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The Connection Between Sleep And Autoimmune Conditions

The Connection Between Sleep And Autoimmune Conditions

There is a strong connection between a lack of sleep and autoimmune conditions. Autoimmune conditions such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis often come with fatigue. Fatigue isn’t just feeling a little tired, it’s a profound sense of exhaustion that can get in the way of day-to-day activities. What causes this fatigue, and what does it have to do with sleep?

Sleep And Autoimmune Conditions – Inflammation

At the heart of autoimmune diseases is uncontrolled inflammation. Chronic inflammation affects various aspects of our body’s functioning, including metabolism, mood, and motivation. It also manipulates our sleep patterns and contributes to feelings of fatigue. Inflammatory cytokines, produced by immune cells, play a significant role in inducing fatigue.1

Inflammation And Fatigue

Inflammation impacts the central nervous system (CNS), causing what are known as ‘sickness behaviors’, which are linked to fatigue. Inflammation causes the activation of things called inflammasomes, which contribute to fatigue. These inflammasomes are activated by factors like ATP, ROS, and mitochondrial DNA, all of which relate to metabolism and cellular stress.2

Sleep And Autoimmune Conditions

Sleep disturbances are a frequent complaint from those with autoimmune conditions. This isn’t a one-way street, however, as stress and sleep issues increase the likelihood of developing an autoimmune disease. Conditions like chronic insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless legs syndrome are more commonly found amongst those suffering from autoimmune diseases. The inflammatory cytokines along with the disruption of our body’s internal clock contribute to sleep disturbances in autoimmune diseases.3

Stress, Sleep, And Autoimmune Conditions

Stress plays its own part in inducing fatigue in individuals with autoimmune diseases. Stress triggers inflammation in the brain and releases two substances, norepinephrine and cortisol, that influence immune responses and further contribute to fatigue. While stress is often necessary in short bursts, chronic stress leads to an overproduction of these hormones, causing fatigue, and exhaustion in our cells.4

Stress, Sleep And Autoimmune Conditions

Hormone Dysregulation

Hormones produced in response to stress called glucocorticoids can both inhibit and enhance inflammation in the immune system. Sleep loss and constant stress increase glucocorticoid levels, thereby enhancing inflammation. There is another hormone, Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), that counters inflammation and reduces the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Individuals with autoimmune conditions often have low levels of DHEA.5 6


Certain neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, histamine, and glutamate play a role in regulating arousal, wakefulness, and fatigue. Inflammatory molecules are influenced by these neurotransmitters, leading to changes in behavior and fatigue. The vagus nerve, part of our autonomic nervous system, also has a role in modulating inflammation and fatigue.7 8

Chronic fatigue linked to inflammation affects the brain, resulting in fatigue, sleep problems, and cognitive challenges. Autoimmune conditions often affect blood flow to the brain, resulting in fatigue. The brain’s waste clearance system, known as the glymphatic system, is also impacted by inflammation, contributing to fatigue.9

Sleep Disorders

Autoimmune conditions that affect the nervous system create havoc in sleep patterns. Two of the most common autoimmune conditions that affect sleep patterns are Multiple Sclerosis and Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Multiple sclerosis is a condition where the immune system attacks the central nervous system. Sleep disorders in multiple sclerosis can range from insomnia and restless legs syndrome to REM sleep behavior disorder. The reasons range from inflammation and medication side effects to the specific location of brain lesions.10

Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), an acute autoimmune disease, can cause a significant drop in sleep quality, induce insomnia, and reduce REM sleep time, particularly during the acute phase of the disease.11

Anti-IgLON5 disease is a newly found neurological disorder with distinctive irregular sleep patterns and abnormal motor behaviors during sleep. It impacts various brain regions that regulate sleep. The cause isn’t completely clear yet, but it appears to have both autoimmune and neurodegenerative components.12

Sleep And Autoimmune Conditions - Sleep Disorders


Genetic factors also play a role in autoimmune diseases and fatigue. Certain genetic modifications related to inflammation have been implicated in fatigue. Understanding the mechanisms behind fatigue in autoimmune diseases can allow us to improve the quality of life for those with autoimmune conditions.13

Getting To The Root Cause Of Autoimmune Conditions

There are a multitude of factors that contribute to the development of autoimmune conditions and one of the major culprits is toxins. Toxins refer to any substance that is harmful to the body and can disrupt its normal functioning. These toxins come from various sources, including heavy metals, mold exposure, hidden infections, and chemicals.

