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Parasomnias include some of the most bizarre and as unfathomable sleep-related disorders. Here’s some insight into the what we currently know about these strange conditions.

We’ve all seen it: movie and television characters sleepwalking with their arms stiff out in front.

Although it’s often depicted comically, in real life, sleepwalking is not that funny. Sleepwalking, or somnambulism is a recognised condition that belongs to a subset of sleep-related disorders known as parasomnias.

Parasomnias consist of some of the weirdest and as yet unexplained sleep behaviors some of which are even more dramatic and unusual than sleepwalking. For instance have you ever heard of  sleep driving, sleep-eating and or even sleep sleep-sex aka sexsomnia?

ABCnews parasomnia - YouTube
What is a parasomnia?

Parasomnias are a subset of sleep disorders that consist of abnormal or unusual behaviors, emotions, thoughts, or physical sensations relating to a person’s sleep.

Parasomnias are different from insomnia, a number of conditions that affect people’s abilities to fall asleep or stay asleep, and hypersomnia, conditions that cause extreme tiredness.

Researchers believe that genetics might contribute to parasomnias. Some families have more than one person with the same type of parasomnia and certain genes appear to be linked to sleepwalking. Researchers also believe that stress, anxiety, and nervous system malfunctions may contribute to parasomnias.

What are some common types of parasomnias?

There are many types of parasomnias that belong to different categories. According to the Bible of sleep disorders, the third edition of the International Classification of Sleep Disorders (ICSD-3), there are three categories of parasomnias: non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and nonspecific conditions.

List of parasomnias (ICSD 3)
Parasomnia TypeDisorder
NREM-related parasomniasConfusional arousals
Sleep terrors
Sleep-related eating disorder
REM-related parasomniasREM sleep behavior disorder
Recurrent isolated sleep paralysis
Nightmare disorder
Other parasomniasExploding head syndrome
Sleep-related hallucinations
Sleep enuresis
Parasomnia due to a medical disorder
Parasomnia due to a medication or substance
Parasomnia, unspecified
A breakdown of different parasomnias as described by the International Classification of Sleep Disorders (ISCD 3), the standard diagnostic resource in sleep medicine. Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep disorders are often known as arousal disorders. They arouse people from normal states of sleep and often occur during a person’s early sleep.

NREM-related parasomnias include:

  • Sleepwalking (also known as somnambulism and noctambulism). A condition affecting about four percent of adults, sleepwalking occurs when a person’s brain is partially awake and partially asleep. This disorder is not limited to walking; many other behaviors such as sleep-eating, sexsomnia (sleep-sex), sleep driving and even sleep-texting are becoming increasingly common
  • Confusional arousal. Confusional arousal often occurs when people arouse other people from sleep. The newly awakened people could be confused and disoriented and experience memory and speech problems.
  • Night terrors (also known as sleep terrors, sleep terror disorder, or pavor nocturnus). Fear, terror, disorientation, sweating, rapid heartbeat, screaming, and thrashing are just some of the frightening symptoms of night terrors. As with other parasomnias, children tend to experience night terrors more than adults.

Dreams occur during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Parasomnias can also occur then, a few of which include:

  • REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD). People with RBD can experience vivid dreams and try to mimic the behavior occurring in their dreams, even though they may be experiencing temporary muscle paralysis, a condition known as atonia.
  • Nightmares. Frightening dreams are another form of parasomnia that is more common in children than adults.
  • Night eating disorder. People who consume a majority of their daily calories after dinner at night, and even wake up to eat more, might have night eating disorder.

>> Read More: The Very Real Nightmare Of Sleep Paralysis Demons

Other parasomnias can occur during the transition from sleep to wakefulness:

  • Myoclonus. This is the technical term for jerks, twitches, or seizures that can occur during this time.
  • Nocturnal leg cramps. Muscle contractions sometimes cause nighttime cramping and pain, especially in older adults.
  • Rhythmic movement disorder (RMD). Children who make repetitive movements and rock themselves to sleep might have RMD, a condition most children outgrow by the age of five. Children with this disorder might also bang or roll their heads while sleeping.
  • Somniloquy. Not Hamlet’s famous “To be or not to be” speech (that’s a soliloquy), somniloquy occurs when people talk in their sleep. This talk can be eloquent or incoherent and is yet another parasomnia that is more common in children.

Other parasomnias do not fall into specific categories. Some of these parasomnias include:

  • Hallucinations. People might experience hypnagogic hallucinations while falling asleep or hypnopomic hallucinations while waking up from sleep.
  • Addiction-related parasomnia. Drugs and alcohol can affect people while they’re awake, so it’s no surprise that people who need drug addiction help sometimes experience sleep disorders.
  • Medical-related parasomnia. Medical conditions can cause parasomnias and other sleep disorders.
  • Sleep enuresis. This is a term for urinating while sleeping (bed-wetting), another parasomnia more common in children.
  • Exploding head syndrome. People with this condition sometimes say it feels as if they have exploding bombs in or near their heads while they are trying to fall asleep. Exploding head syndrome is often related to insomnia, jet lag, emotional tension, and stress. It might be caused by the brain’s inability to shut down certain functions as people fall asleep.
  • Bruxism. People with bruxism grind their teeth or clench their jaws. Excess stress might contribute to this condition.
How do parasomnias affect people?

Given the sheer number and variety of parasomnias, perhaps it is not surprising that a number of people have had them. Their experiences illustrate how parasomnia can affect people’s lives.

These effects can be medical. Bruxism can cause pain or even damage the teeth and jaws if people repeatedly clench their teeth and grind their jaws.

Socially, people who experience sleep enuresis may be afraid to travel and stay at new places because they’re afraid they’ll wet their beds and be teased for their actions. But, worrying about bed-wetting can create stress and anxiety that might make enuresis and other parasomnias worse.

As with people with other sleep disorders, people with parasomnias may dread or even fear going to sleep because they’ll experience parasomnias, which could lead to even more stress and parasomnia.

Children who might not understand their condition or have the life experience needed to cope effectively with parasomnias might struggle with them as well. But, luckily, many parasomnias disappear on their own as children grow up and grow out of parasomnias such as sleepwalking and night terrors.

Of course, many parasomnias affect more than the person experiencing them. People who share beds with parasomniacs are firsthand witnesses to the condition. For example, this not-safe-for-work recording features audio recordings of somniloquy, or sleep talking. It gives a sense of what parasomniacs’ partners might witness on a regular basis.

Furthermore, the partners of parasomniacs might worry about their partners’ health and safety. They might also worry about their own. People with parasomnias might behave violently or thrash out in their sleep, so they might unintentionally hurt themselves or others. A 2016 case report describes an adult woman who fractured her arm, herniated a bulging disc in her spinal cord, and suffered other injuries during different night terror incidents. She also became embarrassed about her behavior during her night terror incidents.

Even if not violent, parasomniac behaviors can disrupt the sleep of parasomniacs and the sleep of their partners, and inadequate sleep can contribute to a host of physical and psychological disorders. This is why properly diagnosing and addressing parasomnias can be helpful.

Can you treat parasomnias?

But diagnosing and addressing parasomnias might be difficult. Like so many matters relating to sleep, parasomnias are complex and not fully understood. But, like other matters, researchers are working to understand parasomnias and develop ways to treat them.

