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Is Lack of Sleep an Obstacle to HIV Treatment Adherence?

By Kellee Terrell

September 12, 2011

Past studies have shown that over 70 percent of people living with HIV-positive have had issues sleeping, compared to 10 percent to 35 percent of the general population.

Lack of sleep can make one more susceptible to developing colds; it can impair your memory and can lead to serious health issues such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Most importantly, according to new data out of the University of California, San Francisco, not getting enough Zzz's can also negatively impact the likelihood of someone adhering to their HIV medications.

AIDS Beacon reported:

Results showed that 68 percent of study participants reported sleep pattern changes, 50 percent reported difficulty falling or staying asleep, and 21 percent reported problems with vivid dreams.

In addition, depression, suicidal thoughts, unemployment, drug abuse, history of incarceration, and high HIV viral loads (amount of HIV in the blood) were associated with poor quality of sleep.

Participants taking Sustiva (efavirenz) were more than two times more likely to report problems with vivid dreams, which are a known side effect of the drug; however, this was not associated with overall poorer quality of sleep …

Individuals who woke up several hours earlier than they used to and could not go back to sleep had a 66 percent higher chance of non-adherence compared to study participants who slept normally. Individuals who had experienced problems falling or staying asleep or problems with vivid dreams in the past three months had a 42 percent and 31 percent higher chance of non-adherence, respectively.

Researchers suggest that health care providers need to screen for sleep issues and treat them in order to improve adherence.

The study also found other factors that created obstacles to adherence: Depression and suicidal thoughts, bouts with homelessness, drug abuse and race (African-Americans were 35 percent more likely to not adhere to therapy compared to their white counterparts).

Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for and

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