By Dr David R Lee. Clinical Director at Sleep Unlimited, November 2021
Fatigue is a common symptom of long-covid and post-viral syndrome (PVS) more generally. This fatigue can often lead to people sleeping for long periods, so-called “hypersomnia.” Paradoxically, common symptoms of hypersomnia are feelings of tiredness and fatigue.
As a result, some of the fatigue experienced by people living with long covid and /or PVS may be driven by their oversleeping (hypersomnia) as much as be the condition itself.
There is a potentially useful intervention which may be of significant benefit to those experiencing these negative symptoms, and so potentially promote a faster and more full recovery.
And that is: exposure to natural daylight.
There are three potential benefits of this:
- Exposure to natural daylight during the day promotes the production of melatonin in the pineal gland within our brains.Melatonin aids with sleep onset and sleep maintenance.
- With an excess of melatonin the body can break this down and convert it into serotonin.Serotonergic depletion is associated with depression, so if we have excess amounts of melatonin in our systems due to an additional exposure to natural daylight, we can convert this into serotonin and this can lead to improvements in mood.
- Being exposed to natural daylight also promotes the production of Vitamin D in our skin which has proven immune boosting benefits, but you do need to let your skin see the sun and not be too covered up.
Exposure to light should be:
- Natural light, i.e. daylight, outside and not through a glass window for example.
- Best in the morning or early afternoon as light at this time of day is in the best frequency range for promoting the production of melatonin.
- For at least one hour, but as much as possible beyond this will likely add additional benefit.
- This intervention is free of charge and easily accessible.
This intervention only requires some simple lifestyle changes (not sleeping for too long and going out of doors more often) and as a result should be easy for most people to engage and comply with.
If you, your family members, colleagues or friends are struggling with symptoms of long covid then trying this for a few weeks should show benefits for many. If you or they are still struggling with your sleep, mood and /or levels of fatigue after trying this for a few weeks, then it may mean that more help is needed. In which case please do contact our offices for an informal and confidential discussion about additional options for further treatment or referral as required.
VRA members have access to the recordings of several webinars that Dr Lee has recorded for the VRA
- The management of sleep issues in people living with neurodiversity here
- Learn sleep! And introduction to CBT for insomnia here.
Sleep Unlimited run training courses for practitioners, details here.