Poor Sleep And Kidney Disease: What’s The Link?

As we go through life, we don’t often stop to think about our health unless we feel ill or are diagnosed with a condition. Kidneys, those bean-shaped organs that help filter blood and pass waste, are sometimes overlooked. Yet, these fist-sized organs are incredibly important and perform numerous functions. They maintain overall body fluid balance and create hormones that help regulate blood pressure and produce red blood cells. Unfortunately, we sometimes make it difficult for them to function properly.

Our increasing lack of sleep may be tied to poor kidney health. It may also worsen kidney disease. Studies are still ongoing but it appears that the two may be connected. It’s not known how and more studies are needed to prove cause and effect but there is a link. This finding is significant considering there are an estimated 31 million Americans with chronic kidney diseases.

What We Know So Far

People with kidney disease can have trouble sleeping while poor sleep may accelerate kidney disease. It’s reported that as much as 80 percent of people with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) have sleep complaints and daytime sleepiness.

Research by Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston examined the sleep habits of women and found that those who slept for 5 hours or less each night had a 65 percent risk of a rapid decline in kidney health. Lead researcher, Dr. Ciaran McMullan, cautioned that the study only showed the association of decreased kidney function and less sleep. It didn’t point to less sleep causing this decrease. He theorized that short sleep alters the kidney’s physiology and this could cause damage. He said that kidney function is also regulated by the sleep-wake cycle and if it’s compromised it can affect chronic kidney disease.

In another study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, researchers found that people with kidney disease may be particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of poor sleep. They reported that sleep was seriously impaired in the 431 participants they studied who had chronic kidney disease. They slept for an average of 6.5 hours a night and experienced interrupted sleep and significant wakeful periods. The study spanned 5 years and during this time, 70 participants developed kidney failure and 48 died.

It’s important to note that sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can have dangerous consequences for people with chronic kidney disease. In fact, there’s a higher risk of kidney disease in people with OSA. We’ve mentioned how lack of sleep can worsen kidney problems. Since OSA deprives a person of quality sleep, it can lead to a decline in kidney function. Getting tested and treated for OSA can improve sleep significantly. A study in Taiwan of more than 4,500 people with sleep apnea and over 23,000 others without the condition were monitored for chronic kidney disease. They were followed for 10 years. Those with sleep apnea were found to have a 1.94-fold increase in chronic kidney disease and a 2.2-fold increase in end-stage renal disease (ESRD).

What We Can Do To Improve Sleep

There’s no miracle cure for improving sleep. It depends on several factors and they all need attention. Here are a few tips that can help those with kidney disease and even those without.

Manage Sleep Apnea

People with sleep apnea may not know they have it but their bed partners certainly will as it’s usually accompanied by snoring. If you sleep alone, you might want to check into a sleep clinic to find out if you do suffer from it. Once a diagnosis is made you can seek treatment, which includes the use of a continuous positive airway pressure device (CPAP) that keeps the airway open by blowing air into it.

Try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy trains you to replace thoughts and behavior that can interfere with sleep. Your sleep therapist may employ techniques like restricting naps and too-early bedtimes. This will force you to go to bed later when you’re actually sleepy. You’ll also be taught relaxation techniques to calm your mind and encourage sleep.

Stay Away From Caffeine And Alcohol

Caffeine and alcohol keep you up and can disrupt sleep even if you manage to fall asleep. Try to avoid nightcaps and don’t consume coffee later than 2 pm. If you must have a nightcap, have it a few hours earlier than your bedtime. It takes an hour for your body to metabolize a serving of alcohol so you should have it well before you sleep.

Sleep Comfortably

This encompasses a range of things. Comfort at night is based on several factors such as keeping your bedroom quiet, dark and free of distractions like gadgets and work. It also depends on the mattress you use. It should support and comfort you so that you can sleep through the night.

The Nuvanna mattress is designed with this in mind. Created by a materials scientist with over 20 years of experience, it comprises three unique layers that work together to give you the best sleep. The top layer cools the body with the help of phase-changing gel particles that draw out heat and disperse it. The middle layer prevents motion from being transferred across the surface so that you and your bed partner can move without disturbing each other. The bottom layer supports the whole body and keeps the spine in place to prevent back pain.

Treatment for kidney disease depends on the cause and severity. Your doctor can prescribe a course of treatment after having you undergo various tests. In the meantime, try to get as much quality sleep as possible. You’ll feel rested, stronger and more focused. Exercise – with the permission of your doctor – and seeking treatment for depression, if any, can also help you sleep better.

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