Of course, sometimes people choose not to treat parasomnias at all. Many are not inherently harmful by themselves and disappear as people become older. If parasomnias persist, partners and family members of parasomniacs might choose to create safe environments for their loved ones. For example, talking to sleepwalkers and guiding them gently back to bed could help sleepwalkers deal with the symptoms of their condition.

>> You might like: 7 Stranger Than Fiction Sleep Disorders

People who do decide treat parasomnias have a number of options. The woman in the case study who struggled with night terrors used a number of prescription medications to help her sleep. Medications are common ways to treat parasomnias, but they are not the only options.

Treatments for parasomnia-related bruxism illustrates the range of different approaches used to treat parasomnia. Some people who experience bruxism wear mouthguards to reduce the impact of their teeth grinding.

Others may participate in hypnotherapy that uses visualization techniques, or be encouraged to exercise and participate in activities that release physical and mental tension that can contribute to teeth grinding and jaw clenching. Still others receive Botox injections in their jaws, weakening their jaw muscles and thus releasing tension.

Sometimes, people do not treat parasomnias because the conditions have not been properly diagnosed as parasomnias. Some parasomnias, such as exploding head syndrome, are so rare that some physicians have never seen the condition or have even heard of it in the first place.

Parasomnias demonstrate the complexity of the human brain and body. They illustrate the complicated interaction between the two and what can happen when they slip from alignment.

About the author

Pam Zuber is a writer and editor interested in health and wellness, substance abuse, and other topics.

The post Explainer: What are Parasomnias? appeared first on Sleep Junkies.

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Sleep Junkies by Sleep Junkies - 6d ago

If you’re in any way active on social media then you’ll no doubt be aware that pretty much every calendar day is celebrated by some kind of awareness campaign.

Today is no different, but it’s a special one for global Sleep Junkies. Yes, today 16th March 2018 is World Sleep Day. It’s also the culmination of a separate event, National Sleep Awareness Week 2018.

Whilst some may glaze over at the prospect of yet another hashtag to consider, at Sleep Junkies we fully support any endeavours to support our manifesto to drag sleep from the margins and into the spotlight.

The new zeitgeist of sleep

Compared to six years ago, when Sleep Junkies was born, public attitudes towards sleep issues have changed remarkably.

Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of health and wellness media startup Thrive Global and one of the biggest sleep advocates in recent years, recounted recently on CBS “when I collapsed from sleep deprivation exhaustion, broke my cheekbone, and I launched a sleep section on the Huffington Post, people were wondering, ‘Why sleep? Who cares about sleep?‘”

A lot more people, now it seems. Last year, Harvard scientist’s Matthew Walker’s book Why We Sleep incredibly made it onto the New York Times best seller list.

Last year sleep also hit the headlines for economic reasons too, with a sensational RAND report that insufficient sleep causes the United States to sustain losses of up to $411 billion per year.

World Sleep Day and National Sleep Awareness Week 2018

World Sleep Day has been running since 2008 and is an annual event, celebrating important issues related to sleep, including “medicine, education, social aspects and driving.”

The event was  by the World Sleep Society, which consists of 920 individual members and 28 societies from 64 countries who are on a mission to advance sleep health worldwide.

Sleep Awareness Week is a separate event running from March 11 to 17, 2018 and is hosted by the National Sleep Foundation and this year’s theme is “Begin with Sleep” highlighting the importance of good sleep health for individuals to best achieve their personal, family, and professional goals.

Over the years, the profile of these two events has grown significantly and is now celebrated by numerous organisations and businesses around the globe. Here are a few mentions from the Twitterverse celebrating the hashtag #WorldSleepDay in 2018.

Working at night disrupts the circadian rhythm and can lead to the accumulation of a sleep debt, impairing performance and health #BMJPractice on optimising sleep for night shifts #WorldSleepDay https://t.co/ezp1zOkGW1 pic.twitter.com/5A6VGV99x7

— The BMJ (@bmj_latest) March 16, 2018

Only 10% of people believe their day begins with a good night’s sleep. Rethink your priorities. “Begin” each day by getting quality sleep. #YourDayBeginsWithSleep #SleepAwarenessWeek2018 pic.twitter.com/ddjGBLXzF6

— Sleep Foundation (@sleepfoundation) March 16, 2018

Are you getting enough sleep? This simple test will tell you… 🥄😴#WorldSleepDay pic.twitter.com/SP28dsdLSf

— BBC (@BBC) March 16, 2018

Deep sleep has a ton of benefits for your brain. Sleep scientist @DanGartenberg shares how to get more regenerative rest: https://t.co/2ecgVBmqy3 #WorldSleepDay

— TED Talks (@TEDTalks) March 16, 2018

Happy #WorldSleepDay and #SleepAwarenessWeek everybody!

The post It’s World Sleep Day 2018! appeared first on Sleep Junkies.

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Netflix has turned binge-watching into one of the most favorite past times of the 21st century. So how do you combine your Game Of Thrones addiction with a good night’s sleep?

We’re living in a golden age of television.

There are fantastic shows in every genre for everyone, all a click away. Today’s shows keep you watching late into the night, leading to some brutal, hangover-like mornings. That alarm goes off, and you attempt to rouse yourself and fail.

Another night’s rest falls victim to the battle between binge-watching and getting those crucial nighttime winks. Our on-demand culture is a double-edged sword—with all this consumption, something must give. Unfortunately, that something is often sleep, and it may be costing you your health.

What’s at stake?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sleep deprivation causes a host of serious health issues, ranging from depression to heart disease and even early death. It’s blamed for productivity losses of up to $411 billion a year, and AAA found drowsiness at fault in almost 10% of all car accidents. There’s also a clear link between lack of sleep and weight gain.

>> Read More: This Chart Explains Why Staying Up All Night Can Make You Turn Obese

There are other ways we’re sabotaging our ability to get good shuteye, like sleeping with a pet or setting the thermostat too high. However, binge-watching has recently emerged as a major contributor to sleep deprivation.

Study confirms the worst

In a January 2018 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, over 80% of viewers identified as binge-watchers. The research showed “higher binge viewing frequency was associated with a poorer sleep quality, increased fatigue and more symptoms of insomnia, whereas regular television viewing was not”. This results in a range of psychological and physiological effects including increased cognitive arousal and disrupted circadian rhythms.

Effects of binge-watching on your body

Aside from limiting the quantity of sleep you can get, binge-watching affects the quality as well.

All TVs, smartphones, and tablets emit blue light. Research at Harvard Medical School has shown that blue light artificially enhances attention, reaction times, and mood—the opposite of what you want when trying to get a restorative night’s rest.

Even the smallest amount of blue light inhibits the production of the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin. This, in turn, interrupts your circadian rhythm, the body’s internal clock that regulates hormones, metabolism, and the sleep/wake cycle. It also delays the onset of quality REM rest, the most restorative component of the sleep cycle.

Another important factor is what’s known as pre-sleep arousal. This is what happens when you react to the content you’re watching. Will Walter White get caught on Breaking Bad? Does Rick on The Walking Dead escape the horde? What’s that thing in the Upside Down? It’s this stimulus that makes your heart pound and your pulse race and heightens your cognitive awareness. Sure, it makes you tune in to the next episode, but at a cost.

When you’re this invested in the action and characters, your brain jumps into overdrive. Your body then reacts by producing dopamine. This drug-like high signals the reward center of the brain and makes it crave that pleasure again and again. It’s the same mechanism that fuels any addiction.

This isn’t to say all TV watching is bad. Relaxing with a favorite show at the end of a hard day lets you temporarily shut off your brain and escape into a fantasy world, where real-life problems don’t exist. Socially, it’s nice to bond with like-minded friends or meet at the water cooler in the office on Monday to talk about Khaleesi’s dragons in Game of Thrones or the Man in Black in Westworld. Many workers even admit to watching videos at work and connecting with colleagues over those shows.

How to fix the problem

The key, of course, is moderation. With a few simple changes, you can take back your nights. Most entertainment is available on demand, so feel free to hit pause mid-episode—it’ll be there tomorrow, and there’s something to be said about savoring a beloved show. Consider the following proven tactics to reclaim your sleep.

1) Manage the Light

Since light regulates your body’s inner clock, try to increase your exposure to natural light during the day to boost your mood, alertness, and productivity during waking hours. It also reduces stress and helps balance the sleep cycle so you’re tired come bedtime. When looking at screens in the evening, consider downloading an app that limits blue light or buying special glasses that filter it out.

2) Establish Firm Parameters

Whether it’s a lower episode count or a firm bedtime, it’s important to define nonnegotiable limits. It’s too easy to let the autoplay run or to say you’ll watch just for five more minutes.

3) Don’t use electronics before bed

Try to stop using electronics at least one hour before bedtime, ideally two. This doesn’t just mean turning off Netflix. It applies to all gadgets. Don’t check email one last time, don’t fire up the Kindle, and no gaming.

4) Reserve your bed for sleeping

Okay, sleeping and sex. If you use your bed only for rest, your body learns that bed equates to sleep. So even though that paperback is calling, you’ll feel better and be more alert and effective tomorrow if you don’t read in bed.

On that same note, charge your phone outside the bedroom to remove any temptation to check Instagram or answer a text. It’s hard to resist a blinking notification, but putting your phone in another room lessens the chance it’ll wake you if you forget to turn off your ringer.

Forgoing sleep in favor of forging through an entire season of Downton Abbey has legitimate health consequences. But with easy changes to how you interact with media and the gadgets that play it, you don’t have to give up TV altogether. Tonight, how about watching just one episode and call it an evening? When Netflix asks you “Are you still watching?” say no.

The post How to binge on Netflix and still enjoy a good night’s sleep appeared first on Sleep Junkies.

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As the United States eases into daylight saving time, David Wagner highlights some of the negative costs and consequences of shifting the clocks.

A train hurtled around a corner at 82 mph, eventually coming off the rails and killing four passengers.

Decades earlier, faulty decision-making resulted in the deaths of the seven-person crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger.

Years before these events, a stuck valve regulating the supply of coolant to a nuclear reactor nearly resulted in the meltdown of a nuclear plant in Pennsylvania. In each of these cases, poor or inadequate sleep was one of the factors that contributed to the failure.

Even if you are not an engineer working in one of those contexts, the odds are pretty good that you occasionally get a poor night’s sleep. In fact, over one-third of American adults sleep less than the suggested minimum seven hours a night and two-thirds of American teens sleep less than their minimum recommended eight hours. Even for those with good sleep hygiene, there is one time of year when you are likely to be short on sleep – the annual shift to daylight saving time.

As an organizational psychologist at the University of Oregon, I have examined a variety of ways in which sleep affects employees. In particular, my colleagues and I investigate how circadian misalignment caused by the shift to daylight saving time leads to costly work and social outcomes.

Even with the extra daylight, the facts don’t look so good

The American public has had a love-hate relationship with daylight saving time since it first became law in 1918. Personal preferences aside, the empirical evidence for the intended benefits of daylight saving time are mixed at best, whereas the costs of the switch to daylight saving time are becoming increasingly evident.

At the crux of these costs is the effect of the time shift on our sleep patterns. When we spring forward, the clocks on the wall advance, but our body clocks do not change so readily. It generally takes a few days for us to adapt to the time change in a way that allows us to fall asleep at our typical time. The upshot is that Americans sleep approximately 40 minutes less than usual on the Sunday to Monday night following the switch.

Along with my colleague, I first examined how the shift to daylight saving time affected workers in blue-collar settings. Using a database of mining injuries from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, we discovered that the spring shift to daylight saving time resulted in a 6 percent increase in mining injuries and a 67 percent increase in workdays lost because of these injuries.

Hazards even if you work above ground

Although these findings might raise some concern, you may have more experience with computers than with mining equipment, and you are probably reading this article at work. It makes sense then to consider how the shift to daylight saving time influences workers in white-collar settings.

We set out to understand these possible effects by examining how people were using their internet access on the day following the time change. By examining internet search patterns over six years in over 200 different American metro areas, we found that searches for entertainment or related categories were much more prevalent (3.1-6.4 percent) on the Monday immediately following the time change than they were on the Mondays before and after the time change. Given that much of this search activity was conducted at work, we concluded that workers are misusing their internet access when they should be working – a behavior called cyberloafing. Such loafing on the job following the time change suggests that people are less productive when mildly sleep deprived due to the time change.

Based solely on the findings from our two studies, along with a study showing that the time change predicts a 5 percent increased incidence of heart attacks, economists estimate that the annual spring time change costs the American economy US$434 million each year. Yet that is not where the costs end.

The time change affects our judgment

Our research has also revealed that the shift to daylight saving time influences our ability to perceive the moral features of a given situation. We again examined internet search behavior and followed up with our own experiment. In the experiment we kept half of our research participants awake throughout the night and allowed the other half to get a full night of sleep. The next day we presented them with scenarios that contained varying levels of moral content.

We found that the day following the shift to daylight saving time, or following a night of sleep deprivation, people were less able to discern when a situation involved issues of moral relevance than when they were well rested.

The time change also affects our judgment in formal settings. A recent study found that judges hand out harsher sentences — 5 percent longer in duration — the Monday following the time change, as compared to other days of the year. This means that sleep and public policy related to sleep could be influencing important decisions that should be impartial.

Judges mete out longer sentences after the time change, a study found.
Denis Simonov/Shutterstock.com

These studies are only the tip of the iceberg, with adverse consequence of the time change ranging from student test scores to stock market returns.

No matter your sentiment toward daylight saving time, accumulating evidence reveals that the costs of shifting to daylight saving time cut across society. Although the negative outcomes are varied, the singular solution seems quite simple: Rather than change the clocks, we should change public policy. Many state legislatures have taken up this cause, with statehouses coast to coast reconsidering the annual practice.

As the research evidence is considered, other states could end up joining Arizona and Hawaii in abstaining from the annual daylight saving time madness. As we move toward that possibility, we may find it easier to save lives and money rather than chase the daylight.

David Wagner, Professor of Management, University of Oregon

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The post The dark side of daylight saving time appeared first on Sleep Junkies.

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The Somnex Sleep Show is a unique event hosted in London later this year. Find out more by attending a breakfast briefing on 21st March.

It’s rare to have the opportunity to get excited about an event based around sleep.

But earlier this year Sleep Junkies spoke to the organisers of Somnex – The Sleep Show – a brand new event celebrating the best in sleep health, innovation and technology.

And we liked what we heard so much, we decided to partner with the organisers to help publicize and raise awareness of this unique opportunity. Somnex will welcome members of the public, and the business and health sectors, in a wide ranging program of events to celebrate the cutting edge of sleep, health, innovation and technology.

What is the Somnex Sleep Show?

Somnex takes place between 12-14th October 2018 in London, UK and is the the only event dedicated to the sleep-health industry. With over 40 years experience in the media and events industry, the organisers say Somnex will host:

  • 10,000 consumers
  • 550 sleep industry buyers
  • 160 exhibitors
  • 50 speakers

Plus there will be a wealth of talks, activities, classroom demos all focussed on sleep, health and technology.


Needless to say, Sleep Junkies will be there and we will also be attending Somnex’s Breakfast Briefing on 21st March.

This is pre-show event where a panel of experts will debate the pros and cons of sleep-health initiatives and discussing:

  • Why successful people sleep more – following in the footsteps of Obama and Arianna
  • Sleep 101 – why it matters and why the sleepless elite were wrong!
  • Analysing the data: why encouraging your employees to sleep better directly impacts their productivity and benefits the company
  • #sleepbetter – just another fad? What’s the real science and research behind the hype
  • One size does not fit all – examining the different initiatives businesses are implementing and finding something that works for your company culture
  • It’s all about the tech – reviewing the latest gadgets and apps available today and which ones actually make a difference
  • What does the future hold for sleep – top tips and predictions from our panelists

Come and get involved. If you wish to attend the breakfast briefing you can get 50% OFF by using Sleep Junkies’ discount code SJDISC50 when you visit this link >>
>> Somnex Sleep Show  – Breakfast Briefing 21st March 2018

The post Announcing the Somnex Sleep Show 2018 – get involved! appeared first on Sleep Junkies.

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Can your sleep position give insights into your deepest personality traits?

Body language is a constant reminder about our subconscious thoughts, intentions and feelings.

But have you ever considered that your non-verbal signals might extend into the night, and that your sleeping position may hold clues to your inner feelings or even your personality type?

Professor Chris Idzikowski, Director of the Sleep Assessment and Advisory Service researched the topic and found that the shape we choose to sleep in can reveal things about our personality. He analysed six of the most common sleeping positions:

The Soldier

One sleep position is referred to as the soldier sleep position, and it looks just like it sounds. These individuals like to sleep on their backs with their arms down by their sides. Sleeping in this fashion usually means people are reserved and quiet. They may also expect strict moral codes to be adhered to on a regular basis, holding themselves and others to very high standards.

The Starfish

The starfish sleeper may also be known as a mattress hog. They often like to sprawl their limbs out across the bed in a carefree manner. Those who love this sleeping style, tend to make wonderful friends and good listeners. Though they don’t love being the center of attention, they are always willing to lend a helping hand.

Fetal Position

As many as 41 percent of sleepers prefer the fetal position. This involves drawing your knees up toward your chest like a baby in its mother’s belly. Almost twice as many women as men, choose to curl up in this fashion. Fetal sleepers may be the type of people that are tough on the outside but soft on the inside. They may be a little shy at first, but open up and relax quickly.

Log Sleepers

Known as log sleepers, these individuals sleep on their sides with their arms straight. Those who sleep in the log position are likely carefree individuals and are probably friendly social butterflies. Although they tend to be popular with the crowds, their trusting nature may make them a little gullible.

The Yearner

The yearner sleeps on their side with their arms outstretched. This is another popular sleep position. Yearners are said to have a fairly complex character. They may be open-minded with a touch a cynicism. It may take them a while to make a decision, but they will stand firm once it is made.

Back Sleepers

Back sleepers, or those who fall asleep while lying on their backs, are typically lovers of life. Those in this category probably don’t mind being the center of attention and love good company. They may have very strong personalities, work hard and prefer to tell the truth.

>> Read More: Study Finds Sleeping On Your Stomach Gives You Sexy Dreams

Sleep positions and dreams

The many things sleep may reveal are due to the neurological effect sleep has on individuals. Many people position themselves the same way every night because getting to sleep is a habitual behavior.  These habits, however, may also be influencing the types of dreams people experience while they sleep.

The journal, Sleep Hypnosis, published a 2004 study that suggested that people that sleep mostly on their left side may have more nightmares than right side sleepers. Study participants sleeping on their right sides often reported having dreams related to relief or safety. Not surprisingly, right side sleepers reported a better night’s sleep, waking up feeling well-rested more often.

Back sleepers may be more likely to suffer from dreams of vulnerability and feeling exposed. These dreams may range from the classic “naked in public” to dreams about showing up late for an exam. Thankfully, back sleepers are less likely to remember their visions of angst.

Another study, conducted at the Hong Shu Yan University by Dr. Calvin Kai-Ching Yu, Ph.D., showed that stomach sleepers may experience a wide range of love-related dreams. Some types of stomach-sleeper dreams include the subjects of kissing a stranger or getting married.

Some studies suggested that sleeping at an incline may induce more vivid dreams. This may be because you are closer to wakefulness in this more upright position causing vivid dreams to feel even more real. Inclined sleepers may find themselves a bit confused throughout the day as they may feel like the dream really happened.

What Your Sleeping Position Says About Your Personality - YouTube
Dream research

Dream research and its relation to body position is still relatively new, though there has been much speculation for years. More research needs to be done before any decisive conclusions can be reached.

Although experimenting with sleep positions and nightly visions behind closed eyelids can be entertaining, it is not always easy to change one’s body position in an effort to avoid or seek out a certain kind of dream.

The main objective should be to get a good night’s sleep.  Finding a position that feels comfortable for each individual body type leads to the highest quality of rest. Sleep therapists and doctors may be able to assist in helping people discover the right sleep position.

The way individuals position themselves bodies as they nod off to sleep may say a lot about their personalities and even influence their dreams. Although the research is interesting, there is still a lot to be learned. Individuals may find it fun to see if changing the way they sleep has any effect on personality or dream patterns. However, sleep positions are habits that have been practiced over a lifetime. As such, they may be next to impossible to change.

What does your favorite sleeping position reveal about your personality? appeared first on Sleep Junkies.

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Millions of people go to bed each night with a constant buzzing or ringing in their ears. So what’s the best way to get to sleep when you have tinnitus? Hearing noises that other people around you don’t hear can be frustrating and might lead you to question your sanity.

Still, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going crazy. Instead, you might be suffering from tinnitus. Also known as ear buzzing, or ear ringing, tinnitus is an increasingly common condition that affects more than 45 million adults in the United States alone.

Tinnitus affects people by varying degrees. For some the constant buzzing can be almost unbearable burden; for others the symptoms are not as severe and the ringing or buzzing noises can vary from person to person in terms of pitch, tone, volume and even the type of sounds.

Some people only hear sporadic buzzing, whistling, hissing, chirping or other noises. For others, the noises are coming from inside of the body and directly follow a person’s heartbeat, which is called pulsatile tinnitus.

What exactly is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is not a disease itself, rather a symptom of another health problem. Although it can be caused by many different issues, the most common cause is when there’s a problem with the ear itself.

