People with COVID-19 may experience insomnia as their body fights the infection. Insomnia may also occur or continue in people with long COVID.

Some of the most common COVID-19 symptoms include coughing, breathing difficulties, and loss of smell. But some cases of COVID-19 can also lead to either short- or long-term insomnia.

Options for managing insomnia symptoms range from relaxation techniques to having a consistent nighttime schedule. These and other at-home treatments can help improve insomnia symptoms.

In more severe cases, a medical professional can provide additional treatment options.

This article examines why insomnia occurs with COVID-19 and how to treat it. Keep reading to learn more about how to overcome COVID-19 insomnia.

Coronavirus data

All data and statistics are based on publicly available data at the time of publication. Some information may be out of date. Visit our coronavirus hub for the most recent information on COVID-19.

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Research has found that rates of insomnia increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. The rates of insomnia worldwide remain higher than they were before the pandemic.

Scientists believe the added stressors of the pandemic may have led to these higher rates of insomnia. Depression, social isolation, and psychological distress could all contribute to disrupted sleep patterns.

The COVID-19 pandemic increased the rates of insomnia among the general population. Studies have also found that insomnia can be a symptom of COVID-19.

People with acute or long COVID may have a greater risk of developing insomnia.

Insomnia and COVID-19

A 2021 study examined the rates of insomnia among people with active COVID-19. Researchers found that about 17% of participants had mild insomnia symptoms. Around 2% of participants had symptoms of clinical insomnia.

Another study from 2021 found that nearly 60% of people with COVID-19 experienced sleep problems. Sleep problems were the most common neurological symptoms found among these study participants.

In some cases, insomnia may resolve after recovery from COVID-19. But acute insomnia during COVID-19 may turn into chronic insomnia, especially among people with lingering COVID-19 symptoms or long COVID.

Insomnia and long COVID

In a 2022 study, researchers analyzed sleep disturbances among people with long COVID. They found that about 22% of participants reported experiencing insomnia.

Research suggests that most people with long COVID experience neurological symptoms. These may include:

The neurological effects of COVID-19 can also lead to insomnia in people with long COVID.

In many cases, it is possible to manage insomnia with at-home care. Home-based management techniques may include:

  • going to bed at the same time every night
  • avoiding screens before bedtime
  • keeping the bedroom at a comfortable temperature
  • avoiding caffeine in the afternoon and evening
  • avoiding alcohol and tobacco before bed

Establishing a consistent nighttime routine can help manage insomnia. Spending an hour relaxing before bed can make it easier to fall asleep. Some people may enjoy reading before bed. A warm bath or meditation session can also promote nighttime relaxation.

If insomnia does not respond to at-home care, it may be time to talk with a medical professional. A doctor can prescribe medications to help treat insomnia symptoms.

A doctor may also recommend cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for insomnia. CBT can help improve sleep quality. It can also reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, which can in turn reduce insomnia symptoms.

Beyond COVID-19, certain factors can increase the risk of developing insomnia. These may include:

  • older age
  • a family history of insomnia
  • high levels of stress
  • female sex
  • taking daytime naps
  • consuming caffeine
  • using electronic devices just before bed

Certain mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, can also increase the risk of insomnia. People experiencing these conditions can talk with a doctor to learn more about treatment options.

Sleep disturbances can lead to many other health problems. Missing sleep can make it hard to focus or pay attention during the day. This may negatively affect routine activities, such as driving a car. In severe cases, it could even increase the risk of getting into an accident.

People with symptoms of insomnia should speak with a doctor if these symptoms persist. Such symptoms may include:

  • daytime drowsiness
  • difficulty falling asleep
  • waking up earlier than planned
  • waking up during the night
  • daytime irritability
  • inability to nap during the day

Temporary insomnia may not have any lasting health effects. But if insomnia continues, it can cause serious problems.

Mood disturbances can impair relationships with friends and family. Daytime sleepiness can make it hard to perform well at work or in school.

For persistent insomnia, it is important to talk with a doctor. Only a medical professional can provide a full evaluation and recommend effective treatment options.

In addition to typical COVID-19 symptoms, some people may experience insomnia. Sleep disturbances are particularly common among people with long COVID.

The neurological effects of COVID-19 may cause insomnia in certain cases. Additionally, the stress and anxiety associated with COVID-19 can also increase the risk of insomnia.

People experiencing COVID-19 insomnia may find relief with at-home management strategies. If insomnia persists, it may be necessary to visit a doctor. With the right support, it is possible to manage COVID-19 insomnia and return to healthy sleep.