Brennans Pharmacies continue their new column series here on Donegal Daily with professional pharmacist advice on health and wellness. This week, Pharmacist Fergus Brennan takes a look at the ‘coronasomnia’ phenomenon and how to stop it keeping you up at night.
With the vaccine rollout gaining momentum and the number of hospitalisations from Covid infections hopefully on the decline it’s finally starting to feel like there is some light at the end of the tunnel. However, it seems that more of us are still struggling to sleep at night. Why is this?
A year of constant worrying about the unknown. Worrying about our own health, the health of our loved ones, financial instability, perhaps relationship or family difficulties arising from everyone living in such close confinement for a long period of time. This long term, or chronic stress causes the body to remain in constant ‘fight or flight’ mode, which raises the levels of stress hormones such as cortisol or adrenaline. These stress hormones upset the body’s natural sleep hormone balance and so makes it more difficult to sleep.
Lack of routine, more ‘screen time’ than ever before, working from home causing the feeling of ‘cabin fever, perhaps increased alcohol intake or binge eating due to lack of routine; the pandemic has radically altered the way we live our lives and for many of us our bodies have struggled to adjust to this life altering change.
So what is Coronasomnia?
Many of us are familiar with the term insomnia, meaning difficulty falling or staying asleep. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, there have been more reports of people suffering with insomnia than ever before. The resulting sleep crisis has been named Coronasomnia.
Top tips to help avoid Coronasomnia
Your sleep system thrives on regularity and routine trains your body to become sleepy at the same time each night. Going to bed and getting up at the same times each day will help to build a solid sleep routine.
2. Limit blue light exposure
Melatonin is a hormone our body makes to promote sleepiness. It’s production is suppressed by sunlight and stimulated by darkness. Therefore seeing at least 30 minutes of natural sunlight each day (preferably in the morning) can help maintain normal melatonin levels. However, if we use devices with screens that emit blue light at night (such as phones, tablets, tv) then our bodies do not know it is time to produce melatonin and so in turn we will not feel as sleepy when it comes to bedtime.
3. Avoid excessive napping
If you are finding it difficult to sleep at night and are napping throughout the day to compensate for that sleep loss, this often aggravates your sleep problem (especially if you are over 60). This is because napping messes with your normal sleep hormone balance, as mentioned in the previous point. Avoid napping if you can but if you must, then limit naps to 20 minutes.
Exercise is a well known stress reducer. Regular exercise can improve the quality of your sleep. Although do be careful, exercising too close to bedtime can cause your body to be too awake – best try to exercise throughout the day, before dinnertime.
5. Restrict your news intake (especially in the evenings)
It’s nearly impossible to escape the constant stream of stressful news and information that comes at us from every angle at the moment!. However constantly watching or listening to pandemic news is likely to cause more anxiety and so affect your sleep. Try to limit how many times you check the news each day and try not to check it before bed.
6. Avoid excessive alcohol
Many people think alcohol helps them sleep better. Alcohol may make it easier for some people to relax enough to initially fall off to sleep. However alcohol intake in the evenings actually disrupts deep sleep patterns. Without this high quality sleep our bodies simply can not feel well rested.
7. Limit caffeine
Especially if taken after 2pm, caffeine intake can make it harder to fall asleep as it is a strong stimulant. Everyone knows about your usual drinks that contain caffeine; tea, coffee and energy drinks but did you know that chocolate is also quite high in caffeine? Something to note if you indulge in chocolate or sweets after dinner time!
8. Relax before bedtime
Take time to unwind before bedtime. Did you know your body naturally cools down before you go to sleep? A hot bath (an addition to it’s relaxing properties) causes a rebound drop in body temperature when you get out which can help trigger restful sleep.
9. Don’t lie in bed awake
It’s important that your body and mind do not associate being in bed with full alertness and frustration. If you are unable to sleep after 30 minutes it’s best to leave your bedroom and engage in a relaxing activity e.g. reading a book. Only return to bed when you are sleepy.
Magnesium is a mineral involved in many processes in the body, it is particularly important for heart health and brain function. Magnesium is also good for inducing sleep as it helps to relax muscles in the body and so, magnesium supplements could be worth considering if you are suffering from coronasomnia.
What can your pharmacist do for you if you are suffering from coronasomnia?
Talk to your local pharmacist today if you are concerned you are not getting enough sleep. There are some over the counter sleep aids being marketed at the moment, such as Nytol. However, a product like Nytol can be addictive and will help to not solve the root of the problem that is causing your insomnia.
The team at Brennans Pharmacy believe it is always better to follow a more natural approach when trying to find a solution to your sleep problem. Trusted advice, and perhaps a more holistic herbal product such as ‘Kalms Night’ could be all that you need to ensure you get a proper night’s sleep.
For help with sleep problems or any other health issues, talk to your local Brennans pharmacist, we’re here for you.
Get in touch
All Brennan’s pharmacists, technicians, front of shop supervisors and pharmacy assistants are always happy to look after you and your family’s healthcare needs.. whether you call instore or visit Brennans online
Brennans also have a handy pharmacy app for easy prescription ordering which can be found by searching for ‘Brennans Pharmacy’ on the App store or Google Play.
Brennans offer online pharmacy shopping for delivery or ‘click and collect’ from their website brennanspharmacy.com. Delivery is free nationwide when you spend over €40 online, or alternatively you can choose convenient free collection of your order at one of the 4 pharmacies (Donegal – Buncrana, Clonmany or Creeslough or Dublin – Glenageary).
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