Heavy Metal Toxicity

Heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and arsenic are commonly found in our environment, and prolonged exposure to them can cause serious health issues. These metals can accumulate in the body over time and trigger an immune response, leading to autoimmune conditions.14

Heavy metals cause oxidative stress in the body, which is linked to difficulty falling or staying asleep. Heavy metals are neurotoxins, substances that damage nerve cells and affect neurological functions.15

Studies have shown that heavy metal exposure can lead to various sleep disorders such as insomnia and disturbed sleep. This is because these metals, specifically lead, have the ability to disrupt the body’s natural production of melatonin, a hormone responsible for regulating sleep-wake cycles.16

Read more about how heavy metals affect health.

Toxins From Mold

Mold exposure is another common source of toxins that can contribute to autoimmune diseases. Mold can be found in buildings with water damage or high humidity levels, and breathing in mold spores can cause an inflammatory response in the body, leading to a range of health problems.17

Read more about the health-damaging effects of mold.

Hidden Infection In The Body

Hidden infections, such as cavitations, are known to play a role in autoimmune conditions. These infections can go undetected for years, but when left untreated, they weaken the immune system and increase the risk of developing autoimmune diseases.18

Chemical Toxicity

Chemicals found in everyday products, such as cleaning supplies, personal care products, and even food, are also toxic to the body. Many of these chemicals like BPA and phthalates have been linked to autoimmune conditions and other health problems.19 20

Read more about the common toxins we take for granted.

Sleep Hygiene Tips

Sleep hygiene routines are essential for improving sleep quality, even if autoimmune conditions are affecting your rest. Having a regular sleep routine is crucial as it trains your body to know when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to wake up. This can help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and wake up feeling more refreshed.

Aside from having a consistent bedtime, it’s also important to wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This can help regulate your body’s internal clock, making it easier for you to fall asleep and wake up naturally.21

Additionally, avoiding caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol before bedtime improve your sleep quality. These substances disrupt your natural sleep patterns and make it difficult to fall and stay asleep.22 23 24

Light and darkness play a significant role in regulating our sleep-wake cycle. It’s important to adjust your lighting as needed, such as using dimmer lights or wearing an eye mask if you need complete darkness to sleep.25

Reducing screen time before bedtime and being physically active during the day can also help improve sleep quality. The blue light emitted from screens suppress the sleep hormone melatonin, making it harder to fall asleep.26 27

While napping may not affect your nighttime sleep, it’s best to limit naps to 20-30 minutes and avoid them late in the day as they can make you overly drowsy and disrupt your nightly sleep.28

Managing stress and worries before bed is also crucial for a good night’s sleep. This can include practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation, jotting down your thoughts in a journal, or talking to a trusted friend or family member about your concerns.29

Creating a quiet and comfortable sleep environment can also enhance the quality of your sleep. This includes controlling noise levels, keeping the room at a comfortable temperature, and using relaxing, natural scents such as lavender to aid in relaxation.30 31 32

Ultimately, the key to improved sleep quality lies in creating a personalized sleep hygiene routine that incorporates all of these elements. By incorporating regular bedtime, consistent sleep timings, avoiding stimulants before bed, managing stress, and creating a calm sleep environment, you can achieve better sleep and reduce the impact of autoimmune conditions.

The Connection Between Sleep And Autoimmune Conditions - Sleep Hygiene Tips

Sleep Hygiene Tips

The relationship between sleep and autoimmune conditions is complex, with a myriad of factors at play. To restore normal sleep we need to both get to the root cause of autoimmune conditions and practice proper sleep hygiene techniques.

Read more about chronic fatigue syndrome.


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18 Vasconcelos E Cruz J, Notter F, Schick F, Lechner J. Comparison of Cytokine RANTES/CCL5 Inflammation in Apical Periodontitis and in Jawbone Cavitations – Retrospective Clinical Study. J Inflamm Res. 2024 Jan 5;17:67-80. doi: 10.2147/JIR.S442693. PMID: 38197033; PMCID: PMC10775705.

19 Sharif K, Kurnick A, Coplan L, Alexander M, Watad A, Amital H, Shoenfeld Y. The Putative Adverse Effects of Bisphenol A on Autoimmune Diseases. Endocr Metab Immune Disord Drug Targets. 2022 Aug 15;22(7):665-676. doi: 10.2174/1871530321666210210154309. PMID: 33568039.

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