COLUMBIA — The research of sleep specialist doctors at the MU suggest that children made up for sleeping deficits during the lockdown duration of the pandemic.
The central finding of their study was that “although lockdown was associated with later bedtime and wake time, this shift did not alter sleep duration in more than 40% of children.”
According to their study, compared to preschoolers, high school-aged children were more likely to sleep more on weekdays and primary school children on weekends.
“A proportion of children, maybe half of the children did not have a change in sleep duration,” said Dr. Athanasios Kaditis, of MU Health Care. “Surprisingly, a portion of children, especially adolescence had the opportunity to sleep more, which to us was a message that adolescents have hidden or concealed sleep deficits.”
He said this is because their pre-pandemic routines did not allow enough time to get the desired amount of sleep.
Dr. Leila Kheirandish-Gozal, a co-author on the paper, further explained.
“The children that were in the teenage range, almost half of them because they were sleep deprived, they actually got more sleep,” she said.
“They basically compensated for the time that they were not really getting. Meaning that our children, our teenagers, are mainly sleep deprived on normal school days," Kheirandish-Gozal said.
Unlike children and adolescents, Dr. Kaditis believes parents were much more likely to have their sleep disrupted because of lockdown measures.
“For parents, this was a stressful situation, they had like to contribute to their job requirements to the internet number one and number two, they had to take care of their children 24 hours a day,” he said. “The frequency of using sleeping pills went up, the frequency of depression and anxiety went up.”
According to a study from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 36% of Americans reported difficulty sleeping last summer due to stress about the pandemic.
Rachel Boss is a Columbia mother who found her sleep schedule disrupted during the lockdown, though she was only at home for a small period of time because of her status as an essential worker.
For the period of time she was working from home, she was often up later at night.
“Just because I had to get my hours in, you know,” she said. “My work schedule was so crazy. There were nights where I was, you know, up at two o'clock in the morning finishing up my work day.”
Boss said though easier said than done, trying to be self aware about the stressors in her life helped ease her anxieties during the pandemic overall.
“When something is stressing you out, acknowledge it, speak it, you know, don't bury it,” she said. “Because then it just comes back to bite you in your sleep schedule.”
Kheirandish-Gozal suggested many methods of trying to curb sleeplessness for those in lockdown and those who are not, including less screen time and spending more time in natural sunlight.
“For adults, I would suggest staying away from sleeping pills and from drinking at evening hours,” she said. “Sit at the at the window, open the balcony, just be in the natural light, natural light by itself resets your clock.”
Kheirandish-Gozal said this is a huge part of having a better regulated circadian rhythm.
“At least make sure when you wake up in the morning, always wake up at the same time have a routine, have your breakfast or your coffee in a real natural light.”