A survey conducted at the University of Basel and the Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Basel has found that people are sleeping longer but worse during the COVID-19 lockdown. The study surveyed 435 individuals who reporter sleeping longer but with deteriorated sleep quality.
The study consisted of a six-week online survey conducted between 23 March and 26 April 2020. It featured participants from Switzerland, Austria, and Germany, 75% of whom were women. In addition, more than 85% of the respondents were working from home at that time.
What the survey discovered was that the lockdown brought down a relaxation of social rhythms that led to a reduction in “social jetlag”. “This suggests that the sleep-wake patterns of those surveyed were guided by internal biological signals rather than social rhythms,” said in a statement study lead psychologist, Dr. Christine Blume.
This reduction in social jetlag may also explain why participants reporter sleeping up to 50 minutes longer than before the lockdown. This could easily be because people no longer had to commute to work and could take the extra time to sleep in.
Unfortunately, this reduction in “social jetlag” was not followed by an improvement in perceived sleep quality. On the contrary, the study's participants reported that their sleep quality actually deteriorated a little during the lockdown.
Blume said this was not surprising as the lockdown brought on many stresses such as financial and health concerns, child care issues, worries about future employability, and more.
The sleep experts did have a potential solution for those whose sleep had deteriorated: “Our findings suggest that physical activity outdoors could counteract a deterioration in sleep quality," said Blume.
Indeed, exercise has been often found to exhaust people enough so that they sleep well and is also known to release endorphins which are positive mood-boosting chemicals. The study was published in the scientific journal Current Biology.