Those who have been infected with COVID-19, sometimes experience residual symptoms for a prolonged period of time. Extreme fatigue is a common symptom of exhaustion due to COVID long haul.
It has been estimated that one-quarter to one-third of COVID-19 patients become “long haulers,” according to UC Davis. COVID long haul, also commonly known as long COVID or post-COVID, is a term for the range of health problems experienced four or more weeks following the initial infection. COVID long haul can persist for weeks or even months.
If you’ve been infected with COVID, you might wonder if the sleepiness — or downright exhaustion — that you’ve been experiencing is exhaustion due to COVID long haul. Of the more than 200 reported symptoms associated with COVID long haul, fatigue is front and center. In fact, both the Mayo Clinic and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) list fatigue within the top two lingering symptoms following a COVID infection.
It’s notable that regardless of if a COVID infection was severe or symptomless, you can go on to have COVID long haul health problems. “While it’s clear that people with certain risk factors (including high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, obesity and other conditions) are more likely to have a serious bout of COVID-19, there isn’t a clear link between these risk factors and long-term problems,” writes Johns Hopkins Medicine.
So, even if you had a mild case of COVID, you may be experiencing COVID long haul with fatigue as a primary symptom. This is especially true if, before COVID infection, your energy levels were good and your health timeline indicates that your energy has failed to return.
When trying to determine if your tiredness is a health problem, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is my tiredness causing me to make adjustments to my normal routine?
- Is my tiredness interfering with my time with friends and family?
- Am I struggling to stay awake and alert?
- Am I falling asleep in inappropriate or dangerous situations, such as while driving?
- Am I having difficulty with memory, mood, or concentration?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, you should speak to your healthcare provider if your fatigue has become of concern: “Simply expressing the problem should lead to a discussion about the topic.” However, Johns Hopkins Medicine provides a reminder: our understanding of COVID-19 and COVID long haul is limited but evolving rapidly. “New insights will provide avenues for therapies and hope for people living with long-term COVID-19 effects,” reads the Johns Hopkins website.
As insights are gained, there are accessible options that may help in addition to working alongside your healthcare provider. If you’re trying to understand why you need extra sleep, are wiped out by basic tasks, or can’t keep your eyes open for that important presentation at work, here are some suggestions for tackling your fatigue.
3 ways to combat exhaustion related to COVID long haul
There are a few essential areas you’ll want to ensure are in balance to help you overcome fatigue:
1. Check your water intake.
Those experiencing dehydration often experience extreme tiredness, lethargy, or fatigue. So, it’s no surprise that making sure you are properly hydrated can make a huge difference in exhaustion related to COVID and COVID long haul. An estimated 60% of your body is water, and it’s essential in many bodily functions, including carrying nutrients to cells and lubricating joints.
Replacing the water you lose from breathing, sweating, and urinating is key to reducing feelings of fatigue. Aim for 64 ounces of water per day or enough water to urinate a pale yellow color. You can also add in water-filled foods, like vegetables, fruits, and soups to up your water intake. Other quick tips to stay hydrated include refilling your glass as soon as it’s empty, measuring and tracking your water consumption, and adding extra ice to drinks.
2. Check your food intake.
Skipping meals or just not getting enough calories, in general, can cause your blood sugar to drop, resulting in fatigue. Whether your exhaustion is related to COVID or not, aiming for three balanced meals a day can help you feel more alert. You can also add in a protein shake first thing in the morning (and in the afternoon if needed!) to help stabilize your blood sugar and fight fatigue.
It’s also recommended to avoid foods used for quick energy fixes like too much caffeine, or baked goods, white bread, or anything with refined carbohydrates. The Cleveland Clinic recommends foods rich in fiber instead — think blueberries, oats, legumes, as quick examples. Also, don’t forget, there’s a reason breakfast is rumored to be the most important meal of the day!
3. Check your sleep hygiene.
Sleep hygiene refers to healthy sleep habits that support good sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults 26-64 years old get 7-9 hours of sleep each night, and adults 65+ years old get 7-8 hours of sleep nightly.
However, the quantity of sleep isn’t the only important factor — quality is key.
Implementing good sleep hygiene is similar to other habits; practice makes perfect. Control what you can. Setting a scheduled bedtime, avoiding being too full or hungry, and creating a relaxing environment (limit that iPhone time!) are all extremely helpful in getting on the right track for a restful night.
If you’re looking for additional treatment options for COVID long haul-related fatigue, Mymee may be able to help. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Mymee recognized the similarities between COVID long haul and autoimmunity. From there, we developed a successful, effective digital care program aimed at reducing or eliminating COVID long haul symptoms.