Since March, American life has been upended by Coronavirus and our government’s mishandling of the pandemic. Our fears and priorities have shifted and magnified. Societal ills like homelessness and unemployment have been exacerbated. Whether you’re in quarantine or at work, the stress is likely taking a toll on your brain and body.
There have been countless reports on “quarantine skin” and “quarantine weight gain” (sometimes referred to as “the COVID 19”), but the most popular quarantine complaint revolves around sleep. If you Google search “weird dreams in quarantine” you’ll be met with close to six million results, including reports from Psychology Today and National Geographic.
Founder and CEO of Thrive Global and Huffington Post co-founder Arianna Huffington wrote The Sleep Revolution in 2016 on the impacts of poor sleep and our culture’s dismissal of sleep in favor of relentless productivity. Four years later, in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic, she says a good night’s sleep has never been harder to come by.
“In ordinary times, sleep is essential to every aspect of our well-being. In extraordinary times of uncertainty, anxiety, and stress, getting the sleep we need is more important than ever,” Huffington tells Thinknum. “Sleep is the foundation of both a strong immune system and psychological resilience — the very things we need to navigate this pandemic.”
According to a study by Sleep Standards, 76.8% of 1,014 Americans ages 18 to 65, and older stated that the COVID-19 outbreak affects their sleep. 27% admitted to using sleep supplements. Earlier this month, “sleep aid” products like melatonin climbed to a ranking of 25 on Amazon’s ($NASDAQ:AMZN) best-sellers list. (A lower data point signifies a higher ranking on the chart below.)
People seem desperate to find (buy) solutions as they struggle to sleep — weighted blankets, new mattresses, firmer pillows — items that promise comfort and rest. Target’s ratings count for pajamas has been growing since April, by 64% to be exact, 109% higher than December’s count.
Blankets rose among Walmart’s ($NYSE:WMT) best-selling products, from an average sales rank of 37.5 in March to its current ranking of 26.
And it’s not just sleeping accessories. Insomniacs are using this time to try out new mattresses. After plateauing for months, Facebook likes for the direct-to-consumer mattress and bedding brand Tuft & Needle ($TUFTANDNEEDLE) started to rise as more Americans laid awake in quarantine. The company’s likes are currently up 3% from March.
Mattress Firm’s ($NASDAQ:MFRM) Facebook mentions spiked to 51,400 in May, up over 1,000% from March, the most social media attention it’s seen in years. The company also saw a 34% increase in Instagram followers since March.
“Now we’re seeing this reflected in consumption and spending habits,” Huffington says. “It's important to note that we don’t have to spend money to start making immediate changes to improve our sleep.”
“The experience of the pandemic has forced us to collectively acknowledge sleep’s importance,” she continues. “Many have been reeling from financial losses and layoffs. Some are grieving the death of loved ones. Some have been sick or have struggled with mental health challenges.”
Irregular work schedules, or as Huffington puts it, “boundaryless permawork,” is also to blame for poor sleep. People feel less comfortable taking personal days or vacations while working from home. There is no “leaving the office” when we can be reached all hours of the day. Huffington recommends “declaring an end to the day, even if you haven’t finished your to-dos. Prioritizing means being comfortable with incompletions and taking time to recharge.”
46% of the Sleep Study participants stated that reading pandemic-related news kept them up at night. According to Huffington, this is a common theme. “Set a news cut-off time at the end of the day,” she says. “While being informed can help us feel more prepared amid a public health crisis, setting healthy limits to our media consumption can help us have a recharging night’s sleep and put the stressful news into perspective.”
About the Data:
Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.