A (Mass) Debate

I have found a treatment, as old as time, which may help those of us with sleep problems: masturbation!

OOPS!

Masturbation - Gustav Klimt

Masturbation – Gustav Klimt

Having a conversation about masturbation is taboo, isn’t it? Not to be discussed at work or dinner parties (or on blogs!) Well, masturbation is a topic that could do with some airing, especially as it may fight insomnia!

Sexual climax (of any kind) leaves one in a relaxed and contented state. This is often followed closely by drowsiness and sleep – particularly when one masturbates in bed.

Ta-Da! Problem solved!

***If you do not approve of masturbation, please do NOT continue reading***

Matched with male masturbation, female masturbation is considerably less common: 90 per cent of the total male population compared to 65% of the total female population masturbate from time to time. There are many benefits linked to masturbation, in general.

General Benefits

The best thing about masturbation is its many unexpected health benefits for both women and men.

Masturbation may:

  1. Promote the release of endorphins, the neurotransmitters associated with happy feelings that can improve overall mood and fight off depression.
  2. Produce oxytocin, which works as a natural pain reliever.
  3. Help reduce headaches and muscle aches.
  4. Relieve stress and tension and aid relaxation after a stressful day.
  5. Provide a sexual outlet for people who are on their own, by choice or circumstance.
  6. Help to induce sleep, or conversely, help to start the day with more energy.
  7. Improve the immune system and contribute to overall health.
  8. Strengthen muscle tone in the genital and pelvic floor area, which can lead to better sex.
  9. Keep you free from sexual transmitted infections as it’s the safest kind of sex.
  10. Help people who suffer from Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), a neurological disorder causing leg pain, cramps, tingling and itching, (published in the medical journal Sleep Medicine). Several doctors in the US have had confirmation from their patients that it helps.
  11. Translate into better sex as stimulating each other at the same time is intimate and rewarding. People often masturbate into old age.

Benefits for Men

In 2003, an Australian research team led by Graham Giles of The Cancer Council Australia found that males masturbating frequently had a lower probability of developing prostate cancer. Men who averaged five or more ejaculations weekly in their 20s had significantly lower risk! However they could not show a direct causation. The study also indicated that increased ejaculation through masturbation rather than intercourse would be more helpful as intercourse is associated with diseases (STDs) that may increase the risk of cancer instead.

However, this benefit may be age related. A 2008 study concluded that frequent ejaculation between the ages of 20 and 40 may be correlated with higher risk of developing prostate cancer. On the other hand, frequent ejaculation in one’s 50s was found to be correlated with a lower such risk in this same study.

A 2008 study at Tabriz Medical University found ejaculation reduces swollen nasal blood vessels, freeing the airway for normal breathing. The mechanism is through stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system and is long-lasting. The study author suggests a male can masturbate to alleviate the congestion and can adjust the number of ejaculations depending on the severity of the symptoms.

Other benefits include:

  1. May help combat premature ejaculation by training to last longer; it’s easier to practise control when on your own.
  2. Regular flushing of the system keeps semen healthy.

Benefits for Women

Possible health benefits for women:

  1. Combats pre-menstrual tension and other physical conditions associated with the menstrual cycle, such as cramps.
  2. Relieves painful menstruation by increasing blood flow to the pelvic region; which will also reduce pelvic cramping and related back aches.
  3. Builds resistance to yeast infections.
  4. Allows women to explore and understand their bodies better, so they will know what they like when they have sex with a partner.

Should you require further inducement, ladies, as you age, your body undergoes normal physical changes that may affect your sex life. The good news is that all these changes aren’t bad: ageing can have positive effects on sexuality. Some women, for instance, report feeling the freedom to enjoy sex more as they get older and don’t have birth control issues to contend with. Other women, however, experience emotional or physical changes that can make sex less enjoyable.

