Insomnia Is Most Common
Insomnia - trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or both - affects about 70 million Americans says the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research. Short-term insomnia is common and may be brought on by stress or bad sleeping habits says Safwan Badr, past president, American Academy of Sleep Medicine and a sleep expert with Detroit Medical Center and Wayne State Univ. School of Medicine, Detroit. He offers these tips to combat the most common causes of short-term insomnia: Keep a consistent bedtime and waking time. Don’t watch TV in bed. Avoid daytime naps. If you can’t fall asleep within 20 to 30 minutes of going to bed, get up and go to another room where you can do low-key activities such as listening to quiet music.
But Give It Time ...
Exercise is a common prescription for insomnia but walking on a treadmill for 45 minutes won’t guarantee a good night’s sleep. It takes 4 months of consistent daily exercise to affect sleep, finds new research from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "If you have insomnia you won't exercise yourself into sleep right away," says lead study author Kelly Glazer Baron. "It's a long-term relationship. You have to keep at it and not get discouraged." Previous studies were done on people who didn’t suffer from sleep disturbances.This is the first long-term study to show the effects of daily exercise on people with sleep problems. Participants were older women, a population with the highest prevalence of sleep problems. The takeaway? Just do it. Exercise will help in the long run.
Frees Up More Time to Eat
A University of Colorado study which rigidly measured or controlled volunteers' metabolisms, diets, and sleep schedules found the reason behind the link between insufficient sleep and obesity: when we sleep less, we eat more, and we especially eat more fattening foods. Ironically, the study found that getting just five hours of sleep nightly boosts one's metabolism, and that the under-sleepers burned an extra 111 calories per day. But that was insufficient to compensate for their additional food intake, and for a shift in their taste toward high-carbohydrate foods, which boosted their daily calorie intake by some six percent. The result was an average gain of about two pounds in just the first week, indicating that sleeplessness can produce significant weight gain almost immediately.
Fall Asleep; Stay Asleep
A 10 minute stress reduction technique helped sleep quality in study participants finds research from Walter Reed Nat’l. Military Med. Ctr. The technique involves slow, deep breathing and invoking pleasant visual imagery. The study involved 135 men and 199 women with military backgrounds. Some had post-traumatic stress disorder. After completing questionnaires to assess perceived stress and sleep histories, participants were taught the technique and were coached in practicing it. They were then asked to retake the surveys. 65% of participants reported less stress and a significant improvement in quality and quantity of sleep while 34% reported heightened stress. While stress reduction is beneficial, say researchers, you have to understand the cause of stress before you can eliminate it.
You Are Getting Sleepy
Hypnosis can reduce hot flashes say researchers at Baylor U, Indiana U and the U of Texas. For the study, postmenopausal volunteers were randomly assigned to hypnotherapy or a control group. The women who underwent hypnosis had 5 weekly sessions concentrating on relaxation and images of coolness. They were also told to listen to an audio recording of a hypnotic induction. The control group had 5 sessions of group therapy and received a recording with information about hot flashes. All of the women kept diaries of the frequency and severity of hot flashes which were also measured by a skin conductance monitor. After 12 weeks, the women who underwent hypnosis reported 75% fewer hot flashes and better sleep than those in the control group who reported a 13% reduction in hot flashes.
Brain Activates Reward Center
When you do not get enough sleep, the brain will cause you to crave junk food finds a new study from Columbia University. Marie-Pierre St-Onge and colleagues studied the brains of 25 men and women using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while they looked at pictures of healthy foods and unhealthy foods. The scans were taken under two conditions – after five nights of restricted sleep or after a good night’s rest of 9 continuous hours. When presented with unhealthy foods, the brain was activated in certain reward regions. The volunteers were more likely to crave foods that were sweet or salty after periods of sleep deprivation. Previous research has also shown that lack of sleep triggers other responses that cause people to increase calorie consumption, leading to weight gain.
