Insomnia is one of the most common types of sleep disorders and both chronic (long-term) and temporary, short-term insomnia can occur. Treatment options at The Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona are based on the best, most effective, and safest approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, and improvement of sleep hygiene. The Insomnia and Sleep Institute sets the standard for sleep medicine in the Phoenix area, boasts being a physician-owned sleep center, and is the home to the “Top Doc” in the Phoenix area for the past five years. Seeing a sleep specialist first is critical to receiving a correct diagnosis which then informs an ideal treatment plan.

When you have insomnia, you have a lower quality of life. About 33 percent of adults in the U.S. have had insomnia at some time in their life—it is not the same as the occasional poor sleep or issues falling/staying asleep. There are also factors that make insomnia more likely, including a lot of stress and depression. As you can imagine, the pandemic has increased both of these circumstances, particularly amongst medical staff. At this point, the acute or transient insomnia experienced by these professionals may have shifted to chronic as we near one year of living with COVID-19.

Insomnia By the Numbers

Published in Frontiers in Psychiatry in April 2020, a team of researchers based in China examined the various psychological distress caused by the novel coronavirus and took a particular interest in insomnia. Specifically, they aimed to consider how medical staff working in the hospitals treating patients were affected by insomnia. A questionnaire was distributed via WeChat and asked workers to rank insomnia, depression, and anxiety symptoms. In total, 1,563 people participated in the study and 36.1 percent reported insomnia symptoms (as defined by the Insomnia Severity Index).

Those with the most severe symptoms identified in the following category, in descending order; a high school graduate or below, harboring “very strong uncertainty” about effectively controlling COVID, “worried about being infected,” saw a lack of help in regard to psychological support via the news/social media, worked in a social isolation unit, and finally doctors. Given these findings, the researchers urged interventions for insomnia for medical staff workers and stressed the need to think about sociopsychological factors.

An Early Study: Insomnia and COVID-19

The research was published in April 2020, which is somewhat the beginning of the pandemic in the U.S. However, the paper’s authors note that the 2019 new coronavirus disease first appeared in their home country of China in late 2019. This allowed them to assess a little more than the first quarter of the country’s (and medical staff’s) experience with COVID-19 and how it may have exacerbated or created insomnia symptoms.

According to the authors, psychological distress during this time was especially relevant for medical staff. Worrying about their and their family’s health, contagion, colleague safety, and the loneliness that came with the circumstances led not only to insomnia, but also anger, anxiety, and stress from the uncertainty. Add the media coverage on a daily basis that highlighted mortality rates in medical workers, and it is no surprise that these workers face(d) extreme levels of stress.

Stress and Insomnia

“Stress is considered the primary cause of insomnia,” according to the authors. Some previous research has been published related to insomnia and those working in medical care during the SARS outbreak. The fact that doctors had the least amount of insomnia reports complements research related to the SARS outbreak in Singapore. This may be because many doctors tend to work days while other medical staff work night shifts (though this is not always the case).

In conclusion, the researchers suggested possible interventions for medical staff suffering from insomnia, and in particular for those with higher sociopsychological risk factors. They especially recommend cognitive insomnia behavior therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), which is one of the three primary treatments available at The Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona. They also recommend sleep hygiene as well as stimulation control, relaxation therapy, and sleep restriction—each of which can also be part of a guided sleep hygiene best practice.

Medical staff are just one demographic struggling with the psychological effects of living in a pandemic. If you or your child is exhibiting signs of insomnia that is new or worsening, treatment is available. Fill out the online form to contact The Insomnia and Sleep Institute.