COVID-19, Insomnia, and Chronic Fatigue

Towards the end of July, my oldest son and I became severely ill. He was the first one to get sick. He woke up one morning with severe vomiting.

With my husband working as a nurse, sometimes, he unknowingly brings something home. My son had also spent the entire day before outside playing. Getting him to drink enough water to avoid dehydration is nearly impossible. In the past 14 years, he has been hospitalized more than once due to dehydration. Short of holding him down and forcing him to drink, it feels like a never-ending hydration war.

New level of fear (and insomnia)

I gave him some of his prescription nausea medication and gave him a warm Sprite to drink. I was scared. Sleep never came over the next 2 days as he developed new symptoms. These 72 hours straight of no sleep felt different than my regular episodes of insomnia.

I had time to nit-pick every action and decision I had made the previous 2 weeks and how I had managed to allow my son to get sick. Scenario after scenario ran through my head of everything that could go wrong.

Worsening symptoms and the COVID-19 testing process

On the morning of day 4, I knew it was severe. It wasn't dehydration or a stomach virus. I was thankfully able to get him into his pediatrician's office that day with in-office testing available. I knew what would happen when we entered the room; it was still a shocking sight to see. The nurses entered the room in full PPE to take his vitals and explained they would administer 3 tests: strep, flu, and COVID-19.

I knew he didn't have strep or the flu, and the tests confirmed that. Watching him get the swab for COVID-19 was so hard to watch. He handled it better than I did. They told me the labs were behind. It could be a minimum of 7 days before we received his results. By the time we left the doctor, I was almost at 4 straight days of no sleep.

Quarantining my family

The doctor recommended my youngest son and I try to distance ourselves as much as possible. The doctor quarantined us, the only exception being my husband, who is essential medical personnel. It was easy to keep his little brother separated, but I couldn't leave my son to lay there alone, sick and scared. I laid with him, and my body did not give me the option of sleep.

One minute I was feeling his forehead, and the next minute I was asleep — probably the deepest sleep of my life. My kids are my everything. Knowing the eventual outcome, I wouldn't change a thing. Thankfully, his little brother stayed healthy and safe. We are still working through some lingering emotional pain with our youngest son because of the time they had to spend apart. They have always been close, and this experience made them realize how valuable sibling relationships are.

Then the inevitable happened

Fast forward to a few days later, with my insomnia still going strong, I woke up after a few hours of dozing, not feeling well. I felt weird congestion I have never experienced before. My husband, who had gotten home from work that morning and fell asleep maybe 2 hours before I woke up, was sleeping next to me.

As much as I tried to convince myself it was probably just regular congestion, I knew what it could potentially be. I had been so anxious since my son had gotten ill; I was with him as much as possible. Not wanting to get my husband sick, I got up and moved into our walk-in closet, which I converted into my home office. I texted my youngest son, told him I had work to do and to text me if he or his brother needed something.

I took some Nyquil, hoping to wake up with the congestion gone, but instead, I woke up sicker than I have ever been. At this point, I had to notify work because I had been in the office for a few hours the day Brent woke up sick. I was a lot sicker than my son, but sleep was not possible. The anxiety of having a child so ill allowed my insomnia to consume me.

My COVID-19 testing process

It took me longer to find somewhere to get tested. The doctor who examined me was concerned with the severity of my symptoms. He advised me to go straight to the hospital if any of my symptoms even mildly worsened. He told me I needed to rest as much as possible, but insomnia made that impossible.

By the time my son started improving, roughly 2 weeks later, we had still not received his results. Things felt hopeless. I was not improving, and with insomnia added into the mix, I felt like this would never end. My life was a mixture of a mother's guilt, severe sickness, and worry for my two healthy loves.

Chronic fatigue and insomnia

It took me longer to recover. Since my initial recovery, I am still struggling with health issues even now  I started experiencing chronic fatigue about a week after my initial symptoms improved. Chronic fatigue and insomnia are an interesting mix.1

Now, I spend my days exhausted, but my nights restless and frustrated. Sleep may happen for an hour or 2, but somehow that makes it feel worse. I am learning to live with this, just as I had learned to deal with life-long insomnia. It may go away one day, and it might not.

No one has an answer yet. If insomnia has taught me anything, it is how to adapt to new situations in life and unexpected change. The chronic fatigue will go away, or it won't. Either way, I will adjust.

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