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Four Rules to Help HCV Sufferers Sleep Well

Nicole Cutler L.Ac. July 1, 2010

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By making sure these four rules are practiced daily, those with Hepatitis C will benefit from the resulting improvement in their sleep.

An estimated three quarters of those with Hepatitis C wage an ongoing battle against chronic fatigue. Although it seems ridiculously simple, getting a deep, restful, complete night’s sleep is one of the most effective solutions for this fatigue. Unfortunately, obtaining said sleep is not always an easy feat.

For those with Hepatitis C, sleep disturbances typically accompany their illness. In the January 2010 Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, S. Sockalingam and colleagues presented a review of sleep disturbances in people with Hepatitis C. They reported that up to 60 percent of patients with chronic Hepatitis C experience sleep problems. Some of the proposed mechanisms responsible for sleeping troubles in those with Hepatitis C, include:

  • Depression – Troubled sleep is considered by experts to be a hallmark sign of depression. It is estimated that between 24 and 70 percent of those with chronic Hepatitis C experience a major depressive disorder.
  • Side effect of interferon/ribavirin treatment – Up to 30 percent of interferon-treated Hepatitis C patients has newly diagnosed sleep disturbances.
  • Cirrhosis – For those with an advanced case of Hepatitis C, cirrhosis typically interferes with the sleep-wake cycle.

Sleep’s Importance

Variations on sleeplessness include problems falling asleep, maintaining sleep or experiencing non-restorative sleep. Because sleep rejuvenates the psyche and immune system, sleeplessness affects energy level, mood and overall health. The result of poor sleep is fatigue, which always perpetuates chronic illness. Long-term sleep deprivation is practically guaranteed to worsen the severity of chronic Hepatitis C.

A good night’s sleep is more important to the immune system’s response to Hepatitis C than most people realize. The immune system is activated during the deepest stage of sleep to fight disease. This is why people tend to sleep longer when they’re sick. Loss of sleep, even for a few short hours during the night, can prompt one’s immune system to turn against healthy tissue and organs.

As published in a September 2008 issue of Biological Psychiatry, California researchers reported that losing sleep for even part of one night could trigger the key cellular pathway that produces tissue-damaging inflammation. Obviously, inviting such inflammation in the face of the Hepatitis C virus is a surefire way to fan the flames of liver damage.

Four Sleep Tips

Those with Hepatitis C need deep, restful sleep to maintain their health. Thus, the following tips should be regarded as a strict set of rules – rather than just mere suggestions:

  1. Coffee Cut-Off – While several studies have demonstrated coffee’s benefits to people with Hepatitis C, it should not be consumed after 4pm; restricting caffeine intake to the morning hours is even better. Even if you can fall asleep easily after an evening espresso, your body will not get the same kind of deep, restful sleep with caffeine circulating in your system.
  2. Take Control of Your Sleep/Wake Cycle – You don’t need to be an infant to benefit from an established bedtime. A stringent routine of retiring and rising at the same time every day can influence the body’s sleep hormones to normalize.
  3. Modify Your Environment – Coinciding with the absence of activity and light, people naturally sleep at nighttime. Because we are designed to slumber during the darkest, quietest part of the day, our sleep environment should reflect that, with sounds minimized, lights low and the television (and other illuminated and noisy electronics) turned off.
  4. Relax Before Bed – It’s hard to fall asleep when your mind and body are racing from an active day. Take some time to unwind before your allocated bedtime by purposefully relaxing. Some ways to do this could be meditating, taking a warm bath, drinking some herbal tea or doing some deep abdominal breathing.

While severe and/or recurring insomnia certainly warrants getting help from a physician, many people’s sleep problems can be corrected by heeding the four rules described above. Individuals with Hepatitis C are especially prone to sleeping difficulties. Not surprisingly, those with this liver disease have a lot to gain from a good night’s rest. Thus, cutting off coffee early in the day, setting a sleep/wake cycle, controlling the sleep environment and relaxing before bed should be considered standard practices for living healthfully with Hepatitis C.

References:

http://www.hcvadvocate.org/news/newsRev/2010/HJR-7.1.html#5, HCV and Sleep Disorders, Retrieved January 26, 2010, Hepatitis C Support Project, 2010.

http://www.hepatitis-central.com/mt/archives/2009/01/why_depression.html, Why Depression is Likely With Hepatitis C, Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., Retrieved January 29, 2010, Natural Wellness, 2010.

http://www.hepatitis-central.com/mt/archives/2009/07/back_to_basics.html, Back to Basics: Helping Your Body Fight Hepatitis C, Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., Retrieved January 29, 2010, Natural Wellness, 2010.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-michael-j-breus/sleep-hygiene-101-how-to_b_412965.html, Sleep Hygiene 101: How to Ensure a Better Night’s Rest, Dr. Michael J. Breus, HuffingtonPost.com, Inc., 2010.

http://www.liverdisease.com/fatigue_hepatitis.html, Fatigue and Liver Disease/Hepatitis, Retrieved January 26, 2010, Melissa Palmer, MD, 2010.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19730115?itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum&ordinalpos=2, A review of sleep disturbance in hepatitis C, Sockalingam S, et al, Retrieved January 26, 2010, Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, January 2010.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200307/bedfellows-insomnia-and-depression, Bedfellows: Insomnia and Depression, Hara Estroff Marano, Retrieved January 29, 2010, Psychology Today, July 2003.

http://www.webmd.com/hepatitis/hepc-guide/managing-hepatitis-c, Managing Hepatitis C, Retrieved January 26, 2010, WebMD, LLC, 2010.

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