Sleep

Sleep is essential for daily activities, performance, learning, and overall health. Insufficient sleep—getting too little sleep or not enough quality sleep—is a leading cause of accidents, lost productivity, and illness.

NICHD supports many areas of research on sleep, including how sleep occurs, how a lack of sleep affects health and behavior, and conditions that disrupt sleep. This website provides some general information about sleep and about the specific areas of sleep research within the NICHD research portfolio. The website is not meant to be all-inclusive.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), with its National Center on Sleep Disorders Research (NCSDR), leads NIH research efforts on sleep and sleep disorders. If you are looking for in-depth information about sleep and sleep disorders, please visit the NHLBI or the NCSDR websites.

In August 2021, NICHD co-hosted the #ScienceOfSleep Across the Lifespan Q&A Series along with the National Institute on Aging and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Learn how sleep impacts the health of teens, adults, and older adults external link.

About Sleep

Sleep is a complex biological process that helps people process new information, stay healthy, and re-energize. Periods of sleep and wakefulness are part of how our bodies function.

Although you are resting while you sleep, your brain remains highly active. Sleep consists of different stages that repeat several times each night. During sleep, the brain cycles through two distinct phases: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep.1 Not completing the full sleep process can stress your body.

Why is sleep important?

Each sleep phase and stage is important to ensure that the mind and body are completely rested. Certain stages help you feel rested and energetic the next day, while other stages help you learn information and form memories.1,2 Sleep is important in the function of your body’s other systems, such as your metabolism and immune system. Sleep may also help your body clear toxins from your brain that build up while you were awake.1

Not getting enough or enough quality sleep contributes, in the short term, to problems with learning and processing information, and it can have a harmful effect on long-term health and well-being. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many U.S. adults report that they don’t get the recommended number of hours of sleep each night.3

Sleep affects how well you do your daily tasks, your mood, and your health in the following ways:

  • Performance. Cutting back on sleep by as little as 1 hour can make it difficult to focus the next day and can slow your response time. Insufficient sleep can also make you more likely to take risks and make poor decisions, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).2
  • Mood. Sleep affects your mood. Insufficient sleep can make you more easily annoyed or angry, and that can lead to trouble with relationships, particularly for children and teens. Also, people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to become depressed, according to NHLBI.2
  • Health. Sleep is important for good health.2 Research in adults has shown that lack of sleep or lack of quality sleep increases a person’s risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and other medical conditions.2 Your environment can affect the quality of your sleep by causing disturbances that prevent you from sleeping through the night.2 Also, during sleep the body produces hormones that help the body grow and, throughout life, build muscle, fight illnesses, and repair damage to the body.2 Growth hormone, for example, is produced during sleep, and it is essential for growth and development.4 Other hormones produced during sleep affect how the body uses energy, which may explain why lack of sleep contributes to obesity and diabetes.5

Citations

  1. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (n.d.). Brain basics: Understanding sleep. Retrieved June 7, 2017, from https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Understanding-Sleep
  2. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (2011). In brief: Your guide to healthy sleep. Retrieved January 16, 2018, from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/sleep/healthysleepfs.pdf (PDF 436 KB)
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Prevalence of healthy sleep duration among adults — United States, 2014. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 65, 137–141. Retrieved March 27, 2019, from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6506a1.htm
  4. Takahashi, Y., Kipnis, D. M., & Daughaday, W. H. (1968). Growth hormone secretion during sleep. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 47(9), 2079–2090.
  5. Leproult, R., & Van Cauter, E. (2010). Role of sleep and sleep loss in hormonal release and metabolism. Endocrine Development, 17, 11–21. Retrieved June 19, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3065172/

What are some common sleep problems?

Many people report that they experience problems with sleep. But what does that really mean?

Sleep problems differ in how severe they are and in their specific features.1 For example, how long you sleep or are awake, how deeply you sleep, and how you fall asleep are all related to certain sleep problems.

In the past, healthcare providers focused on sleep deprivation—not getting enough sleep (also called insufficient sleep)—as a main type of sleep problem. But research has shown that sleep deficiency, a concept that describes a group of sleep problems, is actually a more accurate way to talk about sleep problems.

