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Blog posts tagged with 'insomnia'

Why a scary movie might be keeping you awake at night


You probably remember seeing a movie or a TV show that kept you awake at night. For me that show was Unsolved Mysteries. The show would highlight various unsolved gruesome crimes then highlight the fact that whoever did the heinous act they had just reenacted was still roaming free and ready to strike again. 

Perhaps there are nights you can remember lying in bed after a scary movie or television program.

What is going on in our body that makes a TV show affect us so much? Why do some people like to be scared even if it makes them lose sleep over it?

While you watch a good horror movie your heart rate and breathing speed up. Scary movies make you feel scared (go figure) and for many people watching a scary movie makes your body react the same way it would if there was something really scary there that could hurt you. You may have heard the term fight or flight, but the increase in heart rate and breathing helps your body supply more oxygen and blood flow to areas that would normally be needed to run away from something. Instead you may just need to run to get a refill of popcorn.

If you are really feeling scared your body may even tense up or even squeeze or move involuntarily that’s noradrenaline’s fault. Noradrenaline is a hormone that carries signals around the body and that tense feeling is a signal that something important is going to happen. Scary movies trick you into feeling like you are in danger so you tense up.

Scary movies can make you feel so stressed that cortisol levels in the body can rise. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone and is linked to memory loss and depression. It can also trigger bad memories because cortisol is released during trying times. Scary movies play with our fight or flight and stress management systems in our body. Adrenaline levels also spike. Scary movies make your body feel excited. The fun of watching a scary movie is being scared which may not seem to make a whole lot of sense.

However, recent research shows that dopamine gets released by your brain during a scary situation. Dopamine is generally considered a chemical the brain released to feel a sense of pleasure but it is also released during stressful and upsetting circumstances as well. This release of dopamine may be why we seek out scary movies despite the stressful feelings they may cause us to feel.

If you are not as affected by scary movies the reasons may be genetic. I no longer feel the strain of Unsolved Mysteries when I catch it on reruns. Scary movies may not cause strong reactions in every one but some research has suggested that some people may be more likely to be affected by disturbing imagery than others based on the doubling of a particular gene. If you have two copies of this particular gene you are much more likely to feel scared by scary movies.

No matter how scary a movie is you should not suffer from sleepless nights very long. Your body should be able to comfortably relax in bed most every night. If you are lying awake or feeling less than refreshed in the mornings visit Mattress Direct for a proper mattress fitting. Trained sleep specialists from Mattress Direct can keep you from feeling like a zombie or any other horror monster by ensuring you get the right mattress with characteristics that match your body type and sleep styles.




Does this sound familiar?  You’re lying in bed, trying to fall asleep, but your mind is racing.   You’re exhausted, but can’t turn off your brain.  Instead, you lie awake, remembering the things you didn’t get done that day, the argument you had with a co-worker, that time in 3rd grade you threw up on the field trip to the zoo.   The next thing you know it’s 2:00 AM and you still haven’t fallen asleep.    Sadly, for many Americans, this is all-too relatable.  

Luckily, here at Mattress Direct, we’re always available to provide helpful (and free!) tips to help you get a deeper, more restorative night’s sleep.  Today, to reduce anxiety that can lead to insomnia, we’d like to recommend meditation. 

Several sleep studies show even twenty minutes of focused meditation can lead to falling asleep faster and staying asleep longer.  Meditation can seem a little intimidating to the uninitiated, but at its simplest, it’s really just practicing mindfulness of moment-by-moment thoughts and experiences.  By focusing on breathing, you can keep your mind from drifting to the stresses of the past and future.   Some people focus on the way their lungs fill and empty, others on the sounds their breathing makes, and still others focus on the flow of air in and out of the nose.  Experiencing each breath for what it is, allows you to focus on the present, which is the essence of mindful meditation.   Becoming distracted, and letting thoughts creep into your mind as you meditate is normal.  Instead of trying to push them away, recognize what is happening, and then shift your focus back to the rhythms of your breathing.   Don’t worry if It’s hard at first, most things are! 

The longer you stick with it, the easier it will be.

Focused meditation will allow your body to become accustomed to relaxation, which you can then use to push away “inner chatter” at bedtime.  Falling asleep faster, and staying asleep longer will mean more deep, restorative REM sleep, which means more energy and alertness during the day.  There are plenty of other resources online for best meditation practices for beginners.  Find some that work for you!  Good luck, and good night.  

