Coronasomnia?

I’ve never been very good at sleeping. Well, I guess that isn’t quite true. I think that my sleep patterns as a child were fairly normal. When I went off to college, I think I got plenty of sleep, I just allowed myself to get out of sync with my colleagues. The pattern worked very good for me as a student. I got a job as the “opener” for the library, arriving in time to open the doors at 6 am. I went to bed much earlier than other students, much to the annoyance of my roommates, I’m sure. As a result, I got used to being awake when others were sleeping. That pattern of being the first to go to bed and the first to rise in the morning was not so evident during my graduate school years, but for the first 5 years of our marriage, my wife and I were both full-time students and we only owned one typewriter and we didn’t have conflict over who could use the typewriter. We wanted to use it at different times of the day.

In the early years of my career as a pastor, I supplemented my income from the church with a variety of jobs including working as a radio DJ. The radio job worked well with my schedule. I opened the daytime only station, turned on the transmitter, and began the broadcast day each morning at 6 am. I’d go to coffee with the station manager at 9:30 am and be in the church office around 10 am. There was rarely any business for the pastor before 10 am and if there was an emergency, Susan could cover for me. Later, when children entered our lives, I drove a school bus, another job that gets one up and going early in the morning.

Retirement has had a funny and unexpected effect on my sleep patterns. I go to bed at a regular time each night and I get up at nearly the same time in the morning. Instead of rising at 4:30 am, as was my custom during my working years, I allow my self to seep to 6 or 7 each morning. I try to have a regular bed time, but I don’t wake to an alarm any more. However, I find myself wide awake in the wee hours of the morning. Most days lately, I have been getting up and writing my journal entry within a couple of hours of midnight. I’m getting enough sleep and if, on occasion I need a bit more, I allow myself to take a nap.

However, I’ve been reading lately about the impact on mental health of the Coronavirus pandemic. The majority of Americans (59%) say that Coronavirus is having a serious impact on their day-to-day lives. More than one third of all Americans report serious mental health symptoms. As I read more, I have discovered that there are a lot of people who are experiencing sleep issues during the pandemic. There is a name for this observable phenomena: Coronasomnia. According to sleep researchers, there is an epidemic inside of the pandemic. Stress causes sleep deprivation and insomnia which makes you more stressed. Then the news and life’s uncertainties add to that stress. Worse yet, lack of sleep affects the immune system. Studies show that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick. Lack of sleep can also have a negative effect on recovery if a person does get sick.

Since my retirement and the pandemic correspond, It is hard to say what is caused by retirement and what is the result of coping with Coronavirus. Furthermore, I don’t think that i am sleep deprived. I’m getting enough sleep, I just arrange my awake and sleep times differently then other people. I’ve been doing that for most of my adult life.

I don’t mind being awake when others are sleeping. When I was serving on-call and responding to emergencies in our community, I kind of enjoyed the feeling of being up and out when the majority of the community was sleeping. There is a saying for that: “Traffic is light in the middle of the night.”

I know all of the tips that health care providers give for those of us who wake during the night. Stick to a schedule, establish a routine, avoid naps, exercise daily, sleep in a cool room. Consider blackout curtains, white noise machines or ear plugs. I try to observe most of those things, and I can skip my nap whenever I have other things in my life. I don’t take a nap if we are driving on a trip, if I have appointments, or other activities planned. Napping doesn’t get in the way of living a full life. Still, allowing myself to take a nap seems to be part of my retirement routine and I enjoy it.

I’m good about daily exercise. When she was in the hospital, a cardiologist told my wife that 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week is recommended. We walk more than 30 minutes every day. It is a rare day when I don’t walk at least 5 miles and many days I walk over 8 miles.

So I don’t think that I am experiencing Coronasomnia. Compared to others, we haven’t been overly stressed during the pandemic, although I do admit I’ve been watching the statistics. Sough Dakota has become the state with the highest per capita surge in the nation, surpassing North Dakota and Iowa this week. The state is bracing for a surge in hospitalizations and deaths following the surge in new cases. And our state still lags behind many others in the rate of testing, so the actual numbers may be greater than reported. There is plenty to cause worry.

Still, we are practicing isolation, wearing our masks, washing our hands, and avoiding public gatherings. We’re keeping our distance and so far have remained healthy. I just seem to like breaking up my sleep and not taking it all at once. So far it works for me.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!