Sleep Facts

ABOUT SLEEP AND INSOMNIA

DEFINITION OF:

The definition of Insomnia is subjective.

It is your personal perception of poor-quality sleep, caused by any of the following:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Frequent awakenings and difficulty falling back to sleep
  • Waking too early

SYMPTOMS

Common symptoms of insomnia include:

  • Persistent fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Daytime sleepiness

Insomnia can be transient (usually associated with short-term life changes), intermittent (periodic bouts for months or longer) and chronic (constant pattern).

THE GOOD NEWS

Insomniacs are notorious for underestimating their sleep. Do you, or have you ever kept a sleep diary?

WHY DO WE FALL ASLEEP?

Adenosine is an energy storage chemical that helps power the brain. Researchers are looking at this as the reason we might fall off to sleep because it builds up the longer we stay awake, but when sleep hits the level of adenosine drops away noticeably.

SLEEP RESTRICTION?

Limiting the time you spend in bed to the hours you actually sleep has had documented success, and is apparently used in the Insomnia Programme at Stanford University. So if you only sleep for five hours a night, you might try going to bed at 12.30 am and getting up at 5.30 am for a few weeks. with no napping or dozing in between!

There are a number of benefits, including actually feeling tired before bed, and the satisfaction of sleeping right through the night without waking up. Non-broken sleep nights will question your assumptions that you can’t sleep.

ANXIETY DISORDERS

Insomnia is the most common condition that can aggravate anxiety disorders. Anxiety problems of all kinds are generally worse after a poor night’s sleep.

HUNGRY?

People who aren’t getting enough sleep risk getting fat.

In a study by Eve Van Cauter, a sleep scientist at the University of Chicago, men who were limited to four hours of nightly sleep had decreased levels of leptin, a hormone that signals to the body that you’re full. Although the volunteers were well nourished, their leptin levels were similar to those in people who were underfed by 400 kilojoules a day for three days. A study in 2004 found that sleeping for four hours a night for just two nights raised levels of the “hunger” hormone by 28 per cent and reduced leptin by 18 per cent.

Compounding the problem is the knowledge that sleep-deprived people tend to crave chocolates, sweets, high-kilojoule, and starchy and salty food.

HEART DISEASE AND DIABETES

Insomnia has been associated with a greater risk of heart disease and diabetes.

A study of 27 people by Van Cauter (the University of Chicago) found that shorter sleepers had 50 per cent more insulin resistance (and therefore the greater risk of diabetes) than longer sleepers.  Research suggests that sleep deprivation can derail the hormones that help keep blood sugar levels healthy.

PUBLIC HEALTH THREAT

In 1993, The New England Journal of Medicine reported that sleep problems were a public health threat as serious as smoking.

OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY ISSUE

If the alarming figures being quoted on accidents, related health issues, obesity, and risk-taking behaviour are true, authorities and insurance companies (including health insurers) will be showing a keen interest in sleep disorders.
Refer Insomnia Statistics, Depression, Sleep Apnoea, Snoring, Anxiety, Phobias, Irrational Fears etc.

It is worrying that some of the people employed in the most responsible jobs (pilots, medical shift-workers, doctors, truck drivers, air traffic controllers, etc) are under pressure to perform for very long hours – often making them sleep deprived.

Pathological sleepiness has been blamed for the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the Three Mile Island nuclear accident.

UNIVERSITY

Some of the most prestigious medical schools in the world now have separate sleep medicine divisions. They include Harvard, UCLA, and the University of Pennsylvania.

SLEEP MEDICATIONS

Long-term use of sleep medication is highly controversial.

REBOUND REM (Rapid Eye Movement sleep)

You can’t bank sleep or REM – although the body seems eager to try.

When people who are sleep deprived finally do hit the pillow, they have what scientists call rebound REM: extra-long REM cycles, which are more psychologically intense – they can lead to hyper vivid dreams and even nightmares.
Source: Neuroscientist Jerry Siegel, director of UCLA’s Centre for Sleep Research.

CIRCADIAN AND ULTRADIAN RHYTHMS

Refer Shiftworkers, Jetlag, Varying Sleep Times

DO DOLPHINS SLEEP?

The dolphin has the unique ability to let the right and left brain hemispheres alternate their sleep cycle so the animal is always ‘awake’.

GREEK GODS AND GODDESSES

Hypnos was the Greek god of sleep. He was the son of Nyx, the goddess of the night, and brother of Thanatos (death).

ANCIENT ROME

In Ancient Roman times the emerald was said to be the official gemstone of the messenger god Mercury, who was not only the god of paths and roads, but also of sleep and dreams.
Source: Buried Treasure by Victoria Finlay