Sleep is a fundamental and biological function. It is necessary to keep the body working properly. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Getting a full night’s sleep can be hard when you have sarcoidosis.
How Lack of Sleep Affects You
We know that getting less than six hours of sleep increases risks for many medical problems, including hypertension, cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes. Lack of quality sleep also affects the brain and immune system. Sleeping helps the brain do its “housekeeping.” The brain removes toxins and improves cognitive functions such as learning and retaining information. Lack quality sleep can profoundly affect hormones. That may increase your risk of diabetes by reducing how well insulin works. New research suggests poor or inadequate sleep, can lead to brain cell loss, dementia and even fatty liver.
Fatigue or Sleep Problem?
Fatigue is a common symptom of sarcoidosis. It affects about 50-60% of sarcoidosis patients. Poor or inadequate sleep can affect other sarcoidosis symptoms such as fever, weight loss, night sweats, joint and muscle pain, memory and concentration problems and exercise limitation. Poor sleep also can be a result of sleep disorders such as (OSA). OSA can occur frequently in patients with sarcoidosis due to weight gain from prednisone therapy, the inability to exercise or other reasons.
Untreated OSA is associated with multiple issues, including:
- Atrial fibrillation
- Pulmonary hypertension due to low oxygen levels
- Insulin resistance
- Mood disorders like depression
After getting evaluated and starting treating for fatigue in sarcoidosis, it is extremely important to treat underlying sleep issues.
How Sleep Affects the Immune System
Sleep has significant effects on the immune system. Sleep can help your body fight an infection. Lack of sleep can also affect how your body develops antibodies. Studies have shown that when patients who were sleep deprived after receiving flu vaccines, did not form antibodies as early or as well as patients with normal sleep.
Antibodies are part of the immune system. The immune system is your body’s defense system. The immune system detects and protects our bodies from bacteria and viruses. The brain and the immune system appear to “talk” to each other through several mechanisms, including neurotransmitters (molecules that affect neurons) and cytokines. Cytokines are molecules that allow your cells to talk to each other. Cytokines are necessary for the immune system to function correctly. When cytokines are blocked, your sleep can change.
Lack of sleep has been associated with high C-reactive protein (CRP) levels. CRP is a marker of inflammation. Because sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease, inflammation may change the normal structure and possibly the function of the affected organ affected by sarcoidosis. It’s important to take steps to ensure consistent good quality sleep.
For patients with sarcoidosis, improve sleep by seeing your provider and getting treated for underlying sleep disorders. Take steps to increase the amount and quality of your sleep. Improving sleep habits can:
- Lower risks of infection
- Reduce inflammation
- Improve glucose control
- Reduce risk of complications such as pulmonary hypertension or atrial fibrillation
- Improve cognitive function
- Decrease other health risks
- Improve well-being