Study: People With Sleep Disorders Seems to Have More Severe COVID-19 Symptoms

By Sarah Cownley
Sarah Cownley
Sarah Cownley
Sarah has a diploma in Nutritional Therapy from Health Sciences Academy in London, England, and enjoys helping others by teaching healthy lifestyle changes through her personal consultations and with her regular contributions to the Doctors Health Press.
December 16, 2021 Updated: December 17, 2021

New research suggests that people who suffer from a sleep disorder have an increased risk for hospitalization by COVID-19. The study from Cleveland Clinic has found this relationship, noting that patients with sleep-disordered breathing and sleep-related hypoxia (sleep apnea) do not have an increased risk of developing COVID-19. Still, they do seem to have more severe symptoms from the disease.

The study published in JAMA Network Open was conducted to help improve the ability to predict who has a more severe illness so that healthcare workers can help those more at risk prevent severe symptoms.

Researchers believe this new information improved their understanding of the association between sleep disorders and the risk for adverse COVID-19 outcomes. The study concluded with a suggestion that biomarkers of inflammation may mediate the relationship between COVID-19 and sleep disorders.

Researchers used Cleveland Clinic’s COVID-19 research registry for the study, which includes data from nearly 360,000 patients tested for coronavirus. Out of these participants, 5,400 also had available sleep study records.

Researchers were able to examine the sleep study data and COVID-19 positivity to find disease severity. More severe symptoms were also seen in people with heart and lung diseases, obesity, cancer, and people who smoke.

It was found that patients with a sleep disorder were 31% more likely to have severe COVID-19 symptoms leading to hospitalization.

Further Research

The study was able to set the stage for further analysis to identify whether effective early treatments such as PAP (positive airway pressure) or oxygen administration for those with sleep apnea can improve COVID-19 outcomes in patients with insomnia.

The first author of the study, Cinthya Pena Orbea, M.D. said, “Our findings have significant implications as decreased hospitalizations could reduce the strain on healthcare systems. If indeed sleep-related hypoxia translates to worse COVID-19 symptoms, risk stratification strategies should be implemented to prioritize the early allocation of COVID-19 therapy to this subgroup of patients.”