Practicing masturbation techniques can help remedy some of the problems experienced by women as they grow older. As a woman ages, her vagina becomes shorter and more narrow. In addition, without regular supplies of estrogen, the walls of the vagina can become thin and stiff. For this reason, it is common to experience vaginal dryness, or a lack of natural vaginal lubrication (wetness), as you get older. Masturbation stimulates the brain to produce physical changes in the vagina and activates various neural pathways responsible for clitoral swelling, vaginal congestion, lengthening of the vagina, and lubrication.

Maybe it’s a good idea to make masturbation part of your health routine and have fun at the same time.

Herbs and Supplements for Fibromyalgia

Managing the symptoms of FM or related ailments is not easy. So, many patients turn to alternative therapies for relief of pain and sleep problems. They may use Chinese herbs or over-the-counter supplements such as 5-HTPmelatonin, and SAM-e.

200px-US-NIH-NCCAM-Logo.svgBecause so many people — not just those with FM — are using alternative therapies, Congress has formed the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). It is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and it helps appraise alternative treatments, including supplements, and define their effectiveness. This organization is now creating safe guidelines to help people choose appropriate alternative therapies that may help their symptoms without making them ill.

Are Herbs and Supplements for FM Safe and Effective?

Some preliminary studies indicate that some medicinal herbs and natural supplements may help treat symptoms of FM. Other studies of herbs and natural supplements, though, are less positive. If you want to take a natural approach to treating FM, it’s important to learn as much as you can about the therapies you consider. The herbs and natural supplements described here are just some of the alternative therapies that may have an impact on FM.

How Does 5-HTP Help FM Pain?

5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) is a building block of serotonin. Serotonin is a powerful brain chemical, and serotonin levels play a significant role in FM pain. Serotonin levels are also associated with depression and sleep.

For those with FM, 5-HTP may help to increase deep sleep and reduce pain. In one study published in the Alternative Medicine Review, researchers reported that supplementation with 5-HTP may improve symptoms of depression, anxietyinsomnia, and FM pains. However, there are some contradictory studies that show no benefit with 5-HTP.

5-HTP is usually well tolerated. But in the late 1980s, the supplement was associated with a serious condition called eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome. It’s thought that a contaminant in 5-HTP led to the condition, which causes flu-like symptoms, severe muscle pain, and burning rashes.

141. sleep deprivationCan Melatonin Help Relieve Sleep Problems Associated With FM?

Melatonin is a natural hormone that’s available as an over-the-counter supplement. It is sometimes used to induce drowsiness and improve sleep patterns. Some preliminary findings show that melatonin may be effective in treating FM pain. Most patients with FM have sleep problems and fatigue, and it’s thought that melatonin may help relieve these symptoms.

Melatonin is generally regarded as safe with few to no side effects. Due to the risk of daytime sleepiness, though, anyone taking melatonin should use caution when driving until they know how it affects them.

Is St. John’s Wort a Helpful FM Herb?

There’s no specific evidence that St. John’s wort is helpful in treating FM. However, this herb is often used in treating depression, and depression is commonly associated with FM.

There are several studies that show St. John’s wort is more effective than placebo and as effective as older antidepressants called tricyclics in the short-term treatment of mild or moderate depression. Other studies show St. John’s wort is as effective as selective SSRI antidepressants such as Prozac or Zoloft in treating depression.

St John’s wort is usually well tolerated. The most common side effects are stomach upset, skin reactions, and fatigue. St. John’s wort should not be mixed with antidepressants and can cause interactions with many types of drugs. If you’re on medication, check with your doctor before taking St. John’s wort or any supplement. In addition, be careful about taking St. John’s wort with other drugs, including antidepressants, as it could make you ill.

How Can SAM-e Help FM Pain and Depression?

289. pain in meIt’s not known exactly how SAM-e works in the body. Some feel this natural supplement increases levels of serotonin and dopamine, two brain neurotransmitters. Although some researchers believe that SAM-e may alter mood and increase restful sleep, current studies do not appear to show any benefit of SAM-e over placebo in reducing the number of tender points or in alleviating depression with FM. Additional study is needed to confirm these findings.

