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 refreshed and alert. Apart from the short sleep duration, she displayed no other symptoms of insomnia.

Upon further study, researchers discovered the woman had a tiny mutation in the DEC2 gene. This mutation was also present in family members who had short sleep durations, but not in family members or volunteers who had ‘normal’ sleep durations.

Interestingly, researchers then bred mice with the same genetic mutation. The mice slept less than normal, but again appeared to be none the worse because of it. They remained alert and performed tasks just as well as regular mice.

It would appear that those with the DEC2 mutation are simply able to sleep more efficiently. In other words, the brains of these individuals are able to repair cellular damage, remove toxins, recharge energy supplies, consolidate memories and perform other ‘housekeeping’ tasks that happen during sleep more quickly than the rest of us.

This makes sense since we already know that sleep quality is far more important than sleep duration.

One common characteristic that researchers found among those with the DEC2 mutation was that they were typically very energetic and optimistic. They wanted to cram as much into their lives as possible. Researchers don’t know whether this is related to the mutation, however.

So it turns out that if you’re only getting a few hours of sleep each night but wake feeling refreshed and energized, it’s unlikely that you have anything to be concerned about. You may just have a very efficient sleep system.

Source: Science

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Generally speaking, if you suffer from insomnia, naps are usually best avoided.

That’s because they reduce sleep pressure, so if you’re trying to improve your sleep through sleep restriction therapy, naps can counter the very effect you’re trying to achieve.

However, naps aren’t all bad.

A recent French study found that naps can reduce the stresses imposed on the body due to sleep deprivation.

The research involved putting 11 healthy men between the ages of 25 and 32 through two separate three day sleep routines.

The first routine involved a night of eight hours of sleep followed by a night of two hours of sleep followed by a night of as much sleep as they wanted.

The second routine remained the same except participants were allowed to take two half hour naps the day after their night of restricted sleep.

Researchers found that after the night of sleep restriction, norepinephrine values increased. (Norepinephrine is a hormone that plays a key role in how the body regulates stress, the heart rate, blood sugar levels and blood pressure.)

When testing those who were able to take naps the following day, the increase in norepinephrine values was no longer present.

After a night of sleep restriction, individuals also had higher levels of Interleukin-6 – a protein that helps fight viruses. As with norepinephrine values, these levels were normalized after napping.

Interestingly, researchers also discovered that the advice of avoiding naps when trying to improve sleep is sound – those who didn’t nap had higher levels of dopamine on their final recovery night (when they could sleep as much as they wanted) and they got more slow-wave (deep) sleep on their recovery night compared to the non-napping group.

Although this study was only small, it shows that naps can be beneficial for short-term sleep deprivation. Naps after a night of poor sleep can reduce stress and strengthen the immune system. However, those who napped didn’t get the same dopamine boost or amount of slow-wave sleep the next night compared to those who didn’t nap.

My advice? If you suffer from insomnia I still recommend avoiding naps as they can disrupt your sleep cycle and reduce nighttime sleep pressure. However, if you feel a nap is absolutely necessary make sure you limit your nap to around 45 minutes and avoid taking naps later than around 4pm.

Source: Endocrine Society

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Can Celtic sea salt cure insomnia?

by Martin Reed on 7 July 2015 in insomnia cures

A few years ago, I wrote about a study from 1945 that suggested cutting back on salt can improve sleep. Yet it turns out that salt may not be all bad, after all.

Some have suggested that breathing salt can be beneficial to sleep. Now it would appear that the type of salt you ingest is what really affects sleep.

According to the ‘biohacker‘ Kusha Karvandi, Celtic sea salt contains as many as 80 trace elements, including ones that increase relaxation.

Apparently, Celtic sea salt has been found to normalize blood pressure and helps curb the body’s stress response.

It’s also thought to increase levels of the hormone oxytocin, which help increase feelings of calm and gives a sense of well-being.

So how do you use Celtic sea salt to improve your sleep? Kusha suggests mixing a teaspoon of the salt with hot water and drinking the resulting brine half an hour before bed.

I’ve not found any scientific studies to back any of these claims up, but if you’re a fan of ’boutique salt’ you may want to give this a try!

You can buy Celtic sea salt at Amazon.com.

Source: South China Morning Post

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Exercise can improve sleep. If you want to use exercise as a natural insomnia remedy to help you fall asleep, it’s best to exercise within three to six hours of bedtime to give your body temperature enough time to fall.

Exercise should be avoided in the three hours before bedtime as this can make sleep more difficult since your body temperature may be too elevated when you’re ready for bed.

That being said, if you don’t have time to exercise earlier in the day, here are some tips:

1. Save the vigorous exercise for days when you do have the spare time. On days when you’re only able to exercise close to bedtime, go for a lighter form of exercise such as a walk or yoga.

2. Help your body temperature fall more quickly by taking a bath or shower before bed.

3. Try refueling after your workout with a light snack that is lower in protein and higher in carbohydrate to help increase serotonin and tryptophan.

Source: Shape Magazine

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The insomnia treatment that also reduces suicide risk

by Martin Reed 16 June 2015

We already know there’s a link between insomnia and military service. Studies have also found a link between nightmares, insomnia and suicide. Now a study has found suicidal thoughts were reduced by 33% in veterans who underwent cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia. In fact, researchers found that every seven point decrease in Insomnia Severity Index […]

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Can omega-3 DHA improve sleep and cure insomnia?

by Martin Reed 11 June 2015

Researchers at the University of Oxford have found that higher levels of omega-3 DHA may be associated with better sleep. The study involved 362 children between the ages of 7 and 9. It suggested that those who took a daily supplement of omega-3 DHA (the long chain fatty acid found naturally in algae and seafood) […]

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