Frances Chung
UHN’s Dr. Frances Chung is the principal investigator for English-speaking Canada in the study. (Photo: UHN)

Is COVID-19 keeping you up at night? An international team of researchers, including at UHN, is investigating how the pandemic may be impacting sleep quality for people around the world.

The fear of being infected with the virus, worrying about friends and family, job loss, financial problems, social distancing, new work routines are all factors that can generate stress and anxiety, with consequences to sleep routine.

"The pandemic is impacting all aspects of our lives and truthfully nobody knows when it will end," says Dr. Frances Chung, ResMedResearch Chair of Anesthesiology, Sleep, and Perioperative Medicine, Department of Anesthesia and Pain Management, UHN, and principal investigator for English-speaking Canada in the study.

Dr. Chung says the research will help gather data about people's sleep patterns and see if there's any association with social confinement, risk of exposure to COVID, and any psychological conditions that may have been exacerbated during the pandemic, such as anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress.

Participation in the study, which is called "Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on sleep," is voluntary and anonymous. Anyone over the age of 18 can participate.

The research will include participants in at least nine countries, across North America, Europe and Asia, through an online questionnaire. Researchers hope to enroll at least 1,000 people in each country.

Read more and participate in the study

"This study will help us understand to what extent COVID-19 has impacted sleep health, and help guide strategies during this pandemic response period, and beyond," says Dr. Chung.

Even before COVID-19, sleep disorders were considered a big and overlooked public health issue. In Canada, an estimated 35 per cent of the population aged 15 or older had trouble going to sleep or staying asleep for the appropriate number of hours.

Sleep health can have a huge impact on mental health, well-being, and also affect how our bodies function. Studies have shown that insufficient or poor quality of sleep is associated with obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, injuries, lower immunity, among a wide range of health problems.

"Unfortunately, sleep health is an area of study still largely ignored," says Dr. Chung. "Collecting this kind of data is a critical first step to get a better picture and improve both, sleep and mental health." 

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