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Source: Massey University

Ideally, adults would get between seven and nine hours a sleep each night even when we are not in lockdown.

Life under lockdown has changed the way most of us live, work and even sleep, and the University’s Sleep/Wake Research Centre is investigating how people’s sleep and wake routines may have changed and impacted their mood, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The centre has developed an anonymous survey on sleep and wellbeing during the pandemic and is searching for adults who are 18 years and older to complete the survey. The questions range from people’s current living and working situations, their sleep and wake routine, as well as how they have been feeling. The purpose of the survey is to better understand the relationship between how COVID-19 has changed people’s sleep and wake routines and how it makes them feel.

Fatigue Management and Sleep Health portfolio director Associate Professor Leigh Signal says getting enough good quality sleep is important for supporting our immune system to work at its best and is particularly important during a time like this. Pandemic-related stresses and social restrictions such as self-isolation and physical distancing will impact usual routines, including sleep, she says. To help people boost their sleep health and that of their families, the centre has also developed resources and recommendations for adults, including shift workers, teenagers and children.

“In our normal busy lives getting sufficient sleep is often low on our priority list and we perhaps don’t realise how critical it is to both our physical and mental health. Now is a time when we should shift sleep well up the priority list.”

Her advice includes keeping bedtime and wake up times regular and making the timing, amount and quality of sleep a priority. “Keeping stable sleep and waking patterns is an important part of a predictable daily routine and allows us to get light at regular times during the day so that the body clock can stay on top of its immunity duties. Getting plenty of regular, good quality sleep is also linked to our mood.”

Even when we are not in a lockdown, Dr Signal recommends that adults have seven to nine hours sleep a night. Researchers in the USA have found that adults who reported short sleep on a regular basis (less than 7 hours per night on average) and poor-quality sleep were more likely to develop colds when they were exposed to the cold virus as part of the study.

For school-aged children, nine to 11 hours sleep is optimal, and the centre’s Dr Dee Muller says having a relaxing routine before bed such as a shower and reading a book, is optimal. Other tips are keeping screens out of their bedrooms and reducing any caffeinated drinks and food, close to bedtime.

Tips for parents to help children sleep.

“At a time when many things are out of our control, taking care of our sleep health now, and as we re-adjust once restrictions are lifted, is something we can do for ourselves. Sleep helps us to grow, feel happy and stay well, just like healthy food and exercise,” Dr Signal says.

Massey University’s Sleep/Wake Research Centre survey can be completed here. The survey is being led by Associate Professor Mirjam Munch, portfolio director of Circadian Health Research and Research Officer Rosie Gibson.

For more information:

Sleep and immune response and sleep for shift workers: Associate Professor Leigh Signal

Sleep and mental health: Dr Bronwyn Sweeney

Circadian health, sleep and light: Associate Professor Mirjam Munch

Child and teenage sleep: Dr Dee Muller

Sleep in older adults: Dr Rosie Gibson

Sleep for shift workers: Dr Karyn O’Keeffe