During the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers have observed a spike in insomnia among the population — especially in women. According to recent studies regarding insomnia during the pandemic, here’s why women and moms seem to be highly impacted and what you can do to curb your insomnia.
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Women Are More Likely To Experience Insomnia
Even in a pre-pandemic world, a good night’s rest seemed harder to come by for women than it did for men. In general, women have more trouble with sleep latency, or in other words, with falling asleep. They also tend to have more sleep disruptions and are more likely to experience insomnia. Poor sleep quality in women could be caused by a number of contributing factors, such as:
- Balancing work and childcare duties
- Hormonal factors such as menopause or the menstruation cycle
- Postpartum issues
- Social, financial, emotional stress
Studies have shown that women are more likely to report high stress levels (level 8, 9, or 10), stress about money and their financial situation, and are more likely to feel the physical and emotional symptoms of stress (headaches, upset stomach, tears).
Fast forward to a society struggling to fight the coronavirus — stress is at an all-time high, as is unemployment. As a consequence, more and more women have become well acquainted with insomnia and poor sleep quality.
Why COVID-19 Has Affected Women’s Sleeping Quality
It’s safe to say that COVID-19 has directly affected the general population’s quality of rest. Since the pandemic started, there has been a stark increase in the number of anti-insomnia medications prescribed in the United States, particularly among women.
In Wuhan, the epicenter of the pandemic, 7% of residents reported symptoms of PTSD, a majority of which were women. Interestingly enough, women were more at risk if they followed pandemic news for more than three hours a day. These findings beg the question, why are women more susceptible to the effects of the pandemic?
Women Are More Empathetic To Traumatic Events
Differences in the gender’s responses to trauma may play a role in a man and woman’s sensitivity to the pandemic. In Canada, research shows that women increasingly reported feeling more stressed, anxious, and depressed while in isolation. In relation, they found an association between increased trauma and anxiety levels with a higher empathy score.
This data suggests that women, in general, feel more stress and anxiety about the well-being of themselves and their loved ones during this pandemic. While these might be negative emotions, this response may, in turn, prove to be beneficial for women in the long run. One study theorizes that high anxiety levels encourage you to be more health-conscious (handwashing, mask-wearing), cautious and more likely to follow social distancing guidelines.
The “Sandwich” Generation Carries A Heavy Burden
Women who are a part of Generation X seem to have a large weight on their shoulders. Not only are they typically the ones looking after their parents or older family members, but they also feel responsible for and worry about their children or younger family members.
While older adults are at a higher risk of catching COVID-19, the virus shows no mercy and can even infect the younger generations. This makes any mother, sister, and daughter nervous for their loved ones and their health during these times, directly impacting the quality of sleep.
Motherhood can be difficult for any new mom to navigate, but the pandemic has made pregnancy and delivery even more uncertain and nerve-wracking, especially since many soon-to-be-moms aren’t able to have their loved ones present with them during check-ups and even delivery.
Data from one study showed that insomnia during pregnancy doubled during COVID-19, and 80% of moms reported feeling anxiety directly related to the pandemic. Reasons for this include:
- Stress about becoming a new mom, in addition to stress from COVID-19
- The fear of contracting the virus and having complications during pregnancy
- The fear of your child contracting the virus
- Dramatic changes to you and your children’s daily routines
- Balancing child-care duties with home and workplace responsibilities
- Anxiety about isolation with family and limited time for self-care
The Importance Of Sleep On Your Mental And Physical Health
If you’re suffering from insomnia and a lack of sleep, you risk more than just grogginess the next day. Prolonged sleep deprivation can lead to a multitude of health issues, both mental and physical, such as diabetes, weight gain, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and a lowered immune system. It is important to get your sleeping patterns back on track so your body and mind are in proper shape to fight the coronavirus.
Here are a few tips women and new moms can try to maintain their sleep hygiene and receive proper, well-deserved rest.
- Create New Daytime and Nighttime Routines – If you, your kids, and or both of your old bedtime routines were flipped upside down due to the pandemic, start new routines based on your new schedules. Decide on a time to wake up, and make your bedtime eight and a half hours before. If your bedtime is 11 p.m., begin practicing relaxing activities an hour before bed!
- Exercise During The Day – Ensure you’re getting some exercise during the day, especially if you’re cooped up working at home. Even if that means taking a walk around the block in your mask, it could help you feel more tired when your bedtime nears.
- Avoid Blue Light From Electronics – Blue light emitted from electronics such as your phone or laptop can be harmful to your body’s natural melatonin production. Its production is regulated by your sleep-wake cycle, which is heavily influenced by light. If you keep light in front of your face into the late hours of the night, your body might have trouble discerning it’s time for bed.
- Sleep On A Comfortable Mattress – In our own Slumber Yard survey, we found that a poor mattress was second to stress as the main contributor to poor sleep. As such, if you have a comfortable mattress to sleep on, it’ll make it easier to get cozy and fall asleep at night.
- Practice Mindfulness To Help Cope – Yoga has been proven to be a method to help lower anxiety, and it can even help teach you mindfulness. In other words, it teaches you how to be more in control of your emotions, and in today’s climate, it may help you cope with the emotions brought on by the pandemic.