Less Sleep, More Head Noise
Results from a two year study that followed 117 patients with tinnitus, a condition that involves chronic head and ear ringing, hissing, buzzing or clicking has been shown to get worse with insomnia. Some researchers hypothesize that worsening tinnitus can lead to more emotional distress. Dr. Kathleen Yaremchuk, co-author of the study, pointed out that, “A chronic tinnitus patient presents a challenging clinical picture that may include anxiety, depression, annoyance or self-reported emotional distress.” Over 36 million Americans have tinnitus and factors that can lead to its development or make it worse are loud noises, ear wax build-up, sinus or ear infections, head and neck injuries and even Lyme disease, fibromyalgia and thyroid problems.
The Down Side of Sleeping Well
While sleeping pills bring relief to many with insomnia, a new study suggests that taking 18 to 132 doses quadruples the risk of death and increases the likelihood of developing certain several types of cancers. Researchers followed over 10,500 people with an average age of 54 years who were prescribed sleeping pills between 2002 and 2007. People that did not use sleeping pills were used to determine the mortality and cancer rates in those that did. Taking more than 132 doses a year increased the risk of mortality. The main culprits were the benzodiazepines such as temazepam and the non-benzodiazepines Ambien, Lunesta and Sonata, barbiturates and antihistamines that cause sedation. The elevated cancer risks in the sleeping pill group were not linked to any risk factors.
150 Minutes Per Week
People who participate in 150 minutes per week of moderate to intense physical activity sleep better and are more alert during the day, says a new study of a nationally representative sample of more than 2600 men and women, ages 18-85. It’s estimated that, among US adults, 30 to 40% have sleep issues or feel sleepy during the day. "Increasingly, the scientific evidence is encouraging as regular physical activity may serve as a non-pharmaceutical alternative to improve sleep,” says study author Brad Cardinal, Oregon State U. Researchers, who controlled for age, BMI, smoking and depression status and general health, concluded that the risk of feeling sleepy during the day decreased by 65% for those meeting physical activity guidelines.
People who have trouble falling and staying asleep have a higher risk of heart attack than their sleepy counterparts, says data reported on 52,610 Norwegian adults who were queried about their sleep habits. Researchers also examined hospital records and data from Norway’s Cause of Death Registry. The study finds that people who had trouble falling asleep almost nightly for a month had a 45% higher risk. Those with problems staying asleep had a 30% higher risk and those who didn’t wake up feeling refreshed more than once a week had a 27% higher risk. Heart attack risk increased for those with multiple symptoms. It’s unclear why heart attack risk is linked to insomnia but researchers say it’s important to be aware of the link and to report symptoms of insomnia to your doctor.
Long-Term Safety Not Tested
Menopause can bring about a variety of unpleasant symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats and sleep problems. Valerian root is an herb used for centuries as a sleep aid. A new study, published in the September issue of the journal Menopause, finds that the herbal preparation may also be beneficial for women who are experiencing sleep problems while going through menopause. Researchers with Tehran University gave 100 women either two valerian capsules or a placebo every day for one month. At the end of the study, 30 percent of the women taking valerian reported improvement in sleep quality versus only 4 percent of women taking the inactive dummy pill. Most side effects from taking the herb are mild and include headache and upset stomach.
Massachusetts Initiates Ban
Brownies laced with herbal relaxation ingredients are the target of a ban initiated by two Massachusetts communities because they believe they are not safe for children. Lazy Cakes contain a blend of herbs such as melatonin, Valerian Root Extract, Rose Hips Extract, and Passion Flower. The brownies are promoted to “bring on the ultimate state of relaxation.” Unfortunately, the cake’s packaging appears to be targeted to children, which Fall River Mayor William Flanagan says is the problem. Each brownie contains about 8 milligrams of melatonin, which exceeds the recommended dose. New Bedford City Councilor Bruce Duarte says that he has read of a case of a two-year-old hospitalized after eating the brownies. The cakes can be purchased at Walgreen’s and convenience stores such as 7-11.
Healthier Looking Too
“Sleep is a cheap and effective beauty treatment,” says the lead author of a new study that finds that when a person is well-rested, they are more likely to be viewed as healthy and attractive. Researchers from Sweden tested the association by taking photographs of 23 men and women between the ages of 18 and 31 who had slept for at least eight hours. Afterward, they only allowed the volunteers a five-hour night’s sleep, then kept them up for 31 hours straight and photographed them again. The photos were shown to 65 unrelated people who scored the first set of pictures to be higher in the realms of tiredness, healthfulness, and attractiveness. Sleep deprivation can impact a person’s facial features, such as the eyes not opening as wide and the muscles in the face to seem drawn.
