Here you can find descriptions of specific health situations and problems, explaining what they are in relation to sleep and giving an insight into what the possible solutions might be. We explore from how psychoactive substances affect sleep over how pregnancy, our behavior, habits, and seasons might change our sleep patterns, to how neurodegenerative diseases, stress, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, ADHD and other diseases are related to sleep.
What you should know about diseases, addictions and sleep
Do diseases cause poor sleep or does poor sleep cause diseases? The truth is, it can be both ways. Sometimes undesirable behavior and stress cause long-lasting poor sleep which can backfire through a development of a disease or a disorder. Sometimes it’s the disease that prevents someone from having good, restorative sleep.
How does substance abuse cause sleep problems?
Alcohol and many drugs are known to prevent us from reaching deep sleep, which is extremely important for the body’s restoration and brain’s ‘maintenance’. Although some substances may make us sleepier, that doesn’t mean they will make us have quality sleep.
For example, marijuana used as a sleep aid can make you fall asleep faster, but will deprive you of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. It’s not only the vivid dreams that you will lose, but also a good part of your memory consolidation and emotional stabilization, both of which occur during REM.
What diseases can be caused by poor sleep?
Poor sleep has been associated with numerous diseases, including obesity and diabetes, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and sleep disorders.
Diabetes. If you cut back on sleep or sleep with a light on, your insulin resistance becomes similar to that of a prediabetic person, even if you are skinny. It is believed that chronic insufficient or poor sleep can lead to weight increase because our body doesn’t metabolize food well and on top of that, sleep-deprived people tend to eat a lot more than they need. Finally, these factors may result in the development of diabetes.
Alzheimer’s. Your brain gets cleared out of certain substances every night – these substances naturally appear as a product of nerve cell activity. When you don’t have enough sleep, you don’t allow your brain to clear them out from the system. Doctors call these substances ‘neurotoxins’ when they build up so much that they start hurting or killing brain cells. This dangerous state is associated with neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. So, in order to have a fast and smart brain – make sure you have plenty of sleep.
Heart problems. Every night while you sleep, your body relaxes and blood pressure decreases. Insufficient sleep keeps stress levels and blood pressure high. Research shows that both men and women can suffer from heart diseases after years of inadequate sleep.
Sleep disorders. Not sleeping well due to work, stress, or simply out of (bad) habit is likely to cause other sleep problems – sleep paralysis, sleepwalking, or even narcolepsy (when a person randomly falls asleep). Well-rested, stress-free people rarely have any of these. Poor sleep can also cause insomnia (difficulty falling or staying asleep) – which means that, if you’ve deprived yourself of sleep for a long time, you might find yourself unable to sleep when you want to. This could be due to high levels of stress hormones and a complete confusion of your internal biological clock.