Here’s How Relationships Can Affect Your Sleep In The Long-Term, According To Experts

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By Julia Guerra

Not to freak you out or anything, but the choices you make today really do have an impact on your future, even in ways you wouldn’t expect. Life is funny that way; sometimes two completely different aspects of life can collide like colors in a messy drawing, and you’re stuck trying to figure out the bigger picture. Take your love life, for example. Did you know your romantic relationships can affect your sleep? I’m not necessarily referring to that can’t-eat, can’t-sleep phase where everything’s coming up roses and you and your partner can’t get enough of each other, either. According to new research, negative relationship experiences in early adulthood might have some unexpected effects on your sleep quality well into your 30s.

According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, 50 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders, while an additional 20 to 30 million report the occasional night of tossing and turning. If you’re among that 20 to 30 million, but haven’t been able to identify the issue just yet, the results of a new study, published in Personal Relationships, a journal of the International Association For Relationship Research, suggest that negative romantic relationship experiences can impact your sleep quality over the long-term. I know, like the negative relationship itself wasn’t bad enough, right?

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The study documented the possible correlation between participants’ romantic relationships, stress, and how both of these elements affect sleep quality over the course of adulthood. Researchers recruited 112 participants from the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Risk and Adaptation and studied them from the age of 23 years old to 32 years old. In the end, per a ScienceDaily press release, the researchers found that people who reported having positive relationship experiences in their early 20s were less stressed and enjoying quality sleep in their early 30s. “Although a large body of evidence shows that relationships are important for health, we are just beginning to understand how the characteristics of people’s close relationships affect health behaviors, such as sleep,” Chloe Huelsnitz, a PhD candidate at the University of Minnesota and lead author of the study, said in a statement, per the ScienceDaily press release.

Generally speaking, says Dr. Tammy Nelson, a sex and relationship expert and licensed psychotherapist, one of the most common emotions that can affect your sleep patterns is anxiety, and as I’m sure you know from experience, no matter how good or bad your relationship is, it can sometimes give you a little bit of stress.

“Being anxious can keep us up at night, prevent sleep, and wake us up once we are asleep,” because it raises blood pressure, increases heart rate, quickens your pulse, and tenses up your muscles, Nelson tells Elite Daily over email. “These are all reactions that are in direct opposition to the relaxation that needs to happen when we are asleep.”

But even after you and a partner eventually decide to part ways, if you’re still dealing with pent-up feelings of stress from the relationship, Natalie Dautovich, an environmental scholar for the National Sleep Foundation, says you can still be affected. “We are physically most vulnerable when we are sleeping, so sleep is most possible when we feel safe and secure,” Dautovich tells Elite Daily.

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If you’re reading all of this and thinking “well, that’s pretty unfair,” you aren’t wrong. But the thing is, you still have control over your sleep health, and there are ways to ensure that, no matter what happens in terms of your love life, you’re still doing everything you can to get your rest.

Of course, if you are currently in a relationship, that doesn’t just automatically mean your sleep health, in the short- or long-term, is doomed. In fact, a physical connection with a loved one, such as a hug, kiss, or even sex, can calm your nervous system, therefore decreasing stress and anxiety, making it easier to fall and stay asleep, Nelson explains. However, at the same time, it’s important to remember that having your own bedtime routine of some kind, made up of rituals (taking a warm bath, meditating, journaling, diffusing essential oils, etc.) that soothe you without the help of a partner, she adds, is just as key.

Having an SO around can also benefit your sleep health in some slightly more unexpected ways. For instance, they can be there to help hold you accountable when you’re trying to cut back on using your phone in bed, or stick to an earlier bedtime. “A benefit of having a sleeping partner is that they often are the first to notice sleep difficulties (e.g., snoring related to sleep apnea),” Dautovich says, so the two of you can both provide support and promote healthy sleep behaviors for one another. It’s certainly worth the try, right? Clearly the sleep of your future self depends on it.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia | Patient Advice | US News

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By Michael O. Schroeder

Many, many people have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Research generally suggests that around a third of Americans have insomnia at any given time, and about 1 in 10 have chronic insomnia, lasting three months or longer.

Not getting adequate rest can affect mood (while depression can also contribute to insomnia), undermine motivation, increase irritability and make it difficult to just get through the day. “For those who take care of small children or have a lot of family and work responsibilities to balance,” the National Sleep Foundation notes, “insomnia can make these tasks feel even more overwhelming when you are tired.”

