Coronavirus and Mental Health - Sleep Deprivation and Dreaming

As I've covered in several recent articles, the coronavirus pandemic has impacted upon the mental health and well-being of many people.

In their latest release, the Office For National Statistics (ONS), say that there has been a general increase in anxiety levels among the overall population, the most vulnerable in society, such as disabled adults, people with a health condition and who feel unsafe outside the home because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, have experienced greater increases in anxiety levels. This builds upon their previous release where just over half of adults said it was affecting their well-being and nearly half of adults reported high levels of anxiety. Coronavirus and lockdown impacted on their mental health.

Whilst some may have found the easing of lockdown has resulted in an equivalent easing in anxiety, there are many, many people still struggling with anxiety, worry and fear associated with the coronavirus. 

I've written before about some of the research and evidence around the link between the coronavirus and mental health (Covid-19 & Easing Lockdown: A Ticking Mental Health Timebomb?). In the earlier days of the pandemic, Shevlin et al (Anxiety, Depression, Traumatic Stress, and COVID-19 Related Anxiety in the UK General Population During the COVID-19 Pandemic, April 2020), investigated the prevalence of COVID-19 related anxiety, generalised anxiety, depression and trauma symptoms in a representative sample of the UK population during an early phase of the pandemic. They found that there were higher reported levels of anxiety, depression and trauma symptoms compared to previous population studies, but not dramatically so.  Anxiety, depression and trauma symptoms were predicted by young age, presence of children in the home, and high estimates of personal risk. Anxiety and depression symptoms were also predicted by low income, loss of income, and pre-existing health conditions in self and others.

And, in relation to the USA, Twenge & Joiner (Mental distress among US adults during the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020) concluded that mental distress was considerably higher in a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults in late April 2020 compared to a nationally representative sample from 2018, providing "an early indication that serious mental illness has become strikingly more common during the COVID-19 pandemic". And another study from the USA by Adams-Prassl et al (The Impact of the Coronavirus Lockdown on Mental Health. 2020) has suggested that the large negative effect on mental health has been entirely driven by the impact on women's mental health. They suggest that the negative effect on women’s mental health cannot be explained by an increase in financial worries or childcare responsibilities.

I've worked with many people in recent weeks who have found that fears and worries over coronavirus have impacted upon their mental health, with increased anxiety and stress levels and worries about the future (such as catching the virus or losing employment).

Today, I'm covering the impact on your sleep (or sleep deprivation) and upon your dreaming when you do sleep.

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How To Sleep Better - Seeking Solutions When You Can't Sleep:

Last time out I wrote about sleep disorders and the epidemic of chronic sleep deprivation. That is, about how we often view sleep as something passive that eats into our busy lives and so we downplay it as a priority in our lives even though all the evidence shows how vital good quality sleep is for our physical and mental wellbeing.

In fact, sleeping less than six hours a night has been linked to an increased risk for obesity, stroke, diabetes and heart disease. If you are struggling with a sleep disorder or consistently can't sleep then it can impact on your memory and ability to learn, on your strength and endurance and can lead to an inability to focus and making more unhealthy food choices.

Perhaps ironically, although I tend to sleep really well usually, after writing about sleep deprivation last time I had one of the worst night's sleep I can recall having for years! Curses! The day after I felt lethargic, unmotivated, and like my whole body ached. Perhaps it was a reminder to myself of how important sleep is to my own sense of wellbeing!  Certainly since studying a University of Michigan course about sleep recently, I've become much more strict with myself about having a good night time routine and not sitting on the sofa channel hopping when I know I should be switching off the TV and switching off my brain.

Having worked with over 1500 clients, as well as from my own experience, I think that investing time and thought to ensuring good quality sleep is time certainly spent well if you want to feel better each day. But what can you do to increase your likelihood of sleeping better each night? How do you end the cycle when you can't sleep?

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Sleep Disorders - The Epidemic of Sleep Deprivation

How's your sleep right now? I don't know about you but with the coming of winter here in the UK, it often feels like I would love just five more minutes in bed each morning before I get up and get on with the day. Just let me lie in bed for five more minutes each morning!! 

Yet if you struggle with sleeping well (or even at all in the case of some insomnia sufferers), then your whole bedtime and night-time experience may seem like one long wrestle in which you desperately seek, yet struggle to find, enough sleep.

And whilst the odd night of poor sleep may not impact too greatly, consistently struggling to get enough good quality sleep can leave you feeling drained, unmotivated, irritable, struggling to focus and like your head is one great ball of fuzziness. You may find yourself relying on caffeine to drag yourself through the day, or smoking more to try and revive yourself, or over-eating in a quest for more energy.

Then the whole struggle recommences each night.

Recently I've been studying a course by the University of Michigan called, 'Sleep Deprivation; Habits, Solution, Strategies' where their Sleep Disorders Centre discuss the modern epidemic of chronic sleep deprivation.

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