Can a Lack of Sleep Cause Dizziness?

Chronic sleep deprivation can cause a litany of unpleasant and even dangerous side effects including an increased risk of depression, stroke, and other life-threatening conditions. Physical symptoms of lack of sleep include mood swings, feeling confused or disoriented, chronic fatigue, and in some cases, hallucinations.

Sleep deprivation symptoms present themselves differently in everyone, and for some, dizziness may be a result of lack of sleep. But, what causes this and is it common? In this article, we’ll take a closer look at whether or not lack of sleep can cause dizziness, why it happens, and how to treat it.


What Does Lack of Sleep Do to the Body?

Not achieving quality sleep does more than just leave you feeling tired and cranky. Your body needs sleep to perform essential functions like memory consolidation and tissue and muscle repair. Sleep directly impacts how well your brain functions, including how neurons successfully communicate with each other. Even though your physical body is at rest and working to repair itself, your brain is still active during sleep.

Recent studies show that sleep also helps purge harmful toxins in your brain that build up during the day. Getting adequate sleep also helps us conserve energy, promotes a healthy immune system, and balances your body’s internal sleep-wake cycle. Without all of the elements working together, you’re at greater risk of myriad diseases and illnesses – both physical and mental.

Can Lack of Sleep Cause Dizziness?

Now that you know how essential sleep is for our bodies to function at optimal levels, it doesn’t seem like such an outlandish idea that lack of sleep could cause dizziness. But, can it? And if so, how and why?

The short answer is, yes. While dizziness isn’t one of the most common side effects of lack of sleep, it can be the result of other indirect triggers.

Dizziness Caused by Fatigue

It should come as no surprise that lack of sleep, including insomnia and other sleep disturbances, can cause excessive fatigue and a dip in energy levels. According to one survey, 88% of people that experience poor sleep on a regular basis also struggle with fatigue. Dizziness can be a common side effect of fatigue. As your brain and body fight to remain awake and alert, you may experience moments of light-headedness. These are usually triggered by blurred vision, headaches, the inability to concentrate, poor coordination, and muscle weakness.

Headaches Caused by Sleep Deprivation

Headaches are a common side effect of chronic sleep deprivation and both chronic and acute insomnia and are also linked to dizziness. Studies suggest that individuals who suffer from poor sleep are up to 8 times as likely to also experience headaches. One report showed that sleep deprivation may increase the presence of proteins that trigger debilitating migraines in some people. While there are endless potential causes for headaches, lack of sleep could be one such trigger and also result in dizziness. Dizziness and blurred vision are two common side effects of migraine headaches.

The exact connection between sleep deprivation and headaches is still being researched but some scientists and sleep experts believe that certain types of migraines, like vestibular migraines, are triggered by abnormal messages in the brain. Understanding what causes these intense headaches could eventually lead to more advanced treatment and prevention options.

Changes in Blood Sugar Levels

Low blood sugar is commonly associated with dizziness, sweating, fatigue, and poor concentration. Unfortunately, lack of sleep can also negatively affect blood sugar levels, resulting in dangerous bouts of dizziness. When you don’t get sufficient sleep, your body produces more of the stress hormone, cortisol. High levels of cortisol can impact the efficacy of insulin inside the body.

Studies also show that sleep deprivation can trigger intense food cravings. This happens due to an increase in ghrelin levels and a dip in leptin levels. This imbalance can cause increased appetite and the desire to consume more foods high in sugars and fat, which directly impact glucose levels. The result tends to be a sudden spike in blood sugar levels followed by an inevitable crash, causing lightheadedness, dizziness, and headaches.

Dehydration and Caffeine Intake

What you drink or don’t drink is just as important as the foods you consume. When you’re trying to function on insufficient sleep, chances are, you’ll reach for a cup of coffee, tea, or another caffeinated beverage to provide a much-needed pick-me-up. The problem with this is that you’re also less likely to drink sufficient amounts of water. The combination of caffeine intake and moderate dehydration could result in dizziness.

Other factors are also at play here. For starters, caffeine only offers a momentary, short-term spike in energy levels. When you come down from this, you may experience lightheadedness and other unpleasant side effects. Caffeine also blocks your body from absorbing essential vitamins and nutrients including iron and vitamin C. Low iron levels are linked to dizziness. Because caffeinated beverages also double as diuretics, you’ll be expelling more water than you’re ingesting, which may lead to dehydration and, ultimately, dizziness. 

