Acupuncture as effective as drugs in treating pain, trial shows

Acupuncture as effective as drugs in treating pain, trial shows

Julia Medew
Published: March 30, 2014 – 3:00AM

An acupuncture trial in four Melbourne emergency departments has found it is just as good as drugs in relieving lower-back pain and that from sprained ankles and migraines.

The finding could open the door to Australian hospitals offering the low-cost Chinese therapy, which is used by more than 1 billion people worldwide for pain relief.

Emergency physicians at The Alfred, Northern, Cabrini and Epworth hospitals partnered with RMIT’s school of health sciences to see if acupuncture could relieve acute pain in hundreds of patients presenting to hospital with either lower-back pain, sprained ankles or migraines.

While data from the study is still being analysed and finalised for publication in a medical journal, one of the researchers, Dr Michael Ben-Meir, said it showed acupuncture offered the same level of pain relief as analgesic drugs when patients rated their pain one hour after treatment.

”Acupuncture was equivalent to what we defined as conventional medicine standard care, which was strong oral analgesia, such as Endone, Panadeine Forte, Voltaren and Valium,” he said.

Dr Ben-Meir, director of Cabrini Hospital’s emergency department, said the randomised controlled study of about 550 patients also found that the combination of acupuncture with standard pharmaceutical care delivered equivalent pain relief to acupuncture alone or standard care alone.

The emergency physician who studied acupuncture nine years ago and has since used it on patients at Epworth and Cabrini said the results aligned with his own experience of its efficacy for acute pain.

He said it was particularly good for people who did not want drugs, such as pregnant women, and for those whose pain was not relieved by Western medicine.

”I find acupuncture doesn’t always help all patients, but occasionally it’s the thing that really shifts them and gets them home and gets their symptoms resolved,” he said. ”It has an effect, there’s no doubt about that. It’s just, when do you use it? How often? Which points? And who delivers it? There’s a lot to be thought about and analysed before something like this is a standard therapy.”

The director of emergency medicine at The Alfred hospital, De Villiers Smit, said although he was initially sceptical about acupuncture, the study convinced him it was safe and effective in improving pain management.

He said study participants treated with acupuncture also tended to leave hospital earlier, suggesting it sped up emergency department care.

Another chief investigator of the project – the head of the school of health sciences at RMIT and a registered Chinese medicine practitioner, Professor Charlie Xue – said the study showed a very low rate of minor adverse events, such as bleeding at the needling sites.

While about 10 per cent of Australians use acupuncture in community-based clinics, Professor Xue said until now very little research had been done on its use for acute pain in hospital settings.

Dr Ben-Meir said although the exact mechanisms of acupuncture remained unclear, this was also the case for some Western medicines.

He said rising health costs should encourage more scientific assessment of low-risk complementary medicines because new drugs were expensive to develop and could cause side effects.

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A Healthy Chocolate Smoothie?


A healthy chocolate smoothie still sounds like an oxymoron, huh?   But we have all seen research suggesting chocolate is no longer a guilty pleasure.  In fact, recently in a study in the Nature Neuroscience journal, a group of healthy middle-aged participants were reported to have performed better on memory tests after drinking an antioxidant-rich, cocoa flavanol mixture. The improvement was on par with people twenty or thirty years younger. So, if I eat that dark chocolate bar will I remember where I put my keys?  The studies will continue; however, here’s a Smoothie to enjoy while researchers figure it all out!


Velvety Chocolate Smoothie

2 cups of almond milk (unsweetened)

3 large Medjool dates, pitted

1 tbsp. of unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tbsp. of Vanilla Protein (I tried brown rice protein and ½ cup old-fashioned oatmeal*)

1 tbsp. of hemp or flax seeds

1 large frozen banana (peeled)

6-8 large ice cubes



  1. Combine all ingredients in high-speed blender.
  2. Puree until smooth.
  3. Add more almond milk for thinner consistency or add more oatmeal (or whatever protein you are using) for thicker, heartier smoothie.


*I prefer oatmeal (uncooked) because it is a whole food and has a reasonable amount of protein in it.  Flavored powdered protein often has a lot of sugar, not to mention other ingredients I would prefer to avoid, in it.  The dates and the banana will certainly add the sweetness pop.  If you need a little more sweetness, try adding another ½ banana or a bit of honey.  You can also go off-recipe and try adding a couple berries or some coconut (adds in some medium-chain fatty acids!).