Problems in the ear canal, a damaged eardrum or inner ear bones, alters the way that the electrical signals are sent to the brain, which in turn affects the way our brain processes sound.

What Makes Your Ears Ring? - YouTube

Other  problems, whether it’s a sinus infection, jaw injury, sleep apnea or reduced blood flow in the neck, can become a trigger for tinnitus.

Hearing loud sounds can trigger tinnitus almost instantaneously. A loud concert causes buzzing in your ears the following day, which is a perfect example how ear damage alters our sound processing systems.

Luckily, the condition is nothing more than a minor annoyance for the vast majority of tinnitus sufferers. However, the truth is that tinnitus can affect your life in many unseen ways, so you want to ensure it has a minimal impact on your overall life, health, and well-being.

How tinnitus impacts your life

The fact that tinnitus comes in many different guises means that it affects each person differently. Nonetheless, the condition most definitely has an effect on your emotions even if you’re not aware of it.

Like many sufferers, you may often feel frustrated, distracted or worried without really knowing why. Many people also find it especially hard to concentrate and experience various mental difficulties when they’re around loud noises, as this often intensifies their tinnitus.

Constantly being followed around by any noise makes it difficult for anyone to concentrate, no matter how soft the noise may be. This is why tinnitus can negatively affect any task that requires concentration—whether it be studying, writing, critical thinking or problem solving—and this can lead to delays in your school or work tasks.

How tinnitus affects your sleep

One of the biggest problems associated with tinnitus is insomnia and a lack of sleep and it’s a two-way relationship.

For example, an existing tinnitus condition might be the cause of your insomnia, sleep deprivation and your reliance on sleeping pills. But at the same time, an existing sleep disorder may end up exacerbating your tinnitus.

Many people report that the condition becomes more noticeable where there is minimal background noise, – you’re more aware of the ringing in your ears when you’re lying in a quiet bedroom trying to fall asleep.

In these situations, the contrast between silence and the loud buzzing in your ear can suddenly make the condition more disturbing than usual, resulting in stress and anxiety when you should be falling asleep.

If this sounds like you, then getting a good night’s sleep should be your first goal. Sleep is one of the most important aspects of health, so it is essential you do whatever you can to overcome your issues and get the rest you need.

Although stress and anxiety aren’t always directly related to tinnitus, if you notice it gets worse before sleep, you should find ways to relax more before going to bed . In this sense, anything you can do to ensure you are relaxed when you go to bed should help.

How to combat your tinnitus

There is no perfect answer to this million-dollar question as it all depends on the cause and severity of your condition. That being said, there are still a number of ways that you may be able to help keep your condition more manageable and under control.

1) Use white noise

White noise apps and players are widely used for many purposes promoting better sleep, relaxation, increased concentration and achieving better results at work or in your studies.  To cancel out tinnitus, all you need to do is tune your white noise sound to the same pitch that you hear in your ears.

>> Read More: The Ultimate Guide To White Noise and Sleep

2) Mask it with music

Music is a great way to distract your brain from the constant buzzing or ringing. Specially designed sleeping headphones and sound pillows allow you to do this while you’re actually in bed. Quiet background music, talk radio or even street sounds could mask the noise in your ears by shifting your focus to something else.

3) Relax your neck and shoulders

Some cases of tinnitus can be made worse by a stiff neck and shoulders, which means that massages, meditation and anything else you can do to relax this area may be able to help. Here are some tips for self-massage t0 help you sleep better.

4) Improve blood flow to your head

You can find relief simply by exercising and thus improving blood flow to the head. This means that jogging, swimming, cycling, yoga and other forms of exercise may be of huge benefit.

5) Watch what you eat

There is a link between cardiovascular issues and some particular types of tinnitus, which is another reason why it’s important that you pay attention to your diet and get plenty of exercise to keep your blood vessels healthy.

6) Get enough sleep

As mentioned, tinnitus sufferers often have problems sleeping, but this can become something of a vicious cycle since fatigue from sleep deprivation often worsens the condition. Therefore, it is essential that you do whatever you can to ensure you get enough sleep. Along with white noise masking sounds, a brisk walk, relaxing bath or chamomile tea in the evening might help you sleep better.

If none of these methods help to relieve your tinnitus, it might be time to visit a doctor as tinnitus is often caused by some underlying issues. As well, your doctor will be able to offer you additional treatment options. Sometimes, even something as simple as removing built-up earwax is all it takes to finally provide relief.

About the author
Michelle Laurey is a passionate wordsmith who especially enjoys writing on a cloudy day. Always interested in ways which can help individuals reach their full potential in life, she enjoys producing stories on entrepreneurship, productivity, lifestyle, and health. Talk to her on Twitter.

How do you sleep when you have tinnitus? appeared first on Sleep Junkies.

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Does success depend on good sleep? Not necessarily… according to this chart of some of the bizarre sleeping habits of the rich and famous.

When it comes to getting a good solid night’s sleep, some people will go to extreme lengths to ensure it goes ahead without disturbance or hindrance. But for others, sleep is not high on their list of priorities and can function on as little as a few hours per night.

Some of the world’s most successful people have claimed to operate on minimum sleep, because it gives them more time to focus on their work. But, whether that is the secret to becoming rich and famous, we cannot say for certain!

Donald Trump

Multi-billionaire business magnate and President of the United States Donald J. Trump typically sleeps between three to four hours per night. Sometimes, he sleeps for as little as 90 minutes.

For as many as 19 hours a day, Donald Trump is wide awake (we hope) running the country.

Elon Musk

Elon Musk is quickly becoming a well-known figure all around the world, having just launched his very own space mission.

The South African-born business magnate, investor and engineer sleeps six hours a night between the hours of 1am and 7am. He has been known to have slept in his Tesla factory, keeping a sleeping bag in a conference room close to the production line.

Matt Mullenweg

Matt Mullenweg is an American social media entrepreneur and web developer, who found his fortune by creating the popular internet blogging service WordPress.

Following the ‘Uberman’ sleeping method, he has six sleeping sessions per day which last around 40 minutes each. That leaves just about 2.5 hours in between each one of his naps.

Michael Phelps

The American-born Olympic swimmer sleeps in a specially designed chamber which creates an environment similar to being at an altitude of 9,000 feet.

This limits the oxygen and forces his body to work harder to produce red blood cells which gives him optimal physical performance.

Indra Nooyl

The CEO of PepsiCo sleeps for only four hours a night, retiring to bed at 12am and then waking up at 4am.

These are just five of our favourite unusual sleeping habits of today’s leading figures. Want to learn more? Check out this cool infographic courtesy of http://celebjury.com/

Why do these 61 famous people have such bizarre sleeping habits? appeared first on Sleep Junkies.

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Cleaning your mattress is not an everyday chore. But when it’s time, make sure you avoid these common mistakes.

There really isn’t anything better than coming back to a fresh, clean home. Especially after a long day of work. Knowing you can jump into a well-kept bed makes a deep sleep come easy.

However, maintaining a clean home requires a high level of attention to detail. It may be easy to remember to take the necessary steps to clean your carpet or sofa for dust mites and other contaminants, but when was the last time you gave the same attention to your mattress?

After all, your mattress plays one of the largest roles in achieving a good night’s sleep. What people do not realize when is that people are making mistakes that are preventing them from achieving a truly clean mattress.

