Every one-hour increase in the amount of time spent asleep at night was associated with 12% lower odds of becoming infected with COVID-19, according to the study published in the online journal BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health.

Iran Press/Europe: An analysis of sleep studies found sleep problems affected approximately 40% of people in the pandemic – and those who caught COVID-19 appeared to have a higher prevalence of sleep problems.

Now, a study suggests if you had sleep problems prior to getting coronavirus, or suffered daily burnout, you have a heightened risk of not only becoming infected with the virus but also having more severe disease.

What happened in the study?

Disrupted sleep and work burnout have historically been linked to a heightened risk of viral and bacterial infections, which is why researchers wanted to explore whether there was a link between COVID-19 and sleep issues, as well as stress.

For the study, researchers drew on responses to an online survey for healthcare workers repeatedly exposed to patients with COVID-19 infection. The survey ran from July to September 2020, and was open to workers in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and the United States. Some 2,884 healthcare workers responded, 568 of whom caught the virus.

Personal details that were shared included: lifestyle, health, use of prescription medication and dietary supplements, plus information on how much sleep they got at night and in naps over the preceding year; any sleep problems; burnout from work; and workplace exposure to coronavirus.

What did researchers find?

On average, respondents were getting between six and seven hours sleep a night. Around one in four of those who’d tested positive for COVID-19 reported difficulties sleeping at night compared with around one in five of those without the infection.

One in 20 (5%) of those with COVID-19 said they had three or more sleep problems, including difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep, or needing to use sleeping pills on three or more nights of the week, compared with 3% of those without the infection.

Compared with those who had no sleep problems, those with three sleep issues had 88% greater odds of COVID-19 infection. Every extra hour of sleep at night was associated with 12% lower odds of COVID-19 infection.

Workers with daily burnout were around three times as likely to say that their COVID infection was severe and that they needed a longer recovery period.

The study was observational so can’t establish a cause – and there were a few limitations to it, including that assessment of exposure levels, sleep issues, and infection severity, were all subjective (so might’ve been misremembered) and the sample only included cases of very mild to moderately severe COVID-19.