Epilepsy and Sleep

Epilepsy and Sleep

Epilepsy is a common condition that affects the brain and causes frequent seizures. These seizures are bursts of electrical activity in the brain that can temporarily affect how the brain works. Not only can these seizures interfere with everyday life, but epilepsy can also lead to poor sleep quality.

What Are the Symptoms of Epilepsy?

Epilepsy can start at any age, but it usually starts either in childhood or in people over sixty. While it’s a lifelong condition, it can sometimes get better slowly over time.1

People with epilepsy do not experience the same seizures, as seizures can affect people in different ways depending on which part of the brain is involved.2 However, possible symptoms include:

  • Uncontrollable jerking and shaking, called a ‘fit’
  • Losing awareness and staring blankly into space
  • Becoming stiff
  • Strange sensations, such as a ‘rising’ feeling in your stomach, unusual smells or tastes, and a tingling feeling in your arms or legs
  • Collapsing
  • Passing out and not remembering what happened3

How Does Epilepsy Affect Your Sleep?

There is an inherent relationship between sleep and epilepsy.4 Sleep activates the electrical charges in the brain that result in seizures, and seizures are timed according to the sleep-wake cycle. For some people with epilepsy, seizures can occur only during sleep. When seizures occur during sleep, they can cause sudden awakenings that are sometimes confused with insomnia.5 However, people with epilepsy may not know that they have seizures while they sleep. They may suffer from daytime fatigue and difficulty concentrating without knowing why.6

There are several stages of sleep, including Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep and Non-Rapid Eye Movement (Non-REM) Sleep. REM sleep is important as it’s when your brain processes your emotions, files away your memories, and relieves your stress. As stress can sometimes trigger seizures, getting enough REM sleep is helpful for someone with epilepsy. Non-REM Sleep is the most restorative sleep stage, and is important for restoring normal brain functions.7

If you have a seizure while you’re sleeping, it’ll affect your sleep for the rest of the night: you won’t be able to fall into a deep sleep, and you’ll wake up more often. Your REM Sleep is greatly reduced and could even disappear. If you have a seizure when you’re awake, this can even reduce your REM Sleep the following night. Also, having seizures during the night can lead to less deep Non-REM Sleep.8

For people with epilepsy, sleep problems can be a double-edged sword; epilepsy disturbs sleep, but sleep deprivation can aggravate epilepsy.9 Also, the drugs that are used to treat epilepsy can disturb your sleep. As lack of sleep can cause seizures, getting a good sleep on a nightly basis is incredibly important for people with epilepsy.

How Can You Get Enough REM Sleep?

Controlling your seizures may help you to get enough REM sleep.10 Some ways for you to do this are:

  • Take your medicine
  • Identify and avoid seizure triggers (i.e., stress, alcohol use, lack of sleep)
  • Have regular reviews of your epilepsy and treatment11

If your seizures are not controlled, try to catch up on any missed sleep, especially in the day or two after a seizure.12

Epilepsy and Sleep Disorders

People with epilepsy have a higher chance of also having a sleep disorder than those without epilepsy. These can include Sleep Apnoea, Restless Legs Syndrome, Narcolepsy, and night terrors.13

Tips for Getting More Sleep

There are some things that you can do at home that may help you get more sleep.

  • Keep a consistent sleep-wake cycle – go to bed at the same time every night, and wake up at the same time each morning, including weekends.
  • Limit your caffeine intake – avoid caffeine late in the day.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Have a relaxing bedtime routine – write a ‘to-do’ list, do some relaxation exercises like mindfulness, listen to relaxing music, read a book, or have a warm bath or shower.
  • Have a healthy sleep environment – your bedroom should be dark, quiet, cool, and tidy. Check out our blockout curtains that block 90-95% of light here.
  • Avoid technology – don’t watch the TV or use your phone, tablet, iPod, or laptop within one hour of going to sleep. These screens emit a blue light that further disturbs your sleep. Read more about how technology affects your sleep here.

While these are some ideas for how you can help to improve your sleep at home, the best way to improve your sleep quality if you have epilepsy is to consult your doctor. Your doctor will know the right treatments for you, and may help to identify what triggers your seizures. By doing this, you’ll have a better chance at getting a good sleep again.

Epilepsy and Sleep

Epilepsy is a common condition that affects the brain and causes frequent seizures. These seizures are bursts of electrical activity in the brain that can temporarily affect how the brain works. Not only can these seizures interfere with everyday life, but epilepsy...

What Is Sleep Bruxism?

Sleep bruxism is better known as teeth grinding or jaw clenching. It’s a sleep-related movement disorder that’s often linked to stress or anxiety. While people can grind their teeth during the day, sleep bruxism is a bigger health concern. People with sleep bruxism...

What Is Hypersomnia?

We all have those days where we can’t seem to wake ourselves up. However, for some, it’s a serious issue. Hypersomnia is a condition in which you feel excessive daytime sleepiness and struggle to stay awake during the day, even after long stretches of sleep. People...

Five Ways Exercise Helps You Sleep

We all want to be healthy – but sometimes the thought of going for a walk or heading to the gym just makes us want to curl up on the sofa and flick through the TV. It can be hard to motivate ourselves to exercise, especially if we convince ourselves that we’ll just...

Is Sleep Important for Your Health?

We all make sure that we look after ourselves. We eat well and try to fight the temptation to eat sugary or fatty foods – a hard battle to win. We exercise often, whether it’s a vigorous workout at the gym or it’s a walk with your furry friend. We watch what we drink...

