Study Offers More Data on COVID’s Sleep Impact

Even as the nation’s vaccination rate climbs and more Americans come out of lockdown, COVID-19’s impact on sleep continues to be felt.

More than half of Americans reported an increase in problems sleeping since the start of the pandemic, according to a recent survey from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

The AASM surveyed 2,006 adults in the U.S., and 56 percent indicated that they had experienced an increase in sleep disturbances, sometimes referred to as “COVID-somnia.” Common sleep disturbances associated with the pandemic include problems falling or staying asleep, sleeping less, experiencing worse quality sleep, and having more disturbing dreams. Those aged 35 to 44 had the highest rate of COVID-somnia sleep disturbances at 70 percent. 

“Stress, anxiety and disruptions to our routines can all have a negative impact on our sleep,” said Dr. Fariha Abbasi-Feinberg, a sleep medicine physician in Fort Meyers, Florida, and member of the AASM board of directors. “Unfortunately, sometimes the harder we try to sleep, the more difficult it is to achieve sufficient, healthy sleep.”

These sleep problems have led to an increase in the use of sleep aids, with 51 percent of respondents using medication, over-the-counter supplements, or other substances to help them fall asleep, according to the AASM survey. Moreover, 68 percent of those using sleep aids acknowledged that they’ve been using them more frequently during the pandemic. Of those using sleep aids, only 5 percent said they use them rarely.

“Medicinal sleep aids should be used cautiously for people with sleep problems and should always be used in consultation with a medical provider,” Abbasi-Feinberg said. “Many patients find that appropriate sleep hygiene will help them get better sleep, while those with chronic insomnia will benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, which includes strategies such as stimulus control, sleep restriction and relaxation therapy.”

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