Woman in bed with a sleep mask wakes up and turns off the alarm. a clock with a timer, a woman yawns.

Dysautonomia: Dealing With Sleep Disorders

October 17, 2023
Healthy Sleep

Estimated reading time: 13 minutes

This blog is not intended to give medical advice. If you have a medical issue consult your doctor. We are not giving medical advice about dealing with sleep disorders. We are only providing information we have gathered that does not come from a doctor directly. Consult with healthcare professionals to get a personalized treatment plan that’s right for you.

Welcome to our latest blog post where we delve into the complex relationship between Dysautonomia and dealing with sleep disorders. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, Dysautonomia refers to a group of medical conditions that cause a malfunction in the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS is responsible for controlling many of our body’s automatic functions, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and yes, even our sleep cycles.

Now, you might be wondering, what does Dysautonomia have to do with sleep? Quite a lot. Dysautonomia can wreak havoc on the ANS, disrupting its ability to regulate sleep effectively. This often leads to a range of sleep disorders, from insomnia to sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome, among others.

Addressing sleep issues is crucial for those living with Dysautonomia. Poor sleep can exacerbate other symptoms of the condition, leading to a decreased quality of life. Moreover, sleep is essential for overall well-being, and its disruption can have cascading effects on your health.

So, whether you’re someone who has been diagnosed with Dysautonomia, or you’re simply interested in understanding the link between the condition and sleep disorders, read on. We’ll explore the types of sleep disorders commonly associated with Dysautonomia, how they are diagnosed, and what treatment options are available.

Woman with dysautonomia having trouble falling back to sleep. Dealing With Sleep Disorders.

What Is Dysautonomia?

Let’s get into what Dysautonomia is. In simple terms, Dysautonomia is a medical condition where the autonomic nervous system (ANS) doesn’t work as it should. The ANS is like your body’s control center for automatic stuff—think heart rate, digestion, and even how you sweat. When it’s out of whack, many things can go sideways.

Types Of Dysautonomia

There are different types of Dysautonomia, and each has its own set of challenges.

Here Are A Couple Of The Big Ones:

  • POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome): This one’s a mouthful, huh? Basically, with POTS, standing up can make your heart race like you’ve just run a marathon. It can make you feel dizzy and super tired too.
  • MSA (Multiple System Atrophy): This one’s more severe and affects multiple systems in your body, like your motor skills and blood pressure. It’s less common but more serious.

Symptoms And Daily Life

So, what’s it like living with Dysautonomia? Well, the symptoms can vary a lot from person to person, but here are some common ones:

  • Fatigue: Imagine feeling like you’ve pulled an all-nighter, even when you’ve had a full night’s sleep. Yeah, it’s that draining.
  • Dizziness: This can happen often, especially when standing up or sitting down.
  • Irregular Heartbeat: Your heart might sometimes feel like it’s doing a solo drum performance.
  • Digestive Issues: Think stomach cramps, nausea, or even diarrhea. Not fun.

These symptoms can make daily life pretty challenging. Simple tasks like going to the grocery store or hanging out with friends can become exhausting ordeals. And because the symptoms can be unpredictable, it’s tough to plan your day.

So, that’s a quick rundown on Dysautonomia. It’s not just a complicated word; it’s a complicated condition that can affect all sorts of things in your life. But understanding it is the first step to managing it better. Stick around as we dive into how Dysautonomia messes with your sleep and what you can do about it.

The Autonomic Nervous System And Sleep

Alright, let’s talk about how the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and sleep are like BFFs that sometimes have a falling out, especially when Dysautonomia enters the picture.

Role Of The ANS In Sleep

First off, what does the ANS do for your sleep? Well, it’s like the backstage crew at a concert, making sure everything runs smoothly without you even noticing. The ANS controls things like your heart rate and breathing while you’re snoozing. It helps you transition from that drowsy feeling to light sleep, and then to deep sleep where all the magic happens—like healing and memory storage.

Dysautonomia’s Party-Crashing

Now, what happens when Dysautonomia crashes this well-organized sleep concert? Imagine the backstage crew suddenly forgetting how to do their jobs. Lights flicker, sound goes off, and the whole performance is a mess. That’s what Dysautonomia does to your ANS.

Here’s How:

  • Messing With Heart Rate: Normally, your heart rate should go down when you’re asleep. But Dysautonomia can make it act all weird, like speeding up when it should be chilling out.
  • Breathing Trouble: The ANS helps regulate your breathing so it’s nice and steady while you sleep. Dysautonomia can mess this up, leading to stuff like sleep apnea where you stop breathing for short periods.
  • Restlessness: Your ANS usually helps your body relax and get into sleep mode. Dysautonomia can make you feel restless or even give you restless leg syndrome, making it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep.

