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Study Finds: Diaphragm Damage Wrecks Post-COVID Sleep

written by / August 12, 2021
Diaphragm Damage Wrecks Post-COVID Sleep

Many COVID-19 survivors suffer a significant loss in sleep quality due to persistent breathing problems. A new study of long COVID-19 effects brought scientists closer to finding out why.

Surprisingly, it’s not just the lung damage from virus-induced pneumonia that results in the breathlessness of those recovering from a severe form of the coronavirus. Instead, researchers detected structural damage in another critical element of the breathing apparatus—the diaphragm.

So far, the data shows that about one-third of those infected with SARS-CoV-2 will struggle with the long-term effects of the vicious disease this virus causes, and many will be left sleepless because of it.

Up until now, doctors and scientists were baffled by the lingering breathing distress, snoring, apnea, and PTSD signs that require months of inpatient recovery therapy to mitigate.

The study conducted on 21 post-COVID patients in the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab revealed multiple abnormalities in diaphragm contraction and signs of atrophy in this big muscle that enables breathing.

Three-quarters of the long COVID patients had diaphragm dysfunction detected through ultrasound, compared to less than half of non-COVID participants. In addition, two-thirds of the former had signs of muscular atrophy, compared to just over a third of the latter.

Although the precise cause of this kind of muscle degradation is still unclear, scientists believe that it may be the result of two factors:

  • Post-intensive care syndrome (PICS)
  • Infection-related myopathy

Additional circumstances conducive to diaphragm myopathy are believed to be:

  • Aggressive corticosteroid use during treatment
  • Severe inflammatory response of the body
  • Altered glucose transport to the muscles
  • Muscle microcirculation impairment

All this leads to partial atrophy of the diaphragm, particularly its type 2 muscle fibers.

This is precious info for all the Post-Covid Care Centers (PCCC) popping up worldwide and innovating their treatment methods. Currently, these include CPAP machines, anti-snoring devices, breathing exercises, and even antidepressant therapy.

Marija Kovachevska is a content writer at, Biochemist and Activist. After obtaining her BSc in Biochemistry and Physiology she changed her microscope for content research tools and continued researching in the fields of Medicine, Biology, and Communication. Her insatiable curiosity flare drove her to become a “content scientist writer” as she likes to say. Reality fascinates her and facts and statistics are a must-have feature in her articles. Fluent in English and French, she is a volunteer and communication associate for several non-profit organizations. French culture and handcrafting are her passion, but in her free time, she indulges in long walks and traveling, or as she likes to say “experiencing the inexperienced.”

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