Often people try over-the-counter sleep aids or nothing at all – just thinking they have to live with it – rather than seeking help from a professional.

It’s common for patients who see Dr. Rafael Pelayo to have been struggling with insomnia for years. It’s “not unusual for me to see someone with decades of poor sleep,” says the sleep specialist and clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine. But even those who’ve had chronic insomnia for years can still get better when the insomnia is addressed correctly, he says.

And although the treatment isn’t new, there’s growing recognition of a tailored therapeutic approach used to change a person’s thinking and behavior that has lasting benefits for the majority who undergo it: cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia. Most who undergo four to eight sessions of CBT-I experience a significant reduction in their symptoms – namely the time required to fall asleep, the amount of time spent awake or both – notes Michael Perlis, director of the behavioral sleep medicine program in the department of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania.

While experts note that sleep medication, prescribed in combination with CBT-I or alone, is another option, CBT-I’s “durable results” – generally continuing after a person stops the therapy – make it an optimal approach. “It is recommended as the first line treatment,” Perlis says.

It’s not just mental health professionals advocating for the treatment either, but the medical establishment. The American College of Physicians led the way in guidelines published in 2016ACP recommends that all adult patients receive cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) as the initial treatment for chronic insomnia disorder,” the medical society asserted.

Perlis explains that CBT-I has four components: sleep restriction, stimulus control, sleep hygiene and cognitive therapy. Often it’s counterintuitive, too, like with sleep restriction. One might think that if you can’t sleep you should stay in bed for longer. But actually experts say it’s important to match your sleep opportunity, or how long you’re in bed, with how long you’re able to sleep, and then gradually work on increasing sleep time. “It doesn’t aim to restrict actual sleep time but rather to initially restrict the time spent in bed,” Stanford Health Care’s website explains, regarding the sleep restriction component of CBT-I. “Subsequent steps consist of gradually increasing the time spent in bed.”

While some people may feel they’re familiar with certain concepts and components of CBT-I, like sleep hygiene (being mindful of how factors like substance use, such as caffeine and alcohol consumption, can affect sleep), implementing it correctly tends to be more complex and involved. Experts say that’s why it’s key to see a professional experienced in CBT-I for effective treatment. “Those that try to do CBT-I to themselves are likely to not be successful,” Perlis says. “But worse is that they will believe that they’ve been there, done that, and so the likelihood of seeking out professionally administered CBT-I goes way down.”

One significant limitation with CBT-I, however, is access. “Finding a therapist is not easy,” Perlis says. “CBT-I is not yet available in every state or every city.” However, there are some directories – he recommends a couple through Perelman School of Medicine at Pennsylvania University and the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine, respectively – that can be used to find therapists who do CBT-I.

Pelayo points out that for those who aren’t able to see a professional who does CBT-I in their area, there are online CBT-I programs that allow a person to engage in the therapy from home virtually. “I’m OK with somebody doing it online if they want to – if they live far away,” Pelayo says. “And if they got better, I’m happy for them, of course. But if they don’t get better, if they’ve done the online thing, then we actually want them to have a face-to-face.”

He says patients typically pay cash for online CBT-I.

Insurance coverage of in-person cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia varies. So it’s important to check in advance to determine that. As the therapy is more widely used, and given the support for its effectiveness, clinicians are hopeful insurance coverage of CBT-I will improve, but it’s not universal today.

Pelayo says some individuals, like those with profound autism or schizophrenia, aren’t able to participate in CBT-I. Others, he says, either prefer not to undergo therapy, or aren’t able or don’t want to make the time commitment.

Certainly, CBT-I has advantages – notably the lasting benefits, after a person has stopped therapy; that differs from medication that provides benefit while on it. But experts say, first and foremost, it’s key that those with chronic insomnia generally seek help to get a better idea of what’s behind it and explore treatment options.

In some cases, it may be a medical or mental health issue that’s causing sleep problems or making things worse, and cognitive therapy may still be useful (like with depression). But having a fuller picture, is critical. For example, often thyroid disease can contribute to sleep woes and is overlooked, Pelayo says. Or a person may have another disorder like sleep apnea, along with insomnia, that needs to be addressed as well, he says.

None of that will be rectified through an online search in your pajamas (though you might find a sleep specialist that way).

