It’s Sleep Sunday so let’s talk this week about melatonin for sleep. You can see from the infographic below that it can help in many ways to help you sleep.
Pro Health also wrote on Melatonin for sleep and the immune system and explained that Melatonin is a naturally-occurring hormone that your brain produces as a response to darkness. After sunset, usually around 9 pm, the pineal gland is activated by the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), a control center in the hypothalamus that regulates hormones and body temperature.
Melatonin levels stay elevated through the night for roughly 12 hours, until our bodies are exposed to light at the start of each day. Most people produce enough melatonin on their own to induce rest. However, modern activities like excess travel, stress, screen time, and night schedules disrupt this natural rhythm, leading to difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Supplemental melatonin may be a solution.
People who can benefit from supplementing their melatonin are people with limited day time light exposure, people with increased light exposure at night, people doing shift work or people suffering from jet lag.
Pro Health also say “ Research suggests that melatonin is not only a good sleep remedy, it might also play an important role as an immune buffer. One study examines how melatonin may act as a stimulant for immunosuppressed conditions, helping the body better respond to external threats like viruses and parasites. On the other hand, the study finds melatonin can regulate overactive responses as well, such as that found in septic shock, acting as an anti-inflammatory. “
Melatonin supplements are available in a few different formats and available from Pro Health and other good pharmacies. Always remember to check with your GP before taking any supplements especially if you are taking other medications.
Acupressure is an easy way to help with pain and insomnia and well worth trying if you are struggling to sleep. Acupuncture and acupressure are both methods used to stimulate acupoints. In comparison, acupuncture uses a hair-thin needle to stimulate acupoints whereas acupressure uses a firm pressure to massage the acupoints. In acupressure and acupuncture acupoints, the specific points that are stimulated are the same points. Acupoints are categorized in relation to their functional effect on the body, again, the categorization and use of points is exactly the same in both healing arts.
The Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapist’s explains how Acupuncture works. The acupuncture needle will stimulate the flow of QI [pronounced ‘chee’], which circulates in channels or meridians within the body. The QI circulates within the deeper organs of the body but connects to the superficial skin. In the state of a normal healthy body, a balance exists between these systems. Both the superficial energy and deeper energy can be influenced by the stimulation of specific acupuncture points. If injury, disease, emotional trauma or infection occurs, the natural flow of QI within the meridians and organs may well be affected and the result is an altered flow, either a slowing or stagnation of QI causing pain and inflammation or a deficit of QI, which may cause weakness, exhaustion and longer debilitating disease. The stimulation of relevant acupuncture points may free stagnation, reduce excess or indeed, increase QI to the specific area or organ and thus help to restore normal QI flow and balance.
There are several techniques in applying Acupuncture by Acupressure or Electro-Acupuncture which enhances the repair mechanism and enables an improved recovery time.
Follow the pattern below to start your acupressure treatment.
You could also use your first two fingers and tap them across the top of your head from temple to temple. Then work from front to back and side to side as this can get blood and oxygen moving to ease tension and restore focus.
To destress your shoulders make a gentle half-closed fist and with a loose wrist, tap your right hand gently but firmly up your left arm, along your shoulder and up the side and back of your neck. Repeat the same process on the other side to ease tension and release endorphins.
If you can’t quite get the gist of this then check out this YouTube video.
It’s estimated that 50-80% of chronic pain patients report sleep disturbances. The worst is when pain and sleep loss get into a downward spiral of awfulness, leading to a low quality of life. Pain makes it hard to sleep, poor sleep makes the pain subjectively worse, and both lead to depression, which also affects sleep disorders and pain experience. Cognitive behavioural therapy is a possible solution for both living with pain and alleviating problem sleep.
