insomnia

laflor / Getty Images

A study reveals how getting less sleep than normal may impair the brain’s capacity to regulate fear. The finding helps explain why frequent sleep disturbances make people more prone to anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Sleep plays a crucial role in maintaining mental health. For example, people with insomnia are approximately three times as likely to develop an anxiety disorder compared with those who sleep normally, according to a systematic review of research published in 2019.

Other studies find that people who experience frequent sleep disturbances — a common issue for health workers and military personnel — have a higher risk of PTSD.

Not getting enough rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is the sleep stage when most dreaming occurs, seems to be a particularly important factor in this increased risk.

Sleep in general, and REM sleep in particular, are known to play a vital role in “fear extinction.” This is the process of learning where the stimuli previously associated with unpleasant sensations or experiences now become harmless.

A new brain-imaging study that appears in the journal Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging shows how sleep loss disrupts the brain’s ability to forget fear-provoking memories the following day.

Three nights in a sleep lab

Sleep researchers led by Anne Germain, Ph.D., at the University of Pittsburgh, PA, and Edward Pace-Schott, Ph.D., at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Charlestown, MA, invited 154 volunteers to spend 3 nights in a sleep lab.

On the first night, the researchers allowed them to follow their usual sleep times. But on the second night, the scientists randomly assigned them to one of three groups: normal sleep, sleep restriction, and sleep deprivation.

The normal sleep group was allowed to go to bed and wake up at their usual times, while the research team woke the sleep restriction group after they had slept half their usual amount. The sleep deprivation group were not allowed any sleep at all.

The following morning, the volunteers underwent a standard experimental procedure for fear conditioning and extinction, while the researchers scanned their brains using functional MRI.

The procedure for conditioning fear involved showing subjects three different colors, one at a time, on a screen while they lay in the scanner.

A mild electric shock accompanied the presentation of two of the colors. This taught the participants to associate these colors with being shocked.

To extinguish this fear learning, one of these colors was then presented in the absence of any shock, allowing participants to learn that it was now “safe.“

In the evening, the volunteers were again presented with the colors inside the MRI scanner to discover whether they had successfully erased the fear conditioning.

The scans revealed that during the extinction procedure, the brains of those who had slept normally engaged a network of regions called the salience network, which is involved in conditioned fear. They also employed regulatory areas of the prefrontal cortex that inhibit emotions such as fear.

In contrast, in the brains of subjects whose sleep was restricted, the salience network and pain aversion regions were strongly activated at all stages. Their regulatory regions stayed relatively quiet.

“We found that among the three groups, those who had only gotten half a night’s sleep showed the most activity in brain regions associated with fear and the least activity in areas associated with control of emotion,” says Dr. Pace-Schott.

On their third night in the lab, all the volunteers were allowed to sleep as normal.

The importance of REM sleep

The researchers speculate that sleeping only the first half of the night deprives a person of most of their REM sleep, which occurs predominantly toward the end of a normal sleep period.

Studies have found that REM sleep helps people unlearn fearful memories from the previous day. The new research suggests it is also important for unlearning fear conditioning on the following day.

The researchers were surprised to discover that fear-related regions in the brains of participants who they completely deprived of sleep did not activate during the experiment’s fear conditioning and extinction phases.

In the evening, when the researchers tested participants’ memories of the fear extinction, the pattern of activity in their brains was similar to that in the brains of subjects who slept normally.

The scientists speculate that a compensatory mechanism may kick in when people are totally sleep-deprived, protecting their brains from fear conditioning.

They write that a similar mechanism may explain why some people with depression experience a temporary easing of their symptoms through sleep deprivation therapy.

However, the current study suggests that partial sleep deprivation fails to activate this protective mechanism.

“Medical workers and soldiers often have curtailed or interrupted sleep rather than missing an entire night’s sleep […] Our findings suggest that such partially sleep-deprived individuals might be especially vulnerable to fear-related conditions such as PTSD.” – Dr. Pace-Schott

The findings may also have implications for exposure therapy for PTSD and phobias, which involves exposing patients to fear-provoking stimuli in a controlled therapeutic setting. They suggest the treatment may not work well after a poor night’s sleep.

