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    World Sleep Day – 18 March 2022

    This year marks the 15th annual World Sleep Day (WSD), an annual, global call to action about the importance of healthy sleep, created and hosted by the World Sleep Society. This year’s theme promotes ‘Quality Sleep, Sound Mind, Happy World’.

    CPC researchers have been investigating the effects of sleep loss, both from the perspective of how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected sleep, as well as how having a baby affects sleep hours and quality.

    Sleep loss during the coronavirus pandemic

    The Covid-19 pandemic caused sleeping difficulties for women with young children, key workers and people of BAME heritage, according to a CPC study. The study, initially carried out in 2020 during the first four months of the pandemic, has since been widely reported and cited across news articles, stemming from its coverage in The Guardian in the article ‘Coronavirus lockdown caused sharp increase of insomnia in UK’. The project’s lead, CPC Director, Professor Jane Falkingham OBE, also appeared on an episode of the ITV News podcast ‘Coronavirus: What you need to know’ talking about disrupted sleep.

    The study revealed that sleep loss affected more people during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, reflecting rising stress levels due to anxieties about health, financial consequences, changes in social life and daily routine, all of which can affect sleep. Sleep deprivation can have knock-on effects for physical and mental health. The findings show that the Covid-19 pandemic caused sleeping difficulties for women with young children, key workers and people of BAME heritage in particular.

    Conducted by Professor Falkingham and a team from CPC and the Centre for Research on Ageing, the analysis used survey data from the Understanding Society COVID-19 Study collected during April 2020. It was then compared with survey data collected in 2018/19. The sample included 15,360 respondents aged 16 and above. The first lockdown led to a rise in the number of people suffering sleeping problems from one in six (15.7%) of the sample to one in four (24.7%).

    Professor Falkingham comments: “On this World Sleep Day, it is an ideal opportunity to reflect on how our sleep has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic over the last two years. We have seen how Covid-19 has had a disproportionate impact on the health of individuals from different ethnic groups and those employed in certain jobs. The indirect impacts of Covid-19, including the closure of schools and businesses, and the move to home working, seemed to be worse for working age people and women. These factors, in turn, have impacted upon sleep health and their effects are still being felt.”

    She continues: “The Covid-19 pandemic and the policy responses to it have widened the differences in sleep deprivation across gender and ethnicity, putting women and ethnic minorities at an even greater disadvantage. Disrupted and poor sleep is associated with wider mental and physical health challenges. Policy-makers and health professionals need to take action to support better sleep health amongst vulnerable groups who may have been particularly affected during the pandemic if they are to avoid future secondary health complications.”

    The full study is published in BMJ Open: Prospective longitudinal study of ‘Sleepless in Lockdown’: unpacking differences in sleep loss during the coronavirus pandemic in the UK' and also as CPC Policy Briefing 55 ‘Who’s been losing sleep during lockdown?’.

    Sleep hours and quality before and after baby: Inequalities by gender and partnership

    Shih-Yi Chao, Ann Berrington, Brienna Perelli-Harris and Niels Blom have been investigating sleep hours and quality around the birth of a child, one of the most important events to cause sleep deprivation, paying attention to differences by gender and partnership status.

    The study team have used the UK Household Longitudinal Study, following approximately 1000 participants as they transition into parenthood, to analyse levels of sleep before and after birth, but also changes in sleep, more important for understanding how inequalities emerge.

    Their results so far show that before birth, women report on average 0.3 more sleep hours than men. After birth, married women and married men sleep similar amounts. However, cohabiting men seem to experience a steeper decline in sleep hours than married men, with a loss in sleep similar to women, suggesting that new cohabiting fathers may experience more sleep disturbances.

    For more on World Sleep Day activities, follow #worldsleepday and @_WorldSleep on Twitter.

    Posted 17/03/2022 14:32