“COVID-somnia” and the impact of long COVID on sleep

When Priya Mathew recovered from a mild case of COVID-19 in November, she thought she was off the hook. Then came the long COVID.

“At one point I counted 23 symptoms,” Mathew told CBS News. “The most alarming were shortness of breath, labored breathing, heart palpitations.”

One of the most debilitating symptoms? Insomnia.

“Nothing worked. I lay awake in agony all night,” she said. “It was like electric shocks going through my body from head to toe.”

Mathieu is not alone. Dr. Emmanuel Pendant, a psychiatrist and neurologist, observed this in sleeping patients at Mount Sinai Hospital.

For those with long COVIDhe says, insomnia is often pain-related and resistant to treatment.

“Pain, which can also occur at night, and a lot of autonomic imbalance, autonomic impairment, which is our body’s ability to control heart rate and blood pressure – which can lead to episodes of palpitations, night sweats” , explains During .

Even for those who haven’t had COVID for a long time, the pandemic has robbed many restful nights of sleep.

Nearly a third of Americans said they had experienced trouble sleeping since COVID began, according to a 2022 survey from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. This is down from 56% the previous year. The phenomenon is described as “COVID-somnia”.

Due to her own battle with sleep deprivation, Mathew shared that she couldn’t work for at least a month.

“Any small task took way too much energy. Just taking a shower, I had to rest for three hours after that,” she explained.

Mathews wrote about her experience for online media outlet Axios, where she works. Like many people struggling with long COVID, she says her initial infection felt like a “light” case.

“Very quickly I realized: if I want to get better, I have to completely change my life,” she wrote. “…When my body needs a rest, I rest.”

Over the past four months, she estimates that her symptoms have improved by 60-70%.

Doctors say it’s essential to stick to good sleep hygiene habits, including regular bedtimes and no late-night screens. If you’re having trouble sleeping, doctors say it’s a good idea to see a sleep specialist, as insomnia can reveal other health issues, such as sleep apnea.

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