These common mattress cleaning mistakes are causing people to suffer from a dirty mattress and a rough night’s sleep. When cleaning your mattress, make sure to avoid the following mistakes.

1) Using water

A spilled drink on your mattress is going to happen. Especially if you enjoy a late night glass of wine (or three) while lying in bed late at night binge watching Netflix.

If you have children in your home, a liquid stain on your mattress is almost a guarantee. People will typically rush to grab some water and soap to remove the stains, but wetting your mattress should be avoided at all costs! Mattress manufacturers will specifically warn about the damage it may cause to the mattresses upholstery.

This is especially important to know about if you have a young child or pet spending time in your bed, because you are likely going to deal with something far worse than a spilled glass of wine.

I am talking about urine stains. If your pet or young child has an accident in your bed, it is important to start by blotting away any excess fluid and then spray the spot with an enzyme based cleaning product.

You can eliminate any lingering odors by letting baking soda sit in the spot overnight and then vacuuming it up.

2) Using a beater

While whacking your mattress repeatedly with a beater may work well as for aggression therapy, it is not as effective for freeing your mattress of dust mites or bugs as homeowners may think.

A much more effective alternative would be to get a bed and upholstery vacuum cleaner to collect dust. After you have used the vacuum to remove dust or bugs from your mattress, feel free to take a beater to your mattress for stress relief.

3) Using a multi-purpose vacuum

You can’t just use any normal vacuum cleaner for on your bed or mattress. The typical multi-purpose vacuums are not built for handling your bed and upholstery. While multi-purpose vacuums can be effective for cleaning up your sofa, floor or other household furnishing your mattress will see much better results with a specific cleaning attachment built for mattresses and bed upholstery.

4) Steam cleaning

Steam cleaners do well when it comes to grease stain removal or any stains on a hard service. Most steam cleaners will even market themselves as having disinfectant qualities for killing bacteria or other various pollutants.

This is not true when a steam cleaner is applied to your mattress. In fact, the moisture from the steam can promote an environment where mold and other infestations can thrive, resulting in the opposite results of what you set out for in the first place.

Also, you are not going to enjoy sleeping on a moist mattress at night.

If you have made the mistake of using a steam cleaner for your mattress already and are struggling with mold and mildew, you can still remove it!

You must first eliminate the damp environment, so if you can, take the mattress outside to dry in the sun. Wipe off any visible mildew once the mattress is outside, but be very careful!

Next vacuum both sides of the mattress (with a vacuum that has the appropriate cleaning head attached). Once finished, dispose of your vacuum filter. Now you should mix warm water and isopropyl alcohol and a sponge onto your mattress. Rinse with a light amount of warm water, remember, you do not want to damage the upholstery! Finally, kill any remaining spores by using a disinfectant like Lysol and sleep easy know your mattress is mildew free!

In The End

If you want to maintain a clean and contaminant free mattress, it is essential you avoid the common misconceptions for cleaning methods mentioned above.

Indoor pollution takes a toll on your mattress and effectively cleaning it requires the proper methods. Otherwise you will end up with damaged upholstery, lingering odors or mildew.

Avoid losing sleep from these common mistakes and take proper cleaning care of your bed or mattress.

About the author

Carvin Wheeling is a content writer for Mattress Direct Warehouse, a local mattress store in sunny Phoenix, AZ. He is a thrifty shopper who enjoys sharing his knowledge with people who are serious about spending less on high quality items.

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Using sleep deprivation to lift people out of severe depression may seem counterintuitive, but for some people, it’s the only thing that works. Linda Geddes reports. Staying awake: the surprisingly effective way to treat depression

The first sign that something is happening is Angelina’s hands. As she chats to the nurse in Italian, she begins to gesticulate, jabbing, moulding and circling the air with her fingers. As the minutes pass and Angelina becomes increasingly animated, I notice a musicality to her voice that I’m sure wasn’t there earlier. The lines in her forehead seem to be softening, and the pursing and stretching of her lips and the crinkling of her eyes tell me as much about her mental state as any interpreter could.

Angelina is coming to life, precisely as my body is beginning to shut down. It’s 2am, and we’re sat in the brightly lit kitchen of a Milanese psychiatric ward, eating spaghetti. There’s a dull ache behind my eyes, and I keep on zoning out, but Angelina won’t be going to bed for at least another 17 hours, so I’m steeling myself for a long night. In case I doubted her resolve, Angelina removes her glasses, looks directly at me, and uses her thumbs and forefingers to pull open the wrinkled, grey-tinged skin around her eyes. “Occhi aperti,” she says. Eyes open.

This is the second night in three that Angelina has been deliberately deprived of sleep. For a person with bipolar disorder who has spent the past two years in a deep and crippling depression, it may sound like the last thing she needs, but Angelina – and the doctors treating her – hope it will be her salvation.

For two decades, Francesco Benedetti, who heads the psychiatry and clinical psychobiology unit at San Raffaele Hospital in Milan, has been investigating so-called wake therapy, in combination with bright light exposure and lithium, as a means of treating depression where drugs have often failed.

As a result, psychiatrists in the USA, the UK and other European countries are starting to take notice, launching variations of it in their own clinics. These ‘chronotherapies’ seem to work by kick-starting a sluggish biological clock; in doing so, they’re also shedding new light on the underlying pathology of depression, and on the function of sleep more generally.

“Sleep deprivation really has opposite effects in healthy people and those with depression,” says Benedetti. If you’re healthy and you don’t sleep, you’ll feel in a bad mood. But if you’re depressed, it can prompt an immediate improvement in mood, and in cognitive abilities. But, Benedetti adds, there’s a catch: once you go to sleep and catch up on those missed hours of sleep, you’ll have a 95 per cent chance of relapse.

The antidepressant effect of sleep deprivation was first published in a report in Germany in 1959. This captured the imagination of a young researcher from Tübingen in Germany, Burkhard Pflug, who investigated the effect in his doctoral thesis and in subsequent studies during the 1970s. By systematically depriving depressed people of sleep, he confirmed that spending a single night awake could jolt them out of depression.

Benedetti became interested in this idea as a young psychiatrist in the early 1990s. Prozac had been launched just a few years earlier, hailing a revolution in the treatment of depression. But such drugs were rarely tested on people with bipolar disorder. Bitter experience has since taught Benedetti that antidepressants are largely ineffective for people with bipolar depression anyway.

His patients were in desperate need of an alternative, and his supervisor, Enrico Smeraldi, had an idea up his sleeve. Having read some of the early papers on wake therapy, he tested their theories on his own patients, with positive results. “We knew it worked,” says Benedetti. “Patients with these terrible histories were getting well immediately. My task was finding a way of making them stay well.”

So he and his colleagues turned to the scientific literature for ideas. A handful of American studies had suggested that lithium might prolong the effect of sleep deprivation, so they investigated that. They found that 65 per cent of patients taking lithium showed a sustained response to sleep deprivation when assessed after three months, compared to just 10 per cent of those not taking the drug.

Since even a short nap could undermine the efficacy of the treatment, they also started searching for new ways of keeping patients awake at night, and drew inspiration from aviation medicine, where bright light was being used to keep pilots alert. This too extended the effects of sleep deprivation, to a similar extent as lithium.

