Why are COVID-19 survivors struggling with insomnia?

COVID-19 survivors are suffering from persistent sleep disturbances, shedding light on a concerning phenomenon [1].

As relayed to NBC Chicago, emerging research suggests that insomnia may be a lasting consequence of the virus, affecting individuals long after their recovery. While the direct mechanisms linking COVID-19 to insomnia remain under investigation, several factors could contribute to this phenomenon.

“There’s even a term called coronasomnia or COVID-somnia that was really related to the pandemic itself, not necessarily the infection, but the risk of an infection and what was going on with society, and all of our lives during that time” according to Dr Mark Loafman, chairman of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Cook County Health in Chicago.

One potential explanation is the physiological impact of the virus on the body. COVID-19 is known to cause systemic inflammation and disrupt various bodily functions, including those related to sleep regulation [2]. 

Additionally, the stress and anxiety associated with battling the virus may exacerbate sleep problems. The fear of relapse or uncertainty about long-term health outcomes can contribute to heightened levels of stress, further disrupting sleep patterns.

Also, the indirect effects of COVID-19, such as changes in lifestyle and routines, can disrupt sleep. Lockdown measures, social isolation and altered work schedules may lead to irregular sleep patterns and increased screen time, negatively impacting sleep quality.

Disruptions to daily activities and reduced physical activity levels may also affect sleep-wake cycles.

Aside from that, psychological factors, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, commonly observed in COVID-19 survivors, can contribute to insomnia [3].

The trauma of experiencing severe illness, hospitalization or witnessing the suffering of others during the pandemic can leave lasting psychological scars, making it difficult for individuals to relax and fall asleep.

The high incidence of insomnia among COVID-19 survivors highlights the importance of addressing sleep disturbances as part of post-recovery care [4].

Healthcare providers should be vigilant in identifying and managing sleep problems in patients battling the virus. Incorporating cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), relaxation techniques and sleep hygiene education can help individuals manage sleep difficulties effectively.

Likewise, fostering a supportive environment and encouraging open communication about sleep-related concerns can empower COVID-19 survivors to seek help and access appropriate resources.

By addressing insomnia early on, healthcare professionals can mitigate its impact on individuals’ physical and mental wellbeing, promoting faster recovery and better long-term outcomes.

COVID-19 survivors are experiencing persistent insomnia, which can be due to various physiological, psychological and lifestyle factors. 

Recognizing the complex interplay between the virus and sleep disturbances is crucial for providing comprehensive care to individuals recovering from COVID-19.

Dive deeper into this study published in Frontiers in Public Health.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9869804/
[2] https://medicalxpress.com/news/2024-02-covid-insomnia.html
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8950533/
[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10875106/

Photograph: amenic181/Envato
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