Diabetes and Sleep

The quality of our sleep is closely linked to any health conditions we have – if we’re not feeling our best, we’re not sleeping our best. Diabetes is no exception. Sleep can affect your blood sugar levels, and blood glucose control can affect your...

Sleeping with Multiple Sclerosis

Poor sleep is common in people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), with about 50% of people with MS reported to experience some form of sleep disturbance. However, sleep disorders are still...

Does Sharing A Bed Affect Your Sleep?

An estimated 60% of us share a bed with someone else. It’s completely normal, just a part of everyday life. Yet, it’s possible that sharing a bed can affect your sleep. Obviously, if the person...

What Is Sleep Bruxism?

What Is Sleep Bruxism?

Sleep bruxism is better known as teeth grinding or jaw clenching. It’s a sleep-related movement disorder that’s often linked to stress or anxiety. While people can grind their teeth during the day, sleep bruxism is a bigger health concern. People with sleep bruxism may be unaware that they’re grinding their teeth, but it can interfere with the quality of your sleep. Your body needs to relax while you’re asleep, but tooth grinding involves tensing the muscles. This keeps you from relaxing to get the deep, restful sleep that you need. Read below to find out more about sleep bruxism, and how you can relax to get the sleep that you need.

What Are the Symptoms of Sleep Bruxism?

While people are often unaware of grinding their teeth while asleep, there are some symptoms that you can look out for. These include:

  • Facial pain
  • Headaches
  • Earache
  • Pain and stiffness in the jaw joint and surrounding muscles
  • Toothache
  • Worn-down teeth
  • Broken teeth, crowns, or fillings
  • Changes in the shape of your teeth
  • Disrupted sleep for both you and your partner

Facial pain and headaches tend to stop after you stop grinding your teeth, and tooth damage usually only occurs in severe cases.

What Causes Sleep Bruxism?

The exact cause for grinding your teeth while you sleep is not known, but it’s usually linked to other factors, such as stress and anxiety, sleep disorders, medicines, or your lifestyle.

1) Stress and Anxiety

Teeth grinding is most often caused by stress or anxiety, and many people are unaware that they’re doing it. While sleep bruxism usually happens while you’re asleep, it’s possible that you could be grinding your teeth during the day when you’re stressed, anxious, or even just concentrating.1 70% of sleep bruxism cases are linked to anxiety and stress, with bruxism also occurring at a higher rate in adults who are prone to intense emotions, or have hyperactive personalities.2 People may develop sleep bruxism as a coping mechanism – similar to biting your nails, lip, or cheeks.3

2) Sleep Disorders

If you snore or have a sleep disorder, such as Obstructive Sleep Aponoea (OSA), you’re more likely to grind your teeth while you sleep.4 You’re also more likely to grind your teeth if you:

  • Talk or mumble while you sleep
  • Act violently while asleep, such as kicking out
  • Have sleep paralysis (a temporary inability to move or speak while waking up or falling asleep)
  • Experience hallucinations (you see or hear things that are not real while semi-conscious)5

3) Medicines

Sleep bruxism can sometimes be a side effect of certain types of medicine. If you’re grinding your teeth while you sleep, talk to your doctor about any medication you’re taking to find out if this could be the cause.6

4) Lifestyle

Other factors that can lead to teeth grinding, or make it worse, are:

  • Drinking alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Using recreational drugs, like cocaine
  • Having a lot of caffeinated drinks, such as tea or coffee (at least 6 cups a day)

Treatment

You should go to your dentist if you have:

  • Worn, damaged, or sensitive teeth
  • A painful jaw, face, or ear

If you sleep with someone else in the bed, ask them if they’ve noticed you making a grinding sound while you sleep. This can also be a sign of sleep bruxism, and you should go to the dentist if you’re making this sound during the night.

Your dentist will check your teeth and jaw for signs of teeth grinding. They’ll determine what treatment you need depending on how damaged your teeth are, or if there’s a threat of infection or a dental abscess.7

There are a few different ways of treating teeth grinding. The most common one is a mouth guard, or mouth splint. Mouth guards and splints even out the pressure across your jaw and create a physical barrier between your upper and lower teeth to protect them from further damage. They’re made of rubber or plastic, and can be made by your dentist to fit your mouth. You may be able to buy a mouth guard in your local pharmacy, but a custom-made mouth guard from your dentist will fit better, and be more effective.8 While mouth guards and splints will not stop you from grinding your teeth, they’ll reduce pain and prevent tooth wear, as well as protect against further damage.

Other treatments for teeth grinding are designed to reduce your stress or anxiety, like Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT).9 If you’re grinding your teeth due to stress, you should visit your doctor as they’ll be able to help you manage your stress and, through this, you’ll grind your teeth less.

Can You Help Your Stress Levels?

If you’re grinding your teeth due to stress and anxiety, there are some ways you could manage this at home:

  • Maintain a consistent bedtime and wake-up time to make sure you get the required hours of sleep you need.
  • Try meditation, yoga, and deep breathing exercises – read more about these here, or have a look at our ‘Mindfulness and Sleep’ article to find out how mindfulness can help you to relax.
  • Avoid hard foods and chewing gum – this can keep jaw muscles more relaxed.
  • Have a relaxing bedtime routine – have a warm bath, read, or listen to relaxing music, and avoid looking at screens for an hour before going to sleep.
  • Reduce, or eliminate, your caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine intake.

