Are you an athlete struggling with insomnia?

by Martin Reed on 20 November 2014 in insomnia causes

Exercise is one of the best natural insomnia remedies – yet many athletes find they struggle with sleep.

One theory has now been put forward as to why this may be the case: energy drinks.

Although I’ve written about the negative effects of energy drinks on teenagers before, a new study suggests that energy drinks can negatively affect adults (and athletes in particular), too.

This is particularly concerning when you consider that it’s thought as many as 50% of athletes consume energy drinks during training and before competitions.

The 4 year study out of Camilo José Cela University involved footballers, climbers, swimmers, basketball, rugby, volleyball, tennis and hockey players.

Athletes enjoyed an increase in their sporting performance of between 3% and 7% when they consumed an energy drink 1 hour before training.

Unfortunately, they also experienced a higher prevalence of insomnia, nervousness and activeness, too.

Interestingly, researchers concluded that energy drinks did not typically provide more energy than other soft drinks – the ‘energizing’ effect came solely from the stimulation provided by caffeine.

Source: British Journal of Nutrition

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I’ve already written about why insomnia costs employers money (mainly due to an increase in mistakes and workplace injuries).

Now it would appear that insomnia could be hitting the pockets of employees, too.

A Finnish study found that those who aren’t getting the typically recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night miss more work days due to sickness compared to healthy sleepers.

Researchers looked at data involving over 3,500 individuals over the age of 30.

Those who reported frequent insomnia symptoms took more than 10 days off sick per year compared to roughly 5 days for those who never (or rarely) experienced insomnia.

In case you’re wondering what the optimal sleep duration is for minimizing those sick days, researchers determined it to be 7.6 hours for women and 7.8 hours for men.

The researchers even went so far as to conclude that if we were able to eliminate insomnia and other sleep disturbances from the work force, the total cost of worker sick days would fall by 28%.

Yet, insomnia is still all-too-often ignored, or insomnia sufferers are handed out sleeping pills and told to ‘get on with it’.

That needs to change.

Source: SLEEP

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Way back in 2011 I said that it was high time we took sleep issues related to shift work more seriously.

Not only are shift workers more likely to have a workplace accident, they may even be losing brain cells.

A more recent study has found that shift workers are 9% more likely to develop diabetes compared to those with regular work patterns.

Researchers found that male shift workers were 28% more likely to develop diabetes compared to female shift workers, and that those who work rotating shifts were 42% more likely to develop diabetes compared to those with regular work patterns.

It’s thought that about 15 million Americans are shift workers – so if you’re one of them (and struggling with sleep), what should you do?

Medication certainly isn’t the answer.

A study out of Finland looked at data from 15 trials involving over 700 individuals.

Their aim was to determine the effect of hypnotic drugs and melatonin on sleep after shift work.

Researchers found that although there was a small improvement in alertness when shift workers took a nap and drank caffeine before a night shift (and slightly better sleep when they took melatonin during the day), researchers found very little evidence to suggest that drugs were effective at improving the sleep of shift workers.

A better alternative is observing good sleep hygiene (I go through this in more detail in my free sleep training course) and observing the following tips:

  • Try to maintain a steady sleep-wake schedule throughout the week (including days off),
  • Limit interruptions during the times you set aside for sleep,
  • Make your bedroom as dark and quiet as possible,
  • If you work rotating shifts, try to have them rotate in a clockwise direction – for example, work days, then evenings, then nights,
  • Try to remain in bright light from the start of your shift until 2 hours before your shift ends,
  • If safe, consider wearing sunglasses for your commute home to minimize your light exposure before going to bed.

Sources:

Occupational and Environmental Medicine (Shift work and diabetes risk)
Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (Effectiveness of drugs)

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It would seem that poor sleep quality really can have a negative effect on our brains. Not only can it destroy brain cells and affect brain function, it would appear that poor sleep quality can also shrink our brains.

Researchers scanned the brains of 147 Norwegian adults with an average age of 54 at the start of their study and again 3.5 years later.

They found that after adjusting for other known sleep disturbance factors (such as BMI, blood pressure and physical activity), the brains of individuals who experienced poor sleep quality showed shrinkage in the frontal cortex and deterioration in 3 other areas.

These areas included parts of the brain that are responsible for planning, reasoning, memory and problem solving.

It’s worth mentioning that researchers did not test the thinking skills of the participants in this study – so there is no evidence that poor sleep or brain shrinkage is responsible for poor memory or thinking difficulties.

That being said, previous studies have found a link between memory decline and reductions in brain volume.

Source: Neurology

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The real reason why pain likely to lead to insomnia

by Martin Reed 3 November 2014

It’s perhaps unsurprising that those who suffer from chronic or widespread pain are more likely to experience problems with their sleep. However, a new study suggests that adults who suffer from pain for longer than a day are more likely to report sleep problems years later. The study in question lasted for 3 years and […]

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Sleep deprived teenagers more likely to end up obese

by Martin Reed 31 October 2014

A previous study suggested that teenagers need between 7 1/2 – 8 1/2 hours of sleep each night. Now, researchers are suggesting that teenagers may need as much as 9 1/4 hours of sleep each night – and those that aren’t getting enough sleep may be in danger of growing up obese. This is of […]

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