This recipe makes 2-3 servings.


Essential Oils for Pain Relief

It is safe to say that a great number of clients come to massage seeking relief from muscle and joint pain. Many will also be suffering from stress and need to relax. Others may be athletic or high-powered performers who want pain relief without becoming tired or drowsy.


The most famous essential oil for pain relief and relaxation is lavender (Lavandula officinalis, L angustifolia, L vera.) Distilled from the flowering tops, the best lavender oil comes from Bulgaria, France, England, Yugoslavia and Tasmania, though it can be grown all over the world. Lavender Vera is grown in higher altitudes, which produces more esters and a finer scent. Lavender has a long list of applications for skin; because of its anti-inflammatory and cell regenerating properties, it is one of the only essential oils that can be applied neat, or undiluted, to the skin.

Lavender is also antimicrobial, anti-infectious and antiseptic, making it effective in the treatment of wounds and as a frontline defense against respiratory infection. It is tonic to the cardiovascular and digestive systems, lowers blood pressure and helps thin the blood due to the presence of coumarins. Lavender is indicated for muscle spasm, sprain, strain, cramp, contracture and rheumatic pain. It is sedative to the central nervous system and relieves headache, nervous tension, and insomnia; it can also help balance mood swings. Spiritually, lavender is said to balance the physical, astral and etheric planes.

Because of lavender’s many therapeutic properties, if aromatherapists were stranded on a desert island with only one essential oil, many would hope it was lavender (it also takes the itch out of insect bites and helps heal sunburn!) But what other essential oils can be called in to use here in civilization? What should you use if your client does not want the deep relaxation or sleep-inducing effect of lavender, or if they have a tendency toward lowered metabolism or low blood pressure? What if they need to relax because they are about to take an exam, give a presentation or walk down the aisle? It’s a good idea to ask the client who indicates a need to relax what their stress is about and what life circumstances may be contributing to their pain cycle. This will help you select an essence that is most appropriate for their needs. Also keep in mind that when too much lavender is used it takes on the stimulating effect of a cup of espresso, so it is good for both you and your client to vary the relaxing, pain-relieving blend.

We’ll begin with an exploration of aromatherapy for pain and stress, and profile some other sedative oils. Space allows for a partial list of the properties; consult The Aromatherapy Practitioner Manual, Vols. I and II by Sylla Sheppard-Hanger, Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit by Gabriel Mojay, and others for more information on each essence.

When you want slightly less sedation but powerful pain relief, there is another type of lavender,Lavandula latifolia, L. spica, or Spike Lavender. A hybrid of lavender officinalis and latifolia, Lavandin, Lavandula-super is less expensive and often used to adulterate true lavender but is still a powerful antispasmodic well-suited for muscular, respiratory and circulatory problems, and not as a sedative for the mind.

Moving away from the lavenders altogether, other pain relieving sedative oils are chamomile (Roman, Anthemis nobilis and German, Marticaria recutita), Clary sage (Salvia sclarea), helichrysum (H. angustifolium), sweet marjoram (Origanum majorana), sandalwood (Santalum album) and vetiver (Vetiveria zizanioides).

Chamomile is a highly effective anti-inflammatory. It eases headache, neuralgia, dull muscle and low back pain, and TMJ syndrome. It relieves dysmenorrhea, PMS and stress that manifests as digestive symptoms.

Clary sage (not to be confused with sage, Salvia officinalis) is considered mildly intoxicating and euphoric, and should be used in small quantities and preferably not before an evening of cocktails, as it augments the effects of alcohol. Apart from this, the ability of Clary sage to relieve spasm, muscle ache and cramping makes it extremely useful in massage. It is a digestive aid and can be blended effectively with chamomile for tension and discomfort due to PMS and dysmennorhea.

Along with lavender, Clary sage is one of the essences chosen to ease labor. It is also associated with dreams and increased inner vision.