Can L-carnitine Help Improve FM Symptoms?

The studies are limited, but it’s thought that L-carnitine may give some pain relief and treat other symptoms in people with FM. In one study, researchers evaluated the effectiveness of L-carnitine in 102 patients with FM. Results showed significantly greater symptom improvements in the group that took L-carnitine than in the group that took a placebo. The researchers concluded that while more studies are warranted, L-carnitine may provide pain relief and improvement in the general and mental health of patients with FM.

What About the Effect of Probiotics on Digestive Problems Associated With FM?

poo-2Probiotics are dietary supplements that contain potentially beneficial bacteria or yeasts. They may assist with the breakdown and proper absorption of food and help improve digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome — a common symptom of FM. Some of the ways probiotics are used include:

  • treating diarrhea
  • preventing and treating infections of the urinary tract or female genital tract
  • treating irritable bowel syndrome

Side effects of taking probiotics are usually mild and include gas or bloating.

There are other herbs and natural supplements that people say have helped manage FM symptoms. They include echinacea, black cohosh, cayenne, lavender, milk thistle, and B vitamins. Nevertheless, there are no definitive studies on the efficacy of these natural therapies.

Fuzzy shot of pharmacy supplements shelf.How Can I Know Which Herb or Natural Supplement Will Help my FM?

***Before taking any herb or supplement for FM, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about possible side effects or herb/drug interactions. Herbal therapies are not recommended for pregnant women, children, the elderly, or those with weakened immune systems. In addition, some herbs have sedative or blood-thinning qualities, which may dangerously interact with anti-inflammatory painkillers or other pain medications. Others may cause stomach upset if taken in large doses.

If you’d like to see iHerb’s selection of supplements, click here. Use Coupon Code LHJ194 to get $10 off any first time order over $40 or $5 off any first time order under $40.

(S)Lumbar Support

Understanding how insomnia and other sleep problems contribute to hopelessness can help all FM patients.

Insomnia and disturbed sleep are common among people with depression and other mental health problems. In fact, disturbing research indicates that people with depression are significantly more likely to experience insomnia symptoms. So, which one came first? The chicken or the egg?

Most distressing is that insomnia also has been linked to an elevated risk for suicide. A recent study offers new details about the relationship between insomnia and suicidal thoughts among people with depression.

Researchers at Georgia Regents University examined the possible influence of insomnia and disturbed sleep among patients with a history of depression and suicide.

59 FMG insomniaTheir study included 50 patients between the ages 20-84. All had received treatment for depression either as in-patients or out-patients, or in the emergency room. Seventy-two percent of the participants were women, and a majority—56%–had attempted suicide at least once. Researchers measured levels of depression and insomnia, feelings of hopelessness, as well as the presence and severity of nightmares and attitudes and beliefs about sleep.

On average:

  • Participants experienced moderate insomnia
  • Analysis showed an association between the presence and severity of insomnia and suicidal thoughts (as expected)
  • Among people with depression, insomnia contributes to a sense of hopelessness about sleep, according to researchers. These negative feelings about sleep, as well as nightmares experienced by people with depression and insomnia, may be critical predictors for suicidal thoughts.
  • Researchers also analyzed data to examine the possible relationship between nightmares and attitudes about sleep with suicidal thoughts, and found significant associations. When these additional sleep problems were included in the analysis, insomnia itself was no longer directly associated with suicidal thoughts.

This suggests that insomnia may have an indirect effect on suicidal thoughts, through the presence of these other symptoms, in patients who are depressed.

This is important new information in the understanding of the link between insomnia and suicide. The presence of these symptoms—nightmares and feelings of hopelessness about sleep—may be a more specific predictor of suicide risk among people with depression than insomnia in general.

And because FM patients often have feelings of hopelessness about sleep (Hey! many of us haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in years!), this is important research.

Earlier work by some of the same researchers explored the relationship between insomnia and suicide. Their study included 60 patients between the ages 18-70. Two thirds were women, and all suffered from major depression and insomnia symptoms.

