Posts tagged better sleep

Patient lying in bed with postoperative pain in hospital room talking to doctor.

The Cure to Postoperative Pain: Sleep and Caffeine

Patient lying in bed with postoperative pain in hospital room talking to doctor.

A good amount of sleep before surgery can reduce postoperative pain.

While surgery is necessary to prevent a condition, illness, or injury from getting worse, it still doesn’t make it any easier dealing with the pain that comes afterward. Postoperative pain can sometimes feel unbearable. Medications are able to reduce the pain but you’ll need all the help you can get to make the recovery process less stressful.

You’re probably wondering what other options are available. Well, if the University of Michigan’s Department of Anesthesiology is to be believed, a good night’s sleep and caffeine can make the pain go away. Sleep is always a major factor when it comes to how your body recovers. Let’s find out what how postoperative pain is affected by your sleep quality.

Looking Into Postoperative Pain

“Postoperative pain control is challenging,” says Giancarlo Vanini, M.D., a research assistant professor in the Department of Anesthesiology at Michigan Medicine. “There is a general long-standing interest in the relationship between sleep and pain, and we know that both are reciprocally related.”

“Several studies demonstrate that pre- and postoperative sleep disturbances worsen pain and, more importantly, predict the onset of long-term postoperative pain. However, while the relationship between sleep and pain is well-known, its underlying mechanisms remain unclear.”

“Based on previous studies published by our group and others, we predicted that a brief sleep disturbance prior to surgery would worsen postoperative pain,” Vanini says. “But, we wanted to examine if there were any treatments or interventions that could aid to minimize the effect of sleep loss by reducing the severity of pain experienced after surgery.”

The Impact of Sleep Loss

To understand the dangers of sleep loss, let’s look at the impact it can have on your body. A lack of sleep, over a long period of time, can lead to a series of health problems. Sleep deprivation has long been associated with heart conditions like heart disease, heart attack, stroke, heart failure and more. Many sleep disorders are also known to put you at risk for stroke and diabetes.

Another part of the body that sleep loss can target is the mind. Sleep conditions like insomnia can put a tremendous amount of stress on the brain. Depression, anxiety, and stress are not uncommon among patients dealing with this condition. Sleep is also critical to your brain’s ability to process information. When people sleep normally, the mind is able to process our experiences into memories. The less sleep one receives, the harder it is for them to think, learn, and recall crucial information.

Using Caffeine as a Substitute for Sleep

While drinking caffeinated beverages is not the same as going to sleep, it can mimic its effects on our body. When we receive proper sleep, the body feels energize and no longer crave more sleep. The same effect happens with caffeine. A sleep inducer known as adenosine has no effect when the body has caffeine in its system. The body feels awake and focused, which is why many people choose to drink coffee in the morning.

Dr. Vanini and his team wanted to know how effective caffeine is at mimicking the effects of sleep. More specifically, they wanted to know if drinking caffeine could reduce postoperative pain like sleep does. “Insufficient sleep enhances pain perception, so we reasoned that caffeine might also be useful for reversing the increase in pain caused by sleep loss,” says Dr. Vanini. “We liked the potential of this intervention because it is simple and virtually everyone is familiar with caffeine.”

Results of the Study

Using test rats, the team sought to see the effects of sleep deprivation before surgery on postoperative pain, and how caffeine affects postoperative pain. Their hypothesis was right. The rats who didn’t receive enough sleep experienced more pain after surgery. Even worse, their recovery times took longer than it should have. However, the results were completely different for the rats that had caffeine in their system after surgery.

“The effect of sleep deprivation on pain sensitivity in operated and intact rats was virtually eliminated by pharmacologically blocking the action of adenosine in a brain region in the anterior hypothalamus known to regulate sleep, which is connected to major pain-related areas,” Dr. Vanini says.

“Caffeine blocked the increase in surgical pain caused by previous sleep loss,” Vanini says. “Surprisingly, the data showed that this is not due to caffeine’s analgesic properties.

