January 28, 2021

The unexplained link between COVID-19 and sleep

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By Lynn Allison From Newsmax

Dreamstime

Melatonin, the sleep hormone, may be a key player in preventing COVID-19 and reducing its severity. President Donald Trump received melatonin as part of his COVID-19 treatment at Walter Reed National Military Center. This widely available, over-the-counter supplement is the focus of much global research on how it can modulate the disease.

According to The Atlantic, a data analyst from the Cleveland Clinic was among the first to gather information on the benefits of melatonin for COVID-19. Feixiong Cheng and his team delved into the structure of the virus early on trying to find how it invaded human cells. He learned it could be blocked by melatonin.

Other experts chimed in noting that while melatonin plays a pivotal role in our sleep rhythms, it also helps keep the immune system from going haywire as seen in many COVID-19 sufferers who develop life-threating symptoms. A study published in October by Columbia University researchers found that intubated patients with COVID-19 had better survival rates when treated with melatonin.

Cheng believes that melatonin probably doesn’t have a direct effect on the virus but thinks the way it improves our sleep via the nervous system may play a role in modulating the disease. According to The Atlantic, about three-quarters of people in the U.K. reported changes in their sleep patterns during the pandemic. But while anxiety about the pandemic could explain the rising numbers of insomnia, British experts noted that COVID-19 patients suffered increased incidence of insomnia and reported puzzling symptoms such as brain fog, headaches, and muscular weakness even after the infection.

“We’re seeing referrals from doctors because the disease itself affects the nervous system,” said Rachel Salas, a neurologist from Johns Hopkins University, who has been studying the interaction between COVID-19 and insomnia. Salas worries that the newfound inability to sleep may plague those who have recovered from COVID-19 for years.

Experts believe that this long-term symptom may be due to inflammation that can trigger a host of neurological symptoms including chronic fatigue syndrome or CFS. One of the crucial tools in fighting CFS is sleep. In order to break the vicious cycle of insomnia and other neurological problems caused by post-infectious inflammation, here again melatonin may be of value.

Russell J. Reiter, Ph.D., from University of Texas Health, San Antonio, has published hundreds of scientific papers on melatonin and is considered to be one the nation’s top experts on the supplement. He is convinced that it should be standard practice to treat COVID-19 patients with melatonin, according to The Atlantic. Last May, he published a recommendation for melatonin to be immediately given therapeutically to everyone with COVID-19. Other experts say that while sleep is essential to our good health, building more structure in our now often unpredictable lives can help summon the Sandman more efficiently than taking a supplement. Get up and go to bed at the same times each day, including the weekends. Take walks and stay connected with others while observing physical distance. Hypnotherapy is often used in inducing restful sleep, according to The Atlantic.

Ideally, you should aim for a restful seven to nine hours of sleep nightly, according to experts at the Henry Ford Health System, who offer these tips on improving sleep hygiene.

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