Long Covid: Sign in your sleep could be a symptom – sleep expert

Olympian Greg Rutherford shares his top tips on sleep

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On long Covid, Dr Potter had this to say: “While we don’t know that much about long Covid and sleep yet, it seems that people who have long Covid are more likely to develop different types of sleep issues.

“It seems that people are more likely to go onto develop what could be clinically identifiable sleep disorders not long after developing Covid.”

Dr Potter’s notion isn’t his own, but based on an existing idea published in the British Medical Journal in January 2022.

This study concluded: “We found that the risks of incident mental health disorders are substantial in people with COVID-19 and span several categories, including… sleep disorders. The risks were evident even among those with COVID-19 who did not require hospital admission.”

Notably the report finished with the recommendation: “Tackling mental health disorders among survivors of COVID-19 should be a priority.”

One of the authors of the report, Dr Ziyad-Aly, also authored a report published last month that warned those who experienced mild Covid had a much greater chance of developing heart disease.

In an interview with the Express, Dr Aly warned: “There need to be more resources put into the [health] system to establish more post-Covid clinics… where people can receive comprehensive or integrated care for long Covid.”

On what this meant for health services such as the NHS, Dr Aly told the Express: “Because of the enormity of it and the large number of people affected with Covid, and subsequently large number of people affected with cardiovascular disease, that’s going to pose a serious challenge on already strained health systems.”

On what Long Covid could mean for people over the next few years, Dr Potter cautioned that it is: “Too early to tell what the long term implications of that are, but I think we’re going to realise what those are over time.”

Those are the potential implications for long Covid and sleep, but what about an explanation?

During the first lockdown the public reported that they were having stranger dreams than they had before the pandemic.

According to Dr Potter, there’s a reason for this, and it has to do with the sleep cycle.

Specifically, it has to do with the fact people were waking up later in their sleep cycle.

“Because a lot of people were able to sleep in longer in the morning because they weren’t commuting, they ended up spending more time in bed and what that meant was that more people were waking up from their dreams and therefore remembering their dreams.

“At the start of the night, we have more deep sleep and more so-called non-REM sleep

“Later on we spend a lot of time in REM sleep and while we dream in all stages of our sleep, we have our most vivid and bizarre dreams in REM sleep and because more people were sleeping in longer, more people were waking up from REM sleep and were therefore remembering their dreams.”

It wasn’t just the fact people were waking up later, it was caused by the pandemic too says Dr Potter: “Our dreams reflect our daytime experiences to some extent. They’re a way of helping us make sense of the world by pouring through some of our recent experiences and looking at ways different experiences might relate to one another

“Meanwhile, the part of the brain involved in rational decision making is offline and that helps explain their often bizarre nature.”

So, weird dreams experienced during the first lockdown were a combination of more sleep, the strange nature of the pandemic, and the fact the rational part of the brain switched off.

As it stands, the UK has one of the highest Covid death rates in the world with scientists and experts saying this is in part due to the government’s delayed response to the pandemic.

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