Psychological correlates of poor sleep quality among U.S. young adults during the COVID-19 pandemic

Sleep Med. 2021 Feb;78:51-56. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2020.12.009. Epub 2020 Dec 10.


Objective: Uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic may result in problematic sleep that can lead to negative effects on overall health. This unprecedented and stressful time can be even more detrimental for young adults with pre-existing mental health conditions. The purpose of this study is to investigate potential risk factors (i.e., current mental health symptoms, and COVID-19-related grief and worry) on sleep quality of U.S. young adults during the initial months of the global pandemic.

Method: This cross-sectional study examined 908 young adults in the weeks following the declaration of the coronavirus pandemic as a national emergency by the United States. A series of hierarchical multiple regression analyses examined depression, anxiety, and PTSD, as well as COVID-19-related grief and worry as predictors of young adults' sleep quality.

Results: Young adults experienced high rates of sleep problems during the first two months (April to May 2020) of the pandemic. Depressive and anxiety symptoms appear to be predictors of sleep quality regardless of any pre-existing diagnosis. Furthermore, high levels of PTSD symptoms and COVID-19-related worry were associated with young adults' poor sleep.

Conclusions: Our findings point to possible psychological factors that uniquely explain young adults' poor sleep quality during the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. This study shed new light on how the COVID-19 pandemic might affect the sleep behaviors of young adults without a pre-existing mental health diagnosis. Implications for supporting young adults sleep and well-being during the pandemic are addressed.

Keywords: Anxiety; COVID-19; Depression; Mental health; PTSD; Sleep.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology
  • COVID-19 / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Loneliness / psychology
  • Male
  • Mental Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult