Having sleepless nights? It could be Covid-19! While a Covid-19 infection is usually characterized by fever, body ache, and loss of smell and taste among other commonly known symptoms, scientists studying the virus feel that the mutating virus may be manifesting itself in other, previously unknown symptoms such as sleepless nights or cold sweats at night. Covid-19 has slowed down and its effects have also become more stymied in somewhat familiar in the past two years of the pandemic. However, the novel coronavirus still seems to have some surprises up its sleeve with doctors advising against neglecting Covid prevention and care protocols in wake of a seemingly new set of symptoms of Covid-19.
The apparent new symptom is associated with the BA.5 strain of the Omicron variant and was discovered by immunologist Professor Luke O’Neill from Trinity College Dublin.
What is BA.5?
Earlier in July, top health officials had told the media that the next Covid infection surge might be anchored by new emerging sublineages like Omicron sub-variants BA.4, BA.5.
BA.5 was added to the World Health Organization’s monitoring list in March this year along with BA.4. It is also considered a variant of concern by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). The sub-lineage has been detected in 83 nations till date and is said to be spreading at a rapid pace. In May, India’s national Covid-19 body INSACOG confirmed the presence of the BA.5 Omicron sub-variant in India.
First noted in South Africa, the BA.5 sublineage has already been driving viral surges in countries like Australia and the US.
In an earlier statement, WHO had confirmed that BA.4 and BA.5 were driving surges in Europe and America.
What are the symptoms of BA.5?
While BA.5 spreads quickly, it is less severe than previous Covid-19 strains. It affects the upper respiratory tract and typically induces cold-like symptoms including a runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, and fever. Prolonged fever and chills along with cough and cold are missing in a majority of Omicron cases but may exist in some. Overall, there is consensus in the medical community that the sub-lineage is less likely to affect lung health. Loss of smell. which was a common feature of previous Covid variant symptoms, may not be a symptom in all Omocron BA.5 cases as the sublineage is not likely to affect the nervous system.
Is BA.5 causing sleepless nights?
The symptom was suggested by scientists like Trinity College’s Dr O’Neill, who in an interview with Irish radio station Newstalk earlier in July, said that “one extra symptom from BA.5” that he had noted was “night sweats”.
He said that the disease caused by BA.5 is “slightly different” from previous variants or subvariants “because the virus has changed”. One of the effects of this changed virus includes “night sweats”, O’Neill adds.
Night sweats are characterized by heavy sweating at night during sleeping hours that may wake the person experiencing it or manifest itself in the form of damp sheets in the morning after. While there are various physical conditions that can lead to night sweats such as anxiety, stress, menopause, and hyperthyroidism, and are commonly noted among substance abusers and certain cancer patients.
However, the professor noted that the vaccinations and boosters don’t let the virus from progressing into severe disease.
Covid and sleep problems
Covid-19 has previously been associated with sleeping disorders including insomnia, leading to a new term being coined by doctors to address Covid-related sleep issues and stress. ‘Covidsomnia’ skyrocketed during the pandemic due to the increased stress and anxiety caused by Covid-19. Phenomena like pandemic fatigue and Covid-burnout are also being researched to understand the impact of Covid-19 on mental health and sleeping patterns. Sleep problems are a commonly reported symptom of patients who have recovered from Covid or are recovering from long Covid. Chronic sleep loss is bad for cardiovascular and metabolic health.