Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Researchers are recommending public health interventions to reduce the long-term adverse outcomes associated with chronic insomnia and mental health problems.

Man asleep wearing sleep tracker on his wrist © Andrey_Popov/ Shutterstock

The COVID-19 pandemic brought changes to the way people work, socialise and spend leisure time. It also brought stressors in the form of health concerns, social isolation, financial hardship, home-schooling, and uncertainty about the future. All of this combined has had a major impact on sleep and psychological well-being.

In June 2020, an international group of researchers led by Professor Colin Espie from the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at the University of Oxford and Professor Charles Morin, Department of Psychology, Laval University, set out to investigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on sleep and daily rhythms in adults.
This study documented the prevalence of clinical cases of insomnia, anxiety, and depression and selected risk factors (COVID-19, confinement, financial burden, social isolation) during the first wave of the pandemic from May to August 2020. Over 22,000 adults from 13 countries across four continents completed a web-based survey about their sleep and psychological symptoms.

Over a third of respondents reported clinical insomnia symptoms, and almost a fifth met criteria for a probable insomnia disorder. Over a quarter of participants had probable anxiety and almost a quarter probable depression. Risks of insomnia were higher among participants who reported having had COVID-19, who reported greater financial burden, were in confinement for a period of four to five weeks, and living alone or with more than five people in same household.

Professor Colin Espie says: 'Health authorities must deploy sleep and mental health prevention programmes, as well as clinical interventions to assist at-risk individuals and reduce long-term adverse health outcomes. Research shows that when you treat insomnia, you often not only see improvements in sleep, but reductions in anxiety and depressive symptoms, and improvement in mental health and wellbeing. This study provides further evidence of the impact of sleep on mental health and how we can begin addressing the mental health crisis through evidenced-based insomnia interventions.'

Read the full paper

Similar stories

Attention and memory deficits persist for months after recovery from mild COVID

Researchers from Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences and Department of Experimental Psychology have shown that people who have had COVID but don’t complain of long COVID symptoms in daily life nevertheless can show degraded attention and memory for up to six to nine months.

New Academic Visitor from Nigeria

Associate Professor of Radiology, Godwin Ogbole has arrived on a six-month visit to the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, as part of the Africa Oxford Initiative.

New spinout company: Human-Centric Drug Discovery

Human-Centric Drug Discovery is a new Oxford University spinout company from Professor Zameel Cader's lab.

Funding received for research into Motor Neuron Disease

A £210,000 donation from the Alan Davidson Foundation has been made to our Department to advance our world-leading research into Motor Neuron Disease. The funding will support a project manager to deliver an innovative research project using the genetic causes of MND to develop approaches to early diagnosis.

Research finds drug may benefit some patients hospitalised with COVID-19 pneumonia

A proof-of-concept trial involving Oxford researchers has identified a drug that may benefit some patients hospitalised with COVID-19 pneumonia.

Protein test could lead to earlier and better diagnosis of Parkinson’s

Scientists have observed the clumping of alpha-synuclein in the cerebrospinal fluid taken from people with Parkinson's. The findings offer hope that a pioneering new clinical test could be developed to diagnose Parkinson's correctly in its early stages.