Sleep deficiency is a term that describes several different sleep issues, including:

  • Not getting enough sleep (sleep deprivation or insufficient sleep)
  • Sleeping at the wrong time of day (not in sync with your body’s natural clock)
  • Not sleeping well or not spending enough time in certain stages of sleep
  • Having a sleep disorder

Sleep deficiency is associated with a number of health and other problems ranging from feeling tired to chronic health conditions. Visit https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/chronic_disease.html and https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-deprivation-and-deficiency for more information.

Sleep disorders are a group of more than 70 major sleep problems with symptoms that can include inappropriate sleep, severe sleep deprivation, and periods of stopped breathing. People with sleep disorders usually benefit from treatments and monitoring from a healthcare provider. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)—which leads sleep disorder research at NIH—offers in-depth information about many sleep disorders, including:

Visit https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics to search for all sleep-related topics on the NHLBI website.

Citations

  1. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (n.d.). Sleep deprivation and deficiency. Retrieved March 5, 2019, from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-deprivation-and-deficiency

What makes us sleep?

Sleep and wakefulness are generally regulated by our brains working with input from our senses and our circadian (pronounced sur-KAY-dee-uhn) clock.

This system pushes us to wake up and remain awake at certain times and pushes us to sleep at certain times. Research has helped us to begin to understand this system at the level of the cells in the brain. More work is needed to understand exactly how the brain, senses, and our body’s clock work in waking and sleeping and what can happen to disturb this cycle. Visit the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke’s Understanding Sleep page for more information on the sleep cycle.

The need for sleep is driven by the length of time you are awake. The longer you are awake, the greater your “drive” or need to sleep.1 The drive to sleep continues to build within your body until you are able to sleep.

Your body has a natural clock, called a “circadian clock,” that helps you regulate your sleep. The word “circadian” refers to rhythmic biological cycles that repeat about every 24 hours. These cycles are also called circadian rhythms. Your circadian clock is strongly influenced by light, which is the reason why people living in different regions have different sleeping schedules. This is also the reason why people who work night shifts can have difficulty falling asleep or staying awake.2

At bedtime, when your drive to sleep is greatest, your sleep drive and circadian clock work together to allow you to fall asleep. After you have slept for some time, when your drive to sleep is lower, your circadian clock allows you to stay asleep until the end of the night.

Circadian Rhythms

Circadian rhythms regulate changes in the brain and body that occur over the course of a day. Your body’s biological clock controls most circadian rhythms. This clock is found in a region of the brain called the hypothalamus (pronounced hy-puh-THAL-uh-muhs). The hypothalamus affects sleep and arousal.

Light detected by special neurons in the eye sends signals to many areas of the brain, including the hypothalamus. Signals from the hypothalamus travel to different regions of the brain, including the pineal (pronounced PIN-ee-uhl) gland. In response to light, such as sunlight, the pineal gland turns off the production of melatonin, a hormone that causes a feeling of drowsiness. The levels of melatonin in the body normally increase after darkness, which makes you feel drowsy.

The change in melatonin during the sleep/wake cycle reflects circadian rhythms. During sleep, the hypothalamus also controls changes in body temperature and blood pressure.

Because circadian rhythms are controlled by light, people who have some degree of blindness in both eyes may have trouble sleeping. For more information about how vision affects circadian rhythms, visit the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke page on understanding sleep.2

Citations

  1. Romeijn, N., Raymann, R. J., Møst, E., Te Lindert, B., Van Der Meijden, W. P., Fronczek, R., Gomez-Herrero, G., & Van Someren, E. J. (2012). Sleep, vigilance, and thermosensitivity. European Journal of Physiology, 463(1), 169–176.
  2. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (n.d.). Brain basics: Understanding sleep. Retrieved June 7, 2017, from https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Understanding-Sleep

What happens during sleep?

In broad terms, the brain of someone who is sleeping cycles through two basic phases: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep. Non-REM sleep includes three different stages.1 A person cycles through REM sleep and non-REM sleep several times a night.

For more detailed information about what happens during sleep and phases of sleep, check out Your Guide to Healthy Sleep, from the National, Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Each phase of sleep helps the mind and body stay rested. Certain stages help you feel rested and energetic the next day, while both phases help you learn information and form memories.1,2

Sleep progresses in a cycle: from non-REM sleep stage 1 to non-REM sleep stage 2, to non-REM sleep stage 3, to REM sleep. Then the process starts over again with non-REM sleep stage 1.

