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Poor Sleep and Chronic Illness Go Hand-In-Hand

Imagine a pan fire starting in your kitchen. If you were to throw water on that fire, it would only spread the flames. Throwing even more water on it would make it even worse, creating a vicious cycle that could be devastating to your home. It turns out that poor sleep and chronic illness are very similar.

A lack of sleep in otherwise healthy individuals can start them on the road to future health problems. Those health problems can, in turn, negatively affect sleep due to changes in the body. The less sleep one gets, the worse those physical conditions become and a vicious cycle is established. This cycle is especially prevalent among older people who also have to deal with changing circadian rhythms.

Developing Health Issues

Healthy people that begin to experience a decline in uninterrupted sleep often develop health problems as a result. Remember, adequate sleep is essential in allowing your body to repair itself on a nightly basis. According to WebMD, consistently poor sleep can lead to the development of:

  • high blood pressure
  • heart attack or stroke
  • irregular heartbeat
  • cardiovascular disease
  • diabetes.

WebMD says that approximately 90% of those that suffer from chronic insomnia also have another health problem. That health problem may be the cause of insomnia, or the result of it, but that is immaterial in light of the cycle that develops over time.

A lack of sleep is also known to increase appetite and cause weight gain. Not sleeping enough affects the production of certain chemicals in the brain that tell your body when you are full. Without an adequate supply of those chemicals, a person is likely to eat more and gain more weight.

Worsening Medical Conditions

Developing new health problems that result in poor sleep is not the only problem to be concerned about. A person may already enter his/her older years suffering from a condition such as diabetes, a condition the person has been dealing with since childhood. A lack of sleep in the later years is likely to cause a worsening of that condition over time. It is more important than ever for those dealing with chronic medical conditions to make sure they consistently get enough sleep.

Experts say that age alone is unlikely to cause a consistent lack of sleep in older people. If an individual is not suffering from something such as long-term insomnia or sleep apnoea, a lack of sleep may be nothing more than failing to adjust to natural changes in circadian rhythm.

Older adults suffering from poor sleep should begin by looking at the basics. For example, it might be time to replace that decades-old mattress with a new one. Those with joint and back pain may be able to improve their sleep by purchasing an orthopaedic bed. In some cases, it might be a simple matter of adjusting one's bedtime in order to get to sleep earlier.

Consistently poor sleep and chronic health conditions go hand-in-hand. Nevertheless, it does not have to be that way just because you are getting older. If you're not getting enough sleep, talk to your doctor about simple solutions that could solve your sleep problems.

Sources:

  1. Web MD
  2. Bed SOS
  3. Which Magazine

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