Researchers Link Disturbed Sleep With Long Covid Breathlessness
If you are facing breathless episodes after Covid during the day, also check if you are not able to sleep properly as researchers have now discovered that the disturbed sleep patterns in patients hospitalized with Covid were likely to be a driver of breathlessness.
The study of patients in 38 institutions across the UK, led by the University of Manchester and Leicester found that 62 percent of Covid patients had sleep disruption, which was likely to persist for at least 12 months.
The study, published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, has highlighted for the first time the association between two post-Covid condition symptoms: breathlessness and sleep disruption.
On average, participants who had been hospitalized with Covid-19 slept for over an hour long, but their sleep patterns were less regular (19 percent decrease on the sleep regularity scale) than matched participants who were hospitalized due to any cause.
The researchers also found that participants with sleep disturbance were more likely to have anxiety and muscle weakness, common post-Covid-19 condition symptoms.
“The study has discovered that sleep disturbance could be an important driver of post-Covid breathlessness – or dyspnoea – because of its associations with reduced muscle function and anxiety,” said Dr. John Blaikley, a clinical scientist from the University of Manchester and respiratory doctor.
The sleep disruption was likely to drive breathlessness directly, but that reduced muscle function and increased anxiety, both recognized causes of breathlessness, could partially mediate the association between sleep disturbance and breathlessness.
The authors speculate that targeting sleep disruption by reducing anxiety and improving muscle strength in these patients could alleviate breathlessness, but further investigation is needed.
Understanding the causes of breathlessness is complex since it can arise from conditions that affect the respiratory, neurological, cardiovascular, and mental health systems.
“Our findings suggest that sleep disturbance is a common problem after hospitalization for Covid-19 and is associated with breathlessness. We also show this is likely to persist for at least 12 months, said first study author Callum Jackson from the University of Manchester.