Sleep Research News - August 2020

Grab a Partner: Couples Sleep Better

Young couples tend to have sweet dreams when they sleep together, a German study has found.

In the study, which included 12 couples between the ages of 18 and 29 years old, participants spent four nights in a sleep lab, according to a June 26 U.S. News and World Report article. For two nights the couples slept in different rooms and for two nights they slept together. Half of the couples started together and then moved apart and the others did the opposite.

Researchers from the Center for Integrative Psychiatry at Christian-Albrechts-Universität in Kiel, Germany, measured each person’s brain waves, breathing, movements, muscle tension and heart activity during sleep. They found that when happy couples slept together, they had more and less disrupted REM sleep. The REM phase is the dreaming portion of sleep and has been linked to emotional regulation, memory consolidation and creative problem-solving.

“There is — even in the medical community — the notion that if you sleep with a partner, you might subjectively think that you slept well or better, but objectively, your sleep is more disturbed,” said the study’s lead author, Henning Drews, a resident and post-doctoral scholar at the university. But, looking at the results of this study, he said, “if you want to share a bed with your partner, there is nothing to be said against it. It might even be good for you.”

Researchers also found that co-sleeping couples had similar sleep patterns. The higher the couples rated the significance of their relationship, the more their sleep patterns synchronized, according to the study.

Researchers think there are at least two reasons couples might sleep better together. 

“REM sleep is a state during which the physiological capacity of the body to maintain its temperature is reduced,” Drews said. “Therefore, the presence of a partner might help stabilize one’s own body temperature.”

Another reason: a feeling of safety. Relaxing and safe environments promote REM sleep, the article said. 

Even with this information, singles shouldn’t worry too much about not having a partner. Anyone who wants to improve REM sleep should follow good sleep hygiene — no noise, no stressful activities before bed and no bright lights, the article said.

The findings were published June 25 in Frontiers in Psychiatry.

Fewer People Losing Sleep Over Finances 

Here’s a piece of good news: Fewer American adults are losing sleep over money than last year, according to a Bankrate survey conducted June 3-5.

The survey, commissioned by the New York-based financial services company, found that 47% of adults reported losing sleep over a money issue, down from 56% last year. 

But women are having a harder time with sleep than men. Almost 80% reported tossing and turning over some issue, financial or otherwise, while 70% of men reported the same. When looking generationally, Gex X women were hit hardest with 82% reporting lost sleep, compared with 73% of Gen X men.

Some of the issues that brought on sleepless nights included:

• Relationships 38%

•  Health 32%

•  Work 24%

•  Politics 22%

•  Racial tensions 19%

•  Parenting 15%

•  Climate change 13%

With the exception of politics and parenting, these issues are causing less stress in 2020 than last year. All the money issues Bankrate explored (everyday expenses, health care bills, retirement, the ability to pay rent or the mortgage) also showed a decrease in the percentage of people losing sleep over these issues.

“I’m really surprised Americans are more upbeat this year than last year,” said Ted Rossman, industry analyst for Bankrate, in a news release. “Right now, we’re experiencing some of the greatest societal, health and monetary challenges of our lifetimes. Yet, in the face of all that, our survey found consistent improvement from last year.”

Marijuana for Sleep Could Backfire

Some people rely on marijuana to help them fall asleep. In fact, in a 2018 survey of 1,000 users in Colorado, 74% said they use it to fall asleep, according to an April 14 article in U.S. News & World Report.

But it may not work as well as people think, especially for teenagers. “There a lot of research on sleep and cannabis, but it’s a little mixed,” said Even Winiger, a graduate student in behavior genetics, psychology and neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder, and co-author of a study that analyzed the sleep habits and history of marijuana use among 1,882 teens in Colorado. 

The study found that about one-third of the participants who started using marijuana before the age of 18 had insomnia later in life, the article said. Of the other participants, only 20% had insomnia later in life. They had either never become regular users or started after the age of 18.

The teen marijuana users also were more likely to suffer from short sleep — sleeping six hours or less a night.

The reason marijuana use might impact sleep later in life is unclear. “One theory is that these (brain cannabinoid) receptors are being desensitized or disturbed from all the cannabis use at a time that the brain is still developing and that leads to waking issues later,” Winiger said in a news release.

Another theory is that marijuana use in the teen years leads to structural changes in the brain. Or use at an early age sets young people up for poor sleep habits, which then follow them into adulthood.

Genetics also might play a role. By using twins as study participants, the researchers were able to tease out whether marijuana use and sleep problems were genetic, the article said. They found that many of the same genes that increased the risk of early marijuana use also were associated with insomnia.

Co-author Ken Wright, director of the Sleep and Chronobiology lab at the university, said the study does not mean “all strains of marijuana are bad for sleep in all people all the time.” This study is focused on teen use. “We would not recommend that teenagers utilize marijuana to promote their sleep,” he said. “Anytime you are dealing with a developing brain you need to be cautious.”

The study was published in the May issue of Sleep.

How Much Do You Love Your Pet?

Pet owners, consider these questions: Would you rather share your bed with your pet or your partner? Do you tuck your pet into bed before you go to sleep? Does your pet have its own space on the sofa or armchair?

Furniture company Willow & Hall asked 1,000 U.K. pet owners these questions and more to see how they felt about their furry friends. See how you compare.

• When asked, “Would you rather share your bed with your pet or your partner?” a sizable 75% picked their partner. However, that left 25% choosing Fluffy over their spouse. 

• As for the issue of tucking their pet into bed, a majority (just over 59%) said they do not. Another 40% take the time to get their pet comfortable before they head to bed themselves.

• “Does your pet have its own space on the sofa or armchair?” You bet. More than 57% of people surveyed said their beloved pooch or cat had claimed a spot just for them.

• “Have you ever shared food with your pet?” With 60% agreeing they had, that would be a big yes. 

• “When you arrive home, who do you greet first — your pet or your partner?” The majority of respondents said they greeted their partner first, but only by a slight margin (52%). Pets got first dibs on the greeting with 48% of those surveyed.

Adopted Youths Report Sleep Issues

Even years after adoption, approximately a third of internationally adopted children have insomnia, according to a research survey published April 29 in Sleep Health.

Researchers, led by Kristin Gartner Askeland of the Regional Center for Child and Youth Mental Health and Child Welfare in Bergen, Norway, found that adopted and nonadopted youth spent about the same amount of time in bed, but the adopted adolescents reported significantly shorter time asleep on both weekends and weekdays. Thirty-two percent met the criteria for insomnia, compared with 18% of nonadopted youths. Those who were adopted after the age of 1 reported more sleep problems than those adopted before the age of 1. 

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