“Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally made by your brain in response to darkness,” says sleep specialist Marri Horvat, MD. “When someone takes melatonin, they are either trying to increase the amount of this hormone overall or increase the amount they have in their body at a certain time to help them fall asleep.”
While there are some possible setbacks to taking melatonin (depending on how your body reacts), it isn’t addictive. Turns out, even if you depend on melatonin to make you fall asleep, it won’t cause your body to become dependent on it.
“As we age, we have a natural decrease in the amount of melatonin we produce, so supplementation can often be helpful,” Dr. Horvat explains.
For many older adults, a good night’s rest is elusive. The implications of chronically poor sleep can be far-reaching and include a decline in cognitive functioning and detrimental effects on health and general well-being. Fortunately, relief may be in sight.
A new study led by investigators at the Stanford University School of Medicine shows that neurons in the lateral hypothalamus, a brain region, play a pivotal role in sleep loss in old mice. More specifically, the arousal-promoting hypocretin neurons become hyperexcitable, driving sleep interruptions.
Luis de Lecea, PhD, is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford Medicine. He is the study’s senior author and hopes the finding could pave the way to new drug treatments for age-related sleep problems in humans.
Shi-Bin Li, PhD, is an instructor in the Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences department at Stanford Medicine. He is also a basic life research scientist in the de Lecea lab, and is the lead author of the study. Lisa Kim is Senior Manager of Media Relations for Stanford Medicine and Stanford Health Care. Lisa has a deep background in journalism, as she is an Emmy Award-winning journalist who has covered stories on both the national and local levels.
Back-sleepers beware. “I know many people find it to be comfortable, because they’re not putting weight on their joints,” says Dr. Lois Krahn, a Mayo Clinic sleep specialist. But Mayo Clinic experts say sleeping on your back is actually the worst sleeping position, especially if you have sleep apnea. “Sleeping on the back means that your tongue and jaw can fall down and crowd your airway. And many people snore more on their back,” says Dr. Krahn. Sleeping on your stomach helps keep the airway open, but it can put a strain on your spine and neck. “There’s a host of evidence overall suggesting that probably sleeping on the side is better,” says Dr. Virend Somers, a cardiologist and director of the sleep facility within Mayo Clinic’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science.
Did you know that not getting enough zzz’s can actually make you hungrier? According to sleep scientist Matt Walker, the relationship between what you eat and your sleep is a two-way street. Here’s why understanding it can help you improve your overall health.
Sleep — we spend one-third of our lives doing it, but what exactly do we get out of it? And how can we do it better? In this TED series, sleep scientist Matt Walker uncovers the facts and secrets behind our nightly slumber. (Made possible with the support of Oura) Check out more episodes on TED.com: https://go.ted.com/sleepingwithscience
ROCHESTER, Minn. — People with rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder act out their dreams. While sleeping safely in bed, for example, they might throw up their arms to catch an imaginary ball or try to run from an illusory assailant. Such actions are more than just a nuisance. People with the disorder have a 50% to 80% chance of developing a serious neurodegenerative disease within a decade of diagnosis.
Dreams are very egalitarian. I really believe that one person knows just about as much about dreams as another person, since almost all of us do a lot of it, and no two theories about dreaming are the same. However, I would like to give you some of what I have learned from my own dreams and readings about them. In addition, I have included a reference that discusses Scientific dreams studies in some detail.
When I was about 14 years of age, and burning up with a desire to learn more about medicine, I bought the only “medical” book I could find in Grass Valley, California: The interpretation of dreams, by Sigmund Freud. I vividly remember being amazed at how Freud could figure out the symbolisms in the dream case studies he published. The interpretations were not at all clear to me, even after I was told the answer, and chewed on them a bit. I subsequently read the opinion that a lot of them were made up. The essence of Freuds theory of dreams is that they were wish fulfillments, which is patently not always true.
