Are we Sleeping Through the Pandemic?

September 18, 20200 CommentSleep

Has your sleep routine changed this year?

Research on sleep and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has reported that sleep has been affected in 3 ways:

1. The amount that people are sleeping.
One study reported that the total amount of sleep had increased by 15 minutes in 3 European countries. While a sleep tracking company in the US released data on ~68,000 individuals that reported total sleep time had increased across the entire country by ~20%. (Evidation Health, 2020)

2. The timing of the sleep.
Social “jet lag” had decreased. Meaning, the difference between the sleep that you’re getting during the week versus the weekend. Another study showed people were going to bed about 30 minutes later and waking up about 50 minutes later the next morning. However, sleep quality on the other hand was slightly reduced (Blume, Schmidt & Cajochen, 2020).

3. Dreaming.
People have been reporting having more dreams since the pandemic began. This may be a result of a shifted sleep pattern or related to heightened levels of anxiety, as REM sleep is therapeutic for anxiety.

If your sleep patterns have changed recently and you have found that your sleep quality has gone backwards. Consider our top tips for better sleep.

Stick to the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekend

This helps to regulate your body’s clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.

Get a wind down routine

Sleep is like landing a plane. It takes time to land. By practising a wind-down routine before sleep, you allow your mind and body to settle. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep or remain asleep.  If you have kids, you would generally have a routine to get them to sleep, you shouldn’t be any different.

Avoid naps, if you have trouble sleeping at night

Power napping may help you get through the day, but if you find that you can’t fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short naps may help.

Exercise daily

Exercising through the day helps ready your body to sleep. Just remember to avoid vigorous exercise 2-3 hours before bedtime.   Yoga and gentle stretching at night can help promote sleep and is a good bedtime ritual.

Set up your room

Design your sleep environment to help your sleep. Your bedroom should be cool – between 18 and 24 degrees. Your bedroom should also be free from any noise that can disturb your sleep. Finally, your bedroom should be free from any light. Check your room for noises or other distractions.

Use bright light to help manage your circadian rhythms

Avoid bright light in the evening and this includes harmful blue light from devices. Set a house rule, no tv or phones in the bedroom. If you must have your phone in the bedroom, make a rule that you can only use it while standing up. In the morning charge your day up by exposing yourself to sunlight. This will keep your circadian rhythms in check.

Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and heavy meals in the evening

Alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine can disrupt sleep. Eating big or spicy meals can cause discomfort from indigestion that can make it hard to sleep. It is good to finish eating at least 2-3 hours before bedtime.

If you can’t sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired

It is best to take work materials, computers and televisions out of the sleeping environment. Use your bed only for sleep and sex to strengthen the association between bed and sleep. If you associate a particular activity or item with anxiety about sleeping, omit it from your bedtime routine.

Remove the clocks

If you have trouble sleeping, consider removing clocks from the bedroom. Watching the clock is a huge detriment to sleep. It happens more often with people who have insomnia and those who are overly concerned that they are not getting enough sleep. If they do not fall asleep quickly, they roll over to see how long they have been in bed. Or, if they wake during the night, they may check to see what time it is and calculate how much longer they have to sleep before the alarm goes off. These behaviours only create anxiety. 

Blume, C., Schmidt, M. H., & Cajochen, C. (2020). Effects of the COVID-19 lockdown on human sleep and rest-activity rhythms. Current Biology, 30(14). doi:10.1016/j.cub.2020.06.021

Evidation Health. (2020). COVID-19 Pulse: Delivering regular insights on the pandemic from a 150,000+ person connected cohort. Retrieved from