Americans have never been known to have great sleeping habits, and COVID is exponentially compounding the issue. Even before COVID, just a few countries ranked lower than the U.S. in total sleep per night. An amazing 27% of Americans say they are not well-rested, with over 1.2 million workdays and $14.3B in economic losses lost annually due to lack of sleep.
More important than the economic damage a lack of sleep brings, the mental and physical toll is worse. After breathing and keeping hydrated, sleep is the most critical factor in a people’s health. Yes, sleep is that important. A lack of sleep can be mentally and physically devastating.
According to the Cleveland Clinic – “Some of the most serious potential problems associated with chronic sleep deprivation are high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure or stroke. Other potential problems include obesity, depression, impairment in immunity, and lower sex drive.” That study, in itself, is depressing.
Speaking of depression, let’s be clear on what are the major causes of insomnia/lack of sleep. Recent Mayo Clinic research sites the major causes of insomnia are stress, depression, poor eating habits, lack of exercise, and a demanding work schedule.
Unfortunately, the bad news only gets worse due to COVID.
COVID has caused a significant spike in anxiety and depression – both major causes of insomnia. According to data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau and National Center for Health Statistics, more than 4 in 10 U.S. adults have developed symptoms of depression or anxiety in 2020. A sharp increase to pre-COVID studies.
Not only is the mental stress of COVID making insomnia worse for Americans, but there is also taking a massive physical toll. Two major factors of the physical toll are the facts that 1) Sleep-deprived people get much more acute cases of COVID, and 2) People who have gotten COVID are suffering from far greater insomnia after they recover.
A recent Cleveland Clinic study found that people with certain sleep disorders have more severe outcomes from COVID-19, including a 31 percent higher rate of hospitalization and mortality.
This is logical, as people with poor sleep patterns are less healthy, more obese, and have lower immunity than those who sleep well. The study found that an unhealthy lifestyle and COVID cause far more significant damage to the body than healthy people who contract COVID. In addition, poorer immunity makes it much harder for the body to recover.
Even after recovering from COVID, sleep disorders get worse. A report from Medical and Life Sciences News concludes, “Unexplained symptoms have been arising in those who have recovered from COVID-19.
The disease, which affects the central nervous system, has been inducing a multitude of symptoms in those who have recovered, including brain fog, changes in attention, debilitating headaches, muscular weakness, and most often, insomnia.”
The frightening conclusion? Sleep disorders make COVID worse, and COVID makes sleep disorders worse. It is a vicious cycle.
The solution to this Pandemic is not more prescription sleep medication. Like most prescriptions, sleep medications treat the symptoms, not the root cause. According to the Mayo Clinic, sleep medications have some serious side effects – including
- Dizziness or lightheadedness, which may lead to falls
- Gastrointestinal problems, such as diarrhea and nausea
- Prolonged drowsiness, more so with drugs that help you stay asleep
- Severe allergic reaction
- Sleep-related behaviors, such as driving or eating when not fully awake
- Daytime memory and performance problems
The solution to the Sleep Pandemic? DC’s.
Chiropractors can take a leadership role in this Insomnia Pandemic, just as they have done with the Opioid Crisis and COVID. That leadership role entails working with insomnia patients and developing personalized treatments to help them sleep better. Those treatments include having open conversations with their patients about their sleep patterns, making sure patients are consistently visiting your office for treatments, and providing proven, natural, and organic products to help them break the cycle of insomnia.
According to the NIH Study Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series, one possible solution for providing a natural, organic sleep solution is cannabinoids.
A 2019 study showed that “Cannabidiol may hold benefit for anxiety-related disorders. “ The study outlined how CBD with a low THC product has proved to be effective in the fight against anxiety and insomnia. The study results showed that patients taking the CBD/low THC combination had great results. “Anxiety scores decreased within the first month in 79.2% of the patients and remained decreased during the study duration. Sleep scores improved within the first month in 48 patients 66.7% of the patients but fluctuated over time.”
Of course patients also have a responsibility to improve their sleep health. Patients should educate themselves on the root causes of their insomnia and research which options they feel most comfortable with. Hopefully, they will conclude that prescription medication is not the answer but instead determine that a more healthy, balanced lifestyle can break the vicious cycle of their sleep disorder.
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Joe Kryszak – MBA
 Cleveland Clinic. “Sleep disorders linked with more severe outcomes from COVID-19, study suggests.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 November 2021. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/11/211110131628.htm>.