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Covid-19 lockdowns increased screen time, insomnia: Study

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By NS Desk 03-Jun-2021

Rome, June 3 (IANS) Increased evening screen time during the Covid-19 lockdown negatively affected sleep quality, finds a new study.

The researchers, from the University of L'Aquila in Italy, found decreased sleep quality, an increase in insomnia symptoms, shorter total sleep times, and later bedtimes and rising times among the 92.9 per cent participants who reported an increase in their electronic device usage during the shutdown.

Conversely, participants who reported a decrease in evening screen time (only 7 per cent) reported improved sleep quality and fewer symptoms of insomnia. The findings are published in the journal Sleep.

"The overuse of electronic devices in the hours before sleep was a deeply rooted habit in our society already before the pandemic emergency, in particular among young people. In our opinion, the current period of social distancing added fuel to the fire," said first author Federico Salfi, doctoral student at the varsity's Department of Biotechnological and Applied Clinical Sciences.

"The evidence of a strong relationship between screen habits and the time course of sleep disturbances during the lockdown period suggests that, now, more than never, raising public awareness about the risks of evening exposure to electronic devices could be crucial to preserve general sleep health. This applies to both the ongoing pandemic and the future, as electronic technologies will find more and more space in our daily routine," added Professor Michele Ferrara, Director of the Laboratory of Sleep Psychophysiology and Cognitive Neuroscience.

During the lockdown period in Italy, daily internet traffic volume almost doubled compared to the same time in the previous year. Researchers here conducted a web-based survey of 2,123 Italian residents during the third and seventh week of Italy's first national lockdown and evaluated sleep quality and insomnia symptoms, and inquired about usage of electronic devices in the two hours before falling asleep.

The respondents who reported no change in their screen time exposure likewise showed no variations in their sleep habits. Notably, this group of responders had the best sleep quality and fewest insomnia symptoms in the first survey results, suggesting that the lockdown exacerbated negative sleep conditions for people already suffering from poor sleep quality.

--IANS

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