Internet searches for insomnia increased significantly during the height of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) stay at home orders, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused more than 1.33 million deaths and there have been over 55.32 million confirmed cases worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Between April and May 2020, many governments across the United States and the world began issuing stay-at-home orders in order to control the spread of the virus. 

Investigators looked at Google searches made between that time frame in order to determine whether the pandemic was driving insomnia. Researchers examined data for both the United States and the world between January 1, 2004, and May 31, 2020. Data for daily COVID-19 deaths were downloaded from the COVID-19 Data Repository maintained by the Center for System Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. 

According to the study, 2.77 million Google searches for insomnia were made in the United States during the first 5 months of 2020, which is a 58% increase from the previous 3 years. Google searches related to insomnia trended downward between January through March 2020, which is consistent with previous years; however, searches shot upward during April and May 2020. 

This coincided with the increase number of cumulative COVID-19 related deaths. Searches for insomnia occurred most frequently during midnight and 5 am, peaking around 3 am, which is consistent with previous years, according to the study.

"While acute insomnia, typically triggered by stress or a traumatic event, will often go away on its own, I am worried that the longer this pandemic drags on, the greater the number of people who go on to develop chronic insomnia,” said lead author Kirsi-Marja Zitting, PhD, in a prepared statement. "And unlike acute insomnia, chronic insomnia can be difficult to treat."

Investigators plan to continue tracking searches for insomnia to better get a sense of the long-term impact the pandemic will have on sleep quality.

REFERENCE: 
Web searches for insomnia surged at height of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders [News Release] November 18, 2020; Darien, Il. Accessed November 18, 2020. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-11/aaos-wsf111820.php.