A University of Arizona Health Sciences research team wants to help people still feeling the effects of long COVID-19.

As they move forward in their new study with backing from the National Institutes of Health, researchers are looking for people who’ve had the infection, and in the aftermath, noticed they could no longer get a good night’s sleep.

Before discussing the key steps in the project, Dr. Sairam Parthasarathy shared part of what’s motivating his team to find the best treatment options. “We feel like there are certain sectors of society that are left behind,” he said.

Sectors, Parthasarathy said, of people like women, rural neighbors, and a spectrum of young and older people who may not have the time and therefore the money saved to join this kind of study.

To clear the air about what his team wants to specifically test, Parthasarathy, director of The Center for Sleep and Circadian Sciences at UAHS, explained this new NIH study wants to look at two groups of people.

“Essentially, these are people who had a COVID infection in the past that develop sleep problems,” he said. “Either (they have) excessive sleepiness during the day, or difficulty sleeping at night, which we can call insomnia. The whole idea is to try and find treatments that work best for this population of people.”

Most people may think they’d have to spend the night for a sleep study in the kind of controlled, but strange, room inside the Center for Sleep and Circadian Sciences on campus.

Parthasarathy said in this project, his colleagues will track subjects for 14 weeks. The benefit for subjects, he said, is they will get to sleep the large majority of this study in their own bed.

Qualified and approved study participants will only have to come check in with researchers in person three times after an initial screening.

“We will even give them a smartwatch that will monitor their sleep; it’s wearable, like a Fitbit; that information will come to us… through the internet. That’s one of the beauties of being able to do the study in a remote manner,” Parthasarathy said.

The research team also wants to avoid the chance someone’s sleep apnea taints their results and reaction to the treatments. So if someone who has sleep apnea qualifies for this study, Parthasarathy said they will get their own free CPAP machine.

“The key thing is that we want to get sleep apnea out of the equation,” he said. “It’s quite possible that it’s because the sleep apnea is acting like an anchor that was not lifted to let the boat sail.”

Parthasarathy offered a simple breakdown of the two groups that will be separated in this study;

A person who’s suffering from excessive sleepiness could receive either an approved wakefulness medication, or a placebo.

Someone dealing with insomnia in this study, stands a strong chance they will get at least one of these treatments: an oral supplement (melatonin), light therapy, or both.

To help get rid of barriers that may prevent some people from joining the study, Parthasarathy said the study will cover a subject’s transportation for their initial screening and three follow-up visits.

The research team will also cover any personal costs a person spends (gas, food, etc.) to meet with researchers. If you or someone you know thinks they could benefit, you can call the RECOVER sleep study team at (520) 626-1590.