While these are some ideas for how you can reduce your stress, the best way to help yourself is to talk to your doctor. Your doctor will help you manage your stress while maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and good sleep hygiene.

Epilepsy and Sleep

Epilepsy is a common condition that affects the brain and causes frequent seizures. These seizures are bursts of electrical activity in the brain that can temporarily affect how the brain works. Not only can these seizures interfere with everyday life, but epilepsy...

What Is Sleep Bruxism?

Sleep bruxism is better known as teeth grinding or jaw clenching. It’s a sleep-related movement disorder that’s often linked to stress or anxiety. While people can grind their teeth during the day, sleep bruxism is a bigger health concern. People with sleep bruxism...

What Is Hypersomnia?

We all have those days where we can’t seem to wake ourselves up. However, for some, it’s a serious issue. Hypersomnia is a condition in which you feel excessive daytime sleepiness and struggle to stay awake during the day, even after long stretches of sleep. People...

Five Ways Exercise Helps You Sleep

We all want to be healthy – but sometimes the thought of going for a walk or heading to the gym just makes us want to curl up on the sofa and flick through the TV. It can be hard to motivate ourselves to exercise, especially if we convince ourselves that we’ll just...

Is Sleep Important for Your Health?

We all make sure that we look after ourselves. We eat well and try to fight the temptation to eat sugary or fatty foods – a hard battle to win. We exercise often, whether it’s a vigorous workout at the gym or it’s a walk with your furry friend. We watch what we drink...

Diabetes and Sleep

The quality of our sleep is closely linked to any health conditions we have – if we’re not feeling our best, we’re not sleeping our best. Diabetes is no exception. Sleep can affect your blood sugar levels, and blood glucose control can affect your...

What Is Hypersomnia?

What Is Hypersomnia?

We all have those days where we can’t seem to wake ourselves up. However, for some, it’s a serious issue. Hypersomnia is a condition in which you feel excessive daytime sleepiness and struggle to stay awake during the day, even after long stretches of sleep. People who have hypersomnia can fall asleep at any time – at work, school, or even while driving. Someone with hypersomnia may also have other sleep-related problems, like a lack of energy or trouble thinking clearly. Read more to discover the symptoms of hypersomnia and if it can be treated.

What Are the Symptoms of Hypersomnia?

Excessive sleepiness and sleeping are not the same as feeling tired all the time. If you have hypersomnia, you will:

  • Regularly nap during the day and still not feel refreshed
  • Fall asleep during the day, often while eating or talking
  • Still sleep for long hours at night
  • Have low energy
  • Be irritable and/ or anxious
  • Have a loss of appetite
  • Have trouble thinking or talking
  • Struggle to remember things
  • Be restless

The Different Types of Hypersomnia

Hypersomnia can be primary or secondary.

Primary hypersomnia occurs when there is no other medical condition present. The only symptom is excessive fatigue.

Secondary hypersomnia is when there is a medical condition present. These can include sleep apnoea, Parkinson’s disease, kidney failure, or chronic fatigue.1

What Causes Excessive Sleeping?

Primary hypersomnia is thought to be caused by faults in the brain system that controls your sleep and waking functions2, like the circadian rhythm.

Secondary hypersomnia can be a result of pre-existing conditions that cause fatigue or insufficient sleep. For example, sleep apnoea can lead to hypersomnia due to having trouble breathing at night. This forces people to wake up multiple times throughout the night.3

Some of the symptoms that can be caused by medical conditions are:

  • Falling into a deep sleep anywhere and without warning – caused by narcolepsy
  • Loud snorting, breathing, and snoring at night – caused by sleep apnoea
  • An unusual feeling in your legs, especially during the night – caused by Restless Legs Syndrome
  • Low mood, little interest in things, irritability – caused by depression4

Some medications can also cause hypersomnia, so check the side effects of any medication you may be taking.

Other potential causes of hypersomnia include being overweight, drug or alcohol abuse, a head injury, or even genetics.5

How Is Hypersomnia Treated?

Treatments for hypersomnia vary depending on what’s causing it. While hypersomnia and narcolepsy are different conditions, there are many drugs used for narcolepsy that could help someone struggling with excessive sleeping. These drugs are stimulants that help you feel more awake, like amphetamine or modafinil.6

Your doctor may also suggest lifestyle changes, such as:

  • Having a regular sleep schedule (going to bed and waking up at the same time every day)
  • Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, or drugs
  • Eating a high-nutrition diet to maintain energy levels naturally

When Should You See Your Doctor?

You should visit your doctor if you often fall asleep during the day, and if sleepiness is affecting your life. Your doctor will look into why you’re sleeping excessively, so they might ask you questions that test for depression, suggest you keep a sleep diary, or refer you to a sleep specialist.

Don’t try to self-treat yourself. While lifestyle changes usually help you sleep better, if there’s an underlying medical condition causing hypersomnia, you won’t do much to help yourself. Talking to your doctor is the first step towards sleeping well.

Epilepsy and Sleep

Epilepsy is a common condition that affects the brain and causes frequent seizures. These seizures are bursts of electrical activity in the brain that can temporarily affect how the brain works. Not only can these seizures interfere with everyday life, but epilepsy...

What Is Sleep Bruxism?

