Many chronic conditions bring challenges with sleep. Those challenges may include difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, returning to sleep, or getting quality, restful sleep. It may be direct, or indirect in the form of stress or pain disrupting sleep. Regardless of the exact correlation, lack of enough quality, restful sleep can have substantial negative effects on overall health, especially in those suffering with chronic conditions.
Why? Sleep is when the body restores itself. Cells and tissues use deep sleep to help with repair. The brain uses sleep to process thoughts and store memories. The body and mind are unable to adequately heal without sleep. Symptoms of chronic conditions may worsen without enough quality sleep, such as joint, muscle, and other sources of pain, inflammation, memory loss, fatigue, confusion, decreased coordination, skin rashes, and many others. What’s more is that these increased symptoms can make it even more difficult to sleep.
Unfortunately, there is no single magic thing that will eliminate the problem. Sleep aids often interact with other medications and result in additional side effects. Even when they do promote sleep, they do not promote quality sleep that restores the body and mind.
Now that we have identified the problem, how do we break the cycle? Following proper sleep hygiene recommendations can go a long way, and it is a great place to start. Here are some examples:
- Don’t drink caffeine. Not only does it interfere with sleep, but it can also aggravate many chronic conditions.
- Stick to a regular schedule. This makes it much easier to fall asleep at night, and helps to promote quality sleep.
- Exercise during the day, but not right before bed. Exercise is a relative term. Do what you feel is right for you. If you are not ready for moderate exercise, it may help to start with a walk.
- Relax, relax, relax! If you have a chronic condition, chances are you need more relaxation than the average person, and that’s okay! Find something that works for you, and make time every single day for yourself and your health.
If this is not enough, we are always here with more options. Take care of yourself!