Coronavirus pandemic is taking a toll on people's sleep

Published: Apr. 29, 2020 at 6:29 PM EDT
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In the last month, many people in the Shenandoah Valley have been experiencing more problems falling and staying asleep.

One doctor with the Sentara Sleep Center in Harrisonburg said with patients she has seen, the problems have been linked to the pandemic.

Not only are people feeling more stressed, but daily schedules have changed, and a lot of us have fallen out of routine.

"Stress can disrupt sleep significantly. It can cause problems with falling asleep, staying asleep... You toss and turn, so you feel restless," Dr. Fouzia Siddiqui, a Sentara RMH neurologist who specializes in sleep, said. "When you wake up, you feel like as if you haven't slept."

Dr. Siddiqui said some people who are more prone to stress can experience nocturnal panic attacks. She said others might experience weird dreams or nightmares.

She said it is also important that you try to maintain some sort of routine each day. Many people who have had a change in their schedule due to the pandemic are having a harder time sleeping.

Not getting good sleep at night can affect performance during the day.

Experts say it can cause problems with short-term memory, focus and irritability.

"Deep breathing, meditation, saying you prayers at night... Those things will help you calm down, more mind-body techniques to relax and then help you sleep better," Dr. Siddiqui said

Dr. Siddiqui said exercise can also help manage stress and anxiety, as well as help you sleep better. She also suggests staying hydrated throughout the day and not watching TV as you're trying to fall asleep.

Because the pandemic is the source of many people's stress right now, Dr. Siddiqui suggests to only check up on coronavirus news once a day, and to not check anything just before bed.

"One thing is the pandemic... And the other thing is the panic of the pandemic," Dr. Siddiqui said. "One thing is to not react to it but to respond to it, and you see what you can do to make things better."

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