“I tell all my patients that if they don’t wake up feeling refreshed, something is wrong,” Pelayo says. When sleep problems persist, experts say, instead of trying to put them out of your waking mind – seek help to get them addressed.

Why People With A History Of Bad Relationships Don’t Sleep Well

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By Kelly Gonsalvez

Anyone who has ever slept next to a partner knows being part of a unit can affect how well you sleep—from dealing with the other person’s weird tossing and turning all night to battling for your fair share of the blanket to trying to get some shut-eye when you’re still halfway through a fight with the person lying next to you and you can’t stop thinking about it.

Past research has shown your relationship can affect your sleep, but a new study published in the Personal Relationships journal has now found an even deeper connection between your love life and sleep: Apparently having a history of stressful relationships may make you more likely to have poorer sleep quality.

Researchers analyzed existing data that had been collected on over 260 people born in the mid-1970s regularly from the time they were born until mid-adulthood. These participants were asked questions about their lives periodically, including being surveyed and interviewed about their recent romantic relationships, experiences with stress, and sleep quality. Analyzing these people’s responses between ages 23 and 37, the researchers discovered a trend: People who’d had better relationships during their early adult years dealt with fewer and less disruptive stressful life experiences at age 32, and that led to having better sleep quality at age 37. That was true regardless of depression status, gender, ethnicity, income, education, and even how much stress people currently had at age 37.

In other words, having a history of good relationships as a young adult—that is, stable long-term relationships where there’s mutual care, trust, emotional closeness, and sensitivity to each other’s needs and where conflicts are resolved in a healthy and satisfying way—tended to lead to less stressful experiences throughout adulthood, which in turn led to better sleep over time.

It’s understandable why stressful life experiences (like job changes, health issues, legal battles, and interpersonal conflicts) would take their toll on a person’s sleep quality; a lot of past research has shown that having a lot of stress can seriously disrupt your sleep. But why might having a better love life lead to having fewer of these types of seemingly unrelated tough life events, or at least having them be less stressful?

“One explanation is that people who possess the interpersonal competencies necessary to maintain relationships marked by mutual caring, trust, conflict resolution, and other positive characteristics are also more likely to have other traits that may mitigate their exposure to and reduce the severity of those stressors when they occur,” the researchers write in the paper. “For instance, people who score high in romantic relationship effectiveness may be more likely to demonstrate caring and responsiveness in other types of relationships (e.g., with family or co-workers), which might reduce exposure to conflict. Moreover, when stressful events due to uncontrollable sources are encountered (e.g., unemployment, death of a family member), people high in relationship effectiveness may also be more likely to possess intrapersonal and interpersonal resources, allowing them to cope better with the stressful life event and reduce its severity.”

So people who are good at romantic love are probably good at dealing with people in other parts of their life, and those skills and emotional experiences set them up to either avoid stressful occasions or deal with them well when they occur.

“Cues of social belongingness and emotional security can facilitate a sense of protection that down-regulates stress reactivity and promotes better sleep,” the researchers explain. “Given that romantic relationships are an especially potent source of social belongingness and emotional security in adulthood, one’s experiences, tendencies, and engagement in his or her romantic relationships should have a particularly strong impact on sleep patterns.”

This is all pretty hard news to hear for anyone who feels like they’ve had a pretty unlucky love life thus far. But don’t worry: The point here isn’t that if romance isn’t the easiest for you, you’re doomed to a life of stress and bad sleep. Rather, this study simply reinforces one of the most important benefits of being in a relationship: being able to learn about how to communicate better, navigate conflicts, take care of another person, and take care of yourself. Relationships are far less about validating your worth as much as they are about learning how to become a better human being.

The good news? You can totally do that without a partner, too. Romantic relationships happen to be a great place to learn those lessons, but so are so many other parts of our social lives—our family relationships, our friendships, our professional connections, and more.

If your sleep and mental health are important to you, then your social relationships should be too. Interfacing with other people is pivotal not only to learning how to deal with stress and conflict but also to having a support system in place during all those bad times. That stability seems to be the real key to being able to have a secure, peaceful night’s sleep over time.

Insomnia Series: How Did You Sleep? NPR Wants Your Slumber Stories

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Meagan Keane

Getting a good night’s rest is easier said than done. NPR’s Science Desk is reporting on the science of sleep, and we want to hear from you.

Ask us your questions about winding down, dealing with insomnia and attempts to hack sleep. Share your stories and best tips for getting those precious hours of sleep each night.

