Iron is a necessary component of a healthy diet, and a lack of this nutrient can cause a range of symptoms. Left untreated, iron deficiency can lead to anemia and cause serious problems such as irregular heart beat and shortness of breath. Although a lack of iron can cause symptoms such as fatigue and restless leg syndrome, insomnia itself is not a direct symptom.
Iron is a mineral necessary for good health, playing an crucial role in many body processes. Without iron, the protein hemoglobin, which helps bind oxygen to red blood cells, allowing oxygenated blood to be carried throughout the body, cannot be made properly. Iron also helps form the protein myoglobin, which helps store oxygen in the muscles for use during physical activity. The Institute of Medicine recommends 18 mg of daily iron for adult women ages 19 to 50 and 8 mg for men of the same age range.
Causes of iron deficiency include a physical condition that impedes normal iron absorption, consistent blood loss, for example, from surgery complications or frequent heavy menstruation or an iron-deficient diet -- the most common cause. Chronic iron deficiency can lead to anemia, a condition with a host of physical symptoms, including weakness, dizziness, depression, sensitivity to cold and a lack of interest in relationships.
Insomnia, the inability to fall or stay asleep, is not a direct symptom of anemia, but sleep and alertness can be affected. Symptoms of fatigue and chronic drowsiness often accompany insomnia and are symptoms of anemia, too. Restless leg syndrome, RLS, is another symptom of anemia that can affect alertness. RLS sufferers report a creeping, crawling or pulling sensation in the legs that worsens at night and can disrupt sleep, leaving sufferers feeling tired upon awakening.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Symptoms of anemia are telltale signs of iron deficiency, but a blood test can also uncover low iron levels. Once detected, increasing iron reserves is the goal. Addressing poor diet, the most common cause of anemia, usually involves taking iron supplements and making consistent dietary changes. Heme iron, the richest sources of iron, are found in meat products such as beef, chicken and seafood. Nonheme iron is less readily absorbed by the body and is found in nuts, fruits, vegetables and grains. Consistent intake of iron-rich foods is important. In severe cases, blood transfusions may be necessary. Talk to your doctor if you have insomnia or think you may be deficient in iron.