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Millions of us have long suffered from sleeplessness, and COVID has only made matters worse. An uncontrolled pandemic, civil unrest, and political tension don’t exactly sound like a lullaby, and research confirms that people around the world, from Europe to China to Morocco, have experienced worse sleep quality since lockdowns began.

The global restlessness is caused at least in part by anxiety, sadness, and anger from the day carrying over into the evening. But Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist who specializes in sleep and sleep disorders, has a few other theories on why we aren’t sleeping like we used to. His insomnia triggers are much easier to solve for than stress, which at this point is pretty inevitable.

Here, the sleep doc shares three habits many of us have fallen into during this unique time that could be messing with our sleep, and what to do about them:

1. A poor diet and too much time indoors.

Even in non-pandemic times, the first thing Breus does when consulting with new patients is to rule out any potential deficiencies.

He’ll test levels of vitamin D, ferritin (which signals potential iron deficiencies), melatonin, and magnesium.* Magnesium, in particular, is a mineral that the vast majority of people are deficient in, in part because industrial agriculture strips a lot of our food of the essential nutrient.

In an age when nutrient-dense food can be hard to come by, magnesium supplements are now popular and something that Breus himself takes daily.* Magnesium helps regulate many body functions—including our relaxation response—so if it’s low, levels will need to be brought back up to normal before you can really gauge sleep quality.*

Vitamin D levels also might be teeter-tottering during COVID since so many of us are spending more time indoors and out of the sun. A vitamin D deficiency can affect sleep quality in addition to thyroid health, gut health, and immunity, so it’s something to pay attention to.ADVERTISEMENT

2. A more stagnant routine.

These days, there are fewer places to be and fewer opportunities to get moving. Smartwatch owners have probably seen this reflected in daily step count: Worldwide, there’s been a sharp decline in physical activity since the pandemic began.

Breus says this is bad news for sleep: “Sleep is recovery. If you haven’t done anything you need to recover from, you’re not going to sleep particularly well,” he tells mbg.

To correct for this, think about how you could safely introduce more movement into your daily routine to tire yourself out before bed. If you’re not comfortable going outside for longer walks or runs, indoor workouts are still an option. Here are a few at-home routines that don’t require any gym equipment. It’s making me tired just looking at them.

3. Lots of caffeine and booze.

Besides causing jitters and hangovers, Breus says these two increasingly popular vices can mess with sleep quality. Alcohol in particular “obliterates” sleep stages 3 and 4, he explains, which is where most of our dreaming happens. Breus has an interesting perspective on why skipping these stages can be harmful, beyond just making us more tired in the mornings.

He subscribes to the theory that the dream world is where we go to safely process our waking lives. “It’s where people who are upset about something can go to work through those emotions,” he says.

From this perspective, “quarandreaming” is important because it helps us cope with this emotionally loaded time. “It’s kind of like releasing the pressure valve a little in the middle of the night and allowing you to process some of it,” Breus adds. “If you can’t process the emotions you’re having, they become fears, they become phobias, they become irregular behaviors and anxieties.”

To set the stage for dreaming, cut back on the booze and caffeine (especially within the hours leading up to bedtime) and give yourself permission to sleep in every once in a while. REM sleep is extended in the second half of our sleep schedules, so we tend to get more of it when we sleep in for a little longer.

The bottom line.

If your sleep has suffered since COVID began, you’re not alone. In addition to reducing the stress triggers that are in your control, paying attention to key nutrients, prioritizing movement, and cutting back on caffeine and booze may help you sleep more soundly—even through times that couldn’t be any less relaxing.

Source: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/3-unique-ways-covid-triggers-sleep-issues-from-sleep-doctor?mbg_mcid=777:5f6e6035ce2951585907e20a:ot:5c22b3f39799ec3cc6aecb97:1&mbg_hash=57103be3843e0e1cb6615f5efa797221&utm_source=mbg&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=daily_v2_20200926

Zinc is a nutrient known for its anti-viral properties—and it might offer help to people diagnosed with the coronavirus.

zinc-coronavirus , Healthy product sources of zinc. Food rich in Zn

Could dosing up on zinc help stave off severe illness from COVID-19? It’s a question garnering closer attention in the scientific community in recent months. After all, zinc is known for its antiviral effects. And both the common cold and the current global pandemic are caused by viruses in the same family, known as coronaviruses. So could zinc be one of the keys to supporting the immune system and thwarting damaging inflammation caused by this new scourge?

There’s no definitive answer to that question. But preliminary research released at an online European coronavirus conference this week hints at a possible link between lower blood levels of zinc and poorer health outcomes in people with COVID-19.