The authors note one important limitation of their study was that it tested the effect of a single night of reduced sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation may have different effects on the brain and its ability to unlearn fearful memories.

Getty Images

A study finds sleep deprivation makes unwelcome thoughts occur more frequently and makes them harder to manage.

It’s not uncommon for unwelcome thoughts to cross a person’s mind now and again.

According to psychologist Marcus Harrington of the Department of Psychology at the University of York in the United Kingdom, “For most people, thought intrusions pass quickly, but for those [who are experiencing] psychiatric conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), they can be repetitive, uncontrollable, and distressing.”

Harrington is the lead author of a new study investigating the effect of sleep deprivation on unwanted thoughts.

The study finds that sleep deprivation increases the frequency of unwanted thoughts and lessens an individual’s ability to control them.

Funded by the Medical Research Council, the research appears in Clinical Psychological Science.

Unwanted thoughts

“In everyday life,” says Harrington, “mundane encounters can remind us of unpleasant experiences. For example, a car driving too fast on the motorway might cause us to retrieve unwanted memories from a car accident many years ago.”

However, for people with some psychiatric disorders, unwelcome thoughts can be a frequent, persistent, and often emotionally destructive intrusion.

“It is clear,” says Harrington, “that the ability to suppress unwanted thoughts varies dramatically between individuals, but, until now, the factors that drive this variability have been mysterious. Our study suggests sleep loss has a considerable impact on our ability to keep unwanted thoughts out of our minds.”

A lack of sleep and the resulting inability to manage unwelcome thoughts may also be self-perpetuating.

“The study also suggests that the onset of intrusive thoughts and emotional disturbances following bouts of poor sleep could create a vicious cycle, whereby upsetting intrusions and emotional distress exacerbate sleep problems, inhibiting the sleep needed to support recovery.” – Senior author Dr. Scott Cairney

The study

The researchers recruited 60 healthy individuals with an average age of 20 to participate in the study. The researchers randomly assigned them to a sleep group or a sleep-deprivation group. There were 30 participants in the sleep deprivation group and 29 in the sleep group because the researchers disqualified one participant.

The participants had to forego naps, caffeine, and alcohol on test days.

The researchers trained each person to associate face photos with either negative or neutral images from the International Affective Picture System. The participants also learned suppression techniques to help them overcome unpleasant memories. After their training, they went to sleep for the night.

The following day, participants were shown faces and asked to try and suppress the associations the faces provoked.

People who had sufficient sleep could successfully suppress unwelcome thoughts and reported that doing so became easier over time.

The participants also reported a reduction in their emotional response to negative images. Researchers supported this with observations of a reduction in their sweat response as they viewed the images.

Individuals from the sleep-deprivation group reported having a difficult time suppressing their thoughts. They also reported that experiencing and then managing intrusive thoughts remained a challenge throughout the study.

Participants who were sleep-deprived reported a 50% increase in unwanted thoughts compared with those who were well-rested.

The authors write:

“Even after sleep-deprived participants initially gained control over unwanted memories and prevented them from intruding, they were consistently more susceptible to relapses when reminders were confronted again later compared with rested individuals.”

The study mentions a caveat. Since scientists know that sleep helps solidify pre-bedtime memorization, perhaps those deprived of sleep could not utilize the memory suppression techniques they learned the night before as the sleep group could.

Says Cairney:

“This study offers an important insight into the impact of sleep on mental health. Besides post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, our findings might have implications for our understanding of other disorders linked to sleep disturbances, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and schizophrenia.”

Getty Images

A new study using a global online survey demonstrates that COVID-19 stay-at-home orders resulted in a dramatic increase in unhealthful lifestyle changes.

According to the study — which appeared in the journal Obesity — there were significant increases in sedentary leisure behaviors, declines in physical activity, and increases in anxiety and weight gain, especially in people with obesity.

On the upside, lockdown resulted in substantial improvements in healthful eating.

Since the first reported case of COVID-19 in Wuhan, ChinaSARS-CoV-2 has spread rapidly worldwide, posing a grave health threat.

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic, with the United States announcing a national emergency on March 13.

The impact of stay-at-home orders

The U.S. implemented different strategies to limit person-to-person contact in order to mitigate the spread of the virus. Although stay-at-home, quarantine, and social distancing measures diminish transmission of SARS-CoV-2, other health ramifications of these actions are not entirely understood.