Helichrysum has a long history as anointing oil, but well deserves an honored place in therapeutic massage. With many of the properties of lavender, helichrysum is also indicated for bruising and burns, depression, shock and phobia, and is helpful in detoxification from drugs and nicotine. Helichrysum is said to improve the flow along the meridians and to increase spiritual awareness.

Sweet marjoram is highly sedative. It relieves pain, stiffness, sprain, spasm, neuromuscular contractions and is indicated for both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, dysmenorrhea and migraine. It has a powerful effect on the mind and emotions, relieving deep trauma, grief and heartache.

Sandalwood, well known in Ayurvedic treatment and as incense, also relieves muscle spasm and is helpful in treating sciatica and lymph congestion. It is tonic in the cardiovascular and digestive systems and relieves depression, insomnia, obsession, grief and aggression. Sandalwood opens the mind to spiritual connection and grounds this awareness in the material world.

Vetiver is interesting because it relieves arthritis, muscle ache, pain, sprain and stiffness, but increases venous circulation to help detoxification of tissues. It is said to balance the central nervous system and is grounding and revitalizing, while relieving insomnia, tension and depression.

Apart from lavender, all of the sedative essences listed are pretty potent and require few drops in a blend. The flower essences: rose, jasmine, neroli and ylang ylang, relieve anxiety and have properties that induce relaxation and pain relief.

The citrus oils: sweet orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime, tangerine and Mandarin, reduce tension and instill courage and optimism. Flower and citrus oils blend well with the other sedative oils and add their own dimensions to the therapeutic experience.

By Shellie Enteen, RA, BA, LMBT

Foods to Avoid or Enjoy if You Want a Good Night’s Sleep

What You Eat Affects How You Sleep

If you could pick the right foods to help you get the best sleep possible, wouldn’t you? And if you knew which foods would hinder your restful slumber, wouldn’t you avoid them? Now’s your chance to learn which foods to eat, and which to steer clear of for a good night’s sleep.


Reach for Tryptophan-Rich Foods

We’ve all heard of warm milk’s magical ability to send us off to dreamland. Do you know why it’s true? Dairy foods contain tryptophan, which is a sleep-promoting substance. Other foods that are high in tryptophan include nuts and seeds, bananas, honey, and eggs.

Indulge Your Craving for Carbs

Carbohydrate-rich foods complement dairy foods by increasing the level of sleep-inducing tryptophan in the blood. So a few perfect late night snacks to get you snoozing might include a bowl of cereal and milk, yogurt and crackers, or bread and cheese.

Have a Snack Before Bedtime

If you struggle with insomnia, a little food in your stomach may help you sleep. But don’t use this as an open invitation to pig out. Keep the snack small. A heavy meal will tax your digestive system, making you uncomfortable and unable to get soothing ZZZs.

Put Down the Burger and Fries!

As if you needed another reason to avoid high-fat foods, research shows that people who often eat high-fat foods not only gain weight, they also experience a disruption of their sleep cycles. A heavy meal activates digestion, which can lead to nighttime trips to the bathroom.

Beware of Hidden Caffeine

It’s no surprise that an evening cup of coffee might disrupt your sleep. Even moderate caffeine can cause sleep disturbances. But don’t forget about less obvious caffeine sources, like chocolate, cola, tea, and decaffeinated coffee. For better sleep, cut all caffeine from your diet four to six hours before bedtime.

Medications May Contain Caffeine

Some over-the-counter and prescription drugs contain caffeine, too, such as pain relievers, weight loss pills, diuretics, and cold medicines. These and other medications may have as much or even more caffeine than a cup of coffee. Check the label of nonprescription drugs or the prescription drug information sheet to see if your medicine interferes with sleep or can cause insomnia.

Skip the Nightcap

Here’s the catch-22 with alcohol: It may help you fall asleep faster, but you may experience frequent awakenings, less restful sleep, headaches, night sweats and nightmares. If you’re consuming alcohol in the evening, balance each drink with a glass a water to dilute the alcohol’s effects. For a good night’s sleep, the better bet is to avoid alcohol four to six hours before bedtime.

Beware of Heavy, Spicy Foods

Lying down with a full belly can make you uncomfortable, since the digestive system slows down when you sleep. It can also lead to heartburn, as can spicy cuisine. Make sure to finish a heavy meal at least four hours before bedtime.

