Gender differences in sleep disruption during COVID-19: cross-sectional analyses from two UK nationally representative surveys

Xuejie Ding, David M Brazel, Melinda C Mills*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: COVID-19 related measures have impacted sleep on a global level. We examine changes in sleep problems and duration focusing on gender differentials.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional analyses using two nationally representative surveys collected during the first and second month after the 2020 lockdown in the UK.

SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: Participants (age 17 years and above) from the first wave of the Understanding Society COVID-19 Study are linked to the most recent wave before the pandemic completed during 2018 and 2019 (n=14 073). COVID-19 Survey Data was collected from 2 to 31 May 2020 (n=8547) with participants drawn from five nationally representative cohort studies in the UK.

ANALYSIS: We conducted bivariate analyses to examine gender gaps in change in sleep problems and change in sleep duration overall and by other predictors. A series of multivariate ordinary least squares (OLS) regression models were estimated to explore predictors of change in sleep problems and change in sleep time.

RESULTS: People in the UK on average experienced an increase in sleep loss during the first 4 weeks of the lockdown (mean=0.13, SD=0.9). Women report more sleep loss than men (coefficient=0.15, 95% CI 0.11 to 0.19). Daily sleep duration on average increased by ten minutes (mean=-0.16, SD=1.11), with men gaining eight more minutes of sleep per day than women (coefficient=0.13, 95% CI 0.09 to 0.17).

CONCLUSION: The COVID-19 related measures amplified traditional gender roles. Men's sleep was more affected by changes in their financial situation and employment status related to the crisis, with women more influenced by their emotional reaction to the pandemic, feeling anxious and spending more time on family duties such as home schooling, unpaid domestic duties, nurturing and caregiving. Based on our findings, we provide policy advice of early, clear and better employment protection coverage of self-employed and precarious workers and employer recognition for parents.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere055792
Number of pages13
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 21-Apr-2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescent
  • COVID-19/epidemiology
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sex Factors
  • Sleep
  • Sleep Wake Disorders/epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom/epidemiology


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