So, yeah, Dysautonomia can really throw a wrench into the works when it comes to sleep. But don’t worry, we’re going to talk about how to tackle these issues in the next sections.

Adult woman, tossing and turning in her bed.

Common Sleep Disorders Associated With Dysautonomia

Now that we’ve covered what Dysautonomia is and how it messes with your sleep, let’s get into the specific sleep disorders that often tag along with it. Trust me, these are the culprits you’ll want to keep an eye on.


First up is insomnia, the infamous “I-can’t-get-to-sleep-no-matter-how-hard-I-try” disorder. When you have Dysautonomia, your messed-up ANS can make it super hard to fall asleep or stay asleep. You might find yourself staring at the ceiling at 3 a.m., even though you’re totally wiped out. It’s like your body forgot how to hit the snooze button.

Sleep Apnea

Next, we’ve got sleep apnea. This one’s a sneaky troublemaker. You might think you’re sleeping through the night, but actually, you’re waking up super briefly because you’ve stopped breathing. Yeah, it’s as scary as it sounds. Dysautonomia can mess with the ANS’s ability to keep your airways open, leading to these mini wake-ups that ruin the quality of your sleep.

Restless Leg Syndrome

Ever felt like your legs have a mind of their own, especially when you’re trying to sleep? Welcome to restless leg syndrome. It’s like your legs are throwing a dance party, and you’re not invited. Dysautonomia can make this worse by messing with the signals your ANS sends to your muscles, making it hard to relax and drift off to sleep.

Periodic Limb Movement Disorder

Last but not least, there’s periodic limb movement disorder. Imagine you’re finally asleep, but your legs or arms decide to do a random kick or twitch. Not only is it annoying, but it can also wake you up or keep you from getting deep, restful sleep. Dysautonomia can be a big reason why this happens, as it throws off the ANS’s regulation of muscle movements during sleep.

So there you have it, the usual suspects when it comes to sleep disorders linked with Dysautonomia. Each one’s a pain in its own way, but knowing what you’re up against is the first step to tackling it. Stick around, because up next, we’re diving into how to get these disorders diagnosed and what you can do about them.

Diagnosis And Assessment

So, you’ve got a hunch that Dysautonomia might be messing with your sleep. What’s next? Diagnosis and assessment, my friends. Let’s break down why this step is super important and what it usually involves.

The Importance Of Proper Diagnosis

First off, let’s talk about why getting a proper diagnosis is crucial. Think of it like this: If your car’s making a weird noise, you wouldn’t just randomly start replacing parts, right? You’d want to know exactly what’s wrong so you can fix it. The same goes for sleep disorders. Knowing exactly what you’re dealing with helps doctors tailor the treatment to you, making it way more effective.

Common Diagnostic Tests

Alright, so how do doctors figure out what’s messing with your sleep?

Here Are Some Common Tests They Might Use:

  • Polysomnography: This is the fancy term for a sleep study. You’ll spend a night at a sleep center, hooked up to machines that monitor everything from your brain waves to your eye movements. It sounds like a sci-fi movie, but it’s the best way to get a detailed look at what’s happening while you’re asleep.
  • Actigraphy: This one’s less intense. You wear a wristwatch-like device that tracks your movement and sleep patterns. It’s not as detailed as a sleep study, but it’s a good starting point and you can do it from the comfort of your own bed.

Both of these tests can help doctors figure out if you have insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, or periodic limb movement disorder. Once they know what they’re dealing with, they can start you on the right treatment plan.

So there you have it! Diagnosis and assessment are your first steps toward better sleep. Up next, we’ll talk about treatment options, so don’t go anywhere!

Treatment Options

So you’ve got your diagnosis, and now you’re probably wondering, “What can I do to finally get some good sleep?” Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Let’s dive into the different treatment options out there.

Lifestyle Changes

First, let’s talk about some changes you can make in your day-to-day life that could help you sleep better.

  • Sleep Hygiene: This isn’t about taking a shower before bed, although that’s not a bad idea. Sleep hygiene is all about creating a sleep-friendly environment. Think dark, cool room, and ditching electronics an hour before bedtime.
  • Exercise: Working out can help you fall asleep faster and enjoy deeper sleep. Just don’t do it too close to bedtime, or you might get too pumped up to sleep.
  • Diet: What you eat can also affect your sleep. Try to avoid caffeine and heavy meals before bed. Maybe opt for some herbal tea instead.