Dr. Roberto Güerri-Fernández of Spain led the retrospective study, which looked at symptomatic people admitted to a Barcelona hospital from mid-March through the end of April. Fasting blood levels of zinc were taken from all 611 men and women (63 years old, on average) admitted to the COVID-19 unit during the study period. Researchers also had access to other lab results and patient data, including pre-existing conditions.

For the current analysis, the team focused on a representative sample of just 249 patients, including 21 who died. Zinc levels of those 249 people were 61 micrograms per deciliter, on average, when they were admitted to the hospital. But when researchers compared survivors’ zinc levels to those who succumbed to the disease, they found a significant difference: 63.1 versus 43 micrograms per deciliter, on average. After adjusting for variables like age, sex, and severity, each unit increase in blood levels of zinc at the time of their admission was associated with a 7% lower risk of dying in the hospital.

“Lower zinc levels at admission correlate with higher inflammation in the course of infection and poorer outcome,” the study authors noted.

While the study ties lower zinc levels at admission to increased risk of death in patients with COVID-19, it does not prove that one causes the other. It merely shows an association between the nutrient and the disease, Philip C. Calder, PhD, who was not involved in the study, tells Health. Calder is a professor of nutritional immunology and head of human development and health at the University of Southampton  in the UK.

Before you start stocking up on zinc, keep several points in mind. First, the study is limited to a small group of patients at one hospital. The authors acknowledge that further research is necessary to assess  any possible therapeutic effect. The findings,  presented at the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases’ online coronavirus disease conference, have yet to be published in a peer-reviewed medical journal; they’re considered preliminary findings at this point.

Leo Anthony Celi, MD, principal research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, says there are “countless examples where fixing some abnormal finding does not change the outcome of a disease.” In other words, we don’t really know whether “fixing” blood levels of zinc would have any effect whatsoever on how COVID patients fare. Plus, he tells Health: “There may be other factors apart from age, sex, and illness severity that may confound the relationship between serum [blood] zinc levels and outcomes from COVID-19.”

Zinc has some specific anti-viral actions, Calder notes. It acts to support the immune system and control inflammation, “therefore these findings could make sense,” he says. He also noted that similar data have been published for selenium and vitamin D. Bottom line: People should try to make sure that they get enough of these nutrients in their diet or, if they’re worried, they can take a multi-nutrient supplement, says Calder.

Actual zinc deficiency is uncommon in North America, according to National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. When it does occur, it’s usually due to inadequate intake or absorption of the mineral—and in those cases, eating food rich in zinc, such as oysters, red meat, beans, and nuts, or taking a supplement might make sense. Consult your doctor first.

Doing something, like taking a supplement, to reduce our susceptibility to COVID-19 has a certain allure, Dr. Celi concedes. But should you count on zinc to protect you and your loved ones? “Based on what we know at present,” he says, “nothing beats the use of masks and the avoidance of crowds.”

Source: https://www.health.com/condition/infectious-diseases/coronavirus/taking-zinc-for-covid

Here’s why we need to start embracing face coverings for the long haul, according to experts.

Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, confirmed what the science has been telling us all along about the effectiveness of face masks — that they’re currently our best bet at getting a handle on the coronavirus pandemic.

They make such a difference, in fact, that some experts suspect they’ll be just as reliable ― if not more ― as a vaccine when it comes to blunting the spread of COVID-19.

“These face masks are the most important, powerful public health tool we have, and I will continue to appeal for all Americans, all individuals in our country, to embrace these face coverings,” Redfield said during a recent Senate hearing.

Redfield went onto to say that masks may offer more of a guarantee than a vaccine. President Donald Trump later shut down the comments, but the medical community stood behind Redfield.

Because the vaccines are still in clinical trials, it’s currently unclear how effective they’ll be. It’s thought they may trigger an immune response in about 70% of people, rendering some vaccinated people unprotected. Other vaccinated people may not get sick but carry the infection and contribute to community spread, and who knows when we’ll have enough doses for everyone.

The end goal here is herd immunity, and to achieve that we’ll need enough of the population to be immune to COVID-19, either through a highly effective vaccine or by beating the infection itself.

Long story short: There are way too many unknowns to start taking our masks off soon. Until we have more data, health experts say masks are a must for a while. Here’s why we’re still going to need to wear masks well into 2021:THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO TAKING CARE OF YOUR MIND AND BODYSubscribe to HuffPost’s wellness emailSuccessfully Subscribed!Wellness delivered to your inbox

We won’t have enough doses of the vaccine at first.

