Short answer? Yes, and that’s a big YES!
Unfortunately, there’s a lot that can interfere with natural sleep patterns. People are now sleeping less than they did in the past, and sleep quality has decreased as well.
Let’s take a closer look at why we sleep, along with what happens if we don’t get enough.
Why do we sleep?
1. Energy Conservation
2. Cellular Restoration
The idea is that sleep allows cells to repair and grow. This is supported by many important processes that happen during sleep, including:
- Muscle repair
- Protein synthesis
- Tissue growth
- Hormone release
3. Brain Function
When you sleep, your brain’s glymphatic (waste clearance) system clears out waste from the central nervous system. It removes toxic by-products from your brain, which build up throughout the day. This allows your brain to work well when you wake up.
Sleep affects many aspects of brain function, including:
- Problem-solving skills
- Decision making
If not, here are a few more important functions of sleep:
Sleep is necessary for emotional health
Sleep assists with weight maintenance
Sleep promotes proper insulin function
Sleep may protect against insulin resistance. It keeps your cells healthy so they can easily take up glucose.
Sleep boosts immunity
When you sleep, your body makes cytokines, which are proteins that fight infection and inflammation. It also produces certain antibodies and immune cells. Together, these molecules help to protect your body from illness and disease.
Sleep protects your heart health
Sleep Deprivation and Kidney Disease
Types of Sleep Problems
- Insomnia – trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, and/or early morning waking. Insomnia affects an estimated 30-70% of people with CKD.
- Restless legs syndrome (RLS) – an irresistible urge to move the legs, which is worse at night, and is temporarily relieved with movement. RLS is frequently associated with another movement disorder called Periodic Limb Movements in Sleep (PLMS). RLS affects 60-80% of people with CKD.
- Sleep apnoea – disordered breathing during sleep including periods of apnoea (not breathing), heavy snoring in most cases, restless sleep, fragmented sleep, frequent awakening, morning headache, personality or mood changes, and daytime sleepiness. Sleep apnoea affects around 50% of people with Stage 5 CKD.
Causes of Sleep Deprivation
Things that can contribute to sleep deprivation include:
- Shift work
- Irregular sleep schedules
- Restless leg syndrome
- Sleep apnoea (untreated)
- Chronic pain
- Longer work hours
- Certain medications
Consequences of Sleep deprivation
- Obesity in adults and children
- Diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance
- Cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure
- Anxiety symptoms
- Depressed mood
- Alcohol use
- Increased mortality from all causes
Sleep Deprivation and the Kidneys
Multiple studies have shown that short sleep duration (less than 6 hours sleep) AND long sleep duration (typically more than 8 or 9 hours sleep) are both associated with an increased risk of developing CKD and progression to end-stage kidney disease.
The reason for this isn’t fully understood but it is likely to do with a variety of factors. Lack of sleep is associated with:
- High blood pressure
- ‘Non-dipping’ blood pressure – blood pressure that doesn’t drop during the night
- Increased sympathetic nervous system activity
- Dysregulation of renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system
- Increased inflammation
- Elevated cortisol levels
- Weight gain
- Insulin resistance and diabetes
Not getting enough sleep has also been shown to increase the risk of proteinuria (protein loss in the urine). In a meta-analysis involving over 280,000 people, sleeping 5 or fewer hours a night increased the risk of developing proteinuria.
Are you sleep-deprived?
Sleep specialists say that one of the tell-tale signs of sleep deprivation is feeling drowsy during the day. In fact, even if a task is boring, you should be able to stay alert during it if you are not sleep-deprived. If you often fall asleep within 5 minutes of lying down, then you likely have sleep deprivation. People with sleep deprivation also have ‘microsleeps.’ These are brief periods of sleep during waking time. In many cases, sleep-deprived people may not even be aware that they are having these microsleeps.
Although sleep deprivation is estimated to affect one out of three people, it’s not easily diagnosed. The spoon test or the Sleep onset latency test is a simple home test that can be used to identify sleep deprivation. This test was developed by the late Dr. Nathaniel Kleitman from the University of Chicago, who is famously known as the ‘father of sleep research.’
