Google Traits knowledge exhibits a rise in insomnia searches throughout the acute COVID-19 interval

Based on Google Trends searches for the term “insomnia”, there was an increase in insomnia in the US and worldwide during the acute phase (April and May 2020) of the COVID-19 pandemic compared to the same month in the previous 3 years . The results of the study were published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

The researchers looked at the number of searches using the term “insomnia” between January 1, 2004 (the earliest data available) and May 31, according to the relative popularity of Google Trends 0 to 100 (most popular) of users around the world. were carried out, 2020. From January 1, 2014 to December 31, 2019, they also received the monthly search query data for the search terms: “insomnia”, “sleep apnea”, “restless legs” and “narcolepsy” (only in English). the daily search query dates for “Insomnia” between January 1, 2020 and May 31, 2020; and the daily and weekly search query dates for the term “insomnia” between January 1, 2017 and May 31, 2020.

The study authors normalized the daily data to the weekly data and re-scaled it to the original 0 to 100 and excluded data from the first week of each year to make the data comparable over the entire period. Google Trends data for the search term “cancer” from January 1 to May 31, 2020 was used as a control.

Using Google’s Keyword Planner, the researchers obtained the monthly search query data for January 2017 to May 2020 for “insomnia” for the entire US and each individual state, and calculated the absolute number of searches for insomnia per hour by combining the keyword planner for Google ads data with Google Trends data and determines the number of search queries per capita based on data from the United States Census Bureau. The researchers were also able to get the hourly and weekly “insomnia” search query data between January 1, 2017 and May 31, 2020 for each state using the Pytrends script for Python.

The impact of COVID-19 on “insomnia” searches was assessed by dividing the number of COVID-19-related deaths with the number of daily searches for “insomnia” from January 1, 2020 to May 2020 in the US and worldwide was correlated.

Through their statistical analysis of the data, the researchers achieved the following results:

  • The absolute number of searches for “insomnia” increased by 58% (P <0.0001) in the US from January to May 2020 from 2017 to May and was significantly higher in those months of 2020 compared to the same months worldwide in months the past few years. While searches for "insomnia" decreased worldwide from January to May in previous years and from the number in January 2020 to the number in March 2020 (P <0.0001), the numbers in April, May and January 2020 did not decrease significantly Have difference. In both the world and the US, searches for "insomnia" decreased from February to March (P = 0.0075 worldwide, P <0.0001 in the US) and increased from March to April (P <0.0001) both locations) and remained stable from April to May.
  • There was a significant positive correlation between the number of searches for “insomnia” and the cumulative number of COVID-19 deaths in March, April and May worldwide (March 17 – April 22, P <0.0001) and in the USA (March) May 17-7, P <0.0001).
  • The searches for “insomnia” peaked on Sundays and Mondays and fell from Friday to Saturday, which researchers attributed to work-to-weekend-to-work transitions from January to May 2020, both worldwide (P = 0.0045) and in the United States USA (P <0.0001).
  • In the US (P <0.0001) searches for "insomnia" peaked around 3:00 AM in each of the 50 states, decreased in the late morning, were lowest in the afternoon and early evening, and increased again later in the evening at. The states peaked at slightly different times based on the random variability observed by the researchers during the peak phase (P <0.0001). These daily patterns varied only with a slight change in the peak time (3:06 a.m. to 3:19 p.m.) from 2017-2019 to 2020.
  • Globally, Google searches for “insomnia” are significantly higher than searches for “sleep apnea”, “restless legs syndrome” and “narcolepsy” (P <0.0001), and searches for "insomnia" from 2004 to In 2009, increases remained high from 2010 to 2019 (P <0.0001). In the US, searches for "insomnia" were higher than searches for any other major insomnia (P <0.0001) for the entire 16 year period, and it grew rapidly from 2004 to 2011 (P = 0, 0015).

Limitations of the study included the existence of alternative reasons why the search terms could have been used, as well as the possible tendency towards younger people who are more digitally connected. Another limitation was the exclusion of non-English search terms, which can limit the generalizability of results in countries where English is not a primary language, and the exclusive use of Google Trends data, which excludes countries where Google is not the dominant search engine.

“The COVID-19 outbreak resulted in a significant increase in searches for insomnia worldwide and in the US between April and May 2020, suggesting that it was a consequence of the negative mental health and wellbeing effects of the pandemic could have been on a global scale, ”said the researchers.

Information: Several authors of the study have declared that they belong to the industry. For a full list of the authors’ information, see the original reference.


Zitting KM, Lammers-van der Holst HM, Yuan RK, Wang W., Quan SF, Duffy JF. Google trends show an increase in internet searches for insomnia during the global COVID-19 pandemic. J Clin Sleep Med. Published online September 25, 2020. doi: 10.5664 / jcsm.8810

This article originally appeared on Psychiatry Advisor

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