Please fill out our form or follow this link to respond. Part of this project involves putting voices on air, so we’d love it if you could also send us a voice memo. You can do that in the form, or email a voice memo to talktous@npr.org, with “Sleeping Well” in the subject line.

Your response may be used in an upcoming story, on air or on NPR.org. Thanks!

Insomnia Series: Read This If You Wake Up During The Night And Can’t Fall Back Asleep

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It’s frustrating when you collapse into bed at night, only to conk out for a few hours before suddenly finding yourself wide awake and staring at your ceiling. (Or, even worse, listening to your partner snooze away on the other side of the bed.)

The phenomenon is hardly uncommon. A study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that 35 percent of the general population deals with middle-of-the-night insomnia at least three nights a week, and 23 percent wake up at least once every night.

Curious how to halt the issue and get the zzzs you deserve? Below, sleep experts share why you might be waking up at night and some ways to stop it:

The problem: You bring stress into the sheets.

Even if you don’t actively feel stressed when it’s time to sleep, underlying stress may be the reason you’re waking up unprompted in the middle of the night.

To help with this, work on making your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary, said Rebecca Robbins, a postdoctoral fellow at the NYU School of Medicine and a consultant for mattress maker Beautyrest. This doesn’t mean you have to shell out a ton of cash on pricey décor, but you should make sure your bedroom is a place that promotes quiet, calm and darkness.

This might mean swapping shades for room-darkening blinds, or investing in a weighted blanket if you think it would be helpful to decompress at night (there’s little scientific evidence on the effectiveness of these, but many find them comforting regardless).

One thing to investigate is your mattress. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine found that an old mattress can increase stress levels, as back pain and the poor sleep associated with it is linked to increased levels of cortisol (the hormone responsible for stress) in the body.

The Better Sleep Council, an advertising collaborative of mattress manufacturers, recommends replacing your mattress every seven years. An easy test for your pillow is to fold it in half, says the National Sleep Foundation, a sleep research and education nonprofit partly funded by sleep-industry companies. If it stays that way, it’s time for new ones.

As for a racing mind that’s keeping you awake? If it’s been more than 20 or 30 minutes, get out of bed and go to a different room. Otherwise, your brain will start to associate your mattress with being awake, according to Steve Orma, a clinical psychologist and author of Stop Worrying and Go to Sleep: How to Put Insomnia to Bed for GoodYou can also try writing down what’s worrying you as a way to dump out what’s floating around in your brain.

The problem: There’s too much noise or movement.

The stage of sleep you’re in ― whether it’s the rapid eye movement phase (a deep level of sleep) or one of the non-rapid eye movement periods (which can be a lighter stage of sleep) ― will determine how easily you wake up to sound in your bedroom.

Noises like snoring, a loud radiator, or traffic are all sounds that likely won’t affect you during REM sleep, but they can wake you up as you transition through the lighter NREM sleep stages, said Nate Watson, a scientific advisory board member at SleepScore Labs, which sells an array of sleep-related apps and products. Watson also is a former president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, a professional group.

When noise awakens you, there are a few things you can do to get back to sleep. Watson recommended a white noise machine, as consistent ambient noise will prevent spontaneous sounds such as snoring, coughing or old creaky pipes from stirring you awake. (A 2005 study published in Sleep Medicine corroborates this suggestion. It found when patients in an intensive care unit used a white noise machine, sleep disruptions caused by high-peak noises where reduced.)

If you sleep with a partner who tends to toss and turn, Watson said having separate mattresses side-by-side instead of one mattress can help prevent disturbances from too much movement. If you go this route, you can buy a foam mattress connector that will keep the bed together, still looking and essentially functioning as one bed.

The problem: You’re drinking too much before bed.

This includes both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. A study published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research found that while drinking booze before bed may cause some to fall asleep easier, it can lead to sleep disruptions later in the night, causing you to wake up and have difficulty getting back to sleep.

If you enjoy a glass of wine before bed, keep it to just that, Robbins said. And keep in mind that a standard serving of wine is four ounces, which may be much less than you typically pour yourself. As for fluids in general, try to cut them off 90 minutes before bed. It’ll help minimize your chances of waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, Robbins added.

The problem: You may have an underlying health issue.

Generally, it’s OK if you have occasional sleep disruption. “Everybody has a bad night’s sleep every now and then,” Watson said. “This is normal and doesn’t require treatment.”