The length of sleep stages changes during a given night’s sleep. For example, near the beginning of sleep, the body cycles through relatively short periods of REM sleep and long periods of deep sleep. As the night goes on, periods of REM sleep increase and those of deep sleep decrease. Near the end of a night of sleep, a person spends nearly all of their time in stages 1 and 2 and REM.3

Some of the characteristics of each phase include the following.

As you begin to fall asleep, you enter non-REM sleep, which consists of stages 1 through 3, as follows:1,2

  • Stage 1
    • You are in between being awake and being asleep.
    • Your heartbeat and breathing slow and your muscles relax.
  • Stage 2
    • You are in a light sleep.
    • Your brain waves slow down.
    • Your body temperature lowers.
  • Stage 3
    • Your deepest and most restorative sleep happens.
    • Your heartbeat and breathing slow to their lowest levels.
    • Your muscles relax.
    • Your body increases the supply of blood to your muscles.
    • Your body performs tissue growth and repair.
    • Your energy is restored.
    • Your body releases hormones.

You first enter REM sleep about 90 minutes after you fall asleep. REM sleep becomes longer later into the night.2 REM is characterized as follows:1,2

  • Your brain and body are energized.
  • Your breathing becomes fast and irregular.
  • Your brain is active and dreaming occurs.
  • Your eyes dart back and forth.
  • Your body becomes immobile and relaxed, preventing you from acting out your dreams.
  • Your body temperature is not as tightly regulated.4

REM sleep begins in response to signals sent to and from different regions of the brain. Signals are sent to the brain’s cerebral cortex, which is responsible for learning, thinking, and organizing information. Signals are also sent to the spinal cord to shut off movement, creating a temporary inability to move the muscles (“paralysis”) in the arms and legs. If this temporary paralysis is disrupted, people might move while they are dreaming (“sleepwalking”). A person who sleepwalks is at risk for injury.5

REM sleep is thought to be involved in storing memories, learning, and balancing mood.6 REM sleep stimulates regions of the brain that are used for learning. Studies have shown that when people are deprived of REM sleep, they are not able to remember what they were taught before going to sleep.1 Lack of REM sleep has also been linked to certain health conditions, such as migraines.6 However, insufficient sleep, regardless of sleep stage, can interfere with learning, memory, and performance. If you have any concerns about your sleep quality and habits, speak with your healthcare provider.

Scientists aren’t sure why we dream. While some of the signals sent to the cortex during sleep are important for learning and memory, some signals seem to be random. Dreams are generally most vivid during REM sleep, but dreaming can also occur during non-REM sleep.1

Through research, we are learning more about dreaming. One study, for example, found that a pattern of brain activity from a part of the cortex near the back of the brain is a good predictor of whether an individual is dreaming, whether the individual was in the REM or non-REM sleep.7

Citations

  1. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (n.d.). Brain basics: Understanding sleep. Retrieved June 7, 2017, from https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Understanding-Sleep
  2. National Sleep Foundation. (n.d.). What happens when you sleep? Retrieved May 1, 2018, from https://sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/what-happens-when-you-sleep 
  3. Stevens, M.S. (2015). Normal sleep, sleep physiology, and sleep deprivation. Medscape. Retrieved June 27, 2017, from http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1188226-overview?pa=lfFeHjbS6JaS25ErG2lkd%2BxXm76%2Bmr3oCutNnyc%2FQBHaPwezUnAfojLlwoYnh8sJNFsYxDuz%2Fz2hge3aAwEFsw%3D%3D 
  4. National Sleep Foundation. (n.d.). Does your body temperature change while you sleep? Retrieved June 26, 2017, from https://sleep.org/articles/does-your-body-temperature-change-while-you-sleep/ 
  5. National Sleep Foundation. (n.d.). Sleepwalking. Retrieved June 12, 2017, from https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems/abnormal-sleep-behaviors/sleepwalking 
  6. National Sleep Foundation. (2010). REM sleep deprivation and migraines. Retrieved June 12, 2017, from http://www.sleepfoundation.org/alert/rem-sleep-deprivation-and-migraine 
  7. Siclari, F., Baird, B., Perogamvros, L., Bernardi, G., LaRocque, J.J., Riedner, B. … Tononi, G. (2017). The neural correlates of dreaming. Nature Neuroscience, 20(6), 872–878. Retrieved April 22, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28394322

How much sleep do I need?

