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UniSR research studies the impact of lockdown on university students' sleep

16 July 2020
Research

A study by the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University published in the Journal of Neurology highlights the effects that the months of lockdown had on the sleep quality of students and UniSR administrative staff.

The survey was conducted on 307 university students (average age 22 years) and 93 collaborators of the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University (average age 37 years) who responded to an online questionnaire developed by psychologists and neurologists from the Sleep Center of the San Raffaele Hospital, directed by Professor Luigi Ferini Strambi, on sleep characteristics and on anxiety/depressive symptoms in the period of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study showed an increase in time spent in bed during an emergency and a shift forward both in the time of sleep (40 minutes later in both groups evaluated) and in the morning awakening time (37 minutes in the workers and 64 minutes in students).

«This shift, for the so-called" owls ", which represent 15-20% in the general population, was positive because it allowed them to follow the natural sleep-wake rhythm. In all other subjects, the disturbance of sleep rhythms has negatively affected general well-being»

explains Prof. Ferini Strambi, Full Professor of UniSR Neurology, Head of the Center for Sleep Medicine at the IRCCS San Raffaele Turro Hospital and former President of the World Association of Sleep Medicine.

The results also show an increase in the percentage of subjects with difficulty falling asleep: in the pre-COVID-19 period it was 39%, while during the lockdown it rose to 55%. On the other hand, an increase in maintenance insomnia was also observed in workers, i.e. repeated nocturnal awakenings, which went from 24% in the pre-COVID-19 period to 40% during the lockdown.

The researchers also found that 30% of the sample reported depressive symptoms and 34% reported anxious symptoms, more evident in the group of students and in female subjects. "The study," said Ferini Strambi, "showed a close relationship between bad sleep, depression of mood and anxiety."

He concludes:

"Sleep is a fundamental function for the well-being of our body and it is important that people learn to respect simple rules aimed at improving night's rest and promoting general well-being".

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