Watson said over-the-counter remedies are fine for these instances, such as products with the ingredient diphenhydramine HCL, like ZzzQuil, or melatonin. Just make sure to monitor how frequently you’re using these. If you lean on them too often, you might have an underlying issue you need to get checked.

“When use of sleep aids becomes regular, it suggests a sleep disorder is present and you should see a health care provider to get to the root cause of the problem,” Watson said.

Talk to your doctor to rule out a condition like obstructive sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome or even something as simple as nighttime heartburn, Watson said.

 

Insomnia Series: A New CBD Product For Insomnia

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The buzz surrounding cannabidiol is strong, but folks in the wellness community are whispering about a different cannabinoid compound, one that might help you sleep at night. You may have heard of the murmurs, but what is CBN?

The most dominant cannabis compounds, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), steal all the attention, but cannabinol, or CBN, could be the next big thing. According to Bon Appetit, as marijuana oxidizes, the THC converts to CBN. In other words, old weed is high in CBN. But can you get high on it? Not really. The CB1 receptors are weaker than with THC, but it definitely still has the potential to make you drowsy, which is why more people are turning to it before they turn in for the night.

Scientific evidence is sparse, but CBN has been studied on mice, though it should be noted that researchers used synthetic derivatives of CBN. When rodents were given the lab-made cannabinol, they were more likely to stay asleep. There’s a chance it could even be used to fight the signs of aging, so look out for CBN as an ingredient in sleep aids and night cream. But here’s the kicker: Most studies suggest it works best when combined with other cannabinoid compounds, like THC or CBD. Anecdotal evidence still dominates in conversations pertaining to uses for CBN. In any case, it’s worth noting that if your friend says it works for them that doesn’t mean it will work for you. As always, consult your doctor about your options and possible interactions with other medications.

Currently, the health benefits of CBN and its effectiveness as a sleep aid are still largely unknown. But with the booming CBD industry expected to be worth $1.15 billion by 2020, it’s a good bet that more companies will begin to experiment with CBN, perhaps by pairing it with CBD to discover if it does indeed lead to a better night’s sleep.

Is cannabinol the answer to our restless nights? We can dream.

In the meantime, here are some foods that can help put you to sleep and others that might be keeping you up at night.

WHY IS IT SUCH A TURNOFF WHEN SOMEONE TRULY, REALLY, ACTUALLY WANTS TO DATE ME?


Thumbnail for Why is it such a turnoff when someone truly, really, actually wants to date me?

 PIN IT

Photo: Getty Images/ Matjaz Slanic

One of my father’s favorite refrains about my love life is that I only like men who don’t like me. He’s constantly joking that the easiest way for a man to turn me off is for him to show interest. Based on history, I do see where he’s coming from, but I’m still not totally convinced. Still, he does point out a polarizing, age-old issue: Is it true that the more someone is into us, the less into them we are? And if so, is a silly game of hard to get actually effective?
Apparently, the basis of playing it cool in dating—in which there’s an unspoken contest of sorts where whoever cares less wins—has a lot to do with human nature in general. “Part of it is about a primal desire that we have as humans for things that are valuable,” says therapist Daniel Olavarria, LCSW. “When someone plays it cool, the subtle message is that they are difficult to attain. If we’re relying on our most basic primal instincts, this will make them feel even more desirable.”

Furthermore, since it’s so easy to assume a potential love interest’s attitude applies to their entire disposition and life, being aggressively open and vulnerable off the bat isn’t the best look.  “When someone seems too available, it can give the impression that they don’t have much going on in their own life to contribute to the relationship,” Olvarria says. Plus, one person feeling like they are the center of a their love interest’s schedule can add a lot of pressure to a new relationship . “In short, having your own life is sexy,” he adds.

“Do your best to be authentic in expressing your interest, but try to avoid folding your whole life around a new person you’re looking to get to know.” —Daniel Olavarria, LCSW

The answer here isn’t to be fake, but rather to communicate your interest without seeming needy or tooavailable. “Do your best to be authentic in expressing your interest, but try to avoid folding your whole life around a new person you’re looking to get to know,” Olavarria advises. So if, for example, you have plans with friends and your new potential S.O. texts, don’t clear your schedule to hang. “Being too available in this way can send the message that you don’t have your own life, which makes things a lot less interesting for your date,” Olavarria says.

