Sleep and Symptoms of Adrenal Gland Disorders

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH

While sleep disturbances are fairly common, they can point to symptoms of adrenal gland disordersSleep disordered breathing, including sleep apnea and heavy snoring, are not uncommon among the elderly. It’s especially relevant as it’s also one of the common symptoms of adrenal gland disorders. This is typically a consequence of ventilation obstruction while people are sleeping and it is quite prevalent, and often goes undiagnosed among the elderly. Ricardo S. Osorio, along with his colleagues from New York University School of Medicine, has conducted a study in regards to sleep disorders. The study examined 2,470 people from the ages of 55-90. Those who belonged in the longitudinal Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative took part in the study. The major goal of the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative is to see if biomarkers can be used to measure the progression of cognitive impairment. These people’s medical histories were studied and they were placed into one of three categories. Either they were free of mental/memory issues, in the early stages of MCI — mild cognitive impairment — or they had Alzheimer’s disease. Some interesting findings were revealed from the data in the study.

All of those in each category with sleep disordered breathing developed cognitive issues earlier than those who didn’t suffer from sleep disordered breathing. It was observed that those who had sleep-breathing problems tended to be diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment about a decade before those who did not have these sleep-breathing problems. People who had either MCI or Alzheimer’s disease as well as sleep-breathing problems developed mental decline at a typical age of 77. Those who had MCI or Alzheimer’s disease but did not have sleep breathing problems experienced mental decline at an average age of 90. People who had sleep-breathing problems as well as Alzheimer’s disease developed the disease at an average age of 83 as opposed to 88, making a five year difference between those who had sleep breathing problems and those who did not. Even when other issues were looked at, such as genetic status, education, sex, body mass index, and other health problems, there was no change in the findings.

Foggy thinking and memory loss can also be counted among the symptoms of adrenal gland disordersWhile it looks as if sleep disordered breathing plays a role in cognitive decline, it is also true that Alzheimer’s disease has a negative influence on sleep. The reason for this relationship between breathing problems during sleep, and cognitive decline, is likely due to intermittent hypoxia during sleep. Is is probable that hypoxia disturbs the natural cycle of sleep, specifically between REM, or rapid eye movement, and non-REM.

Individuals who used continuous positive airway pressure in an effort to treat the sleep problem also saw more of a delay when developing cognitive impairment. This was not entirely true in the third subset, but this was probably due to small sample size. Those with Alzheimer’s disease did not see much significant difference if they were treated with continuous positive airway pressure, but there were only 35 patients who had Alzheimer’s disease and were also using continuous positive airway pressure. It is also possible that those who were prescribed continuous positive airway pressure were not using it correctly or throughout the night. There have been studies that support the theory that continuous positive airway pressure could help dementia, but in the study conducted by Osorio were not able to show the effect.

Dr. Lam’s Perspective on Symptoms of Adrenal Gland Disorders

Those with adrenal fatigue and who are suffering from symptoms of adrenal gland disorders find it difficult to fall asleep as well as stay asleepProper sleep is difficult to come by for those suffering from adrenal fatigue; in fact, both sleep-onset insomnia and sleep-maintenance insomnia are common symptoms of adrenal gland disorders. This is because the cortisol and other stress hormones mediated by the adrenals are dysregulated, keeping the body too alert to sleep quickly, and that gets woken up in the middle of the night easily, resulting in a poor quality of sleep. It is easy to observe the negative effects this lack of proper sleep has on mental function and mood in the short term, as people become irritable and groggy. Sleep disturbances can also be triggered by metabolic imbalances, such as hypoglycemia, and neuroendocrine disruptions, such as neurotransmitter imbalances. These are often seen as contributing factors in adrenal fatigue related insomnia.

The Alzheimer’s study results indicating a connection between sleep disorders and long term cognitive decline show that sleep has even more importance for mental health. For those with sleep disruptions as symptoms of adrenal gland disorders, it is critical that the underlying adrenal fatigue be addressed to prevent chronic sleep problems that can contribute to severe cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s.

Source: Neurology, 2015 April

Symptoms of adrenal gland disorders
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I just want to thank you so much! This is the first article I have actually read that has 100% accurately described my situation! I have been left in a state of Adrenal Fatigue for so many years that I had every single symptom. My family doctor had no idea, put me on anti depressants and all kinds of other poison. My hair was falling out and I ballooned up a hundred pounds and was sleeping 22 hours a day! I went to a Naturopath in my area who recognize that I had Adrenal Fatigue, but I never really put together all of the dry mouth, extreme urine output until now.