How COVID-19 Can Disturb Your Sleep and Dreams
Original Article By: Jakke Tamminen and Rebecca Crowley
With the COVID-19 pandemic impacting the lives of millions of individuals around the world, scientists have aimed to understand the impact of the disease on the brain, body, and mind. From the research done, COVID-19 has been found to have significant impacts on sleep patterns and quality.
According to a meta-analysis, 52% of people who contract COVID experience sleep disturbances during the infection, with insomnia being the most common type of disturbance reported. These sleep problems can persist even after recovery from the infection, with a study in China finding that 26% of COVID patients showed symptoms of insomnia two weeks after being discharged from the hospital and a US study showing that people who had been infected with COVID were more likely to have trouble sleeping up to a month after testing positive. This is an example of “long COVID”, a condition where individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 continue to experience symptoms in the long term.
A study conducted in 2021 found that almost 80% of individuals with long COVID self-reported sleep problems, with insomnia being the most common issue. Another study using smart wristbands to track sleep duration and quality found that individuals with long COVID slept less overall and had less deep sleep compared to those who had never had COVID. Deep sleep is important for reducing fatigue and improving concentration and memory, so a lack of it may contribute to the "brain fog" often reported by individuals with long COVID. The fact that COVID frequently disrupts sleep is also a concern because sleep plays a role in supporting the immune system in fighting infections.
COVID can also affect dreams, with a global study finding that infected participants had more nightmares than uninfected participants after the start of the pandemic.There is no clear explanation for this increase in nightmares among infected individuals, but it is possible that mental health issues such as anxiety and depression may play a role. The study found that the infected group reported more symptoms of these conditions.
The reasons for these sleep and dream disturbances are not fully understood, but they may be due to physiological, psychological, and environmental factors such as the virus infecting the central nervous system or affecting the brain's blood supply, typical COVID symptoms disturbing sleep, mental health issues, and hospital environments.
Tamminen, J., & Crowley, R. (2023, January 5). How COVID can disturb your sleep and dreams – and what could help. The Conversation. Retrieved January 6, 2023, from https://theconversation.com/how-covid-can-disturb-your-sleep-and-dreams-and-what-could-help-194798
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