The abrupt closures of fitness clubs, restaurants, and places of employment alter eating and physical activity habits. The fear of developing COVID-19, in addition to stay-at-home orders, may provoke added feelings of loneliness and isolation, further exacerbating stress and anxiety.

Stress during a pandemic may result in:

  • anxiety and fear about health, loss of support services, finances, or unemployment
  • sleep disruption or altered sleeping patterns
  • changed eating habits
  • trouble concentrating
  • worsening of chronic health problems, including mental health conditions
  • increased use of alcohol, tobacco, and other substances

Stress associated with altered sleeping patterns, more frequent snacking, and consuming sweet foods may also lead to weight gain.

Researchers at Louisiana State University’s (LSU’s) Pennington Biomedical Research Center designed an innovative online global survey study to quantify changes in physical activity, sedentary behaviors, sleep, mental health, and dietary habits in adults aged 18 and older before and during the initial phase of the COVID-19 lockdown.

The anonymous online survey, accessed through Facebook, the research center’s web page, and an email listserv, ran from April 3, 2020, to May 3, 2020. More than 12,000 individuals looked at the survey, with a total of 7,753 surveys included for analysis.

About 95% of the participants resided in the U.S., United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada. The participants were predominantly white, female, and living in a two-person household, with an average age of 51.

Approximately 32% of the participants had overweight, 34% had obesity, and 32% had a healthy weight. The results of the online survey demonstrated substantial lifestyle changes during the pandemic.

Significant lifestyle behavior changes

Eating out four or more times per week declined by 10%, whereas cooking at home six or more times per week increased by 26% during the pandemic. The validated questionnaire also indicated significant increases in overall healthful eating.

About 44% of the participants reported an increase in unhealthful snacking, while approximately 26% reported increased healthful snacking. The study reported that 36% of the individuals perceived declines in healthful eating, and 21% perceived increases.

A perceived increase in unhealthful eating accompanied trouble falling asleep, decreased physical activity, increased sedentary habits, and nearly twice the reported anxiety levels than in those eating more heathfully.

Sedentary leisure activities increased by 21 minutes on weekdays and 17 minutes on weekends. Physical activity significantly decreased by 18 minutes per week and declined by 112 minutes per week in terms of metabolic equivalents after adjusting for exercise intensity.

The results also showed that sleep onset and wake time increased substantially by 42 minutes and 59 minutes, respectively. Additionally, about 44% of the participants reported worse sleep quality, while 10% experienced improved sleep quality.

As many as 75% of the participants reported being concerned or moderately concerned for their health or their family members’ health (87.5%) due to COVID-19. Reported symptomatic anxiety also significantly increased — by 14% — compared with before the pandemic.

The study results demonstrated incredibly disproportionate changes in health behaviors in individuals with obesity that stemmed from COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.

“Overall, people with obesity improved their diets the most. But they also experienced the sharpest declines in mental health and the highest incidence of weight gain,” says Dr. Leanne Redman, associate executive director for Scientific Education at Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

A total of 24% of the participants with obesity reported symptomatic anxiety compared with 17% for both the individuals with a healthy weight and those with overweight. However, symptomatic anxiety was similar among all three groups before the pandemic.

During lockdown, weight gain occurred in 33% of the individuals with obesity compared with 25% of the participants with a healthy weight and 21% of those with overweight.

Even though the participants with obesity had a lower baseline physical activity than the participants with a healthy weight and the participants with overweight, the change in physical activity was the same across the three groups. The individuals with obesity also had greater sleep onset increases than the people in other two groups, but wake time remained the same.

The self-reported survey study design was a significant limitation due to the possible introduction of recall bias. Another drawback of the study was the lack of diversity of the study population, which primarily comprised older white adult women from similar geographic locations.

Understanding the impact

According to Dr. John Kirwan, executive director of LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center:

“This study is the first to survey thousands of people across the globe on lifestyle behavior changes in response to stay-at-home orders. […] The study demonstrates that chronic diseases like obesity affect our health beyond the physical.”

Dr. Redman’s study is just one of many initiatives the center launched to help understand COVID-19’s impact and to slow its spread,” he adds.

