COVID-19 pandemic has both positive and negative effects on youth sleep, quality of life
High school students’ bed and wake-up times have been delayed amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and they have become more active during the evening, according to study results published in Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
“During the pandemic, adolescents have had more flexibility with their schedule, which should help align with their sleep preferences,” Felipe Dias Genta, of the Rudolf Steiner Waldorf School in Brazil, and colleagues wrote. “Online classes begin later than the usual in-person classes and there is no time spent commuting to school. The impact of the pandemic on sleep habits and quality of sleep and quality of life among adolescents has not been adequately characterized and compared with the period previous to the pandemic in the same group of students.”
The researchers hypothesized that the COVID-19 pandemic shifted adolescents’ daily rhythm toward the evening, as well as negatively affected high school students’ sleep quality and quality of life. They tested these hypotheses by analyzing newly collected data from 94 high school students (64% girls; aged 15 ± 1 years) who had been participating in an ongoing study of sleep quality and quality of life prior to the pandemic, allowing them to assess the same cohort before and during the pandemic. Participants answered questions regarding their usual bed and wake-up times, and they completed the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index Questionnaire, the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, the Horne-Osteberg Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire and the WHO Quality of Life Questionnaire-abbreviated version prior to and during the pandemic.
Results showed a delay in students’ bed and wake-up times of 1.5 (0.5-2) and 2 (1.5-2.5) hours, respectively. The students’ chronotype — measured using the Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire — shifted toward eveningness during the pandemic. The researchers observed an increase in sleep duration and improvement in quality of sleep, assessed via the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, but only among participants with shorter sleep duration prior to the pandemic. They also noted worsening of the physical and psychological domains of the WHO Quality of Life Questionnaire during the pandemic; however, they saw an improvement in the environmental domain compared with the study prior to the pandemic.
“The number of fatalities, fear of getting sick, changes in daily routine, lack of in-person contact with teachers and friends, lack of predictability of the consequences of the pandemic, family income reduction and restriction of physical activity may have influenced the observed worsening in quality of life,” Genta and colleagues wrote. “In contrast, some aspects may have positively impacted quality of life during the pandemic, such as improved sleep time and quality of sleep, additional spare time spent at home, more time preparing meals and potential improvement in the quality of diet, more interaction with family members and fewer academic duties.”