Keep Protein to a Minimum at Bedtime

Sorry Atkins. Protein, an essential part of our daytime fare, can be a poor choice for a bedtime snack. Protein-rich, high-fat foods are harder to digest. So skip the fatty high-protein snack before bedtime and opt for a glass of warm milk or some sleep-friendly carbs, like crackers.

Cut the Fluids by 8 P.M.

Yes, staying hydrated throughout the day is great for your body, but curtail your fluid intake before bed. You’re sure to have interrupted sleep if you’re constantly getting up to go to the bathroom.


Itching for a Cure

Fall ushers in cooler temperatures and often more dry skin and related conditions. October is recognized as National Eczema Awareness Month to raise awareness of this uncomfortable skin condition afflicting more than 30 million people in the U.S. according to the National Eczema Association. Eczema is a general term for any type of inflammation of the skin and causes dry, itchy patches. Though there is no cure for eczema, Marina Peredo, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital (New York City) has a few tips to share to help you manage symptoms of eczema or just plain itchy skin.

  • Take warm baths instead of hot showers. Warm baths are less drying.
  • Adding in Epsom salts will help provide anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties. The extra bonus? Relaxation! Epsom salt baths help soothe and relax the muscles, so tension is eased. Stress is a major component in eczema flare ups so relaxation is key to managing the problem.
  • Using a very gentle cleanser that maintains the skin’s barrier is important.
  •  After bathing, pat the skin dry and avoid rubbing vigorously with a towel. Make sure to apply a highly nourishing and moisturizing product within 3 minutes while skin is still damp to lock in moisture. Recommend products specifically formulated for dry, itchy skin.
  •  Look for moisturizing ingredients such as ceramides, petrolatum and shea butter to help reduce trans-epidermal water loss and restore the skin’s natural moisture barrier.
  •  Ingredients such as a light amount of an alpha hydroxy acid can help minimize the dry, itchy plaques. Try a cream that contains salicylic acid in addition to vitamin D.
  •  Look for ointments and creams instead of serums and lotions. Always opt for a fragrance free product.
  •  Have your vitamin D levels checked. Recent clinical studies have shown that there may be a link between vitamin D deficiencies and atopic dermatitis.
  •  Avoid tight fitting, rough, scratchy clothing. Instead of wool, opt for cotton.
  •  Visit your dermatologist to determine whether the use of prescription-strength products are necessary to help manage your eczema.

Thai Butternut Squash Soup

1 butternut squash
1 tsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2½ tsp. red curry paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
1 cup chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
2 tsp. light brown sugar
1 (14-oz) can light coconut milk (I use the coconut milk in the box – it has less sugar and makes  a lighter soup with a milder coconut flavor).
¼ tsp. salt
chopped peanuts, for serving
chopped cilantro, for serving
limes, for serving

1. Cut your butternut squash in half and place on a microwave plate, cut side down. Add a couple tablespoons of water to the plate and place in the microwave. Cook for 5 minute increments, until squash is tender (about 10-15 minutes).  (I use a short cut and buy the squash already diced or at least peeled and cut in half)
2. Meanwhile, add oil to a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté for 3 minutes. Add red curry paste, garlic and ginger. Stir constantly for 1 minute.
3. Add the chicken broth, brown sugar, coconut milk and salt. Bring to a boil and reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.
4. When butternut squash is tender, remove from microwave and using a spoon, scoop out the flesh of the squash halves and place in blender. Purée in batches if your blender is small.
5. Pour mixture from saucepan into the blender with squash. Remove center piece of blender lid to help steam escape and place a paper towel over it just in case soup splatters. Blend until smooth.
6. Serve in bowls with with chopped cilantro, peanuts on top and lime on the side. Enjoy!

Mercury In Retrograde – Again?

Mercury in Retrograde:  What is it?

It happens three to four times per year, when the planet Mercury slows down, and appears to stop (station) and move backward (retrograde). It’s an optical illusion, since there is forward movement, like speeding by a slow-moving train — as it recedes, it appears to go backward.

Mercury Madness?

Mercury is the messenger and so we find that things involving communication may be confused or the message gets lost en route. Some people find that their computers go on the fritz or phone lines go down. If you’re at all jittery about it, go ahead and back up your important files.