Sometimes lifestyle changes aren’t enough, and that’s where medication comes in.

  • Antidepressants: Some antidepressants can help regulate sleep patterns. They’re often used for insomnia and can help you feel more rested.
  • Sleep Aids: These are medications specifically designed to help you fall asleep. They’re usually a short-term solution, though.
  • Autonomic Stabilizers: These meds help regulate your autonomic nervous system, making it easier for your body to manage sleep.

Medical Devices

Last but not least, there are some gadgets that can help you out.

  • CPAP For Sleep Apnea: If you’ve got sleep apnea, a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine can be a game-changer. It keeps your airways open while you sleep, so you can breathe easily.
  • Orthostatic Aids For POTS: These are things like compression stockings that can help manage symptoms of POTS, making it easier to get a good night’s sleep.

So there you have it! From lifestyle changes to meds and gadgets, there are plenty of ways to tackle sleep disorders when you’ve got Dysautonomia. Remember, always consult with a healthcare professional to figure out the best treatment plan for you.

Woman sleeping in bed

Coping Mechanisms

So, you’ve got your diagnosis and maybe even started some treatment. But let’s be real, living with Dysautonomia and sleep disorders is still tough. That’s why we’re gonna talk about some coping mechanisms that can help you manage day-to-day challenges.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

First up is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT for short. This isn’t your typical “lie on a couch and talk about your feelings” therapy. CBT is all about changing the way you think and behave to help you manage your symptoms better. For example, if you’re struggling with insomnia, CBT can help you identify thought patterns that are keeping you awake and replace them with more sleep-friendly thoughts.

Support Groups

Sometimes, it just helps to talk to people who get what you’re going through. Support groups can be a great way to share tips, vent a little, or just feel less alone. Whether it’s an online forum or a local meet-up, knowing you’re not alone can be a big relief.

Mindfulness And Relaxation Techniques

Last but not least, let’s talk about mindfulness and relaxation techniques. Ever heard of meditation or deep-breathing exercises? These are ways to help you focus on the present moment and relax your body. They can be super helpful when you’re feeling anxious or restless and can’t sleep.

You don’t have to go full-on Zen master to benefit from these techniques. Even just a few minutes of deep breathing or listening to calming music before bed can make a difference.

So there you go! Coping mechanisms like CBT, support groups, and mindfulness can be powerful tools in your fight against sleep disorders and Dysautonomia. They’re not a one-size-fits-all solution, but they can be a big help in managing your symptoms and improving your quality of life.


Thanks for sticking around. Let’s do a quick recap of what we’ve covered, so you can go out there armed with some solid info.

The Challenges

First off, we talked about Dysautonomia, that tricky condition that messes with your autonomic nervous system (ANS). When the ANS goes haywire, it can lead to a bunch of sleep disorders like insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and periodic limb movement disorder. These disorders can make getting a good night’s sleep feel like an impossible mission.

Treatment Options

But it’s not all doom and gloom! There are plenty of ways to tackle these sleep issues. From lifestyle changes like improving your sleep hygiene and diet to medications and medical devices, there’s a whole toolkit of options to help you sleep better. And don’t forget about coping mechanisms like CBT, support groups, and mindfulness techniques to help you manage day-to-day life.

Your Next Steps

Look, we’ve thrown a lot of info at you, but remember, everyone’s different. What works for one person might not work for another. That’s why it’s super important to consult with healthcare professionals to get a personalized treatment plan that’s right for you.

Living with Dysautonomia and sleep disorders is tough, but understanding the challenges and knowing your treatment options is the first step toward better sleep and a better life.

Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to check out the additional resources lined up for you. Take care and good luck on your journey to better sleep!

Additional Resources

Hey, before you go, we’ve got some extra goodies for you! If you’re hungry for more info or just looking for some extra support, check out these resources.

Books, Articles, And Websites

Support Groups And Healthcare Pros

  • Dysautonomia Support Network – A community of people who get what you’re going through. Check out their website for local chapters and online forums.
  • American Sleep Association – They have a directory of sleep doctors and clinics.
  • Your Local Hospital – Many have specialized departments for sleep disorders and can point you to experts in the field.

Whether you’re looking to educate yourself or find a community, these resources are a great place to start. Remember, you’re not alone on this journey, and help is out there.

Thanks for sticking with us through this deep dive into Dysautonomia and dealing with sleep disorders. Take care, and here’s to better sleep ahead!

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