Sleep Health and the COVID-19 Pandemic
The past two years of the global COVID-19 pandemic have placed a virtually unprecedented strain on Americans, with ongoing stressors related to occupational hazards faced by essential workers, financial difficulties and unemployment, challenges shifting to remote work and schooling, childcare shortages, social restrictions, and wide-scale disruption to daily habits and routines. These ongoing stressors present a significant challenge to sleep health, which is closely linked to daily routines, physical health, and personal stress.
National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Health Index® (SHI) results show a divergence in apparent impacts of the pandemic on the nation’s sleep health in its second year. On one hand, Americans have been able to achieve longer sleep time, perhaps reflecting pandemic-related changes in schedule and lifestyle. On the other, sleep quality has worsened in what for many has been a challenging health, social, and economic environment. While the coronavirus pandemic has enabled Americans to increase their average sleep duration, data through 2021 show declines in sleep quality—an important reminder that quantity does not necessarily guarantee quality.
Exploring changes in America’s sleep across the pandemic provides an opportunity to promote and sustain positive changes in sleep duration. Simply prioritizing sleep to meet minimum sleep duration recommendations is necessary but not sufficient for optimal sleep health.
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