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Research shows poor sleep habits are bad for your liver health
By zoeysky // 2022-09-19
If you have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), excess deposits of fat accumulate in your liver even if you don't normally drink excessively. Unfortunately, NAFLD has progressed from being an uncommon condition to being a widespread health problem across the United States. According to health experts, at least 25 to 30 percent of American adults have NAFLD. But what does fatty liver disease have to do with poor sleep habits? Researchers who conducted a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism have found that there is a shocking link between poor sleep and the risk of NAFLD.

Three sleep behaviors linked to fatty liver disease

In a cross-sectional study involving over 5,000 middle-aged and elderly Chinese volunteers with metabolic-dysfunction fatty liver disease, which is another name for NAFLD, scientists wanted to learn more about the links between sleep behaviors and fatty liver disease risk. The research team also set out to evaluate the influence of obesity on sleep quality and NAFLD. Study results revealed that three specific sleep behaviors were linked to a greater risk of developing NAFLD. These behaviors are:
  • Snoring, which caused an increase in the risk by 59 percent
  • Having a late bedtime, which caused an increase in the risk by 37 percent
  • Daytime napping for over 30 minutes, which caused an increase in the risk by 17 percent
Study participants who had the highest risk of developing NAFLD were those who had disturbed sleep at night and took long naps during the day naps to compensate. This combination of factors caused the risk of NAFLD to more than double. The researchers also discovered that individuals with a sedentary lifestyle and central obesity, or excessive abdominal fat, experienced more prominent adverse effects from poor sleep quality compared to others who weren’t sedentary and obese. (Related: Study reveals insufficient sleep linked to increase in unhealthy abdominal fat.) Fortunately, making changes to your sleep habits can help reduce your risk of developing NAFLD, especially in those with unhealthy lifestyles. Yan Liu, a researcher at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, and study leader, said a moderate improvement in sleep quality was linked to "a 29 percent reduction in the risk for fatty liver disease."

Fatty liver disease can result in severe conditions

Simple, uncomplicated cases of NAFLD can be mild and many people are unaware that they have it. However, the condition can sometimes progress to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), wherein the liver is fatty and inflamed. When left untreated, NASH can progress into serious conditions like liver cirrhosis, a late-stage liver disease where healthy liver tissue is replaced with scar tissue and the liver is permanently damaged. Scar tissue keeps the liver from working properly. NASH can also progress into liver cancer, liver failure or even death. But you can reverse most stages of liver disease by making good lifestyle changes, like following a balanced diet and exercising to lose and maintain a healthy weight. According to the study, getting enough sleep is also key to preventing fatty liver disease.

Improve sleep quality naturally with good sleep habits

To improve your sleep quality, experts recommend having good sleep hygiene or sleep habits. Forming good habits that lead to restful slumber while breaking habits that rob you of a good night's rest. Good habits include maintaining a consistent sleep schedule by going to sleep and waking up at the same time. If you have trouble going to sleep at night, try some relaxing bedtime routines such as:
  • Drinking herbal tea
  • Listening to calming music
  • Journaling
  • Meditating
  • Taking a warm bath or shower
  • Using soothing essential oils like lavender for aromatherapy
  • Reading a book (If you're using an e-book reader, dim the light settings or listen to an audiobook instead.)
  • Make a skincare routine part of your daily ritual before going to sleep
It's best to sleep in a quiet, dark and cool room, with a temperature below 70 F. Turn off all TVs, laptops and cell phones. If "light leakage" is an issue, use blackout blinds or wear a sleep mask. And if you're still having trouble falling asleep, use a droning fan or white noise machine. Improve your sleep by:
  • Avoiding prolonged naps during the day. If you have to nap, limit the time to no more than half an hour a day.
  • Avoiding spicy, rich and large meals and sugary snacks within three hours of your bedtime.
  • Avoiding caffeinated beverages and alcohol before bed.
  • Avoiding vigorous activities within two hours of bedtime.
  • Hiding devices like your phone at least an hour before turning in for the night because the blue light from screens can interfere with the sleep/wake cycle, exacerbating sleep problems.
According to nutritionists, a daytime diet conducive to sleep includes antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, high-quality protein and healthy fats from superfoods like avocados, nuts and seeds. If you're having trouble getting a good night's sleep, practice relaxing bedtime routines like listening to gentle music or taking a warm shower. Improving your sleep habits is key to your liver health and overall well-being. Visit for more tips on how to improve your sleep habits. Watch the video below to find out how sleep timings affect your health and mood. This video is from the Health Tips channel on

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