Interested in giving it a go? Here’s how to do it:
Sleep Onset Latency Test
- A watch to measure time
- A metal spoon
- A metal tray
This test is to be carried out only during the daytime. Darken the bedroom and then lie down at the edge of the bed. Keep a metal tray on the floor beside the bed and hold a metal spoon over it. Note the time and close your eyes as if to sleep.
When you fall asleep, your hand will loosen its grip over the spoon and it will come crashing down onto the tray, waking you up. Immediately look at your watch and note how much time has passed.
An Alternative Method
Recovering from Sleep Deprivation
Treating sleep as a priority, rather than a luxury is an important step in reducing sleep deprivation, preventing a number of chronic medical conditions, and looking after your kidneys.
Tips for Improving Sleep
- Take time to wind down- the goal is to be in a parasympathetic state at bedtime, so you need to give yourself a chance to wind down before getting into bed. Do a relaxing activity in low light and avoid task-orientated activities. Also, our brains work well with routine so following the same bedtime routine helps our brains recognize when it’s time to sleep.
- Limit light at night- the type and brightness of light we’re exposed to in the hour before bed can suppress melatonin (sleep hormone) production. Keep all devices out of the bedroom because this is associated with worse sleep and use blue light-emitting glasses or apps in the hours before bedtime to allow melatonin to increase.
- Try to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each day Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine
- Exercise no later than 3 hours before you go to bed
- Stop eating at least 3 hours before going to bed
- Avoid naps outside of 20-minute power naps during the day
- Practice relaxation techniques or breathing techniques in bed to help you relax
- Make sure your bedroom is set up for good sleep:
- Cooler than 18 degrees Celsius or 65 degrees Fahrenheit
- Comfortable sleeping surface
- No wakeful stimuli ie. Devices docked in another room
- goog_1396996393Door closed
- Get out of bed if you can’t sleep- if you haven’t been able to sleep after 20 minutes, get up and do something quiet (and boring) in dim light until you’re tired and then try again
- And in the morning:
- goog_1396996394Get sunlight for 30 minutes in the first 1-2 hours of waking to increase melatonin levels at night
- Get 10-minute bursts of light every couple of hours
- Melatonin – often referred to as the sleep hormone, helps us fall asleep and stay asleep during the night. Low levels of melatonin make it harder to fall asleep so it can be taken as a medication or supplement to help regulate our circadian rhythm and get our sleep-wake cycle back on track. Studies have shown that the production of melatonin is impaired in people with CKD which may be part of the reason people with CKD have a greater degree of sleep disorders than the rest of the population.
- Magnesium – insomnia is a common symptom of magnesium deficiency. People with low magnesium often experience restless sleep and wake frequently during the night. Supplementing with magnesium can increase sleep time, sleep efficiency, increase melatonin levels, improve sleep onset, reduce cortisol levels and reduce early morning waking.
- Glycine – glycine is an amino acid. Research in people with sleep issues has shown that when taken before bed it can decrease how long it takes to fall asleep, improves sleep quality and promotes deeper, more restful sleep, and lessens daytime sleepiness.
- Valerian Officinalis – Valerian is a sedative herb that helps reduce the time it takes to fall asleep, reduces restless sleep, and promotes more refreshing sleep. One of the great things about Valerian is that it doesn’t cause a hangover effect that can occur with sleeping tablets or sedative medications.
- Chamomile – Chamomile tea is a great addition to your nighttime routine. Chamomile contains apigenin, a chemical compound that binds to the GABA receptors in your brain, the same receptors that benzodiazepines like Valium bind to (medications commonly used for anxiety and insomnia). It has a sedative and relaxing effect so is helpful for people who have trouble falling asleep at night.
- Make sure you discuss any new supplements with your healthcare provider first before starting on them.
If you want to heal your kidneys, it’s really important that you’re taking care of ALL aspects of your health and sleep is a really big part of that.