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Insights on Sleep

The New York Times reported on a  very interesting study on happiness and wakefulness, of particular appeal to anyone with a homeopathic frame of mind. You can read the original study here if you are so inclined, or the NY Times article here.

Researchers following the brain activity of epileptic patients measured the levels of "hypocretin", a neuro-transmitter previously unknown to me, although I believe I have observed its effects in multiple settings. Hypocretin is associated with wakefulness: lower levels at night, rising levels in the morning. The highest levels however were observed when people reported feeling happiness, joy, pleasure. Seems it's also high when you laugh or take your dog out for a romp in the yard, when it's high for both you and the dog! Hypocretin is about positive excitement, seeking reward, pleasure and associated with wakefulness.

Makes me think of the different states in wakefulness: have you ever been so happy that you couldn't sleep? It's not uncommon to think that worry and stress interfere with sleep, but now I understand why joyfulness can also interfere, if it's associated with a burst of hypocretin secretion.

Of course, the drug companies use this insight for a potential new product line: might they come up with something that suppresses hypocretin and promotes sleep in insomniacs? It turns out that narcoleptics - folks that cannot stay awake, that fall asleep unintentionally and in the midst of their day - have very low hypocretin levels and unfortunately high levels of depression. So far the studies on hypocretin have not shown evidence of depression, but a word of caution - they were probably done, and perhaps selectively reported (it's been done, I assure you) by the pharmaceutical producers of anti-hypocretin. Not a catchy name, they'll come up with a better one. Oh, Suvorexant, that's better.

Anyway, the homeopathic connection: our favorite acute homeopathic remedy for sleep is the remedy Coffea, also used for Ailments from Joy! (For more information on sleep, and addressing sleep disorders, see the non-pharmaceutical approaches in this article on Insomnia.)

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