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COVID-19 School Closures Led to More Sleep, Depressive Symptoms for Teens

Sarah Shoen

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Sarah Shoen, Writer

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School closures and remote learning were significant challenges at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The abrupt change interrupted teenagers’ much needed sleep — and a recent study out of Switzerland found that while adolescents slept more during the school closures of 2020, they experienced more depressive symptoms.

Researchers at the University of Zurich surveyed nearly 9,000 high school students in May and June 2020. These surveys asked students to describe their quality of life, sleep-wake habits, and presence of depressive symptoms, such as feeling isolated, withdrawn, or uninterested.

Researchers compared results to those from the same survey from 2017. In comparison to pre-pandemic conditions, participants slept 75 minutes longer and woke up 90 minutes later on school days during pandemic school closures.

“Researchers also suggest that this study supports delaying school start times to accommodate physiological needs of adolescents’ body clock, which shifts later during the teenage years.”

On the other hand, researchers found that nearly 10% of participants reported depressive symptoms — reports included feelings of loneliness, sadness, and isolation from their friends and peer groups.

Along with the sleep benefits, participants also reported higher perceived quality of life and lower caffeine consumption.

The study indicates two simultaneous impacts the pandemic school closures made on students: They achieved better sleep on school days but also experienced greater psychological distress. Researchers suggest that this dual impact “should be considered when implementing school closures.”

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About Our Editorial Team

Sarah Shoen


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


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