Been battling to sleep lately? Google searches over lockdown show that you’re not alone


Can’t sleep? Is it a recent thing? Google Trends data suggests that your recent bout with insomnia might have more than a little to do with the stresses of lockdown. Global searches on the search engine for the terms “insomnia” and “can’t sleep” reached an all-time high in April this year.

It’s not exactly clear what the reasons behind the spike are, but the timing is very suggestive. April 2020 is right in the middle of most lockdowns around the world, or as countries were prepping extreme social distancing measures. It’s been a stressful time all-round and stress… stress stops folks from sleeping.

I need a freaking nap

A closer examination of the data here at home bears this out. According to Google’s data (and we reckon there’s some weirdness at play in 2004 — or we were all super-stressed then), April was a considerable high-point for searches about insomnia in South Africa specifically.

Zooming in to the months of March through May (in the table above), data seems to be normal enough, even dipping a little just after our initial lockdown. The initial 21 days were extended to the end of April 2020 during an announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa on 9 April. It may not be a coincidence that that’s the beginning of the April insomnia spike in South Africa. We hit our high a few days later, and another major spike the day after the initial lockdown was supposed to end, on 17 April.

It seems obvious that sleeplessness, at least in South Africa, is tied to the COVID-19 lockdown. And if you’re looking for another link, check out the end of the graph where searches dip dramatically over the weekend ending 31 May 2020. Right before alcohol went on sale in South Africa again, on 1 June. Coincidence? Probably not.


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  1. Pingback: This is the (potentially depressing) 2020 that was, according to Google's Year in Search » Stuff

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