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Lockdowns Increase Insomnia and Jeopardize Mental Health


woman in bed looking at clock

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

At the end of March 2020, more than 1.3 billion people in India entered a stringent 21-day lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sahil Bajaj, Ph.D., Director of the Multimodal Clinical Neuroimaging Laboratory (MCNL) at the Center for Neurobehavioral Research at Boys Town National Research Hospital®, saw the need to quickly study how this would affect Indian residents' sleep health and how that could relate to millions of people across the world who were experiencing the same lockdown conditions.

The study looked at gender, age, income level and how worried respondents were about becoming ill using a Worry Scale, a Sleep-Quality Scale, and a Depression Symptom Scale. Residents completed the scales only during the weeks of lockdown.

A hefty 53% of respondents rated themselves as having low to severe insomnia during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Bajaj and his team wanted to make sure the insomnia was related to the COVID-19 pandemic and wasn't simply a pre- existing condition. The researchers considered that typically, 18.6% of the population suffers from insomnia, meaning that 34% of the insomnia reported could be directly related to the COVID-19 lockdown.

“People get worried. Worry leads to insomnia. Insomnia leads to depression. Our conclusion was if we can improve people's sleep during this pandemic situation, then that can lead to better mental health and less depression," said Bajaj.

Unfortunately, sleep studies tied to the pandemic have received little attention.

“It is very difficult to treat depression, so it's better if people understand that poor sleep and depression are related to each other," noted Bajaj. “The more we can raise awareness of this relationship, the more likely we are to create a positive impact on mental health during the pandemic."

To find out which groups of people suffered the most insomnia, click the link below and read Dr. Bajaj's complete study.