The researchers found that the severity of insomnia among these patients was linked to degree of suicidal thoughts. More severe insomnia was associated with higher intensity of suicidal thoughts. In their analysis, researchers isolated insomnia from other symptoms of depression, such as low mood and inability to experience pleasure. They determined that insomnia is an independent predictor of suicidal thinking.

This latest study has built on those findings, looking with greater depth and specificity at how insomnia and related attitudes and behaviours of disrupted sleep may influence suicidal thoughts.

Other research has shown a strong association between insomnia and disrupted sleep and suicide for people with depression and other psychiatric disorders:

  • Hungarian researchers found that sleep disturbances and nightmares elevated the risk of suicide by as much as 4 times among men, and as much as 3 times among women. In this study, frequent nightmares and sleep disorders were associated with a higher risk of suicide than depression.

The connection between insomnia and suicidal thoughts, influenced by nightmares and the presence of negative attitudes and beliefs about sleep, may  provide important new options for suicide prevention and treatment of depression and suicidal thoughts. By identifying nightmares and dysfunctional, negative attitudes about sleep as important predictors of suicidal thinking in people with depression, the medical profession may, finally, be better able to identify those who are at greater risk for self-harm.

Are You Sleeping?

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Do you get enough sleep?

This is what happens to your body if it’s deprived of sleep:

  • You have problems with memory and concentration.
  • You have problems finding the right word.
  • You get irritable – you think so?
  • Neurotransmitters in the brain become altered.
  • You become more susceptible to infection.
  • At its extreme, sleep deprivation can lead to death.

h1sciqsleepwalkingIt seems that no matter how many Ambiens (zolpidem) and Lunestas (eszopiclone) we take, we wake up feeling like shit (sorry – there is just no other word!): feeling hung over and inattentive. So much so that the FDA recently cut recommended doses of Ambien and other drugs that contain zolpidem for fear that their use, even the night before, might impair driving or other activities the next day.

This is because Lunesta and Ambien affect GABA receptors, which are found throughout the brain and are associated with side effects, including thinking disturbances, and deficits in attention and memory, explains Jason Uslaner, lead author of a study published in the April 3 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

A new study funded by Merck (of which Uslaner is director of In Vivo Pharmacology at Merck & Co.) has shown that a new class of sleep medications appears to help people fall asleep without causing grogginess the next day (YES! You did read that correctly!)

These new medications – known as dual orexin receptor antagonists (DORA) – target a more specific region of the brain than the other popular sleep drugs, promoting sleep without affecting cognition.

About 15 years ago, scientists discovered chemical messengers known as orexins, which are released by a relatively small brain region known as the lateral hypothalamus. lateralThis area of the brain releases orexins during the day to keep us awake and lowers levels at night so we can sleep.

The appeal of orexin antagonists, said Dr Michael Thorpy, director of the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, is that they “target a system that’s more specific for sleep.”

That means, theoretically, fewer side effects and perhaps less of a tendency to be habit-forming, Thorpy explained.

Merck already has one such drug, suvorexant, under review by the FDA.

But with this study, Uslaner and his colleagues investigated a compound called DORA-22, which has the same mechanism of action as suvorexant, to see how it fared alongside Ambien, Lunesta and also diazepam (Valium) in rats and rhesus monkeys.

DORA-22 did not lead to the same mental impairments as the other three drugs. Rhesus monkeys and rats performed just as well on memory and attention tasks shortly after being administered DORA-22 as they did on the placebo.

This is the first time in years that scientists have targeted a totally different receptor in the quest to combat insomnia, said Dr Alexandre Abreu, co-director of the UHealth Sleep Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

444-36-cartoonBut many questions remain as even experts note that findings from animal studies do not always hold up in human trials: Do the drugs truly have fewer side effects? Will they be habit-forming? And will they change the quality of sleep in any way?