There can be delays in communication or in transportation, so give yourself plenty of time to get places.  Cars and other large mechanical items (home appliances, HVACs) may be effected – break down, need repair, etc.  In preparation for retrograde, some people arrange for preventive maintenance to occur on key equipment.

Mercury in Retrograde Gives Us A Time-Out:

Mercury retrograde gives us time to catch up with ourselves, and reflect. Often it’s felt as a slowed down, contemplative time.  It can be a chance to go over old ground again, to claim what you missed the first time.  Something from the past may return in a different form. People, ideas or buried insights that are keys to moving forward, float to the surface.

Err on Side of Caution!

There’s a long-held belief that it’s best to avoid making set plans during the Mercury Retrograde. This means holding off on signing contracts, and forming partnerships and alliances. What gets put in writing at this time may turn out to need serious revising after Mercury goes direct. But since tying up loose ends is the domain of retrograde, this type of finalization might fly.

What’s the Silver Lining?

Yes, it is frustrating to deal with computers not working, cars breaking down, and arguments over unfortunate misunderstandings, but there is a silver lining.  Mercury gives us a time review our current course and life decisions.  Some dreams and goals get lost in the hectic rushing around of daily life. The Mercury Retrograde period can be a rich time of reflection on those longings.  This makes it a time for contemplation, review and re-design. You might look over old journals, review your creative work, rethink ideas you once had but thought could never work. It can make the retrograde period a time of re-committing to or re-establishing goals; changing directions in life!

Massaged Kale Salad with Roasted Beets

2-4 cups of lacinto kale (or other leafy greens if kale is not available or your fave)

½ cup fennel, sliced as thin as you can

1/2 orange pepper, sliced thin

¼ cup shredded coconut

½ Tbs coconut oil

1 Large Beet, cut into small chunks

¼ cup pepitas, lightly toasted

cumin, salt, pepper to taste



Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly toss beets in sesame oil, cumin, salt and pepper.  Cook for 16 minutes or until tender enough to eat.  Set aside.

Massage your greens with your hands and some salt.  Do this until the greens begin to break down a bit so they are softer; then add the fennel and pepper, shredded coconut and oil.  Combine thoroughly.

Add in your beets and toasted pepitas.  Give everything a good toss before eating.

6 Ways CranioSacral Therapy Facilitates Brain Health

By Tad Wanveer, L.M.B.T., C.S.T.-D. September 1, 2014

The author discusses the specific effects of CranioSacral Therapy on brain-related problems, including chronic pain; neurodegenerative disorders; issues related to inflammation; spinal column or nerve problems; and eye conditions.

A primary focus of CranioSacral Therapy is to gently lessen the body’s connective tissue strain and decrease meningeal stress. CranioSacral Therapy is based partly on the theory that certain light-touch manual techniques can help relieve cell stress and improve health by enhancing the form and balance of the connective tissue matrix, in particular connective tissue layers surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

Enhanced brain form enables brain cells to work at their optimal level, which may improve molecular production, movement, use and clearance throughout the brain, leading to enhanced brain function and improved brain health.  Because an emphasis of CranioSacral Therapy is on facilitating correction of the whole-body connective tissue matrix, it can be used for a wide range of conditions, including:

1. Chronic pain. Lessening tissue stress that may be causing pain signals can help address the site of injury or strain. Reducing spinal cord and sensory ganglia adverse strain related to compromised tissue can aid recovery from pain, because sensory ganglia and spinal cord stress can maintain pain perception even when the cause has improved.

2. Neurodegenerative disorders. Decreasing the brain’s connective tissue container strain can improve brain form. This seems to boost cerebrospinal fluid movement, which may optimize brain cleansing of harmful substances. Harmful buildup of substances, such as toxins related to chemical exposure, in the brain may contribute in part to diseases of neurodegeneration such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Brain issues related to inflammation. Some theories pose that brain inflammation may be part of the cause of autism spectrum disorders, attention issues, hyperactivity, sensory processing disorder, anxiety, sleep disorders, headache, migraine and post-concussion syndrome. Correction may be enhanced by addressing the following: reducing brain inflammation by lessening brain stress that exists in response to connective tissue strain; optimizing drainage of interstitial fluid and enhancing the flow of cerebrospinal fluid throughout the brain; and helping the brain flush itself of irritating or disorganizing substances, which may help the brain calm and organize most efficiently.