Increased Need for Sleeping Pills and Other Medications

Dizziness is a common side effect of many medications – both over-the-counter and prescription. And these include sleeping pills and other sleep aids. If you suffer from a lack of sleep or insomnia, you’re much more likely to reach for one or more of these products.

Many people report feeling groggy, confused, fatigued and disoriented the morning after taking a sleep aid. Other unwanted side effects include stomach upset, headaches, and yes, dizziness! The best way to prevent this is to opt for natural supplements, read all medication labels carefully for potential side effects, and speak with a healthcare professional or sleep specialist before trying a sleeping pill.

Increased Stress Levels

One of the most common side effects of insomnia and other sleep disorders is stress. Unfortunately, the relationship between stress and sleep is complicated. On the one hand, a lack of sleep can cause increased stress and anxiety for some people. While, for others, it’s stress and anxiety that are triggering their sleep troubles. This creates a vicious cycle of sleep deprivation and stress.

Another common side effect of poor sleep quality is mood swings. Many people wake feeling irritable, edgy, and easily agitated following a poor night’s sleep. These negative feelings quickly spiral into stress and anxiety that lingers throughout the day. Stress is often linked to dizziness. One reason is that stress and increased agitation impact your breathing, causing you to take shallow breaths, which may lead to hyperventilation. Stress also triggers a spike in your heart rate and blood pressure levels, two more factors that can cause unwanted dizziness and lightheadedness.

The Different Types of Dizziness Caused by Lack of Sleep

It’s important to note that not all types of dizziness are created equal. The most common types include vertigo, wooziness, disequilibrium, and imbalance – but there are even more! One such condition is often referred to as “lack of sleep dizzy”. This is also described as an overall sense of having your head in the clouds or difficulty concentrating and focusing following a bad night’s rest.

“Lack of sleep dizzy” is described as a disconnected feeling or a brain fog, as if you’re present in body only, while your mind is elsewhere. Prolonged poor sleep can also cause fatigue, making it increasingly difficult to focus. The more fatigued you are, the harder it is to balance. You may also notice your coordination is “off” and you’re at greater risk of falling.

Our bodies need adequate rest to reset and recover. Without it, your body will have an adverse reaction. This comes in many forms, including a drop in blood sugar levels which can cause headaches (as mentioned above) and increased stress. All of these factors combined create a recipe for disaster – or, in this case, a condition unofficially referred to as “lack of sleep dizzy”.

The good news is, treating “lack of sleep dizzy” is fairly simple. All you need to do is improve your sleep habits and make more time for sufficient sleep in your schedule. While this may sound simple, achieving quality sleep is easier said than done. In fact, over 35% of adults report sleeping less than 7 hours per night. Scientists link sleep-related dizziness to vestibular disorders which are known to cause a disturbance in the body’s vestibular systems. These are located in the inner ear and the central nervous system.

Common conditions that may negatively impact sleep include vestibular migraines, Meniere’s Disease, BPPV, and Labyrinthitis. Each of these disorders can cause dizziness symptoms in different ways and degrees, although vestibular migraines are said to have the biggest impact on sleep. It’s important to note that sleep quality alone doesn’t cause a vestibular disorder but it can trigger it. This works the same way stress can trigger dizziness.

Lack of sleep aggravates the immune system and the body’s inner workings, putting you at greater risk of developing myriad conditions and symptoms – including vestibular disorders. Similar to how stress and lack of sleep are interconnected, having a vestibular disorder can also make it more difficult to fall asleep. This creates a downward spiral of poor life quality.

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How to Prevent and Treat Dizziness from Lack of Sleep

If you’ve determined that your lightheadedness is caused by a lack of sleep, there are a few things you can do to find both short-term and long-term relief.

For immediate relief, find a dark, quiet place to rest. If you’re performing any sort of activity, find somewhere safe to sit and take a break. Drink water, close your eyes, and try to take slow, deep breaths.

While these tactics work great for easing dizziness at the moment, if you want to prevent dizzy spells triggered by lack of sleep, you’ll need to make changes to your daily habits and routine. The good news is, making a few simple adjustments to your lifestyle can not only improve your sleep quality but also prevent “lack of sleep dizziness” from rearing its ugly head.

Here are a few tips for getting started.