Pain medication has a profound influence on sleep, even aside from its analgesic effects. Opioids fragment the sleep cycle, even though it may subjectively seem to the patient that the sleep is better, at least in the short run. Over-the-counter pain meds like ibuprofen and aspirin also affect the sleep cycle, although not to the same extent. The effect is not uniformly bad, of course, if the pain medication lets the person get to sleep. They put me on Nortriptyline to help me sleep but I must admit I do also take a couple of herbal relaxants as well. It was mentioned at my last pain meeting that maybe I should try and come off the Nortriptyline as it does have some nasty side effects. I had more important drugs to cut down on (Tramadol) so I left this for a later date. By accident, I completely forgot to take them one-night last week and I had the worst pain and slept very little so I am in no rush to change my routine on what I take to help me sleep.
They say people with insomnia are more likely to have chronic pain than those without. Experts estimate 25-40% of patients with chronic pain have insomnia, many times the rate among those without. Does pain make the sleep worse or does poor quality sleep degrade make the pain feel worse? Both. Don’t discount the effect that a good night’s sleep can have on a person’s quality of life and ability to tolerate pain. The subjective intensity of pain decreases when a person is well-rested. Hyperalgesia – increased sensitivity to pain – is a result of loss of sleep, especially the loss of REM sleep. Which is ironic, because the opioid drugs used to treat severe pain suppress REM sleep and may make patients more sensitive to the pain they feel. Antidepressant drugs also suppress REM sleep and make us complain about pain more (maybe this is partly the cause of the stereotype of the diva). Poor sleep quality is correlated with more severe pain and increased fatigue.
Rheumatoid arthritis patients complain about sleep problems often and the sleep difficulty and the pain support each other in a vicious cycle. It’s well known there is a connection between pain and mood. And between depression and sleep disorders. Researchers studied arthritis patients using the HAQ-pain scale, the Beck Depression Inventory-II, the Medical Outcomes Study Short Form – 36 vitality scale for fatigue, and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index for sleep quality and disturbances. They found that poor sleep quality was correlated with disability in arthritis patients.
Scientific article: Sleep Quality and Functional Disability in Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis
Lower back pain as I know only too well is known to affect sleep, both the quality and sleep latency. The Mayo Clinic website has interesting pictures of sleeping positions that may help reduce back pain. Recognizing that pain and sleep disorders often go hand-in-hand, the pharmaceutical companies have introduced combination drugs– over-the-counter pills that include both an aid (an antihistamine) and an analgesic.
The topic of pain and sleep is tied closely to that of ageing and sleep. A much higher percentage of seniors experience chronic pain than young and middle-aged adults. A much higher percentage of seniors experience sleep disorders, too.
PAIN DURING REM SLEEP…
People have reported pain during their dreams that isn’t real pain – it’s dream pain – and vanishes when they awake. More common is real bodily pain that could be felt if the person was awake but which was incorporated into the narrative of the dream. Vivid narrative dreams happen when the brain is in REM sleep and during REM the skeletal muscles are paralyzed. This paralysis may contribute to bodily pain and make it worse than in NREM sleep when the body can more easily move around.
Psychologists did a test where they induced a mild pain in sleepers in the REM stage of sleep. Upon awakening, the subjects often reported dreams (about 30%) that included pain in the same part of the body that the researchers applied pressure to. The subjective level of pain during the dream tended to be higher than the pain when the person was awake. Curiously, burn patients report about the same percentage of pain dreams even though the level of pain they experience is much higher than the subjects in the psychologists’ tests.
NOISE AND SLEEP…
Loud or unpredictable noises fracture sleepers’ rest, sometimes causing awakening, and sometimes triggering a shift to a different stage of sleep. The noise that disrupts slow-wave sleep leaves people waking to feel unrefreshed and often with diffuse pain and tenderness, even in healthy people. I can honestly say that I am quite sure I can even hear a pin drop.
Individuals have different responses to noise, of course. Researchers have even figured out how to predict who will wake up from noises, based on electroencephalography (EEG) readings. People who have more sleep spindles on the EEG readings during a normal night of sleep have more tolerance for noise. In other words, people who have more active brains when asleep tend to sleep better when it is noisy.
