COVID-19 has caused disruption to many aspects of our lives and sleep is no exception. In a recent survey carried out by researchers at King’s College London and Ipsos MORI, two thirds of people report that their sleep has got worse since lockdown in March. Around half of the population find their sleep more disturbed and just over one third of people surveyed are having more vivid dreams than normal.
“Adequate and good-quality sleep is important to maintain our physical and mental resilience and disturbed sleep is often caused by stress," says Dr Ivana Rosenzweig, head of the Sleep and Brain Plasticity Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London. "But we also know that poor sleep can play a role in increasing our levels of stress, which can create a cycle that’s difficult to break. This is reflected by the findings that this effect was greater for those most vulnerable and those who were more concerned about the pandemic."
For people with narcolepsy whose night-time sleep may be even more disrupted than normal, many of the strategies that are used to treat patients with insomnia can help. These are set out nicely by David O’Regan, consultant psychiatrist and sleep specialist at the Sleep Disorders Centre at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital, London in a recent podcast hosted by the Medical Protection Society. Apart from the advice to avoid daytime naps, “a lot it would apply to people with narcolepsy,” he says.
O’Regan also recommends a series of webinars on maintaining health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic, hosted by King’s College London. For those experiencing particularly vivid and troubling dreams, the Dream Completion Technique may help.