Iron deficiency or anemia is a disorder in which the blood does not contain enough healthy red blood cells, which the body’s tissues need to receive oxygen. As the name suggests, iron deficiency is caused by a lack of iron. Your body needs iron to produce enough of a component in red blood cells that allows them to carry oxygen (hemoglobin). Therefore, an iron deficiency can make you lethargic and short of breath. In fact, your body becomes unable to produce sleep hormones without iron.
Health Shots interviewed Dr Pujan Parikh, Consultant, Department of Pulmonary Medicine, Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, 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 lead to sleep disorders and disturbances, including menstrual 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 experience leg pain in the evening and at night that occurs during sleep and causes sleep disturbances. This leg pain is associated with the circadian rhythm, the pain only starts in the evening and at night, but the patient feels fine during the day. People with iron deficiency may not be able to sleep due to PLMD or insomnia, the expert adds.
Insomnia results in an inability to sleep or maintain it. Sometimes people with insomnia may wake up early in the morning, in which case they become unable to go back to sleep after waking up. Hypoxic pathways in the brain are activated in PLMD patients. In general, the PLMD data indicate a pathophysiology that involves a decrease in iron acquisition by brain cells. Whether the decrease in capacity is genetic or whether the activation of pathways designed to limit cellular uptake is unknown at this time, adds Dr. Parikh.
How to Solve Sleep Problems and Cope with Iron Deficiency?
If you are experiencing symptoms, here are some things to keep in mind to resolve sleep issues:
- Set your sleep and wake times
- Eat iron-rich foods like meat, eggs, leafy greens, etc.
- Avoid caffeinated beverages, especially after 6 p.m.
- Avoid alcohol and nicotine consumption
- Include vitamin D-rich foods like citrus fruits, broccoli, tomatoes, and melons
- Exercise regularly to stay fit
- Avoid heavy dinners and late nights
- The sleeping environment should be quiet and pleasant
- Avoid using blue light exposure from cell phones, TV and laptops at least 2-3 hours before sleeping.
To take with
A lack of iron in your body can lead to several problems, including sleep problems. This can disrupt your sleep cycle and lead to issues such as periodic limb movement disorder and insomnia. Many people tend to ignore the signs of iron deficiency or anemia, but getting your level under control is essential. You can keep anemia at bay by making a few simple lifestyle changes that can be effective in not only treating the deficiency but also improving your sleep cycle.
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