The lead author of the study, Dr. Emily Flanagan, also notes that the research team would like physicians and scientists to change how they manage patients with obesity by:

  • making mental health screenings more frequent during and following the pandemic
  • staying in contact with patients and study participants, respectively, with the help of remote visits and telehealth to prevent irreversible changes to health that the pandemic may cause

She also suggests that so-called virtual visits could alleviate the concerns patients may have about the safety of traditional, face-to-face visits.

A study finds that getting enough sleep helps people maintain emotional equilibrium and enjoy the good things in life.

Research shows that a range of health conditions are associated with a lack of sleep. A new study from researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada, investigates the psychological — rather than physical — implications of missed sleep.

The scientists found that after an insufficient night of sleep, people have a reduced capacity for remaining positive when faced with emotionally challenging events. They are also less able to enjoy positive experiences.

The lead author of the study, health psychologist Nancy Sin of UBC, describes how this results in more stressful days for people who do not get enough sleep:

“When people experience something positive, such as getting a hug or spending time in nature, they typically feel happier that day. But we found that when a person sleeps less than their usual amount, they don’t have as much of a boost in positive emotions from their positive events.”

Stress is associated with a range of harmful effects, compounding the damage done by sleep deficits.

The study appears in the journal Health Psychology.

Daily diaries tell a story

“The recommended guideline for a good night’s sleep is at least seven hours, yet one in three adults don’t meet this standard,” says Sin.

To explore the effects of insufficient sleep, Sin and her colleagues analyzed an existing data set of 1,982 United States residents, 57% of whom were female. The participants gave their sociodemographic details and existing chronic conditions to the researchers at the start of the study.

The individuals kept daily diaries. For eight consecutive days, they were interviewed daily via phone calls, during which participants reported the number of hours they had slept the previous night.

Each person also described the events of their day. They recalled problems they had encountered: interpersonal tensions, arguments, feeling of discrimination, and stresses with their work associates and family. They also recalled the good things that happened. In addition, participants reported their emotional responses from that day, both positive and negative.

The pattern that emerged was a lessened ability to remain or feel positive when participants had less sleep. When experiencing stress, they found it harder to maintain emotional equilibrium. And when good things happened, feelings of joy or happiness were muted.

Such days may be more than unpleasant — earlier research, including Sin’s own, has found links between an inability to retain feelings of positivity and inflammation, as well as death.

“A large body of research shows that inadequate sleep increases the risk of mental disorders, chronic health conditions, and premature death. My study adds to this evidence by showing that even minor night-to-night fluctuations in sleep duration can have consequences in how people respond to events in their daily lives.” – Nancy Sin, UBC

The researchers found no evidence that not getting enough sleep increased participants’ negative emotions the following day.

Getting better rest

Previous research has found that individuals with chronic health conditions, including diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, tend to be more emotionally reactive when confronted with stressful events. Considering that getting more sleep could help to prevent this, Sin says she was interested to learn “whether adults with chronic health conditions might gain an even larger benefit from sleep than healthy adults.”

The study’s finding suggests this might be the case, she says.

“For those with chronic health conditions, we found that longer sleep — compared to one’s usual sleep duration — led to better responses to positive experiences on the following day.”

Sin hopes that studies such as hers will convince people to prioritize getting enough sleep as a way to stay healthy and have better days.

A study in mice suggests that the “glymphatic system,” which removes the brain’s toxic waste during sleep, may not operate efficiently in shift workers who sleep during the day. This may explain their increased risk of brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

In 2012, researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), NY, discovered a previously unknown waste disposal system in the brain.

They dubbed it the glymphatic system because nerve cells called glial cells manage its operation, which fulfills a similar role for the brain that the lymphatic system does for the rest of the body.

The following year, the same team found that the glymphatic system is most active during sleep.

In their latest experiments, the researchers reveal that it is the body’s circadian rhythms, the “master clock” regulating the sleep-wake cycle of roughly 24 hours, that governs this system.

“These findings show that glymphatic system function is not solely based on sleep or wakefulness, but by the daily rhythms dictated by our biological clock,” says neuroscientist Dr. Maiken Nedergaard, co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at URMC and senior author of the study.

