New Research Examines the Causes & Consequences of Poor Sleep

New Research Examines the Causes & Consequences of Poor Sleep

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.

Subjects Able to Intentionally Heal in Lucid Dream, Study Finds

Subjects Able to Intentionally Heal in Lucid Dream, Study Finds

The findings of a groundbreaking new study on lucid dreaming are in and suggest that those trained in the practice not only see a dramatic improvement in their PTSD symptoms but may also experience change on a biological level.

Research into lucid dreams, in which one wakes up inside a dream, has produced a fascinating insight into the neurological features of this state. Most of the investigation thus far has been focused on mapping brain activity, which has shown the unique characteristics of the brain function of lucid dreamers.

Previously we reported on the preliminary findings of a study out of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, or IONS, the first of its kind to look at the potential for healing within a lucid dream, both on a psychological and physiological level.

Dr. Garret Yount is a molecular neurobiologist who led the study and updated us on the final findings of this extraordinary investigation.

“So in this study, we partnered with an awesome lucid dreaming teacher, Charlie Morley, and we had heard from him that his workshops with veterans with PTSD were really helpful in terms of reducing the symptoms of PTSD,” Yount said. “So, we partnered with him to basically bring a scientific lens to that, and the idea was to recruit folks with chronic PTSD, we included both veterans and non-veterans. They attended a one-week workshop from their home, and Charlie taught them how to achieve lucidity with the goal of transforming their trauma during the dreams. Then we, the research team, just tried to collect data along the way without interfering too much with the process.”

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