Within a year of the COVID-19 outbreak in China, there are some conclusions that scientists have already reached about the disease: that the coronavirus can cause insomnia and long-term changes in our nervous system.
Now they revealed that sleep could be one of the keys to ending the pandemic. How well are you sleeping?
Melatonin, known as the sleep hormone, shoots out of our brain’s pineal glands every night and enters the blood, inducing sleep. But melatonin also plays an important role in the calibration of the immune system. Essentially, it acts as a moderator to help prevent our self-protective responses from “going crazy.”
That’s the basic problem that many patients with COVID-19 face, the mild state can quickly turn into a critical one.
Physicist data analyst at the Cleveland Clinic (Ohio, USA) Feixiong Cheng used artificial intelligence to look for hidden clues in the structure of SARS-CoV-2, and found that the virus could potentially be blocked by melatonin, writes James Hamblin, a professor at Yale School of Public Health (Connecticut, USA), reported by The Atlantic.
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The study on melatonin and COVID-19
For months, Cheng and his colleagues gathered the clinical data of thousands of patients who were seen at their medical center. They found that people who took melatonin were significantly less likely to develop COVID-19, much less likely to die.
According to Hamblin, eight clinical trials are currently underway around the world to see if these correlations between melatonin and COVID-19 are confirmed.
“Few other treatments are receiving so much research attention,” he says.
If melatonin really proves to help people, it would be the cheapest and most readily available medicine to counter COVID-19. However, Cheng stresses that he does not recommend self-medicating with melatonin.
“Its apparent benefit to COVID-19 patients could simply be a spurious correlation—or, perhaps, a signal alerting us to something else that is actually improving people’s outcomes,” explains Hamblin. Perhaps the key is in the function that melatonin controls: sleep.
In fact, several mysteries of how COVID-19 works converge on the question of how the disease affects our sleep, and how our sleep affects disease. So to break us down, science will have to keep moving forward.