The COVID-19 Pandemic’s Impact on Sleep

An empty bed.

In case you’ve had hassle sleeping during the last yr, you’re not alone, in accordance with a brand new nationwide sleep survey from 23andMe.

The brand new information point out that one other side-effect of the pandemic is that lots of us are having extra problem falling asleep. After we lastly do, we’re waking up extra at evening or having COVID-related or health-related goals, in accordance with the net survey performed in early March. 

“The survey provides one other proof level for the affect of the pandemic and the following stay-at-home orders,” stated Eric Rasmussen, 23andMe’s Director of Client Insights & Product Advertising and marketing. “What we don’t know but, however one thing 23andMe scientists want to know, is how a lot of an affect these disruptions might need on individuals’s long-term well being.”


An empty bed.
COVID Desires

The sleep survey outcomes point out simply how a lot the pandemic has disrupted individuals’s lives. 

Greater than 1 / 4 of these surveyed reported having hassle falling asleep. On the identical time, about 23 p.c of these surveyed stated they have been waking up greater than typical. One other 19 p.c of the survey respondents stated they have been stressed by way of the evening. One in ten of these surveyed stated they both dreamed about COVID-19 or had different health-related goals.

Whereas not sudden, the survey provides extra information displaying how the disruption to work, college, and social interactions have impacted individuals. Over half of the contributors surveyed, 55 p.c, have been both furloughed, laid off, or working from dwelling. A majority of this group stated they have been waking up later than they did earlier than the pandemic — 60 p.c and 64 p.c, respectively. This alteration may very well be attributed to a disruption in every day routine, added stress from job loss, or the pandemic’s uncertainty. 

Sleep Research

Sleep and stress every play a job in total well being. 23andMe scientists and their collaborators have checked out a number of parts of sleep, together with wake times, sleep apnea, and REM sleep. 23andMe additionally provides clients all through its providers numerous experiences on obstructive sleep apnea, sleep motion, deep sleep, and extra. Every of those totally different sleep-related points might have an effect on sleep patterns and contribute to restlessness. 

The info from 23andMe’s sleep survey is per different revealed information over the previous couple of months, indicating the pandemic’s affect on sleep. A study published in early March famous that sleep disruption and stress amongst healthcare staff through the pandemic can also be related to a better danger of an infection and extra extreme signs from COVID-19. However broad population-wide modifications in sleep patterns are notoriously tough to review. 

Waking Later

The survey provides a technique to take a look at these modifications. However 23andMe’s analysis mannequin can also be uniquely ready to take a look at sleep patterns extra broadly. During the last yr, 23andMe analysis biostatistician, Teresa Filshtein Sonmez, Ph.D., has checked out information on exercise ranges and sleep amongst greater than 130,000 consented 23andMe analysis contributors. The sleep information is difficult to grasp as a result of our information come from sensible units somewhat than sleep trackers. Particularly, we all know when a tool turns into inactive at evening, how lengthy every system has been inactive at evening, and when a tool first turns into energetic the following morning. Machine inactivity just isn’t a direct measure of sleep however can be utilized to detect substantial modifications in our clients’ habits. By measuring smartphone exercise and inactivity, Teresa can gauge modifications in when analysis contributors will sleep, get up, and the way lengthy they have been asleep.

Based on the sleep information, individuals started sleeping extra and waking up later instantly after the primary shelter-in-place orders went into impact in March of 2020. To start with, individuals slept much more, 1.5 hours extra every evening, in accordance with the information. 


A graphic showing the changing wake up time over the course of the pandemic.
This graph reveals the proportion of energetic system use in 15min intervals all through every day. Darker blue represents much less exercise (sleep), whereas lighter blue signifies excessive proportions of cellphone exercise (awake). The yellow line reveals the median morning “wake” time.

This graph reveals when individuals put down their telephones and went to sleep. You see the time go later proper after the shelter in place orders within the US. You see that individuals push again how late they went to sleep. The yellow line marks the median.


Whereas this wasn’t a measure of sleep high quality, it does present a major change in sleep patterns as a result of pandemic. That new sample has additionally modified, nevertheless. Over the course of 2020, individuals adjusted to new schedules, and their sleep patterns crept again to what they have been like earlier than.

This graph shows the media bedtime changing to later and later over the course of the pandemic.
This graph reveals the proportion of energetic system use in 15min intervals all through every day. Darker blue represents much less exercise (sleep), whereas lighter blue signifies excessive proportions of cellphone exercise (awake). The yellow line reveals the altering median “bedtime.”


Sleep patterns have slowly crept again towards pre-pandemic patterns. Nonetheless, the inner 23andMe analysis information point out that individuals proceed to sleep later and stand up later every day. However now, as an alternative of sleeping an hour-and-a-half extra every evening, as they did proper initially of the pandemic, they’re sleeping an hour longer. 

The info from 23andMe’s sleep survey, along with information from 23andMe’s inside analysis, reveals how the pandemic has remodeled lives. The bigger query about how this will likely or might not affect total well being nonetheless must be studied. And these insights come as one other disruption looms on the horizon, with many staff going again into the workplace or their youngsters going again to highschool.

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