What our current pandemic has done for our sleep—for better and worse.
Since the earliest days of the coronavirus, scientists have been furiously at work studying its characteristics, searching for treatments and ultimately a vaccine, and investigating its effects—including on sleep. There’s been research that suggests melatonin might have some protective benefits. Researchers are examining the effects of social isolation, economic upheaval, stress, and uncertainty on our nightly rest.
We’re (mostly) on the other side of a months-long lockdown, and scientific research has begun to reveal ways that broad social quarantine has affected our sleep. This won’t be the last we learn about the effects of this unprecedented global upheaval on sleep. But research now begins to point to specific sleep challenges—and some silver linings around sleep in the age of coronavirus.
Some of us are getting more sleep since lockdown
That’s one of the takeaways from two just-released (and separate) studies, both published in the journal Current Biology. These studies contain several interesting findings which I’ll talk about.
One study by scientists at the University of Boulder analyzed the sleep of a group of 139 university students, comparing data collected about their sleep before lockdown to new data collected after lockdown, when students left campus and classes went virtual. Scientists found a large majority of these young adults sleeping more during lockdown than they had been before. Pre-lockdown, 84% said they were sleeping 7 or more hours a night. During lockdown, that number rose to 92%. Sleep in this group increased an average of 30 minutes during the weeknights, and 25 minutes on weekend nights.
It’s noteworthy that this additional sleep didn’t involve going to bed earlier. The students actually went to bed later during lockdown, and got up later. This makes sense when you recognize that nearly all college-age adults are Wolves: Late bedtimes and wake times are right in sync with their biorhythms. Some adults (like me) stay Wolves throughout their lives.