Sleep bruxism is better known as teeth grinding or jaw clenching. It’s a sleep-related movement disorder that’s often linked to stress or anxiety. While people can grind their teeth during the day, sleep bruxism is a bigger health concern. People with sleep bruxism...

What Is Hypersomnia?

We all have those days where we can’t seem to wake ourselves up. However, for some, it’s a serious issue. Hypersomnia is a condition in which you feel excessive daytime sleepiness and struggle to stay awake during the day, even after long stretches of sleep. People...

Five Ways Exercise Helps You Sleep

We all want to be healthy – but sometimes the thought of going for a walk or heading to the gym just makes us want to curl up on the sofa and flick through the TV. It can be hard to motivate ourselves to exercise, especially if we convince ourselves that we’ll just...

Is Sleep Important for Your Health?

We all make sure that we look after ourselves. We eat well and try to fight the temptation to eat sugary or fatty foods – a hard battle to win. We exercise often, whether it’s a vigorous workout at the gym or it’s a walk with your furry friend. We watch what we drink...

Diabetes and Sleep

The quality of our sleep is closely linked to any health conditions we have – if we’re not feeling our best, we’re not sleeping our best. Diabetes is no exception. Sleep can affect your blood sugar levels, and blood glucose control can affect your...

Five Ways Exercise Helps You Sleep

Five Ways Exercise Helps You Sleep

We all want to be healthy – but sometimes the thought of going for a walk or heading to the gym just makes us want to curl up on the sofa and flick through the TV. It can be hard to motivate ourselves to exercise, especially if we convince ourselves that we’ll just not eat any chocolate instead of walking. However, there’s more to exercising than just losing a bit of weight. If you’re exercising regularly, you may find that not only do you feel better during the day, but you’re sleeping better during the night, too. This is because exercise can massively improve the quality of your sleep – it’s not just a myth.

How Can Exercise Affect Your Sleep?

There are many benefits of exercise when it comes to your sleep – especially regular exercise. Exercise can …

Improve Your Sleep Quality

Exercising regularly can contribute to a more restful and restorative sleep, which you always need at the end of each day. Physical activity increases the time you spend in deep sleep, the most restorative sleep phase. Deep sleep helps to boost your immune system, support cardiac health, and can also help to control stress and anxiety levels.1

Increase the Length of Your Sleep

Exercise can also help you to increase how long you sleep for. Being physically active during the day requires you to expend energy, so you’ll feel more tired in the evening. This means that you’ll be ready to sleep when you go to bed – no more tossing and turning while you watch the clock tick. Going to sleep easily also means you’ll feel more refreshed in the morning.

Reduce Levels of Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are common causes of sleep problems, including trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. When you’re stressed or anxious, you’re less likely to fall into a deep sleep that restores your body after a long day, making you more tired and irritable. This in turn can keep you awake at night. However, exercise is a natural remedy for both stress and anxiety. Just five minutes of exercise can trigger anti-anxiety responses in the body, such as reducing fatigue and improving your alertness and concentration.2

Plus, it doesn’t have to be vigorous exercise – even mind-body exercises can help, like yoga. Yoga can help to quiet the parasympathetic nervous system, which can encourage you to relax. Yoga will also lower your cortisol levels and reduce blood pressure, as well as having a positive affect on your mood.3 If you’re feeling better, you’re more likely to want to go outside and exercise – and this will help you sleep well at night-time.

Help with Insomnia and Other Sleep Disorders

Scientific evidence suggests that exercise can also be an effective natural remedy for insomnia.4 Insomnia is a sleeping disorder in which someone has trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, and getting up in the morning. As insomnia is largely due to stress and anxiety, exercising regularly helps ease these symptoms so that you can enjoy a restful snooze. Exercise can also help lower the severity of sleep apnoea, a breathing disorder which interrupts your breathing and sleep, and Restless Leg Syndrome.

You can read more about these sleep disorders in our topics, ‘Insomnia’ and ‘Restless Leg Syndrome’, and our article about sleep apnoea here.

Improve Your Sleep-Wake Cycle

Exercising in the early morning and afternoon may also help to reset your sleep-wake cycle to improve your sleep. This is because exercising will raise your body temperature. If you exercise in the earlier parts of the day, your body temperature will drop and trigger sleepiness in the evening. This encourages you to sleep when you go to bed. Also, exercising outdoors when the sun is out will let your body absorb natural sunlight. This is important for your circadian rhythm – an inner clock that dictates when you’ll feel tired and when you’ll be alert. As the circadian rhythm is influenced by sunlight, exercising outdoors when the sun is out is a great way to help the quality of your sleep. Read more about the circadian rhythm here.

Watch the Clock

When you’re exercising, make sure you’re not doing it too close to bedtime. Exercising in the evening or within a few hours of going to bed could actually keep you awake. This is because exercise will leave you feeling energised and stimulated. You don’t want to feel like this when you’re trying to get to sleep, so avoid exercising within five hours of going to bed.

How Much Exercise Do You Need to Sleep Well?

According to the NHS, adults aged between 19 and 64 should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate activity a week – or thirty-minute sessions, five days a week. This could be walking, dancing, riding a bike, or even pushing a lawnmower. If you’re doing more vigorous exercising, like strengthening activities (lifting weights, push ups, etc.), then you should be doing these on at least two days of the week.5

You don’t have to be lifting weights at the gym to sleep well – a walk is just as effective. It’s up to you what kind of exercise you want to do. Talking to your doctor is a good way to find out what kind of exercise is right for you. Whether it’s lifting weights or a casual walk with a furry friend, regular exercise will help you get the sleep you need at the end of each day.

