If you have ever experienced a bad night’s sleep, you know how essential sleep is. Medical research continues to educate us on just how essential sleep is. After only a few days of complete sleep deprivation, humans experience complete psychotic breakdowns. You absolutely cannot heal without quality sleep. When you do not get enough sleep, your brain actually begins to eat its own cells. Unfortunately, disordered sleep is one of the most common comorbid conditions that I observe in my practice to be associated with chronic illness.
Why is sleep so disrupted in chronic illness? Whether insomnia is your chronic illness or you experience sleep disruptions secondary to a diagnosed disease, the common factor is something called oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a condition in which there as is an excess of reactive, charged particles that attack cell membranes, proteins, and DNA. Oxidative stress also activates the immune system. This leads to inflammation in the brain which can interfere with the production and metabolism of neurotransmitters and neurohormones involved in regulating sleep.
Oxidative stress can be generated by:
This list informs us that almost anyone is susceptible to elevated levels of oxidative stress. People with chronic illness are even more susceptible to excess oxidative stress as they often have increased genetic susceptibility as well as increased levels of inflammatory, toxic, and infectious burdens.
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