Coronavirus doctor's diary: How the virus has changed our sleep patterns

06/04/21

Coronavirus doctor's diary: How the virus has changed our sleep patterns

Sleep disturbances are a common reaction to all natural disasters - from floods to epidemics, writes John Wright of Bradford Royal Infirmary, and the Covid pandemic is no exception.

When I started this diary just over a year ago the virus was hurtling towards us from distant shores and my clinical colleagues were waking up in the middle of the night worrying about the brewing storm. When the hospital began filling with acutely ill patients, the insomnia stemmed from worries about individual patients and mental checklists for the day ahead.

As lockdown began, this insomnia spread rapidly to the rest of the population. In national surveys in the UK and Italy, the majority of people reported problems sleeping. The world was lying awake staring at the ceiling. Isolation and confinement from the lockdown, the breakdown of our normal routines, anxiety about catching the infection, and stress from job and economic insecurity all contribute to our nocturnal restlessness.

People with sleep problems before the pandemic have experienced a worsening of symptoms, and those who were good sleepers have started to experience insomnia. Sleep doctors have come up with the label of Covid-somnia or coronasomnia to describe the variety of sleep disorders, not just in patients but in the whole population.