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Lockdowns Linked to Worsening Sleep Quality, Studies Suggests

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Despite having more time to rest, many ended up getting less sleep in 2020.

South Dakota, USA / December 29, 2020/ You can now add “sleep loss” to the list of consequences caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Two studies released this year confirmed what many have already suspected — the lockdowns that spread around the world had a negative impact on the mental health and the sleep quality of those who endured them.

The first study came out of the Spain-based Universidad de Burgos, where members of their Health Sciences Department looked at the sleep quality of students in and around the lockdown periods. They had 75 participants, and they compared data from three periods of those students’ lives. They looked at the participants’ sleep quality before the lockdowns, twenty days after the lockdowns started, and forty days after the lockdowns started.

Starting in March of 2020, this study captured the effect that the first wave of lockdown orders in Spain had on the students being observed. Spain’s lockdown was on the harsher end of the spectrum, as the country declared a state of emergency to deal with the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus. As a result, citizens were asked to social distance, outdoor activities and social gatherings were limited, and various other restrictions were imposed.

Results of the study showed a little over 70% of the students observed showed low sleep quality in the initial 20-day period of the lockdown. That same group also had more trouble returning to normal activities once the restrictions in Spain were reduced.

The team behind the study had hypothesized that this would be the case, given that lockdowns would lead to the students being less active and getting less sunlight. Exercise, cognitive activities, and natural light are all linked to better sleep quality. And sure enough, the study found that a majority of the students who didn’t experience a decline in sleep quality were those who stayed active, be it by exercising, or because they had regular jobs on top of being university students. The study was published in October of 2020.

Early in December, a Canadian study looked at the same issue: how did the pandemic affect the sleep and the mental health of individuals? This second study found the expected negative impact, but with an added point worth noting — it appears that women were more severely affected than men.

The study was conducted by the University of Calgary, in Canada, and it used data collected from over 600 online surveys. They found that while the pandemic had a negative impact on the mental health of both men and women, Canadian women seem to have suffered more severely during the lockdown period. Women who took the survey reported suffering higher levels of sleep loss, anxiety, and depression than male survey-takers during the same period.

Similar to the Spanish study, the study out of Calgary also started collecting data back in March, which was the beginning of the lockdown orders around the world.

If you’ve been struggling with sleep loss yourself, it’s important to keep in mind the takeaway from the Spanish study. Those who stay active with exercise, work, and other activities generally experience better sleep quality.

According to the study, this includes not only being fit and productive but also engaging in other relaxing activities, such as listening to music and reading books. Keep an eye out for other ways to improve your sleep as well. Sometimes even things as simple as redecorating your room and changing your bedding can do the trick when it comes to boosting your sleep quality.

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