Those questions will only be answered with more testing and use in humans…(waiting…waiting…waiting…)

 

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How a Worm May Help You Sleep

FM and insomnia – think you know everything? Here’s some interesting (and difficult to understand) information…

It happens to all of us: you have another night of not being able to sleep, and the next day, you’re exhausted. Humans (even ones with FM) aren’t unique in that; all animals need sleep, and if they don’t get it, they must make it up.

The biological term for that pay-the-piper behaviour is ‘sleep homeostasis,’ and now, thanks to a research team at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, one of the molecular players in this process has been identified – at least in some weirdly named worms.

David Raizen, MD, PhD, assistant professor of Neurology, and his colleagues report in Current Biology that even in Caenorhabditis elegans, a tiny nematode worm that feeds on bacteria, loss of sleep is “stressful.”

The researchers forced the animals to stay awake during a developmental stage when they normally sleep. These sleep-deprived worms exhibited signs of sleep homeostasis – they were harder to wake up compared to control worms.

While nematode worms do not sleep like we do, they still have a sleep-like state (lethargus), says Raizen, which allows the worms to maintain bodily equilibrium (homeostatic response).

cell 1On the molecular level, loss of sleep in the worm was associated with migration of the stress-related DNA-binding protein DAF-16 from the cell cytoplasm into the nucleus. Here, the protein activates expression of stress-related genes. cell 2Knocking out that DAF-16 gene eliminated the worms’ need to maintain the bodily equilibrium – the equivalent of letting an FM sufferer still feel rested even after sleep deprivation.

“You might think that is a good thing,” Raizen says, “but a good percentage of DAF-16 mutants died” – as many as half of the worms in some cases. That, Raizen says, suggests that the movement of DAF-16 into the nucleus is not merely a consequence of sleep deprivation, but rather a key to the homeostatic response.

There is something important about your body requiring the time to rest and realign but, Raizen concludes, “We don’t know what that is, but it’s clearly important to the worm.”

Sleep homeostasis is critical to human health. Sleep deprivation in humans has been linked to weight gain and insulin resistance, and in laboratory rats, has been linked to death, Raizen says.

Whether DAF-16 plays the same role in humans as in worms is an open question. But it turns out that Caenorhabditis elegans is actually a useful model organism for studying vertebrate neurobiology, Raizen says. Many key observations made in the invertebrate have carried over to vertebrate systems.

Interestingly, when the team asked which tissue requires DAF-16 activity in order to restore sleep homeostasis in mutant animals, they found to their surprise that it isn’t neurons. But restoring DAF-16 activity in muscle tissue did restore homeostasis, suggesting an extra-neuronal component of sleep.

“The muscle must somehow communicate with the nervous system to coordinate this response,” Raizen says.

He just doesn’t know how! 

Tripping Over your own Legs

Restless leg syndrome is about 10 times more common in people with FM than those without, which might be just one reason we often report difficulty sleeping, according to new research.

RLSRestless leg syndrome is another condition doctors don’t totally understand; it causes people to want to move and stretch their legs constantly to relieve discomfort they feel deep in their thighs and calves.

Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle describe their study of sleep quality in two groups. The first group consisted of 172 people, 93 per cent of them women, with FM and an average age of 50. The control group consisted of 63 people without FM, 56 per cent of them women, with an average age of 41. Both groups were asked a series of questions to assess their quality of sleep and level of insomnia. The results showed restless leg syndrome in 33 per cent of those with FM and just 3.1 per cent of those in the control group.

“Restless leg syndrome can be associated with a number of primary disorders, such as anaemia and kidney failure. I think this study suggests we should add fibromyalgia to the potential associations of restless leg syndrome,” says Nathaniel F. Watson, MD, one of the study authors and an associate professor of neurology at the University of Washington in Seattle.

“I think this is likely going to be new information to many. Restless leg syndrome is somewhat of an esoteric diagnosis that many providers may not be aware of.  They may not be asking their patients the right questions to get to the right diagnosis, so it may be something people have been experiencing, but didn’t know it was a treatable disorder,” Dr. Watson says.

