The Effects of Poor Sleep
So how desperately do those of us with lupus need a good night’s sleep? The answer is disturbing.
Sleep deprivation can be harmful to the immune system. Research from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke shows that neurons within the body that control sleep interact closely with the immune system.
The tiredness caused by the flu is evidence of this. Basically any sort of infectious disease tends to make the body feel sleepy.
This is believed to be caused by “cytokines,” chemicals that your immune system produces while it is fighting infection. These natural body chemicals are strong inducers of sleep, which is your body’s way of conserving energy and other resources that the immune system needs to mount an attack against an invader.
With lupus, our immune system is always in attack mode, so that natural chemical is being produced for us on a regular basis, particularly during a flare.
I for one know that I need more sleep than I am getting. I am in a constant battle for clarity of thought, my memory is horrible, and at times I feel close to drifting off to dreamland while sitting up. I fear that my driving is impaired because it feels like I am in slow motion at times.
Quite simply, something has got to give. I have been heading to bed shortly after I tuck the kids in for the night, but if I then cannot fall and stay asleep, it does little good. My doctor has prescribed something for sleep, which I reluctantly am going to try simply because I realize I am not winning this battle on my own.
Tips for Improving Sleep
- Have a nighttime schedule: I try and head to bed at about the same time each night and get up at about the same time each morning. Though I love to try and catch up on sleep, sleeping in on weekends seems to make it harder for me to wake up early on Monday morning.
- Relax before bed: Avoiding any screen time before bed can help sleep. Reading is a great relaxing routine for sleep. I am trying to train myself to associate certain restful activities with sleep and make them my ritual.
- Try to exercise daily: I have been off my schedule of gentle exercise, three days per week, for several months now. I know that’s not helping me. Working out with lupus through as little as 30 minutes of walking a few times each week often helps people sleep better at night.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol: Caffeine acts as a stimulant and keeps us awake. It is found in coffee, chocolate, soft drinks, non-herbal teas, diet drugs and some pain relievers.
- Don’t stay in bed tossing and turning: If you can’t get to sleep, don’t stay in bed. It can help your chances of sleep to get up for a bit and read or listen to relaxing music. Try going back to be again in 15 minutes.
- Control your room temperature: Maintain a comfortable temperature in the bedroom. Extreme temperatures may disrupt sleep or prevent you from falling asleep.
- See a doctor if sleep continues to allude you: If you have difficulty falling asleep night after night, or if you always feel tired the next day, then you may have a sleep disorder and should see your doctor.