min read
November 1, 2023

Anaemia and Insomnia – Exploring the Connection

A restful night’s sleep is something many of us take for granted, but for those of us with anaemia, it can be harder to come by. While the reasons for insomnia and poor sleep are varied, you might be surprised to learn that anaemia, a common condition involving a lack of red blood cells, can play a role in sleep disturbances. In this blog post, we’ll explore the intriguing connection between anaemia and insomnia, helping you understand how these seemingly unrelated conditions can affect your sleep. If you’re wrestling with both anaemia and insomnia, read on to uncover the hidden link and learn what you can do to improve your sleep.

Understanding Anaemia

Iron deficiency anaemia is a condition characterised by a reduced number of red blood cells or a decreased amount of haemoglobin in the blood. Haemoglobin is responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues, so when it’s in short supply, it can lead to fatigue, weakness, and a range of other symptoms.

Iron deficiency anaemia is the most common type of anaemia. Less common types also include vitamin B12 or folate anaemia. Vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia occurs when a lack of vitamin B12 or folate causes the body to produce abnormally large red blood cells that cannot function properly.

Symptoms of Anaemia

Symptoms of anaemia can include:

  • shortness of breath
  • pale skin
  • heart palpitations
  • extreme tiredness
  • a lack of energy
  • pins and needles
  • a sore and red tongue
  • mouth ulcers
  • muscle weakness
  • problems with your vision
  • psychological problems, which can range from mild depression or anxiety to confusion and dementia
  • problems with memory, understanding and judgement

If you think you have anaemia, a blood test will be able to determine which type you have, if at all.

The Anaemia-Insomnia Connection

A recent study found that the presence of anaemia was significantly associated with a higher likelihood of having insomnia in adults. While the primary symptoms of anaemia are related to oxygen transport, it can contribute to insomnia in several ways:

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS): Anaemia can lead to restless leg syndrome, a condition characterised by uncomfortable sensations in the legs, especially at night. This can disrupt sleep and make it difficult to fall asleep.

Reduced Oxygen Flow to the Brain: Anaemia reduces the oxygen-carrying capacity of your blood, potentially leading to reduced oxygen delivery to the brain. This lack of oxygen can disrupt sleep patterns and lead to frequent awakenings during the night.

Increased Heart Rate: To compensate for the reduced oxygen levels, the heart may beat faster. An increased heart rate can cause anxiety and stress, both of which are known contributors to insomnia.

Fatigue: The fatigue associated with anaemia can make it difficult to maintain a consistent sleep schedule and engage in daily activities that promote healthy sleep.

Dealing with Anaemia-Induced Insomnia

If you suspect that anaemia might be contributing to your insomnia, it’s important to seek medical guidance. Your GP can arrange for you to have a blood test to determine your iron levels and the underlying cause of your anaemia. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, appropriate treatments may include:

  • Iron supplements or dietary adjustments to address iron deficiency
  • Medications to manage RLS symptoms
  • Lifestyle changes to promote better sleep hygiene, such as creating a comfortable sleep environment and maintaining a regular sleep schedule
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBT-I)

CBT-I is an evidence-based therapy that helps you identify and change thoughts and behaviours that contribute to sleep problems. It’s highly effective in treating insomnia. It helps change negative thought patterns and behaviours related to sleep. Sleepio is a CBT-I treatment that works with you to develop a personalised insomnia treatment plan, empowering you to challenge negative thought patterns, establish healthy sleep habits, and enjoy restful nights of sleep.

In summary, the link between anaemia and insomnia can significantly impact your sleep quality. If you’re experiencing both conditions, you may want to speak with your GP to see which treatment they think will work best for you. By addressing the underlying anaemia and its effects, you can take significant steps towards alleviating insomnia and enjoying more restful nights.

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