An international group of neuroscientists will examine how the world is sleeping, or failing to, during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has upended work, social and family life for countless people. Sleep is known to be critical to physical and mental health - essential for tissue repair, cell regeneration, immune function, memory, and for regulating mood and emotions.

With many people anecdotally reporting sleep problems due to the new coronavirus - including difficulty falling asleep, trouble staying asleep and vivid dreams - the project co-led by neuroscientists at Britain's Oxford University will investigate their impact on people's health and daily rhythms.

Study Will Look at the Impact of Social Confinement

Coronavirus
Mobile photo taken on Feb. 14, 2020 shows Gao Yongzhe and Huang Wenli talking with patients at "Wuhan Livingroom" in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province. Doctor Gao Yongzhe and nurse Huang Wenli are a couple working at the frontline against the novel coronavirus. Although they both spend all day at "Wuhan Livingroom", a temporary hospital, the busy couple barely had time to meet each other. On Feb. 14, under the arrangement of the hospital, the couple met and had a lunch together. As Huang put it, it was their special and meaningful 23rd Valentine's Day even though there was no flower and gift. (Photo by Gao Xiang/Xinhua) Xinhua/IANS

The International COVID-19 Sleep Study (ICOSS), will combine research from Austria, Canada, China, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Norway and the United States. "Sufficient good quality sleep helps us cope, so it's worrying to see trends of poor sleep during this pandemic. We are hoping to study this... in more detail," said Colin Espie, an Oxford professor of sleep medicine.

The study will look at the impact of social confinement such as lockdowns or self-isolation on sleep. It will also examine how risks of exposure to the virus and how psychological symptoms such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress can affect, or be affected by, sleep.

Researchers say their aim is to understand how sleep problems have emerged and to investigate how sleep during COVID-19 has interacted with lifestyle, health and wellbeing. Data collected by the research teams will feed into an international database. The findings, Espie said, should help scientists "understand the challenges, but also to figure out solutions to keep the population well-slept and healthy".