The main reason masks aren’t going away anytime soon is because there’s going to be a super limited supply of vaccines when it first becomes available.

Those initial doses are likely going to go right to the people who need protection most: at-risk health care workers, the elderly, people with serious underlying health conditions and first responders. The rest of the population in the United States will have to wait, mask on, until there’s enough to go around.

On top of that, the vaccine will probably be administered in two doses about 21 to 28 days apart. According to Kawsar Talaat, an assistant professor in the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, that means it’ll take people about six to eight weeks to fully develop an immune response. People could still theoretically get sick after just the first dose, so mask-wearing will be crucial in between shots.

Similar to the flu shot, the COVID-19 vaccine won’t completely shield you from the disease.

Though it’s still unclear how effective the vaccine will be, experts suspect it’ll invoke an immune response in about 70% of the population. The efficacy could be as low as 50%. (For context, these figures are similar to the flu shot.) Of course, there’s also a chance the protection percentage may be higher.

Basically, some people’s bodies just won’t respond to the vaccine and they mind wind up getting sick anyway; others may be totally fine.

But keep in mind that there are a ton of vaccines being tested right now. While the first one may not be foolproof, some of the others approved in 2021 may be better. So far, it appears that mutation of the coronavirus into different strains isn’t a major concern, which is potentially good news for a vaccine.

“I really hope we can get a vaccine that’s better than 70%. If it’s not the first-generation vaccine, at least maybe the second generation vaccine,” Talaat said.

This doesn’t mean that the vaccine is useless. The goal of the vaccine actually isn’t to prevent an infection entirely, but to reduce the severity of disease. We want more people to get less sick from COVID-19. This is also what the flu shot does every year.

It’s a bit out of reach to expect the vaccine to prevent infection entirely, according to Talaat. This means that even vaccinated people could contribute to community spread if they stop wearing a mask.

“So, theoretically, somebody could have the virus in their nose and potentially spread it to somebody who’s more vulnerable without ever knowing,” Talaat said.

On top of that, we don’t know how long the vaccine’s protection, or durability, will last quite yet.

“Masks will be important until we know some of this information,” Talaat added.

Masks are going to be important for quite some time, according to experts.
Masks are going to be important for quite some time, according to experts.

People are feeling iffy about the vaccine.

Then there’s the whole issue of people feeling skeptical about the vaccine.

Inconsistent messaging during the pandemic has eroded people’s trust in our public heath system. One poll found that two-thirds of the population probably wouldn’t get vaccinated even if they could. It’s going to take a lot of education and reassurance to get people on board.

“I think it will take time for people to accept this vaccine. They will need to observe that there aren’t a whole lot of bad adverse effects from the people who get the vaccine before they’re willing to trust it,” Talaat said.

According to Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease specialist and professor of medicine with University of California San Francisco, we may not need the entire population to get vaccinated.

“It’ll naturally slow down once enough people get the vaccine,” Gandhi said. Even if just 60 to 70% of people were protected, it would help us greatly reduce community transmission.

Masks could help close the gap. “Models show that 70, or even better, 80% of the population wearing masks could reduce transmission and symptomatic disease … down to almost zero,” Gandhi said.

In other words, we should embrace masks for a while.

We know masks work.

Lots of data has come out in recent weeks pointing to their effectiveness. One experiment found that the spread of hundreds of respiratory droplets can be blunted by mask-wearing. Another report found that areas with mask mandates had slower COVID-19 growth rates compared to places with no mask requirements.

There are also two documented real-world scenarios showing us that masks really do keep us safe. On an international flight, none of the 25 people sitting near a masked man infected with COVID-19 got sick. In Missouri, two hairstylists were diagnosed with COVID-19 but ultimately did not pass it onto to any of their clients because everyone wore masks.

In other words, it’d be wise to hang on to our masks. It’s going to take all kinds of efforts to bring community transmission down — masks, social distancing and an effective vaccine.

So, how much longer of mask-wearing are we looking at? Gandhi suspects we’ve got at least another year of it. “I would say that all of our population has to mask until we get community transmission down to an acceptable, extremely low level,” Gandhi said.

A vaccine will come and it will help, but masks are also our best bet for a while.

Source: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/face-masks-2021-covid-19_l_5f64be3ec5b6de79b673cabc?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000037&utm_source=parents_fb&utm_campaign=hp_fb_pages&utm_medium=facebook&fbclid=IwAR2hScLC6M6QmIh_3WWJ4iBa3RcvXoEc2RSZYGtJ41_iKHuZoy23F5beOhU

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