Sleep deprivation has become one of the casualties of Covid-19. When Covid-19 hit, rates of insomnia dramatically increased driven by the stress of us having to live and deal with a global health crisis.
Generally, most adults need around 7 hours sleep a night. If we miss out on it for a night or two, we may notice relatively minor problems, like difficulty making decisions, not feeling mentally sharp, and becoming impatient and irritable.
Those short-term effects are reversible once we get a good night’s sleep. But when people get less than seven hours of sleep on a regular basis, they face increased risk of problems like type 2 diabetes, as well as depression. When we continually go below six hours for a long period of time, we may suffer from cardiovascular problems and even an increased risk of mortality.
All of this is bad news for a population that, even before the pandemic, wasn’t getting enough sleep. Our sleep hours have been declining since the 1980s, with long work hours, stress and mental health issues being the likely culprits.
The pandemic has made matters significantly worse. In one study conducted across 49 countries in March and April 2020, 40 percent of people said their sleep was worse than before the pandemic. Participants,’ said their use of sleeping pills increased by 20 percent. Google searches for “insomnia” peaked in the US in April and May when many parts of the country were under stay-at-home orders.
It is now accepted that to help people sleep, we need to make their waking lives better. As individuals there are changes people can make that can help them sleep better. There are also changes employers can make, like allowing flexible work hours. Anything that enables employees to get the sleep they need as long as, they’re still doing their job, will improve morale and reduce stress, which can help with sleep. Shorter work hours can also help.
In one Swedish study reducing the working week from 39 hours to 30 hours led to a reduction in sleep problems, as well as a reduction in heart and respiratory issues. (Source: https://www.vox.com)
Problems with sleep are a symptom. Unfortunately, the pandemic is not going away, so we need to tackle the growing problems with sleep, along with so many of the widespread issues the pandemic has raised as a matter of public health priority.
Having gone into lockdown three times in the UK and having had our lives disrupted through Covid-19, with many uncertainties, and continued uncertainties, it stands to reason that our sleeping would take a knock.
Employers can make a difference in the workplace. There is no getting away from how stressful Covid-19 has been. Employers need to be aware of their employee’s mental health issues. By taking the pressure off employees, they can help make a long-term difference, as their employees come to terms with pandemic life.
Lifestyle plays its part in keeping us healthy and fit and well. Eating well, reducing work hours so that you have more ‘me’ time all contribute to encouraging healthy patterns and sleep.