Mild COVID infections may make insomnia ‘more likely,’ new study says

A woman struggling with insomnia.
A woman struggling with insomnia. Copyright Canva
By Euronews
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A study of patients with mild COVID infections found that most reported trouble sleeping, including bouts of insomnia.

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Sleep researchers have found that even a mild COVID-19 infection may increase symptoms of insomnia.

They surveyed more than 1,000 people who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the six months before the study.

The participants had not been hospitalised and had no history of insomnia or psychiatric illness.

The researchers from Vietnam found that more than 75 per cent of participants reported experiencing insomnia and published the findings in the journal Frontiers in Public Health on Monday.

The authors said this was “remarkably higher than previously reported among the general population”.

Almost a quarter of those surveyed reported severe insomnia, while half of participants said they woke up more frequently in the night.

Around a third said it was harder to fall asleep or they did not sleep as well as they did before having the infection.

Of the participants, people with a pre-existing chronic condition and those who had symptoms of depression or anxiety had higher rates of insomnia that were statistically significant.

“As a sleep researcher, I received many questions and complaints from relatives, friends, and colleagues about their sleep disturbances after recovering from COVID-19,” Huong T X Hoang of Phenikaa University, Vietnam and lead author of the study, said in a statement.

“I found that the majority of papers focused on hospitalised patients. The environment of their treatment and quarantine would differ greatly from those with milder symptoms”.

Hoang said that there are small actions that you can take to improve your sleep, including taking a warm shower before bed, shutting off your phone at least one hour before going to sleep, exercising daily, and avoiding caffeine late in the day.

The researchers pointed out that there were several limitations to the study, including the online collection of data which could lead to bias.

As it was an observational study, the researchers could not determine the direct impact of anxiety and depression on insomnia.

The results confirmed that people who had a COVID-19 infection had a high prevalence of insomnia even when they did not require hospitalisation, the authors said, showing a need to address the sleep health of COVID-19 patients after recovery.

Previous studieshave found that people with lingering symptoms of COVID-19, known as long COVID, have reported moderate to severe sleep problems.

Other studieshave found that concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic, and not just the disease itself, have contributed to increases in insomnia.

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