Ditching the screen 'can help you sleep post-Covid-19'

·2-min read

Increased nighttime use of electronic devices during the Covid-19 pandemic harmed people's sleeping habits, according to a new study of Italians in lockdown.

During the country's first pandemic lockdown, daily internet traffic almost doubled compared to the same time in the previous year.

To study its effects, researchers conducted a web-based survey of more than 2,100 Italian residents during the third (the last full week of March 2020) and the seventh weeks of the country's national lockdown.

It evaluated sleep quality and insomnia symptoms, using the respected Pittsburgh Sleep Quality and Insomnia Severity Index as its methods of measurement.

The study found that 92.9 per cent reported an increase in their electronic device usage between the first and second surveys.

Participants also showed decreased sleep quality, an increase in insomnia symptoms, shorter total sleep times, and later bed and waking times. Researchers found an increased prevalence of poor sleepers and those with moderate to severe insomnia symptoms within this group of respondents.

However, they found that the 7.1 per cent of participants who reduced their screen time between the first and second survey reported improved sleep quality and fewer symptoms of insomnia. This group also demonstrated a decrease in moderate and severe insomnia symptoms.

Professor Michele Ferrara, Director of the Laboratory of Sleep Psychophysiology and Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of L'Aquila, said: "The evidence of a strong relationship between screen habits and the time course of sleep disturbances during the lockdown period suggests that, now, more than never, raising public awareness about the risks of evening exposure to electronic devices could be crucial to preserve general sleep health.

"This applies to both the ongoing pandemic and the future, as electronic technologies will find more and more space in our daily routine."