Epilepsy and Sleep

Epilepsy is a common condition that affects the brain and causes frequent seizures. These seizures are bursts of electrical activity in the brain that can temporarily affect how the brain works. Not only can these seizures interfere with everyday life, but epilepsy...

What Is Sleep Bruxism?

Sleep bruxism is better known as teeth grinding or jaw clenching. It’s a sleep-related movement disorder that’s often linked to stress or anxiety. While people can grind their teeth during the day, sleep bruxism is a bigger health concern. People with sleep bruxism...

What Is Hypersomnia?

We all have those days where we can’t seem to wake ourselves up. However, for some, it’s a serious issue. Hypersomnia is a condition in which you feel excessive daytime sleepiness and struggle to stay awake during the day, even after long stretches of sleep. People...

Is Food Affecting Your Dreams?

We’ve all heard the saying, “you are what you eat”. But what if this didn’t just mean your physical appearance? While there’s no scientific proof that the foods you consume directly interfere with your dreams, there’s no denying that there’s a connection between food...

Five Drinks That You Should Avoid Before Going to Bed

We all experience a restless night now and again. Worrying thoughts, stresses for the day ahead, or pre-existing health conditions can keep us awake at night-time. But did you know that some drinks can also keep you from getting the sleep you need? The wrong drink can...

Eat Well to Sleep Well

Eating well is not only a good way to help your mental and physical health, but it’ll keep you sleeping well, too. Knowing what food you should, and shouldn’t, eat can help you make sure that you’re enjoying a good sleep. Read this article for a break-down of what...

Five Ways Exercise Helps You Sleep

We all want to be healthy – but sometimes the thought of going for a walk or heading to the gym just makes us want to curl up on the sofa and flick through the TV. It can be hard to motivate ourselves to exercise, especially if we convince ourselves that we’ll just...

Does Dieting Affect Your Sleep?

Whether it’s after a festive break, working towards a beach-ready body, or you just wanted to be a bit healthier, we all find ourselves trying to lose weight now and again. If you need to lose weight, dieting and exercise are good ways to start. However, not being...

Is Sleep Important for Your Health?

Is Sleep Important for Your Health?

We all make sure that we look after ourselves. We eat well and try to fight the temptation to eat sugary or fatty foods – a hard battle to win. We exercise often, whether it’s a vigorous workout at the gym or it’s a walk with your furry friend. We watch what we drink and limit our alcohol intake. But do you make sure you get a good sleep every night? It’s often overlooked, but getting a good sleep is important for both our mental and physical health,1 with sleep deprivation having profound consequences on them.

You can read more about the connection between sleep and mental health in our topic, ‘Mental Health and Sleep’.

One in three of us suffer from poor sleep,2 with the effects of a lack of sleep, like grumpiness or not working at your best, making our days a challenge. However, the cost of sleepless nights is more than just a bad mood and lack of focus. Regular poor sleep can put you at risk of medical conditions, including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Missing out on sleep on consecutive nights can even shorten your life expectancy!3 A good night’s sleep is essential for a healthy life.

How Much Sleep Do We Need?

Generally, you should be getting eight hours of good-quality sleep every night in order to function properly.4 However, some people may need more than this, and others may need less.

Dr Lindsay Browning states that your sleep needs are also dependent on your age. She points out that an eight-year-old should be getting 9 – 11 hours of sleep, while a teenager will need 8- 10 hours. Adults aged 18 to 68 should get 7 – 9 hours, while people aged older than this will need 7- 8 hours as their sleep needs begin to decline.5

As a general rule, if you wake up tired and spend the day longing for a nap, it’s likely you’re not getting enough sleep. A good way to find out how much sleep you need is to go to sleep without setting an alarm clock. Check what time you go to bed and wake up naturally. When you wake up, check the time and you’ll find out how long you slept for. You could do this over a couple of nights if possible – this way, you’ll see if your sleeping hours are consistent.

A variety of factors can lead to poor sleep, including health conditions such as Sleep Apnoea.6 Sleep Apnoea is a disorder in which your breathing pauses while you sleep. You’ll wake up and your breathing will resume without any trouble, and you’ll fall back asleep. However, these brief awakenings can happen many times during the night – this can lead to sleep deprivation. Find out more about Sleep Apnoea here.

Poor sleep could also be linked to bad sleeping habits,7 such as irregular sleep patterns, an inconsistent bedtime routine, or not having a good sleeping environment. Your sleep can also be harmed by using technology before going to bed. Find out more about this in our article, ‘Technology’s Impact On Your Sleep’.

What Happens If You Don’t Sleep Well?

 
 
 

We’ve all experienced the fatigue, short temper, and lack of focus that follow a poor night’s sleep. An occasional night without sleep makes you feel tired and irritable the next day, but it won’t harm your health.8

However, after several sleepless nights, the effect on your mental health can become more serious.9 You’ll find it difficult to concentrate and make decisions. You’ll also find that your mood is low – poor sleep can even lead to developing depression or anxiety.

