Last month, we looked at the impact of COVID-19 on sleep patterns. Seven weeks later we decided to see if the trend toward more sleep had continued and to dive deeper into the data. We found that during stay-at-home orders, the majority of Fitbit users around the world slept more and got better sleep.
On average, US Fitbit users posted 20 more minutes of sleep per night in April than they did the same month a year earlier, potentially due to the lack of work and school commutes, Fitbit data shows.
The changing sleep patterns began in March when stay-at-home orders started. By the end of March, 30 states had stay-at-home orders and 13 states had similar orders for parts of the state. By late April, 95% of the US population was instructed to stay home.
People slept longer in April globally, too, including in London, Madrid, Paris, and Singapore, with smaller gains evident in Stockholm and Tokyo.
In addition to sleeping more, the April data shows we went to bed an average of 13 minutes later, which means we got up later, and one minute or more of deep sleep, which can benefit cellular rebuilding and repair, make you feel more refreshed, and strengthen your immune system.
Millennials Improve Bedtime Consistency
Younger women, ages 18 to 29, saw the biggest boost in sleep, getting 28 minutes more per night in April than the same month a year earlier. Young men were up there too, with 22 minutes of extra sleep per night in April from a year earlier.
Younger people also experienced the biggest changes to bedtime consistency in April by going to bed later during the week but keeping weekend bedtimes about the same. Maintaining a consistent bedtime routine can have a large impact on mood, stress, and energy levels, and results in less social jet lag. Social jet lag is associated with poorer health, worse mood and increased sleepiness and fatigue, and occurs when you go to bed and wake up later on weekends than during the week.
Before shelter-in-place, 18 to 29-year-olds in Chicago, for instance, turned in at 11:37 PM on average on the weekdays. That shifted to 12:01 AM in April while weekend bedtimes didn’t change as much. Similar patterns were evident elsewhere, including in Madrid. Midweek bedtimes there pushed past 1 AM for young people in April versus closer to midnight in January.
Women Sleeping the Most
Women experienced the biggest increase in sleep, with those ages 18 to 29 getting an average of 28 more minutes in April versus the same month a year ago, and women ages 30 to 49 getting 24 more minutes. Men in the same age groups got 22 and 19 more minutes, respectively.
Older People Most Consistent
People 65 and older racked up the smallest sleep gains, with 13 minutes more in April for women versus a year ago and 16 minutes for men. They also had smaller changes in bedtimes, with women going to bed 9 minutes later in April versus a year ago and men 6 minutes later.
Small Sleep Changes Have Big Health Benefits
Your body recharges while you sleep, repairing and building tissue and muscle. Levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, fall during the evening. Getting a recommended seven to nine hours of sleep a night also boosts immunity.
An extra 20 minutes may not seem like a lot, but for many people it may make the difference between insufficient sleep, and enough sleep needed for better functioning. This is especially true for the millions of people out there getting just a little bit less sleep than they need. Also, 20 minutes per night, averaged over a month of recording, equates to about 10 more hours of sleep in 30 days. “Even small amounts of sleep can add up,” says Michael Grandner, MD, director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona in Tucson and a Fitbit sleep consultant.
Deep Sleep Gains
Deep sleep is the sleep stage that is all about the body. The thinking parts of the brain go quiet. Muscles relax. You’re not dreaming and your body is doing a lot of rebuilding and repairing. Deep sleep typically makes up 10 percent to 25 percent (depending on your age) of your sleep.
Once your body gets the deep sleep it needs, you start going into REM (rapid eye movement) and light sleep. REM is very important for emotion regulation and memory. It’s also the peak of protein synthesis at the cellular level, which keeps many processes in the body working properly.
Now that states are opening up more activities, we’ll continue to watch for trends to sleep stages and times. However, if the daily commute only slowly resumes for a majority of people, there might still be some extra sleep for many of us.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.