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COVID-somnia is a new sleep problem that has emerged during the pandemic, writes Marsha Lederman.Christine Glade/Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Marsha Lederman is the Western Arts Correspondent for The Globe and Mail.

I am so tired. Not as in “I’m so sick and tired” (though, in a way, I guess that too). But tired. Like, I want to go back to bed right now sort of tired. And no, it doesn’t matter what time of day you are reading this. Because I am almost always exhausted.

Is it the pandemic? Working motherhood? Menopause?


A million years ago, when I worked in early morning radio – with my alarm set for 3:20 a.m. Monday to Friday – I became obsessed with sleep. It was all I could think about. How much did I get? When could I nap? Would I be able to fall asleep at 8 p.m. on a summer night while neighbourhood children played outside?

Then, years later, came the real kick in the pajama bottoms: the baby. I remember thinking at the time that it was some kind of cosmic joke that after actually sending a child into the world through your vagina, you couldn’t then get a little R&R. Instead, you would experience intense, torture-level sleep deprivation. You would be allowed one to two hours of sleep at a time, and this would go on for longer than you could imagine. Sleeps like a baby, my foot.

I never recovered. I have never, since then, slept all night, every night, soundly and well. And my kid just turned 13. (Getting bedbugs before he turned two didn’t help matters. I’m still hyper-sensitive to any sort of itch, or piece of fluff on the mattress.)

Falling asleep is not the problem. It’s the middle of the night wake-ups where I use the time to list everything I need to do immediately or my world will blow up; and, for good measure, sort through every boneheaded move I have made over the last decade or three.

The pandemic has made things worse. There’s so much more to worry about. Early on, sleep neurologists coined a name for increased sleep disturbances brought on by the pandemic: COVID-Somnia. A recent study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that more than half of Americans reported an increase in trouble sleeping when the pandemic upended our lives.

It’s worse, as it always seems to be, for women.

And let’s throw menopause into the mix, just for fun. Jen Gunter, why am I not sleeping? And while we’re at it, what on earth is happening to my hair?!

Gunter’s The Menopause Manifesto: Own Your Health with Facts and Feminism is on my Christmas list this year (fun, I know) because information is power.

And it’s time for us to be able to speak openly about what some still euphemistically call “the change of life.” Yeah, I’m in my 50s and I’m female. Surprise: I’m menopausal! And get this cardigan off me RIGHT NOW.

Dressing in layers is everything. But I’m also looking into some of these brands that specialize in clothing for this time of life. Tonight, at approximately 2 a.m., I’ll sort through my finances and figure out if I can afford any of these stylish offerings.

There’s not much to look forward to, either, on this front; it doesn’t look like things are going to improve as we age.

Oh and we’re changing the clocks soon. For now. More and more jurisdictions are discussing whether to continue with the twice-yearly time change. And if so, which system to stick with? In Alberta, they’ll find out the outcome of their time-change referendum next week. In the meantime, here in B.C., I am bracing for the early November switch back to standard time, which will inevitably make me feel even more exhausted and wonky.

I joke, but this is all really serious – with potentially critical outcomes well beyond being grumpy before that first cup of coffee.

So, what to do?

Sleep hygiene tips include: have a consistent bedtime, keep screens out of the bedroom (LOL), exercise, avoid or limit alcohol and no large meals close to bedtime.

Because when you snooze, well, you win.

What else we’re thinking about:

I should probably be serving up some light fare at this point, something distracting to counteract all that worrying that’s keeping us up at night. But sorry, no can do. The world is in trouble and sticking our heads in the sheets is not an option. This stunning piece by Kim Ghattas in the Atlantic will open your eyes to so many international disappointments. But I do suggest not reading it right before bedtime.

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