4. Spinal column or nerve problems. Some of these problems include scoliosis, herniated disc, nerve root entrapment, spondylolisthesis and sciatica. Correcting connective tissue restrictive patterns of the musculoskeletal system in order to lessen adverse strain of bony structures or nerve sheaths may lessen structural imbalance or distortion that may cause issues. Improving the patterning of the connective tissue layers encasing the spinal cord and nerve roots in order to decrease adverse neurological stress related to the area of difficulty can help correct bone- or nerve-related conditions.

5. Autonomic nervous system disorders. High blood pressure, dizziness, lightheadedness and constipation are some of the issues related to autonomic nervous system distress. Lessening soft tissue strain in order to decrease disturbing neurological signaling within autonomic pathways can help enhance autonomic signaling. Decreasing brain and spinal cord irritation in areas related to regulating autonomic nervous system function can improve autonomic integration and signaling.

6. Eye problems. Conditions such as astigmatism, blurry vision, double vision, dry eyes or strabismus may be aided by lessening stress of connective tissue layers encasing the eyes, covering the optic nerves, enveloping the eye motor nerves or disturbing vision processing areas.

Tad Wanveer, L.M.B.T., C.S.T.-D. (, is a diplomate certified in CranioSacral Therapy; a certified Upledger CranioSacral Therapy instructor; originator of a new class, CranioSacral Therapy Touching the Brain 1; creator of an animated DVD set, In Motion; and author of the soon-to-be-published book, Brain Stars: Glia Illuminating CranioSacral Therapy.

Not Enough Sleep Can Leave You Sick and Tired!

10 Things to Hate About Sleep Loss

By Camille Peri, WebMD Feature, Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC

You know lack of sleep can make you grumpy and foggy. You may not know what it can do to your sex life, memory, health, looks, and even ability to lose weight. Here are 10 surprising — and serious — effects of sleep loss.

1. Sleepiness Causes Accidents

Sleep deprivation was a factor in some of the biggest disasters in recent history: the 1979 nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, the massive Exxon Valdez oil spill, the 1986 nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl, and others.

But sleep loss is also a big public safety hazard every day on the road. Drowsiness can slow reaction time as much as driving drunk. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that fatigue is a cause in 100,000 auto crashes and 1,550 crash-related deaths a year in the U.S. The problem is greatest among people under 25 years old.

Studies show that sleep loss and poor-quality sleep also lead to accidents and injuries on the job. In one study, workers who complained about excessive daytime sleepiness had significantly more work accidents, particularly repeated work accidents. They also had more sick days per accident.

2. Sleep Loss Dumbs You Down

Sleep plays a critical role in thinking and learning. Lack of sleep hurts these cognitive processes in many ways. First, it impairs attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem solving. This makes it more difficult to learn efficiently.

Second, during the night, various sleep cycles play a role in “consolidating” memories in the mind. If you don’t get enough sleep, you won’t be able to remember what you learned and experienced during the day.

3. Sleep Deprivation Can Lead to Serious Health Problems

Sleep disorders and chronic sleep loss can put you at risk for:

  • Heart disease
  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes

According to some estimates, 90% of people with insomnia — a sleep disorder characterized by trouble falling and staying asleep — also have another health condition.

4. Lack of Sleep Kills Sex Drive

Sleep specialists say that sleep-deprived men and women report lower libidos and less interest in sex. Depleted energy, sleepiness, and increased tension may be largely to blame.

For men with sleep apnea, a respiratory problem that interrupts sleep, there may be another factor in the sexual slump. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism in 2002 suggests that many men with sleep apnea also have low testosterone levels. In the study, nearly half of the men who suffered from severe sleep apnea also secreted abnormally low levels of testosterone during the night.

5. Sleepiness Is Depressing

Over time, lack of sleep and sleep disorders can contribute to the symptoms of depression. In a 2005 Sleep in America poll, people who were diagnosed with depression or anxiety were more likely to sleep less than six hours at night.

