A new study on linking quality of life to sleep duration in a population with chronic kidney disease speaks loudly to the importance of sleep for maintaining our mental and physical health.1 While the study states that sleep disorders are common in individuals with chronic kidney disease, it is well understood that sleep problems are prevalent in many chronic disease states, and the impact of insomnia on general health is dramatic. Sleep is a factor, which, when someone is already suffering from a chronic condition, can intensely change their experience of life, and their disorder.

Poor health-related quality of life (HRQOL) symptoms

A lack of energy, fatigue, and drowsiness are recognized as the most common symptoms resulting in perceived poor health-related quality of life (HRQOL) – how someone subjectively perceives their physical and mental health. Sleep drastically affects this.

Sleep had a direct impact on the perceived quality of life for a person with a chronic disease

In this specific study, it was seen from a group of nearly 2000 participants that sleep had a direct impact on the perceived quality of life a person with a chronic disease has.

Quality Not Quantity

More important than how long a person sleeps, is how good the sleep a person gets actually is. Many of us struggle to stay asleep throughout the night, waking multiple times, and arising in the morning unrested. Some of us have extreme difficulty falling asleep. And the lack of sleep then often makes symptoms of other conditions worse, which may create further anxiety, pain, or discomfort that inhibits sleep further, creating a vicious cycle that is hard to get out of.

The neurohormonal connections with sleep are tremendous

Sleep is recognized as an independent health marker for chronic disease prognosis and can truly make a world of difference. The neurohormonal connections with sleep are tremendous, and our immune system as well as nervous system is helped and supported daily by sleep. When we have poor sleep habits, for whatever reason, these regulatory systems begin to be less able to support our health. When there is a chronic condition added to the mix, this can really set the stage for a difficult time healing and recovering.

A culture that supports bad sleep hygiene

Sadly, we live in a culture that has a mindset that “we can sleep when we’re dead.” And this mindset could be killing us, some faster than others. The idea that we don’t need sleep, that we can “burn the candle at both ends,” is simply not true. We need rest, and a healthy schedule builds in an adequate amount of time each night for sleep, rather than considering this time “free time” that can be eaten up with tasks that weren’t able to be accomplished during the day. Just like eating our vegetables and exercising, sleep is a necessary component to health that cannot be shirked without negative consequences.

Photo by Sarah Gray on Unsplash

Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.

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