Iron deficiency or anaemia is a disorder in which the blood does not contain enough healthy red blood cells, required by the body tissue to receive oxygen. As the name suggests, iron deficiency is brought on by a lack of iron. Your body needs iron to produce enough of a component in red blood cells that makes it possible for them to carry oxygen (hemoglobin). Hence, iron deficiency may make you feel lethargic and breathless. In fact, your body becomes unable to produce sleep hormones without iron.
Health Shots asked Dr Pujan Parikh, consultant, Pulmonary Medicine Department, Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital in Mumbai, about the link between iron deficiency and sleep disorders.
Iron deficiency can lead to sleep problems
Any fluctuations in your hormones or nutrient deficiencies can cause sleep disorders and disturbances, including period limb movement and insomnia. Dr Parikh says, “Iron deficiency can cause periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD), which is a type of sleep disorder.”
In PLMD, patients tend to get evening and nighttime leg pain that occur during sleep and causes sleep problems. This leg pain is associated with circadian rhythm, pain starts only during the evening and nighttime, but the patient feels comfortable during the daytime. People with iron deficiency may not be able to sleep either due to PLMD or insomnia, adds the expert.
Insomnia leads to an inability to sleep or maintain it. At times, people with insomnia may experience early morning awakenings, in which case they become unable to go back to sleep after waking up. Hypoxic pathways in the brain get activated in PLMD patients. In general, the data in PLMD point to pathophysiology that involves decreased acquisition of iron by cells in the brain. Whether the decreased ability is genetically driven, or activation of pathways, that are designed to limit cellular uptake is unknown at this time, adds Dr Parikh.
How to fix sleep problems and deal with iron deficiency?
If you show any symptoms, here are some things you should keep in mind to fix sleep problems:
- Fix your sleep and wake-up time
- Eat a iron-rich foods like meat, eggs, leafy greens, etc.
- Avoid caffeine-containing drinks, especially post-6 pm
- Avoid alcohol and nicotine intake
- Include foods rich in vitamin D like citrus fruits, broccoli, tomatoes and melons
- Exercise regularly to keep yourself fit
- Avoid heavy and late-night dinner
- The sleeping environment should be calm, and pleasant
- Avoid using blue light exposure from mobile phones, TV, and laptops at least 2-3 hours prior to sleep.
A lack of iron in your body can lead to several problems, including sleep issues. It can disrupt your sleep cycle and lead to problems like periodic limb movement disorder and insomnia. A lot of people tend to overlook the signs of iron deficiency or anemia, but it is vital to keep its level in check. You can keep anemia at bay by making some simple lifestyle changes that can be effective in not only treating the deficiency but improving your sleep cycle.