“Furthermore, it looks like caffeine was effective only in those rats that underwent sleep deprivation before surgery. We think that caffeine might prevent the increase in pain sensitivity by blocking part of the neurochemical changes induced by sleep deprivation in specific brain areas that control sleep and wakefulness, and project to pain-related sites.”

A woman sitting up in her bed, in desperate need of insomnia treatment.

Insomnia Treatment: Tricking the Mind

A woman sitting up in her bed, in desperate need of insomnia treatment.

Scientists test both a real and fake insomnia treatment.

Insomnia is not only a serious condition, it’s practically unbearable. Over time, a lack of sleep will affect the mind and body, causing emotional and physical disorders. For example, the CDC list diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression as chronic diseases connected to poor sleep. Scientists may have found an insomnia treatment that works, and it may not be a treatment at all.

Testing Real and Fake Insomnia Treatment

Neurofeedback is an exercise with positive results that trains the brain. During this treatment, the brain’s activity is monitored using electrodes. Researchers are trying to find out if tricking the brain with a fake or placebo neurofeedback treatment will produce positive results.

In a relatively small study, featuring 30 patients with insomnia, researchers tested both forms of neurofeedback. All patients completed 12 sessions of neurofeedback and 12 sessions of placebo neurofeedback treatment over the course of four weeks. During eight nights in a sleep laboratory, the patient’s sleep-wake cycle was monitored.

The Results

Both forms of neurofeedback proved to be an effective insomnia treatment. Scientists found no difference between the two. However, there is one concern among the researchers. They are unsure whether or not patients are reacting to the treatment or their care at the hands of experimenters. This is because most of the participants felt they were treated well and with compassion during their nights in the sleep laboratory.

“Given our results,” said lead author Manuel Schabus, “one has to question how much of published neurofeedback effects are due to simple expectations on the side of the participants or, in other words, unspecific placebo effects.”

These calls into question what is really affecting how patients sleep. Is a little kindness all it takes or did the neurofeedback truly have an effect? In the end, more studies on insomnia need to be performed to find out what works best.

A couple camping in the park to resolve their sleep issues.

Scientists Suggest Camping for Sleep Issues

A couple camping in the park to resolve their sleep issues.

A weekend camping can help with your sleep issues.

Some people just have a hard time getting up in the morning. It happens often when you stay up or work late nights. This can be annoying, especially when you want to get your day started early. We use alarms and other tools to force ourselves awake but sometimes they are not enough. Scientists may have found a solution to these sleep issues – camping.

The Drawback of Sleeping Late

Going to sleep late during the night can throw off your natural circadian rhythms. These rhythms determine our sleeping patterns – when we sleep and when to wake up. Any disruption in this internal clock makes it harder to sleep and wake up. Sometimes, it can even cause insomnia.

Another negative aspect of going to bed past a certain time is that you lose sleep. The later you sleep, the less rest you receive before you have to wake up and do your daily responsibilities. Less rest means a weakened immune system, a lack of concentration, and other disadvantages.

What Scientists Say About Camping and Sleep Issues

“Late circadian and sleep timing in modern society are associated with negative performance and health outcomes such as morning sleepiness and accidents, reduced work productivity and school performance, substance abuse, mood disorders, diabetes, and obesity,” says Kenneth Wright at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Wright and his team discovered that the lack of natural light was the cause of these sleep issues. Electrical light and other devices infer with our body’s sleep cycle. By sending groups of people camping in warm and cold environments, the light exposure from the sun helps them wake up almost two hours earlier.

Melatonin increases when the body is exposed to the sun. That increase causes the body to react and wake up early. The camping experience essentially reset their circadian rhythms back to normal.

“Our findings highlight an opportunity for architectural design to bring in more natural sunlight into the modern built environment and to work with lighting companies to incorporate tunable lighting that would be able to change across the day and night to enhance performance, health, and well-being,” says Wright.

