Background Children and young people (CYP) with special educational needs (SEN) are more likely to experience disturbed sleep and poorer mental wellbeing. This study explored the differential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sleep and mental wellbeing of CYP with and without SEN.
Methods NIHR Children and Young People MedTech Co-operative, Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, and The Sleep Charity carried out an online survey between 23 June 2020 and 17 August 2020. The 77-item survey was shared via social media platforms.
Results 559 participants were included in the analyses, 15.74% of whom reported having a CYP with SEN. While sleep changes due to the pandemic were largely similar for both groups, CYP with SEN (40.91%) were more likely to get or wake up during the night than CYP without SEN (40.91% vs 27.18%). CYP with SEN were significantly more likely than children without SEN to be demotivated (61.44% vs 31.57%), sad and tearful (36.15% vs 19.35%) or anxious and stressed (43.48% vs 14.82%) during the pandemic, as well as to report that increased anxiety was more likely to contribute to poorer sleep (43.48% vs 14.82%).
Conclusion While the majority of CYP in both groups reported sleep changes due to the pandemic, CYP with SEN experienced more sleep disturbance. The findings provide initial evidence to suggest that the pandemic may have had a greater impact on the sleep and mental wellbeing of CYP with SEN compared to CYP without SEN.
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