Coronavirus lockdown: People sleeping longer, more regularly, but worse, says study

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People are sleeping for longer and more regularly under coronavirus lockdown than before, but the quality of sleep has deteriorated, according to university study

Many are finding that there is more time to sleep while the coronavirus lockdown has people stuck at home due to lockdown measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus. The quality of this sleep, however, may well have gotten worse as stress caused by the pandemic keeps people from sleeping soundly, the study conducted by the University of Basel and the Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Basel read.

Research has previously shown that modern life causes a host of sleeping disorders as the rhythm of work and leisure activities mismatches with the body’s normal biological clock, the research said.

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When the difference between sleep timing and the duration between work days and days off becomes too much, people experience a form of “social jetlag” and “social sleep restriction,” which can have deleterious consequences for health.

“Social jetlag and sleep restrictions have repeatedly been associated with negative consequences on health, mental wellbeing, and performance,” the researchers wrote in the study.

The study, which examined people in three countries, Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, found that lockdown has reduced the mismatch between the biological sleep timings and social sleep timings, lessening this imbalance.

“The improved individual sleep-wake timing can presumably be attributed to an increased flexibility of social schedules, for instance due to more work being accomplished from home. However, this unprecedented situation also led to a significant increase in self-perceived burden, which was attendant to the decrease in sleep quality,” the paper read.

Of the 435 participants in the study, 75 percent reported sleeping for up to 50 minutes longer than they had before lockdown, with one researcher suggesting that this may be a result of not having to commute to work in the morning.

The sleep quality of the participants decreased, however.

“We observed an increase in subjective burden and a decrease in mental and physical wellbeing, which likely resulted from the exceptional situation due to the pandemic and was associated with decreased sleep quality and sleep duration,” the study said.

The researchers advised that to avoid these negative effects, people should increase their exposure to sunlight and exercise more frequently. In those participants that saw more sun and exercised more than others, sleep quality and duration was higher.

“Possibly, these factors were able to reduce ‘lockdown’-induced stress,” the paper read.

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