Around the globe, more and more people are losing sleep.
A recent survey found that 70% of 13,000 adults in 13 different countries have experienced one or more new sleep challenges since the start of the pandemic, according to Royal Phillips, a global leader in health technology.
The pandemic has affected sleep quality so much that experts have come up with a new term for it: “coronasomnia.”
Johanna Alvarado, journalism major at Salt Lake Community College, said her sleep habits have shifted over the last year.
“On average, I can get about six hours of sleep, if I am lucky,” she said. “But there are other days, like last night, that I can only get about four hours of rest.”
Experts at the Cleveland Clinic, a non-profit academic medical center and leader in research, have been tracking the toll COVID-19 has had on wellbeing.
“From loneliness to economic hardships, to juggling work and homeschooling, there are multiple factors in our lives as a result of the pandemic that have caused stress levels to skyrocket and sleep hours to plummet,” the clinic wrote in a September 2020 article about battling insomnia.
Stress is known to decrease sleep quantity and quality, which further increases stress, creating a vicious cycle, according to Tom Hanson, an associate professor of psychology and the interim associate dean for social and behavioral sciences at SLCC.
“Based on anecdotally talking with faculty [about] stress and sleep problems, our faculty has had to take on quite a lot of emotional labor, but that’s part of our job,” Hanson noted.
Hanson said not getting sufficient sleep can make universal young adult struggles even harder.
“Sleep disturbances can exacerbate already existing risk factors — looking for identity, finding meaning of life, being more prone to depression — and not getting that sleep can increase that risk,” Hanson said.
Whitney Ockey, health promotion manager at SLCC, said the demands of attending school while working could also play a part in struggling to get enough sleep.
“We have a large number of nontraditional students who have a lot on their shoulders while acquiring their education,” Ockey said. “A lot of students balance more than one part-time job, [and] are involved in community partnerships.”
According to Ockey, some benefits of getting sufficient sleep include improved focus and mood, better nutritional habits, and healthier blood pressure levels.
Hanson said the importance of sleep cannot be understated given the possible negative effects if young adults do not get sufficient sleep.
“Sleep deprivation [can] increase weight, reduce concentration, impact your immune system functioning and reduces our ability to [emotionally] regulate ourselves,” he said.
Hanson felt society needs to focus more on the importance of sleep.
“Yes, I would say it’s a problem. In all age groups, beyond the campuses of SLCC,” he said. “It’s not addressed enough.”
Meanwhile, Ockey said there is plenty students can do to improve sleep, such as skipping caffeine after 5 p.m., avoiding eating large meals three hours before bed, taking a screen break an hour before bed and, in her words, “creating a bedtime routine [that] will let your brain know it’s time to get ready to sleep.”
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story misstated the name of student Johanna Alvarado.