Brain fog and trouble sleeping – why we should be ‘more concerned’ about ‘long Covid’

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This week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, in which he sharply denied having the condition, which results in coronavirus symptoms lingering on long after the initial infection – sometimes for many months. As well as long-lasting tiredness, ‘long Covid’ even appears to affect mood and the mind, causing ‘brain fog’.



Questioned by Mr Marr on whether he had it, the Prime Minister replied the suggestions were “total tittle-tattle.

He continued: “It is not tittle-tattle, it’s balderdash and nonsense. I can tell you I’m fitter than several butcher’s dogs.”

In any case, the condition is certainly presenting itself in many others, according to Dr David Strain, a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter.

Brain fog and trouble sleeping – why we should be ‘more concerned’ about ‘long Covid’

‘Long Covid’ is being observed as the UK heads into the autumn (Image: Dominika Zarzycka / NurPhoto / Getty)

The professor is already seeing long Covid patients presenting themselves at a Chronic Fatigue Syndrome clinic he is part of.

He explained to how the phenomenon presents itself, as well as why it appears to hit some people and not others.

Dr Strain said: “The most common symptoms people describe are ‘brain fog’ and generalised fatigue.

“Other elements include not feeling refreshed after sleep, difficulty concentrating, unexplained perceived shortness of breath.

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Brain fog and trouble sleeping – why we should be ‘more concerned’ about ‘long Covid’

Boris Johnson recently denied having long Covid (Image: Leon Neal / Getty)

“We also have some rarer symptoms including ongoing loss of taste and smell, hair loss, (more so in women than men) and generalised irritability.”

Despite the symptoms, scientists still are not sure why the condition occurs.

Some patterns have been observed, however. According to Dr Strain, the condition tends to present itself more often in women than in men, “although we are not sure whether this is because men are less likely to seek medical attention,” he adds.

In addition, younger adults tend to report long Covid more than the elderly do, the professor said – though again, this could be due to people over the age of 70 “suffering in silence, blaming it all on their age”.

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Brain fog and trouble sleeping – why we should be ‘more concerned’ about ‘long Covid’

Tiredness is one reported symptom of long Covid (Image: Kathrin Ziegler / Getty)

Dr Strain said: “There are many different hypotheses. If I was to guess I would go for genetic predisposition, differences in the metabolic potential, and immune responses.

“People who get long Covid tend to have a stronger immune response – irrespective of the amount of symptoms they get.”

The professor added work is now being done to find out how many people have symptoms half a year after catching COVID-19, though Professor Trisha Greenhalgh from the University of Oxford has suggested it could be around one percent of all cases.

Brain fog and trouble sleeping – why we should be ‘more concerned’ about ‘long Covid’

Scientists are still studying long Covid (Image: Radoslav Zilinsky / Getty)

But a study of 143 people in a hospital in Rome found 87 percent still had at least one symptom of COVID-19 almost two months after their initial infection.

Two months ago, a survey of doctors performed by the British Medical Association found 1,577 had been confirmed or presumed to have COVID-19.

Of this number, 18 percent said they had neurological symptoms including memory loss and trouble with sleeping.

Brain fog and trouble sleeping – why we should be ‘more concerned’ about ‘long Covid’

Coronavirus statistics UK (Image: EXPRESS)

And as many as 138 used up their annual leave before they returned to work.

Part of the problem is that due to working from home and a lack of sport and socialising, people are not “challenging themselves” into finding out how much they have been affected by their initial infection, Dr Strain added.

Asked whether we should be more concerned about COVID-19 following the ‘long Covid’ phenomenon, he concluded: “Yes, simply put.

“We need to know more about this condition. The sooner, the better.”

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