Sleep Science and COVID-Based Exhaustion

Written by Sabina Pulone

With the coming of COVID-19 many aspects of our everyday lives changed. The pandemic and the social confinement strongly affected the lifestyle of many people, changing in some cases also the usual sleeping habits. The restrictions surrounding the lockdown contributed in altering daily routines capable of being timekeepers for sleep-wake rhythms. [1]

Anxiety and stress induced by family issues, financial concerns, health and fear of being infected increased the onset of sleeping disorders as insomnia and nightmares. In addition to that the increased use of phones, tablets and computers near the bed-time during social confinement generated a phase-delay type of insomnia, with young-adults going to bed late in the night and waking up later in the morning, losing the synchrony with day-night cycles.[2]  For some individuals could be beneficial taking sleeping pills. However the overall increase of consumption and misuse of sleeping medicaments can lead, in some cases, to chronic alterations of biorhythm leading to pathological psychiatric disorders and long-term adverse outcomes. [1]

Many surveys have been launched from the beginning of the pandemic [2-5] in order to assess and monitor the impact of COVID-19 situation on sleep. As expected, high rates of clinical insomnia, depressive symptoms and anxiety are reported among the population, being more severe for healthcare workers and people at risks of COVID-19. [3]

Being aware of the beneficial aspects of sleep and following practical strategies proposed by specialists to maintain healthy sleeping habits are the first step to overcome restlessness.
The right amount of sleep is essential to keep good health and wellness: within other beneficial aspects on memory, muscles growth and tissue repair, it is during the resting state that our innate and adaptive immune system is developing. Sleep is linked to reduced infection risks and can improve infection outcome and vaccination responses. [4] For these reasons it is important to maintain a good balance in sleeping habits, particularly in this worldwide pandemic period.


[1] Morin C.M. et al. The Acute Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Insomnia and Psychological Symptoms. Sleep Medicine, (2020).doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2020.06.005

[2] Cellini N, Canale N, Mioni G, Costa S. Changes in sleep pattern, sense of time, and digital media use during COVID-19 lockdown in Italy. J Sleep Res 2020 (preprint).

[3] Lin L. et al.The immediate impact of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak on subjective sleep status. Sleep Med. (2020) 77:54 348.

[4] Besedovsky, L., Lange, T., & Haack, M. (2019). The Sleep-Immune Crosstalk in Health and Disease. Physiological Reviews, 99(3), 1325–1380.doi:10.1152/physrev.00010.2018

[5] Léger al. Poor sleep associated with overuse of media during the COVID-19 lockdown. Sleep. (2020) doi:10.1093/sleep/zsaa125


Image: Photo by CDC from Pexels

About the author

Sabina Pulone

Leave a Comment