Sleep Matters and COVID-19 Pandemic: The Double Trouble

Persatuan Permasalahan Tidur Malaysia

Welcome to SDSM website and I wish you have good sleep and good health.
Sleep issue has become the major problem during the COVID-19 pandemic. How sleep affected during the COVID-19 pandemic can be divided into three phases that includes Pre-MCO phase, MCO phase and post MCO phase.

Firstly, during the pre-MCO period, when the first wave of COVID-19 started to spread locally via imported cases by Chinese National visiting Malaysia, many of us are becoming fearful and panicking after seeing news about the devastating impacts of COVID-19 in mainland China. Fear of going out of the house to workplace or fulfilling obligations as citizen, constant worries of being infected by COVID-19 and infected the virus to the family members, give rise to sleep difficulties. Difficulty falling asleep and intermittent awakening during sleep are among the common complaints during this phase.

Secondly, during the MCO period, even though it is the great relief when the government started to announced about the steps taken to cut down the transmission of COVID-19 where many job sectors, universities and schools were forced to closed down, however, it is stressful and depressing to some others who are not get use and adjusted to new norms and quarantine procedures. At this phase, peoples starts to engage with social media platforms as a mean to socialize with family and friends. They were force to work from home. Students also were forced to use online class for their continuous education. Those with poor coping skill, poor support from family can’t accommodate well with the new norms. They started to have changes in sleep pattern, either sleep less, sleep a lot or circadian sleep change due to poor sleep hygiene during MCO. Peoples tend to surf internet during night time and sleeping during the day time. They also have tendency to use bedroom for office work when working from home. The nature of the work become prolonged with a lot of disturbances at home either from their children and the partners. Peoples are easily confused about their roles and unable to separate the worker roles and family roles while working from home. All these problems create tension not only to them but also the family members.

Those infected with COVID-19 and affected family members are the highest risk of developing sleep problems. Unhealthy coping may lead to acute stress with sleep problems and eventually depression. Early morning awakening with reduce sleep time, loss of interest in daily activities, poor concentration, lethargy and increase suicidality are among the common symptoms of depression.

Finally, the post MCO period posed a greater sleep issues. The loss of jobs due to shrinking global economy as a results of Covid-19 pandemic, financial and marital issues, continuous new norms practice, prolonged despair of loss family members due to COVID-19  and lack of support from the respective agencies may lead to chronic sleep problems and eventually worsening depression and suicidality.

My advice to you, practice good sleep hygiene. Those suffers from sleep problems during covid-19 pandemic may seek initial help from various hotline help available. Online counselling by various agencies and NGOs are available.  Get early treatment for your sleep problems and don’t wait until complication occurs. Depression is treatable and early treatment has better prognosis.

Associate Professor Dr Rushdi Bin Abd. Rashid
SDSM President