The Impact Of COVID-19 On Global Sleep Patterns

Last week, we shared an important story about the impact COVID-19 has had on our global Fitbit community’s physical activity levels and provided a few tips on how we can help. This week, we’ve taken a look at how sleep patterns have changed during this time. Based on our review of aggregated and anonymized data, we saw that in locations with shelter-in-place mandates, bedtime and bedtime consistency shifted. 

For the most part, people are going to bed later but getting more sleep, as well as more quality rest. For those whose quality of sleep has improved, they have been spending more time in deep and REM sleep. 

Take a look at the maps below to see how quality of sleep changed for different age groups in the US during the week that ended March 22, 2020.* The blue color represents an increase in minutes of average sleep, while the orange color represents a decrease. The numbers shown in the states range from an increase of 25 minutes of extra sleep a night to a maximum decrease of seven fewer minutes of sleep.

This trend was consistent across Europe as well. Check out the week-by-week change in average sleep duration in different European metropolitan areas, below. 

You can see that in Paris, average sleep duration was impacted the most. It began to spike after the week ending March 15, once school closures were announced and public gatherings larger than a certain size were banned just days before. 

The average sleep duration in Milan increased at the beginning of March, when northern Italy underwent quarantine restrictions. 

In London, where shelter-in-place policies were not mandated during this time, sleep duration was not significantly affected until very recently.         

Even though sleep duration has been longer, it is still important to maintain bedtime consistency for many health reasons. While going to bed later and waking up later makes sense for now, it will be important to try to keep up that consistency even when our schedules change.

Why is it important to maintain bedtime consistency?  

Your body recharges while you sleep, both repairing and building tissue and muscle. Levels of the stress hormone cortisol fall during the evening. And, getting your recommended seven to nine hours a night also boosts your immunity—something that’s more important than ever right now. 

You may be aware of some of these facts, and that having a regular bedtime can improve your health. But did you know that bedtime consistency can also help you fall asleep faster? Because your body craves regularity, keeping your circadian rhythm dialed in is vital for upholding quality sleep—especially during stressful times. As your body adjusts, you should be waking up naturally at the optimal time each morning as well (as long as you’re getting enough sleep). Learn more about how sticking to a regular bedtime schedule can improve your health here

If you’re not getting more restful sleep, we’re here for you. Here’s how Fitbit can help: 

We know that adapting to these changes in your sleep patterns can be challenging. That’s why we’ve pulled together the following tips to help you out if you’re not sleeping well during this time. 

Check out our free Fitbit Premium content offerings, featuring sleep and mindfulness tools. To make health more accessible, Fitbit is offering a free 90-day trial of Fitbit Premium to new users wherever Premium is available in the Fitbit app, as well as 40 new pieces of Premium content for free to all users. Choose from a variety of sleep and mindfulness tools available to help you relax, manage stress, and enjoy more quality rest. 

Wind down for the night with the following sleep meditations and soothing sounds: 

  • Wind down for Sleep
  • Equal Breathing Exercise for Sleep
  • How to Fall Asleep

De-stress with these mindful meditations:

  • Quick Body Scan
  • The Present Moment
  • Guided Meditation to Start Your Day 

To take advantage of the free trial, open the Fitbit app and tap on the “Premium” tab in the lower-right corner. 

Use Smart Wake to gently wake yourself up in the morning. Achieve a more consistent sleep cycle by setting alarms on your Fitbit device. You can use Smart Wake to wake you with a quiet vibration during a lighter sleep stage.

All you need to do is set a silent alarm using the Fitbit app—or set one up directly on your smartwatch—and check the “Smart Wake” box. Your Fitbit tracker or watch will then wake you up in a lighter sleep stage, up to 30 minutes prior to your desired wake-up time. That way you won’t feel so groggy when you wake up—just be sure not to hit snooze! Find out more about how to manage alarms on your Fitbit device.

Revamp your sleep sanctuary. The National Sleep Foundation suggests that maintaining an optimal bedroom temperature of around 65 degrees, minimizing your exposure to noise and natural light at night, and avoiding caffeine or alcohol before bed are all measures you can take to ensure a better night’s rest. Find out how you can revamp your sleep sanctuary to make the most of your sleep.   

*In order to glean this info, Fitbit data scientists first established a baseline for the average sleep of millions of users during a control period of December 2019 through January 2020. These baseline values were used to calculate the change in sleep behaviors during February and March 2020. On the US maps, you can see how average sleep duration changed in different states. 

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