FILE PHOTO: A passenger sleeps inside an MTA subway car, during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, U.S., May 14, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo
LONDON (Reuters) – An international group of neuroscientists will examine how the world is sleeping, or failing to, during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has upended work, social and family life for countless people.
Sleep is known to be critical to physical and mental health – essential for tissue repair, cell regeneration, immune function, memory, and for regulating mood and emotions.
With many people anecdotally reporting sleep problems due to the new coronavirus – including difficulty falling asleep, trouble staying asleep and vivid dreams – the project co-led by neuroscientists at Britain’s Oxford University will investigate their impact on people’s health and daily rhythms.
The International COVID-19 Sleep Study (ICOSS), will combine research from Austria, Canada, China, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Norway and the United States.
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“Sufficient good quality sleep helps us cope, so it’s worrying to see trends of poor sleep during this pandemic. We are hoping to study this… in more detail,” said Colin Espie, an Oxford professor of sleep medicine.
The study will look at the impact of social confinement such as lockdowns or self-isolation on sleep. It will also examine how risks of exposure to the virus and how psychological symptoms such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress can affect, or be affected by, sleep.
Researchers say their aim is to understand how sleep problems have emerged and to investigate how sleep during COVID-19 has interacted with lifestyle, health and wellbeing.
Data collected by the research teams will feed into an international database. The findings, Espie said, should help scientists “understand the challenges, but also to figure out solutions to keep the population well-slept and healthy”.
Reporting by Kate Kelland, editing by Gareth Jones
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