• Ayudra Fitrananda

Effects of Sleep Quality and Stress During the Pandemic

A safe space and fast internet connection have become necessities for many of us during this pandemic. Despite the fact that the internet exposes us to a huge virtual space, our physical spaces (the spaces where we physically live and interact with other people) have been greatly reduced since many of us spend most of our time inside our homes. People who work from home have another reason to feel cramped because the collision of the workspace and the living space leads our brains to confuse between working hours and resting hours. This results in greater perceived stress and poorer sleep quality.

An article published in Nutrients analyzed how the effect of sleep quality and resilience may affect several other factors that can contribute to our overall health condition. It reported that sleep quality is linked to perceived stress, dietary behavior, and alcohol misuse, which can lead to some health risks.

The article stated that poor sleep quality, caused by a highly stressful condition, likely triggers the brain to activate the reward system response. This results in higher energy intake, eating more sweets, and a lower intake of fruits and vegetables, which can lead to poor dietary behavior. Along with poor sleep quality, less sleep also stimulates the brain’s reward system. Therefore, both good sleep quality and sufficient sleep are likely to reduce poor dietary behavior.

As mentioned previously, the quality of sleep is also associated with perceived stress and alcohol misuse. This is because lower sleep quality can be linked to mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, stress, and alcohol abuse. An explanation for this series of events is the fact that activity in the prefrontal cortex (the very front part of the brain) is decreased when sleep quality is bad. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for important tasks such as decision-making, self-monitoring, and self-control mechanisms. Therefore, when sleep is compromised, a person is more likely to make poor choices, and use certain coping mechanisms for stress such as excessive drinking.

How exactly can these risks be reduced?

The article also analyzed the role of psychological resilience (the ability to adapt to a stressful situation) in association with perceived stress, dietary behavior, and alcohol misuse. They found that psychological resilience serves as a positive coping mechanism to stress, and therefore can decrease the chances that high stress levels would lead to poor dietary behavior.

Apart from psychological resilience, there are some tangible ways to improve sleep during a stressful period such as a global pandemic. An earlier study in 2017 investigated the role of sleep hygiene education, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), relaxation, and other forms of therapy in improving sleep quality, sleep hygiene, sleep problems, sleep rhythm, and daytime sleepiness. It was found that sleep hygiene education has a small positive effect on sleep duration, sleep onset, and also the mental health of the participants. Relaxation and other therapy methods showed only a moderate effect on sleep quality and sleep problems. CBT, on the other hand, was shown to have a significant impact on all sleep outcomes, especially on improving sleep quality, but only a moderate impact on participants' mental health.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a stressful event that has led to bad sleep quality and less sleep for many people around the world. People who work from home are particularly affected by it This could result in an increased risk of many health conditions as a result of coping mechanisms for stress such as alcohol misuse and poor eating behaviors. Thankfully, there are some tangible ways in which sleep quality and duration can be improved.


Speaking Plainly:

  • The pandemic has caused a decrease in living space because most people spend most of their time at home, while others also work from home.

  • This decrease in living space and the collision of workspace and living space makes it harder for our brains to separate work hours from rest hours, leading to poor sleep quality and insufficient sleep.

  • Poor sleep quality and insufficient sleep are associated with poor dietary behavior, greater perceived stress, and an increase in certain coping behaviors as alcohol misuse.

  • Psychological resilience is a positive coping mechanism to stress that can weaken the relationship between stress and poor dietary behavior.

  • Sleep quality training, psychological resilience, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help to improve the quality of sleep.