Lesley Gale was a light sleeper who began to have insomnia about 8 years ago. She consulted doctors and tried the remedies they proposed, but nothing seemed to work. Investigating on her own, she came upon a treatment called sleep restriction therapy, or SRT.
“I had heard of SRT before,” Gale wrote in an e-mail, “having seen a couple of documentaries on TV about it, and then did further reading on the Internet. But for years I dismissed it instantly as being absolutely impossible for me.” Napping was off limits during SRT, and this was a deal breaker.
We’re often warned about getting less than 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. Short sleepers—variously defined as people who sleep 5 hours and less or less than 6—are more susceptible than normal sleepers to a host of problems: cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and dementia. Many people with insomnia fall within that 5- to 6-hour range. Rarely do we get encouraging news about our prospects for a healthy life.
But recent research on genetic mutations tells a different story. Not only does it begin to explain some of the differences in sleep duration among human beings. It also suggests that short sleep may not necessarily have adverse effects on our health and quality of life.
It’s pretty well established now that exercise is good for sleep. Compared with couch potatoes, exercisers generally fall asleep more quickly, sleep more soundly, and feel more alert during the day.
The timing of your workout can also affect your sleep. Lack of exposure to sunlight can be a setup for insomnia, and now that the days are short, you may be able to improve your sleep by making exercise more regular or exercising at a different time of day.
Cold and flu season has arrived. If you have insomnia or your sleep is on the short side of normal, it’s a good idea to take extra precautions to avoid these nasty bugs.
Why? Research shows that poor and short sleepers are more susceptible to infection than people who sleep a solid 7 to 8 hours. This heightened vulnerability has to do with the immune system, which is seemingly compromised in short sleepers, just as it’s compromised in the sleep deprived.
Here’s a quick explanation of why we short sleepers need to go the extra mile to stay healthy, followed by a list of suggestions for how to do it.
Could more deep sleep be the solution to insomnia? Investigators have toyed with the idea for years. People with insomnia tend not to get as much deep, or slow-wave, sleep as normal sleepers. Finding a way to prolong slow-wave sleep might make our sleep feel sounder and more restorative.
Last week’s discovery of a sleep node in the brainstem associated with the initiation of slow-wave sleep is promising news in this regard.
Most of us know that drinking coffee after dinner will probably disrupt our sleep and that regular exercise will improve it. But some ideas I see tossed out about sleep and insomnia are not quite accurate. Here are six misconceptions followed by information that is evidence based.
Once on a whale-watching cruise, when the ship was rocking from side to side and I was clinging to the gunwale for dear life, I watched an 81-year old woman walk down the center of the boat with nothing to steady herself. The secret to her amazing sense of balance, she said, was 60 minutes of yoga practice every day.
A growing body of research shows that yoga also has a place among alternative treatments for insomnia. A new study of the effects of yoga on the sleep and functioning of older adults suggests how and why.
Worry is the most common reason people cite for sleep problems, and worry and sleep disturbance invite the use of alcohol. Worried insomnia sufferers are twice as likely as people without sleep disturbances to become problem drinkers.
But I’ve spoken and corresponded with quite a few people who say an occasional drink or two before bedtime gives them a good night’s sleep. Here’s a look at the effects of alcohol on the brain and differences in how people respond to it.