Sleep apnea and a chronic condition raise long Covid risk

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Sleep Apnea and Chronic Condition Raise Long Covid Risk

Over the past year, the medical community has been working tirelessly to combat a new virus that has taken over the world – COVID-19. We’ve seen the devastation it can cause, from a mild flu-like illness to severe respiratory distress, organ failure, and unfortunately even death in some instances. However, as the pandemic rages on, we are starting to see that the health effects of COVID-19 go far beyond the acute illness itself, with many survivors experiencing long-term symptoms that linger for months after the initial infection, a condition referred to as long Covid.

While much is still unknown about this mysterious syndrome, recent studies suggest that those with pre-existing chronic conditions, such as sleep apnea, may be at a higher risk for developing long-term complications from COVID-19.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder where a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep, causing them to momentarily wake up throughout the night. This can happen hundreds of times a night, even if the person is unaware of it. The most common type of sleep apnea is known as obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when the muscles in the throat relax and block the airway.

The symptoms of sleep apnea can vary widely, and some people may not even realize they have it. Common signs include loud and persistent snoring, gasping or choking during sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, and morning headaches. Left untreated, sleep apnea can increase the risk of a range of serious health issues, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.

What Is Long Covid?

Long Covid, also known as post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC), refers to a range of symptoms that persist for weeks or even months after a person has recovered from acute COVID-19. The symptoms can affect every part of the body, including the lungs, heart, brain, and skin, and can cause significant debilitation and disruption to daily life.

While there is still much that is unknown about long Covid, researchers believe that it may be caused by a range of factors, including ongoing inflammation from the original viral infection, changes to the immune system, or nerve damage caused by the virus.

What Is the Link Between Sleep Apnea and Long Covid?

Recent studies have suggested that people with sleep apnea may be at higher risk for developing long Covid. One study, published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society, found that patients with obstructive sleep apnea had a higher risk of developing severe COVID-19, requiring hospitalization, and having longer hospital stays than those without sleep apnea.

Another study, published in the European Respiratory Journal, found that people with sleep apnea were more likely to experience ongoing breathing problems, fatigue, and cognitive impairment after recovering from acute COVID-19. The researchers suggested that the inflammation and oxygen deprivation caused by sleep apnea could have a lasting impact on the body’s ability to recover from COVID-19.

What Can You Do?

If you have sleep apnea, it’s important to take steps to manage the condition, which may help reduce your risk of developing long Covid if you become infected with COVID-19. Here are some tips:

1. Use a CPAP machine: Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines are the most common form of treatment for sleep apnea. The machine delivers a continuous flow of air to keep the airway open and prevent breathing interruptions.

2. Make lifestyle changes: Losing weight, quitting smoking, and avoiding alcohol and sedatives can all help reduce the severity of sleep apnea.

3. Get regular check-ups: It’s important to have regular check-ups with your doctor to monitor the condition and adjust your treatment plan as needed.

4. Practice good sleep hygiene: Establishing a regular sleep routine, creating a sleep-friendly environment, and avoiding electronics before bedtime can all help improve the quality of sleep.

Concluding Thoughts

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the world, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the virus’s effects go far beyond the acute illness itself. Long Covid is a debilitating condition that can affect anyone who has had COVID-19, regardless of age or health status. However, recent research suggests that those with pre-existing chronic conditions, such as sleep apnea, may be at higher risk of developing long Covid.

If you have sleep apnea, taking steps to manage the condition, such as using a CPAP machine, making lifestyle changes, and getting regular check-ups, can help reduce your risk of complications from COVID-19. With ongoing research into the links between sleep apnea and long Covid, we hope to gain a better understanding of the long-term impact of COVID-19 and how to best protect ourselves against it.