“We decided to give them the whole package, and the effect was brilliant,” says Benedetti. By the late 1990s, they were routinely treating patients with triple chronotherapy: sleep deprivation, lithium and light. The sleep deprivations would occur every other night for a week, and bright light exposure for 30 minutes each morning would be continued for a further two weeks – a protocol they continue to use to this day. “We can think of it not as sleep-depriving people, but as modifying or enlarging the period of the sleep–wake cycle from 24 to 48 hours,” says Benedetti. “People go to bed every two nights, but when they go to bed, they can sleep for as long as they want.”

San Raffaele Hospital first introduced triple chronotherapy in 1996. Since then, it has treated close to a thousand patients with bipolar depression – many of whom had failed to respond to antidepressant drugs. The results speak for themselves: according to the most recent data, 70 per cent of people with drug-resistant bipolar depression responded to triple chronotherapy within the first week, and 55 per cent had a sustained improvement in their depression one month later.

And whereas antidepressants – if they work – can take over a month to have an effect, and can increase the risk of suicide in the meantime, chronotherapy usually produces an immediate and persistent decrease in suicidal thoughts, even after just one night of sleep deprivation.

Angelina was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder 30 years ago, when she was in her late 30s. The diagnosis followed a period of intense stress: her husband was facing a tribunal at work, and they were worried about having enough money to support themselves and the kids. Angelina fell into a depression that lasted nearly three years. Since then, her mood has oscillated, but she’s down more often than not. She takes an arsenal of drugs – antidepressants, mood stabilisers, anti-anxiety drugs and sleeping tablets – which she dislikes because they make her feel like a patient, even though she acknowledges this is what she is.

If I’d met her three days ago, she says, it’s unlikely I would have recognised her. She didn’t want to do anything, she’d stopped washing her hair or wearing make-up, and she stank. She also felt very pessimistic about the future. After her first night of sleep deprivation, she’d felt more energetic, but this largely subsided after her recovery sleep. Even so, today she felt motivated enough to visit a hairdresser in anticipation of my visit. I compliment her appearance, and she pats her dyed, golden waves, thanking me for noticing.

At 3am, we move to the light room, and entering is like being transported forward to midday. Bright sunlight streams in through the skylights overhead, falling on five armchairs, which are lined up against the wall. This is an illusion, of course – the blue sky and brilliant sun are nothing more than coloured plastic and a very bright light – but the effect is exhilarating nonetheless. I could be sitting on a sun lounger at midday; the only thing missing is the heat.

When I’d interviewed her seven hours earlier, with the help of an interpreter, Angelina’s face had remained expressionless as she’d replied. Now, at 3.20am, she is smiling, and even beginning to initiate a conversation with me in English, which she’d claimed not to speak. By dawn, Angelina’s telling me about the family history she’s started writing, which she’d like to pick up again, and inviting me to stay with her in Sicily.

How could something as simple as staying awake overnight bring about such a transformation? Unpicking the mechanism isn’t straightforward: we still don’t fully understand the nature of depression or the function of sleep, both of which involve multiple areas of the brain. But recent studies have started to yield some insights.

The brain activity of people with depression looks different during sleep and wakefulness than that of healthy people. During the day, wake-promoting signals coming from the circadian system – our internal 24-hour biological clock – are thought to help us resist sleep, with these signals being replaced by sleep-promoting ones at night. Our brain cells work in cycles too, becoming increasingly excitable in response to stimuli during wakefulness, with this excitability dissipating when we sleep. But in people with depression and bipolar disorder, these fluctuations appear dampened or absent.

Depression is also associated with altered daily rhythms of hormone secretion and body temperature, and the more severe the illness, the greater the degree of disruption. Like the sleep signals, these rhythms are also driven by the body’s circadian system, which itself is driven by a set of interacting proteins, encoded by ‘clock genes’ that are expressed in a rhythmic pattern throughout the day. They drive hundreds of different cellular processes, enabling them to keep time with one another and turn on and off. A circadian clock ticks in every cell of your body, including your brain cells, and they are coordinated by an area of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, which responds to light.

“When people are seriously depressed, their circadian rhythms tend to be very flat; they don’t get the usual response of melatonin rising in the evening, and the cortisol levels are consistently high rather than falling in the evening and the night,” says Steinn Steingrimsson, a psychiatrist at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden, who is currently running a trial of wake therapy.

Recovery from depression is associated with a normalisation of these cycles. “I think depression may be one of the consequences of this basic flattening of circadian rhythms and homeostasis in the brain,” says Benedetti. “When we sleep-deprive depressed people, we restore this cyclical process.”

But how does this restoration come about? One possibility is that depressed people simply need added sleep pressure to jump-start a sluggish system. Sleep pressure – our urge to sleep – is thought to arise because of the gradual release of adenosine in the brain. It builds up throughout the day and attaches to adenosine receptors on neurons, making us feel drowsy. Drugs that trigger these receptors have the same effect, whereas drugs that block them – such as caffeine – make us feel more awake.

To investigate whether this process might underpin the antidepressant effects of prolonged wakefulness, researchers at Tufts University in Massachusetts took mice with depression-like symptoms and administered high doses of a compound that triggers adenosine receptors, mimicking what happens during sleep deprivation. After 12 hours, the mice had improved, measured by how long they spent trying to escape when forced to swim or when suspended by their tails.

We also know sleep deprivation does other things to the depressed brain. It prompts changes in the balance of neurotransmitters in areas that help to regulate mood, and it restores normal activity in emotion-processing areas of the brain, strengthening connections between them.

And as Benedetti and his team discovered, if wake therapy kick-starts a sluggish circadian rhythm, lithium and light therapy seem to help maintain it. Lithium has been used as a mood stabiliser for years without anyone really understanding how it works, but we know it boosts the expression of a protein, called Per2, that drives the molecular clock in cells.

Bright light, meanwhile, is known to alter the rhythms of the suprachiasmatic nucleus, as well as boosting activity in emotion-processing areas of the brain more directly. Indeed, the American Psychiatric Association states that light therapy is as effective as most antidepressants in treating non-seasonal depression.

In spite of its promising results against bipolar disorder, wake therapy has been slow to catch on in other countries. “You could be cynical and say it’s because you can’t patent it,” says David Veale, a consultant psychiatrist at the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.

Certainly, Benedetti has never been offered pharmaceutical funding to carry out his trials of chronotherapy. Instead, he has – until recently – been reliant on government funding, which is often in short supply. His current research is being funded by the EU. Had he followed the conventional route of accepting industry money to run drug trials with his patients, he quips, he probably wouldn’t be living in a two-bedroom apartment and driving a 1998 Honda Civic.

The bias towards pharmaceutical solutions has kept chronotherapy below the radar for many psychiatrists. “A lot of people just don’t know about it,” says Veale.

It’s also difficult to find a suitable placebo for sleep deprivation or bright light exposure, which means that large, randomised placebo-controlled trials of chronotherapy haven’t been done. Because of this, there’s some scepticism about how well it really works. “While there is increasing interest, I don’t think many treatments based on this approach are yet routinely used – the evidence needs to be better and there are some practical difficulties in implementing things like sleep deprivation,” says John Geddes, a professor of epidemiological psychiatry at the University of Oxford.

