How Long Does Post-COVID Insomnia Last?
June 18, 2022

How Long Does Post-COVID Insomnia Last?

They may have recovered from coronavirus, but a number of post-COVID-19 patients are suffering from insomnia. This article explores the causes, symptoms and treatment of sleep deprivation after a COVID-19 infection.

Poor sleep quality is a common complaint among many post-COVID-19 patients. They couldn't get eight hours of sleep like they used to before the pandemic, no matter how hard they tried. If you've had a COVID-19 infection and haven’t been getting enough shut-eye lately, you may be suffering from post-COVID insomnia. It's a form of insomnia that can occur after someone has been infected by SARS-CoV-2. It’s characterised by difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep and can lead to other health problems if left untreated.

What causes post-COVID insomnia?

Stress, anxiety, frustration, and the common side effects of medications used during treatment all contribute to post-COVID insomnia. Changes in your sleep pattern are caused by these and other circumstances.

People are experiencing insomnia as a result of stress, which can be caused by a variety of factors, such as job loss, loneliness resulting from the COVID-19 lockdown or being in hospital, financial difficulties, and even losing friends and family members to COVID-19 infections.

Lack of sleep following a COVID-19 infection is caused by the body's weakened immune response. It's worth noting that the virus damages not only the lungs but also the nervous system, making it more fragile and prone to inflammation. This impairs the brain's ability to shut down when it should, leading to a reduced quality of sleep and poor mental health outcomes.

Some COVID-19 symptoms, such as shortness of breath and chest pain, may also persist during recovery, resulting in a constant lack of sleep.

On average, post-COVID insomnia lasts for about two weeks. However, some people may unfortunately experience it for longer periods of time.

What are the symptoms of COVID-related insomnia?

The prevalence of sleep disturbances, causing abnormal wake-sleep cycles, is a hallmark of insomnia, regardless of whether it's short-term or chronic insomnia. However, if you've never suffered from any sleep disorders before the COVID-19 outbreak, then it's a dead giveaway that your condition is linked to the virus.

The symptoms of insomnia vary according to the differences in insomnia classifications. Some of these are temporary, while others can last for months, as is the case with severe insomnia. However, the following are the most common symptoms of insomnia associated with the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Short sleep duration
  • Several wake-up times throughout the night and waking up too early
  • Feeling weak or lethargic during daytime
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Increased levels of anxiety

Other psychological effects of COVID-related poor sleep quality include moodiness, irritability and forgetfulness.

Can post-COVID insomnia lead to other health problems?

If not treated properly, post-COVID insomnia can lead to a variety of other medical conditions as well as accidents and injuries. These could be any or all of the following:

  • Depression
  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Chronic fatigue
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Obesity
  • Skin problems
  • Substance use disorder
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Increased risk of falling or injuring yourself
  • Suicidal ideation

How can you prevent or reduce its effects?

If you're experiencing post-COVID insomnia, there are some steps you can take to mitigate its effects. These steps include practising relaxation techniques, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, exercising to maintain physical health and avoiding foods and beverages that can cause sleep issues, such as caffeine and alcohol.

We strongly advise you to consult with your doctor about your symptoms and treatment options. You can also seek help from a sleep counsellor or specialist or join a support group.

The rates of insomnia in Australia and elsewhere have skyrocketed in the last two years, as the (COVID-19) pandemic has spread all over the world. By working with a medical professional who is also knowledgeable in lifestyle medicine, you can improve your quality of sleep and reduce your risk of developing more serious health problems.

Dr Michelle Woolhouse

Integrative GP and Vively Medical Director

Dr Michelle Woolhouse is an integrative GP, with over 20 years experience treating chronic conditions through lifestyle medicine