It looks as though we may have another condition to add to the list of health consequences of insomnia: the common cold.

A US study took 164 healthy men and women between the ages of 18 to 55 and asked them to record their sleep over the course of a week.

At the end of that week, the participants were quarantined and given nasal drops containing rhinovirus.

Researchers found that those with shorter sleep durations were more likely to develop a cold compared to those with longer sleep durations.

More specifically, those who slept less than five hours per night, or only got between five and six hours of sleep were over four times more likely to develop a cold compared to those who slept for seven or more hours per night.

Interestingly, disturbed sleep appeared to have no effect on cold risk – researchers only saw an association when measuring sleep duration.

This appears to add further weight to the idea that our immune systems and sleep systems are inextricably linked.

Source: SLEEP

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A disturbing study was recently published by researchers in Norway.

The study surveyed over 10,000 teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 on their mental health, including sleep duration and quality, and self-harm.

702 of the teenagers reported self-harming, with around half of this group claiming to have self-harmed on more than one occasion.

Researchers found that teenagers with sleep problems were far more likely to report self-harm compared to healthy sleepers.

Furthermore, self-harming was found to be four times more common in those who met all the criteria for insomnia.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was also discovered that teenagers who self-harmed were also more likely to suffer from depression and ADHD.

The bottom line:

There appears to be a strong relationship between sleep problems and self-harm in teenagers. Hopefully addressing sleep issues in teenagers will be seen as a credible treatment option for those who self-harm.

Source: The British Journal of Psychiatry

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Typically, insomnia sufferers who are prescribed sleeping pills start off with a relatively low dose and are told to take them only on nights when they experience difficulties with sleep.

Unfortunately, many insomniacs find they need to continually increase their dose over time in order to maintain the effectiveness of their sleeping pills.

Furthermore, even though sleeping pills should only be used for the short term, very often people find they are taking them for months (or even years).

Unfortunately there is no clear consensus on how to manage insomnia with medication over the long term, and that’s what prompted a recent study.

Its aim was to identify the best strategy for maintaining the effectiveness of sleeping pills over time.

The study divided 74 chronic insomniacs into three groups. All participants were given 10mg of zolpidem (Ambien) for four weeks.

Then, one group was given a nightly dose of 5mg or 10mg of Ambien every night for 12 weeks.

A second group was given 10mg three to five times per week for 12 weeks (intermittent dosing).

A third group was given 10mg nightly for 12 weeks but half of the tables were sleeping pill placebos.

Researchers found that the intermittent dosing strategy was the least effective – with participants in that group demonstrating the worst sleep quality.

In other words, the group that probably best represents how insomnia sufferers are initially directed to use sleeping pills proved to be the least effective over time, and that may be why many find their dosages increasing over time.

As the senior author of the study concluded:

“The full dose may or may not be required to get the initial effect, but certainly maintaining the effect can be done with less medication.”

So it would appear that the better strategies are to start with a higher dose and potentially reduce this over time, or to start with a higher dose and mix in a placebo on some nights.

The bottom line: To maintain the effectiveness of sleeping pills, we may not necessarily need to increase (or even maintain) our initially prescribed dose.

Perhaps this will lead to alternative prescribing strategies in the future.

As always, you should speak with your doctor before making any changes to your sleeping pill regimen.

Source: Sleep Medicine

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Regular readers of this insomnia blog know that I am not a huge fan of melatonin supplements when it comes to treating insomnia.

There are ways to naturally increase your melatonin levels, though.

One way is by eating more tropical fruits. A small clinical crossover study out of Thailand selected 30 healthy volunteers and gave each of them one fruit to eat each week.

Researchers then measured levels of 6-sulfatoxymelatonin (a marker of melatonin) in the urine of the volunteers.

It was found that those who ate pineapples, bananas and oranges saw significant increases in levels of 6-sulfatoxymelatonin.

Those who ate pineapples saw an increase of 266%, those who ate bananas saw an increase of 180% and those who ate oranges saw an increase of 47%.

Hopefully we’ll see some additional research in the near future to help determine just how important these fruits may be for those who struggle with sleep.

In the meantime, here a sleep-inducing popsicle recipe that includes banana and orange.

Source: J Agric Food Chem.

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Should you ignore your insomnia if you want to keep your guns?

by Martin Reed 4 August 2015

Earlier this year, the media was in a furore over a story that a man who sought treatment for insomnia ended up having his guns confiscated. Apparently, after seeking medical help he was admitted to hospital for treatment. Less than a week later the Country Sheriff’s Department turned up on his doorstep and confiscated his […]

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I don’t get much sleep. Do I have insomnia?

by Martin Reed 27 July 2015

Not necessarily. Just as the myth of 8 hours of sleep has been well and truly debunked, it would appear that some of us can live healthy and fulfilling lives with far less sleep than most. In 2009, Californian researchers met a woman who went to bed around midnight and woke at 4am feeling completely […]

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