In recent months, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it an array of health issues beyond the virus itself. One of these issues is poor sleep, which has been reported by many individuals who have contracted the virus. But is there a link between poor sleep and long COVID-19, also known as post-COVID-19 syndrome or long-haul COVID-19?
To answer this question, it's important to understand what long COVID-19 is and how it differs from the typical COVID-19 illness. While most people who contract the virus experience mild to moderate symptoms and recover within a few weeks, a small percentage of individuals develop long-term health problems that persist for months or even years after their initial infection. These problems, which can include fatigue, muscle weakness, difficulty breathing, and brain fog, are collectively referred to as long COVID-19 or post-COVID-19 syndrome.
So, what does all of this have to do with sleep? Well, it turns out that poor sleep is one of the most common symptoms reported by individuals with long COVID-19. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, researchers found that more than half of the long COVID-19 patients they surveyed reported experiencing poor sleep quality and difficulty falling or staying asleep.
But is poor sleep a cause or a symptom of long COVID-19? The answer is likely both. On one hand, poor sleep can be a symptom of long COVID-19, as the fatigue and other health issues associated with the syndrome can make it difficult to get a good night's rest. On the other hand, poor sleep can also contribute to the development of long COVID-19, as sleep is essential for the body's immune system to function properly and fight off infections.
One theory is that the virus itself may directly affect sleep quality. The SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, is known to invade the central nervous system and alter brain function. This can lead to issues with sleep regulation and can result in poor sleep quality.
Additionally, the stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic and the illness itself can also disrupt sleep. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it a great deal of uncertainty and worry, which can lead to increased stress and anxiety. These emotions can interfere with the body's natural sleep-wake cycle, leading to poor sleep quality.
Poor sleep can also be a side effect of medications used to treat COVID-19. Many of the drugs used to treat the virus, such as corticosteroids and antivirals, can have side effects that include sleep disturbances.
So, what can be done to address poor sleep in individuals with long COVID-19? Here are a few tips:
Practice good sleep hygiene: Good sleep hygiene involves creating a conducive sleep environment and developing healthy sleep habits. This can include setting a consistent sleep schedule, avoiding screens before bed, and creating a cool, dark, and quiet bedroom.
Seek treatment for underlying health issues: If poor sleep is being caused by underlying health issues, such as anxiety or depression, seeking treatment for these conditions can help improve sleep quality.
Consider sleep aids: If other measures aren't helping, sleep aids such as melatonin or prescription sleep medications may be helpful in improving sleep quality.
It's important to note that while poor sleep is commonly reported by individuals with long COVID-19, it's not necessarily a given. Some individuals with long COVID-19 report experiencing no sleep issues at all. However, for those who are struggling with poor sleep, taking steps to address the issue can help.