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Sleep Issues and Chronic Kidney Disease

People with chronic kidney disease (CKD) often have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Your physical and mental health can contribute to your sleep problems. These are some common causes for disrupted sleep patterns in kidney disease patients.

Restless leg syndrome

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) often occurs when the legs are at rest, such as when a person is sitting or lying in bed. The sensation varies from patient to patient. It can be irritating, itchy or painful. Some patients find that moving their legs makes the uncomfortable sensations lessen or go away entirely.

Doctors have  determined that iron deficiency, caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, diabetes and certain medications can contribute to RLS.

Sleep apnea

Sleep apnea causes your breathing to be interrupted or stopped for more than 10 seconds while you’re in a deep sleep. These non-breathing intervals are called apneas. Patients with sleep apnea often snore heavily. The snores continue until breathing is interrupted or stops, which signals an apnea. The person will then snort or gasp to take in air and the snoring continues until the next apnea.

A doctor can determine if you have sleep apnea by conducting a physical exam and a sleep study.

Inadequate dialysis clearance

A build up of waste in the blood can cause you to feel ill and uncomfortable. This could make sleeping difficult. If you’re on peritoneal dialysis (PD), your doctor will occasionally test your dialysate to make sure it is pulling enough waste and toxins from your body.


Worry, anxiety and sadness can keep you up at night. If your sadness, anxiety or depression lasts more than two weeks, tell your doctor immediately.

Changes in your sleep pattern

Sometimes patients who have CKD are more tired than usual. They tend to fall asleep earlier than their normal bedtime or nap during the day. If you feel that a nap can help you, limit your nap time. Naps that last longer than an hour can disrupt your sleep cycle.


Caffeine is a stimulant; it jump starts your body, making you feel more alert. Many people drink caffeinated beverages in the morning to wake up, and then  reach for a late afternoon caffeine “pick me up.” Unfortunately, too much caffeine late in the day can affect your ability to fall asleep  at night. In the morning, the caffeine cycle starts again.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, try reducing the amount of caffeine in your diet.  Keep an accurate food diary to show your renal dietitian.

For those on cycler-assisted PD

Patients who depend on Continuous Cycler-Assisted PD or Nocturnal Intermittent PD may find the cycler noises wake them up.

Many patients grow accustomed to the sounds. But if you are losing sleep because of this type of treatment, talk to your doctor about alternatives.

Tips for getting and staying asleep

The following are things you can do if you experience sleeplessness:

Expend energy during the day with exercise

Exercise can help you feel tired so that you can fall asleep faster and sleep soundly. Ask your doctor about starting an exercise program. They can recommend a program based on your physical abilities and current state of health.

Adjust your sleep clock

You can train your body to get the right amount of sleep each night. This means keeping to a sleep schedule. You should go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning.

Limit your nap times

Too long of a nap can mean you won’t be able to fall asleep later that night. Try to limit the number of naps and the amount of time you sleep during the day.

Cut back on caffeine, alcohol and tobacco

Caffeine and nicotine (found in tobacco) can keep you awake longer than you wish. Cutting back can help you return to normal sleep patterns. Try limiting your caffeine intake to 2 cups a day before noon and avoid smoking before bedtime or during the night. Andlimit your alcohol intake, especially before bedtime, because it can disrupt your sleep.

Find ways to relax before bedtime

Relaxing is an important part of getting to sleep. Find a light activity that you can enjoy before bedtime.

Comfortable surroundings can mean a sounder night’s sleep

A comfortable bed and bedding can lessen the amount of times you get up during the night. A darkened, quiet room will have fewer distractions to wake you up.

If you still have trouble sleeping, or if you experience insomnia for a week or more, tell your doctor. Adequate rest is an important part in your CKD treatment.