The bizarre Covid ‘symptom’ that strikes in the middle of the night

SLEEP is imperative to our health and wellbeing and illness can make it difficult for us to get the snooze our body needs.

But experts have warned that disturbed sleep could actually be a sign of Covid-19.

Getty – Contributor

If you’re having issues with your sleep then it could be down to having a coronavirus infection, experts say[/caption]

An estimated one in 12 people will endure sleep paralysis at least once in their life, according to the Sleep Foundation.

Those with sleep paralysis experience feelings of being unable to speak and a sense of choking or suffocation.

Throughout the pandemic many Brits have complained of poor sleep or scary dreams.

Sleep therapy professionals have now said that people who contract infections – such as Covid-19 could suffer with sleep paralysis.

They explained that the infection, combined with the stress caused by the pandemic overall, could cause sleep paralysis.

Many people on social media have said that they have struggled with sleep paralysis after testing positive for Covid-19.

One user posted: “My covid symptoms include hallucinations, painful sleep paralysis, insomnia & then there’s the physical pain from already being high risk.”

Another said: “I can feel myself falling into the trap of getting sleep paralysis again and it’s literally only cuz I have covid….otherwise Id be sleeping normally and quite well if I didn’t.”

However, some people also highlighted that the worry of catching Covid is also causing them to have sleep issues.

“Last night I dreamt I caught Covid and was so ill I couldn’t move which the turned into sleep paralysis.”

Sleep therapy expert Dr Kat Lederle said that while there is no direct evidence linking sleep paralysis and Covid, it could be a strange symptom.

“It could be the virus infection itself impacts on the sleep regulation in the brain (neurological effects of Covid have been reported)’.

“But I think it is more likely that should there be an increase in sleep paralysis that this is due to the stress resulting from the big changes to how we go and live our lives at the moment, the uncertainty and anxiety that we are facing which are impacting on our sleep system”, she told MailOnline.

Sleep paralysis is described by the Sleep Foundation as a “brief loss of muscle control, known as atonia, that happens just after falling asleep or waking up”.

It is a “mixed state of consciousness”, whereby someone experiences elements of sleep and wakefulness at the same time because they are not moving through the stages of sleep seamlessly.

This gives rise to distressing symptoms. Usually, when we are asleep, we are not aware of our inability to move (atonia).

But during sleep paralysis, we can still be in a dream-like state while being aware there is nothing we can do about it.

This may help explain why sleep paralysis typically involves elements that directly induce fear. Although the exact mechanisms are not clear.

What causes sleep paralysis?

Often there is no known cause for sleep paralysis.

Sleep paralysis is more common in people with the following conditions:

  • Insomnia – when people have a difficult time falling asleep and are therefore always tired
  • Narcolepsy – a long-term condition that causes a person to suddenly fall asleep
  • Sleep apnoea – a condition that restricts the airways as a person sleeps, causing snoring among other symptoms
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or people who have been sezually abused as a child or have other types of trauma
  • General anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Stopping antidepressants

You may also be more likely to have it if a family member has it.

Many sleep disorders are linked to sleep paralysis, and even just having a disrupted sleeping pattern – for example, because of shift work or jet lag – can bring it on.

Because of Covid, many people’s routines have been mixed up.

For some people, this was a temporary change – with many going back to work when shops and hospitality venues reopened.

But for some, the pandemic has meant permanent changes to their schedules and routines.

Hussain Abdeh, clinical director at Medicine Direct added that research into patients with narcolepsy found that they experienced an increase in sleep paralysis during Covid.

He added that this could be due to changes in their life.

“An increase in nightmares, insomnia and stressful dreams has also been reported by several studies due to the pandemic. As a link has been found between these conditions and sleep paralysis, it is possible that Covid has caused an increase”, he added.

When to see a doctor

The NHS says see your GP if you have anxiety about sleeping, in fear of paralysis, or are tired all the time because of it.

Sometimes treatment will start at the root cause, for example working through PTSD.

But you may also be referred to a sleep specialist, who sometimes prescribes antidepressants.

“Taking this type of medicine at a lower dose can also help with sleep paralysis,” the NHS says – but it does not mean you have depression.

You might also be referred for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).