Share that you’re busy, but suggest a follow-up date to make clear that you’re still into them. By the time you actually get together, your date may be even more attracted to you and your full life.

 

Insomnia Series: Two Experts Explain How Sleep FOMO Is Keeping Us Awake

By Well and Good

Each night, as my anxiety peaks and any hope for a peaceful rendezvous with Mr. Sandman slips away, I’m often able to pinpoint cause of my sleeplessness. It’s a mix of looming due dates at work, my reading load for grad school, and existential fear. But the worst culprit by far is one I hadn’t noticed. Janet Kennedy, PhD, a sleep psychologist in New York City, refers to certain sleep troubles as “performance anxiety.” In other words, I have so much FOMO when it comes to getting enough sleep that I just can’t drift off.
“The more we focus on trying to sleep and trying to sleep right, the more elusive sleep can become,” Dr. Kennedy tells me. “We can control some aspects of sleep—like our lifestyle, health, schedule, and activities—but the falling asleep [itself] is outside of our control.” Data-driven sleep apps, like calculators and REM-trackers, often feed the problem. It’s frustrating when our perfectionist tendencies, when we can’t “achieve” the night of blissful rest that we so desire.

“You think, ‘I’m scared of what will happen if I don’t fall asleep right now,’ and then you can’t fall asleep.”

Chris Winter, MD, a sleep specialist in Virginia, says that the cultural narrative around lack of sleep is more harmful than helpful. Studies have shown that skimping on slumber makes you angrier and causes you to dream less—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. When we approach a loss of sleep the same way Coach Carr approaches sex in Mean Girls (i.e., Don’t lose sleep because you will get cranky/unproductive/sad and you will die!), we don’t do ourselves any favors. “Sleep problems often work best in a climate of fear. You think, ‘I’m scared of what will happen if I don’t fall asleep right now,’ and then you can’t fall asleep,” says Dr. Winter.

But how do you get yourself to relinquish control? After all, Google search for “tired” have steadily increased since 2004, suggesting that we’re pretty interested in a good night’s sleep or not getting one often enough.

Both experts I spoke with agree that peaceful sleep requires handing over the reigns to your body. To whom, you ask? Yourself! That seven-to-eight hour window is based off averages collected in public surveys, Dr. Winter explains. Your nightly amount of sleep might be closer to six—or nine. Discovering how much sleep you need starts with choosing a time to get up.

“The best way to [find out how much sleep you need] is to get up at the same time each day (including weekends) and stay up at night until you are very sleepy,” Dr. Winter says. “Over time, the body will settle into a rhythm and it will let you know you when you should go to sleep. You’ll notice that you get sleepy and wake up at roughly the same time every day.” By setting a time to wake up rather than a time to fall asleep, you’re giving yourself the night off (literally) from the pure torture that comes with staying up past your “bedtime.”

“Over time, the body will settle into a rhythm and it will tell you when you should go to sleep.”

Once you’ve found a sleep cycle that works for your schedule, turn the focus to other things keeping you awake over which you have real control. Ditch that afternoon cup of coffee, charge your phone far from the bedroom, or schedule time to worry during the day so your inner dialogue isn’t running laps at night. If despite all efforts you fail to fall asleep when you want to, Dr. Winter says that’s no big deal—so long as you take that time to relax.

“Think about how you’re either going to sleep great tonight or you’re going to wake up at 2 a.m. and never go back to sleep but that’s fine. It’s going to be okay,” he says. Get cozy under the blankets,  focus on your breathing, queue up some “slow lit,” and just enjoy relaxing.

“Control is not, ‘I have to sleep or bad things are going to happen.’ But rather, ‘I’m going to set myself up to sleep right. If I can’t, that’s fine. I’ll just let myself relax and sit here until the sleep comes,’” says Dr. Winter. Of course, should you experience more advanced sleep disorders or chronic insomnia, book an appointment with your doctor.

I’ll leave you with this, friends: Approaching bedtime with a healthy serving of JOMO might just help you reach the joy of PTFO.

Insomnia Series: Why It Hurts to Lose Sleep

NY Times Article Here

Sleep deprivation can make your physical aches more painful. A new study begins to explain how that happens.

