Lesson in happiness – how did lockdown affect Britain’s mood and sleep quality?

Britain’s mood soared when children finally returned to school after almost six months off – then plummeted again when PM Boris Johnson announced the ‘Rule of Six’, new data has revealed.

The exhausting highs and lows of the COVID-tainted summer of 2020 have been laid bare by sleep tech firm Simba, whose sleep app has monitored the length and quality of 55,000 users’ slumber as well as their daily waking moods and alcohol consumption. The data reveals we slept better and were much happier and less stressed after the kids broke-up for summer in late July – ending four gruelling months of homeschooling for many.

The amount of time Brits slept also increased after school ended, perhaps as parents grabbed much-needed lie-ins and the country’s workforce took annual leave. Low points in mood and sleep quality through the summer could be attributed to the imposition of local lockdowns which at one point left a total of ten million Britons subject to restrictions.

Simba’s data does however show our spirits were lifted on July 4th when pubs and restaurants reopened. But far from there being a stampede to the pubs, the graph on alcohol consumption indicates a possibility many regulars waited a week or two before venturing to their local.

Another high-point was Monday August 3rd, when the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out Scheme began allowing the nation to finally get out of the house and enjoy cut-price pub and restaurant grub. And the nation’s upbeat attitude was also clear in the run up to A level results day on Aug 13th.

But it turned out to be short-lived once again – as the dreams of tens of thousands of hard-working students were left in tatters after a flawed algorithm downgraded their scores resulting in many being rejected by their chosen universities. To rub salt in the wounds August 13th was also the day it was officially announced the UK was in recession, a nightmare double whammy which badly affected both moods and the quality of our sleep.

Hot on the heels of that low point came another boost days later when the Government made a dramatic U-turn by ditching the controversial algorithm and allowing teachers to grade A level and GCSE students instead. Positivity reached a 2020 high during the late summer Bank Holiday before the prospect of early mornings on the school-run or perhaps a return to the office, hit home.

But on the actual week many state schools reopened for the first time in six months there was a definite marked improvement in the feel-good factor. Simba recorded surges and spikes in happiness and quality of sleep once the children were safely back in class amid all the COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines.

But once again that all came crashing down when on September 9th the beleaguered PM was forced to announce the law which bans more than six people gathering for a social catch-up at home, outdoors or in pubs. The ruling not only dampened our moods, but also affected the quality of our sleep that night.

Fortunately, the emotional roller coaster took another upturn shortly afterwards though – when the Premier League, Football League and entire pyramid of non-league seasons kicked off again.

Dr. Andy Cope, an expert in positive psychology, who analysed the results for Simba, said: “It’s amazing how our sleep quality maps against the major news events.

“It’s obvious that it’s hard not to get sucked into the 24/7 pandemic pandemonium. Simba’s data shows that, for many people, getting good quality sleep has become a bit of a lottery, hence our wavering state of wellbeing. The pandemic has created peaks and troughs, whereas a regular habit of eight hours sleep would go a long way to enabling us to cope with the demands of lockdown, home schooling, social bubbles and furlough”.

“An easing of lockdown, the reopening of pubs and the death of the A-Level and GCSE algorithm have all brought spikes of wellbeing. But there appeared to be a real tangible sigh of relief when schools reopened, reflecting that it’s been a summer like no other. Spending time with your loved ones is all well and good, but with many families thrown together 24/7 for five months, it’s nice to finally have the pressure relieved and for schooling to be handed back to the professionals”.

Cope, who is Britain’s first Doctor of Happiness, and is also a qualified teacher and best-selling author, added: “The modern world was already very good at creating anxiety, and then along came COVID-19. Since then the terms ‘wellbeing’ and ‘mental health’ have trended on social media ever since. Experts have been recommending mindfulness, healthy eating and exercise, whereas good quality sleep trumps them all. Sleep is restorative. It’s crucial to our mental health and isn’t something we should be skimping on.”

Simba’s app tracks the quality of a user’s sleep using an algorithm which combines factors such as how long they sleep and whether they are in a light or deep sleep.

Other elements which come into play are how often users wake up during the night, who stressed they were when they went to bed, whether they drank coffee or alcohol and their mood on waking.

From that Simba calculates an overall score between one and 100.

Between 55 and 70 is considered a good score for British adults, who sleep on average between seven hours and 45 minutes and seven hours and 50 minutes.

The data also painted a fascinating picture of how the initial dramatic global effect of the pandemic left us struggling to sleep and in a high state of stress during what Simba identified as five key stages.

The ‘Digestion’ phase (March 21) kicked in as lockdown approached, with the nation taking time to get their heads around what was happening.

Then the nation enjoyed a ‘Fleeting High’ (March 24) a week into working from home amid feeling of joy at avoiding long commutes, and the freedom of being away from the office.

The ‘Honeymoon Ends’ period came next (March 28) as the reality of lockdown set in and the nation’s spirits slumped.

‘Reality Bites’ then occurred (April 4) as Britain hit rock bottom when PM Boris Johnson was admitted to hospital with ‘COVID symptoms’ which later almost claimed his life.

The ‘Pandemic plateau’ (April 8) stage then arrived as people were resigned to lockdown and the long summer which lay ahead.

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