COVID-19: How a pandemic negatively impacts our sleep

Social distancing, home office, quarantine: To slow down the spread of the coronavirus our daily lives changed significantly. A crisis like that can affect our health and also influence our sleeping patterns. A research team at IfADo in collaboration with Shahid Beheshti University (Tehran/Iran) analyzed how home quarantine due to the corona crisis affected sleeping patterns of healthy people in Tehran. The result: The time to fall asleep, sleep duration, and get-up in the morning were significantly delayed in all participants, indicating a significant circadian misalignment. Sleep quality was rated significantly poorer as well during home quarantine.

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Sleep is essential for well-being and relaxation.

We spend about one third of our life sleeping. Sleep is fundamental for our well-being and relaxation. If our natural sleep-wake-rhythm is disturbed and we, as a consequence, sleep too little or not well enough, this can cause damage to mental and physical health. For example, the risk of cardiovascular diseases, metabolic disorders or depression can be increased.

Together with scientists in Iran an IfADo-team lead by Dr. Ali Salehinejad investigated how home quarantine due to the coronavirus affected sleep parameters in healthy individuals living in Tehran.

The scientists conducted an online survey with 160 participants who have been in home quarantine for at least one month in April. In that time there was a lockdown in most of the affected cities in Iran, like Tehran. Many working places were closed, the public transport system was cancelled, restrictions were applied for being outside and people were kept in quarantine. Various aspects and parameters of sleep were analyzed: Among others, the participants had to assess their sleep quality and duration, how long it took them to fall asleep and get up and if they used medication for improving sleep quality. In addition, information about the individual chronotype was obtained to see if different types (morning vs evening persons) were affected differently by the lockdown. The questions were designed to evaluate each sleep parameter for the time (1 month) being in home quarantine as well as for the time (1 month) before the start of lock down.

Negative impact on sleep quality and circadian alignment                                                                                                                               

The research team compared the data that rated sleep parameters before quarantine and compared them with the same parameters rated during home quarantine. The result: Home quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic had a detrimental impact on both sleep quantity and sleep quality. Sleeping habits were drastically altered during quarantine. All participants, including morning types, evening types and neutral types, reported a later time to go to bed and to get up during isolation indicating circadian misalignment.

They also needed more time to fall asleep and used sleep medication to improve sleep quality more frequently than normal. Sleep quality was reported to be significantly poorer in all participants and chronotypes as well. Many felt less recovered in the morning or were tired over the course of the day and needed medication aid for falling asleep.

Dr. Ali Salehinejad
Scientific Department Psychology and Neurosciences, IfADo
Phone: + 49 231 1084 476

Salehinejad, M. A., Majidinezhad, M., Ghanavati, E., Kouestanian, S., Vicario, C. M., Nitsche, M. A., Nejati, V.: Negative impact of COVID-19 pandemic on sleep quantitative parameters, quality, and circadian alignment: Implications for health and psychological well-being. EXCLI Journal, 2020. doi: 10.17179/excli2020-2831