More hours of sleep boosts teens’ ability to cope with pandemic stress

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While inadequate sleep was associated with increased stress levels during the COVID-19 pandemic, more youth slept the necessary amount compared to pre-pandemic sleep patterns, according to a recent McGill University study.

The study, which was published in the journal Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, examines pre-pandemic sleep behaviour and stress levels prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the researchers, encouraging youth to develop healthier sleeping patterns may help lower their stress and enhance their ability to manage during times of crisis.

Teenagers were able to follow their innate drive to wake up and sleep later as a result of the changes to daily patterns induced by lockdowns, hence reducing daytime sleepiness.

“The epidemic has demonstrated that postponing school start times may benefit kids’ mental health and should be applied by schools concerned about their students’ mental health,” lead author Reut Gruber, a Full Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at McGill University, said.

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Teens’ wake-up and sleep times shifted approximately two hours later during the pandemic. Additionally, many youths slept longer and were less compelled to make up for missing sleep during the weekend.

The researchers explain that by eliminating the early commute, delaying the start of school, and cancelling extracurricular activities, kids were able to follow their ‘delayed biological rhythm’ – or natural tendency to rise up and sleep later.

These adjustments provided students with extra ‘usable hours’ during the week to finish their homework and avoided having to forgo sleep to meet their weekly requirements. During the COVID-19 epidemic, similar findings were recorded in a number of nations worldwide.

The researchers discovered a link between the amount of sleep teens received prior to the epidemic and their perceived level of stress during the pandemic.

“Shorter sleep duration and a higher level of arousal at bedtime were associated with increased levels of stress, whereas longer sleep and a lower level of arousal at bedtime were associated with decreased levels of stress,” said Gruber, who is also the Director of the Douglas Research Centre’s Attention, Behaviour, and Sleep Laboratory.

“Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the lack of sleep by adolescents was already a global concern. Now, more than ever, it is vital that we address the issue “Sujata Saha, a principal of Riverside School District’s Heritage Regional High School, is a co-author. “The pandemic has escalated levels of uncertainty and psychological stress around the world. It is anticipated that today’s enhanced mental health difficulties will persist even beyond the duration of the pandemic.”

“Insufficient sleep and excessive stimulation prior to bedtime are both undesirable behaviours that are controllable. We can use prophylactic efforts to target these behaviours in order to alleviate adolescent stress in the face of overwhelming conditions like as the COVID-19 pandemic “Gruber stated.

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