Medically reviewed by Lauren Castiello, MS, AGNP-C
Lauren is a board-certified adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner. Lauren has done NP clinical practicums focusing on the adolescent, adult, and geriatric populations in internal medicine, long-term care, and in outpatient oncology/bone marrow transplant. Lauren received a BA from Assumption University, a BSN from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and her MS in Nursing from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. She is certified by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).

The pandemic’s influence seems to be never-ending. Beyond the financial instability and the stress COVID-19 has caused, it has also had a significant impact on how we sleep. According to a recent study, 58% of respondents are unhappy with their current sleeping habits. 40% said their quality of sleep has gone down since the start of the pandemic. 

COVID-19 has caused an uptick in cases of insomnia, and studies show it likely is having long-term effects on the nervous system. But these interruptions in sleep go far beyond just being anxious about the virus or the changes in routine. People are experiencing sleep problems pre-, during and post-infection. 

In fact, the issues with sleep are so prevalent that neurologists have taken to calling it “COVID-somnia.” Despite the fact that the coronavirus is proving to have long-term implications on our sleeping patterns, healthy sleeping habits may just prove to be the key to beating it. Researchers are now suggesting that melatonin in particular could block the spread of COVID-19. 

What Exactly is Melatonin? 

Melatonin is a naturally occurring sleep hormone that’s best known for its ability to help us sleep by regulating circadian rhythms. The lesser-known side of melatonin is its role in calibrating our immune system, which is what matters for COVID-19.

The research, which investigates network-based drug repurposing, suggests that melatonin’s ability to moderate our body’s self-protection responses from overreacting is what would stop a mild case of coronavirus from evolving into something life-threatening. Research also mentions people who take melatonin may have a lower chance of developing COVID-19 more serious symptoms, and it’s often prescribed as treatment. In fact, when President Trump came down with it, part of his treatment regimen included melatonin. 

An  October study from Columbia University found similar results in those who were intubated. The rate of survival increased if the patient was prescribed melatonin. So while the medical community isn’t ready to give the green light completely, there is research being done. 

Is It Fact Or Fiction? 

Our bodies naturally produce melatonin, though it’s available both over the counter and even can be delivered to your door through Amazon. The accessibility and affordability of melatonin make the possibility of its effectiveness a pretty big deal. In 2020 alone, American consumers drove a 42.6% increase in melatonin sales. 

There are few other treatment options out there getting as much attention as the use of melatonin. That said, we are still far from determining if this is a spurious relationship or an actual breakthrough.

“There is currently nothing definitive in the science showing that melatonin can protect against the most serious effects of Covid-19,” writes Michael Breus, PhD, sleep specialist and a fellow of the AASM.

“But there are indications that melatonin may reduce the severity of the disease, and the overblown immune response and subsequent severe damage to the lungs,” Dr. Breus adds. 

It could turn out that it has less to do with melatonin itself and more to do with how it helps the body sleep. There are currently eight clinical trials around the world testing the theory. If it’s proven to have support, melatonin would be the cheapest and most widely available option for treatment. And the best part is, people could start taking it right away. 

What You Can Do In The Meantime

Whether or not melatonin proves to be the solution we’re hoping for, the necessity of healthy sleeping habits remains. Our bodies need sleep to recover and fight off infection, the last thing you want to do is deprive it of its natural defense mechanisms. 

“Our killer T-Cell production is directly related to the physically restorative sleep we see in stages 3/4 sleep, due to the production of growth hormone during these stages. So getting good sleep helps,” says Dr. Breus. 

But it’s more than just getting a good night’s sleep every so often. You really need routines in your sleep schedule. Try to go to sleep around the same time every day, avoid eating late at night, put down the phone, turn off the tv at least 45 minutes before going to bed and try other relaxing activities to prepare for resting.

Sleep quality and quantity is important for your overall health and keeping your body ready to fight illness.

Too long, didn’t read?

As the pandemic robbed many of us of our routines, it also has been having a field day with our sleeping habits. For the record, we’re not telling you to run out and buy your local drug store’s supply of melatonin. It may prove to be an effective method in blocking and recovering from COVID-19, though more research is needed to be certain. One thing we do know is: your body will thank you for getting your eight hours of sleep.