Alaska Sleep Education Center

How the Pandemic Has Interrupted Our Sleep Pattern

Posted by Sally Norton on Sep 24, 2020 7:38:00 AM

Living through the 2020 coronavirus pandemic has required some extreme adjustments from all of us. The world’s economies ground to a halt and healthcare systems reached their breaking points. People all over the world had to get the hang of spending days, weeks, and months on end in isolation.

The novelty of not going to work every day and being able to catch up on sleep quickly wore off. Soon being limited to our homes and having to set up new healthy routines for ourselves proved to be quite difficult. A healthy diet and a good sleeping pattern were among the first to go.

Research into how the pandemic has interrupted our sleep pattern is still in its early stages. Experts say people have been reporting a myriad of different changes in their sleep during the stay at home orders. Some of them include difficulty with falling and staying asleep as well as issues like having very vivid dreams. No matter what the issue is, it is important to get enough sleep in order to stay healthy during quarantine.

Sleep quality

A team of European scientists surveyed 435 adults from Austria, Germany, and Switzerland during a 6-week period starting in mid-March. All three countries were enforcing strict pandemic measures during this time. These people reported sleeping longer on the whole as well as keeping more regular hours. However, they also reported that the quality of their sleep worsened during this time. This actually surprised the scientists. They expected that a decrease in what they call the “social jetlag” (the difference between our biological rhythm and the daily timing of our social requirements) would improve sleep quality. This hasn’t happened, but can be remedied by spending some active time outside of our homes.

Longer sleeping time

As the previous study showed, the pandemic has interrupted our sleep pattern in positive ways as well. Most people are actually getting between 15 and 30 minutes more sleeping time every night. A smaller study that involved students in the US showed that taking remote classes has actually improved the students’ sleeping patterns. They got more shuteye while also adopting a more regular sleep schedule. These positive improvements extended to their weekends as well. Many students were forced to move back to their home states as well. It is possible that being back in their childhood homes also turned them towards developing a routine. As a result, students were actually living in a healthier manner during the lock-down.


One of the common complaints during the pandemic has been insomnia. The inability to fall asleep could be a result or a symptom of many different things. In many ways, it is understandable that we are seeing such a surge in it. The stay at home orders really interrupted everybody’s routine.

Some of the causes of losing sleep have been pretty straightforward. Financial insecurity and the risk of getting a deadly virus are among the top ways the pandemic has interrupted our sleep patterns. Many people also found themselves unable to put off scheduled events like relocations. They had to carry on with them even in the midst of this crisis. Moving is stressful enough as it is, and even if you hired a company like All Seasons Movers that takes every safety precaution during this time, it is still something that would keep you up at night.

For others, it wasn’t necessarily large scale fears that kept them from falling asleep, but the simple lack of a daily routine. Many reported seeing their bedtime slowly move further into the night. Losing the routine we were used to, not being able to go out, not feeling motivated to exercise and stay active, and constantly staring at different screens are all the ways how our “new normal” during the pandemic has interrupted our sleep pattern. Being unable to sleep can cause you to feel cranky and irritable in its mild form to causing constant fatigue, nausea, and apathy.

Vivid dreams

One of the surprising effects of the pandemic on our sleep pattern has been the increased frequency of vivid dreams. These kinds of incredibly lifelike dreams can often be distressing or disorienting. However, experts suggest that they are actually a healthy way our minds are dealing with these unprecedented circumstances we find ourselves in.

Most vivid dreams occur during the REM (rapid eye movement) phases of our sleep. This phase is particularly important as it can regulate our mood, performance, and cognitive functions. This is one of the reasons why it is unnerving that so many people are reporting worse quality of sleep during the lockdown. It is believed that dreams act as a defense mechanism and allow us to work through our anxieties. However, if the dreams themselves are so stressful that they don’t provide any catharsis, it is easy to see why people have been negatively impacted by these vivid dreams.

What can we do if the pandemic has interrupted our sleep Woman sitting on bed not sleeping.pattern?

If the pandemic has interrupted your sleep pattern in any of these or other ways, it’s important to do something about it. The benefits of a healthy sleep pattern are really too many to count. From making you feel more positive and energetic to being key in keeping your immune system healthy and kicking, it is important to find a way to get quality sleep, no matter what is going on in the outside world.

The first thing you can do is try to come up with a healthy routine for daytime. Setting a good rhythm will do wonders for an interrupted sleep pattern. Be sure to include some form of physical activity in your day. This doesn’t have to be anything too strenuous – a simple walk through the neighborhood will do.

Secondly, you want to work on your bedtime routine. Spending all day in front of your phone, computer or TV screen is not healthy in the best of times. Not only does it keep you inactive and inundated with negative news your brain isn’t able to really process, the blue light of the screen could actually be what is keeping you up. Try not to look at a screen for at least an hour before you want to go to sleep.

Furthermore, turning your bedroom into a sanctuary is another thing that might be able to help your sleep pattern. Invest in a good pillow, change your sheets often, and banish anything from the room that is likely to get your mind racing or unnerve you before falling asleep.

Finally, no matter how the pandemic has interrupted our sleep pattern, it is up to us to try to reign it back in. Your fears and anxieties will be much easier to cope with once you’ve had a good night’s sleep.

Topics: staying healthy, covid-19, coronavirus

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