The crisis puts us in a fine pickle

Isabelle Delorme

Special Collaboration

June 20, 2020

La crise nous met dans de beaux draps

Photo: Jp Valery / Unsplash
A study will document what impact the pandemic has on sleep, circadian rhythms, and dreams.

This text is part of the special issue to mental Health

The phenomenon is well known to specialists. In times of crisis, there has been a disruption of sleep in many people who struggle to fall asleep or experiencing restless nights. The pandemic does not seem to have escaped this rule. Yet, it is the moment to ensure a restful night’s sleep. At the initiative of three experts, including one from Quebec, an international study will focus on the impact of this crisis on our sleep.

“Stress and anxiety do not mix well with sleep, and our life habits have been completely disrupted. It can therefore be expected to impact large enough on the sleep, ” predicts Charles Morin, a professor and researcher at the School of psychology of Laval University, who had the idea to launch this international study with two scandinavian counterparts. Fifteen countries have joined the project.

The study, which will be carried out on the basis of a questionnaire accessible online until the end of June, will document what impact the pandemic has on sleep, circadian rhythms, and dreams. “We want to make links between pandemic, containment level and psychological symptoms, and to examine sleep habits, clarifies the expert. Some people have insomnia, but others develop a kind of jet lag. Some sleep a little more, especially those who were in sleep deprivation. “

In China, researchers have probed the beginning of February more than 5,000 people, including many health workers. “They found that acute stress and insomnia, were very present, because they involved, respectively, 16 % and 20 % of respondents, reports Charles Morin. The people who were closer to the homes of outbreak were experimenting with more stress and insomnia. “

According to Julie Carrier, scientific director of the canadian campaign of public health ” Sleep on it “, the crisis of the COVID-19 has deeply disturbed the sleep of some groups, notably people plussensibles stress or anxiety, or who are living with stress higher.” The most affected were the front-line workers, who have had to adopt working hours extremely long, often at times that are atypical, ” says the professor of psychology.

Sleep well, we can not dream better for our health

A good night’s sleep is essential to good physical and mental health.” It is a bit of a poor relative when talking about sustainable health, but it is one of the three great pillars, with a good diet and physical training, ” says Charles Morin, who laments that the sleep is often taken for granted until the moment where we encounter problems. According to the expert, sleep habits have an effect on the immunological. “A disturbed sleep or short-term augmentele risk to catch some virus,” he explains. Good to know in times of pandemic.

Sleep also plays an important role in the regulation of emotion, says Charles Morin. “There is really a bidirectional link between sleep and mental health “, says Julie Carrier. Insomnia can be a precursor to longer-term problems, because it increases our niveaude cortisol (the hormone associated austress), decreases our ability to adapt to our environment and can lead to a vicious cycle toward the development of anxiety disorders or depression. It is therefore important to react before chronicity sets in.

Don’t force the sleep

Make different dreams since the beginning of the pandemic is a common phenomenon. “A lot of people have reported dreams more intense, say dream more or have dreams to be more negative,” says Julie Carrier, for which this may be related to arousals are more frequent during the night. Because to remember a dream, you have to wake up very close to a period of rem sleep, which constitutes about 25% of the sleep cycle.

There was time to dream or not, it is important not to worry about the extent of its disorders, sleep — normal in time of crisis — as this may cause a vicious circle. “It begins with having difficulties for a good reason [such as the crisis of the COVID-19], then one can develop anxiety on the lack of sleep itself,” says Julie Carrier. With the risk of creating a cycle of chronic insomnia.

So what to do ? Our two experts agree on the most important tip : to associate his bed with sleep. “The first thing to do is to never try to force sleep. If you can’t find it, it should rather get out of bed and engage in a relaxing activity, or even soporific, ” advises Charles Morin. Julie Carrier recommends that you get out of bed if not asleep after 30 minutes. “Me, I play Scrabble ! It is just enough platform to make me drowsy, but demanding enough so that I don’t think of my concerns, ” says the professor.

If we are unable to find a quality sleep in spite of all the advice of specialists, cognitive-behavioral therapy may help, according to Charles Morin. To finally sleep on both ears.

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