The COVID19 pandemic has had a significant impact on people’s mental health, & young people are a particularly affected group, with school closures cutting-off millions of young & older children from their friends, teachers & all semblance of normal life.
The negative psychological effects of this have been documented in numerous studies, but at least one measure, school closures appear to have had at least one significant positive effect on students as well.
In a new study from Switzerland, researchers found that Swiss teenagers who were home-schooled during school closings between March & June 2020 during the first wave of pandemic ended up sleeping much more than before lock down, which is linked to other improvements. in their well-being.
“Students have had about 75 minutes more sleep a day during lock down,” said Oskar Jenni development Pediatrics Researcher’s from University of Zurich (UZH).
“At the same-time, their health-related quality of life has improved dramatically and their alcohol & caffeine consumption has decreased.
In the study, Jenni & other researchers conducted an online survey of more than 3,600 high school students in the Zurich area, with questions about their sleep patterns, as well as other health-related questions & behavioral characteristics.
The results were then compared to a previous survey conducted in 2017 with more than 5,300 students, well before the start of the COVID19 pandemic.
The comparison showed that during school week, the home schooled group woke up on average about 90 min later than teenagers in control group; however, they also went to bed about 15 min later, meaning that their total excess sleep was about 75 min per day.
At the same time, some of the health and behavioral characteristics of the lock down group were improved compared to the control group, suggesting that the extra 75 min of daily sleep helped them feel better about certain things, although this could also have other effects of isolation in the pandemic be observed in the responses.
“The highest values were indicated by the lock down sample on items for feeling fit & well, to be full of energy, to have enough time for themselves and to be able to do the things they wanted in their free time, ”researchers write in their paper, led by first author & UZH neuropsychology researcher Joëlle N. Albrecht.
In contrast, adolescents in lock down sample reported feeling more alone and sadder and having less fun with their friends.
According to Jenni, the results show that, while the isolation effects of the school at home during the lock down had a negative impact on teenagers, that extra sleep seemed to offer benefits that have made stuck-at-home days more tolerable in long run.
“While the lockdown has clearly resulted to bad health & well-being of many young people, our findings reveal a positive side to school closings that have so far received little attention,” Jenni said.
“Our results clearly indicate the benefit of the starting school later in morning so that young people can have more sleep.
At least on this point, we probably shouldn’t be too surprised. For several years now, numerous studies have shown that the school day should start later, with teenagers having their eyes closed due to the later school start time, showing alertness & well-being improved, as well as reported better sleep & ability to concentrate & study.
Some experts even believe that teens shouldn’t start school before 10 a.m. or even 11 a.m. The new study isn’t as prescriptive, but there is still more evidence to support the argument that children can benefit from starting their learning later in the day, even in isolation & struggles of a pandemic lock down.
“The results suggest that school closures have allowed students to better align their sleep schedules with the late sleep phase of adolescent,” the researchers explain.
“More importantly, for our knowledge, this study provides the first scientific evidence of beneficial sleep related associations of school closures with the health of adolescents.