Even so, interest in the processes underpinning chronotherapy is beginning to spread. “Insights into the biology of sleep and circadian systems are now providing promising targets for treatment development,” says Geddes. “It goes beyond pharmaceuticals – targeting sleep with psychological treatments might also help or even prevent mental disorders.”

In the UK, the USA, Denmark and Sweden, psychiatrists are investigating chronotherapy as a treatment for general depression. “A lot of the studies that have been done so far have been very small,” says Veale, who is currently planning a feasibility study at Maudsley Hospital in London. “We need to demonstrate that it is feasible and that people can adhere to it.”

So far, what studies there have been have produced mixed results. Klaus Martiny, who researches non-drug methods for treating depression at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, has published two trials looking at the effects of sleep deprivation, together with daily morning bright light and regular bedtimes, on general depression. In the first study, 75 patients were given the antidepressant duloxetine, in combination with either chronotherapy or daily exercise. After the first week, 41 per cent of the chronotherapy group had experienced a halving of their symptoms, compared to 13 per cent of the exercise group. And at 29 weeks, 62 per cent of the wake therapy patients were symptom-free, compared to 38 per cent of those in the exercise group.

In Martiny’s second study, severely depressed hospital inpatients who had failed to respond to antidepressant drugs were offered the same chronotherapy package as an add-on to the drugs and psychotherapy they were undergoing. After one week, those in the chronotherapy group improved significantly more than the group receiving standard treatment, although in subsequent weeks the control group caught up.

No one has yet compared wake therapy head-to-head with antidepressants; neither has it been tested against bright light therapy and lithium alone. But even if it’s only effective for a minority, many people with depression – and indeed psychiatrists – may find the idea of a drug-free treatment attractive.

“I’m a pill pusher for a living, and it still appeals to me to do something that doesn’t involve pills,” says Jonathan Stewart, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University in New York, who is currently running a wake therapy trial at New York State Psychiatric Institute.

Unlike Benedetti, Stewart only keeps patients awake for one night: “I couldn’t see a lot of people agreeing to stay in hospital for three nights, and it also requires a lot of nursing and resources,” he says. Instead, he uses something called sleep phase advance, where on the days after a night of sleep deprivation, the time the patient goes to sleep and wakes up is systematically brought forward. So far, Stewart has treated around 20 patients with this protocol, and 12 have shown a response – most of them during the first week.

It may also work as a prophylactic: recent studies suggest that teenagers whose parents set – and manage to enforce – earlier bedtimes are less at risk of depression and suicidal thinking. Like light therapy and sleep deprivation, the precise mechanism is unclear, but researchers suspect a closer fit between sleep time and the natural light–dark cycle is important.

But sleep phase advance has so far failed to hit the mainstream. And, Stewart accepts, it’s not for everybody. “For those for whom it works, it’s a miracle cure. But just as Prozac doesn’t get everyone better who takes it, neither does this,” he says. “My problem is that I have no idea ahead of time who it’s going to help.”

Depression can strike anyone, but there’s mounting evidence that genetic variations can disrupt the circadian system to make certain people more vulnerable. Several clock gene variations have been associated with an elevated risk of developing mood disorders.

Stress can then compound the problem. Our response to it is largely mediated through the hormone cortisol, which is under strong circadian control, but cortisol itself also directly influences the timing of our circadian clocks. So if you have a weak clock, the added burden of stress could be enough to tip your system over the edge.

Indeed, you can trigger depressive symptoms in mice by repeatedly exposing them to a noxious stimulus, such as an electric shock, from which they can’t escape – a phenomenon called learned helplessness. In the face of this ongoing stress, the animals eventually just give up and exhibit depression-like behaviours. When David Welsh, a psychiatrist at the University of California, San Diego, analysed the brains of mice that had depressive symptoms, he found disrupted circadian rhythms in two critical areas of the brain’s reward circuit – a system that’s strongly implicated in depression.

But Welsh has also shown that a disturbed circadian system itself can cause depression-like symptoms. When he took healthy mice and knocked out a key clock gene in the brain’s master clock, they looked just like the depressed mice he’d been studying earlier. “They don’t need to learn to be helpless, they are already helpless,” Welsh says.

So if disrupted circadian rhythms are a likely cause of depression, what can be done to prevent rather than treat them? Is it possible to strengthen your circadian clock to increase psychological resilience, rather than remedy depressive symptoms by forgoing sleep?

Martiny thinks so. He is currently testing whether keeping a more regular daily schedule could prevent his depressed inpatients from relapsing once they’ve recovered and are released from the psychiatric ward. “That’s when the trouble usually comes,” he says. “Once they’re discharged their depression gets worse again.”

Peter is a 45-year-old care assistant from Copenhagen who has battled with depression since his early teens. Like Angelina and many others with depression, his first episode followed a period of intense stress and upheaval. His sister, who more or less brought him up, left home when he was 13, leaving him with an uninterested mother and a father who also suffered from severe depression. Soon after that, his father died of cancer – another shock, as he’d kept his prognosis hidden until the week before his death.

Peter’s depression has seen him hospitalised six times, including for a month last April. “In some ways being in hospital is a relief,” he says. However, he feels guilty about the effect it has on his sons, aged seven and nine. “My youngest boy said he cried every night I was in hospital, because I wasn’t there to hug him.”

So when Martiny told Peter about the study he had just started recruiting for, he readily agreed to participate. Dubbed ‘circadian-reinforcement therapy’, the idea is to strengthen people’s circadian rhythms by encouraging regularity in their sleep, wake, meal and exercise times, and pushing them to spend more time outdoors, exposed to daylight.

For four weeks after leaving the psychiatric ward in May, Peter wore a device that tracked his activity and sleep, and he completed regular mood questionnaires. If there was any deviation in his routine, he would receive a phone call to find out what had happened.

When I meet Peter, we joke about the tan lines around his eyes; obviously, he’s been taking the advice seriously. He laughs: “Yes, I’m getting outdoors to the park, and if it’s nice weather, I take my children to the beach, for walks, or to the playground, because then I will get some light, and that improves my mood.”

Those aren’t the only changes he’s made. He now gets up at 6 every morning to help his wife with the children. Even if he’s not hungry he eats breakfast: typically, yoghurt with muesli. He doesn’t take naps and tries to be in bed by 10pm. If Peter does wake up at night, he practises mindfulness – a technique he picked up in hospital.

Martiny pulls up Peter’s data on his computer. It confirms the shift towards earlier sleep and wake times, and shows an improvement in the quality of his sleep, which is mirrored by his mood scores. Immediately after his release from hospital, these averaged around 6 out of 10. But after two weeks they’d risen to consistent 8s or 9s, and one day, he even managed a 10. At the beginning of June, he returned to his job at the care home, where he works 35 hours a week. “Having a routine has really helped me,” he says.

So far, Martiny has recruited 20 patients to his trial, but his target is 120; it’s therefore too soon to know how many will respond the same way as Peter, or indeed, if his psychological health will be maintained. Even so, there’s mounting evidence that good sleep routine can help our mental wellbeing. According to a study published in Lancet Psychiatry in September 2017 – the largest randomised trial of a psychological intervention to date – insomniacs who underwent a ten-week course of cognitive behavioural therapy to address their sleep problems showed sustained reductions in paranoia and hallucinatory experiences as a result. They also experienced improvements in..

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