The Low Hanging Fruit: Getting Better Sleep with PCS

May 18, 2021 | Greg Vanichkachorn | @drvan | Comments (2)

In addition to being tired and having troubles thinking, poor sleep is a very common symptom patients with Post COVID Syndrome (PCS) experience.  Some people can’t sleep because they have trouble breathing at night.  For others, things like muscle pain keep them awake. Some patients are napping frequently during the day, changing their usual sleep cycle. And finally, with all the worry that patients with Post COVID Syndrome experience, some patients can’t relax at night and their mind keeps them awake.

With PCS, better sleep is often one of the fastest ways for improvement.  Fortunately, improving your sleep can start with a few simple changes in what we call sleep hygiene.  In the modern world, there are many things that can distract us and keep our minds going. Some of the most distracting are electronic devices like smart phone and tablets.  Try your best not to sleep with a smart device nearby.  If you wake up, avoid lying in bed and using an electronic device. Doing so will often keep you up for hours due to stimulation. Good airflow and temperature is also key. Most patients enjoy sleeping in a slightly cooler room, around 68 degrees. You might also want to try using a fan for air circulation. Naturally, it is also hard to sleep well when exposed to light. Try to keep your room free of bright lights while sleeping. Finally, avoid caffeine and hard exercise in the hours close to your bed time, especially within two hours.

If the above changes do not help, it might be time to try some medications. One helpful medication that is available over the counter is melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that occurs naturally in our bodies and helps with sleep.  Some extra melatonin, anywhere from 2-10mg at night, can help with sleep.  Melatonin is available in many different forms, including gummies. Another medication patients frequently use is Benadryl, also known as diphenhydramine.  This is a powerful medication that can cause significant sedation in many individuals.  However, it can also cause dry mouth and morning grogginess.

If these self-treatments are not helpful, the next step is to meet with your medical provider. There are problems, like sleep apnea, that may need to be tested for and treated.  There are prescription medications that can be used to help you get better sleep while you start to recover.  In addition, cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia is an effective way to help you get the sleep you need.

Sleep is very important for our health. If you are having troubles try the above recommendations and talk to your medical provider. Discuss post-COVID syndrome symptoms and sleep in the Post-COVID Recovery discussion group. Learn about Mayo Clinic post-COVID syndrome programs.

Interested in more newsfeed posts like this? Go to the Post-COVID Recovery blog.

Benzos should be taken only as last resort. The sleep "expert" I consulted got me hooked on clonazepam, didn't tell me I should take it only for a short time. Getting off it was 2 weeks of hell, waking up every hour. Google will show you horror stories from people who started off with a low dose, then had to increase it when it stopped being effective.



Thank your sharing your story and insight. I agree, there are several medications available to treat sleep and some of these have significant risk. The risk vs benefit discussion will be different for everyone, but I always recommend having a thoughtful discussion with your medical provider before starting prescriptiton medications.

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