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Little-Known Omicron Side Effect Causing 'Scary' Sleep Issues

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Little-Known Omicron Side Effect Causing 'Scary' Sleep Issues

As we reach the grim two year anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic, which prompted a worldwide lockdown in 2020, every part of our lives has seen seismic change.

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Even our bedtimes have become disturbed by Covid-19, with a significant number of Brits finding themselves struggling drift off at night.

New research commissioned by health and wellness company doTERRA revealed 55 per cent of us admit to never getting enough sleep, with just over one in 10 of Brits (12 per cent) getting fewer than five hours of sleep a night.

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More of us are having trouble sleeping (Credit: Unsplash)
More of us are having trouble sleeping (Credit: Unsplash)

And a particularly scary development has suggested that some of us may be suffering from sleep paralysis as a by-product of Covid-19, or the ongoing circumstances of the pandemic itself.

A meta-analysis, performed by looking at a series of longitudinal studies on sleep during the coronavirus pandemic found a significant rise in sleep disturbances amongst patients in quarantine.

The study found 18 per cent of the general population struggled with sleep disturbances during this time – but this number rockets to 57 per cent if you suffered from coronavirus.

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According to the NHS, sleep paralysis is when “you cannot move or speak as you are waking up or falling asleep.”

However, it is thought these changes in our sleeping patterns is not down the hugely contagious virus – rather, the high levels of stress and overall feelings with anxiety are the root cause.

Anxiety may have made sleep more difficult (Credit: Alamy)
Anxiety may have made sleep more difficult (Credit: Alamy)

Sleep expert, Dr Lindsay Browning tells Tyla: "The pandemic has had an effect on our evening’s rest. Sleep has lessened due to the anxiety surrounding it.

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"When someone is in quarantine they may be experiencing a lack of sleep due to worry, or a disruption to their sleep schedule because they don’t have to go to sleep or get up for work at a regular time. These are both associated with increased likelihood of sleep paralysis. Anecdotally, I have seen a significant increase in clients asking me for advice about sleep paralysis recently.”

She continues: “If someone is experiencing sleep paralysis it is important for them to understand the science of what is going on. Although it may seem very real that there is a terrifying person or creature in their bedroom who means them harm, it is in fact just the brain’s way of trying to understand and comprehend the fact that you are awake but unable to move.

Those with Covid were more likely to have suffered from sleeping problems (Credit: Shutterstock)
Those with Covid were more likely to have suffered from sleeping problems (Credit: Shutterstock)

“When we sleep, our body is deliberately paralysed so that we don’t act out our dreams. Sleep paralysis occurs when we partially wake up and are able to open our eyes and see our bedroom, but the part of our body that is paralysing us is still asleep continuing to keep us paralysed. The more we fight to move, scream or wake up the worse the feeling can get.

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“It is a better idea, if you are experiencing a sleep paralysis episode, to simply lie in bed as calmly as possible and remind yourself of the science behind what is going on.

The distractions of living our lives entirely from our sofas, and the constant pinging of smartphones, emails and even television sets are not helping us get a quality night’s sleep.

Dr Browning adds: "We are even busier with life, and our parents didn’t have technology distractions like social media. When they went to bed, they turned the lights off and went to sleep.” 

While the ongoing anxiety and uncertainty we are all facing, particularly due to the steep rise of the omicron variant, may be affecting our slumber, this is more of a short term sleep issue.

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A lack of sleep is due to stress (Credit: Alamy)
A lack of sleep is due to stress (Credit: Alamy)

“A short-term sleeping issue may be job stress, or relationship matters, or something temporary is disrupting your sleep. Many people may worry their sleep is ‘broken’ when it’s actually normal,” Dr Browning explains.

However, even short-term sleep problems can lead to longer issues, as we begin to associate the bedtime with disturbances.

“Longer term impacts can still cause problems because in the back of your mind there’s still thoughts of poor-quality sleep, which can even lead to feelings of dreading going to bed,” Browning says.

"If you are nervous about bedtime approaching, you need to reset, and re-learn how to relax. For people who are struggling to sleep, using lavender as a relaxing essential oil can be beneficial. 

"Anything that helps you feel relaxed can be good, including chamomile tea,  pillow sprays or scented candles.”  

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock

Topics: Health, Life

Kimberley Bond
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