Psychological Science Faculty Publications and Presentations

Stress and sleep in college students prior to and during the COVID‐19 pandemic

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Within the short timeframe of the COVID‐19 pandemic, there has been increasing interest in its potential impact on psychological stress and sleep. Using standardized self‐report measures, we examined differences in stress and sleep by comparing responses from three independent samples of undergraduates in the United States. Samples were obtained prior to COVID‐19 (Spring 2019) and at two periods during the pandemic (Spring 2020 and Summer 2020) which corresponded to an increasing impact of COVID‐19 at the local level. Within the combined sample of 1222 students, 94% identified as Hispanic. Contrary to our hypotheses, stress, sleep quality and insomnia were not significantly higher in the samples collected during the COVID‐19 pandemic. However, in support of our hypotheses, bedtime and waketime were significantly later during the pandemic, and sleep duration was significantly longer. Although scores on the global measure of sleep quality did not differ across semesters, supplemental exploratory analyses demonstrated a more complex picture of differences in sleep variables. Among the findings, there was evidence of greater sleep latency, greater sleep medication use and poorer sleep efficiency during the pandemic. Our results suggest that, within the US college student population, COVID‐19's impact on stress and sleep may not be entirely negative.


© 2020 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Publication Title

Stress & Health