Can't Sleep? Drug free alternatives that really help
Insomnia is a widespread sleep problem among adults. Nearly 40% of men and women in the U.S. experience some symptoms of insomnia in a given year, and as many as 15% of adults struggle with chronic insomnia. Relaxation techniques are considered a standard form treatment for insomnia by sleep professionals, and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. These techniques include:
  • Muscle relaxation exercises
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Imagery and visualization
These effective therapeutic practices are inexpensive, drug free, easy to learn and integrate into a daily routine, and can be very effective in improving sleep. Non-pharmaceutical sleep remedies are attractive to many people who don’t want to use medication to treat their insomnia and other sleep problems. This often leads people to seek other options in an area known as Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). CAM is defined by the National Institutes of Health as "a group of health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine." The NIH estimates that as many as 38% of adults in the United States use some form of CAM, most often in conjunction with conventional medicine, rather than in place of it. Despite its popularity, we don’t know a great deal about how people use relaxation techniques and CAM, including what health problems they're being employed to treat. Researchers at Harvard Medical School and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine sought to remedy this by conducting this study to assess how people with insomnia use relaxation techniques and CAM to treat their sleep disorder. They found that while many adults with insomnia are using these therapies, only a small percentage of them are using them specifically to treat insomnia. Researchers used data from the National Health Interview Survey, a large-scale, in-person survey on a wide range of health issues conducted by the Census Bureau and the Centers for Disease Control. The final study group included 23,358 adults. Researchers in the current study investigated the prevalence of relaxation techniques, including deep breathing, muscle relaxation, biofeedback and guided imagery. They also examined the use of CAM, which they separated into four broad categories:
  • Alternative and mind-body medicine: including meditation, yoga, Tai chi
  • Manipulative practices: including massage, chiropractic and osteopathic treatments
  • Other CAM practices: including acupuncture, Ayurvedic medicine, homeopathy, naturopathy
  • Natural products: including non-vitamin and non-mineral supplements, particularly those used for insomnia treatment, such as melatonin and valerian
Researchers collected information about reasons for using relaxation and CAM, and whether people used these therapies specifically for insomnia. Finally, they asked whether people who used these treatments had informed their physicians about their use. They found that use of both relaxation and CAM techniques are common among people with insomnia—more common than in people without insomnia. However, the vast majority of people with insomnia who use these therapies are not using them specifically to treat their insomnia. Here are some of the details:
  • 18% of those included in the study had regular insomnia or difficulty sleeping in the past year. More women than men suffered from insomnia, as did older people, and those with lower education and income levels.
  • Of those people with insomnia, 22.9% used some type of relaxation therapy in the past year, compared to 11.2% of people without insomnia. Deep breathing exercises were the most common type of relaxation therapy used.
  • Fewer than one-fifth—only 19.1%--of people discussed their use of relaxation therapy with their primary physician.
  • 29.9% of those with insomnia reported using relaxation exercises for specific medical issues, but only a very small number—30 individuals in total—reported using relaxation techniques to treat their insomnia. This was too small a figure for researchers to calculate a population-based estimate.
  • When it came to CAM, 45% of adults with insomnia used some form of complementary or alternative medicine in the past year, compared to 30.9% of those without insomnia.
  • Natural products were the most commonly used of the four categories, followed by manipulative practices. However, researchers found that use of natural products specifically for insomnia was very low.
  • 54% of adults with insomnia used some form of CAM for specific health problems, but only 1.8% reported using CAM to treat insomnia.
  • In the case of both relaxation techniques and CAM, women were more likely than men to use these therapies, as were people with higher levels of education and income, and people who reported higher levels of physical activity.
There seems to be a real missed opportunity here, to improve insomnia by applying therapeutic techniques that people with this sleep disorder are already using. These broad categories of relaxation and CAM cover a wide range of treatment options. Not all of these techniques will be right for everyone. And further research is needed to fully evaluate the effectiveness of specific therapies. But there exist a number of relaxation and CAM therapies, including meditation and visualization, yoga and acupuncture, that have shown promising results in helping alleviate insomnia and other sleep problems. Talking with your doctor is an important step in making the most of relaxation techniques and complementary or alternative therapies to improve insomnia.  It’s disappointing to see that most people who are using these remedies are not discussing them with their physicians, according to this current research. Increasingly, conventional medical practitioners are open to, informed about and encouraging of techniques such as these. Don’t go it alone. Your “regular” doctor can be a valuable resource in making choices about “alternative” therapies for insomnia and other sleep problems. Sweet Dreams, Michael J. Breus, PhD The Sleep Doctor™ The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan:  Lose Weight Through Better Sleep Everything you do, you do better with a good night’s sleep™ twitter: @thesleepdoctor Facebook: