What's the Link Between Hep C and Sleep Problems?

Daytime fatigue is a common symptom of hep C, but you may also have trouble when it’s time to fall asleep. A little more than half of the people who have the disease find it hard to get the rest they need at night.

Trouble sleeping can affect you at any stage of the disease. If it happens just after diagnosis, the drugs you’re taking could be to blame. It can also happen if your disease has progressed to cirrhosis or another late-stage liver disease.

Why Is Sleep Important?

You need a strong immune system to help your body work with the powerful drugs you’re taking to fight the virus. Sleep recharges your defense system.

Depression is also a problem for people with hep C. It’s scary to have a serious disease. And some of the drugs you take can bring it on. Lack of sleep only makes these problems more likely. Treating depression can improve your sleep quality.

Good sleep at night may also help with daytime fatigue.

Early-Stage Sleep Problems

If you have mild hep C and trouble falling asleep, you aren’t alone. About half the people with it have the same problem. If you haven’t yet received any treatment, your issues may be linked to depression, anxiety, or substance abuse. Your doctor should be able to figure out the cause.

Medications and Sleep

Interferon, the powerful drug that doctors often use to treat hepatitis C, can make it hard to fall asleep. It also boosts depression and daytime fatigue. Tell your doctor about any problems. He should be able to help you overcome them during your treatment.

Cirrhosis and Sleep

If you don’t follow your doctor’s advice, hepatitis C can progress to cirrhosis. This means your liver tissue is scarred and the organ can’t work the way it should.

This type of liver damage can cause sleep problems like:

  • Daytime fatigue
  • Need for frequent naps
  • Waking up at night
  • Depression
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Sleep apnea

How to Sleep More

Lifestyle changes might help:

  • Only use your bed for sleep and sex.
  • Get out of bed if you can’t sleep after 20 minutes. Stay in dim light and do something to make yourself sleepy, then try again.
  • Skip caffeine and alcohol for 6 hours before you go to sleep.
  • Take a hot bath or shower before you get into bed.
  • Keep your room cool.
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time on weekdays and weekends.

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If you have sleep apnea, try to lose some weight. Ask your doctor about a special mouth guard or a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine to improve your sleep.

If these don’t work, your doctor may give you medicine:

Sleep aids can help if you take interferon or if you simply can’t rest no matter how you try. If you’re thinking about taking over-the-counter sleeping pills, check with your doctor before you start.

Antidepressants may improve your depression and your sleep problems at the same time.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian on August 07, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology: “A Review of Sleep Disturbance in Hepatitis C.”

CATIE (Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange): “Hepatitis C: An in-depth guide: Sleep problems,” “Sleep disturbances and hepatitis C virus.”

European Journal of Physiology: “Sleep and immune function.”

American Academy of Family Physicians: “Hepatitis C.”

Current Hepatitis Reports: “Role of Sleep Disturbance in Chronic Hepatitis C Infection.”

Journal of Hepatology: “Active at night, sleepy all day -- Sleep disturbances in patients with hepatitis C virus infection.”

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