In a new study, 77.5 percent of young people between the ages of 8 and 22 had trouble falling asleep when they used electronic technology at bedtime. These participants also experienced a higher rate of anxiety, learning difficulties and depression. The study, which tracked 40 children and young adults, indicates that participants sent an average of 33.5 e-mails or text messages each night during sleeping hours; their devices also woke them once per night on average. "The sooner parents establish appropriate times for children to use this technology, the better," says lead author Dr. Peter G. Polos. Dr. Polos and his colleagues at the JFK Medical Center presented their findings from the pilot study at the American College of Chest Physicians' 2010 meeting.
Abuse Potential Increased
Teens and young adults are twice as likely to receive a prescription for a controlled substance today than they were 15 years ago, conclude researchers from the University of Rochester in New York. The study revealed that in 2007 one out of nine teenagers, plus one out of six young adults in their 20s received prescriptions for drugs with the potential for abuse, including stimulants and sedatives, as well as painkillers. The prescriptions were typically written for back pain or other musculoskeletal pain, insomnia, or injury, reports MSNBC. Other prescriptions, such as Ritalin, were written for psychiatric problems or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
Aerobic exercise helps to relieve insomnia and improve mood in middle-aged and older adults finds a new study from Northwestern Medicine. The study is significant since about half of this population report chronic insomnia symptoms. Drug-free therapies to improve sleep are desirable and, particularly for this age group, eliminate the possibility of drug interactions with other medications the patient may be taking. "By improving a person's sleep, you can improve their physical and mental health," says lead author Dr Phyllis Zee. "Sleep is a barometer of health, like someone's temperature. If a person says he or she isn't sleeping well, we know they are more likely to be in poor health with problems managing their hypertension or diabetes."
Anxiety, Sleep Meds Implicated
Medications used to treat anxiety and insomnia are associated with a 36 percent increase in mortality risks finds a new study. Researchers compiled 12 years’ worth of data to conclude that respondents who used insomnia or anxiety medications had a mortality rate of 15.7 percent compared with a mortality rate of 10.5 percent for non-users. Researchers controlled for certain factors that might affect mortality rates including alcohol and tobacco use. "These medications aren't candy, and taking them is far from harmless," says study leader Dr.Geneviève Belleville. "Given that cognitive behavioral therapies have shown good results in treating insomnia and anxiety, doctors should systematically discuss such therapies with their patients as an option.”
There Is Help for Sleepless
New guidelines, released by the British Association for Psychopharmacology and compiled by sleep specialists from the US and the UK, will hopefully help doctors understand and treat insomnia and other sleep disorders. Insomnia, which affects about one-third of adults in western countries and is more common in women, is treatable and can often be improved with cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) which has been shown to be more effective than drug therapy. CBT also has fewer side effects. Many sleepless patients consistently resort to the use of sleep-inducing drugs despite evidence that their long-term safety and efficacy is uncertain. Armed with the new guidelines, doctors will be able to offer alternatives to drug therapy and hopefully provide restful sleep for millions.
Six Hours of Sleep Is Best
Chronic insomnia, coupled with a short sleep duration of fewer than six hours, significantly increase the risk of death in men, finds a Penn State study published in the journal Sleep that says that risk is four times greater than for men with healthier sleeping habits. Results of the study, which involved 1000 men and women and included a fourteen-year follow-up period, were adjusted to consider potential complications including obesity and sleep apnea. The study found no significant risk for female insomniacs who stayed asleep for fewer than six hour periods. "We believe that cumulatively these findings will increase the awareness among physicians and scientists that insomnia should be diagnosed early and treated appropriately," said principal investigator Alexandros N.Vgontzas.
Natural Source of Melatonin
According to a new study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, tart cherry juice could help reduce the severity of insomnia and time spent awake after going to sleep. The small study of 15 older adults found that those who drank 8 ounces of a tart cherry juice beverage called CheriBundi twice a day (morning and evening) for two weeks reported less sleeplessness and saved about 17 minutes of wake time after going to bed. The researchers suspect that the high content of melatonin in the tart cherries help to moderate the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Sleep issues plague more than 40 million adults in the United States, according to statistics by the National Institutes of Health. Cherries are also rich in anthocyanins that provide health benefits such as reduced inflammation.
