Status: 02/13/2021 5:45 p.m.
The corona pandemic is affecting people’s sleep. The sleep researcher Weeß on dangerous deficiencies, nightmares and the question of why good sleep is important after the vaccination.
tagesschau.de: Before we get to Corona – were the Germans actually a well rested nation before the pandemic?
Hans-Günter Weeß: No, we were a social jet lagged nation even before Covid. School and work hours start too early for most of them. We know from research that more than 50 percent of citizens have up to one hour of insufficient sleep per day. Health suffers as a result. A lack of concentration is also the result.
More than twice as many people die on the roads in this country from tiredness and microsleep as from alcohol. There are often reports that another truck has hit the end of a traffic jam. As a society, we accept that. We are numb to the phenomenon of lack of sleep as a society.
tagesschau.de: What could be done about this lack of sleep?
Weeß: The sleep-wake rhythms of people are genetically determined and very different. A minority go to bed early and then get up early. Most of them, however, cannot fall asleep early due to their disposition, go to bed much later and actually have to get up between 7.30 and 9.30 a.m. So the “early bird catches the worm” is a misleading phrase. I know, of course, that this is not possible in many areas. But flexible working hours should be agreed wherever possible. Well-rested employees increase productivity and safety and are less often sick.
tagesschau.de: How has the pandemic affected sleep behavior?
Weeß: There are first studies. The exact data situation is still uncertain, but the trend is clear. After that, sleep problems increased between ten and 60 percent. Many people take the worries about Corona to bed with them. You cannot switch off, the carousel of thought turns and relaxation does not occur. Problems falling asleep and staying asleep are the result. There is a chronic lack of sleep. As the most important regeneration and repair program of the human organism, sleep can no longer fully fulfill its tasks. Many people also suffer from increased nightmares during this time, because in dreams they process what was experienced during the day. If a lot of stressful experiences were experienced during the day as a result of the pandemic, this affects our dreams.
tagesschau.de: Who is particularly affected?
Weeß: Many families with children have a double burden – working from home and homeschooling. But there are also many people who are lonely. Since they have no one to talk to, there are more anxious, depressive disorders. And then of course there is also the group that has professional and even existential concerns.
But there are also beneficiaries of the lockdown: Many commuters can now sleep longer in the home office and do so. This can be seen from the data from energy suppliers. The morning peak times in energy consumption have been postponed by almost an hour.
Sleep researcher Weeß
Hans-Günter Weeß has been dealing with sleep and its disorders for more than 20 years. He is the head of the sleep center at the Palatinate Clinic in Klingenmünster.
tagesschau.de: What does the increased lack of sleep mean for health?
Weeß: Sleep is the best medicine for the human organism and is as important as eating and drinking. Those who sleep poorly increase the risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. The likelihood of mental disorders also increases. Furthermore, even a night without sleep weakens the immune system significantly. For example, those who only sleep less than five hours over eleven days have a three times higher risk of catching a cold. In relation to Corona, this means that the risk of infection also increases.
tagesschau.de: After the vaccination debacle in the EU, it is now taking a lot longer before we are all vaccinated. Still – is there anything to consider with vaccination and sleep?
Weeß: Definitely. I want to make it clear that it is very important to have a good night’s sleep after vaccination. We know that from studies on other vaccinations, such as the flu vaccination. I warn against getting vaccinated in the morning and then going on a night shift. This can have a negative effect on the effectiveness of the vaccine.
tagesschau.de: When Sleeping Badly What Can You Do?
Weeß: Anyone who suffers from loneliness in lockdown should try to keep in touch with relatives or friends – for example by telephone. It is very important to be able to talk about stressful things. I also advise everyone to call it a day. This is particularly important in the home office. End your work mentally too. This is more difficult at home than when you move away from the workplace. It is therefore important – if possible – never to work in the bedroom. A clear separation is needed here.
tagesschau.de: Are there perhaps also rituals?
Weeß: Even if you have it at the ARD don’t like to hear – you shouldn’t zap through all Corona broadcasts on the television until late at night. After receiving specific information about the situation, you put an end to this too. Say goodbye to the tasks and stresses of the day and turn to beautiful things. Maintain your hobby, reading, music, a good audio book or distract yourself: Think about a great vacation or open a photo album with great experiences. I also advise my patients to occasionally listen to childhood fairy tales. These are often associated with feelings of security and security. That also helps to find peace.
Interview conducted by Axel John,