REM sleep was linked to dreams in 1953, a couple of years before I graduated from medical school. For years, dreams were studied in a unitary context of REM sleep, and in the opinion of some, this has slowed down progress on the knowledge of dreams immeasurably. We now know that dreams are not always linked to REM sleep. Dreaming can be neurologically interrupted, while REM sleep goes on. REM sleep can be eliminated while dreaming goes on.
So we go back to the starting block; what are dreams?
The Ancients put a lot of stock in dreams, such as Joseph’s dreams predicting a seven-year drought, which earned him a place on the pharaohs Staff. Martin Luther thought they were the work of the devil. My son Michael thinks they are a good thing, since when you dream you are sleeping, and sleep is a wonderful restorative.
My own theory is that they are random fragments of experience which are ordered and supplemented to form a story. These random fragments can either be from recent experiences, perhaps being consolidated in memory, or old experiences that are being pruned as unnecessary. These snippets are then aggregated under the influence of mood neurochemicals, and flow out in the dream narrative.
Sensations coming in from the environment can play a role. I will always remember the story of a sleep study patient, who was slapped on the back of his neck by a wet towel. He awakened immediately, and vividly remembered a dream about the French Revolution, in which he was guillotined. I read that dreams take 5 or10 minutes of time to develop, however.
I dream almost every night, and most are forgotten rapidly. Some have enough detail and meaning for me too mull over before I get up. Some of my more common dreams are of flying, or getting lost. The pleasant dreams are definitely in the majority. Only rarely, a sinister one will wake me up.
The following reference details about 50 of the most common dreams that people experience. Much other pertinent information is contained. What is your theory on the causes and meaning of dreams? You probably have as good an idea as anybody else.
Sleep has many functions, among which are clearing the body of toxins and consolidating memory. The exact amount we need is determined by age, and genetics among another things. From what I’ve read, eight hours is required, plus or minus an hour.
That being said, there are a few among us who are super sleepers. Going back in history this probably included Mozart and Thomas Edison: They could live healthy, productive lives with as few as three or four hours of sleep. Genetic mutations, including changes to the Orexin Gene receptor account for true super-sleepers.
Familial fatal insomnia is a genetic disease operating through prion proteins, and does not illuminate the problem of insomnia. In most people there are two major forces which determine the onset of sleep, the circadian rhythm, and sleep pressure.
The TIMING of the sleep varies from morning larks to night owls. These shifts in the circadian rhythm is also genetic, involving many genes, including PER and CRY. Diurnal rhythm can apparently be changed, But with difficulty.
The sleep pressure is caused by the gradual daily accumulation of adenosine in the system, apparently resulting from the stripping away of the phosphate groups from the energy currency, ATP. This can be assuaged by caffeine containing drinks, such as tea or coffee. Caffeine temporally blocks the effect of adenosine, but when it wears off, you usually go right back to your fatigue state.
INSOMNIA occurs when you do not get as much sleep as you need, and are tired in the daytime. This is a major problem for a lot of people.
Insomnia has many causes. Stress will cause an increase in Cortisone in the bloodstream which interferes with sleep. Caffeinated drinks nicotine and other stimulants can cause you to have difficulty falling asleep, and alcohol will help you fall asleep but will often result in awakening in the middle of the night when the alcohol is metabolized.
Depression, Parkinson’s, chronic pain, gastroesophageal reflux and any other medical conditions can interfere with sleep. Sleep apnea, often associated with overweight and heavy snoring, is a special problem that sometimes needs the help of a sleep specialist.
Some poor habits such as reading in bed, doing work in bed, eating at bedtime, and heavy exercise just before bed can also be a problem. A regular routine of Preparing for sleep, such as brushing and flossing and taking a warm shower are also helpful; you can get more details by looking up “sleep hygiene”.
A lot of people take a nap, but this can cause some difficulty in going to sleep. Among things you can do to prevent insomnia include living an active life, making your bedroom comfortable for sleep, and using your bedroom ONLY for sex and sleep.
Please refer to the accompanying Mayo clinic article for more organized information.