Coronasomnia & quarandreams: will our sleep improve in lockdown 2.0?
Amongst all the pandemic uncertainty in the world at the moment, it’s no wonder your sleep patterns feel like a revolving door. One day you’re feeling great, a vaccine is imminent, you’re able to see the possibility of the outside world returning to normal, and you’re back to having sweet dreams.
Then the next day hits.
Second waves, business closures, families told to stay indoors, and what is meant to be the jolliest time of the year, instead sends you back to addressing all your stressful fears as your head hits the pillow.
This week, Tier 2 lockdown regulations were introduced with more relaxed conditions. But will the easing of lockdown rules help to ease your sleep?
How has lockdown affected our sleep?
According to a survey by King’s College London, 50% of the population hasn’t been sleeping well since the lockdown came into effect. Findings showed that while sleep improved during reduced lockdown restrictions over the summer, there was a sharp dip in sleep quality following the announcement of the Rule of 6, with more people reporting symptoms of insomnia (dubbed coronasomnia), frequent waking during the night, and some experiencing panic attacks before bed.
What is coronasomnia?
Coronasomnia is a loss of sleep that is caused by stress related to the 2020 coronavirus outbreak. It affects everyone, from adults to teenagers and young children. If you had insomnia before the pandemic hit, your sleep problems might have become worse. Shockingly, in a recent survey by the World Sleep Society, people have reported losing a staggering 2.7 hours of sleep at night since the start of lockdown.
Coronasomnia could be caused by various things, such as:
- The fear of contracting the virus or the health and safety of loved ones.
- Financial strain as a result of the lockdown. According to the World Sleep Society, 40% of people reported losing sleep because of financial stress.
- Information overload about the Coronavirus from various news sources and media platforms.
- Excessive blue light exposure from looking at digital screens.
- Disrupted work from home schedules leading inconsistent bedtimes and wake up times and increased napping.
- Lack of exercise, which negatively impacts the circadian rhythm. With gyms closing and sports put on hold, a lot of people haven’t been as active as they used to be.
- Excessive alcohol consumption. Many have turned to alcohol to relieve stress during the pandemic, but drinking alcohol disrupts sleep by interfering with melatonin production.
- Depression and insomnia go hand-in-hand. With depression rates increasing, so have the rates of insomnia.
What are quarandreams?
During Rapid Eye Movement sleep (REM) we would typically be using this sleep stage to process and handle intense emotions, but because of our heightened sensitivity around this pandemic, we’re producing a lot more stress and anxious thoughts that are somewhat getting “stuck” in the dream space leading us to have more vivid dreams. These vivid and weird dreams have been dubbed “quarandreams.”
As our dream “content” is said to be connected to our wellbeing in our waking hours, without the sense of wellbeing that we’re currently feeling, our dreams are becoming laden with psychological stressors. Memories that we would be capturing of “happier” times are now replaced with fears that are splashing into our subconscious.
Common pandemic dreams:
- Bugs and insects. As our dreaming mind is incredibly visual, it will often search for an image to match an emotion. Bugs, insects and wasps are said to feature a lot from the slang word associated with an illness, “catching a bug.”
- Invisible monsters. This is our minds reinterpreting the imagery of the coronavirus. Because we cannot see this virus, it may be interpreted in your dreams as an invisible monster or creature.
- Visits from deceased loved ones. As we’re plagued by images of ambulances and stories of no last-goodbyes, this emotional trauma (even if it’s not our own) is concocting scenarios into our dreams of people living or dead, inviting us to be with them.
“The virus is invisible, and I think that’s why it’s transformed into so many different things.” Deirdre Barrett, Harvard University.
How to sleep better in Lockdown 2.0
What can you do to manage your coronasomnia and quarandreams to sleep better in lockdown?
Keep a regular sleep schedule
Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. You don’t always have to hit your target exactly, but aim for a particular time. This will help regulate your sleep-wake cycle and keep your body clock in sync, making it easier for you to fall asleep at a good time every night and get enough sleep.
Take time to wind down before bed
Do things that help you relax before bed. You can do things like take a warm bath, have a cup of tea, or read a few pages of a book. Steer clear of potential stressors, like the news or social media.
Avoid blue light from digital screens 30 minutes to an hour before you go to bed. Perhaps you can consider doing a digital detox.
Say no to napping
Perhaps all you need to do is eliminate your afternoon nap to improve your sleep at night. If you are going to take a nap, limit it to 20 minutes and don’t take a nap after 3pm.
Try to get in some exercise each day. It might be hard in the beginning, but as soon as you get into the habit of doing it, it will be much easier.
Limit how much news you consume
If you’ve had the news on as background music for months, stop. If you’ve been checking news sites a few times a day, stop. It will reduce stress caused by the pandemic.
Do what you can to manage stress and anxiety
There are many things you can do to relieve stress like journaling, exercising more, talking to people you love, spending time on a hobby, doing yoga, meditating and dancing to fun music.
Limit your alcohol intake
You don’t have to give up your alcohol entirely, but at least stop drinking three hours before you go to bed.
The pandemic is not over yet, and you need to do what you can to support your mental health and to get the best possible sleep. While there are many things out of our control, try to focus on things you can do, like what you do before bed, how much you exercise and how much news you consume. With the second tier having arrived and lockdown restrictions being more relaxed, we hope your sleep quality will improve too.