The findings appear in the journal Nature Communications.

Toxic waste products

One of the processes that occur during sleep is the clearance of toxic products of metabolism that accumulate in the brain during wakefulness. One such waste product is the protein beta-amyloid, which — if not removed — forms the plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

An ongoing failure to remove waste products such as beta-amyloid may partly explain why chronic sleep disruption is an early sign of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s.

In their early work, Dr. Nedergaard and her colleagues showed that the glymphatic system is a network of channels adjoining blood vessels in the brain.

The channels comprise projections, or “endfeet,” from a type of glial cell known as astrocytes. The endfeet effectively enclose the blood vessels in a hollow sheath.

During sleep, the glymphatic system pumps cerebrospinal fluid around the brain in time with the pulsing of arteries. This liquid washes away soluble waste products before draining into the lymphatic system.

But the new research reveals the activity of the glymphatic system is governed by the body’s biological clock, rather than sleep.

In humans, circadian rhythm regulates our physiology cycle between wakefulness during the day and sleep at night.

“Because this timing also influences the glymphatic system, these findings suggest that people who rely on cat naps during the day to catch up on sleep, or work the night shift, may be at risk for developing neurological disorders,” says Lauren Hablitz, Ph.D., a research assistant professor in Nedergaard’s lab and the first author of the paper.

“In fact, clinical research shows that individuals who rely on sleeping during daytime hours are at much greater risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia, along with other health problems,” she adds.

Fluorescent tracer

The researchers made their discovery in mice, which are nocturnal — their sleep-wake cycle is the reverse of that characteristic in humans.

To monitor cerebrospinal fluid movement through the animals’ brains, they injected a fluorescent tracer that they could see through the animals’ skulls.

This revealed that the flow of fluid into the brain was around 53% higher during the day while the animals were asleep, compared with the night when they were active.

Crucially, this cycle of activity in their glymphatic system persisted even when the researchers anesthetized the mice throughout the day and night.

It also continued when they kept the rodents in constant light for 10 days.

This strongly suggests that circadian rhythms govern this system and therefore may not operate efficiently during daytime sleep in humans.

Finally, the researchers show that the circadian regulation of cerebrospinal fluid through the brain depends on a water channel called aquaporin-4 in the membrane of the endfeet.

In mice genetically engineered to lack this channel, the usual tidal flow of fluid across the day and night was completely absent.

Disrupted daily rhythms

The authors note that while much research is needed, their work suggests disrupting circadian rhythms may prevent the efficient removal of the brain’s toxic byproducts.

This may lead to the chronic inflammation that characterizes neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s.

They conclude:

“Although glymphatic function has yet to be studied in models of circadian disruption, such as in shiftwork, it has been established that shift workers are at increased risk for neurodegenerative disorders […] Understanding how these rhythms, all with different timing and biological functions, interact to affect glymphatic function and lymphatic drainage may help prevent morbidity associated with circadian misalignment.”

Scientists have made four major advances in search cures for hangover, diabetes, coughs and colds and drug resistant germs.

New researches showed that honey is more effective than antibiotics for curing coughs and colds as insect wings inspired new ways to defeat drug-resistant germs.

Also, scientists claim cheap drug containing L-cysteine can alleviate dreaded nausea, headaches and anxiety. They have also created insulin-making pancreatic cells that escape disease’s attacks, can be transplanted into patients

Honey has long been a folk remedy for an irritating cough, sore throats and the common cold. But research now showed that honey is more effective at treating these ailments than antibiotics or over-the-counter medication.

Experts at Oxford University, United Kingdom (U.K.), said doctors should tell patients to have a spoonful of honey rather than prescribing antibiotics, which can fuel antimicrobial resistance.

They reviewed studies, which compared the effectiveness of honey against cough suppressants, antihistamines and painkillers when treating upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) symptoms – which include a cough and cold.

Overall, honey was found to be ‘superior’ at relieving coughs, sore throats and congestion – and unlike other medications it had no harmful side effects.

Honey was on average 36 per cent more effective at reducing cough frequency than common medications and it cut cough severity by 44 per cent more.

The study was published in the British Medical Journal.

Not all old wives’ tales stand up to scientific scrutiny. But a spoonful of honey really does seem to relieve a cough.

