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Sleep and COVID-19

Are you satisfied with your sleep?

According to the study in 2011, one in five Canadians (19.8%) were dissatisfied with their sleep, and one in eight Canadians (13.4%) met all the criteria for insomnia (Morin et al., 2011).

That is a lot of people who are not happy and have severe problems with their sleep. This situation has only gotten worse due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis as daily routines are being disrupted (online school or working-from-home) and stress levels are rising (social restrictions, financial instability or unknown future).

A recent study shows that almost a quarter of Canadians (23.9%) affected by COVID-19 (survivors, their family members and health care workers) as well as one-third of health care workers (36.5%) have developed insomnia (Cénat et al., 2020).

Effects of Insomnia

Insomnia is more than an occasional bad night's sleep. It is one of the sleep disorders that can affect our lives significantly.

Insomnia is known to cause/trigger various health issues, such as:

- Depression, anxiety, irritability, poor concentration, low energy/motivation or lethargy

Insomnia may also play a role in developing/worsening chronic diseases, such as:

- Obesity, diabetes or cardiovascular diseases.

Three Main Hallmarks of Insomnia

There are three main hallmarks that define insomnia.

1. Inability to sleep when you have an opportunity to.

Insomnia means that you cannot sleep when you want to sleep and have an opportunity to sleep. If you don't get enough sleep because you're so busy working/studying or because you decide to watch Netflix all night, that's not insomnia.

2. Daytime Tiredness

When you have insomnia, you are tired physically/mentally during the day. However, there are some people who don't need the full 7-9 hours of sleep that most require. If you feel/function fine despite that you sleep less than average people, that is not insomnia.

3. Rule of 3

Taking longer than 30 mins to fall asleep, taking longer than 30 mins to fall back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night and/or waking up 30 mins earlier than you intend to; for more than 3 times a week, is a red flag for insomnia. If this continues longer than 3 months, it is considered chronic insomnia.

Treatment Options for Insomnia

Insomnia often becomes chronic if untreated and can affect quality of life significantly. There are mainly two treatment options for insomnia; medication and a psychological treatment called CBTi (cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia). If you are interested in insomnia treatment, please contact your family doctor, sleep clinic or counsellor.

Naoto Suzuki, MC, Registered Psychologist

Cénat, J. M., Blais-Rochette, C., Kokou-Kpolou, C. K., Noorishad, P.-G., Mukunzi, J. N., McIntee, S.-E., … Labelle, P. (2020). Prevalence of Symptoms of Depression, Anxiety, Insomnia, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, and Psychological Distress among Populations Affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Psychiatry Research, 295, 113599.

Morin, C. M., LeBlanc, M., Bélanger, L., Ivers, H., Mérette, C., & Savard, J. (2011). Prevalence of insomnia and its treatment in Canada. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 56(9), 540–548.

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