How COVID-19 has affected our sleep

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Joe Myers, Writer, Formative Content

  • A new survey suggests the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting our sleep.
  • 70% of people have reported one or more new sleep challenges since the start of the pandemic.
  • Sleep is vital for our physical and mental health, with World Sleep Day raising awareness of the role it plays.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, 70% of respondents in a new survey have experienced one or more new sleep challenges.

The research, conducted by Royal Philips, surveyed 13,000 adults in 13 countries around the world to look at attitudes, perceptions and behaviours around sleep.

“Around the world, people recognize they are not sleeping enough, and for some the pandemic has negatively impacted their sleep,” Teofilo Lee-Chiong, M.D., Chief Medical Liaison, Sleep and Respiratory Care at Philips said.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about mental health?

One in four people will experience mental illness in their lives, costing the global economy an estimated $6 trillion by 2030.

Mental ill-health is the leading cause of disability and poor life outcomes in young people aged 10–24 years, contributing up to 45% of the overall burden of disease in this age-group. Yet globally, young people have the worst access to youth mental health care within the lifespan and across all the stages of illness (particularly during the early stages).

In response, the Forum has launched a global dialogue series to discuss the ideas, tools and architecture in which public and private stakeholders can build an ecosystem for health promotion and disease management on mental health.

One of the current key priorities is to support global efforts toward mental health outcomes – promoting key recommendations toward achieving the global targets on mental health, such as the WHO Knowledge-Action-Portal and the Countdown Global Mental Health

Read more about the work of our Platform for Shaping the Future of Health and Healthcare, and contact us to get involved.

The results

The survey was conducted to coincide with World Sleep Day, which takes place every 19 March.

It suggests the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting some people’s sleep, with 37% of those surveyed saying the pandemic is negatively impacting their ability to sleep well.

Sleep survey COVID-19
Image: Royal Philips

More broadly, just 55% of adults are satisfied with their sleep, and, during the week, the average adult isn’t getting their recommended amount of sleep.

There’s a gender angle to it too, with women significantly more likely to report that the pandemic has negatively impacted their sleep routine, their ability to sleep well and are more likely to report new sleep challenges.

What are people doing about their health and sleep during the pandemic?

But, strategies like meditation, reading, and soothing music to aid sleep have all increased since last year’s survey.

The report also showed the pandemic has increased use of technology to tackle health issues. Around a third of those surveyed said they’d had a telehealth appointment during COVID-19. However, the report cautions that these telehealth appointments are not yet being widely used for sleep issues.

A separate McKinsey survey has also found that the rise of telehealth is expected to continue beyond the end of the pandemic. Virtual healthcare visits increased 10-fold in Germany, 25-fold in the United States and 50-fold in France during the pandemic, it found.

But, there are hurdles to overcome around access to virtual healthcare, for example reaching those without internet access.

The importance of good sleep

Other surveys and reports have also shown the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on sleep around the world. For example, a study of Canadians during the early stages of the pandemic found half showed signs of serious sleep problems.

Anecdotal evidence also suggests problems with insomnia have increased – it’s even been christened ‘coronasomnia’.

A lack of sleep can make you prone to a number of medical conditions, according to the UK’s National Health Service, including obseity, high blood pressure and diabetes. It can also disrupt your immune system, making you more vulnerable to illness.

Research also suggests that sleep plays an important role in memory and learning. Indeed, some research suggests it might also be important for forgetting things too.

There’s also a link between sleep and our mental health, with sleep problems more likely to affect people with psychiatric disorders. Research also suggests that a good night’s sleep can help build mental and emotional resilience.

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