If you’ve found it harder to get a good night’s sleep since COVID-19 came on the scene, you’re not alone. Maybe you find it harder to get to sleep. Maybe you have troubling dreams or other disruptions.
Sleep neurologists even have a name for it: COVID-somnia.
“All our patients are suffering from shifts in their sleep patterns due to their fears about getting the virus, concerns about loved ones, not being able to go to work, not having social contact with others,” said Rachel Marie E. Salas, MD, FAAN, associate professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep.
But it’s not just the stress that’s causing the trouble here. All the time indoors means we get less sunlight. Many of us are using electronic media even more, especially in the evenings. Those not working may nap more through the day.
Such changes in our daily routines can mess with our circadian rhythms, wreaking havoc with normal sleep patterns. One recent study of 160 adults, for instance, found that after quarantine of at least one month,
The time to fall asleep and get-up in the morning were significantly delayed in all participants, indicating a significant circadian misalignment. Sleep quality was reported to be significantly poorer in all participants and chronotypes, and included more daily disturbances (more sleep disturbances, higher daily dysfunctions due to low quality of sleep) and less perceived sleep quality (lower subjective sleep quality, longer time taken to fall asleep at night, more use of sleep medication for improving sleep quality) during home quarantine.
Unsurprisingly, use of insomnia medications – along with meds for anxiety and depression – spiked early in the pandemic and have shown no signs of slowing down.
Fortunately, drugs aren’t the only option for improving sleep. Plenty of natural remedies hold promise, as well.
Consider saffron, for instance, which was the subject of a study published last month in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Sixty-three healthy adults with self-reported sleep problems took part in the 28-day double-blind, randomized, controlled trial. Some got a twice daily dose of a saffron extract; others received placebo. Participants were asked to complete questionnaires about their sleep quality at the start of the study and periodically until the end of it.
In the end, the data showed that those in the saffron group experienced considerable improvement in sleep, with no side effects.
There are a couple downsides to this study, though. For one, it was rather small. It was also funded by the company that makes the particular extract that was used. But other research with less potential for bias have also found saffron supplements to improve sleep quality – such as this study, which focused specifically on patients with type 2 diabetes.
One important thing to keep in mind, though, is that these studies often use extracts or supplements at far higher dosages than you’d get from, say, eating a serving of paella, risotto, or other dish commonly containing saffron. So while it couldn’t hurt to add a bit more of the spice to your meals now and again – it contains lots of antioxidants, as well – you probably won’t experience any noticeable effects on sleep or mood.
Instead, you might look to incorporate a saffron supplement into your daily routine. There are plenty of good ones out there, both in local shops and online. You may even find yourself experiencing other benefits, as well.