Research Highlight

How social restrictions affected sleep at COVID-19 peak

doi:10.1038/nindia.2021.24 Published online 9 February 2021

Social restrictions imposed during the peak of COVID-19 have affected sleep duration in humans, a global survey reveals.

The survey, conducted by an international team of researchers, found that social restrictions such as working from home have increased sleep duration on workdays, but reduced it on work-free days. 

Such an increase in sleep duration on workdays may actually benefit health, the researchers say.

An internal body clock tunes all physiological activities, including sleep, to cycles of day and night. The clock also adjusts sleep duration according to time allocated for work, school and meals – collectively known as social time pressure (STP).  

Scientists, including a researcher from the University of Delhi designed the survey to study the interaction between STP, sleep and the body clock before the pandemic, and under social restrictions during the pandemic, among participants of various age groups from 40 countries.

They found that social restrictions delayed mid-sleep time by 50 minutes on workdays and 22 minutes on work-free days. Sleep duration increased on workdays by 26 minutes but shortened by nine minutes on work-free days. Social jet lag (SJL), a discrepancy between sleep times on workdays and work-free days, decreased by almost half an hour.

The survey indicates a massive sleep deficit under pre-pandemic STP, providing insights into the actual sleep needs of the various age groups.

It suggests that tolerable SJL is about 20 minutes. Relaxed STP during pandemic promotes more sleep, smaller SJL and a reduced use of alarm clocks, the researchers note.


References

1 . Korman, M. et al. COVID-19-mandated social restrictions unveil the impact of social time pressure on sleep and body clock. Sci. Rep. 10, 22225 (2021)