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the amount of sleep people need depends on several factors, including their age, individual requirements, and whether they have been getting adequate sleep.1

The National Sleep Foundation recommends how much sleep people should get at each age. The recommendations are based on a review of more than 300 research studies.2

Age Group Recommended Hours of Sleep Per Day
Newborns
(0 to 3 months)
14–17 hours (National Sleep Foundation)3
No recommendation (American Academy of Sleep Medicine)4
Infants
(4 to 12 months)
12–16 hours per 24 hours (including naps)4
Toddlers
(1 to 2 years)
11–14 hours per 24 hours (including naps)4
Preschoolers
(3 to 5 years)
10–13 hours per 24 hours (including naps)4
School Age
(6 to 12 years)
9–12 hours per 24 hours4
Teen
(13 to 18 years)
8–10 hours per 24 hours4
Adults
(18 to 60 years)
7 or more hours per night5
Adults
(61 to 64 years)
7–9 hours3
Adults
(65 years and older)
7–8 hours3

Although the amount of sleep you get each day is important, other aspects of your sleep also contribute to your health and well-being. Good sleep quality is also essential. Signs of poor sleep quality include not feeling rested even after getting enough sleep, repeatedly waking up during the night, and experiencing symptoms of sleep disorders (such as snoring or gasping for air). Improving sleep quality may be helped by better sleep habits or being diagnosed and treated for any sleep disorder you may have.

Citations

  1. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (n.d.). Brain basics: Understanding sleep. Retrieved June 7, 2017, from https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Understanding-Sleep
  2. Hirshkowitz, M., Whiton, K., Albert, S. M., Alessi, C., Bruni, O., DonCarlos, L., … & Ware, C. (2015). National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: Methodology and results summary. Sleep Health, 1(1), 40–43. Retrieved April 18, 2019, from http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.sleh.2014.12.010 
  3. Hirshkowitz M, Whiton K, Albert SM, Alessi C, Bruni O, et al. The National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary. Sleep Health. 2015;1(1):40–43.
  4. Paruthi S, Brooks LJ, D’Ambrosio C, Hall WA, Kotagal S, Lloyd RM, et al. Recommended amount of sleep for pediatric populations: a consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. J Clin Sleep Med. 2016;12(6):785–786.
  5. Watson NF, Badr MS, Belenky G, et al. Recommended amount of sleep for a healthy adult: a joint consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society. Sleep. 2015;38(6):843–844.

What are some myths about sleep?

There are several common myths about sleep, including the following1:

The act of snoring, by itself, is often harmless. However, in some people, it can signal a life-threatening disorder called sleep apnea.2 Sleep apnea causes pauses in your breathing that can last for seconds or minutes, dozens of times each hour. These pauses disrupt your sleep and cause you to wake up or sleep only lightly, which can make you feel extremely tired during the day. The pauses also reduce the amount of oxygen in your blood and can cause damage to the heart and blood vessels, which increases the risk of heart disease.3 Sleep apnea also increases the risk for high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes.2

Fortunately, sleep apnea is treatable. People who snore loudly, have pauses in breathing during sleep, and feel very tired during the day should speak with a healthcare provider. Visit https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-apnea for more information on sleep apnea.

Despite popular belief, you can’t regain or catch up on “lost” sleep by sleeping more at another time. Being sleep deprived means you accumulate a sleep debt that is impossible to “repay” as it gets larger. In addition, long-term sleep deprivation puts you at risk for health problems and may impair your safety and work performance. Sleep deprivation has been linked to obesity, high blood pressure, negative mood and behavior, decreased productivity at work, and safety issues in the home, on the job, and on the road.4 Catching up on sleep may help to reduce daytime sleepiness or drowsiness, but it does not reverse the effects of not getting enough sleep or enough quality sleep each night.

Sleep experts recommend 7 to 9 hours of sleep for most adults. While sleep patterns may change as we age, the amount of sleep the body needs does not usually change. Older people may wake up more frequently throughout the night and end up getting less sleep during the overnight hours. Older adults are more likely to be taking medicines that interfere with sleep.5 However, their need for sleep is not drastically less than that of younger adults. Older people may take more naps during the day because they get less sleep at night.

To learn more about these and other sleep myths, visit the National Sleep Foundation website: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/myths-and-facts-about-sleep .

