Inflammation is more than a buzzword. It’s a condition that can be short-lived or chronic, isolated or far-reaching – it can affect just about every process and part of the body. And now, thanks to new research, it looks like inflammation might even be messing up your sleep.
If you’ve been having difficulty sleeping, waking up exhausted or staying up all night with insomnia, inflammation could be the root of the problem. It turns out that sleep and inflammation are more closely intertwined than we previously thought.
Sleep and inflammation have a surprisingly close connection
While sleepless nights and bouts of insomnia can be caused by plenty of different health concerns, inflammation has more of an effect than you might realize. It turns out that inflammation of any kind – or even just higher levels of inflammatory markers present in the body – can reshape your sleep in ways that completely wreck your ability to get some decent rest.
According to a study published in Frontiers in Neurology, poor sleep is linked to inflammatory biomarkers. Researchers examined more than 500 participants, all of whom kept nightly sleep diaries and underwent blood tests to measure inflammatory biomarkers over the course of the study. At the study’s end, the researchers saw that there was a positive correlation between inconsistent sleep and inflammation. The participants with higher levels of inflammatory biomarkers in their bloodstream were also those who reported more problems falling and staying asleep, as well as a lack of quality sleep.
These results suggested that sleep woes like more time awake at night, lower average time asleep and overall poorer sleep quality were associated with the presence of inflammation. So, if you’re struggling to get a solid night of shut-eye, higher-than-normal levels of inflammation could be behind your problems.
But there’s more to this surprising connection than just a few nights of less-than-ideal sleep. Inflammation can wreck your sleep for both the short- and long-term, and it can become particularly problematic if you’re dealing with chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation may cause significant sleep issues
It turns out that inflammation not only affects your ability to achieve restful sleep, but also contributes to sleep disturbances and disorders. While short-term inflammation can mess with your sleep for a few weeks or months, chronic inflammation can have a much bigger impact – and more far-reaching effects.
Sleep and chronic inflammation tend to go hand in hand. As you learned above, the mere presence of inflammatory markers in the body can ruin your ability to get a decent night’s sleep. But a lack of sleep can also feed inflammation, creating a vicious cycle of terrible sleep and fired-up inflammation.
As one research review demonstrates, there’s a reciprocal relationship between your central nervous system, immune system and sleep cycle. When you get consistent, quality sleep, you strengthen your body’s immunity and give your immune system what it needs to fight off infections, injuries and other threats. But if you aren’t sleeping well and your nightly shut-eye is getting interrupted, delayed or just isn’t restful enough, it can disrupt your immune system’s normal functioning and response.
So, bad sleep can potentially play a role in causing inflammation. But the reverse is true too. A misfiring immune system or the presence of chronic inflammation can mess up your ability to sleep, which in turn creates more inflammation. And unless you can get that inflammation under control, it can keep interfering with your nightly rest.
Plus, there’s even more research that suggests living with chronic inflammation can cause long-term sleep problems. According to a 2018 study, the inflammation behind autoimmune disorders like arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and type 1 diabetes can alter your natural circadian rhythm, throwing your “sleep clock” out of whack. Researchers examined the impact of inflammation in genetically modified mice, who became unable to tell what time it was and struggled to keep a regular rest-activity cycle. Chronic inflammation messed with the mice’s ability to sleep and wake at consistent times, and the researchers suggest that inflammation can do the same in humans.
This means chronic inflammation could contribute to issues like insomnia, difficulty falling asleep and difficulty achieving consistent sleep on a regular basis.
How to stop inflammation from ruining your sleep
Breaking the cycle of inflammation wrecking sleep and sleep fueling inflammation isn’t easy. But there are ways to target inflammation and sleep woes. With a combination of lifestyle changes and tweaks to your nutrition, you can potentially get better, more restful shut-eye and work towards taming inflammation.
Here are a few ways to target the impact of both of these issues so you’re rested and feeling your best.
Use light and melatonin to help realign your circadian rhythm
Based on your normal circadian rhythm, your body is meant to help you drift off to sleep by naturally secreting melatonin before bedtime and slowly reducing the amount in the morning. But if inflammation has thrown your body’s natural rhythm out of whack, then your melatonin levels might also be confused – making it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep and wake up.
To help yourself fall asleep, you can try a melatonin supplement or other dietary supplements that include sleep-helping nutrients. We’ve got the perfect recipe for falling asleep in our Cherry Sleep Gummies, which you make right at home (using only 5 ingredients!). Or, you can eat foods that offer the nutrients you need for sleep, like cherries rich in melatonin or spinach rich magnesium.
In the morning, try introducing light into your bedroom to help you ease into waking up. Exposure to bright light helps realign your circadian rhythm, and it can also stop that natural melatonin secretion. You can try an alarm clock that introduces light slowly as your wake-up time draws closer, smart light switches or plugs that can be put on a timer or even just open your curtains and let bright, natural light in as soon as you’re up.
Get active and exercise
One of the best ways to make sure you’re ready to hit your pillow in the evening? Tire yourself out – literally. Physical activity, especially activity that requires moderate to heavy exertion, can help you sleep more soundly and for longer at night. In fact, research suggests that exercise can benefit sleep in a number ways, from lowering your core body temperature (a key detail of helping you fall asleep) to alleviating anxiety, stress and depression to helping realign your circadian rhythm.
Plus, staying active and getting your body moving can also help promote relaxation. But it doesn’t always have to be a HIIT workout or a miles-long run. Even gentle forms of movement, like yoga, can help you improve your sleep. Body-mind exercises like yoga and Tai Chi have also been found to have a positive impact on immune activity, which just might help with inflammation too.
Switch to an anti-inflammatory diet
To target the root cause of your sleep problems, you can target inflammation through your diet. Making the switch to an anti-inflammatory diet, or even cutting out inflammation-triggering foods, can help you naturally tame its effects. The Mediterranean diet in particular has shown promise in helping with sleep. However, you can also try any one of our anti-inflammatory meal plans to get started day-by-day with a curated selection of recipes.
And if you’re looking for a complete reset that’ll target inflammation at the source, our Anti-Inflammatory Keto Reset will help you achieve that over the course of four weeks.