Sleep Disorders and Lyme Disease

I felt compelled to do a post about sleep issues since I have noticed myself, among others on our Lyme forums awake into the wee hours of the morning. Do I like the support and advice from the forums I am a part of? Absolutely. Would I rather be able to get a full night of sleep? Absolutely. LOL No offense everyone. But I am sure you all feel the same. ZzzZZzzZ

So what gives? You would think by feeling sick it would be so easy to fall asleep! So I decided to compile a bit of research to find some of the common types of sleep disorders, possible causes, the effects of sleep deprivation, how it ties into Lyme disease, and what we can do to try to get a full night of rest.

Having a sleep disorder (in fancy terms it is called somnipathy.. but we will go with sleep disorder) is a broad term for many types of disturbances in one’s sleep.

Sleep deprivation is considered a condition and is a general term of not having enough sleep. This can be chronic, or it can only least for a short period of time. It is a common occurrence, as with healthy people 1 out of 5 people suffer from sleep deprivation. According to, they recommend an adult to have 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Having a chronic illness however, you might need a few more hours to feel more refreshed. Careful though! According to researchers, there IS such a thing as too much sleep, that can leave you feeling even less restored.

First, I guess it would be better if I explained the process of sleep, to be able to understand exactly what is happening without certain levels of sleep.

That last part was leading up to.. there are several levels of sleep. Okay. I am going to explain this the best way I know how. This triggers memories of my Psychology class and having my first “C” in the class (gasp!). It is kind of confusing so I will keep it short and sweet.

There are two types of sleep. Rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM). REM sleep is the level of sleep where dreaming occurs, and accounts for about 20% your night of sleep. NREM accounts for the 80% of your sleep, and is divided into 4 stages. One and two are light sleep, three and four are deep sleep. Deep sleep is also known as slow wave sleep (SWS) actually begin a few minutes after you fall asleep and is the most refreshing and restorative type of sleep you have. This right here is why you feel more restored if you take a short nap versus a long one!

This SWS is only about 10-20% of your sleep, but it is needed for cell and musculoskeletal tissue regeneration, your cardiovascular system, normalizes blood pressure, hormones, and your metabolic system.

There are many types of sleep disorders and they are separated into two different categories. Hypersomnia and Insomnia. Hypersomnia is a term for a large group of disorders characterized by daytime sleepiness.. Insomia means sleeplessness, the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. There are 3 subcategories of these two different categories : intrinsic, meaning from within the body, extrinsic, meaning pathological conditions and disturbances of circadian rhythm, which means  the physical mental and behavioral changes that follow a 24 hour cycle. I guess you could somewhat consider it as your biological clock in a sense.

The common types of sleep disorders include:

– Sleep Apnea is a a more common disorder among Lyme patients.  Sleep apnea means you have one more more pauses or shallow breaths in your sleep. Some explanations for Lyme patients having this condition are that most chronic Lymies have neurological disfunction. With the neuro disfunction of the palara and uvula are a possible cause. Brain abnormalities. Another reasoning for this to occur is the floppiness tissues  in the back of the throat. Lyme patients with this condition seem to

– Involuntarily grinding or clenching your teeth while sleeping. It can interfere with sleep, and could be a high contributor to jaw pain and headaches as well. Cranial sacral therapy is a good choice to help ease the symptoms if you are suffering from this.

– Delayed sleep phase disorder, (or DSPD) is the inability to awaken and fall asleep at socially acceptable times but will stay asleep. This is a disorder of circadian rhythms.

– RLS! Restless Leg Syndrome. many people suffer from this. RLS is part of a problem called Periodic limb movement, which means involuntary movement of your arms and legs, and is considered a nocturnal myoclonus.

Those above listed seemed to be the most common complaints among Lyme patients. Here is a more extensive list of sleep disorders:


Symptoms of having a sleep disorder include and some also mentioned above: Poor immune system function, higher blood pressure (higher risk of heart attack or stroke), being overweight (can cause diabetes among other health issues), clenching teeth at night, decreased body temperature, tremors, fibromyalgia symptoms,  extreme fatigue  and a variety of psychological effects.

Psychological effects. No shit, right? Of course your psychy is going to be a little off teeter without enough sleep. Some of these issues include symptoms similar to ADHD, hallucinations,  slower reaction time, depression, anxiety, irritability, memory lapses, among other issues. That’s a lot. Shows how important it is to get a good night’s rest.

There are many causes of sleep disorders. Some of these include:

– Nutritional deficiencies, the main one being magnesium.. VERY common among Lymies. A magnesium deficiency can cause an array of problems along with sleep disruptions. Others to consider are calcium, folic acid, iron, and your B vitamins (especially B6 and 12) to name a few. I should note though, don’t take your B’s too close to bed! Yes, you need them, but they can cause you to have a harder time falling asleep as well as cause vivid dreams.

– Hormone imbalances. Check your Cortisol levels! Cortisol = stress hormone. When it is high (another common abnormality of Lymies), it can cause you to not be able to fall asleep. Reduced levels in testosterone in men can cause sleep apnea. Women’s number one hormone issue associated with sleeping problems is lower progesterone levels.

