How Sleeplessness Is Linked to Adrenal Fatigue

During sleep, your body repairs itself and regenerates. Lack of sleep over a period of time weakens your immune system and can affect thinking, mood, and judgment. Long-term sleep deprivation is a risk factor for high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, diabetes, and many chronic illnesses. Lack of sleep has even been shown to cause weight gain.

Sleep deprivation also impairs the functioning of many organs in the body, especially the adrenal glands. One of the best treatments for adrenal fatigue is getting a good night's sleep.

Many people find themselves trying to cram more and more into a 24-hour day. In fact, the average time for sleep at night has decreased by almost 2 hours in the past two decades. The average person gets approximately 6 hours of sleep a night.

Maybe you're one of the lucky few who are able to get 7 or 8 hours a night, but you awaken and feel as if you haven't slept at all. In fact, you feel like you could sleep another 8 hours. The following things may affect your ability to get a good night's sleep:

  • Staying up late to engage in activities: Many people like to stay up to enjoy some personal time after the rest of the family has turned in. You can get caught up watching TV, surfing the Internet, text messaging, and reading, among other activities. Keep in mind how long you spend on these activities and whether they're affecting the amount of time you spend sleeping.

  • Stress: Stress can be a major reason you can't sleep at night.

  • Pain and chronic illness: Many causes of adrenal fatigue are also associated with pain and chronic illness. They include fibromyalgia, chronic pain syndrome, and many rheumatologic conditions, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

  • Food and nutrient deficiencies: The issue of food and sleep involves much more than not eating a few hours before you go to bed. Certain foods can be a cause of food sensitivities, which promote inflammation and stress.

    Nutrient deficiencies can also impair your sleep:

    • Low magnesium levels can be associated with your inability to get a good night's sleep. Low magnesium levels often aren't associated with symptoms; however, severe magnesium deficiency can be associated with symptoms such as muscle weakness and cramping.

    • Iron deficiency can be associated with restless legs syndrome. People with this condition report feeling numbness and tingling; they feel as if their legs “want to go dancing” while the rest of them wants to go to sleep.

  • Hormonal imbalances: Imbalances can affect the quality and quantity of sleep. Low levels of estrogen, in particular, are closely related to insomnia.

  • Sleep apnea: Sleep apnea is one of the most common causes of poor sleep. Recognizing the symptoms and treating this condition is paramount in getting a good night's sleep. Refer to the sidebar “Diagnosing and treating sleep apnea” for details.

Poor sleep quantity and quality can increase adrenal stress and cortisol secretion, which can contribute to weight gain. Insufficient sleep is also associated with increased inflammation, which can further stress the adrenal glands.

A journal article from the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences in 2006 mentioned that the reverse is also true: If your adrenal glands are producing high amounts of cortisol, the high cortisol levels will affect your ability to get a good night's sleep.

This means that an inability to get a good night's sleep is due to a multitude of factors, including your level of adrenal fatigue. A holistic view of health is necessary because poor sleep can be one among many issues that need to be evaluated.

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