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While it is well known that sleep disturbances are a common symptom for those with Long COVID, there has been little research into the different types of sleep disturbances that are experienced.

The research paper the role of sleep and dreams in long-COVID investigated different types of sleep disturbances between ‘short COVID’ individuals (those who had COVID but recovered with no or just one prolonged symptom(s)), and Long COVID individuals.

They found that the Long Covid group showed greater sleep alterations compared with the Short COVID group. These included worsened sleep quality, daytime sleepiness, sleep inertia, naps, insomnia, sleep apnea, and, interestingly, nightmares.

They found that the best predictors of sleep disturbances were the number of Long-COVID symptoms the individual had (the more symptoms, the worse sleep), psychological factors (anxiety, ptsd, etc.) and age (older patients were more likely to have sleep apnea, while younger patients were more likely to have excessive morning sleepiness, be more vulnerable to sleep loss, and be more likely to have frequent nightmares).

The authors suggested that as well as being a symptom of Long COVID, worsened sleep quality is also likely a reaction to the stress of having Long COVID.

The study also found that oneiric alterations (changes in dreaming) were considered a reliable indication as to mental health, with nightmares indicating worsened mental health.

Most of this information is information that we already know or have guessed as patients with Long COVID. However, it is important that this information is researched and confirmed so that it can be built upon by future research. It is also helpful to have it confirmed that by working on our mental health and our relaxation techniques, we might be able to improve our sleep patterns as well.

It is also interesting to note that nightmares are in fact related to Long COVID (and, likely, to ME/CFS). Personally, I had no idea my nightmares were related to my illness! I thought it was just me!

Have your dreams have changed after getting sick? Do you use relaxation techniques before bedtime? I find that my nighttime yoga routine has hugely improved my sleep quality and quantity. What works for you?

Scarpelli, S., De Santis, A., Alfonsi, V., Gorgoni, M., Morin, C. M., Espie, C., Merikanto, I., Chung, F., Penzel, T., Bjorvatn, B., Dauvilliers, Y., Holzinger, B., Wing, Y. K., Partinen, M., Plazzi, G., & De Gennaro, L. (2023). The role of sleep and dreams in long-COVID. Journal of Sleep Research, 32(3), e13789. https://doi.org/10.1111/jsr.13789

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