Citations

  1. National Sleep Foundation. (n.d.). Myths and facts about sleep. Retrieved March 26, 2019, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/myths-and-facts-about-sleep 
  2. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (n.d.). Sleep apnea. Retrieved June 12, 2017, from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-apnea
  3. Floras, J. S. (2014). Sleep apnea and cardiovascular risk. Journal of Cardiology, 63(1), 3–8. Retrieved June 19, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24084492 
  4. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (2009). At-a-glance: Healthy sleep. Retrieved June 12, 2017, from http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/sleep/healthy_sleep_atglance.pdf (PDF 1.80 MB)
  5. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (n.d.). Brain basics: Understanding sleep. Retrieved June 12, 2017, from https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Understanding-Sleep

Are there medical conditions that may disrupt sleep patterns?

Medical conditions, including pregnancy, some intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs), depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer, may disrupt natural or healthy sleep patterns.

  • Pregnancy. Many women who become pregnant find that they develop sleeping problems during pregnancy that they did not have before they got pregnant. Fatigue is common during pregnancy, especially during the first and third trimesters.1,2 Pregnant women may develop problems such as insomnia, restless legs syndrome, sleep apnea, nighttime heartburn―which can cause long-term damage to the esophagus―and frequent nighttime urination. All of these problems can affect the quality of sleep as well as sleep duration. Visit the March of Dimes website for suggestions on improving sleep during pregnancy: http://www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/yourbody_sleeping.html .
  • IDDs. IDDs, particularly among children, are associated with sleeping problems. For example, children with autism spectrum disorders or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder often have sleep problems.3,4 The specific treatment or intervention depends on the IDD, the child’s age, and other factors.
  • Other conditions. Sleeping problems are common in people with intellectual disabilities or mental health problems, such as depression or schizophrenia.5 Sleeping difficulties are also common in many other disorders and illnesses, including Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, cancer, and head injury.6 Some researchers believe that many of these sleep problems happen because of changes in the brain areas that control sleep and waking. Medicines used to control the symptoms of certain conditions (cancer, for example) can also cause sleep problems.6

Citations

  1. Lee, K. A., & Zaffke, M. E. (1999). Longitudinal changes in fatigue and energy during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing, 28(2), 183–191.
  2. National Sleep Foundation. (n.d.). Pregnancy and sleep. Retrieved June 12, 2017, from
    https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/pregnancy-and-sleep 
  3. Devnani, P. A., & Hegde, A. U. (2015). Autism and sleep disorders. Journal of Pediatric Neurosciences, 10(4), 304–307. Retrieved June 19, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4770638/
  4. Hvolby, A. (2015). Associations of sleep disturbance with ADHD: Implications for treatment. Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders, 7(1), 1–18. Retrieved June 27, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4340974/
  5. Harvard Medical School. (2009). Sleep and mental health. Retrieved June 12, 2017, from http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/Sleep-and-mental-health 
  6. Colten, H. R., & Altevogt, B. M. (Eds.). (2006). Extent and health consequences of chronic sleep loss and sleep disorders. In H. R. Colten & B. M. Altevogt (Eds.), Sleep disorders and sleep deprivation: An unmet public health problem (pp. 55–135). Washington, DC: National Academies Press. Retrieved June 20, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK19961/

How does inadequate sleep affect health?

Inadequate sleep—such as not sleeping long enough overall or having poor quality sleep—affects both how we feel and how we function.

Short-term effects can include drowsiness or sleepiness, irritability, reduced alertness, poor motor skills, and attention problems.

Inadequate sleep over a longer period of time can affect how the body functions. For example:

