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Using sleep in your fight against HIV.

Posted in General, Quality of Life on Friday, October 1st, 2010 by Kelly - Leave a comment


When we sleep, our bodies heal. In general, it’s recommended that people get eight hours of sleep each night. The amount of sleep differs to some degree by person and can also vary based upon other things going on in a person’s life. When you are fighting a chronic viral infection such as HIV, your body demands more rest.

Sleep disturbance is a common problem related to HIV disease. The frequency of sleep disturbance in those of us who are HIV positive has been reported to be as high as 73% of patients. These sleep problems are also showing very quickly after diagnosis even if you are asymptomatic. And they tend to get worse as HIV progresses.

The amount of sleep you get is directly tied to other issues surrounding HIV including depression, anxiety, complications and side effects from some medications.

Importance of Sleep

Having sleep is very important to us. It is very essential because sleep gives us the required energy to live another stressful day. It also gives us the time to rest, relax, and forget our worries and anxieties. Sleep also helps maintain our body healthy and keeps our immune systems working. It is as important as good nutrition and exercise so we should give extreme attention to our sleeping habits. Without sleep, our body will not function well.

Unfortunately, many of us don’t get enough sleep. Some of us experience lack of sleep due to too much work; stress, depression and anxiety, while others have sleep disorders or side effects that keep them from getting enough sleep.

As new anti-retroviral therapies are providing a life expectancy that is close to normal, long term adverse impacts on quality of life become increasingly important to those of us who are HIV positive Sleep disturbance and fatigue have a huge impact on daily life and disease progression.

Infection increases the need for sleep, and sleep is known to be a vital factor in keeping your body and your immune system healthy. Ample evidence exists that the quality of your sleep is significantly related to your immune system cell counts. Good sleep is part of an overall health maintenance strategy that will improve your ability to fight HIV on a daily basis.

Common complications of advanced HIV infection, such as peripheral neuropathy, can also be a source of sleep disturbance and make fatigue symptoms worse. Some findings suggest that symptoms of sleep disturbance and fatigue are independently associated with long term survival among those of us who are HIV positive.

It is really important to address your sleep issues to not only improve your quality of life, but improve your longevity as well.

Here are five things you need to know about improving your sleep with HIV:

Medications: It is widely known that several of the antiretroviral medications can contribute to or cause insomnia. Efavirenz – a common antiretroviral – has been well-documented to cause insomnia and other sleep disruptions, especially during early weeks of therapy. Long term uses of benzodiazepines like Xanax and the use of anti-depressant drugs may also contribute to sleep disturbances.

Stress: There is no question that the most common causes of temporary or longer term insomnia is stress. Worrying about something and having an your mind working at night can impact our ability to get a good night’s sleep. Combating stress takes some attention on your part and it goes hand in hand with learning to relax and coming to terms with HIV.

Relaxation:.When you are on the go and dealing with HIV, you might find it hard to relax when it comes to bed time because your mind is still working overtime. Wind down in the evenings by reading a book before bed, taking a warm bath or even practicing slow stretching and deep breathing exercises.

Exercise: Working your body is a great way to help you sleep because using  your muscles and making them tired you can make you sleepy by increasing your body’s need for rest. If you find it hard to sleep and relaxation isn’t helping, try taking a brisk walk or going for a bicycle ride in the early evening. Raising your overall level of physical activity will help you to sleep in the long term as well as improve your health.

Caffeine: Avoid caffeine, not just before bedtime, but also large quantities during the day. Not only does the stimulant effect of caffeine in drinks such as coffee, tea or energy drinks keep you awake for longer, but caffeine also reduces your ability to get good quality sleep. Tossing and turning in your sleep is almost as bad as not having any sleep at all.

It is important to talk to your doctor about your sleep before trying anything new.

To learn more about sleeping and HIV, please check out my new eBook series HIVantage coming very soon!

Also, please make sure that you have joined my mailing list. I will be giving away a complete set of my new HIVantage Point eBooks to five people in the month of October.

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