Apart from the usual symptoms such as cold, cough, and fever, Covid-19 infection also induces several long-term implications such as hair fall, lower libido, hearing and visual difficulties, and sleep issues. While most of these subside after a few months of recovery, many people continue to struggle to get a restful shuteye. As we observe World Sleep Day — a global awareness act that celebrates sleep and aims to help those with serious sleep problems — today, let’s understand why covid-19 survivors find it hard to overcome their sleep issues even months after getting infected.
A study, published in Frontiers, noted that an online survey of the post COVID-19 conditions in various countries showed that 78.58 per cent of subjects had sleep disturbances, including insomnia, sleep-disordered breathing, central disorders of hypersomnolence, circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders, parasomnias, and sleep-related movement disorders.
Agreeing that Covid-19 survivors have a higher incidence of sleep disturbances, Dr Viswesvaran B, Consultant Interventional Pulmonology and Sleep Medicine, Yashoda Hospitals, Hyderabad, said that the aetiology of the problem may be multifactorial. “The covid-19 disease, per se, is associated with high inflammatory response and can influence multiple mediators of sleep in the body,” he told indianexpress.com, adding that a patient’s response to infection, like anxiety, fear, depression, and persistent weakness, following a prolonged duration of illness and inactivity can also contribute to his/her sleeping issues.
The problem, according to Dr Viswesvaran, is further exacerbated by a multitude of drugs used in Covid-19 management, such as steroids, which have the potential to alter sleep. “In addition, prolonged ventilatory assistance and hospital stay can also aggravate this problem,” the expert noted.
Dr Shivani Swami, Consultant, Sleep Medicine Narayana Multispeciality Hospital, Jaipur concurred by saying that long-term post-Covid sleeplessness is triggered by various reasons such as residual physical symptoms, psychological distress, medication side effects, changes in sleep patterns during hospitalisation. Additionally, “Post-COVID symptoms like fatigue, body pain, and shortness of breath can disrupt sleep,” she said, further stating that stress, anxiety, and depression associated with COVID-19 can further affect sleep quality.
According to Dr Swami, those who had severe Covid-19 symptoms or required hospitalisation, people with pre-existing sleep disorders, and those who experienced mental health issues during the illness are more likely to suffer from sleeping issues months after Covid-19 recovery. “Age, gender, and other demographic factors also play a role,” she said.
According to a study, published in the National Library of Medicine, poor current sleep health is evident in individuals with a history of COVID-19, particularly those with more severe symptoms at the time of their COVID-19 infection and is associated with a poorer quality of life.
Dr Visweswaran added that the quality of sleep in most patients with long-Covid complaints of insomnia, anxiety, fear, depression, and PTSD is affected by “frequent fragmentation and most of them report poor quality of sleep”.
Tips to sleep better
Dr Viswesvaran listed the following ways you can sleep better:
*Stay active and/or do some exercise.
*Restrict or stop drinking alcohol.
*Switch off the screens
*Just before going to bed, engage in calming, relaxing activities.
*Stay away from daytime naps
*Try practising deep breathing.
*Make your sleeping environment ideal.
Dr Swami said that to prevent sleep issues after Covid-19 recovery, it is important to manage physical symptoms, seek psychological support if needed, and adopt healthy sleep habits. “This includes following a regular sleep schedule, avoiding screens before bedtime, engaging in regular exercise, and limiting caffeine and alcohol intake. It is also recommended to seek medical attention if sleep problems persist or worsen,” the expert concluded by saying.