When Priya Mathew recovered from a mild case of COVID-19 in November, she thought she was out of the woods. Then came long COVID.
“At one point I counted 23 symptoms,” Mathew told CBS News. “The most alarming were shortness of breath, labored breathing, palpitations.”
One of the most crippling symptoms? Insomnia.
“Nothing worked. I just lay awake all night in pain,” she said. “It felt like electric shocks went through my body, from my head to my toes.”
Matthew is not alone. Dr. Emmanuel While, a psychiatrist and neurologist, has seen this in sleep patients at Mount Sinai Hospital.
For those with long COVIDhe says insomnia is often related to pain and resistant to treatment.
“Pain, which can also occur at night, and a lot of autonomic imbalance, autonomic dysfunction, which is our body’s ability to control heart rate and blood pressure — that can lead to episodes of palpitations, night sweats,” explains While out. .
Even for those long gone from COVID, the pandemic has robbed many of a good night’s sleep.
According to a 2022 survey from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, nearly a third of Americans said they have experienced sleep disturbances since the onset of COVID. That is a decrease from 56% the year before. The phenomenon is described as ‘COVID somnia’.
Due to her own battle with sleep deprivation, Mathew said she was unable to work for at least a month.
“Each little task took way too much energy. I just took a shower and then I had to rest for three hours,” she explained.
Mathews wrote about her experience for online news outlet Axios, where she works. Like many people dealing with long-term COVID, she says her first infection seemed a “mild” case.
“I soon realized: if I want to get better, I have to completely change my life,” she wrote. “…When my body needs rest, I rest.”
Over the past four months, she estimates her symptoms have improved by 60-70%.
Doctors say sticking to the right thing is critical sleep hygiene habits, including regular bedtimes and no screens late at night. If you’re having trouble sleeping, doctors say it’s a good idea to see a sleep specialist, as insomnia can reveal other health problems, such as sleep apnea.