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Insomnia, an underestimated symptom of long COVID


Insomnia and daytime sleepiness are among the most common symptoms reported by people who suffer from long COVID, according to an international study published in October 2022 in the Journal of Sleep Research.

Long COVID is defined by the presence of symptoms that persist for at least three months after infection. The main symptoms, according to the WHO, are prolonged fatigue, shortness of breath and cognitive dysfunction (or mental fog).

Ilona Merikanto of the University of Helsinki and 24 other researchers around the world analyzed data from an international survey conducted with 13,628 people aged 18-99 from 16 countries in Asia, Europe, America North and South America (2021).

Unlike several studies on the subject, we had a control group made up of people who had not had COVID“, underlines Charles Morin of Laval University (Quebec) who is one of the authors. “This is important because after several months of the pandemic, everyone was feeling, to varying degrees, fatigue and mental fog.»

Of the respondents, 2705 indicated that they had had COVID. The researchers divided them into four categories according to the severity of the infection: asymptomatic (11%), mild (55%), moderate (25%) and severe (9%).

The frequency of 21 health problems was significantly higher among people who had severe or moderate severity COVID. “These issues affect a portion of people who have had asymptomatic or mild COVID, but are less common in these groups“says Professor Morin.

Fatigue (61.3%), insomnia symptoms (49.6%), and excessive daytime sleepiness (35.8%) were highly prevalent among people reporting long-lasting symptoms after hospitalization for COVID. (TEST: Do you suffer from excessive sleepiness?)

Insomnia is the 3rd most frequently reported symptom. It affects 49.6% of people who have had severe COVID and 43% of those who have had moderately severe COVID. Daytime sleepiness comes in 8th place. It affects respectively 36% and 31% of people who have had severe or moderate COVID.

In light of these results, Professor Morin believes that insomnia and daytime sleepiness should be considered key symptoms of long COVID. Sleep problems could even exacerbate and prolong other symptoms, he adds.

For more information on insomnia and long COVID

Psychomedia with sources: Université Laval, Journal of Sleep Research.
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