every day,” he says. “This ‘system’ helps reinforce one’s circadian rhythm. In other words, the body’s internal clock will work smoothly, allowing the sleeper to drift off easier and stay asleep longer.”
Tips for Getting a Better Night’s Sleep
There are an additional number of factors that can impact an individual’s ability to sleep well. Below are Hall’s top tips to aid rest:
- Get More Exposure to Natural Light: Increasing your time in the sunlight during the day can be very beneficial for regulating your circadian rhythm.
- Maximize Your Sleep Environment: Making your bedroom a calming, peaceful space that is optimized for sleep.
- Avoid stimulants: Having a coffee or two in the morning is okay. However, it’s probably a good idea to knock it on its head by the early afternoon.
The general rule you should use is to try not to have anything containing caffeine six hours before going to bed.
- Mind When Your Eat: The volume and timing of food are very important when it comes to sleep. Just as you shouldn’t go to bed full, you also shouldn’t go to bed hungry.
It’s best to eat a light healthy meal around 3 hours before going to bed.
- Don’t Exercise Right Before Bed: Working out is a great way to wear your body and mind out in a healthy way and helps prime your body for sleep. However, exercising too close to bedtime can leave you feeling overstimulated and hamper your ability to get to sleep.
Aim to finish your workout around 2 hours before your intended bedtime.
Try neurofeedback to treat sleep issues: For the tech-inclined, there are devices on the market that can aid with sleep too. Studies have shown that neurofeedback technology can effectively reduce sleep problems and help people with insomnia combat symptoms and increase length and quality of their overall sleep.
What are some of the main triggers to avoid when looking to increase deep sleep?
- Technology Use Close to Bed Time: “With more and more people working from home, the line between ‘work’ and ‘home’ has become a lot blurrier. It’s tempting to constantly check that inbox or ‘just respond to one more email’ but doing so can easily amount to an excessive amount of time in front of your phone. In fact, just one hour of screen exposure can delay melatonin release by 3 hours,” Hall says.
Give yourself a technology cut-off time — she recommends at least 60 minutes before bed.
- Room Temperature: A room that is too hot — more than 75.2 degrees Fahrenheit — can cause restlessness and disturb your sleep. While anything too cold — less than around 53.6 degrees Fahrenheit — can make it difficult to get to sleep in the first place and can cause more unpleasant and emotional dreams.
Research also shows that a cooler temperature provides a deeper Non-REM sleep, which means a more restorative sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, most doctors recommend keeping the thermostat set between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit at night.
Is there a link between ADHD and Trouble Sleeping?
Lack of sleep can actually aggravate ADHD symptoms making it even harder to fall asleep the next time, which can create a vicious cycle of insomnia and extreme ADHD symptoms, according to Hall.
Forman noted that there have been a number of recent investigations into the relationship between sleep and ADHD.
“Some researchers suspect that there may be a circadian rhythm dysfunction or a difficulty with melatonin production resulting in delayed sleep onset,” Forman says. “There is general agreement that insufficient sleep exacerbates ADHD symptoms.”
Many medications used to treat ADHD can also cause sleep disturbances and long-term insomnia, according to Hall. The most common culprit is stimulants, which may help ease ADHD symptoms but leave you feeling alert and energized.
Neurofeedback technology — as mentioned above — can not only help improve sleep patterns, but it can also help regulate stress and boost focus, reducing severe ADHD symptoms which also correlates to improved sleep.
Conclusion: If you are battling a bout of sleeplessness or feeling like you’re unable to attain deep sleep, know you aren’t alone, and try practicing some of these tips to achieve a more restful night.