How Chronic Conditions Impact Sleep

Diabetes Stroke Wellness

Sleep is a vital step to staying healthy and can have a profound impact on our long-term health. Getting a good night’s rest allows the brain and body to recharge, resulting in a stronger immune system, stronger heart and improved memory, but do you know how chronic conditions impact sleep?

The average adult needs between seven to nine hours of sleep a night, but 50-70 million Americans currently suffer from sleep disorders that prevent them from getting that much sleep and could be impacting their overall health. Insufficient sleep has been linked to the development of numerous chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

Prioritizing sleep is an important part of preventing and managing chronic medical conditions. Here’s how sleep can be affected for those living with a chronic condition.  

Diabetes

Diabetes is a common chronic condition that makes getting the correct amount of sleep even more important.

High blood pressure is a common side effect of diabetes and can contribute to insomnia, which makes it difficult to initially fall and stay asleep. In some cases, high blood pressure can lead to overactive kidneys, meaning more bathroom breaks that could disrupt your sleep. This then can lead to headaches, increased thirst and tiredness without being able to fall asleep.

For some living with diabetes, it may be the opposite and they get too much sleep. When someone with diabetes gets too much sleep, it could lead to unbalanced medications and missing meals, thereby leading to low blood sugar. This could result in nightmares, sudden night sweats, irritability and confusion upon waking up.  

Heart disease

For people living with heart disease, getting the correct amount and a restful night’s sleep is extremely important. Conditions like insomnia and sleep apnea put stress on the heart and keep blood pressure elevated. These conditions automatically increase the risk of heart disease and heart attacks.

Because both sleep and heart conditions can impact each other, any person with heart conditions should talk to their physician regarding options or treatments available to them that could help them get a healthy night’s rest.

Stroke

After a stroke, a person may experience side effects that can impact their quality of sleep. But sleep for a stroke patient is critical to recovery, memory and mood. Insomnia is a common side effect of a stroke and can delay the recovery process. During sleep, your heart rate decreases and your body releases hormones that help your muscles relax. This helps reduce inflammation and assists with the healing process.

Stroke survivors, like those living with heart disease and diabetes, may experience sleep apnea. This is when a person has unusual breathing patterns that can result in loud snoring, periods of not breathing and choking. For stroke patients, sleep apnea can be particularly dangerous because it could lead to another stroke.

Fortunately, there are several ways for people living with chronic conditions to get a good night’s sleep:

  • Keep your bedroom dark and at a comfortable temperature
  • Turn off the TV and avoid light from screens as well as noises
  • Increase your physical activity throughout the day
  • Stick to a consistent sleep schedule where you can go to sleep and wake up in the morning at the same time
  • Have a nighttime routine: take a shower, listen to relaxing music or read a book

If you still have issues with sleep, it’s always important to consult your physician, so you can better manage your medications and symptoms. Your physician can help you get on the correct regimen so you can start sleeping better.