FOR MANY PEOPLE, the pandemic has completely changed the morning routine. No more running to catch the subway or racing to get to campus. So we’re sleeping in. According to one study out of the University of Colorado Boulder, students attending class remotely slept an average of 30 minutes longer during the week, and 24 minutes longer on the weekend, than they had during the regular pre-pandemic semester. They also shifted their wake times, getting out of bed nearly an hour later on school days. And it’s not just American students who have been spending more time snoozing; other studies found that during early lockdowns in Argentina and Europe, people slept longer and woke up later.
Céline Vetter, one of the authors of the Colorado study, says it’s hard to conclude from this data whether the pandemic has been good for our sleep habits, but it has revealed something else that’s important. “What it really says is that work is really a powerful determinant of our sleep behavior,” says Vetter, who directs the university’s Circadian and Sleep Epidemiology Lab. In other words, work schedules fundamentally change how and when people sleep, often causing them to sleep less—and rise earlier—than they would if they were just following their own circadian rhythm.