During the first confinement, day-to-day variations in subjective sleep quality influenced the occurrence of mental and physical health complaints, and that these effects were linked to daily reports of COVID-19 related deaths. People who reported worse sleep quality during a night also reported an increase in negative mood, psychotic-like experiences, and somatic complaints on the next day. Furthermore, daily reports of deaths caused by Covid-19 predicted psychological symptoms on the same day and sleep quality the following night. This finding comes from a team of researchers led by Peter Simor, and including Rebeca Sifuentes,
Ariadna Albajara, Oumaïma Benkirane, Anke Van Roy and Philippe Peigneux, who carried out the project in three countries (Belgium, Hungary, Spain) in collaboration with researchers from the Eötvös Loránd University of Budapest and the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, as well as the ULB’s Neuroscience Institute.
The quality of sleep, according to the researchers, could be related to the COVID-19 pandemic and even influence mental health complaints. To test this hypothesis, the researchers interviewed 166 participants twice a day (in the morning and in the afternoon) for two consecutive weeks via an online interface about their sleep quality and negative psychological experiences. This method made it possible to measure variables (subjective sleep quality and daytime experiences such as rumination, psychotic-like experiences and somatic complaints) in a “prospective” manner and to establish general trends in individuals. The researchers studied the temporal associations of these variables within individuals, examining whether a relatively poor night’s sleep would be followed by more mental health complaints the next day. In addition, the method allowed them to study whether a relative increase in mental health complaints on a given day would lead to an altered sleep pattern the following night.
The research team also linked the measures (sleep and mental health complaints) to specific factors related to the Covid-19 pandemic: Daily COVID-19 deaths reported by the national media were used as indicators of the threatening context of the pandemic. Thereby, they were able to show that daily media reports of the number of deaths related to COVID-19 per country predicted mental health complaints that day and impaired sleep quality the following night.
The results show that changes in sleep quality from one night to the next predict how individuals cope with the daily challenges of confinement the next day.
Simor, P., Polner, B., Báthori, N., Sifuentes-Ortega, R., Van Roy, A., Albajara Sáenz, A., Luque González, A., Benkirane, O., Nagy, T., & Peigneux, P. (2021). Home confinement during the COVID-19: Day-to-day associations of sleep quality with rumination, psychotic-like experiences, and somatic symptoms. Sleep, zsab029. https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsab029