This Map Shows How Many People Can't Sleep at Any Given Time

Having trouble sleeping? So are 313,038 other people who tweeted about it in the last 24 hours, according to a map that tracks tweets from around the globe about the struggle to get to the land of nod.

The interactive Sleep Loss Map, created by the UK brand Hillarys (which sells, among other things, blinds, curtains, and shutters), searches Twitter for keywords that refer to the inability to ; and then plots the origins of those tweets on a map—showing the sleepless everywhere that they’re not alone.


The ever-updating chart provides some insight into the prevalence of can’t-sleep complaints across the world. Users can zoom in on locations of interest, or find out the top 10 countries or cities where tired folks are venting their frustration in 140 characters or less.

More than 1.3 million people have tweeted about their sleeplessness since the map’s launch less than three months ago. To help those folks catch their Zs, Hillarys offers tools like a five-step guide for calming your mind and body, and a meditative animation that helps you slow your breathing pattern.

If you need more help, check out our guide How to Go to Sleep When You’re Stressed to the Max. It outlines exactly what to do when you’re suffering from anxiety-induced insomnia. (Alas, tweeting about it probably won’t help.)

Image credit: Hillarys

Less Sleep in Middle Age Linked to Calcium

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By Anne HardingHealthy middle-aged people who get enough sleep each night are less likely to accumulate calcium deposits in their coronary arteries, a sign of heart disease, than their more sleep-deprived peers.

In fact, an extra hour of sleep each night was associated with a 33% lower chance of coronary artery calcification, a reduction in heart risk that’s on par with having about a 16-point drop in systolic blood pressure, according to a study published in Wednesday’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“There really is mounting evidence that there likely are subtle health consequences of really short nighttime sleep,” says Diane S. Lauderdale, PhD, of the University of Chicago, one of the authors of the study.

The study is the first to show this relationship and it can’t prove that short sleep actually causes artery clogging, so it must be confirmed by other research, Lauderdale cautions. And it’s not clear if trying to get more sleep can reduce coronary artery calcification. Nevertheless, she adds, “it’s probably a good idea to sleep at least six hours a night.”

In the study, called Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA), the researchers looked at 495 men and women who were 35 to 47 years old and free of coronary artery calcification in 2000 or 2001. Five years later, 12.3% had signs of calcium accumulation in their heart arteries.

The volunteers wore a wristwatch-like device to track their movement overnight, a technique called actigraphy that’s a much more accurate way to measure sleep time than personal estimates. CT scans were used to measure calcium deposits in the coronary arteries. The volunteers got an average of five to seven hours of sleep a night.

The calcification risk declined steadily as the number of sleep hours increased, even after the researchers accounted for participants’ age, sex, race, level of education, whether or not they smoked, and whether or not they had sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that interrupts breathing and raises blood pressure and heart risk.

Next: Less sleep may affect blood pressure, stress hormones

It’s not clear why less sleep might be harmful, or if factors that affect heart health might also affect sleep, Lauderdale says. “We really don’t have a very good understanding of what factors determine how much people sleep,” she adds.

It is known that blood pressure dips at night in healthy people, and that a lack of sleep can interfere with this natural process and boost a person’s 24-hour average blood pressure. People who sleep less may also have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is a risk factor for heart disease.

High blood pressure could be a factor, as could inflammation, notes Robert Detrano, MD, PhD, a radiologist at the University of California at Irvine who runs China California Heart Watch, a non-profit organization in Kunming, China. Dr. Detrano was not involved in the current study, but did read CT scans for the CARDIA study. “It’s like a lot of things in science; you have a report like this, you have a discovery like this, you get more questions than answers out of it,” he says.

James E. Gangwisch, PhD, an assistant professor at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, called it a “very powerful study.”

In his own 2007 research, Gangwisch found that short sleep duration is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. People who slept five or fewer hours a night or nine or more hours a night were more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than those who said they slept seven or eight hours a night.

One of the strengths of the new study is that it directly measured sleep, rather than relying on a person’s estimate of their sleep time. “They were able to get much more precise measurements,” he explains. “When you get those more accurate measures you have a lot more statistical power. You can have small sample sizes and still see the relationships there.”

Related Links:Slideshow: Sleeping Pill Side EffectsThe 11 Kinds of InsomniaGetting a Good Night’s Sleep May Lower Your Diabetes RiskSlideshow: Which Sleep Products Really Work?Should You Take Sleeping Pills?When (and How) to Stop Taking Sleeping Pills

Drug Used to Enhance Memory May Be Addictive

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By Anne HardingTUESDAY, March 17, 2009 — Modafinil, a narcolepsy drug used illicitly by an increasing number of people to enhance mental performance, could be addictive, according to a small study of 10 people who underwent high-tech brain scans.

Modafinil is also prescribed to shift workers to help them stay awake and to people with fatigue due to sleep apnea, multiple sclerosis, or other conditions. It is sometimes used “off-label” to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), although the Food and Drug Administration declined to approve the drug for ADHD due to concerns about potentially life-threatening skin reactions.

Nora D. Volkow, MD, of the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Bethesda, Md., and her colleagues found that the drug, sold as Provigil, boosted the amount of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a “feel-good” chemical that drives the brain’s reward system. Drugs of abuse, such as cocaine, cause euphoria by sharply increasing levels of dopamine; the faster the increase, the more powerful the high.

While the effect of modafinil was much weaker than that of cocaine, or in fact of other stimulant drugs used to treat ADHD such as methylphenidate (Ritalin), it did affect the dopamine system, according to the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. And it upped dopamine levels in a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens, a key element of the brain circuitry involved in feeling pleasure.

In addition, the therapeutic dose of modafinil is 200 mg, about 10 times the therapeutic dose of methylphenidate (20 mg), suggesting both drugs may have a similar effect on dopamine in the brain at therapeutic doses, according to the report. Modafinil had initially been thought to act on brain chemicals other than dopamine. So it was thought to be safer than stimulants used to treat ADHD, which are known to have the potential for abuse.

“All drugs of abuse have some type of effects on the dopamine system and so this type of finding would be consistent with a potential for abuse,” said Michael Minzenberg, MD, of the University of California at Davis, who studies brain neurochemistry but wasn’t involved in the current study. However, he added, this study in and of itself can’t prove or disprove that modafinil is indeed prone to abuse or addiction.

Next page: What the study found

A number of animal studies have suggested that the drug indeed affected the dopamine system, including a 2006 investigation in monkeys. In the current study, Dr. Volkow and her team have confirmed that modafinil affects dopamine in humans, too.

She and her colleagues performed positron emission tomography scans of 10 healthy men after giving them a placebo, 200 mg, or 400 mg of modafinil. People with narcolepsy typically receive a 200 mg dose of modafinil, while the 400 mg dose is given to people with ADHD. Along with the drug or placebo, the men were given a radioactive substance that binds to dopamine receptors in the brain, which allowed the researchers to measure changes in levels of dopamine outside brain cells. In a second experiment, the men were given cocaine along with modafinil or placebo, to see how modafinil affected the ability of brain cells to use dopamine.

At both doses, the researchers found, modafinil increased dopamine levels in the brain. It also bound to many of the same sites targeted by cocaine. “The mechanisms of action seem to be very similar to those of cocaine,” Dr. Volkow says.

The possibility that modafinil could be abused “does not invalidate the therapeutic value of this medication, which is very important,” she says. However, she said, it shows that anyone taking the drug should do so with a prescription and under a doctor’s care, with appropriate follow-up.

Next page: Brand-name drug is expensive

People who have no medical need for this medication should think twice about taking it to enhance their mental performance, Dr. Volkow says. While not everyone who uses it will become addicted, she explains, some people may be vulnerable. Right now the relatively high cost of Provigil has limited its recreational use, she says, but when the drug comes off patent in 2012 and cheaper generic versions become available, any abuse and addiction potential is likely to be revealed. Provigil costs about $10 for a 200 mg dose, although the price can vary.

“There are individuals that will become addicted when they become exposed to stimulants,” Dr. Volkow says. “Time will tell whether the same is true for modafinil.”

Jeffry Vaught, PhD, notes that when the drug was approved over a decade ago, its label warned that it had the potential to be abused and suggested doctors monitor patients carefully if they have a history of drug abuse. “It’s been that way since the beginning,” says Vaught, the chief scientific officer and executive vice president at Cephalon, Inc., which makes Provigil.

The company has been checking for signs that the drug is being abused, says Vaught, but “we’ve just not picked up any signals that there’s any abuse liability that would cause us concern.”

He notes that the drug is currently being studied as a treatment for methamphetamine and cocaine addiction and “generally you do that with a substance that’s considerably less to non abuseable.” It’s also being studied as a treatment for bipolar disorder.

Vaught says the company does not condone the use of the drug for enhancing mental performance. “I would also state from a scientific perspective that there’s limited to no data to suggest there’s any cognitive benefit in normal individuals,” he says.

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Sleep, Pray, Love: Survey Sheds Light on U.S. Bedtime Routine

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By Denise Mann

MONDAY, March 8, 2010 ( — Your racial and ethnic background can shape many aspects of your life: the type of food you eat, where you live, and your political views. Now, a new survey suggests that how you sleep and what you do before you hit the hay—whether it’s watch TV, pray, or have sex—varies by ethnic group as well.

In the survey, the first of its kind, a representative sample of more than 1,000 African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and whites ages 25 to 60 were asked about their sleep and bedtime routines. While their answers revealed plenty of differences between groups, they also showed that we have something in common: Most of us aren’t sleeping well.

In each group, roughly 6 out of 10 people reported that they don’t get a good night’s sleep every night or almost every night, according to the survey, which was conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C.

“A significant proportion of all ethnic groups are experiencing sleepiness that impacts their day-to-day living,” says Thomas J. Balkin, PhD, chairman of the National Sleep Foundation. “Sleepiness impacts every aspect of our lives, so for those people who are not getting a good night’s sleep, getting better sleep will make you sharper in the boardroom, give you a better quality of life, and [make] the sun seem a whole lot brighter.”

Related links:

What’s Keeping You Awake at Night?

How to Avoid Midday Fatigue

10 Products To Help You Sleep

Across the board, a lack of sleep appears to be affecting people’s lives and relationships. Roughly 1 in 4 people in each ethnic group said that they missed work or a family function because they were too sleepy, and a similar proportion said they were too exhausted to have sex on a regular basis.

The survey results offered a peek inside the bedrooms of Americans, and how we spend our time before drifting off.

For instance, 75% of African Americans reported watching television routinely in the hour before going to bed, compared to 64% of whites. Only 52% of Asians said they watched TV before bed almost every night, but they were far more likely to use a computer or surf the Web before bed; more than half said they did so almost every night, compared to about 20% in the other groups.

Sexual activity also varied among the groups. Ten percent of African Americans and Hispanics reported having sex almost every night, compared to 4% of whites and 1% of Asians.

African Americans, meanwhile, were far more likely than other groups to pray before bedtime almost every night of the week.

Who—or what—Americans sleep with also appears to vary by ethnicity. Nine out of ten whites who are married or “partnered” sleep with their significant others, a slightly higher rate than that among African Americans. But three-quarters and two-thirds of Hispanics and Asians, respectively, said that they don’t sleep with their partner. Those groups, however, were more likely to share a bedroom with their children.

“Asians tend to sleep with children in their beds and that could have an impact on sleep quality because anything that disrupts sleep like a dog or kid in the bed can negatively impact sleep and the restorative value of that sleep,” Balkin says. Whites were more likely than other ethnic groups to sleep with their pets, the poll showed.

Next page: People sleeping fewer than seven hours

Although each group reported getting between six and seven hours of sleep on the average weekday (or other workday), the amount of sleep did vary significantly. African Americans got the least (about 6.25 hours), and whites got the most (just under 7 hours).

With numbers like these, it’s not surprising that relatively few of the survey respondents reported consistently getting a good night’s sleep. “Most people require seven to nine hours of sleep to feel rested,” says Balkin. “The first step is to become aware of the problem, and then make more time for sleep and engage in practices that promote good, healthy sleep.”

According to Balkin, good sleep hygiene includes going to bed and waking up at the same time each day (ideally without an alarm clock); using the bedroom only for sleep and sex; abstaining from nicotine, caffeine, or alcohol after 2 p.m.; and avoiding stressful tasks right before bed.

“If you try all these tips and are still not getting enough sleep or are still sleepy, you may have a problem that requires a greater level of intervention, such as medication or light therapy, which can help re-train or reset your body’s internal clock,” he adds.

The rate of diagnosed sleep disorders differs among the groups, the survey found. Whites were more likely to have been diagnosed with insomnia, while African Americans were more likely to have sleep apnea, a breathing problem that causes people to wake up frequently.

What else is keeping us awake at night? Roughly 20% of African Americans, Hispanics, and whites said that financial problems were causing them to lose sleep at night, compared to just 9% of Asians. More so than other groups, Hispanics also worried about health-related concerns.

Priyanka Yadav, DO, a sleep medicine specialist at Somerset Medical Center, in Somerville, N.J., says the survey’s findings suggest that she and other experts in the field need to tailor their treatment to different ethnicities.

While Asians reported the fewest sleep problems and were among the least likely to use sleeping aids (such as medication), for instance, they were also least likely to bring up sleep problems with their doctors. “Now that I know this, if I had an Asian patient, I would ask them about their sleep to get the dialogue started,” says Dr. Yadav.

“It is really important to realize how ethnicities view sleep, so we can better target our treatment recommendations,” she adds.

In the end, the racial and ethnic differences in the survey may be less important than the fact that so many people struggle to get a good night’s rest, suggests Mark W. Mahowald, MD, the director of the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center, in Minneapolis.

“There are ethnic and cultural differences and socioeconomic factors that play a role in how much sleep everyone gets, but a significant percent of the adult population is sleep deprived,” he says. “The main consequence of this is impaired performance in the workplace, in the classroom, and behind the wheel, followed by irritability.”

People with busy schedules often cut back on sleep to make time for other things, Dr. Mahowald adds. But, he says, “Sleep is non-negotiable and is as important as diet and exercise to our overall well-being.”

One Key to a Better Life? Nap More

You know how great it feels to succumb to the lures of a nap. Turns out that daytime snoozing could be even more beneficial than you know. Sleep stints of 45 to 60 minutes can boost memory by fivefold, finds a new study published in the journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory. Tell that to a partner who thinks you’re just being lazy.

Previous research has shown the impact of sleep on memory, and the theory is that certain kinds of memory content are “consolidated” during sleep, or moved from short- to long-term memory, which could make room for new information. Oh, and there are other impressive benefits: Napping three times a week is linked to a lower risk of heart disease-related death, per research published in JAMA Internal Medicine. 

RELATED: Best and Worst Foods for Sleep

It can increase your reaction time and focus, as this study done on air traffic controllers in the Journal of Sleep Research found. It may even boost your creativity. And as mothers and fathers well know, naps can also bolster your will to survive when you have a newborn, as well as at any point whatsoever during parenthood.

The latest research is yet more proof that cats clearly know how to live life better than humans do, and that companies would do well to set up nap rooms in offices. While you’re at it, companies, could you maybe throw in a sauna and juice bar?

Meanwhile, for the best nap possible, follow these tips: Snooze as close to the middle of the day as possible, so it won’t interfere with your nighttime sleep. Hit a couch rather than a bed, so you don’t get too comfy, keeping the lighting dim rather than pitch black so your brain doesn’t think it’s bedtime. Oh, and consider having a cup of coffee before crashing if you can only snooze about 20 to 30 minutes; that’s how long caffeine takes to kick in, so you’ll wake up soon as the caffeine takes effect and feel all refreshed.

RELATED: 20 Things You Shouldn’t Do Before Bed

Not Enough Sleep? It Can Throw Your Brain's Two "Clocks" Out of Sync

FRIDAY, Aug. 12, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Both an internal “clock” and an internal “hourglass” affect how different parts of your brain respond to sleep deprivation, a new study shows.

The Belgian researchers said these findings could eventually aid in the understanding of sleep disorders, and help folks who work night shifts or those with jet lag.

The study involved 33 healthy young people who volunteered to stay awake for 42 hours and have their mental sharpness tracked along the way. Sleep scientists from the University of Liege used MRI scans to chart the volunteers’ brain activity as they performed tests of attention and reaction time.

Not surprisingly, their performances dulled as their sleep deprivation worsened.

But the brain scans revealed a complicated interaction between two basic biological processes: the body’s central “circadian rhythm,” which pushes people to be awake and active during daylight, and wind down when it gets dark; and “homeostatic sleep drive,” which pressures people to go to bed when they’ve been awake too long.

The findings were published Aug. 12 in the journal Science.

The circadian rhythm is like a clock, while the sleep drive is like an hourglass, explained Dr. Charles Czeisler, a professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston. He wrote an editorial that accompanied the study.

The sleep drive is an hourglass, he said, because the pressure to knock off gradually builds the longer you’re awake.

The circadian clock, on the other hand, determines the timing of your sleep and wake cycles by responding to light and darkness.

That’s why, if you stayed up from 7 a.m. until 7 a.m. the next morning, you won’t sleep the day away to make up for it, Czeisler explained. You’ll drop off, but only for a few hours, he said, because your “internal alarm clock” will go off.

“The primary determinant of how long you sleep is not the amount of time you’ve been awake,” Czeisler said. “It’s what ‘time’ it is in your body.”

Sleep scientists have long recognized the two processes of sleep drive and the circadian clock, said Christopher Davis, of the Sleep and Performance Research Center at Washington State University-Spokane.

But the new findings reveal how the two forces affect different areas of the brain during sleep deprivation. “This dissects which brain area serves which master,” said Davis, who wasn’t involved in the study.

Those details, he noted, are important for scientists trying to understand how sleep supports brain function, and how sleep loss hinders it.

But for your average person, the message is pretty simple. “Get more sleep,” Davis said. “It’s important. The brain functions differently without it.”

Most people, of course, aren’t staying up for 42 hours straight. But it’s well known, Davis said, that real-world levels of sleep loss decrease work performance and raise the risk of accidents.

Then there are the “insidious” effects of insufficient sleep, he pointed out: People who habitually get too little sleep have higher risks of chronic ills such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Getting more sleep can be easier said than done, Davis acknowledged. People with certain jobs—including shift workers, first responders and service members—may have to stay awake for prolonged periods or be active overnight.

And then there is insomnia. According to Czeisler, modern-day exposure to artificial light can be a factor.

In the latest study, he said, people’s brain activity showed a pattern that supports the idea that humans and many other animals evolved to suddenly become more alert just before dusk.

“Most species have this surge of energy, probably so we can get our act together and seek shelter before it’s dark,” Czeisler said.

But in industrialized societies flooded with artificial light, he said, that surge in wakefulness has shifted to later in the evening. And that, according to Czeisler, can help drive insomnia.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults younger than 65 get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night; older adults can get by with 7 to 8 hours.

But the “right” amount of sleep does vary to some degree from one person to another, according to Davis.

He recommended paying attention to the “signals” your body is sending out during the day.

“Observe your daytime sleepiness levels,” he said. “Do you get to the afternoon and want to just put your head down on the desk and go to sleep?”

More information

The National Sleep Foundation has more on sleep drive and your body clock.

Melatonin Side Effects

Jet lag always seems to get the best of me when I travel. I’ve tried prescription sleeping pills, well-timed cups of coffee, and even gradually adjusting my sleep schedule in the days leading up to a trip. But I hadn’t used melatonin to help regulate my sleep cycle, so when Sundown Naturals Adult Melatonin Gummies ($4; landed on my desk a few days before a recent trip to Europe, it seemed like fate. I packed a handful in my carry-on, thinking at the very least they’d help me get a few hours of shuteye during the flight. That’s when my love affair began: Unlike sleeping pills, melatonin helped me drift off to sleep easily on the plane, yet didn’t leave me feeling groggy upon arrival. I ended up taking them every night during the trip to help my body clock adjust to the new time zone (with minimal jet lag!); and then, back in New York, to ease into Eastern Time again.

But two weeks later—definitely no longer jet lagged—I still find myself reaching for these gummies before bed. For me, it’s less about falling asleep and more about the quality of my rest. I’ve been snoozing soundly throughout the night and waking up feeling super-refreshed. But is that how you’re supposed to use melatonin? And even though it’s a natural sleep aid, is it possible to become addicted?

RELATED: How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?

The right way to take melatonin

I reached out to Chris Winter, MD, medical director of the Martha Jefferson Hospital Sleep Medicine Center and author of the upcoming book The Sleep Solution, to get his take. The good news, he says, is you won’t become physically addicted to melatonin supplements—at least not in the way you can get addicted to prescription sleeping pills, for example. But that doesn’t mean you should make a nightly habit out of taking them.

“You should give yourself a time limit, such as for four or five days,” he says, adding that they should be taken for a very specific reason, such as during an unusual bout of insomnia or when you’re traveling across time zones. “When that thing has run its course, you should stop.”

The reason for this, Dr. Winter explains, has to do with the way our body’s internal clock functions. When the sun sets and it gets dark outside, this alerts the brain’s pineal gland that it’s almost time to go to sleep. The pineal gland, in turn, begins to secrete melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle. The next morning, melatonin levels drop, signaling to your body that it’s time to wake up.

RELATED: These Are the Best Pillows for Side Sleepers

“When someone starts taking melatonin for the first time, they’re experiencing a surge of the hormone from the supplement in addition to the natural nighttime secretion they’re already getting from their brain,” he says.

As a short-term fix, melatonin can be helpful for adjusting your internal clock. “It’s a good way to re-create circadian rhythms when they’ve been disrupted,” Dr. Winter says. It starts to become problematic, though, if you take melatonin supplements every single night.

“For chronic melatonin users, your body’s circadian rhythm can get pushed back over time,” he says. “So if your brain was naturally secreting melatonin every evening at 7 p.m., it may start to think it doesn’t need to secrete it until 11 p.m., for example, because that’s when you’ve been taking a melatonin pill.” In other words, you could sabotage the effectiveness of your body’s internal clock.

RELATED: 8 Things That Could Be Keeping You Awake at Night

Some people can also become psychologically dependent on the idea of taking a supplement to fall asleep.

“It’s like a baby blanket,” says Dr. Winter. “It’s not actually curing anything, but if it becomes a habit, people will feel nervous to go to bed without it. They’ll start thinking, ‘I didn’t take melatonin, now I’m going to wake up during the night and feel horrible the next day.’ Then they have anxiety about not being able to sleep.”

And as for that whole sleeping-through-the-night benefit I’ve come to love? Dr. Winters insists it’s better to simply wake up and fall back asleep naturally rather than rely on melatonin. “If you wake up in the middle of the night, you might feel groggy the next day, yes—but that will teach your brain to help you sleep more efficiently the following night.”

A smarter sleep strategy

Rather than becoming dependent on melatonin to fall asleep, Dr. Winter suggested I start cultivating a routine that supports my body’s circadian rhythm.

“Create a quiet environment around dinnertime,” he says. In other words, I should dim the lights earlier in the evening, turn off the TV (no more post-work Stranger Things binges on Netflix), and enable that “night shift” setting on my iPhone. “This will signal to your brain that it’s time to start producing melatonin, and you’ll fall asleep more easily a few hours later.”

To feel more alert in the morning, he recommended scheduling A.M. workouts and using a “wake-up light” to make my bedroom feel sunnier in the dark winter months. I’ve started using the Philips Wake-Up Light With Colored Sunrise Simulation ($170;, which gradually produces natural-looking light a few hours before wake-up time and also functions as an alarm clock with soothing nature sounds.

