Insomnia is characterized by difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. If you have insomnia, then you likely do not feel refreshed when you wake up in the morning. This is common among people with fatty liver disease. Insomnia can have many causes, from anxiety to poor sleeping habits, but fatty liver disease is also a possible cause.
Fatty Liver Disease
There are two types of fatty liver disease, nonalcoholic and alcohol-induced 2. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is a condition where there is an accumulation of fat in the liver even if you do not drink alcohol or drink only a little 2. This type of fatty liver disease is common, and often has no complications or symptoms. However, it can cause scarring and inflammation in your liver. Alcohol-induced fatty liver is also an accumulation of too much fat in the liver. It is the most common type of alcohol-induced liver disorder. This causes your liver to enlarge, which may lead to discomfort on the upper right side of your abdomen.
Sleep disturbances like insomnia are common among people with liver disease. However, excessive sleeping, called hypersomnia, is also common for liver disease patients. Often, people alternate between insomnia and hypersomnia, which contributes to general fatigue. The exact reason for these sleep disturbances is unclear. It is possible that liver disease causes alterations in how the body makes melatonin, which is a substance that helps you sleep. Smoking, drinking alcohol or caffeinated beverages can contribute to sleeping problems too, as can some medications. Prednisone, interferon, ribavirin and propanolol are all associated with insomnia.
Cirrhosis is a diseased liver that is severely scarred. One of the causes of cirrhosis is nonalcoholic steatohepatits, which is the more severe type of nonalcoholic fatty liver diseases 2. Other causes include chronic hepatitis B or C and longstanding abuse of alcohol. The liver damage from cirrhosis can can disrupt the brain's chemical pathways, which alters sleep patterns. "The American Journal of Gastroenterology" reported in May 2008 that the antihistamine hydroxyzine restored normal sleep patterns in a study involving cirrhosis patients suffering from insomnia 3.
Another sleep issue that fatty liver sufferers can have is obstructive sleep apnea 5. Many people with obstructive sleep apnea are obese, which puts them at risk for fatty liver 5. Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition where your breathing stops and starts repeatedly while sleeping 5. Both insomnia and hypersomnia are signs of obstructive sleep apnea 5. A study in "Hepatology" journal published in June 2005 found that of the 163 patients with obstructive sleep apnea in the study, there was a significantly higher percentage of fatty liver disease in the most severe cases 15.
- Science Daily; Severe Sleep Apnea May Be A Risk Factor For Liver Damage; June 2005
- Mayo Clinic: Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
- Science Daily; Antihistamine Offers Relief For Cirrhosis Patients; May 2007
- UptoDate; Patient Information: Cirrhosis; Peter A L Bonis, M.D. and Sanjiv Chopra, M.D.
- Mayo Clinic: Obstructive Sleep Apnea
- Mayo Clinic: Insomnia
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