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Autoimmune Diseases & Sleep

Aug 16, 2023 | All, Inflammation & Autoimmune Disease

Sleep is usually a big issue for people with autoimmune disorders. Based on a poll by the Autoimmune Association, 98% of people with autoimmune diseases suffer from fatigue. In fact, sleep is one of the main pillars of healing that I discuss with all of my clients. There’s a strong connection between sleep and inflammation. Today we are talking all about sleep and ways you can use sleep to improve your autoimmune disease.

Sleep and Inflammation

Sleep plays a major role in inflammation and autoimmune disease activity. Most people who suffer from flares find that sleep can be a major issue. Additionally, lack of sleep and/or sleep deprivation can actually trigger some autoimmune diseases.
When we live with an autoimmune disease, our biggest goal to improve our quality of life is to reduce or eliminate flares. Flares are usually caused by underlying, chronic inflammation. When inflammation is present, it affects the sleep center in your brain, located in your hypothalamus.
Inflammation can also alter your sleep cycles. Your sleep cycles are an important part of getting restful and regenerative sleep. Each part of the sleep cycle is equally important. Chronic inflammation causes the body to spend less time in both REM sleep and deep sleep. These 2 sleep cycles have important functions to help your body rest and recover:

  • Deep Sleep: Deep sleep is the point in the sleep cycle where your body starts to repair and grow. The brain flushes out waste products during this phase of sleep.
  • REM Sleep: This phase of sleep is important for memory, learning, and problem-solving. It is also when your body releases endorphins for pain relief and growth hormones.

How to get better sleep?

Sleep is something that most people, unfortunately, take for granted or don’t prioritize. When you live with an autoimmune disease, sleep is incredibly critical. We also need more sleep than the average person – 7 hours just isn’t going to cut it. Getting better sleep is a process and it doesn’t happen overnight. Here are some tips to improve your quality of sleep:
1) Establish a sleep routine

Sleep routines signal your body that sleep is coming. It helps you wind down and prepare yourself and your hormones for sleep. Doing a few (and I mean 1-2 things) repetitive activities every night before bedtime can really help you fall asleep faster and get better quality sleep. These activities do not have to be super complicated either. They might include:

  • Wearing blue light-blocking glasses 1-2 hours before bedtime to preserve your melatonin production to help you fall asleep faster.
  • Write out a to-do list before going to sleep so you don’t have racing thoughts about what you need to accomplish tomorrow.
  • Place all electronics on airplane mode or remove them from your bedroom before going to bed.
  • Stop doing work 1-2 hours before bedtime to allow your mind to rest and calm down
  • Do a sleep meditation
2) Get on a regular sleep schedule daily

Going to bed and waking up within the same 1-hour window every day (yes, including weekends) helps stabilize your circadian rhythm. Having a synchronized circadian rhythm helps regulate hormones, it gets your body in sync with the light and dark cycle of the Earth and establishes a master clock with which all of your organ systems also connect, making your body work a little more efficiently.

When your circadian rhythm is not synchronized or erratic, it can have a number of consequences, including:

  • Throws off your melatonin and cortisol curves making it hard for you to fall asleep and wake up.
  • Affects your hormones and metabolism, making it harder for you to lose weight.
  • May increase inflammation
  • Affects your immune system.

One easy way to stabilize your circadian rhythm is by having a consistent sleep schedule. The other easy thing you can do is after you wake up, get outside as soon as possible (ideally before 10 am) and get direct sunlight on your eyes. This signals to your body that it’s time to be awake and get your day started.

As you can see, sleep and good quality sleep can really help you feel better when you have an autoimmune disease. If you try any of my tips and find that it helps, please contact me and let me know! Additionally, for more information on the connection between autoimmune diseases, follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.

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