Most importantly, I’m putting away the melatonin gummies until my next big trip, which happens to be a 20-hour flight to Australia—I’m pretty sure I’ll need them for that.

Sleep Paralysis: Kendall Jenner Opens Up About Her Symptoms

In this Sunday’s episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Kendall Jenner revealed that sometimes she wakes up and can’t move. “It’s the scariest thing in the entire world,” the 21-year-old told her sister Kim. “You literally think that you’re never going to be able to move again. You can’t do anything. You’re freaking out.”

Sleep paralysis is a very real thing, says Harneet Walia, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Center. It can happen as you’re falling asleep or waking up, she explained in an email to Health—and it can be terrifying.

When you’re in the REM stage of sleep where vivid dreams occur, your limbs are immobilized so you don’t try to, say, sprint away from a charging tiger. But if you wake during the REM stage, your body may linger in the land of nod—so you’re conscious, but feel paralyzed.

To make matters worse, you may also feel like you can’t breathe, says Dr. Walia: “Episodes of sleep paralysis can be frightening because the immobility can be associated by a sensation of suffocation.”

RELATED: 11 Signs You’re Sleep Deprived

The good news is that sleep paralysis only lasts for a few minutes, and isn’t dangerous, says Dr. Walia. More than 7% of us may experience it at some point in our lives. While it’s most common in people with narcolepsy, it’s also linked to lack of sleep and an irregular sleep schedule, says Dr. Walia.

Good hygiene can help. Make sure you’re catching enough Zs, and try to go to bed and wake up around the same time every day. (For more tips, check out “30 Sleep Hacks for Your Most Restful Night Ever.”) Sleep paralysis usually isn’t treated, says Dr. Walia. But in some cases, it may be worth seeking medical attention.

On KUWTK, Kendall told her mom that she is scared to fall asleep because the episodes keep happening to her. “It almost feels like my heart stops,” she said. And the sleep paralysis seems to feed her anxiety about traveling (which, as a model, she has to do a lot).


RELATED: 5 Sleep Problems Nobody Talks About

If your sleep paralysis is taking a toll on your health or your daily life, talk to your doctor, Dr. Walia urges. He or she may be able to help you manage the problem. And “rarely, medications can be tried,” says Dr. Walia.

4 Worst Mistakes You Can Make When Daylight Saving Ends

Are you mentally prepped for the end of Daylight Saving time this Sunday? Even though it means an extra golden 60 minutes, “falling back” an hour can throw your sleep cycle out of whack. And it’s tough enough to get sufficient Zs as it is. But there are ways to make the time change go smoother, says Param Dedhia, MD, the director of sleep medicine at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona. “What you do during the day really affects your quality of rest,” he says. Below are four common mistakes to avoid during daylight hours, so you can get the best sleep possible as your biological clock catches up.

Sleeping in

If you’re sleep deprived, spending another hour in bed Sunday morning isn’t the worst idea, says Dr. Dedhia. But if you’re awake bright and (extra) early, he recommends using your bonus 60 minutes to relax before bedtime. Dim your lights, turn off your computer and smartphone, and indulge in your favorite self-soothing strategy, whether that’s taking a warm bath, curling up in your coziest sweats, or adding a few drops of lavender to your diffuser. In the evening, “it’s important to focus on yourself and be introspective,” he says. “It’ll set you up for a good night’s sleep tonight and even for the night after.”

RELATED: 8 Natural Remedies That May Help You Sleep

Overdosing on caffeine

In the week after the time change, you may feel groggy in the afternoons and find yourself craving a cup of coffee. But that quick energy boost probably isn’t worth it: Having caffeine late in the day may make it hard to fall asleep come bedtime. If you can’t resist the craving, however, Dr. Dedhia suggests filling your cup halfway, so you’re consuming half as much coffee as you normally do. 