The most common sleep disorder, insomnia, has the strongest link to depression. In a 2007 study of 10,000 people, those with insomnia were five times as likely to develop depression as those without. In fact, insomnia is often one of the first symptoms of depression.

Recommended Related to Sleep Disorders

Insomnia and depression feed on each other. Sleep loss often aggravates the symptoms of depression, and depression can make it more difficult to fall asleep. On the positive side, treating sleep problems can help depression and its symptoms, and vice versa.

6. Lack of Sleep Ages Your Skin

Most people have experienced sallow skin and puffy eyes after a few nights of missed sleep. But it turns out that chronic sleep loss can lead to lackluster skin, fine lines, and dark circles under the eyes.

When you don’t get enough sleep, your body releases more of the stress hormone cortisol. In excess amounts, cortisol can break down skin collagen, the protein that keeps skin smooth and elastic.

Sleep loss also causes the body to release too little human growth hormone. When we’re young, human growth hormone promotes growth. As we age, it helps increase muscle mass, thicken skin, and strengthen bones.

“It’s during deep sleep — what we call slow-wave sleep — that growth hormone is released,” says sleep expert Phil Gehrman, PhD. “It seems to be part of normal tissue repair — patching the wear and tear of the day.”

7. Sleepiness Makes You Forgetful

Trying to keep your memory sharp? Try getting plenty of sleep.

In 2009, American and French researchers determined that brain events called “sharp wave ripples” are responsible for consolidating memory. The ripples also transfer learned information from the hippocampus to the neocortex of the brain, where long-term memories are stored. Sharp wave ripples occur mostly during the deepest levels of sleep.

8. Losing Sleep Can Make You Gain Weight

When it comes to body weight, it may be that if you snooze, you lose. Lack of sleep seems to be related to an increase in hunger and appetite, and possibly to obesity. According to a 2004 study, people who sleep less than six hours a day were almost 30 percent more likely to become obese than those who slept seven to nine hours.

Recent research has focused on the link between sleep and the peptides that regulate appetite. “Ghrelin stimulates hunger and leptin signals satiety to the brain and suppresses appetite,” says Siebern. “Shortened sleep time is associated with decreases in leptin and elevations in ghrelin.”

Not only does sleep loss appear to stimulate appetite. It also stimulates cravings for high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods. Ongoing studies are considering whether adequate sleep should be a standard part of weight loss programs.

9. Lack of Sleep May Increase Risk of Death

In the “Whitehall II Study,” British researchers looked at how sleep patterns affected the mortality of more than 10,000 British civil servants over two decades. The results, published in 2007, showed that those who had cut their sleep from seven to five hours or fewer a night nearly doubled their risk of death from all causes. In particular, lack of sleep doubled the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

10. Sleep Loss Impairs Judgment, Especially About Sleep

Lack of sleep can affect our interpretation of events. This hurts our ability to make sound judgments because we may not assess situations accurately and act on them wisely.

Sleep-deprived people seem to be especially prone to poor judgment when it comes to assessing what lack of sleep is doing to them. In our increasingly fast-paced world, functioning on less sleep has become a kind of badge of honor. But sleep specialists say if you think you’re doing fine on less sleep, you’re probably wrong. And if you work in a profession where it’s important to be able to judge your level of functioning, this can be a big problem.

“Studies show that over time, people who are getting six hours of sleep, instead of seven or eight, begin to feel that they’ve adapted to that sleep deprivation — they’ve gotten used to it,” Gehrman says. “But if you look at how they actually do on tests of mental alertness and performance, they continue to go downhill. So there’s a point in sleep deprivation when we lose touch with how impaired we are.”


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National Sleep Foundation: “Teens and Sleep,” “ABCs of ZZZZs — When you Can’t Sleep,” “2005 Adult Sleep Habits and Styles.”

NIH National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: “Your Guide to Healthy Sleep.”

Anxiety Disorders Association of America: “Sleep Disorders.”

Allison T. Siebern, PhD,Insomnia and Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program, Stanford University Sleep Medicine Center, Redwood City, Calif.

Phil Gehrman, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry and clinical director, Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: “Research on Drowsy Driving.”

Reviewed on February 13, 2014