If living through a pandemic since 2020 has not been stressful enough, new studies are finding links between insomnia and long-term COVID effects. Sleep Score Labs defines long-term COVID as a general phrase used “to describe signs and symptoms that persist long after the time of original infection (beyond approximately 3 to 4 weeks). These long-term symptoms include a wide range of health problems – some mild, some severe – that are new, returning, or ongoing.”
Studies will continue to define more connections between the two but approximately 30 percent of long-term COVID individuals have reported lingering sleep difficulties with insomnia diagnosed in about 5 to 10 percent of patients.
There are some mysteries as to the reason linking long-term COVID and insomnia, but a few possibilities are coming to light. When considering symptoms of COVID, insomnia for many individuals who tested posted, especially prior to vaccinations, was an initial first concern. The concern when first diagnosed with COVID could be lingering in long-term COVID cases.
Covid's Affect on Insomnia
Insomnia leads to further complications that go beyond physical issues of being tired during the day or having a hard time concentrating; insomnia also can affect our emotional well-being. Self-regulating our emotions become harder when combined with mental health symptoms before COVID so combining this with insomnia makes it a hard transition.
Considering the isolation and social distancing that took its toll on people from school-aged children to the elderly, mental health has clearly risen. Anxiety, depression, and stress already interfere with falling asleep and the pandemic has added more strain on the body. "SARS-CoV-2 reported increased mental health problems with a significant level of post-traumatic stress seen in people who have been treated in intensive care.”
When trying to get back to normalcy post-COVID, don’t drop your hobbies or new interests: build them around work. Arts and crafts, music, puzzles, baking, reading, gardening, and cooking are all wonderful additions to your new routine. Light exercise also balances insomnia with mental illness symptoms.
Keep your expectations in check as you progress back into healthy living after experiencing COVID. Your doctor can help create an exercise plan of action that can help align your body back to a routine improving your sleep.
Exercising for Better Sleep
When you take a break from working out, cardio, or weight lifting, it is impossible to return to where you were pre-COVID. Set goals that you can reach the start and incrementally add more. Consult a doctor if you have been previously injured so you do not strain any muscles or ligaments.
Walking is a good start a few times a week. Look at your calendar and build times in when you know you can succeed. You might even want to find a friend or a family member to keep you accountable.
The proper stage of sleep can include a cool, dark location that contains a sound machine or sound-free depending on the preference of the individual. Establishing a regular time to go to sleep and to wake up, even on weekends and holidays, is important as well.
Tips That Promote Better Sleep
Overall, it is important to remember that the best way to combat insomnia with long-term COVID is to give yourself grace and give it time. NHS Inform provides easy steps to healthy breathing and relaxation exercises for stress including audio breathing and relaxation videos. Although there isn’t a cure for long-term symptoms still plaguing individuals, especially those who had significant issues with COVID, there are three ways to help possibly speed the process of recovery at bedtime.
- Journaling can be a step towards an anxiety-free night. The lows also can help journal and think about all the negatives and positives that could occur. The positive news is that you can control your sleep problems without the need to add medications.
- Unplugging from your phone an hour before bed. The blue light emits negative energy into your sleep space. Restrain your eyes from the allure of the phone and the fear of missing out and read a book or meditate before bed.
- Adjusting the temperature when you sleep preferably to the 60s. When entering the rapid eye movement cycle, your body loses its ability to sweat causing the body to align with the room temperature. When too warm or hot, your body wakes you up and it is hard to fall back asleep. Look at a cooling mattress, sheets or pillow to bring cooler temperatures to your room if you do not have air conditioning or live in humid environments.
Prevalence of Insomnia and Insomnia Facts
Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders with approximately half of adults reporting having symptoms of insomnia occasionally.
About 10 percent of people have experienced chronic insomnia.
Insomnia is more likely to occur in women than in men.
Insomnia is more likely to affect elderly adults. One of the possible causes of insomnia in the elderly is changes in the circadian rhythm, most notably advanced sleep phase disorder which causes elderly people to go to sleep earlier and rise earlier than most people.
Insomnia is reported more among adults with children than those without
Insomnia can be more likely in people who nap during the day, making sleep more difficult at night.
People who are naturally more awake and alert may be more likely to suffer from insomnia.
People that regularly use stimulants and alcohol may report symptoms of insomnia more often.
People with poor sleep hygiene practices are more likely to report insomnia.
Treatments for Insomnia
Acute insomnia often requires no treatment and symptoms usually go away on their own or can be cured by practicing better sleep habits. People who regularly suffer from insomnia and feel that their symptoms are impacting their daily lives should seek treatment by scheduling an appointment with their primary care physician. Oftentimes treatment for secondary insomnia requires treating the underlying medical/psychiatric condition that is causing insomnia as a side effect.
Cognitive and Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia
Cognitive and behavioral approaches may be taken that help a person change behaviors that are causing insomnia and others that help promote better sleep practices including relaxation and meditation techniques, breathing exercises, learning to associate the bedroom with sleep and sex only, keeping a regular bedtime/wake schedule, and other sleep hygiene practices.
Medical Treatments for Insomnia
There are over-the-counter and prescription sleep aid medications available to help with symptoms of insomnia. However, it is not recommended to use over-the-counter medications as their effectiveness and side effects may vary and be undesired. It is best to discuss possible sleep aids with your primary care physician. Typical medications for insomnia include benzodiazepine hypnotics, non-benzodiazepine hypnotics, and melatonin receptor agonists.
If another sleep disorder is the underlying cause of your poor quality sleep troubles, a sleep study may be necessary to diagnose and treat the sleep disorder.
If you live in the state of Alaska and believe that a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, or narcolepsy made be causing you to experience insomnia, schedule a call for a free consultation by clicking the link below with Alaska Sleep Clinic.