Sleep Management: a guide to managing sleep disturbance in ME/CFS and Long Covid

Failing to have a good night’s sleep on a regular basis is likely to have an adverse effect on all aspects of your health. Various types of sleep disturbance occur in ME/CFS, especially waking up feeling unrefreshed. There are a number of simple self-help strategies that can be of help. In some cases drug treatments have a role to play as well. This is our guide to managing sleep disturbance in ME/CFS.

As there is a considerable amount of overlap between the core symptoms of Long Covid and ME/CFS, some parts of this information and guidance on sleep disturbance management will also be of help to people with Long Covid.

What type of sleep disturbances commonly occur in ME/CFS?

  • Almost everyone with ME/CFS reports that they feel unrefreshed or sleep deprived even after what appears to be a good night’s sleep.
  • During the very early stages of ME/CFS, especially when there has been an acute onset following an infection, excessive sleep requirements are often reported. This is known as hypersomnia and may result in someone sleeping for periods during the day as well as for much longer periods at night – sometimes 12 hours or more.
  • As the illness becomes more chronic, hypersomnia usually diminishes and is replaced by other types of sleep disturbance. Difficulty in getting off to sleep and waking during the night are quite commonly reported.
  • Waking very early in the morning is another type of disturbance that sometimes occurs in ME/CFS. However, this could also be an indicator of an unrecognised depressive component to your illness.
  • Vivid dreams are also reported by some people with ME/CFS.
  • Other symptoms of ME/CFS, especially pain, can have an adverse effect on sleep quality and poor sleep quality is likely to have an adverse effect on pain.
  • Significant sleep disturbance can be accompanied by cramps, myoclonic jerks or ‘restless legs’- all of which can wake people up during the night.
  • Children and young people with ME/CFS sometimes have a more unusual type of sleep disturbance whereby they are awake for long periods during the night and sleep during the day.
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