Sleep Health

Dreem study shows people slept later but for longer during lockdown

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COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions have had an incredible effect on the way we all live and sleep.

A study by the makers of Dreem 2, an advanced sleep-tracking headband, compared the sleeping patterns of 600 participants in France before and after the nations' two-month lockdown and found fascinating differences in their sleep behaviours.

"Confinement changed the shape of our days which, as these results show, changed the shape of our nights, the very structure of sleep itself and even how our dreams are," researchers said.1

What changes did people make to their sleep?

According to sleep data collected by the Dreem 2 headband, study participants increased their sleep duration as well as shifted their bedtimes and wakeup times later by an average of 20 minutes and 30 minutes, respectively. For some people, we can attribute this to the convenience of not having to commute and the inability to go out late. For others, however, this change reflects lost jobs and forced leave taken.

While the shift was more evident in some sleep groups than in others, all groups – from early birds to night owls – showed the same trends.

"The team saw an increase in sleep duration, particularly for respondents on furlough, evening types and healthy sleepers without insomnia," researchers said.1

What's obvious is that the increased sleep duration wasn't due to people getting to bed earlier but to people sleeping in. In some ways, it's just like how people sleep in on weekends and during holidays – no alarm needed. Without the need for commuting, people have adapted to a more natural sleep-wake cycle.

DREEM 2-16x9-v4

How did this new reality change our dreams?

Unlike almost all other sleep trackers, Dreem 2 also records brain wave activity, which provides in-depth data on a person's sleep. This enabled researchers to see how changes in sleep behaviour affected the nature of the study participants’ sleep.

They noticed the shift toward later bed and wake times meant participants were also experiencing more REM sleep, the sleep stage where most vivid dreaming occurs. This may explain why many people have reported more frequent and intense dreams during the pandemic.

Another interesting observation was that participants had slightly less N3 or slow-wave sleep, which is when the brain consolidates memories and performs bodily repair. It's suggested this is not as needed because people are now more well-rested at home.

"N3 is the sleep stage where you deal with physical fatigue and exhaustion, longer sleep duration means that you're less fatigued and have less sleep debt, and so less need for N3 sleep," researchers said.1

All of us have had to adapt to a whole new lifestyle this year due to the pandemic. Some people see it as a nightmare of changes. Others, however, have enjoyed living the touted dream of being able to work from home indefinitely.

Whichever way you see it, it seems the pandemic has had at least one positive effect on our health and wellbeing through enabling us to sleep and dream better.

The Dreem study  Learn more

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Citations

1

Dreem. "Dreem Study:Sleep under lockdown" Dreem, 18 June 2020, https://blog.dreem.com/en/dreem-study-sleep-under-lockdown/

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