UK children’s sleep and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Background: Sleep and mental wellbeing are intimately linked. This relationship is particularly important to understand as it emerges over childhood. Here we take the opportunity that the COVID-19 pandemic, and resulting lockdown in the UK, presented to study sleep-related behaviour and anxiety in school-aged children.
Methods: Parents and children were asked to complete questionnaires towards the start of the UK lockdown in April-to-May of 2020, then again in August of that year (when many restrictions had been lifted). We explored children’s emotional responses to the pandemic and sleep patterns at both time points, from the perspectives of parents and children themselves.
Results: Children’s bedtime anxiety increased at the start of the lockdown as compared to a typical week; however, by August, bedtime anxiety had ameliorated along with children’s COVID-19 related anxiety. Bedtime anxiety
predicted how long it took children to fall asleep at night at both the start and the end of the lockdown. Bedtime and wake-up time shifted at the start of lockdown, but interestingly total sleep time was resilient (likely owing to an
absence of early school start times) and was not predicted by child anxiety.
Conclusions: These fndings further support calls for sleep quality (in particular, time taken to fall asleep) to be taken as a key indicator of mental health in children, particularly under usual circumstances when schools are open and
sleep duration may be less resilient.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalBMC Psychology
Issue number76
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2022

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