If you ever feel like your sleeping patterns are off, then a nice, relaxing weekend in the woods might be what you need.

A peaceful man sleeping in bed at home in the bedroom, receiving sleep benefits.

Sleep Benefits: Recovering From Traumatic Experiences

A peaceful man sleeping in bed at home in the bedroom, receiving sleep benefits.

Are sleep benefits helping you recover from stress and trauma?

The wonders of sleep are amazing. More and more studies are proving just how necessary it is to the body’s recovery. We have talked before about what happens when you don’t sleep. Now, it’s time to focus on one of the many sleep benefits that exist. Researchers have found that sleep helps people deal with traumatic experiences. Find out how this works and what scientists have learned.

Processing Stress and Trauma

It is an unfortunate reality that people go through traumatic experiences. Whether it’s soldiers in war or a victim of a crime, something drastic can happen to anyone. There are many methods to dealing with stress disorders like posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but is sleeping one of them?

This is the very question on the minds of the scientists at the University of Zurich. They conducted a study, which tested two groups of people. Both groups watched a distressing film. One group was allowed to sleep that very night, while the other group remained awake.

Here’s what they found: “Our results reveal that people who slept after the film had fewer and less distressing recurring emotional memories than those who were awake,” says Birgit Kleim, the first author from the University of Zurich.

This positive impact on stressful events is because sleep helps us understand and process these memories. This makes our emotions to these events less relevant, less impactful. At least, this is the theory that the researchers have.

Using These Sleep Benefits for Recovery

Is sleep the ultimate answer to recovering from trauma and PTSD? We don’t know. For now, all signs say that sleeping helps. However, this study is limited. It doesn’t test patients with actual traumatic experiences, it simulates them.

We do know that no matter what, sleep is necessary. According to Kleim, “Our approach offers an important non-invasive alternative to the current attempts to erase traumatic memories or treat them with medication.” If more research is done, this can lead to safer methods of dealing with stress.

An image of two preschoolers with their heads on top of a school desk, which is a result of sleep deprivation in kids.

Sleep Deprivation in Kids Leads to Bad Eating Habits

An image of two preschoolers with their heads on top of a school desk, which is a result of sleep deprivation in kids.

Sleep deprivation in kids is becoming a rising problem.

How are your children sleeping? In our last post, we talked about how a lack of sleep in adolescents affects their life choices in the future. Another study has discovered that preschoolers (Ages 3 to 4 years old) are more likely to develop bad eating habits if they suffer from sleep deprivation. Find out why it is important for children to take naps during the first few years of their lives, and how to prevent sleep deprivation in kids.

What Research Says About Sleep Deprivation in Kids

The research was performed at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where researchers sought to mimic the sleeping habits of preschoolers. They did this by depriving the kids of an afternoon nap and keeping them up two hours later than their bedtimes. The next day, they let the children sleep as much as they could.

The researchers’ test resulted in the kids consuming at least 20 percent more calories than they would normally eat. Even after receiving an adequate amount of sleep the next day, the children still consumed at least 14 percent more calories than usual.

Apparently, this issue is becoming a common problem. The National Sleep Foundation has found that 30 percent of these children are not sleeping enough.

“We found that sleep loss increased the dietary intake of preschoolers on both the day of and the day after restricted sleep,” says Assistant Professor LeBourgeois of the Department of Integrative Physiology and lead author.

How to Prevent Sleep Deprivation

This study is revealing. It confirms that the link between sleep and obesity is the same in children as it is in adults. In order to prevent your child from developing bad eating habits, here are a few points to remember:

  • Preschoolers need their naps.
  • Children around the age of 3 and 4 years old need go to bed at a regularly scheduled time.
  • According to the CDC, preschoolers need at least 11 to 12 hours of sleep a day.


A doctor is performing test on his patient to see the affect of a new sleep hormone.

Sleep Hormone May Help Against Breast Cancer

A doctor is performing test on his patient to see the effects of a new sleep hormone.

Is a new sleep hormone the answer to breast cancer?

