AUSTIN (KXAN) — Research suggests the pandemic has caused people to sleep more, getting the recommended 7-9 hours a night. But some still feel tired — and we asked a sleep expert why.
“With more people working from home they’re actually not having to get up quite as early, getting a little bit of extra sleep in the day, and they’re not staying up quite as late at night because of lockdown,” said Dr. Stanley Wang, the Medical Director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Heart Hospital of Austin.
He said while sleep patterns are improving, the problem is the quality of sleep.
“If you’re waking up frequently because of concerns about the world around us or personal situations rising from the pandemic and then you have trouble getting back to sleep, that interruption can keep your brain from being able to stay asleep and organize and then you become more prone to anxiety or depression,” he said.
Dr. Wang says he is also seeing a trend during the pandemic of people gaining more weight, leading to sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can strain the heart and increase the risk of heart attack or heart failure, he said.
“We’ve seen patients with, for example, bad heart arrhythmias having multiple episodes of heart flutters — get their sleep fix and then their heart health issues go away or become much less frequent,” Dr. Wang said.
He said the supplement melatonin can help people fall asleep but if you want good, quality sleep he suggests doing one thing, first thing in the morning to break bad sleep cycles.
“The last thing people want to do when they’re tired and get up in the morning is open the curtains, but if you do that, you expose yourself to light, it actually trains your brain to fix the circadian rhythms of the next night and you’re not taking so long to fall asleep,” he said. “The effect of light exposure and sleep behavior is 15 times more powerful than melatonin.”