If you haven’t been infected with the coronavirus yet, consider yourself lucky. By Feb. 2022, nearly 60 percent of all Americans had already had at least one case of COVID, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But while some of these cases have cleared up within a week or so, a number of people who have been infected with the virus have not been as lucky. Some people who have had COVID experience long-term problems that can last for months or even years—a condition known as long COVID.
While there is no clear number, it is estimated that anywhere between 7 to 23 million Americans have developed long COVID, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). While many of these cases are debilitating, it’s also possible that you could be experiencing lingering symptoms without even realizing it. Doctors are now warning about one nighttime problem that may be associated with long COVID. Read on to find out what you should be on the lookout for.
Long COVID covers a wide range of health issues, according to the CDC. The most common general symptoms reported by people who experience post-COVID conditions include tiredness and fatigue that interferes with daily life, symptoms that get worse after physical or mental effort, and fever. Other signs include difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, cough, chest pain, and difficulty thinking.
These symptoms “can last more than four weeks or even months after infection,” according to the CDC. “Sometimes the symptoms can even go away or come back again.”
These are just some of the symptoms that could mean you’re suffering from long COVID. Virus experts are now warning that another sign might be so familiar that it isn’t recognized as a symptom at all.
“Sleep disorders are one of the most common symptoms that patients who suffer from post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection are having these days,” Cinthya Pena, MD, a sleep specialist for Cleveland Clinic, told Nexstar Media Group.
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The trouble with sleeping comes from the fact that COVID can affect an individual’s circadian rhythm, Pena told Nexstar. “So mainly what we are finding is that they complain from insomnia, fatigue, also brain fog, some of them present sometimes circadian rhythm disorders,” she explained.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, circadian rhythm sleep disorders occurs when your body’s “internal clock” does not match up with your environment. “Circadian rhythm, the name given to your body’s 24-hour internal clock, controls your body’s sleep-wake cycle,” the experts at the clinic explain. This could mean you’re feeling tired during the day but not getting tired and staying asleep at night.
The CDC warns that it can be hard for healthcare providers to recognize what is and isn’t a symptom of long COVID. “There is no single test for post-COVID conditions,” the agency explains. “While most people with post-COVID conditions have evidence of infection or COVID-19 illness, in some cases, a person with post-COVID conditions may not have tested positive for the virus or known they were infected.”
According to the CDC, the wide variety of post-COVID conditions makes it more difficult to assess whether the problem has come from a coronavirus infection or something else. “Your healthcare provider considers a diagnosis of post-COVID conditions based on your health history, including if you had a diagnosis of COVID-19 either by a positive test or by symptoms or exposure, as well as doing a health examination,” the agency says.