COVID-19 Pandemic Associated With Sleep Issues

October 17, 2020

The rate of maternal clinical insomnia increased from 11% pre-pandemic to 23% during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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While there are many assumptions as to how the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic impacts sleep around the world, there is not much known how sleep has ultimately been impacted for parents and children.

A team, led by Ghadir Zreik, PhD, Psychology Department, The Center for Psychobiological Research, The Max Stern Yezreel Valley College, examined the possible consequences the pandemic and home confinement is having on maternal anxiety, maternal insomnia, and maternal reports of sleep problems among 264 children between 6-72 months in Israel.

The study population included 120 male children, with a mean age of 31.27 months. Approximately 38% of the infants in the study were firstborns, while families had a mean of 2.15 children. The mean age of mothers in the study was 33.97 years old and their mean duration of education was 16.37 years. In addition, 54.2% of mothers reported a change in the family income because of the crisis.

Zreik and colleagues specifically explored whether mothers experience change in their own insomnia symptoms and child’s sleep between pre-crisis and crisis. Furthermore, they conducted a web-based study 4 weeks into the national lockdown in Israel.

The investigators found a high frequency of maternal clinical insomnia in recent months—23% during the pandemic compared to 11% in the 1-2 months prior to the pandemic. Additionally, approximately 80% of mothers reported no change in their child’s sleep quality, duration, and sleeping arrangement during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the other hand, approximately 30% of these mothers reported a negative change in their child’s sleep quality, as well as a decrease in sleep duration. There was also mothers who reported a positive change.

"These findings suggest that the changes in sleep patterns during the COVID‐19 pandemic are varied and that no unified change for the worse should be expected,” the authors wrote. “Further consideration of changes in sleep within the family context during this ongoing crisis is needed.”

The ongoing pandemic has been linked to a number of psychiatric and other issues, including depression, anxiety, and sleep. The disruption of traditional work and school hours has only exacerbated those issues.

Researchers have long believed sleep is critical for both adult and child psychical and psychosocial well-being.

“The current stressful circumstances of home confinement and major changes to daily routines, higher levels of anxiety, decrease in daylight exposure, increased blue light exposure due to massive reliance on digital media, changes in diet, and reduced physical activity may all have negative implications for sleep quality,” the authors wrote.

Recently, researchers in Greece found 37.6% of participants scored above the cut-off score for insomnia, significantly higher than the 10% worldwide prevalence estimated prior to the pandemic.

The study, “Maternal perceptions of sleep problems among children and mothers during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‐19) pandemic in Israel,” was published online in the Journal of Sleep Research.