You may also find yourself falling asleep during the day, and your risk of injury and accidents at home and work also increases.10

Plus, poor sleep makes you more likely to be prone to accidents while driving. If you’re unable to concentrate or struggle to keep your eyes open, you shouldn’t drive. Studies have shown that drivers don’t just fall asleep at the wheel suddenly. Instead, they’ve tried to fight against their tiredness by opening a window or turning up the radio. These solutions do not work for long, with sleep-related accidents more likely than others to result in a fatality or serious injury.11

If you’re still struggling to get a good sleep after a couple of weeks, this can affect your overall health. You could be more at risk of developing serious medical conditions, such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.12

Here are some ways in which a good night’s sleep can boost your health:

Sleep Boosts Immunity

If you’re one of those unfortunate souls who seem to catch every cold or flu that goes around, your bedtime could be to blame. Prolonged lack of sleep can disrupt your immune system, so you’re less able to fend off bugs.13

Sleep Can Keep You Slim

Sleeping poorly could mean that you put on weight. Studies have shown that people who sleep less than seven hours a day tend to gain more weight, with a higher risk of becoming obese than those who manage to get their eight hours of sleep.14 This is believed to be because sleep-deprived people have reduced levels of leptin (the chemical that makes you feel full). They also have increased levels of ghrelin (the hunger-stimulating hormone).15

Sleep Boosts Your Mental Health

A single sleepless night can make you irritable and moody the following day. Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that regularly missing out on sleep can lead to long-term mood problems, like depression and anxiety. When people with anxiety or depression were questioned about their sleeping habits, it turned out that most of them slept for less than six hours a night.16

Read more about this in our articles ‘Sleeping with Depression’ and ‘Sleeping with Anxiety’.

Sleep Prevents Diabetes

Studies show that people who usually sleep less than five hours a night have an increased risk of developing diabetes. Missing out on deep sleep can lead to Type 2 diabetes by changing how your body processes glucose.17

You can read more about this in our article, ‘Diabetes and Sleep’.

Sleep Helps Your Heart

Long-standing sleep deprivation can be associated with an increased heart rate, an increase in blood pressure, and higher levels of chemicals linked with inflammation.18 All this may put an extra strain on your heart – which won’t be helped by the risk of obesity.

Sleep Increases Fertility

Sleep deprivation in both men and women has been claimed as one of the reasons of difficulty conceiving a baby. Regular sleep disruptions reduce the secretion of reproductive hormones.19

How Can You Help Yourself Get A Better Sleep?

The good news is that there are ways you can help yourself get a good snooze at night. However, it’s not an overnight cure – if you’ve had months of restricted sleep, you’ll need to expect recovery to take several weeks.20

Make sure you have a healthy sleeping environment – your bedroom should be cool, dark, and quiet. Try to go to bed in a good mood and avoid using screens about an hour before you go to sleep. Read more about these tips, and others, in our article, ‘7 Tips and Tricks to Get A Good Sleep’.

Make sure you have the correct pillow and duvet to provide support and comfort. Natural and synthetic options exist to offer exceptionally light, soft, and breathable solutions which are practical and long lasting. To find out how to choose the perfect pillow and duvet, read our buying guides and enjoy the good night’s sleep you’ve been dreaming about.

Exercising regularly is also a good way to help yourself get a better sleep. You can read more about how exercise helps improve your sleep in our article, ‘Five Ways Exercise Helps You Sleep’.

The best way to help yourself get a good sleep is to talk to your doctor. Your doctor will ask you about your sleeping habits and can determine if there’s an underlying cause, like a health problem or sleeping disorder. They can work on from this to find out if you need medication or sleeping aids, so make sure your doctor knows if you’re sleeping poorly.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Epilepsy and Sleep

Epilepsy is a common condition that affects the brain and causes frequent seizures. These seizures are bursts of electrical activity in the brain that can temporarily affect how the brain works. Not only can these seizures interfere with everyday life, but epilepsy...

What Is Sleep Bruxism?

Sleep bruxism is better known as teeth grinding or jaw clenching. It’s a sleep-related movement disorder that’s often linked to stress or anxiety. While people can grind their teeth during the day, sleep bruxism is a bigger health concern. People with sleep bruxism...

What Is Hypersomnia?

We all have those days where we can’t seem to wake ourselves up. However, for some, it’s a serious issue. Hypersomnia is a condition in which you feel excessive daytime sleepiness and struggle to stay awake during the day, even after long stretches of sleep. People...

Five Ways Exercise Helps You Sleep

We all want to be healthy – but sometimes the thought of going for a walk or heading to the gym just makes us want to curl up on the sofa and flick through the TV. It can be hard to motivate ourselves to exercise, especially if we convince ourselves that we’ll just...

Is Sleep Important for Your Health?

We all make sure that we look after ourselves. We eat well and try to fight the temptation to eat sugary or fatty foods – a hard battle to win. We exercise often, whether it’s a vigorous workout at the gym or it’s a walk with your furry friend. We watch what we drink...

Diabetes and Sleep

The quality of our sleep is closely linked to any health conditions we have – if we’re not feeling our best, we’re not sleeping our best. Diabetes is no exception. Sleep can affect your blood sugar levels, and blood glucose control can affect your...

Sleeping with Multiple Sclerosis

Poor sleep is common in people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), with about 50% of people with MS reported to experience some form of sleep disturbance. However, sleep disorders are still...

Does Sharing A Bed Affect Your Sleep?

An estimated 60% of us share a bed with someone else. It’s completely normal, just a part of everyday life. Yet, it’s possible that sharing a bed can affect your sleep. Obviously, if the person...

