Published by Insider.com on April 7, 2020.
When Andrea Huspeni is stressed, she either lays awake until 4 am before her body finally shuts down her mind, or wakes up at 2 am and stares at the ceiling until day breaks.
"With the coronavirus, despite me being extremely stressed and feeling like I have no control over anything, I have been sleeping really well," the New York City entrepreneur told Insider.
Juliana Lew, a recruiting coordinator in Ypsilanti, Michigan, is also getting restful sleep these days. Pre-coronavirus, she typically slept from 11 pm to 6 am; now she's conked out from 10 pm to 7 am. "Wild!" she said.
According to sleep and stress experts, however, the phenomenon — though certainly not experienced by everyone — has several possible explanations, not all positive. Insider talked to them about what could be going on, and how to know if your excess sleep is problematic.
Sleep is when our brains process new information and emotions
Lew has a theory for her better sleep: "There is a high volume of emotional and intellectual information to process each day, and I'm finding that I feel tired and go to bed earlier than in 'normal' life,'" she said. As a result, she wakes up more capable of weathering the next day's challenges.
"It's like my brain knows what's best for itself, and sends me to bed for my own good," Lew said.
She's on to something. Michael Grandner, director of the University of Arizona's sleep and health research program, told Insider sleep, and particularly deep dream-producing sleep, is when the brain tries to process, organize, integrate, and generally make sense of new information and emotions, which there's no shortage of now.
"We're dumped in this new environment and we're trying to figure out our place in it," he said.
Your schedule can make a big difference
There's also the practical explanation for more sleep these days: Many people are going to bed earlier, sleeping later, or both, in part because they don't have to allow time for the logistics of commuting to and from work and school.
"The whole idea of the workday — starting at the same time and place — is a 20th century phenomenon," Grandner said. Now, people are allowing their bodies to fall into a more natural rhythm.
The question is whether they or their organizations can learn from what Grandner calls this huge "natural experiment." Will people telecommute more now that they're learning the tools to do so? Will schools finally adjust start times to better align with teen's sleep cycles? Will managers cancel meetings that really can be replaced by email?
"It depends on how much control people end up having," Grandner said.