If that 3 o’clock craving doesn’t go away, “it’s a sign you should pay attention to your quality of sleep at night,” says Dr. Dedhia. In other words, it might be time to spruce up your sleep hygiene

Having a nightly glass of wine

Initially, alcohol may help induce the drowsiness you long for on a messed up sleep schedule. But ultimately it will have an adverse effect, says Dr. Dehia. Research shows that alcohol disrupts sleep during the night, and leads to poorer quality Zs.

RELATED: Best and Worst Foods for Sleep

Eating too late

Dining shortly before bedtime interferes with your body’s natural sleep cues, says Dr. Dehia. “Digesting large amounts of food doesn’t let the body rest,” he explains. To set yourself up for full night’s sleep, try to have dinner a few hours earlier. And if you’re not able eat until late, have a smaller portion that’s easier to digest before you hit the hay.


Food Coma: Why Do You Sometimes Feel Sleepy After Eating?

The “food coma” is a well-known phenomenon. Who hasn’t taken a seat at the Thanksgiving table, eaten their weight in sweet potato casserole, and promptly fallen asleep in front of the TV?

It seems the after-dinner snooze effect is real, but scientists still don’t know exactly why or how stuffing our faces leads to sleepiness. Now, a recent study on fruit flies offers some potential clues.

Turns out fruit flies like to nap after eating, too—especially when they’ve eaten meals meals high in protein or salt, or meals that are just extra large.  

The study, published in the journal eLife, is the first time “postprandial sleep” (the scientific name for a food coma) has been studied in fruit flies. It’s unknown whether the findings would apply to humans—but at the very least, they’re likely to shed new light on the overall relationship between eating and sleeping, the authors wrote.

To examine that relationship in fruit flies, researchers from the Scripps Research Institute recorded and analyzed the insects’ food consumption and motion, noting that flies tended to for 20 to 40 minutes after eating. Those who ate bigger portions, and those who ate protein-rich or salty solutions, generally slept the longest. (Foods high in sugar didn’t have as big an effect.)

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The researchers also looked for specific areas in the brain that were responsible for these prolonged naps. “By using genetic tools to turn neurons on and off in the fly brain, we were surprised to find a number of circuits that play a role in controlling this behavior,” said lead author Keith Murphy, a Scripps graduate student, in a press release.

Some of these brain circuits also appeared to be sensitive to the fly’s internal clock, as post-meal sleepiness happened less around dusk than at other times of day. It’s “fun to speculate” what the biological reason for this might be, says researcher William Ja, PhD, associate professor of metabolism and aging at Scripps’ Florida campus.

“Maybe it’s so that they can continue foraging and accumulating nutrients before sleep,” Ja told Health. “Or maybe that’s a peak time for birds and frogs and other insect eaters to come out, so sleeping at dusk would be especially vulnerable for the flies.”

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Ja says this discovery may eventually have implications for people, as well: It suggests that food comas are a unique type of sleep, driven by mechanisms independent of other types of shuteye.

“If that’s true in humans too, that means there are potentially different targets for us to go after in the future with dietary or drug interventions to help with sleepiness or wakefulness,” he says.

Studies on post-meal sleepiness in humans have been hit-or-miss, he adds; some have found an effect, but others haven’t. And while salt and protein have been shown to influence sleep or sleep-related hormones in people, those impacts haven’t been studied during a specific time period after eating.

Ja says the fruit-fly research “provides a starting point for future studies aimed at uncovering the exact genes and circuits that enable meal size, protein, and salt to drive sleep.”

He and his team also hope to learn more about why, exactly, post-meal naps are necessary—especially since, for animals in nature, sleep is such a vulnerable state.

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“For me, the interesting question is, if you believe food coma is a real phenomenon and happens not only in flies, but in mammals and people too, then it must serve some important biological function,” he says.

“Maybe it’s just for good digestion. Or maybe running around with a stomach full of food is just horribly damaging for your gut,” he continues. “Whatever the function is, do we really want to go around avoiding it?”

That said, if you don’t want to find yourself out of commission (or too sleepy to drive) after dinner on Thanksgiving, Ja says the age-old advice likely still holds true. “Eat in moderation and graze over a longer period, rather than gorge over a short time,” he says.