White noise – a constant hum in the background at low volumes – can help some people sleep. Presumably, this is because the noise drowns out softer unpredictable sounds. There are commercial products that generate white noise that some find helpful and others use humidifiers partly because of their constant hum. White noise can induce sleep in infants.
Rain helps improve the subjective quality of sleep for many. You have probably heard people tell you they slept great because of the rain. This may be due to a combination of the white noise generated during the rain (but not in a thunderstorm), a sudden reduction in outdoor temperature, changes in the electrostatic characteristics of the air. Further, the “fresh” air following rain – perception of coolness, sweet smelling air, low particulate account – is conducive to sleep.
Aircraft noise disturbs sleep and when bad enough can result in sleep-deprived behaviour during the day. The WHO claims 1 in 3 Europeans suffers health harm from excessive traffic noise (cars, planes, etc.). 20% of Europeans are said to be at risk for significant health damage from nighttime noise. A Korean study found railway traffic was more bothersome and problematic for sleepers than automobile traffic.
What about birdsong and the natural sounds of the morning? Many find these sounds pleasant when they are relaxed and report they enhance the sleep experiences around dawn when the sleeper is often in REM sleep.
A related issue is the effect of rocking on sleep. Parents rock babies to sleep and some baby cribs are set to rock. People enjoy sleeping in hammocks that can rock. Is there the scientific explanation of that? A Swiss study found the rocking at 0.25 Hz facilitates and transition from stage 1 to stage 2 sleep. The density shown on EEG reports increases when the sleeper is rocking.
THE SOUND SLEEPER…
What does it mean to say someone is a sound sleeper? Or that you slept soundly? One thing it means is that the sleeper does not wake readily from noises. “Resistance to acoustic disturbance” is a measure of the depth of sleep, and it varies over the course of the night. How likely we are to wake up from sleep in response to noise varies throughout the night and even within any given stage of sleep. In deep sleep, we are less apt to be awakened from external noise. Spindle activity in light sleep seems to be a measure of how sound (less sensitive to sounds) we are.
We all know how important sleep is to our health but at the moment we need our immune system working overtime. The immune system is particularly boosted during ‘slow wave sleep‘, the first and third night when we sleep deeply according to The Telegraph.
So, sleep could really help when it comes to COVID-19 as it could stave it off and also minimise the symptoms when it hits. The Telegraph says that ‘while it’s too early for any studies to have been done on the effects of sleep on this particular coronavirus (Covid-19), in 2015 researchers in the US deliberately infected 164 volunteers with the rhinovirus (common cold). They found that the people who slept less than six hours a night were four times more likely to develop cold symptoms than the ones who slept for seven hours or more.’
When you are asleep your body builds up energy, fixing and repairing but the immune system is particularly boosted during ‘slow wave sleep’, the first and third of the night when we sleep deeply when your body can make infection-fighting cells and proteins called antibodies that help defend against illness. Your body releases certain proteins that help the immune system called cytokines, only during sleep.
Not getting enough sleep can also make you more likely to catch viruses or germs.
Healthline added ‘Numerous studies have reported the benefits of a good night’s sleep, and now researchers from Germany have found that sound sleep improves immune cells known as T cells.
“T cells are a type of… immune cells that fight against intracellular pathogens, for example virus-infected cells such as flu, HIV, herpes, and cancer cells,” Stoyan Dimitrov, PhD, a researcher at the University of Tübingen and an author of the study, told Healthline.
Kimberley Hardin, MD, director of the sleep medicine fellowship program at the University of California Davis, says many people take good sleep for granted.
“People underestimate the importance of sleep, and less than seven hours per night on a regular basis has negative effects. It essentially creates a fight-or-flight state, with increased stress hormones and release of adrenaline,” she told Healthline.
So, rest up everyone, if you can’t get those hours in at night then try resting in the day even if it’s outside in the sunshine. Just get as many zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz as possible.