The body is a fascinating thing. It develops ways to protect us and keep us healthy. There so many diseases and disorders affecting us today. Knowing this, scientists look to improve upon the body’s natural defenses. In a recent study, it appears that researchers have found a solution to fighting off breast cancer. A sleep hormone, known as melatonin, seems to be the key.

What is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone produced in the brain during sleep. It helps to regulate the sleep cycles in animals and humans. As we age, we produce less melatonin. Doctors often use melatonin supplements to treat patients with sleep disorders, headaches, cancers, and hearing conditions like tinnitus.

Sleep Hormone Fights Cancer

According to CDC, adults (18-25) need 7 to 8 hours of sleep a day. However, after interviewing 1,031 adults, analytic company Gallup discovered that at least 40% of Americans receive less than 7 hours of sleep.

A lack of sleep among U.S. citizens is not uncommon. The United States is considered a high-work, high-stress environment and leaves a lot of people sleep-deprived. This fact is important for women, as sleep deprivation can lead to breast cancer.

In a study by the Michigan State University, their research has revealed that melatonin may suppress the growth of breast cancer tumors. The discovered this by growing tumors from stem cells called “mammospheres.” The scientists applied a melatonin treatment, which decreased the number of tumors and their size.

James Trosko, one of the researcher at MSU, states “This work establishes the principal by which cancer stem cell growth may be regulated by natural hormones, and provides an important new technique to screen chemicals for cancer-promoting effects, as well as identify potential new drugs for use in the clinic.”

Hopefully their work leads to more studies involving breast cancer. The CDC states that “About 220,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women and about 2,000 in men. About 40,000 women and 400 men in the U.S. die each year from breast cancer.” If an increase in the sleep hormone melatonin helps, then doctors may be able to aid women in need.

A woman sleeping in bed because of a sleep aid.

Over-the-Counter Sleep Aid Improves Quality of Sleep

A woman is sleeping in bed because of a sleep aid.

An over-the-counter sleep aid proves to be just as effective as it claims.

Everyone occasionally has trouble sleeping. For minor sleep difficulties, we search for over-the-counter medicines to help us get a good night’s rest. However, is an over-the-counter sleep aid really effective? A new study reveals good news for people who wish to sleep better at night.

Over-the-Counter Sleep Aid: ZzzQuil™

ZzzQuil is an over-the-counter sleep aid made up of diphenhydramine HCL (DPH), which is a type of pharmaceutical drug known as an antihistamine. Zzzquil has been available to the public as a nonprescription drug since 2012, and comes in both liquid and liquicap forms.

The medicine is primarily used to treat allergic symptoms, the common cold, insomnia, and also extrapyramidal symptoms – a drug-induced movement disorder. Due to the drug’s sedative properties, it has been used as an effective sleep-aid for years, as well as a substitute local anesthetic for those who are allergic to lidocaine.

The Study’s Results

Thomas Roth, Ph.D., director of the Sleep Disorder and Research Center at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, along with his team of researchers, sought to determine the benefits of sleep-aids such as ZzzQuil. “This study demonstrates that diphenhydramine HCI can provide benefit to people who sometimes need help getting a good night’s sleep,” said Roth.

In order to prove their theory, Roth and his researchers gathered 33 people, average age of 40. The researchers analyzed the effectiveness of DHP, versus a placebo, in order to find out if the drug had any impact on sleep.

Results were positive. On average, the test subjects fell asleep 8 minutes faster with DHP versus using the placebo, meaning they were able to fall asleep in less than 20 minutes.  They also stayed asleep longer, leading to better quality sleep.

This is good news for those who suffer from sleep occurrences, which is described as having trouble sleeping for more than two nights in a row, and taking more than 30 minutes to fall asleep. It is also positive news for those who deal with sleep disorders such as insomnia. A lack a sleep can lead to stress, anxiety, depression, asthma, diabetes, and other conditions. An over-the-counter sleep aid may be what some people need to sleep through the night.

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