From trouble dropping off to night wakings and insomnia, sleep disorders have been aggravated by the covid-19 pandemic, which began one year ago. For World Sleep Day this Friday, March 19, Dr Marc Rey, president of France's National Institute of Sleep and Vigilance, talks about the pandemic's impact on sleep disorders, which are more likely to affect women and young people, and offers advice on how to sleep better in these troubled times.
To what extent has covid-19 affected the sleep of people around the world?
We're seeing a strong impact linked to the brutal change in people's ways of life, combining problems with sleep-wake rhythms and sleep disturbances from acute stress.
Who is it affecting the most?
Young people are the most impacted because their ways of life, notably their interpersonal relationships, are changed profoundly by lockdown measures. Women are too because they have to deal with a new household organization. We can also mention people with low incomes, due to their housing conditions and their financial problems.
In what way is the pandemic responsible for the onset or the aggravation of these disorders?
It is responsible due to the stress it induces, notably the fear of getting sick, but also by the social measures taken and by the climate of uncertainty that's been weighing down on people for months.
Research has shown that people have been sleeping more since the start of the pandemic. But does that necessarily mean they're sleeping better?
Unfortunately not, because they have tended to move back the times they go to bed and get up, so they are getting less sound deep sleep, and their sleep is more fragmented by nighttime wakings.
What could be the long-term impacts of this period on people's health?
We can hope that these problems will lead to people better managing their sleep-wake rhythms and to a greater consideration of sleep by institutions. In general, humans are very good at adapting.
Will these problems just go away "automatically" when the pandemic is over?
No. As after every crisis, processes of adaptation will come about to progressively improve the disorders that emerged.
Can these sleep problems accentuate certain psychological conditions, whether they emerged before
or during the pandemic?
Yes, absolutely. In general, all sleep disorders accentuate psychological conditions.
What simple things can people do to help them sleep better?
By managing their sleep better, which is achieved through better knowledge about sleep, about your sleep needs and through good management of the sleep-wake rhythm. Thanks to that, the better your days will be, and the better your nights will be. People can also look at the INSV* website, which offers various recommendations.
* France's National Institute of Sleep and Vigilance (INSV): https://institut-sommeil-vigilance.org .