Diabetes and Sleep

Diabetes and Sleep

The quality of our sleep is closely linked to any health conditions we have – if we’re not feeling our best, we’re not sleeping our best. Diabetes is no exception. Sleep can affect your blood sugar levels, and blood glucose control can affect your sleep.1 This leads to trouble sleeping. If you have high or low blood sugar levels throughout the night, you could feel tired during the day.2 So, what exactly is the relationship between diabetes and sleep?

What Is Diabetes?

People who have diabetes do not produce insulin the same way as others. Your body converts the food into glucose (sugar) as an energy source. This is done with the help of your pancreas, which produces insulin – a hormone that takes the glucose in your blood and stores it into your cells for energy. People with diabetes either can’t produce enough insulin or can’t use insulin well. When you have diabetes, the sugar in your blood – or blood sugar – is dangerously high. This can lead to a range of health problems, including heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, nerve damage, and eye damage.3

There are two types of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2. If you have Type 1 diabetes, your pancreas isn’t producing insulin, so you’ll have to take it on a daily basis. If you have Type 2 diabetes, your body can make some of its own insulin, but not enough. Your body can’t use insulin correctly. Type 2 is more common than Type 1, with around 90% of adults with diabetes in the UK having Type 2.4 Symptoms of both types are the same, and they can include:

  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Urinating more than usual, particularly at night
  • Feeling very tired
  • Losing weight without trying to
  • Thrush that keeps coming back
  • Blurred vision
  • Cuts and grazes that aren’t healing

What’s the Connection Between Diabetes and Trouble Sleeping?

When your body has extra glucose, it draws water from your tissues. This can make you feel dehydrated, prompting you to get up for regular glasses of water.5 Also, Lynn Maarouf, education director of the Stark Diabetes Centre at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, highlights that, when your blood sugar is really high, your kidneys “try to get rid of it by urinating”. When this is the case, you’re likely “getting up and going to the bathroom all night long – and not sleeping well”.6 These constant disruptions to your sleep – whether it’s getting up for a drink or to go to the bathroom – will damage your sleep quality. As well as this, symptoms of low blood sugar, like shakiness, dizziness, and sweating, can affect your sleep.7

Unfortunately, diabetes and sleep problems often go hand in hand. Diabetes can cause sleep problems, and there’s evidence that not sleeping well can increase your risk of developing diabetes.8

People with diabetes can develop sleep disorders, too.

Sleep Apnoea

Sleep Apnoea (SA) is a sleeping disorder that’s typically accompanied by loud snoring. Someone with SA will stop breathing for a brief moment while they’re sleeping. This will wake them up, but their breathing will resume, and they’ll go back to sleep. While someone with SA won’t remember having woken up at all, this can happen many times through the night. These constant interruptions to their sleep will make them tired during the day and sleep deprived. You can read more about SA here.

SA is the most common sleep disorder that people with diabetes can have – especially Type 2 diabetes. Part of this is because people with Type 2 diabetes can be overweight. This can lead to the air passage being constricted. Also, the increased carbon dioxide in your blood that’s a result of SA can lead to insulin resistance, worsening your body’s struggle with using insulin correctly. This can also increase your blood sugar levels, making sleep even more difficult.9

Insomnia

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that makes it difficult for you to fall asleep, stay asleep, and get up in the morning. You can read more about insomnia here. You’re more at risk of struggling with insomnia if you have high stress levels, as well as high glucose levels. It’s a good idea to find out why you’re not sleeping – you could be stressed or anxious, or it could be because of your blood sugar levels being too high.10 Talk to your doctor to find out how you can help yourself get a good snooze.

Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder that’s characterised by an irresistible urge to move or stop uncomfortable or odd sensations. It usually interferes with your sleep. You can read more about RLS here. Risk factors for RLS include blood glucose levels and kidney problems, both of which can be a result of diabetes.11

How Can A Lack of Sleep Affect Your Diabetes?

Experts associate a lack of sleep with an altered hormone balance that can affect food intake and weight. If you have diabetes, you face a challenging circle. It’s common to compensate for a lack of sleep by eating an excess amount of food. The reason for doing this is to gain energy through the calories. However, doing this can cause your blood sugar levels to rise. This’ll make it harder to achieve a decent amount of sleep at night. And then, you’ll find yourself in the same sleepless situation.12

A lack of sleep also increases the risk of obesity. Obesity can increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.13 Clearly, sleeping poorly while experiencing symptoms of diabetes can be a hard cycle to break.

Help Yourself Get A Good Sleep

Getting a good sleep is key to reducing the symptoms of diabetes, and it’s also key to preventing diabetes leading to other health problems. We’ve gathered a handful of tips for how you can help yourself get a good snooze.

Avoid screens

Watching TV or using your phone, laptop, or tablet in the evening can harm the quality of your sleep. This is because of the blue light that’s emitted from these screens, which can disrupt your body’s production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. This can delay your sleep, and it can also keep you from drifting off to a deep, restful sleep that your body needs after a long day. Keeping away from these screens for about an hour before you go to bed is a great way to get a better sleep. Read a book instead or listen to relaxing music. You can read more about this in our article, ‘Technology’s Impact On Your Sleep‘.

Have a regular sleep schedule

Going to bed at the same time every night, and waking up at the same time every morning, is a good way to promote a healthy sleep pattern for yourself. It’s recommended that adults get seven to eight hours of sleep each night, so work your schedule around what time you have to get up in the morning – especially if you’re getting up for work or school. It’s important that you’re consistent with this – keep the schedule for weekends, too!

