Sleepless in Corona

I am fortunate that sleeping has never been a real concern for me.

I’m normally the kind of person people hate – I can fall asleep within minutes of laying my head on my pillow. But not so much since the pandemic. I have found that more and more, my sleep is interrupted, I take longer to fall asleep and I am often wide awake when I would typically be enjoying some REM time.

I couldn’t figure it out. It began in the spring. I would find myself wide awake at night. Of course, that’s when I binged all the best Netflix had to offer. I saw it all, from Tiger King to the Epstein documentary to Unsolved Mysteries, Sweet Magnolias, Ozark, Dead to Me, Cobra Kai – I watched them all. And mostly at night.

I didn’t think it was COVID related. I wasn’t laying awake worrying, at least I didn’t think I was. Lack of sleep became the norm. Over the summer I briefly returned to my enviable nighttime bliss. Then last month, it started again. This time though, it was hourly waking. I would go to bed early, fall asleep, and like clockwork I was up nearly every hour throughout the night. I tried going to bed later and while I didn’t wake as often, I wasn’t getting any more sleep.

So, I did a little googling and discovered I am not alone. In May, Columbia University professor Ethan Gorenstein, PhD, offered advice to those newly suffering insomniacs like myself. He said “anxiety is a prime contributor to sleep difficulty. So, as anxiety rises due to the corona virus, sleep difficulty (insomnia) also rises. When people are anxious, their nervous systems are more activated, and an activated nervous system does not readily succumb to sleep. When anxious, people can find they take longer to fall asleep, or awaken frequently in the middle of the night, or experience more restless sleep.”

I didn’t think I was anxious, but how could I NOT be anxious? We are all trudging along, and have been for eight months now. Eight months. It seems hard to believe it has been that long and just when we think we’ve got a handle on this pandemic, it throws us another curve ball. And we have rolled with the punches but it’s a lot.

While doing a bit of online self-diagnosing, I found numerous articles stating that to combat COVID insomnia, creating a routine helps. It’s like Parenting 101 all over again – children do better with a routine, and so do adults. But in trying to keep a routine for my family I guess I lost mine. So, I have resolved to try to do this and see if I can once again become the much-hated easy sleeper I once was. But maybe I’ll wait until I’ve watched The Queen’s Gambit . . .


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