Six months or more into the pandemic there is a term for one of its side effects, which I am experiencing. “Experts Say ‘Coronasomnia’ Could Imperil Public Health,” according to this Washington Post article.
Evidently I am not alone in literally losing sleep over everything that is happening. I wouldn’t say it’s just the virus but rather the perfect storm of racism, deep political divisions, looming authoritarianism, and pandemic that wake me, achy and jittery, every night around two or three a.m. or prevent me from going to sleep in the first place. My body discomforts feed right into low terror about the country I will be bequeathing to my grandchildren.
As I have written, I don’t have many personal worries and fears. I am retired, with no need of job or money, and I can limit my exposure to the virus. I fear for those who can’t, or whose lives are crippled by the need to do so. How can my 5-year-old grandson thrive in online kindergarten? What happens to a preadolescent’s insecurities when she is socially isolated? How long can my daughter-in-law survive confinement with two tots?
I am furious at the gross mismanagement and selfishness that have brought us to this point. One hundred eighty thousand dead and counting! I remember being shocked, last March, when the experts said 100–200,000 could die if we did nothing. Well, we have done the equivalent of nothing—wasting much of the valiant effort we put into the early shutdown by politicizing everything and losing focus–and here we are.
Fury in the middle of the night does not make for good sleep. It just compounds the sense of helplessness. During the day, one can at least maintain the illusion of control over one’s life by doing stuff. But if I’ve lost sleep I am lethargic, irritable, and withdrawn—thus even lonelier and more helpless. My sleep problems started two years ago after my knee replacement. But sleep had gradually improved until everything began unravelling in 2020.
By now, with lots of trial and error, I have evolved ways to deal with coronasomnia that work to a certain extent.
- I try to get enough exercise, though this can backfire by increasing the middle-of-the night aches and pains.
- I don’t go to bed before I am really sleepy.
- If I catch my husband before he falls asleep, I often ask for a backrub. He gives the best slow, gentle backrubs. After this I usually fall asleep almost immediately.
- Nevertheless, I usually wake again anywhere from two to four a.m. I try not to lie awake long and let the thoughts go down the rabbit holes. I get up and go to the bathroom, get a sip of a cold sparkling water that is de-fizzing in the fridge.
- If that doesn’t put me out quickly, I drag myself upstairs to the bathroom that has a tub (we have only a shower in our downstairs master bath). I don’t turn on any lights. I draw a bath as hot as I can stand and stretch out my achy legs. I sit in the dark until the water cools and I am, hopefully, really sleepy. A bath before bed does not work but it is the best treatment for my middle-of-the-night physical discomfort.
- This usually works well enough that I can manage to get back to sleep before sunrise. My best sleep is often from 5 to 8 a.m. Sometimes I dream but my dreams have been too confused to remember.
Do you suffer from coronasomnia? What are your strategies for dealing with it?