As households worldwide sheltered in place during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, children experienced a range of sleep disturbances. The researchers conducted a systematic review of these issues and published their findings in Sleep Medicine Reviews.
Previous studies have reported that daily routines are integral in child cognitive development and well-being. Studies have also shown that a lack of social activities cause sleep disturbances, the researchers state. Putting these 2 conclusions together, the review authors conducted a review to determine the effect of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders and lockdowns on sleep disturbances in children age 12 and younger.
The researchers consulted MEDLINE, Cumulative Index for Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), Excerpta Medica Database (EMBASE), Psychological Information Database (PSYCINFO), Google Scholar, and Web of Science (WOS) databases for relevant studies published between January 2020 and March 2021. They looked for sleep studies related to children age 12 and under, with home confinement of at least 1 month. A total of 8 studies were included in the full review.
The analysis found an increase sleep duration in children aged 4 to12. The mean change was 1 hour and 36 minutes of total sleep. Children stayed in bed an average of 27 minutes longer. Half the studied reviews showed a delay in waking, with an average delay of 1 hour, 16 minutes. The researchers also found a 1-hour, 3-minute delay in bedtime.
Half the studies reported on sleep latency. The researchers found a higher percentage of children took longer to fall asleep, with some lying awake for an hour-and-a-half or longer while confined during the pandemic. Infants took, on average, 8 to 21 minutes longer to fall asleep under stay-at-home orders.
The study has its limitations. All studies were based on self-reports, and most included retrospective information. Not all studies included total statistical results of the assessment tools used, which compromised the researchers’ ability to make comparisons between studies.
However, the researchers conclude that confinement during the pandemic had a negative impact on children’s sleep habits. Whether those changes have long-term consequences is a subject for future evaluation.
Camacho-Montaño LR, Iranzo A, Martínez-Piédrola RM, et al. Effects of COVID-19 home confinement on sleep in children: a systematic review. Sleep Med Rev. 2022;62:101596. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2022.101596