New Research Examines the Causes & Consequences of Poor Sleep

Woman With Insomnia Lying In Bed With Open Eyes. Girl In Bed Suffering Insomnia And Sleep Disorder Thinking About His Problem At Night

An influx of new research has been shedding light on the importance of sleep and showing the great promise of natural approaches to treating dysfunction.

According to recent statistics, at least one-third of Americans don’t get the recommended seven hours of sleep per night. And over the last few years, sleep problems have been reported in 40% of Americans. Alarmed by these numbers, researchers have doubled their efforts at studying the causes, effects, and possible treatments.

Dr. Donese Worden is a naturopathic doctor who has worked with multiple patients with sleep issues and has lectured extensively on the topic.

“The importance of sleep cannot be overstated. It detoxes our body, not only the brain in its detoxification process but the entire body. It allows us to regenerate our body — that’s called ATP,” Dr. Worden said. 

“The cells also need to rest at a certain point to re-energize themselves to do all of the processes they do. It allows us to tell our bodies we need to burn more fat. It allows our body to say it is time to regulate blood sugar (and) help the cardiovascular system repair. If we’re not sleeping well, we’re more at risk for atherosclerosis and other metabolic diseases.”

One significant area of recent research has been around the causes of sleep problems. Multiple factors have been implicated, including stress responses, nutritional deficits and excesses, and nighttime routines.

“Your nighttime routine is called sleep hygiene. Is the room dark? Blackout curtains are important here. Is the room cold enough? That affects your sleep. So looking at the basics of cold room, dark room, and blue light. Is the computer on? Are you looking at your cell phone? Blue light has been linked with a very recent study, into affecting our quality of sleep and ability to go to sleep,” Dr. Worden said.

Studies suggest that blue light decreases the production of melatonin, which is necessary for the induction of sleep. Another focus of recent study is the connection between nutrition, inflammation, and sleep.

“Long-term nutritional deficiencies alter inflammation in the body, and when we have inflammation or certain types of inflammatory cells, such as cytokines, that affects our sleep cycles,” Dr. Worden said. “Those are new studies showing us that the more inflammation we have, the more sleep disturbances we may have. Asking your physician to run a cardiac reactive protein marker would be a great way to look at your overall inflammation.”

Recent research has also been clearly showing the far-reaching consequences of inadequate and poor-quality sleep.

“The more studies that we conduct, the more interplay we see between sleep and many common disorders in the body, from obesity to cardiovascular disease, to diabetes. Research has shown us that when our sleep patterns are not good, we are more likely to have cognitive decline during the day, our memory is not as good, and our executive function is not there. And a large new study just showed us that 50 and 60 year-olds, if they’re not getting enough sleep, are more prone to have dementia in their senior years,” Dr. Worden said.

In the search for solutions to sleep issues, numerous recent studies have borne out the efficacy of various natural approaches.

“In the International Journal of Clinical Practice, a recent study was looking for non-pharmacological treatments for insomnia. And what they found was that it’s more prevalent in females and as females age, it becomes more prevalent,” Dr. Worden said. “But the conclusions showed that the things that really helped the best were cognitive behavioral therapy, (that’s types of counseling) exercise, relaxation, and approaches like light therapy — the right kind of light, not blue light — aromatherapy, music therapy, and some herbal medicines were shown to be helpful.”

One interesting new study provides another possible solution for those suffering from insomnia.

“A new study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that getting enough physical activity during the day may counter the negative effects that happen from unhealthy sleep patterns,” Dr. Worden said

While the prevalence of sleep issues is clearly a grave concern, the increasingly deeper understanding of their causes and mounting evidence of the success of natural treatments should give hope to all those desperately in need of a good night’s sleep.

30 Meanings Behind Your Dream Symbols

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Are dreams messages delivered to us from our subconscious? Or are they just last night’s pizza gone wrong?

Out of the average human night of sleep, we dream for 90 minutes to two hours or more each night. Sometimes, we might wake up amused, scared or confused about our dream time. Interestingly enough, there are several common dream themes that crop up in every culture and background, regardless of age, gender, or country.

Suzanne Bergmann, a licensed social worker and professional dream worker for more than 16 years, notes, “Dreams are a universal language, creating often elaborate images out of emotional concepts.”

Of course, not every single element of your dream has an unconscious meaning. Sometimes, it is just the pizza. To start noting important dreams, however, you should start keeping a dream journal with dates to compare your dreams to your situations. You can start understanding your subconscious in a fascinating way. Write in the present tense as if you’re re-living the dream, and underline any unusual or poignant aspects which are central to the story, or which instinctively attract your attention.

Then, take a look at these 30 symbols. Treat them as a simple starting point to jump off of and discover what they could mean for you.

1. Animals

They often represent the part of your psyche that feels connected to nature and survival. Being chased by a predator suggests you’re holding back repressed emotions like fear or aggression.

2. Babies

Little infants or toddlers can symbolize a literal desire to produce offspring, or your own vulnerability or need to feel loved. They can also signify a new start.

3. Being chased

This is one of the most common dream symbols in all cultures. It means you are feeling threatened, so reflect on who is chasing you (they may also be symbolic) and why they are a possible threat in real life.

4. Clothes

They make a statement about how we want other people to perceive us. If you dream symbol is shabby clothing, you may feel unattractive or worn out. Changing what you wear may reflect a lifestyle change.

5. Crosses

They are interpreted subjectively depending on your religious beliefs. Some see it as symbolizing balance, death, or an end to a particular phase of life. The specific circumstances will help define these dream symbols.

6. Exams

This can signify self-evaluation, with the content of the exam reflecting the part of your personality or life under inspection.

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