Report from Louisiana: Sleep Anxiety

By: Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – As this lockdown continues, I have seen more and more people comment on the disruption of their sleep patterns, and I would be lying if I didn’t admit to experiencing this myself.

In a normal world, I am in bed by 10 and up by 5:15. I am a teacher and have to be at work at 7:05 (although I always get there about 6:40.) On the weekend I might sleep until 7 or 7:30. In this new Covid-world, I have been waking up at all hours of the night and sleeping later in the morning. I mean, wide awake at 3:00 kind of awake. And what difference does it make? I don’t have to wake up at 5:15, I’ll tell myself.

It is odd to me because I don’t feel especially stressed or worried about anything; I haven’t lost my job or my pay. I do not suffer food insecurity. I’m not any more worried about bills than I ever am. Nobody in my immediate family is ill. And, overall, I’m basically perfectly content staying at home, so what’s the problem?

Many people are reporting disruptions in sleep right now and there is an explanation for this:

Stress is both the short and the long answer. Whether it’s insomnia, daytime sleepiness, struggling to stay awake in the evenings or waking earlier than usual (or, if you’re really lucky, a combination), sleep-disturbance is a well-documented manifestation of stress. And while stress is usually a precursor to the fight-or-flight response we’re in the slightly odd situation where having to reckon this stress is wreaking havoc on our bodies while we’re safe in lockdown in our homes. We are in a high-alert state; our brains busily preparing our bodies for dealing with disaster, even if it doesn’t fall into our direct path.

In short, our stress hormones are on overload. Compounding the problem, we are not releasing stress in some of our more typical ways like going to the gym or socializing with friends, so everything stays all bottled up. We eventually run out of closets to clean out, fences to paint, garages to clean out.

Experts have many recommendations for easing this sleep anxiety that many of us seem to be facing, such as limiting screen time before bed, avoiding too much news, avoiding sugar, and eliminating that afternoon nap.

Face it, our world is different now and may never be the same. Certainly many of the social distancing policies we now practice will remain part of our daily lives for some time to come. Maybe this is part of our anxiety.

As states now begin to figure out ways to reopen and get back to a new normal, perhaps we can all get a good sleep.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

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