Chronic illness and poor quality sleep are connected

Chronic illness and poor quality sleep

Did you know that poor sleep and chronic illness are connected? Whilst not all chronic illnesses can be linked to poor sleep, poor sleep can be a direct contributing factor to many.

Suppressed immunity, hormone production

Poor quality sleep and ultimately sleep deprivation, suppresses your immunity. This is because sleep deprivation has a similar effect on the body as stress. Certain types of white blood cells – your body’s fighter cells – decrease when sleep deprivation occurs. Also, antibodies and other infection-fighting cells are reduced when you don’t get enough sleep. This basically means that your body’s defences to infection decrease as a result of sleep deprivation, making you far more susceptible to infections such as the common cold, flu and far worse.

Insulin resistance and type 2 Diabetes

Studies show that there is a causal link between sleep deprivation and insulin resistance. Type 2 Diabetes falls into the category of metabolic diseases. A study in 2015 showed that even one bad night can have a real effect on your cells’ responsiveness to the hormone Insulin. Lack of sleep causes your cells to become ‘dulled’ to effects of insulin in your blood stream. Since Insulin regulates the metabolism of sugars, fats and protein, if your cells are ‘muted’ to its signals, the amount of insulin produced by the body rises. Eventually the pancreas can no longer produce enough insulin for what the body needs and the result is a rise in blood sugar levels. This makes one at a high risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes, which is when the pancreas simply cannot produce insulin at all or in very minor quantities.


As we mentioned in our article ‘Is your bed making you fat?’, lack of good quality sleep actually plays a pivotal role in the levels of leptin and ghrelin in your blood. These hormones act as appetite suppressant and appetite stimulant respectively. Too much ghrelin leads us to have food cravings – specifically cravings for carb-heavy and sugar-loaded foods. Whilst too little leptin means you won’t feel full until you’ve consumed more than you need.

The human growth hormone

During a normal period of sleep, release of the human growth hormone (HGH) occurs. This hormone is responsible for growth in children and adolescents, but also helps to regulate certain metabolic functions including fluids, muscle growth, heart function, fat and sugar metabolism. In athletes, in particular, having enough quality sleep is deemed important in reducing recovery periods and improving performance – because of the secretion of HGH during slow wave sleep. Conversely, when one is sleep deprived, the body has little, if any, opportunity to release HGH. This means that your body’s natural restorative process is interrupted, and, in effect, it is aging instead. This lack of HGH can increase your risk for chronic diseases associated with aging such as hypertension, reduced muscle mass, thinning hair, heart disease and diabetes – amongst others.

So, the old-fashioned reference to beauty sleep is actually true – and the health and anti-aging benefits are phenomenal.

Pass the eye shade and warm milk please, we’re off to get some beauty sleep!

Leave a Reply