– Low blood sugar.Try sticking with a healthy diet (see Lyme Diet blog) for tips to eat a proper diet for those with Lyme disease. – I mentioned stress in relation to Cortisol levels, but another reason why stress can hinder sleep is that it produces two things called epinephrine and norinephrine, which stimulate the nervous system, which triggers a fight or flight” response in your body, keeping you up. HPA and ACTH, two chemicals responsible in stress response mostly related to an external stressor, AKA Lyme, can also keep you awake at night.

-Anxiety and depression.

– Other medical problems such as pain issues (which can be inflammatory responses), arthritis, gastrointestinal disorders, thyroid problems, respiratory conditions, among others.

– Lack of darkness. I know this isn’t a physiological problem, like I have listed above, but I felt like it deserved to be up here. Before you go to sleep, your body starts producing melatonin, a chemical in your body that makes you sleep and is essential for a restful sleep. This chemical continues to be produced when you are sleeping, with it’s highest production between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m.. Experts say that without total darkness, the effects of this is much less, causing a lessened effect. So ladies, take your men to Lowe’s and do some curtain shopping!

There are other causes are ones that we ourselves can do our best to stop doing, as we might not even be aware that our habits are keeping us awake at night. Poor sleep planning is the main one. Trying to go to bed and wake up at the same time and having a schedule is very important. Working night shifts can cause sleep problems since it causes your body to get out of a normal sleeping pattern, caffeine and other stimulants (check your meds, some have stimulants you might not be aware of!), sleeping with your pets (they can get up and down, or move too much), eating too close to bedtime (digestion disrupting sleep), alcohol and nicotine, exercising too close to bedtime (yeah us Lymies are super active!.. but you know what I mean 😉 ), ELECTRONIC DEVICES IN THE BEDROOM, among other things that we can change ourselves and try to help aide us get a good night’s rest.

The main issue with sleep deprivation and Lyme is that without a good night’s rest,  you are hindering the healing process. Sleep fixes and restores what you did during the day, and believe it or not, when treating Lyme, our bodies peak at fighting the little bastards when we are asleep.

If you wake up in the middle of the night and feeling like shit…yup it’s Lyme. Fighting at night.  If you wake up in the middle of the night with a weakened diaphragm and find it difficult to breathe, it is also likely a midnight herx. Of course, If you are having breathing problems, don’t take it as a herx for your safety. Make sure to rule out underlying causes please. 🙂

So what does one do when they just can’t get to sleep or stay asleep? Well, there are many things you can do, whether it is by your own actions or things you can personally do, or take natural supplements or pharmaceuticals to be able to aid in this process. I mentioned some above,  such as a sleep schedule, substances, electronics, and need for darkness, but others include avoiding stimulating activity right before bed, meditation, or taking a warm bath before bedtime (soothes and calms nerves), add some epsom salt and you detox at the same time! Winning.

If you have nutritional or hormone deficiencies, it is important to address those, and you can with many naturals, but some other natural approaches to fall asleep are melatonin, amino acids, l-tryptophan, valerian tea, kava, and glycine.

Prescriptions to help you sleep include Ambien and Klonopin. Lunesta, Sonata, Xanex, Tamapepam, Ativan, and Rozerem have also been shown to help aide sleep. Neurontin (Gabapentin), a drug that was once used as an anticonvulsant has shown to have good properties to help with sleep as it also helps decrease neurological pain.


Now. Go get some sleep 😉 ZzZZzzZZzZ,,,,,,, photo cred: and,,,,,,

10 thoughts on “Sleep Disorders and Lyme Disease

  1. My problem is I don’t get enough of that deep sleep. I’m pretty sure I don’t get enough REM sleep also. But it is better with some herbals. Still not great but better. Keep up the good work.

  2. My sleep changes but for the past month even with sleep meds I cannot fall asleep until one or two in the morning, and am literally dead to the world. If I just lay in bed any earlier all I do is sit and think about every little horrible thing that has ever happened to me and am in so much pain. So I wait until the “no time to think and pass the fuck out* stage. My alarm goes off for at least an hour until I can hear it.

  3. Pingback: November 24 is N-24 Awareness Day | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  4. Have had chronic Lyme Disease for over two decades. Did IV therapy twice for months at a time in the 1990s. Since that time I have become a vegetarian which has helped to greatly enhance my immune system. However, I have not been able to fall into any type of unconscious state since contracting Lyme Disease. No REM sleep at all; no restorative healing sleep.

    I developed sleep apnea early on in the Lyme Disease, and would stop breathing every time I tried to fall asleep. Eventually, my brain would not allow me to fall asleep. In the early days
    I of Lyme I would have a buzzing in my head all the time and when I tried to sleep I could hear my heart beating loudly tachycardia was a major problem with LD for years.

    I can nap comfortably, however, I am always aware of my surroundings, regardless of what time of the night it is. I hear the house creak, and when cars pass our home. I never
    get past the hypnagogic state.

    I only know of one other person who claims to never fall asleep, and this was after she was involved in an ATV accident in which she suffered a serious head injury that required brain surgery. She said that after the surgery she was unable to fall asleep at all, and that this had lasted for a year before she decided to go to a sleep clinic. No idea whatever happened with the sleep clinic.

    I know that chronic Lyme Disease patients suffer from myriad symptoms with this illness,
    including sleep issues. However, the sleep disorders are some of the more common.

    Thanks for your blog. It’s very helpful.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s