PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — If you’re not sleeping well these days, you’re not alone.

“We have a big increase in patients complaining of insomnia during the viral pandemic,” says Allegheny Health Network sleep specialist Dr. Dan Shade. “They’ll say that they’re anxious. A lot of patients will say that they may not have had insomnia before this.”

But now they do as less structure in the day has changed routines.

“We are not exercising, we are eating at all different hours. We’re watching the news or Netflix or TV at 2 o’clock in the morning because we can. It’s the exact opposite of what we’d tell patients to do,” Shade says. “They find themselves sleeping at odd hours, perhaps having vivid dreams.”

For some people, anxiety fuels insomnia and frequent awakenings during the night.

Other people are sleeping longer but with that comes more REM sleep or rapid eye movement sleep – a stage later in sleep when dreams occur.

Some of these can be vivid or disturbing.

“I think it’s stress, and it’s our body’s way to try to sort out what’s going on,” Dr. Shade said. “Dreams try to help you make sense of things that happen. They also help solidify memories, put a psychological component to how you feel about what happened.”

Between February and March, filled prescriptions for sleeping pills, anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants jumped 21 percent

Lately, Dr. Shade has been prescribing sleep medicines more, which he says is OK for the short term, but the pandemic may not be over quickly.

“If the insomnia is due to anxiety or depression, that needs treated a little bit differently in a long-term manner.”

Because healthy sleep contributes to a healthy immune system, he has this advice: “Keeping that sleep-wake time, even though your schedule is all over the place, is one of the most important things you can do.”

He says to aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep consistently.

This content was originally published here.



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