New data reveals how UK is sleeping under coronavirus lockdown

New study by King’s College London and Ipsos MORI finds significant numbers have experienced changes to their sleep patterns since the coronavirus lockdown was announced.

The author(s)

  • Gideon Skinner Public Affairs
Get in touch

A new study of the UK public by King’s College London and Ipsos MORI finds that significant numbers have experienced changes to their sleep patterns since the lockdown was announced on 23 March, with nearly two-thirds (63%) overall saying their sleep has been worse.

The study is based on 2,254 interviews with UK residents aged 16-75, and was carried out online between 20 and 22 May 2020.

Disturbed sleep

  • Half the population (50%) say their sleep has been more disturbed than usual.
  • This rises to 62% among those who say they’re certain or very likely to face financial difficulties because of disruption caused by coronavirus.
  • People who find coronavirus stressful are more than twice as likely as those who don’t to report disturbed sleep (64% vs 29%).
  • 52% of women say their sleep has been more disturbed than usual, slightly more than the 46% of men who say the same.

Less sleep

  • Two in five (39%) say they’ve slept fewer hours a night on average compared with before the lockdown.
  • Among those who say they’re certain or very likely to face financial difficulties due to COVID-19, this rises to 48%.
  • 47% of those who find coronavirus stressful have got less sleep each night on average, compared 29% among people who do not find the virus stressful.
  • 16-24-year-olds are most likely to say they’re averaging fewer hours sleep a night, with 46% reporting this is the case. At the other end of the spectrum, 36% of those aged 35 to 44 and 55 to 75 say the same

More sleep but feeling less rested

  • Three in 10 (29%) say they’ve slept longer hours but feel less rested than they normally would when they wake up.
  • Again, this is even higher among those who say they’re certain or very likely to face financial difficulties because of coronavirus, rising to four in 10 (42%).
  • Younger age groups are much more likely to report sleeping longer but feeling less rested: 44% of people aged 16-24 and 38% of those aged 25-34 say this applies to them, compared with 28% of 35-44-year-olds, 22% of 45-54-year-olds and 23% of 55-75-year-olds.

My sleep has been more disturbed than usual - Ipsos MORI / King's College London

Taking together the proportions who say their sleep has been more disturbed, those who say they’ve slept less a night on average, and those who have slept for longer but felt less rested, nearly two-thirds of the UK (63%) report experiencing worse sleep since the lockdown was announced.

More sleep and feeling more rested

  • A quarter (24%) say they’ve slept longer hours and feel more rested when they wake up.
  • Men (27%) are slightly more likely than women (22%) to say this applies to them.
  • 35% of both 16-24-year-olds and 25-34-year-olds say they’ve slept longer and felt more rested, compared with 19% of those aged 35+.
  • 27% of those who don’t find coronavirus stressful have slept longer and felt more rested, versus 19% among those do find Covid-19 stressful.

Vivid dreams

  • Two in five people (38%) report having had more vivid dreams than usual.
  • 43% of women say this applies to them, 10 percentage points higher than the 33% of men who say it does.
  • The likelihood of having experienced more vivid dreams than normal decreases with age: half of all 16-24-year olds (51%) say they’ve experienced such dreams, declining to 30% among those aged 55 to 75.
  • Half (49%) of those who find coronavirus stressful report having had more vivid dreams than usual, compared with a quarter (25%) among those do not find it stressful.

I have had more vivid dreams than usual - Ipsos MORI / King's College London

Gideon Skinner, Research Director at Ipsos MORI, said:

This research is further evidence that the coronavirus crisis is having an impact beyond the immediate physical health and financial effects, and that many people are finding that their wellbeing is suffering even if they haven’t been infected, but are just feeling stressed by it all. Lack of sleep itself may have further knock-on effects on people’s capacity to be resilient in the face of the pandemic, and there are signs that it may be having a disproportionate impact on particular groups: women, younger people, and those facing financial hardship.

Professor Bobby Duffy, Director of the Policy Institute at King’s College London, said:

Nearly two-thirds of the UK public report some negative impact on their sleep from the COVID-19 crisis, clearly showing just how unsettling the pandemic and lockdown measures have been for a very large proportion us. And this is clearly tied to both how stressful we’ve found the virus itself, and how much we fear the impact of the lockdown on our employment and finances. Young people in particular have experienced the most impact on their sleep, for good and bad – they are more likely than older people to say they’ve experienced negative impacts on their sleep, but also more likely to say they’ve slept better. As with so much about COVID-19, the crisis is affecting people very differently depending on their circumstances, and that includes the most fundamental aspects of life, such as sleep.

Dr Ivana Rosenzweig, Head of the Sleep and Brain Plasticity Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, said:

Adequate and good-quality sleep is important to maintain our physical and mental resilience and disturbed sleep is often caused by stress. But we also know that poor sleep can play a role in increasing our levels of stress, which can create a cycle that’s difficult to break. This is reflected by the findings that this effect was greater for those most vulnerable and those who were more concerned about the pandemic.
The survey also finds that unrefreshing sleep of longer duration, so called hypersomnia, was reported at a high level, especially by younger people. The associations between depressive symptoms and hypersomnia have been known for some time and again there is a complex two-way relationship between the two, which means they can create a self-perpetuating cycle. Finally, it is also important to acknowledge that a quarter of participants reported they were sleeping more and feeling better for it, which highlights that, as a society, we simply do not get the chance to sleep as much as we need, and that this pandemic is allowing some of us to rediscover the importance of sleep.

Technical details

Ipsos MORI interviewed a sample of 2,254 adults aged 16-75 in the UK using its online i:omnibus between 20 and 22 May 2020. Data has been weighted to the known offline population proportions for age within gender, government office region, working status, social grade and education. All surveys are subject to a range of potential sources of error

The author(s)

  • Gideon Skinner Public Affairs

More insights about Health

Society