MIAMI, FL — With millions of people out of work and many others unable to leave their homes amid the growing threat of the new coronavirus, some people have experienced difficulty getting to sleep and even nightmares as we navigate these uncertain times.
“This guy was crawling across the floor with a metal cup,” shared Laura of South Florida, who said she was startled out of a sound sleep by her dream. “It was like a zombie coming to get me. I went back to sleep and it was still there.”
Dr. Alejandro D. Chediak, interim chief Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine with the University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine told Patch it is not unusual for people to experience nightmares in times of great uncertainty and stress.
“It’s kind of like an acute post traumatic stress syndrome,” Chediak observed.
Since this is most likely a temporary condition brought on by the events of the day, it should pass within a few months when life returns to normal.
“Generally, sleeping pills — if you are healthy enough to take them — are fine for short-term treatment,” the doctor said. “In addition to sleeping medications, there’s also just general rules about good sleep.”
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He suggests people try to follow a schedule even if they are off from school or work.
“One rule is to maintain a steady bed time and steady rise time,” Chediak said.
He said alcohol or marijuana use can exacerbate temporary insomnia. People tend to fall asleep after using such substances only to awake a few hours later.
The doctor said people should avoid falling asleep while watching the 24-hour coronavirus coverage on many news channels.
“They’re watching the news until some ungodly hour of the night,” he said.
Since many people are working from home with little contact to the outside world, they may also be battling the effects of social isolation, which add to their anxiety.
“When this is all over, I would expect a short period of adaptation,” he said.
He said people have also experienced difficulty sleeping in the case of hurricanes or other natural disasters.
“This is on a whole different spectrum,” he explained. “It’s a national problem.”
The problem may be worse for adults than children, who are getting to spend more quality time with their parents than they normally would.
While some sleep clinics are closed for the coronavirus crisis, others are seeing patients by video or telephone.
“Insomnia lends itself quite nicely to telemedicine,” the doctor added.
Here are some additional sleep tips from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine: