COLORADO SPRINGS — Have you spent time lying in bed looking at your phone? Maybe browsing social media for hours before finally going to sleep? Feeling tired is just one impact of not sleeping well right now. Researchers say sleepless nights are leading to an alarming spike in suicidal thoughts and mental health issues.
It's the start of a new chapter in life for Rise' Leonard-Moore. After 25 years as a corporate trainer, she lost her job in January. Now, she's taking an online course, training for a cybersecurity job. COVID-19 added a new level of anxiety and Rise' says she's having trouble sleeping.
"I happened to grow up in a generation of multitasking, so you're constantly multitasking. If you can't cut that list down when you go to sleep, you're still multitasking in your mind," said Leonard-Moore.
Rise' is not alone having trouble sleeping. Studying people since April University of Arizona Professor Dr. William Killgore says sleepless nights are taking a toll on the mental health of many.
"It's not that being afraid makes you more suicidal. It's that being anxious about COVID impairs your sleep and when you're not sleeping well you're not thinking straight," Killgore said.
Killgore found the cycle of anxiety, no sleep and negative thoughts is having a significant impact on the brain.
"These are healthy, normal people that are usually going about their lives but, now are starting to be more depressed," said Killgore. "We're finding the rate of suicidal thoughts are about eight times higher than we normally see."
In Colorado Springs, Dr. Timothy Rummel is working to help people sleep better, but he says coronavirus concerns are widespread.
"In a normal situation, in a normal period, we would be having one out of six people who might have been having some sleep issues. Where now in the COVID era, that percentage has got to have gone up," said Rummel who sees patients at the UCHealth Memorial Sleep Disorder Center.
But experts say taking these steps could help you sleep better:
- Try to set a consistent sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day
- Consider putting your phone down. Experts say the light alone can prevent your brain from resting
Rummel says establishing a bedtime routine to wind down is a big help.
"It depends on what works for you, but for certain people it is meditation, or reflection. For other people it is prayer, some simple reading." said Rummel. "That takes their mind off the physical dangers and more on the side of what gives them reassurance."
If you are having trouble sleeping and want to seek professional help:
Also, If you are struggling with depression or having suicidal thoughts people are available to talk with you and help you 24/7: