Most—but not all—antidepressants tend to suppress and/or delay REM sleep (the stage associated with dreaming). This can be helpful for people with depression.
It’s not necessarily helpful for people with insomnia. In fact, REM sleep irregularities may be a causal factor in insomnia. So it pays to know a bit more about antidepressants if you’re taking them now or before you head down that path.
My insomniac nights are rare these days—but I had one last week. Nearing bedtime, it felt like a train was running through my body with the horn at full blast.
The mechanisms underlying hyperarousal are still unknown. But according to a study recently published in the journal PNAS, it may be linked to fragmented REM sleep and unresolved emotional distress. Here’s more:
Do you tend to dwell on upsetting thoughts? Does your arousal thermostat feel like it’s set too high, making it hard for your body to relax and fall or stay asleep? Insomnia is often described as a disorder of hyperarousal, yet how and why the hyperarousal develops is unclear.
Now a team of 13 sleep scientists from three countries have taken findings from different lines of research, conducted a study of their own, and come up with a plausible explanation for why our minds and bodies feel like they’re stuck in overdrive and just can’t stop. Here’s what may lie behind our trouble falling and staying asleep.
Rapid eye movement sleep (REM sleep) is when most dreams occur. Episodes of REM sleep also help defuse negative emotions and improve the learning of motor skills.
Until recently, insomnia wasn’t thought to be a problem of REM sleep. Insomnia, the thinking went, was caused mainly by phenomena occurring—or failing to occur—during quiet, or non-REM, sleep: insufficient deep sleep, for example, or wake-like activity occurring in other stages of non-REM sleep, resulting in insufficient or poor sleep.
In the past few years, though, REM sleep has become a suspect in the quest to identify what causes people to wake up frequently in the middle of the night and too early in the morning. (This type of insomnia is called sleep maintenance insomnia). Here’s more about this intriguing proposition.
Looking for an objective test of insomnia?
New research suggests there’s a relationship between insomnia and sleep spindles—sudden bursts of fast electrical activity that occur in the brain mostly during stage 2 sleep. Investigators at Concordia University in Montreal found that students with lower spindle activity reported more stress-related sleep problems than students whose spindle activity was high.
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.
Some people tell me marijuana helps them sleep. Just last week a friend from college—I’ll call her Marcia–mentioned she’d tried it and was happy with the result.
Marcia’s insomnia came in the middle of the night. She’d wake up at 3 and was rarely able to get back to sleep. Ambien helped for a while. Then her doctor refused to renew her prescription, so Marcia made an appointment with a sleep therapist and went through CBT for insomnia . . . to no avail. She continued to wake up in the darkest hours. As a last resort she tried marijuana.
“Just two puffs” at bedtime enabled her to sleep uninterruptedly until 5 or 5:30 a.m. This was a surprise and a relief. But the bigger surprise came when she quit the marijuana and continued to sleep through the night.
I roll my eyes when I see articles about how we humans are prone to miscalculating sleep time—in particular, people with insomnia. We tend to underestimate how long we sleep, and the conclusion is often that if we knew how long we were really sleeping, we wouldn’t complain so much.
That’s not the message of the latest of these articles, written by Derek Thompson in The Atlantic. Thompson looks at how the quest to prolong sleep ties in with the use of sleeping pills—but I think his analysis falls short.