Little Pink Pill on Hold
"The sexist FDA advisory committee thinks that women are too stupid to make intelligent decisions about their own lives"
- Brock in the comments
Flibanserin, a drug intended to boost sexual desire in females, failed to gain acceptance from the Food and Drug Administration advisory committee on Friday. The flibanserin decision isn't final yet, but the FDA usually follows the advice of the committee, reports CNN. The advisory committee says that the drug, developed by Boehringer Ingelheim, isn't effective. According to Boehringer Ingelheim, women with low libido who weren't taking the drug had an average of 2.8 sexually satisfying events a month, compared with women taking flibanserin who had 4.5 such events in a month. However, the advisory committee believes that the drug's side effects outweigh its benefits. Around 15 percent of women taking flibanserin stopped the drug due to anxiety, dizziness, nausea and insomnia.
State of Hyperarousal
The brains of older people with insomnia function differently than the brains of those who have no sleep problems, according to Dutch scientist, Ellemarije Altena, who investigated the consequences of sleeplessness. Study participants, who included insomniacs and those with no sleep problems, were put through a series of tasks that tested response time and cognition. Insomniacs scored surprisingly well, at times surpassing their less sleep-deprived contemporaries, particularly when it came to shorter tasks. Altena attributes this to a state of “hyperarousal,” or a mild form of stress, that insomniacs develop to compensate for lack of sleep. But they fell short when it came to tasks that required a decision. Altena hopes the study will lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment of insomnia.
Night of Sleep Can Be Advantage
"Playing a lot of Guitar Hero also improves performance on Guitar Hero"
- Joseph in the comments
Scientists have used the popular Activision video game “Guitar Hero III” in a study that found that sleep duration has a significant impact on performance accuracy of a complex motor-learning task. The research team from Trent University in Ontario, Canada studied 15 college students, 13 women and 2 men, who played one of two songs after a night of sleep and again one week later after a similar amount of daytime wakefulness. After a night of sleep, the students reached an accuracy level of 68% compared to 61% after a 12-hour period of being awake. Principle investigator Kevin Peters PhD says that the results indicate that sleep can help consolidate the skills people encounter in their daily lives. The results of the study were presented at SLEEP 2010 in San Antonio.
More Prevalent in Men
Sexsomnia, or sleep sex, involves committing sexual acts while asleep and, according to a research abstract presented to the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC, it was reported by 7.6 percent of patients at sleep disorder centers. "While our finding of eight percent of people reporting sexsomnia seems really a high number, it should be stressed that we only studied patients referred to a sleep clinic. So, we would expect the numbers to be much lower in the general population," said co-investigator Sharon A. Chung, PhD who found that sexsomniacs also experienced depression, insomnia and fatigue. In addition, Chung noted that only four of the 832 participants in the study reported incidents of sexsomnia. "It seems that patients generally don't discuss this with their doctors.”
How Long You Sleep Matters
A recent study published in the Sleep journal indicates that constantly sleeping too much or not enough can have an adverse effect on your health. Professor Francesco Cappuccio, leader of the Sleep, Health and Society Programme at the University of Warwick, said "whilst short sleep may represent a cause of ill-health, long sleep is believed to represent more an indicator of ill-health." There's a direct link between sleeping less than six hours a night and an increased chance of dying prematurely. However, consistently sleeping over nine hours a night is a sign of a potentially fatal illness. Professor Cappuccio suggests that sleeping between six to eight hours a night for an optimal health.
Roughly one-quarter of Americans involved in steady relationships are too tired to have sex, says a study conducted by the National Sleep Foundation. The study, which was not geared specifically to researching Americans’ sexual frequency, focused on different ethnic groups’ sleep habits but found that responses to questions about lack of sleep and sexual frequency were about the same, regardless of ethnicity. The study also found that one in 10 whites had received a diagnosis of insomnia whereas one in seven blacks were most likely to have sleep apnea. Approximately three out of every eight Hispanics lost sleep worrying about money, work, personal and health problems. Asian-Americans had the fewest sleepless nights saying they got a good night’s sleep a few times a week.