Poor Sleep Impacts Chronic Health Conditions

When you live with a chronic health condition, lack of good sleep can actually make symptoms worse.
Alarm clock with person in the bed in the distance

Your body craves sleep. Long stretches of sleep at night give your brain, muscles, and every major system time to recuperate, rebuild, and rest. Even though this part of our day holds so much value, many people say they don’t get nearly enough good sleep. Poor sleep can make chronic conditions worse and even cause new issues. But don’t worry! You can do something about it. 

What Makes Sleep Good or Bad?

How can you judge a night of sleep? What makes your slumber poor vs. perfect? Most experts measure sleep in two ways: duration and quality.


Your body needs a certain amount of sleep. Everyone is built differently, so the exact number of hours may vary. But in general, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends at least seven hours of sleep every night.


The quality of your sleep is just as important as the length. When you sleep well, your body naturally follows these sleep stages:

  1. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep
  2. Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep

NREM sleep includes three categories, ranging from light to deep sleep. You spend your highest quality of sleep in deep NREM sleep, so getting enough of this phase is essential.

How Poor Sleep Affects Chronic Health Conditions

If your sleep isn’t up to par, every system in your body feels it. When you live with a chronic health condition, lack of good sleep can actually make symptoms worse. Let’s look at a few examples.

Metabolism and Weight

Your metabolism can become unbalanced if you consistently do not get enough quality sleep. Hunger hormones like leptin and ghrelin help regulate your metabolism and let your body know when to eat and when you’re full. Sleep deprivation changes these hormones, making you feel hungry when you don’t need to eat, which links chronic poor sleep with obesity.


People with diabetes often have a lab test called hemoglobin A1C checked to see how their condition is progressing. Studies have shown a strong correlation between poor sleep and a higher A1C. The higher this value goes, the more diabetes complications you may see. 


Experts have long agreed on the connection between insufficient sleep and depression. People with depression often experience trouble sleeping. Symptoms like daytime sleepiness and trouble focusing can make depression worse. Getting caught in this negative cycle can be very easy, with depression and poor sleep making the other more severe.

Heart Disease

Years of research have connected bad sleep and heart disease. During deep sleep, your blood pressure and heart rate drop, giving your heart a nice rest. If your sleep gets cut short or interrupted, your heart has to work hard all night. If this lack of sleep goes on too long, this muscle can start to wear down.

Chronic Pain

It may come as no surprise that pain can cause poor sleep. But insufficient sleep can also cause increased pain. This vicious cycle feeds into itself, each making the other more extreme. You can work with your health care provider to treat your pain and break out of this cycle.

Tips for Better Sleep

How can you get better sleep? You may have tried and tried but can’t get that perfect night’s rest. While you may need to use a little trial and error, you can find what works best for you using some expert-approved sleep tips:

  • Avoid screens for an hour before bed
  • Only use your bed for sleep and intimacy
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bedtime
  • Try to go to bed at the same time every night
  • Get active during the day 
  • Make your bedroom relaxing and comfortable

Try a few things out and find what works for you. If none seem to work, mention it to your health care provider. Sleep disorders are common and treatable. Once you start sleeping better, your body and mind will thank you!

© 2023 WellDoc, Inc.

The information we provide at welldoc.com is not medical advice, nor is it intended to replace a consultation with a medical professional. Please inform your physician of any changes you make to your diet or lifestyle and discuss these changes with them. If you have questions or concerns about any medical conditions you may have, please contact your physician.

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