Researchers at the University of Warwick in Coventry, UK, have stated that most patients who seek treatment for pain also report insomnia that is severe enough to warrant clinical attention.

Perhaps that should come as no surprise - living with chronic pain is hardly going to be conducive to a good night's sleep.

However, what is interesting about this latest research is what it tells us about the relationship between insomnia and pain (and what we can do about it).

Researchers found that the onset of insomnia in those suffering from pain can be averted by addressing physical limitations and increasing social participation. In fact, they declared that the combination of physical limitation and reduced social participation explained up to 68% of the effect of pain as a cause of insomnia.

The study found that addressing barriers to physical activity by encouraging participants to undergo physiotherapy or take exercise classes improved their physical function. Social participation was measured by evaluating participant involvement in areas such as community and religious activities, meeting up with friends, going to clubs, taking part in education or training or undertaking paid or voluntary work.

This research suggests that if you live with chronic pain, increasing both physical activity and social participation may help alleviate the onset of four common insomnia symptoms: non-restorative sleep, difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, and frequent nighttime awakenings.

Source: Medpage Today

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When it comes to how well we sleep (or don't sleep), there does appear to be a difference between the genders.

It's thought that hormonal changes are responsible for many cases of insomnia in women.

If you want to improve your sleep without sleeping pills, moderate intensity exercise can really help.

One American study looked at postmenopausal, overweight or obese, sedentary women aged 50 to 75 years old who were not taking hormone replacement therapy.

It found that those who got half an hour of moderate exercise each morning fell asleep faster at night compared to those who exercised less.

The time of day you exercise seems to be very important, too - the study found that those who exercised at night actually took longer to fall asleep!

If aerobic exercise for sleep is a bit too much for you, you can start off with some simple stretches or yoga - the study found that those who practiced low-intensity stretching were less likely to use sleeping pills.

Source: SLEEP (PDF)

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A little over a year ago, I wrote about a study that found women were more likely to suffer from health conditions associated with insomnia compared to men.

Another study has recently been published that comes with more bad news for sleep deprived women - particularly women with bipolar disorder.

Researchers analyzed data from 216 individuals that compared sleep quality with mood outcome over a period of two years.

They found that women with poor sleep quality were more likely to suffer from symptoms of depression and mania, and that poor sleep quality made these symptoms more severe.

For men, sleep quality had less of an effect - baseline depression scores and neuroticism were stronger indicators of mood outcome.

So why does sleep deprivation seem to affect women with bipolar disorder more than men?

It's thought that a biological mechanism could be to blame. One theory points the finger at reproductive hormones. Another theory suggests that women get a different type of sleep compared to men, so sleep deprivation affects them differently.

Either way, this study demonstrates the importance of sleep quality for those with bipolar disorder - particularly women.

Source: Journal of Affective Disorders

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I am a big fan of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia.

I believe it should be the first treatment offered to those suffering from chronic insomnia. Others agree with me: CBT-i has been recognized as the preferred treatment for chronic insomnia by the National Institutes of Health and the British Medical Association.

CBT works because it identifies and addresses the root causes of most cases of insomnia (you can learn more about CBT in my free sleep training course).

Now it would appear that cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia may also alleviate symptoms of other conditions, too.

Researchers reviewed 37 studies involving over 2,000 individuals with psychiatric and/or medical conditions who underwent cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia.

They found that after treatment, those who underwent CBT for insomnia were twice as likely to be in remission from their insomnia compared to those in control groups.

That was less surprising than what researchers discovered next.

Apparently, CBT for insomnia also had positive effects on their other illnesses, too. These conditions included psychiatric conditions such as depression and PTSD, and medical conditions such as chronic pain.

Further confirmation, then, of the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia - even for those with additional health conditions.

Source: JAMA Internal Medicine

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What if we let our kids get just one extra hour of sleep?

by Martin Reed 28 October 2015

I’ve been writing about how early school start times have been harming our children for over five years now. Three years ago, I reported on a study that found making school start times a little later increased academic achievement dramatically. Now it would appear that others are catching on. UK scientists are leading a project […]

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Are thermostats to blame for all our sleep problems?

by Martin Reed 16 October 2015

Regular readers of this blog will know that I often talk about artificial light being a menace to sleep health. Not only does the very existence of artificial light in the form of light bulbs encourage us to spend more time awake, the type of light emitted by the numerous gadgets and gizmos we have […]

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