  • NIH research shows that not getting enough sleep is associated with excess body weight and obesity.1 All age groups, including children, seem to be affected in the same way.2 In addition, blood samples from people who get little sleep show metabolic changes that are similar to those seen in obese people.3
  • Sleep duration is associated with type 2 diabetes. A review of 10 studies involving more than 18,000 people found that people who got between 7 and 8 hours of sleep per day have the lowest risk of diabetes. Those who sleep more or less than that 7 to 8 hours have a higher risk of having diabetes.4
  • Sleep apnea, a condition in which a person temporarily stops breathing while sleeping, increases risk for several different cardiovascular conditions, including high blood pressure (hypertension), stroke, coronary heart disease, and irregular heartbeat.5
  • Research has also found that inadequate sleep increases blood pressure levels in people who already have hypertension. This finding may be one reason why people who lack sleep over time have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.6
  • Inadequate sleep, especially over a long period of time, can lead or contribute to mood disorders. Chronic sleep problems have been linked to depression, anxiety, and mental distress. For example, one study reported that participants who slept only 4.5 hours per night were more stressed, sad, angry, and mentally exhausted than a comparison group with longer sleep.7 In extreme cases, sleep deprivation is also linked to psychosis, paranoia, and hallucinations. Disrupted sleep can also trigger manic episodes, including agitation and hyperactivity, in people with bipolar disorder,8 a mood disorder in which people may cycle between extreme highs and extreme lows in their mood.
  • Sleep disturbance has been linked to pain and disability. For example, in a recent NIH-supported study of arthritis patients, sleep disturbance was associated with pain and depression and predicted disability.9 In another study of arthritis patients with knee or hip replacement, researchers found that pain was associated with disturbed sleep but also that disturbed sleep was linked specifically to pain symptoms.10

Citations

  1. Wu, Y., Zhai, L., & Zhang, D. (2014). Sleep duration and obesity among adults: A meta-analysis of prospective studies. Sleep Medicine, 15(12), 1456-1462. Retrieved March 19, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25450058
  2. Taheri, S. (2006). The link between short sleep duration and obesity: We should recommend more sleep to prevent obesity. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 91(11), 881-884.
  3. Spiegel, K., Knutson, K., Leproult, R., Tasali, E., & Van Cauter, E. (2005). Sleep loss: A novel risk factor for insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Journal of Applied Physiology, 99(5), 2008-2019.
  4. Shan, Z., Ma, H., Xie, M., Yan, P., Guo, Y., Bao, W., … Liu, L. (2015). Sleep duration and risk of type 2 diabetes: A meta-analysis of prospective studies. Diabetes Care, 38(3), 529-537. Retrieved March 26, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25715415
  5. American Heart Association. (2015). Sleep apnea and heart disease, stroke. Retrieved June 12, 2017, from https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/sleep-disorders/sleep-apnea-and-heart-disease-stroke 
  6. Cappuccio, F. P., Cooper, D., D-™Elia, L., Strazzullo, P., & Miller, M. A. (2011). Sleep duration predicts cardiovascular outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. European Heart Journal, 32(12), 1484–1492. Retrieved June 27, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21300732
  7. Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. (2007). Sleep and disease risk. Retrieved June 12, 2017, from https://sleep.hms.harvard.edu/education-training/public-education/sleep-and-health-education-program/sleep-health-education-86  
  8. Gold, A. K., & Sylvia, L. G. (2016). The role of sleep in bipolar disorder. Nature and Science of Sleep, 8, 207-214. Retrieved June 27, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4935164/
  9. Parmalee, P. A., Tighe, C. A., & Dautovich, N. D. (2015). Sleep disturbance in osteoarthritis: Linkages with pain, disability and depressive symptoms. Arthritis Care and Research, 67(3), 358-365. Retrieved July 13, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4342277/
  10. Stocks, J., Tang, N. K. Y., Walsh, D. A., Warner, S. C., Harvey, H. L., Jenkins, W., … Valdes, A. M. (2018). Bidirectional association between disturbed sleep and neuropathic pain symptoms: A prospective cohort study in post-total joint replacement participants. Journal of Pain Research, 11, 1087-1093. Retrieved July 13, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5997123/

Do natural products help people sleep?

Natural products, including over-the-counter sleep aids, dietary supplements, and herbal products, are called “natural” because they may contain a substance that is found naturally in the environment. However, it’s important to note that many natural products don’t go through the same safety and approval process as prescription or over-the-counter medicines. It’s important, then, to discuss these products with a healthcare provider before taking them to make sure that they won’t interact with other things you are taking and to avoid any unintended or dangerous side effects.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), only some natural products have been studied as sleep aids. For example, very little research has been done on kava’s usefulness in alleviating sleep problems, but the research that has been done links kava to serious health problems, including severe liver damage. Studies on chamomile and valerian have not shown conclusively that these herbs help treat sleep disorders.1

Find more information about alternative therapies for sleep disorders on the NCCIH website. Remember to speak with your healthcare provider before taking any medication, including natural products and supplements.

Citations

  1. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. (2017). Sleep disorders: In depth. Retrieved June 12, 2017, from https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/sleep-disorders-in-depth
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