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Health Care Workers’ Poor Sleep Quality Links to Mental Health During COVID-19

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Sarah Shoen

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The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic suddenly caused health care workers to work longer hours and more shifts, all while experiencing extreme levels of physical and emotional distress.

A recent study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found a correlation between health care workers’ psychological stress and insomnia during the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting the need to address the relationship between health care workers’ sleep and psychological health.

A team of researchers out of Columbia University studied over 800 New York City nurses in April and May of 2020. Over one-third of participants were redeployed from their usual clinical areas to work in COVID-19-focused settings in order to meet the pandemic’s health care demand.

Participants responded to questionnaires, which included questions such as “how many hours of sleep did you get today?” and “over the past week, what is the severity of any insomnia symptoms you experienced?”

Notable findings of the study included:

  • Seventy-two percent of study participants experienced insomnia.
  • More than half of participants experienced elevated acute stress.
  • Many participants, 80% of which identified as female, reported short sleep duration — sleeping less than six hours per night.
  • Inconsistent sleep-wake times and short sleep were also associated with a higher prevalence of psychological distress.

“It is well established that sleep problems can overlap with mental health conditions and/or act as triggers or symptoms of depression and anxiety,” researchers said.

Acute stress, insomnia, and sleep deprivation can all have far-reaching physical and mental health consequences. Researchers suggest sleep may be a target intervention toward easing the psychological stress on health care workers.

Further studies should explore the longitudinal associations between sleep quality and psychological distress during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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About Our Editorial Team

author
Sarah Shoen

News Writer

Sarah has covered news topics for digital and print publications. She holds a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Nevada.

About Our Editorial Team

author
Sarah Shoen

News Writer

Sarah has covered news topics for digital and print publications. She holds a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Nevada.

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