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Dealing with ‘coronasomnia’ brought on by the pandemic

PETALING JAYA: The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have been harsh on people all over the world. It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that many have had sleepless nights worrying about their health, their jobs and the safety of their loved ones.

To the millions who already battled with insomnia, the pandemic has been particularly bad, creating a whole host of new challenges, made worse by the fear of what the future has in store for them.

Consultant clinical hypnotherapist and senior lecturer at the London College of Clinical Hypnosis Malaysia and Singapore, Dr Sumithra Premadasa, said the increased stress and anxiety brought on by the pandemic has robbed many of sleep, even those who previously had no sleep issues.

Presenting a paper at the International Virtual Conference in Clinical Communications and Hypnotherapy, Sumithra said, “Sleep problems are common in the best of times because our lives and modern living cause high levels of stress. Unfortunately, the pandemic has escalated stress related conditions like insomnia.”

Insomnia is a condition suffered not only by Covid-19 patients, but frontliners and the general populace, she said. Insomnia develops when the body is unable to cope with the disruption to pre-pandemic work and life routines.

Feeling demotivated and powerless over financial issues and health complications due to Covid-19, forced social isolation, and general anxiety about the unknown are further contributing factors.

Sleep is important for the body to function properly, as well as for the preservation of one’s physical, emotional and mental well-being. A lack of sleep can cause confusion, slowed reaction times, and difficulty concentrating and performing daily tasks.

Because insomnia is a stress related condition, it will continue to be a problem post-Covid, said Sumithra, with the likelihood of more cases of insomnia and anxiety being diagnosed in the coming months and years.

As dismal as this may sound, she said psychotherapies such as hypnotherapy or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) are effective in managing anxiety and insomnia.

“When in a hypnosis-induced state, a person is more relaxed, focused, and open to suggestions. Through hypnosis, the behaviours and reactions that contribute to chronic health problems such as insomnia and other sleep disorders can be altered,” she said.

With the help of therapists, patients can set goals over how many hours of restful, uninterrupted sleep is ideal, she said.

“Patients are able to explore solutions under hypnosis whilst therapists can use direct suggestions to facilitate restful sleep and provide coping skills,” she added.

More importantly, education on the importance of sleep is key to breaking the cycle of anxiety and insomnia, she said.

Sumithra recommends that people practise good sleep hygiene by establishing and adhering to a regular bedtime and waking schedule as even such a simple change can greatly promote sleep.

Other methods that are equally effective are to refrain from watching television just before going to bed or using electronics while in bed. It is also advisable to create a comfortable sleep environment so you are relaxed and ready to embrace a good night’s sleep.

The International Virtual Conference in Clinical Communications and Hypnotherapy was organised by the London College of Clinical Hypnosis Asia, in collaboration with the Asia Pacific Society of Clinical Communications and Hypnosis, British Society of Clinical Hypnosis, and Malaysian Society of Clinical Hypnosis.

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