AARP Eye Center
There were many nights last summer when Anne-Claire France did not sleep at all, her body exhausted but her mind alert, recounting the stresses of a life upended by the pandemic.
Lying awake beside her sleeping husband in their Houston home, France, an experimental psychologist, tallied all that needed to be done at work to support doctors, nurses and administrators across the country. She worried about her brother, furloughed from his job. And she feared for her mother, 90, who was isolated in a continuing-care retirement community.
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France, 62, had long been what she described as a “fragile sleeper,” easily awakened by noise, movement or light, challenges that worsened with menopause. But until the coronavirus pandemic, she'd been able to manage it. Now her thoughts consumed her each night: Her brother needed her financial and emotional support. Her mother needed companionship beyond her twice-weekly visits to France's home. France feared for her stepdaughter in Jersey City, New Jersey, near the epicenter of the pandemic at the time, and worried about how she could effectively do her job over Zoom, leading classes with more than 200 health care workers.
“From my perspective it was just so massive,” France recalls. “How could I possibly take care of all these people?” And so she lay there, night after night, exhausted but alert.
Sleep issues track with the pandemic
France is among the millions of Americans who have spent this past year tossing and turning. Some call it COVID-somnia, a sleeplessness wrought by a collision of stressors. The pandemic has disrupted every corner of our lives, affecting our finances, our health and our emotional well-being, causing anxiety that can keep us up at night. With millions working and studying remotely, the lines between work and home have blurred, undoing routines that kept circadian rhythms intact. Even as the worldwide health crisis wanes, the sleep troubles that surfaced over the past year may persist, experts say.