The novel coronavirus that has infected more than one million people globally (at time of publication) is not just a physical health threat.
More than a third of healthcare workers responding to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in China during its peak suffered from insomnia, with those reporting sleeplessness also more likely to feel depressed, anxious, and have stress-based trauma, according to study findings published Tuesday in Frontiers in Psychiatry.
“Typically, stress-related insomnia is transient and persists for only a few days,” said Dr. Bin Zhang, a professor at Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China, and co-author of the paper. “But if the COVID-19 outbreak continues, the insomnia may gradually become chronic insomnia in the clinical setting.”
Physicians are one of the highest at-risk populations for burnout, which can affect healthcare workers both physically and mentally. Insufficient sleep has been noted as a chief factor in causing burnout, which may be precipitated by the increased need of medical assistance due to COVID-19. By examining physicians who had worked during the peak of the COVID-19 crisis in China, researchers sought to examine the prevalence of insomnia and psychological factors.
The study included 1563 medical staff members in China who completed a questionnaire via the WeChat program between January 29 and February 3. The questionnaire obtained demographic data and asked self-design questions related to the COVID-19 outbreak, insomnia/depressive/anxiety symptoms, and stress-related symptoms. A logistic regression analysis was conducted to examine the associations between ‘sociodemographic’ factors (occupation, education) and insomnia symptoms.
The insomnia group in the current paper experienced significantly higher levels of depression than the non-insomnia group, 87.1 percent versus 31 percent, especially in moderate (22.9 percent versus 2.8 percent) and severe (16.7 percent versus 1.8 percent) cases. The percentages and differences between the groups were similar for anxiety and trauma as well.
The team also identified certain factors that were correlated with insomnia.
Recently, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine issued a position statement noting the significance of sleep among physicians, with proposed interventions such as rest breaks, designated nap areas, and counseling. As these preventive strategies seek to curb burnout, adherence may prove vital for US healthcare workers as stress-related insomnia can become chronic if physicians are exposed to poor conditions for extended periods of time, noted study author Bin Zhang, MD, a professor at Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China.
Zhang highlighted that future research tracking the changes of insomnia symptoms is warranted among medical staff, especially in hospital settings where medical staff die due to COVID-19.
(Source: Frontiers in Psychiatry, Medical Express)