It’s been three years since the COVID-19 pandemic started, and the medical community is still learning new things about the disease to this day. One of the symptoms currently making buzz online is insomnia.
Surprisingly, the novel coronavirus also robs one of a restful night’s sleep. It is even one of the most crippling symptoms, not frequently talked about.
In an article for the online news outlet Axios, Priya Matthew shared her experience with mild COVID-19 that eventually led to long COVID with debilitating symptoms.
Matthew said, at one point, she had 23 symptoms, including persistent shortness of breath, heart palpitations and insomnia. Thankfully, her doctors did not find major organ damage. But she admitted that long COVID prompted her to make big changes in her life.
“Before getting hit with this life-changing illness, I frankly hadn’t taken great care of myself. I let stress and anxiety get to me. I ate poorly, drank too much coffee and rarely made time for exercise,” Matthew wrote.
She continued, “Very soon I realized: If I’m going to get better, I need to completely change my life. I’d never be able to go back to those bad habits.”
Speaking specifically about insomnia, Matthew told CBS News how difficult it was for her to fall asleep.
“Nothing worked. I would just lie awake in agony all night. It felt like electric shocks going through my body from my head down to my toes,” she shared.
Explaining Matthew’s experience, Dr. Emmanuel During, a psychiatrist and neurologist, told CBS News that the insomnia of long COVID patients involves pain that is resistant to treatment. He said he saw the same phenomenon in sleep patients at Mount Sinai Hospital.
“Pain, which can occur at night as well, and a lot of autonomic imbalance, autonomic impairment, which is the ability of our body to control heart rate and blood pressures — that can lead to episodes of palpitation, night sweats,” During said.
A 2022 survey by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that nearly a third of Americans experienced sleep disturbances since the pandemic started. The phenomenon has been dubbed “COVID-somnia” by experts.
Matthew revealed that her battle with sleep deprivation made her unable to work for at least a month. And since treatment only involves symptom management, she came up with a plan for her recovery.
She said she started following a daily routine that involves eating healthy, drinking lots of water, taking supplements and attending pulmonary rehab. She also limited her daily activities to reduce energy expenditure based on symptoms. And her third secret was thinking positively, something she admitted was hard for her even before the pandemic.
In four months, Matthew saw positive changes. Though not all symptoms are gone, she’s pleased they have improved by 60-70%.
“But in lots of ways, I’m healthier than I was before getting COVID,” she concluded.
Doctors recommend having good sleep hygiene habits to counter sleep deprivation. Following a regular bedtime schedule and not using devices with screens before hitting the sack are just some ways to hamper sleeplessness.