Avoid alcohol and caffeine

While the first cup of coffee will help to raise your alertness in the morning, drinking coffee during the day is bad for your sleep. It’ll keep you too alert and awake for when you want to be sleepy. You’ll not go to sleep when you want to, and you could take longer to drift off into the deep, restful sleep that you need after a long day. Also, you should avoid or limit your alcohol intake, too. Even though alcohol can make you feel sleepy, drinking it in the evening will actually harm your sleep. You’re more likely to wake up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet, and you could find it hard to get back to sleep.

Exercise

Exercising is a great way to help yourself get a good sleep. Not only does it tire you out to make you feel sleepy at night, but it also keeps you healthy and reduces the risk of obesity. It doesn’t have to be a vigorous work out in the gym. You could take a walk, try yoga, or go for a swim. However, make sure that you exercise in the morning or earlier part of the day. Exercising in the evening will make you alert and awake – not how you want to feel when it’s bedtime. You can read more about how exercise helps improve your sleep in our article, ‘Five Ways Exercise Helps You Sleep’.

While the above are a few ideas for what you can do to get a good sleep, the best way to help yourself is to talk to your doctor. Your doctor will know your symptoms of diabetes, and they can also find any symptoms of a sleeping disorder you may have – this will help them make sure you’re getting the right treatment for the best sleep.

Treat Your Dad to A Good Sleep This Father’s Day

From sleep deprived nights after you were born, taking care of you when you were sick, checking for scary monsters under the bed, picking you up from parties when you couldn’t get a real taxi, educating you on the best bands from the 1970s into the early hours of the...

10 Tips For A Good Sleep Before Results Day

You’ve done the hard work – all those months of studying are behind you. After finally being able to close the textbooks and give yourself some peace for a couple of months, you may now be getting worried and nervous: tomorrow, you find out your results. Whether...

Give the Gift of Good Sleep This Mother’s Day

Flowers and chocolates are the go-to choices for how to treat your mother on Mother’s Day. While these are lovely ideas, there is a third option that your mum would love this Mother’s Day – the gift of a good sleep! What Good Does Sleep Do for Your Mum? Every mum...

Sleep Well Before Your Wedding Day

When the wedding day approaches, many brides and grooms may feel excitement bubbling up, as well as stress seeping in. With this mix of anticipation, restless nights can be inevitable. It may be one of the best days of your life, but that doesn’t mean that it will be...

What Is Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder?

We’ve all had those mornings where we struggle to get out of bed. We know it’ll be cold when we get up, or we feel like we haven’t had enough sleep, and we just want to sink back into bed and go back to sleep. But there are people who struggle with this every morning,...

Sleep Talking

After a long, loud day, everyone enjoys the quiet of sleep. However, when the person sleeping next to you starts to mumble or talk, it can be funny at first – and then it becomes frustrating. The person who’s talking in their sleep isn’t aware that they’re doing it,...

Make Getting A Good Sleep Your New Year’s Resolution

We’ve all been there. We make a New Year’s resolution, and we’re excited. We’re determined to see it through, to fight our way through January without dropping the new you. And yet, we’ve all let it slip away, bit by bit, until it’s suddenly December and we’re...

Do Lucid Dreams Affect Your Sleep Quality?

Getting a good sleep is important when it comes to our health and wellbeing. However, as lucid dreams can be stimulating or frightening, it’s natural to wonder if they can affect the quality of your sleep. What Is A Lucid Dream? When you sleep, your brain cycles...

Are You a ‘Night Owl’ or a ‘Lark’?

Your biological clock works on its own – a roughly 24-hour cycle called a circadian rhythm. This is influenced by light and the environment, regulating the clock so that we go to sleep and wake up on the same schedule. This body clock decides your sleep pattern and...

Four Reasons We Love Four Seasons Duvets

We all know the struggle of having to get a new duvet when the temperature changes. When the sun is out, we need a lighter duvet so that we can sleep peacefully. When the winds blow colder, a heavier duvet keeps us warm. And, when we find ourselves almost in the...

Everything You Need To Know About Sleep Tracking

   Sleep tracking comes in many shapes and forms, but how do you track your sleep? From DIY wearables and smartphone apps, to the old fashioned way of paper and pen, there are many different ways to follow your sleeping routine. Below, we’ll discuss these methods...

An Introduction Into Circadian Rhythm

Have you ever noticed that you tend to feel energised and drowsy around the same times every day?  This is caused by your circadian rhythm, but just what is it?   What is a Circadian Rhythm? Your circadian rhythm is basically a 24-hour internal clock that is...

Our Most Common Dreams & What They Mean

Every night, each person dreams for ninety minutes, two hours, or more. Dreams are stories and images our mind creates while we sleep. They can be vivid and not always tell a simple story, leaving you feeling happy, sad or scared. Dreams happen anytime during sleep,...

Technology’s Impact on your Sleep

Technology's impact on your sleep can have detrimental effects on your health. Technology is everywhere; it has taken over every aspect of our daily lives, and now it’s set its sights on our bedroom. Instead of curling up in bed with a book, many people now opt for...

When things heat up in the bedroom

Playing it cool in the bedroom could be the secret of a happy love life. Sammy Margo, author of The Good Sleep Guide and The Good Sleep Guide For Kids, warns that turning up the heat in the bedroom can be a passion killer. She believes that bedroom temperature is one...