Our sleep is often disrupted whenever we feel unwell.

It’s typically thought that the illness is responsible for any consequent sleep deprivation – however a study now suggests that our immune system may be to blame.

Researchers in the UK found that when they artificially activated the immune system in healthy fruit flies, sleep duration fell and memory performance suffered.

This suggests that the immune system itself is capable of reducing sleep time and sleep quality and as a result, memory ability is also impaired.

Not only could this study open up new areas of insomnia research, it also further strengthens the claim that sleep is important for learning and memory.

Source: PeerJ

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A couple of days ago I played down the health consequences of short sleep durations.

Now a study has found that there’s no link between sleep deprivation and hypertension.

It’s often thought that insomnia and high blood pressure are linked.

This latest study may have debunked that theory.

The Canadian cross-sectional study looked at the sleep histories of over 12,000 individuals and found no significant association between insomnia symptoms and high blood pressure (hypertension).

This held true even after looking at different degrees of insomnia severity and frequency.

Although those with higher insomnia symptom frequency were more likely to be diagnosed with hypertension or to be taking hypertension medication, after controlling for covariates, this link was not significant.

Perhaps it’s time we focus more on sleep quality rather than sleep quantity.

Source: The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry

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When it comes to sleep duration, insomnia sufferers often put far too much pressure on themselves to get the mythical 8 hours of sleep.

All this does is make sleep harder to come by.

Our bodies only really need about 5.5 hours of sleep each night. This is known as ‘core sleep’.

Of course, more than 5.5 hours of sleep is optimal – but we can survive on core sleep alone.

We only really see serious health consequences when we get less than the required core sleep on a regular basis.

Yet, even then, any increased health risks are often down to sleep deprivation being combined with other pre-existing health issues.

One study recently found that those who get 5 hours or less sleep each night are 2.73 times more likely to develop cancer.

However, after depression was controlled for, researchers found no significant increase in the risk factor for cancer – even in those regularly getting fewer than 5 hours of sleep each night.

One way we can all improve our sleep is to stop putting pressure on ourselves to fall asleep within a certain amount of time and to sleep for a specific length of time.

You actually need a lot less sleep than you think.

Source: Internal Medicine News

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Sleep deprivation varies between the sexes. When it comes to insomnia prevalence to medication use and other effects, our gender appears to influence how sleep (or a lack of it) affects our bodies and minds.

Adding to this, I recently came across a study that found that women may bear the brunt of some of insomnia’s less pleasant side-effects.

The research, out of Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, found that women who suffered from poor sleep quality were more likely to suffer from psychosocial distress (such as depression, hostility and anger) compared to sleep deprived men.

Furthermore, female insomnia sufferers were also more likely to have higher blood levels of substances that have been linked to type 2 diabetes, inflammation, heart disease and even stroke.

Researchers found that if it took women half an hour or more to fall asleep, they were more at risk of developing the symptoms described above. In fact, time to fall asleep was more of a risk factor than overall sleep quality.

So why the difference between the genders?

One theory argues that it’s all down to gender differences in the way serotonin, melatonin and tryptophan function in the body – but we still don’t really know for sure.

Source: Brain, Behavior, and Immunity

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More Insomnia Information

Being more social may improve sleep (especially in seniors)

by Martin Reed 6 August 2014

Seniors are more likely to suffer from insomnia than younger individuals. Fortunately, we need less sleep as we age – but insomnia should not be ignored, regardless of age (or gender). Increasing social interaction may be one way to combat insomnia – particularly in the elderly who are more likely to experience isolation. It’s thought […]

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Insomnia can make you feel like you’re going crazy

by Martin Reed 31 July 2014

There’s no doubt that insomnia affects the mind in a number of ways. I was recently reading a news article that did a good job rounding up a number of the mental health consequences of insomnia. The founder of the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas claims that chronic sleep deprivation […]

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