The Mystery of Why You Can Wake Up with a Shock

Although their cause is unknown, sleep starts are experienced by a majority of people. They occur during drowsiness or light sleep and feel like falling with a sudden jerk. Most often they are unpleasant but harmless. In some cases, however, they can cause insomnia or even sleep deprivation.

Autism and Sleep

Parents of children with autism often report sleep difficulties for themselves and their children. Research over the past decade has given information about the sleep difficulties faced by these children. Problems falling and staying asleep, having negative attitudes toward and fears related to sleep are significantly more common among these children.

The Mystery of Night Terrors

Sleep terrors are a type of parasomnia that arise out of non-rapid eye movement sleep and involve intense fight-or-flight reactions. They are not nightmares, which occur during rapid eye movement sleep. They are usually not remembered by the person having the sleep terror but are hard to forget for the people nearby who are awakened by the frightening sound of screams.

Flu Season and Sleep

Sleep is affected by the immune response to infectious agents such as viruses. One aspect of the immune response to a significant illness is a strong desire to sleep more. The sleep that occurs during an infectious illness is different from ordinary sleep as it is deeper with less dreaming. Good sleep may help protect against infection.

When Our Bodies Lose Track of the Time

Internal circadian rhythms stay synchronized with external clock time because environmental factors such as light and meals align the rhythm with the external clock. If these cues are unavailable the circadian rhythm will steadily shift over time. For totally blind individuals this can result in problems such as insomnia and daytime sleepiness.

Sleep, as We Get Older

With advancing age there are changes in sleep pattern, sleep quantity and sleep quality. Sleep remains important for good health throughout our lives and understanding how these changes affect the sleep of older individuals can help people to maximize the quality and quantity of their sleep and thus their health.

Sleep and the Placebo Effect

It is often difficult to show that a new treatment is any more effective than a placebo. This may be because the placebo effect is actually the marshaling of bodily resources brought about by psychological processes. The placebo effect shows that the mind/body system is capable of self-healing. It also turns out that thinking your sleep is good helps you function better.

Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless Legs Syndrome may affect as much as 10% of the population and significantly contribute to poor sleep. Fortunately. there are a number of behavioral and pharmacological treatments available.

The Desert, Sleep, and the Mystical Experience

A recent trip to the high desert of the United States got me to think about the ways in which this challenging environment and the harsh ways of life there, including the potential for significant sleep loss, contribute to the occurrence of non-oridinary states of consciousness.

Booze, the Brain and Sleep

Alcohol is often used by many people to help them sleep. Because it initially helps to relax and feel sleepy, it seems to work. This is because alcohol promotes reduced tension, shortens the time to fall asleep and increases deep sleep. Unfortunately, later in the night the effects are different and sleep is disrupted and lighter, resulting in overall poor quality sleep.


Nightmares are common, especially among children. They are more common in people with anxiety and are especially frequent in people who have experienced traumatic events. They can cause significant sleep disruption and even sleep deprivation. What are these nocturnal events and from whence do they come?

Is Conscious Dreaming Real?

Some people report that they are consciously aware of their dreams as they are occurring. This is known as lucid dreaming. Researchers have tired to develop techniques to teach the skill of becoming consciously aware of and even directing the content of dreams. Is this possible and if so, is it be harmful or helpful?

Mindful Sleep

Mindfulness meditation, developed in the Buddhist tradition, has been used to train greater awareness of moment-to-moment experience in an accepting and nonjudgmental way. This method can also be applied to coping with the stresses and challenges of day to day living and help ease the transition from wakefulness to sleep.

Relaxation and Sleep

In order to fall asleep we have to be able to relax. In today's stress filled world this is often not easy. A number of relaxation techniques have been developed to help people relax and drift off to sleep.

Sleep, Eating, Weight and Health

Sleep and eating are related in complex and important ways. What we eat can affect how we sleep and how we sleep can affect how much we weigh. Both sleep and nutrition need to be considered in planning for optimal health.

Natural Sleep Aids

Herbal remedies have been used to treat various health problems for thousands of years. One of the most common uses of herbs has been to relieve insomnia. Unfortunately, little scientific evidence is available regarding the safety and efficacy of herbal treatments for insomnia. The major herbals used include chamomile, valerian and lavender.

Open the Pod Bay Door, Hal…

Science fiction often depicts a future with powerful artificial intelligence entities. Although progress is being made with “intelligent” natural language agents, we have a long way to go to reach the level of HAL, the AI in the movie “2001”. What we do have, however, are online programs for treating insomnia that appear to be effective for many patients.

Cannabis and Sleep

Cannabis is often used illegally (and in some states legally) as a sleeping aid. How does it work and what does the research say about the effectiveness of marijuana for insomnia?

Treating the Winter Blues

Seasonal depression affects many people in the northern parts of our country where the days get shorter in the fall and winter. Along with cognitive therapy and medication management, bright light therapy can help those suffering with Seasonal Affective Disorder or the winter blues.

SAD: A Seasonal Pattern

Do you or someone you know experience a deepening sense of depression as the days get shorter when fall begins? This pattern of depression is not uncommon and is associated with changes in the brain’s sleep systems.

Paradoxical Insomnia

As it turns out, sleep studies have revealed that people sometimes have great difficulty accurately estimating how long it takes them to fall asleep and just how long they are awake during the night.

Treating Internet Addiction for Better Sleep

Is your time on line cutting into time for sleep? If compulsive Internet use is interfering with sleep it can cause problems at work and at home.

Sleep and the Internet Addict

Do you know someone who is barely functioning at work or in school because they are staying up all night on the Internet? This behavior certainly will interfere with good sleep and effective performance but is it an addiction?

Assaulted by a Bed Partner

What could cause my friend’s husband to suddenly assault her in the middle of the night?