7 Signs Your Insomnia Is Caused By Inflammation
Inflammation is the kind of health problem that can start to take over all sorts of different aspects of your life. Over time, you may get used to the symptoms enough that you may not be able to pinpoint how they affect you. But if you're dealing with insomnia, and you have any inkling the that issue is stemming from something other than just racing thoughts, it may be worth exploring the signs of inflammation.
When you find it difficult to sleep, the discomfort tends to become totally overwhelming, extending from your thoughts all the way through your muscles and toes. This means it may be difficult to distinguish signs of insomnia from signs of a health problem. "Inflammation happens almost everywhere in the body," Elson Haas, M.D., tells Bustle. These symptoms of inflammation can occur in the digestive track, respiratory system, circulatory system, and more.
"All of these systems can cause agitation in the psyche and nervous system and alter our ability to sleep, which is also affected by our diet and digestion," Dr. Haas says. "Really any kind of upset can cause sleep disturbances from mild to extreme difficulties, and when there is a consistent poor sleep, this can really alter anyone’s health." Sleep is vital for your wellbeing, so identifying the cause if you can't sleep well is really important.
Here are seven signs your insomnia may be caused by inflammation, according to experts.
1. Your Jaw Feels Tight In The Morning
If you hate falling asleep because you know your jaw will tighten up, or if you've been experiencing both a tight jaw and trouble sleeping, you may want to consider that inflammation could be the cause.
"[One] sign that inflammation may be causing your insomnia is tightness in the jaw," integrative medicine expert Cheryl Myers, RN, BA, tells Bustle. "[...] Even though you think you’ve been resting for a few hours, you’re really struggling against fully being able to relax due to inflammatory processes throughout your body. Ultimately, you may wind up feeling exhausted for no apparent cause." If this is the case, it's important to see the doctor.
2. You Wake Up With A Headache
If you're having trouble falling asleep at night in anticipation of how groggy you'll feel in the morning, you may be experiencing a symptom of inflammation.
"Another sign that inflammation may be causing your insomnia is [...] headaches upon awakening," Myers says. "You might be suffering from low-level inflammatory issues that are overlooked during the day, but stress your body just enough to prevent you from getting good, restorative sleep." Finding a way to help your headaches may help your sleep get better as well.
3. Pain Interrupts Your Sleep
If you can't sleep because pain is keeping you up at night, then you may be experiencing one of the most common reasons that inflammation can cause insomnia.
"Muscle pain can disrupt your sleep, especially if moving about in bed causes sharp pains that awaken the sleeper," Myers says. "It’s one of the reasons you see over-the-counter pain medications that combine drowsiness-causing ingredients with other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) ingredients. But those medications create havoc for your liver and stomach, so they are only a short-term solution at best." Finding a trustworthy doctor who you can talk to these symptoms about is important.
4. Your Stomach Won't Rest
If you can't sleep because your digestive track won't let you, it's completely possible that you are experiencing symptoms of inflammation.
"Inflammation in the form of digestive issues is [another] reason that you may be losing sleep," Myers says. "If you already have inflammatory bowel issues, like celiac or ulcerative colitis, you’re more than aware that they can block every effort to get rest." If you don't have a diagnosis, but find that digestive issues and your lack of sleep are intertwined, it's important to talk to a doctor so you can get the sleep you need, and feel better.
5. You Wake Up In The Night
One symptom of sleep apnea, which research has found is related to inflammation, causes breathing problems that wake you up at night. If you find you can't get through the night without being awakened, you may have this condition.
"While not insomnia, Obstructive Sleep Apnea is where the throat closes at night, causing an airway blockage," chief scientific officer at Praesidium Inc, Michael Breus, PhD, DABSM, tells Bustle. "[...] Any inflammation in the throat area would narrow the windpipe and lead to more severe disease." If you have a feeling you may have this condition, it's really important to talk to a doctor, since the risks are serious.
6. Your Mind Races Before Bed
While there are almost-endless causes of racing thoughts, it is possible for this symptom of insomnia to be caused by inflammation. This is particularly true if you feel especially alert when you're supposed to be falling asleep.
"Inflammation raises the stress hormone cortisol, which has to drop to very low levels so we can fall asleep," Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., tells Bustle. "If your mind is wide awake and racing at bedtime, this is a sign your bedtime cortisol is too high." Finding ways to cope with stress, and talking to your doctor about other health issues, may help these symptoms abate.
7. You Can't Stop Moving Your Legs
Restless leg syndrome isn't confined to the daytime. If you feel that your insomnia takes place across your whole body, including your legs, making you constantly have to move, you may have inflammation at the root of things.
According to research, people with inflammation are more likely to suffer from restless leg syndrome. "Systemic inflammation in those who suffer from an autoimmune disease or other chronic inflammatory condition with elevated systemic inflammatory markers in their blood [...] have increased [...] restless leg syndrome," Dr. Shahla Modir, consulting psychiatrist at Avalon Malibu, tells Bustle. If you feel like you can't stop moving your legs, even at night, it's worthwhile to ask a doctor about the issue.
In all, inflammation can cause sleep distress and vice versa. "People who don't get enough sleep often experience higher levels of inflammation," certified sleep science coach Chris Brantner, tells Bustle. "Research indicates that tissue-damaging inflammation can occur even after just one night of short sleep." This doesn't mean you should panic, but it does indicate the importance of balancing healthy sleeping techniques and the habit of always checking in with the doctor when you notice physical changes.