This week’s newsletter in a nutshell: In part 1 of this investigative piece, we will explore the correlation between the pandemic and sleep, the mental and physical impact of insomnia, from the lens of consumers.
Edited by Cindy Tan.
Who hasn’t at least had a few sleepless nights in their lives? Sleep disorders are nothing new, but when most of the world went into lockdown at the onset of Covid-19 last year, cases skyrocketed. People suddenly found themselves isolated and their daily routines disrupted, leading to acute stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Apart from the pandemic, stress related to the 2020 presidential election and the recession is also causing sleepless nights. According to a KFF Health Tracking Poll from July 2020, 36% of adults in the U.S. reported difficulty sleeping.
The link between the pandemic and sleeplessness isn’t just anecdotal. Sleep scientists and data analysts have found a correlation between Covid and sleep, which is driving consumer demands for sleep aids and cures for sleep disturbances.
What are the other causes and effects of insomnia and how are consumers remedying their sleep disturbances and mental health? More to be revealed below.
Early last year, nwo.ai predicted numerous inflection points in insomnia, which hit an Impact Score of 100 around the lockdown period. There have been multiple inflection points over the past year and a half, and chatter around insomnia has declined since January this year as parts of the world return to pre-Covid normalcy, and future estimates suggest that interest in insomnia will hover around an Impact Score of 60 as it isn’t a problem that can be solved overnight, especially when there’s no end in sight of the pandemic.
Perhaps a more serious sleep disorder than insomnia, untreated sleep apnea causes interrupted breathing during sleep, leading to high blood pressure and heart trouble, among a host of other health problems. Since August last year, nwo.ai has predicted multiple inflection points in sleep apnea, signaling a rising concern about the link between sleep apnea and Covid. Coincidentally, research has found that those who suffer from sleep apnea are more likely to be at risk of Covid-19 infection, hospitalization, and respiratory failure. With Covid serving as an impetus for sleep apnea sufferers to finally seek treatment, interest in sleep apnea is expected to decline over the next 6 months.
What’s causing the surge in insomnia?
The recent spike in cases of insomnia is largely driven by pandemic-induced stress, also known as COVID-somnia. Worry, stress, and fear around the loss of employment, income, social life, and a broken routine has been keeping people up at night. This issue spans across all demographics, with communities of color, low-income households, and essential workers more likely to report symptoms of depression and anxiety which can cause insomnia. Cases of insomnia are expected to remain high as we head into 2022.
Chronic cases of insomnia are also on the rise. A new study has found that “insomnia may be one of the most common neurological and psychiatric outcomes from COVID-19”. The virus attacks the central nervous system of those who have been infected, and cases of insomnia rise with the severity of the infection. nwo.ai signaled a decline in chronic insomnia since hitting an Impact Score of 100, correlating to the launch of the vaccination drive that’s putting more people at peace and lowering the risk of Covid infection among the general population.
2. The mental and physical impact of insomnia
- Night Panic
While genetics, stress, and other mental health disorders can cause night panic that suddenly awakens people from sleep at night with no obvious trigger, a sleep disorder like insomnia can be an underlying cause of the condition. A vicious cycle, the lack of sleep can trigger a panic attack which in turn leads to sleep deprivation. From August 2020, nwo.ai has detected multiple inflection points in night panic all through 2021. Our forecast estimates a slight decline in night panic, perhaps that’s when people start learning to cope with their nocturnal anxiety.
- Persistent depression and gastrointestinal issues
The brain and gastrointestinal system are physically connected through millions of nerves. Unsurprisingly, depression and anxiety can be linked to gut health issues and vice versa. Despite multiple inflection points in gastrointestinal issues throughout the past year, chatter around the topic remained relatively low until a sudden massive spike recently, correlating to the rise in Crohn’s disease possibly triggered by a Western diet rich in meat and processed food or the frequent use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to ease aches and pains caused by Covid. nwo.ai forecasts a downward trend in the topic in 2022.
- Appetite Loss
People who find their upper GI system affected either by the stress of the pandemic or by the treatment of Covid-19 infection are likely to suffer from a loss of appetite or anorexia. A growing number of teens have been diagnosed with anorexia, due to genetics, as well as psychological and social factors at play, perhaps as a way to regain control over an aspect of life. NWO.AI’s inflection points in appetite loss signal that eating disorders have also been rising in tandem with sleep disorders as the disruption of the circadian rhythm among insomniacs affects eating, digestion, immune response, and sleep.
- Restless leg syndrome
People with restless leg syndrome experience discomfort and twitching in their legs after going to bed, which can lead to insomnia as lying down to relax triggers the symptom of RLS. Cases of restless leg syndrome (RLS) peaked in August 2020 and have been fluctuating in tandem with cases of chronic insomnia.
- Chronic tiredness
With chronic tiredness resulting from pandemic-induced insomnia, nwo.ai predicted several inflection points in the topic over the past year as people try to find a cure for their sleep disorder and fatigue. Our forecast suggests a sustained interest in the topic in 2022.
3. Microtrends surrounding insomnia
The Microtrends tool on nwo.ai enables clients to identify thousands of associations that our system organically learns between keywords and various disparate concepts - making it easy to understand the “why” behind the overarching trend. Using the visual tool (above), users may find trends at the intersection of various themes driving the narrative. Using the table view (below), users may rank the spectrum of these associations by growth rate and filter in the ones currently at an inflection point (therefore, exploding recently).
In Part 2 of this piece, we will explore how both consumers and the sleep aid industry stakeholders are driving the narrative around insomnia remedies. We will also examine some cutting-edge technology-based solutions enabling the war on insomnia through the lens of nwo.ai's extensive repository of patent documents and other scientific literature.
nwo.ai's predictive platform enables leading Fortune 500 companies and government agencies to anticipate and track global cultural shifts by aggregating, analyzing, and producing actionable reports on human-generated data. We are leveraging petabytes of external, noisy, and unstructured data from various sources - including search, social media, blogs, news, patent databases, SEC filings and we are continuously adding more sources. Our mission is to answer the what, when, and most importantly 'why' behind a consumer trend and enable our customers to detect these shifts as early as possible.
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