Many Long COVID Patients Have Sleep Problems: Study

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April 6, 2023 – Four in 10 people with long COVID had moderate to severe sleep problems, and Black people with the condition were  much more likely to have serious sleep issues, a new study found. 

The study was published this week in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. It included 962 adults at the Cleveland Clinic who were treated for long COVID – what the researchers defined as having lingering and debilitating symptoms from the virus lasting more than 4 weeks – at the Cleveland Clinic between February 2021 and April 2022. Among them:

  • 67% reported moderate to severe fatigue.
  • 22% reported severe fatigue.
  • 59% reported normal to mild sleep disturbances.
  • 41% reported moderate to severe sleep disturbances.

Black people were at least three times more likely than White people to get sleep problems. Previous research shows that people of color are more likely to be infected with COVID and have severe cases requiring hospitalization, compared to White people.

Other things linked to a higher likelihood of sleep disturbances among people with long COVID were whether someone had been hospitalized for COVID, had severe anxiety, or had moderate to severe fatigue.

“Our findings not only emphasize the importance of identification of sleep disturbance in long COVID, considering its impact on patients’ quality of life, daytime functioning and medical health status, but they also draw the attention to the persistent inequities seen throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” researcher Cinthya Pena Orbea, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Cleveland Clinic’s Sleep Disorders Center, said in a statement.

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation analysis reported that as of January 2023, 28% of people who ever had COVID also had long COVID. The CDC says the most common long COVID symptoms are fatigue, fever, respiratory and heart problems, neurological problems, digestive problems, and issues that worsen after physical or mental effort.