The Disease Connection

Below are some (not all) diseases linked with poor sleep quality

Diseases Linked to Sleep Dysfunction

Many chronic diseases are initiated and progressed through the process of inflammation.  Lack of quality sleep increases adrenaline and blood sugar.  Inflammatory markers are triggered by fragmented or poor quality sleep.

Alzheimer's disease

Sleep and Cognition

Alzheimer’s is caused by the perpetuation of plaque buildup along neuron synapses in the brain.  These plaques are created as a response to inflammation.  In patients predisposed to Alzheimer’s, the mechanism that breaks down these plaques is defective. When inflammation is present, these plaques build up at a faster rate with the inability to break them down. Neuronal or brain synapses are therefore unable to fire leading to cognitive impairment.  Additionally, in REM sleep, the neurons in the brain shrink to allow CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) to flush toxins out.  If REM sleep is not occurring, inflammation persists and the vicious cycle continues. There are various types of Alzheimer's.  An individual does not need to be a carrier of the genetic phenotype to be afflicted by Alzheimer's. 


Sleep loss can lead to diabetes and diabetes can lead to sleep loss

Sleep has a strong influence over the hormones that regulate hunger and the feeling of fullness.  Quality sleep is essential for metabolic health.  Stages 3 & 4 (deep sleep) are crucial  in the body's ability to regulate blood sugar.  Poor sleep affects diabetes both directly and indirectly.  This occurs due to the inability to regulate hunger hormones in deep sleep. Sleep deprivation also increases the production of the stress hormone, cortisol, which can make cells more resistant to insulin. Additionally, there are changes to thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and testosterone, which can lead to decreased insulin sensitivity and higher blood glucose.   

All the changes to insulin and blood sugar and other hormone changes due to poor sleep quality bring the healthy non-diabetic person closer to prediabetes and eventually diabetes.  Obesity is the biggest predictor in the development of type 2 diabetes.  More than 90 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. Sleep affects diabetes indirectly as well due to its impact on body weight.  

**There is an associated impact of oversleeping on insulin and glucose as well.  Recent research suggests that getting too much sleep also has negative effects on insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance but this mechanism is less understood.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

GERD describes a back flow of acid from the stomach into the esophagus. Patients with GERD can experience an increase in the severity of symptoms (ie heartburn, coughing and choking) while sleeping or attempting to sleep.  

*Respiratory Reflux

A constriction in the airway can cause a vacuum pressure from the stomach resulting in gastric aerosols that can deposit in the airway. This can lead to inflammation, fibrosis, bronchoconstriction, and cough.  

Chronic poor quality sleep increases your risk for heart disease, and worsens the condition for those who already have it.  

Heart Disease

Also known as cardiovascular disease

*Leading cause of death in the U.S.


An improper beating of the heart.

Cardiac arrest or heart attack

The heart suddenly stops working and the person loses consciousness or the ability to breathe.

Congestive heart failure

The chronic inability of the heart to pump blood to the system. 

High blood pressure

The increased pressure of the blood against the artery walls of the heart.

Peripheral Artery Disease

Narrowed blood vessels impede blood flow to the limbs and peripheral areas of the body.


A lack of blood supply causes brain damage. 

***A major risk factor for heart disease is poor sleep- too short, too long or disruptive sleep.