A subject in a sleep-disorder clinic in France. Recent research found that staying awake all night can increase a person’s sensitivity to pain the next morning by as much as 30 percent.CreditBSIP/UIG, via Getty Images

 

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A subject in a sleep-disorder clinic in France. Recent research found that staying awake all night can increase a person’s sensitivity to pain the next morning by as much as 30 percent. CreditCreditBSIP/UIG, via Getty Images

Veteran insomniacs know in their bones what science has to say about sleep deprivation and pain: that the two travel together, one fueling the other.

For instance, people who develop chronic pain often lose the ability to sleep well, and quickly point to a bad back, sciatica or arthritis as the reason. The loss of sleep, in turn, can make a bad back feel worse, and the next night’s slumber even more difficult.

Why sleep deprivation amplifies pain is not fully worked out, but it has to do with how the body responds to an injury such as a cut or turned ankle. First, it hurts, as nerves send a blast up the spinal cord and into the brain. There, a network of neural regions flares in reaction to the injury and works to manage, or blunt, the sensation.

Think of the experience as a kind of physiological dialogue between the ground unit that took the hit and the command-control center trying to contain the damage. In a new study, a team of neuroscientists has clarified the nature of the top-down portion of that exchange, and how it is affected by sleep.

In a sleep-lab experiment, the researchers found that a single night of sleep deprivation reduced a person’s pain threshold by more than 15 percent and left a clear signature in the brain’s pain-management centers.

In a separate experiment, the team determined that small deviations in the average amount of sleep from one day to another predicted the level of overall pain felt the next day.

“What’s exciting about these findings is that they will stimulate, and justify, doing more research to figure this system out,” said Michael J. Twery, director of the sleep disorders branch of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, who was not involved in the new study. “Once we understand how sleep deprivation changes how these pathways function, we should be able to manage pain more effectively — all types of pain.”

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Other researchers cautioned that the study was small, and in need of larger replication. But, they said, at a time when chronic pain conditions and narcotic addiction are on the rise, the new work is a pointed reminder that the body’s own ability to manage pain can be improved without a prescription.

The study team, led by Adam J. Krause and Matthew P. Walker of the University of California, Berkeley, had 25 adults come into the lab on two occasions to measure their pain threshold for heat. Two measurements were taken from each subject, one in the morning after a full night’s sleep, and one in the morning after staying up all night. The two visits occurred at least a week apart, and included measurements in a brain-imaging machine.

The subjects judged the pain sensation of having a small, heated pad pressed against their skin, near the ankle. By gradually adjusting the temperature up and down, the researchers identified the level of pain that each person graded as 10, or “unbearable,” on a scale of 1 to 10.

Pulling an all-nighter increased everyone’s sensitivity to heat the next morning, by 15 to 30 percent on the pain scale. This wasn’t unexpected; previous research had produced similar findings, for a variety of painful sensations.

But the brain imaging added a new dimension: For each participant, activity spiked in pain perception regions, and plunged in regions thought to help manage or reduce pain. The biggest peaks were in the somatosensory cortex, a strip of neural tissue that runs across the top of the brain like a headphone band.

This is the seat of the so-called homunculus, the distorted “little man” neural map of the body; it seems to be where the perception of pain becomes a conscious “ouch.” The lowest troughs of activity occurred in deeper brain regions such as the thalamus and nucleus accumbens.

“So you have two things happening at once here,” said Dr. Walker, director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at U.C. Berkeley. “There’s ramped up sensation to pain, and a loss of natural analgesic reaction. The fact that both of them happen was surprising.”

Deliberate sleep deprivation is rare in the natural world — robins and squirrels tend not to stay up late to catch “Saturday Night Live” — so it may be that no backup systems have evolved to help restore or tune the brain’s pain management system, Dr. Walker said.

In a separate trial, the research team recruited 60 adults online who reported having daily pain. The participants rated their sleep and pain over two days, scoring the previous night’s slumber in the mornings, and their pain level in the evenings.

For each individual, poor sleep quality predicted higher ratings on the daily pain scale. The duration of sleep was not the critical factor, the study found; what mattered were alterations to deep sleep, the mostly dreamless period of rich slumber.

The implications of the new work are wide-ranging, perhaps starting with hospitals, where noise levels are high and interruptions frequent. Handing out earplugs and sleep masks, as the airlines do, would be a cheap way to speed recovery and shorten hospital stays, the study’s authors suggested.

“The good news is that it has become really clear in psychiatry and the memory field that sleep is a big player,” said Dr. Robert Stickgold, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “The bad news is that the average trickle-down time from research to practices is ten years plus.”