Having trouble sleeping this year? You are not alone, say Arizona researchers
Paulina Ochoa never had trouble sleeping until Covid-19 pandemic started in March and life has inflicted a series of serious setbacks on it. She lost both of her jobs, her car was stolen, and her aunt died – and that’s when the nightmares began. The dreams got so bad that they sometimes left her paralyzed in bed.
Ochoa is not alone. A sleep study conducted by researchers at the University of Arizona monitored the role of insomnia during the pandemic, and more than 50% of 1,000 participants reported experiencing insomnia or sleep disturbances.
Ochoa, student in sustainable development at Arizona State University, tried to burn herself out by staying awake until 7 a.m. only to eventually have to fall asleep.
Insomnia finally made her imagine hearing voices or seeing disturbing shadows.
“I was so scared, you know?” I’ve had two occasions where the ‘vocals’ thing started to happen, ”Ochoa said. “I didn’t even want to close my eyes.”
Michael Grandner, who heads the Arizona Department of Psychiatry’s Sleep and Health Research Program, said he has seen a large number of people with sleep problems this year.
“With everything that is going on during the day, they really have a hard time disconnecting,” he said.
Grandner, who also sees patients at Banner Health’s Behavioral Sleep Medicine Clinic, said insomnia and sleep disturbances occur on a spectrum.
“So there is insomnia, I would say with a lowercase ‘i’, which is just kind of an experience of being unable to sleep sometimes,” he said, adding that many people suffer. insomnia at some point in their life.
“Then there is the limit with what we call insomnia disorder, which is actually a diagnosable medical condition that usually doesn’t go away on its own once you meet the criteria for it. “
Grandner said that if it takes more than 30 minutes to fall asleep for at least three nights a week, and if the regimen lasts for months, you could be suffering from insomnia.
Lauri Leadley, president of Valley Sleep Center, a company with multiple branches in the Phoenix metro area, said stress is a common cause of insomnia.
“Insomnia is literally the inability to escape your thoughts. And during times of stress, our bodies create cortisol… our “wakeful” hormone, ”Leadley said.
Unable to escape his stressful and frightening thoughts, Ochoa tried to force himself to burn himself out. But even when she finally fell asleep, she said, nightmares would wake her.
Nightmares can do double the damage, said Denise Rodriguez, clinical psychologist specializing in behavioral sleep medicine to treat insomnia at Banner Health.
“Usually, for a lot of people who struggle with nightmarish disorders, it’s not just that they are having a nightmare, but that the nightmare is preventing them from going back to sleep,” Rodriguez said.
After losing two jobs and switching to e-learning at ASU, Ochoa’s daily routine became less active. Rodriguez said it could cause the dream to increase.
“Some of the theories that explain why we dream more is that we are under-stimulated during our day… and therefore our brains try to give us that extra stimulation at night,” Rodriguez said.
Grandner said that inactivity during the day is a common denominator among people with insomnia.
“Difficulty sleeping is probably the most reliable predictor of poor mental health,” he said, “and especially in terms of depression and anxiety.”
Poor sleep and suicide rates are directly correlated, Grandner said.
“There have been over 50 studies now that when you put them together, people who have significant sleep problems, whether it’s nightmares or insomnia, are about three times more likely to think about suicide.” , did he declare.
Ochoa said she already felt stress and anxiety in everyday life, which insomnia only made worse. Then, in June, Ochoa tested positive for COVID-19.
“So I still had trouble sleeping and now I had the added factor of (I) not being able to breathe properly,” she said.
Insomnia can dramatically increase the chances of getting sick, Grandner said.
“If you want to have a strong immune system,” he says, “it’s important to get some sleep. There is data that shows that people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to get sick, especially from viral infections. “
To sleep better, Grander suggests reducing screen time, sunning yourself soon after waking up, and exercising during the day rather than at night.
Sleep is programmable, he said, and it’s important to teach the brain that the bed is for sleeping, not for rehashing the day or planning the next.
Before going to bed, he said, “Check your schedule, deal with all the things you need so that by the time you go to bed you have already done all that work. “
Ochoa took a different approach.
“I actually sort of solved the problem. In fact, I had to go ahead and resolve to get a blessing from this church, ”she said. His visit to the church goes back a little over two months.
The blessing consisted of two missionaries applying oil to his forehead, placing their hands on his head and praying.
“All of a sudden I was able to sleep,” she said. “And I think maybe it was just like a mental thing. You know, maybe it was just my fears and anxiety.
So far, Ochoa said, she has fewer nightmares and sleeps much better.
Article by Madison Cerro, Cronkite News