Create a Calming Wind Down Routine

Preparing for a good night’s sleep starts long before your head hits the pillow. In fact, you should start winding down and preparing for sleep approximately 2 hours before you plan to climb into bed. This includes performing a series of relaxing and calming activities that reduce stress and anxiety and put you in a positive mind frame for sleep.

Try taking a warm bath with lavender oil, listening to soothing music, or writing in your journal. Mindfulness and meditation techniques are another great way to quiet the body and mind before bed. Avoid performing activities that are too stimulating. This includes everything from watching TV or playing video games to scrolling through social media, working, or exercising. Exposure to blue light at night can stop your brain from producing and releasing the sleep hormone melatonin, which makes it easy for you to fall and stay asleep. Avoiding exposure to light too close to bedtime (and ensuring you get enough exposure during the day) also promotes a healthy circadian rhythm or sleep-wake cycle.

Examine Your Diet

The foods and drinks that make up your diet play a crucial role in how well you sleep at night and how likely you are to experience dizziness caused by sleep deprivation. When it comes to preventing dizziness, the quantity and type of foods and drinks you consume also matter.

For starters, the wrong foods can cause unhealthy spikes and dips in blood sugar levels. Instead of relying on quick snacks high in sugar to provide a quick burst of energy, try to achieve a slower, more consistent release. Fresh fruits, whole grains, and oats are great sources of essential vitamins and nutrients. Because it takes longer for these foods to digest, they provide more energy over longer periods of time. Iron-rich foods are another great addition to your diet since low iron levels can contribute to dizziness.

In addition to the foods you eat, take into account the drinks you consume. Sugary beverages, coffee, and carbonated sodas can all cause a spike in your blood sugar levels similar to the one you experience after eating a piece of chocolate. While the sudden energy burst might feel good, at first, the crash that is sure to follow is much more unpleasant. Caffeinated beverages are also a diuretic, which we know blocks your body from absorbing much-needed nutrients. Caffeine also has a long half-life. It can take your body up to 6 hours to process just half the amount of caffeine you consume in a day. This is why it’s so important to avoid consuming caffeine too late in the day or else there’s a high chance it will interfere with your sleep quality.

Get Plenty of Fresh Air and Physical Activity

Both fresh hair and physical activity can improve your sleep and overall mood while also preventing dangerous dizzy spells. If you find yourself getting dizzy or feeling groggy during the day, take a step outside. Not only can fresh air help provide instant energy and a mood boost, but sunlight can increase cortisol production, increasing feelings of wakefulness. And similar to iron and other essential nutrients, vitamin D promotes overall health and well-being

As long as you’re not also feeling lightheaded at the time, try taking a walk or jogging outside. Physical activity during the daytime makes it easier to fall and stay asleep at night. A brisk walk is enough to get your blood flowing and your circulatory system moving. This can counteract any dips in blood pressure you may be experiencing which, left untreated, can trigger dizziness.

Choose Sleep Remedies Carefully

Be careful about which sleep aids and medications you choose on your journey to finding a blissful night’s sleep. While some sleeping pills can help, others can worsen symptoms or interact negatively with your current medications. Some may also have dizziness listed as one of the main side effects. If you’re already experiencing dizziness due to lack of sleep or have a tendency to get dizzy when you take certain medicines, it’s important to read the labels carefully and speak with your doctor before trying a sleep aid.

Signs You Should See a Doctor

Dizziness shouldn’t be taken lightly. Even if you know your lightheadedness is attributed to lack of sleep, it may also be a sign of something more serious. In rare cases, you may need immediate medical attention or have a serious undiagnosed medical condition.

Here are a few signs that it’s time to call your doctor.

  • You’re fainting often
  • You feel nauseous or are experiencing vomiting
  • Your dizziness is happening more frequently
  • Your dizziness is accompanied by a ringing in your ears
  • Your vision is blurred or compromised

Even if you’re not experiencing these symptoms but your dizziness is a cause for concern, it’s best to consult with a healthcare professional.

Prevent Dizziness By Achieving Quality Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep is surprisingly therapeutic. It can improve all aspects of your life including your mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Because sleep plays such an important role in your ability to function, lack of sleep can be equally detrimental to your health. If you’re experiencing dizziness and other unpleasant side effects and suspect that sleep deprivation is the cause, Somnus Therapy might be able to help.

Our online sleep therapy program is designed to help you identify and understand the underlying cause of your sleep troubles so you can adopt the best treatment approach for your unique needs. Click here to get started.

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