“We do have good treatments for it,” he adds, such as ropinirole, or Requip, and pramipexole, or Mirapex, which are approved to treat restless leg syndrome. “[Medication] can vastly improve it in some instances. It can go away completely. It just depends on the patient.”

restless_leg_syndromeTheodore Fields, MD, an attending physician in rheumatology at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, says (and we know from personal experience) that data going back for years suggests that sleep and FM are tightly connected. He believes restless leg syndrome could be a factor in a subset of people with FM.

“It makes sense to me that any cause of insomnia can be related to fibromyalgia, which has been clearly shown to be related to lack of sleep. Periodic leg movements during sleep have been previously associated with fibromyalgia, and the results of this study are not unexpected,” Dr Fields says.

dogHe points out that the study used a self-administered questionnaire, which can be less accurate than a personal interview. He also says medications were not controlled for and researchers did not gather information on other medical issues or sleep problems, but he still believes the conclusion could be useful for patients and physicians.

“Restless leg syndrome is a condition that physicians may not routinely ask about, so this information may make it more likely they will begin to query patients about it.  Since it’s treatable, that’s an advantage for patients,” Dr Fields says.

People with FM who have leg discomfort that keeps them awake at night should mention it to their doctor to have it assessed and dealt with. “It’s reasonable to think that more continuous, longer, better quality sleep would have a positive impact on fibromyalgia, as it does on many medical disorders,” he says.

 

My Life has the Tendency to Fall Apart When I’m Awake

Do you think Ernest Hemingway (author of the quote in the title) had FM?

As we all know, even if we are lucky enough to sleep 10 hours a night, we are still fatigued and exhausted.

Research shows that with FM, there is an automatic arousal in the brain during sleep. Frequent disruptions prevent the important restorative processes from occurring. Growth hormone is mostly produced during sleep. Without restorative sleep and the surge of growth hormone, muscles may not heal and neurotransmitters (like the mood chemical serotonin) are not replenished. The lack of a good night’s sleep makes people with FM wake up feeling tired and fatigued.

The result: The body can’t recuperate from the day’s stresses – all of which overwhelms the system, creating a greater sensitivity to pain. Widespread pain, sleep problems, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and memory difficulties are all symptoms of FM (just in case you hadn’t noticed!).

Insomnia takes many forms — trouble falling asleep, waking up often during the night, having trouble going back to sleep, and waking up too early in the morning. Research shows that smoothing out those sleep problems – and helping people get the deep sleep their bodies need – helps fibromyalgia pain improve significantly.

But how?

Medications can help enhance sleep and relieve pain. But doctors also advocate lifestyle changes to help sleep come naturally:

  • Enjoy a soothing (warm) bath in the evening.
  • Brush your body with a loofah or long-handled brush in the bath.
  • Ease painful tender points with a self-massage device (like a tennis ball).
  • Do yoga and stretching exercises to relax.
  • Listen to calming music.
  • Meditate to tame intrusive thoughts and tension.
  • Sleep in a darkened room. Try an eye mask if necessary.
  • Keep the room as quiet as possible (or use a white-noise machine).
  • Make sure the room temperature is comfortable.
  • Avoid foods that contain caffeine, including teas, colas, and chocolate.

Therapies to Treat Insomnia When You Have Fibromyalgia

If you’re still having sleep problems, several therapies can help, including biofeedback, relaxation training, stress reduction, and cognitive therapy. A psychologist who specializes in sleep disorders can discuss these therapies with you. The therapies help people handle stress better, which helps control FM episodes, When you’re stressed out, FM tends to flare and you feel worse – that’s when you’re most likely to have insomnia, too.

Medications can also help ease FM pain at night, or directly treat insomnia. Medications to ease pain and improve sleep include certain types of antidepressants, anticonvulsants, prescription pain relievers, and sleep aids.

BUT, as we kept getting told (a lot!), no one therapy will control FM pain 100 per cent. So start to mix it up and use all the tools that are beginning to come to light.