According to researchers at Harvard Medical School in Boston, astronauts get less than six hours of sleep on orbiting space shuttles and barely more than six hours when on the International Space Station – even though NASA allots 8.5 hours of sleep for all space-traveling astronauts.

Furthermore, about 75% of astronauts are using sleeping pills during spaceflight – which is a concern when you consider the potential side-effects of sleeping pills (and sleep deprivation itself).

So why aren’t astronauts getting more sleep? One theory is that since the sun rises and sets every 90 minutes for orbiting astronauts, the body’s circadian rhythm is pushed out-of-synch. Another theory argues that microgravity may be to blame.

Here’s hoping this study prompts additional research on the physiology of sleep. The more we understand about sleep (regardless of where it takes place), the better.

Source: The Lancet

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What are the best sleeping pills?

by Martin Reed on 15 April 2015 in insomnia cures

Consumer Reports set out to determine the best sleeping pills for insomnia by comparing effectiveness, safety and price of the most common sleep aids.

All the sleeping pills evaluated had to be approved by the FDA for treating insomnia.

You can read their full findings (all nine pages) via the source link at the bottom of this post but here’s a general overview.

The best prescription pills for insomnia

Consumer Reports concluded that eszopiclone (Lunesta), ramelteon (Rozerem), zaleplon (Sonata) and zolpidem (Ambien, Ambien CR, Edluar and Zolpimist) are effective but are no better than cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia or older and cheaper drugs for insomnia.

The older and less expensive prescription sleeping pills for insomnia include benzodiazepines such as estazolam, triazolam (Halcion) and temazepam (Restoril) and were found to work just as well as the newer sleeping pills.

Antidepressants such as trazodone are also commonly prescribed for insomnia. Studies suggest this drug can help people with depression fall asleep and stay asleep but there is very little evidence to demonstrate its effectiveness in treating insomnia in those without depression.

The best over the counter sleeping pills for insomnia

When it comes to sleeping pills that don’t require a prescription, those that contain an antihistamine such as diphenhydramine (the active ingredient in Benadryl, Nytol and Sominex) or doxylamine (Unisom) may help for temporary bouts of insomnia.

When people ask me what the best treatment for insomnia is, my answer is almost always the same. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-i) is the only insomnia treatment that is universally accepted as an effective insomnia cure because it addresses the root cause of insomnia. As a result, the effects are long-lasting.

Sleeping pills should only ever be taken over the short-term. They do not cure insomnia.

My free sleep training course uses CBT techniques to improve sleep. Over 2,500 insomniacs have completed my course and 98% say they would recommend it to a friend.

Source: Consumer Reports

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A study by the National Sleep Foundation has estimated that nearly half of teenagers in the United States aren’t getting enough sleep (in three-quarters of those cases, insomnia was to blame for that lack of sleep) and nearly a third of teenagers are only getting a borderline acceptable amount of sleep.

Furthermore, it’s not just teenagers that are seeing increasing rates of insomnia and sleep disturbance. Between 20% and 30% of children under five suffer from some type of sleep disorder.

Even in childhood, it’s thought that stress is the number one cause of insomnia; from homework to excessive obligations and even teenage dating, stress can crop up in a number of ways.

So how much sleep do children need each night?

  • 5 to 7 year olds: 11 hours of sleep,
  • 8 to 9 year olds: 10 and a half hours of sleep,
  • 10 to 11 year olds: 10 hours of sleep,
  • 12 to 14 year olds: 9 and a half hours of sleep,
  • 15 to 20 year olds: 9 hours of sleep.

Unfortunately, the average teenager is only getting around seven and a half hours of sleep on school nights, and this becomes even less as the child gets older. The average 12th grader gets less than seven hours of sleep.

How to improve sleep in children and teenagers

Developing better sleep habits is the best way to tackle insomnia in children. Make sure children are going to bed and getting out of bed within around half an hour of the same time every day. A bedtime routine can also help.

Children should get regular physical exercise during the day (preferably outdoors), avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening and finish all meals at least two hours before bedtime. Lights should be dimmed and stimulating activities (including watching TV or using electronic devices) should be avoided in the hour or so before bed.

Although childhood insomnia is on the rise, if it’s taken seriously enough and tackled in the right way, our children do not need to continue suffering from the effects of sleep deprivation. Insomnia (particularly in children) should never be ignored.

Source: McPhersonSentinel

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We already know there’s a link between sleep disturbance and anxiety – and, since one of the most prevalent forms of anxiety is social anxiety, it makes sense that these individuals may have the highest rates of insomnia.

I recently came across a study that looked to investigate this relationship. 

Researchers measured 176 participants using the Social Interaction Anxiety Scale and the Insomnia Severity Index. They found that those with social anxiety were indeed more likely to experience symptoms of insomnia.

More specifically, those with social anxiety were found to have higher levels of sleep dissatisfaction, were more likely to be impaired due to sleep deprivation, worry about sleep and have others identify them as having sleep problems.

Researchers also looked at the role depression had in the lives of participants and found it played a definite part in the relationship between social anxiety and insomnia.

Still no confirmation of cause and effect, but it would appear that there is a very real link between the two conditions – especially when depression is involved.

Source: PubMed

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Too much sleep is more dangerous than not enough sleep

by Martin Reed 25 March 2015

I’ve written before about the unnecessary pressure many people put themselves under to get that magical eight hours of sleep. Many of us don’t need eight hours of sleep. In fact, one study suggests that the longer we sleep, the higher our risk of death. A UK researcher analyzed 16 studies and divided participants into […]

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The vicious cycle of insomnia

by Martin Reed 19 March 2015

Many individuals on my free sleep training course for insomnia find sleep difficult because they worry excessively about their sleep. The more they worry about sleep, the more difficult sleep becomes. What may start out as just a few nights of sleeplessness can turn into long-term, chronic insomnia. Before they know it, they’re stuck in […]

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