Losing Sleep During a Pandemic

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A study has been launched to explore how the pandemic may impact sleep around the world.

Is anxiety keeping you up at night? A team of international researchers, including UHN’s Dr. Frances Chung, are investigating how the COVID-19 pandemic may be impacting sleep quality for people around the world.

Participation in the study, which involves completion of a 20-minute online questionnaire, is voluntary and anonymous. Anyone over the age of 18 can participate.

Click here to participate in the study.

The study will gather data from participants in at least nine countries, across North America, Europe and Asia. The researchers hope to enroll at least 1,000 people in each country.

The fear of being infected with the virus, worrying about friends and family, job loss, financial problems, physical distancing and new work routines are all factors that can generate stress and anxiety, with consequences on sleep routine. "The pandemic is impacting all aspects of our lives and truthfully nobody knows when it will end," says Dr. Frances Chung, ResMed Research Chair of Anesthesiology, Sleep, and Perioperative Medicine in the Department of Anesthesia and Pain Management at UHN, and one of the principal investigators of the study.

Dr. Chung says the research will help gather data about people's sleep patterns to determine how they are affected by social confinement, risk of exposure to COVID-19, and any psychological conditions that may have been exacerbated during the pandemic, such as anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress.

"This study will help us understand to what extent COVID-19 has impacted sleep health, and help guide strategies during this pandemic response period, and beyond," says Dr. Chung.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, sleep disorders were considered an overlooked public health issue. In Canada, an estimated 35 per cent of the population aged 15 or older had trouble going to sleep or staying asleep for the appropriate number of hours.

Sleep health can have a huge impact on mental health, wellbeing, and can also affect how our bodies function. Studies have shown that insufficient or poor quality of sleep is associated with obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, injuries, lower immunity and other health problems.

"Unfortunately, sleep health is an area of study still largely ignored," says Dr. Chung. "Collecting this kind of data is a critical first step to get a better picture and improve both, sleep and mental health."

Dr. Frances Chung is a Krembil Clinician Investigator based at the Toronto Western Hospital and is serving as one of the lead researchers of the study.