Research explores sleep quality, psychological symptoms during pandemic

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During the early quarantine period brought on by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, people who reported worse sleep quality at night also reported an increase in negative mood, psychotic-like experiences, and somatic complaints on the next day, according to new research published in the journal Sleep.

For the study, researchers at the Université libre de Bruxelles 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. They measured variables in a prospective manner to establish general trends in individuals, including subjective sleep quality and daytime experiences such as rumination, psychotic-like experiences, and somatic complaints.

The researchers said they were able to study 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, as well as 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 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. The researchers said 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.

According to the researchers, 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.

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