Before the pandemic, almost half of the world’s population suffered from some kind of sleep problem. Now, the situation has worsened.

Difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep through the night have been relatively common in Spain and the rest of the world for years, but it seems that as a result of the pandemic this problem has worsened. Thus, a new concept has been coined: “Coronasomnia”, or inability to fall asleep or maintain good quality sleep as a result of the pandemic.

As we have said, sleep disorder is a very common problem: 45% of the world’s population suffered from sleep disorders before the Covid-19 pandemic, according to data from the World Sleep Society. But since many more individuals have now seen the quantity and quality of their sleep diminish, here are a few common mistakes to conciliate and improve sleep.

1-Spending too much time in front of screens. It is a very prevalent bad habit since the smartphones more than a decade ago and that has been getting worse as a result of the appearance of tablets: take a quick look at your mobile, tablet or laptop before going to bed, with the consequent blue light charge that this entails without realizing it.

Bright lights of this type affect sleep patterns, giving the “Order” to the brain to stay awake. Blue light suppresses the levels of melatonin, one of the hormones responsible for maintaining the sleep-wake rhythm. Therefore, it is recommended not to use screens with blue light at least between one and two hours before bedtime.

2-Delay the hours of sleep. Another of the ills of the pandemic is the fact that we are locked up at home too long, especially thanks to the boom telework: the typical structure of the day is altered, and the time in front of the screen is usually even greater than before, causing some to delay bedtime or wake up later than usual, or both.

This is known as “delayed phase sleep syndrome” or “night owl.” Is a disturbance of circadian rhythm or biological clock, which controls the body’s hormonal secretion, temperature, food, digestion and the sleep-wake cycle. Altering this rhythm has different detriments to health, so maintaining it is essential.

3-Delay the alarm clock. Another of the most common bad habits today is repeatedly snoozing the alarm clock. This may seem silly, but it is not: sleep is made up of four phases that are repeated several times each night, with the aim of generating new neurons, repairing muscles and improving the immune system.

The most important are REM sleep and delta sleep. When we wake up, we are at the end of REM phase and delaying the snooze alarm will result in a new restart of phases. When the alarm goes off again a few minutes later, the cycle will be interrupted and the awakening will be much worse, with associated unnecessary fatigue from delaying an alarm for just five minutes.

4-Napping too long. While napping is known to be a very healthy habit, overshooting can be detrimental: exceeding 45 minutes of nap would be a mistake, with more harm than good. This is so because the “deep sleep” phase occurs 30-40 minutes after starting the nap, and waking up within that phase produces the typical sensation of light-headedness.

In this case, the recommendation is not to exceed the 15-20 minute nap, They can reduce fatigue and increase alertness, and even improve mood, without associated harm. And, if possible, the ideal time is between twelve noon and two in the afternoon, according to experts.

5-Stare at the ceiling for not being able to sleep. Staying at the ceiling or “counting sheep” when you cannot fall asleep is a common mistake: if 20 minutes have passed and we have not been able to sleep, the ideal option is not to stay in bed, but to move to another room or do something until drowsiness starts. Staying in bed staring at nothing for too long because of not being able to sleep has its dangers, like the fact associate bed with insomnia, something that in the long term can be problematic.

6-Check the time continuously. Checking the time repeatedly when trying to fall asleep is a big and common mistake. Ultimately, what is accomplished unconsciously is concentrating on how much time is left to sleep, and worrying unnecessarily about whether it will be possible to sleep for a reasonable amount of time. All this concentration, in turn, will cause more “rebound” insomnia, and more anxiety about not being able to sleep, closing the vicious cycle.

7-Drink alcohol before sleeping. Although many believe that alcohol causes drowsiness, the reality is that alcoholic beverages, when metabolized, form a substance called acetaldehyde, which is actually a stimulant. Therefore, if you owe too much alcohol just before you sleep, after just four hours you will can interrupt sleep suddenly and end up waking up involuntarily. In addition, alcohol can cause an increased urge to urinate, which will also lead to unnecessary and involuntary arousals.

8-Exercise late or do nothing. Exercising is a healthy habit, but sports activity close to sleeping hours is a mistake. While it is true that there is no clear evidence that exercise just before bedtime impairs sleep, it is not advised, since moderate exercise increases the core temperature, signaling the body to stay awake.

On the other hand, do not do any exercise It is also counterproductive, since the lack of physical activity often leads to a worsening of the quantity and quality of sleep. The ideal is to find a balance, and an opportune time to exercise during the day.

9-Take medication to sleep. Recent studies have suggested an increase of up to 20% in the consumption of sleeping medication between the months of March and April of last year 2020. However, this is not the best option, since It is addictive and it can lead to long-term memory problems, aggression, depression and even suicidal thoughts.

Even natural supplements, like melatonin, they should not be used abusively. Melatonin is released naturally in the body at night, and additionally adding this molecule can lead to additional sleep problems. It should be used with caution.

10-Lack of sleep hygiene. Finally, there is a clear and studied lack of “sleep hygiene”, that is, a lack of routine or habits prior to bedtime. These would be ways to signal the brain that it is time to rest. In this case, it is recommended to carry out a series of habits continuously every night, such as taking a warm bath, reading, listening to relaxing music or meditating.

Likewise, it is advisable refresh the room where you sleep and avoid exposure to screens or work subjects in the room. In addition, as already mentioned, any stimulant prior to falling asleep would be contraindicated, as is the case with soft drinks or tea, among others.