This is firstly because it contains hydrogen peroxide, which gives it anti-microbial properties. Due to this, it has been used in traditional medicine as a topical antibiotic for centuries.

And secondly, because it is thick and sticky, honey has a soothing effect on the throat that can reduce irritation and help relieve a dry, tickly cough.

In addition to eating it straight out of the jar with a spoon, honey can be served with lemon in tea.

There was also evidence honey reduces the time it takes to recover from URTIs by up to two days.

“Honey was associated with a significantly greater reduction in combined symptom score, cough frequency and cough severity,” the study in the British Medical Journal said.

Meanwhile, scientists have revealed how nanomaterials inspired by insect wings are able to destroy bacteria on contact.

The wings of cicadas and dragonflies are natural bacteria killers, a phenomenon that has spurred researchers searching for ways to defeat drug-resistant superbugs.

New anti-bacterial surfaces are being developed, featuring different nano-patterns that mimic the deadly action of insect wings, but scientists are only beginning to unravel the mysteries of how they work.

In a review published in Nature Reviews Microbiology, researchers have detailed exactly how these patterns destroy bacteria — stretching, slicing or tearing them apart.

Lead author, RMIT University’s Distinguished Professor Elena Ivanova, said finding non-chemical ways of killing bacteria was critical, with more than 700,000 people dying each year due to drug-resistant bacterial infection.

The wings of cicadas and dragonflies are covered in tiny nano-pillars, which were the first nano-patterns developed by scientists aiming to imitate their bactericidal effects.

Since then, they’ve also precisely engineered other nano-shapes like sheets and wires, all designed to physically damage bacteria cells.

Bacteria that land on these nanostructures find themselves pulled, stretched or sliced apart, rupturing the bacterial cell membrane and eventually killing them.

Ginger CREDIT: DiabetesUK

The new review for the first time categorises the different ways these surface nano-patterns deliver the necessary mechanical forces to burst the cell membrane.

The researchers said producing nanostructured surfaces in large volumes cost-effectively, so they could be used in medical or industrial applications, remained a challenge.

Meanwhile, scientists claim to have found a cure for hangovers in the form of a pill, which can be bought for as little as 15p (N75).

It contains a chemical called L-cysteine, one of many amino acids already present in the body and also used to extend the shelf life of bread.

Researchers tested the tablet on a group of men who were ordered to drink alcohol for several hours on six different occasions.

Men given the pill reported fewer hangover symptoms of nausea, headache, stress and anxiety compared to men given a placebo, results showed.

The researchers claim that if the pill helps to reduce stress and anxiety, people are less likely to drink again to brush off the hangover — otherwise known as ‘hair of the dog’.

L-cysteine tablets can be bought online for around £15 ($20)/N7,700 for a pack of 100 — the equivalent of 15p (20 cents)/N75 per capsule.

L-cysteine — often sold as a dietary supplement — is deemed important for its role in making proteins within the body, and boosting other metabolic functions.

It can be made naturally in the body and is also found in high-protein foods, such as chicken, turkey, cheese, eggs and seeds.

The Institute of Chemical Technology in Mumbai found pears, lime, cheese, tomato, cucumber, black tea and green tea boosted enzymes alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH).

These have the ability to wipe out acetaldehyde, which builds up when you drink alcohol.

The following boosted one enzyme: buttermilk, probiotic drink; wheat; mace, turmeric, ginger; and coconut water, dates, cocoa.

The following foods were found to decrease the activity of both enzymes, and therefore are best to be avoided when you have a hangover: milk; oats, peanuts, millet, sorghum, maize; pepper, cloves, nutmeg, cumin, cinnamon, cassia; vitamin C, coffee, eggs, commercial anti-hangover product.

The study, published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism, recruited two dozen volunteers who were aged between 21 and 60.

According to the study results, L-cysteine was found to have reduced or eliminated hangover symptoms of nausea, headache, stress and anxiety to a “statistically significant level”.

The scientists noted that all L-cysteine tablets contained other vitamins, like B1 and C. They could not rule out that these had some sort of effect.

Meanwhile, researchers claim clusters of insulin-producing pancreatic cells that can be given to type 1 diabetics could be the first step towards a cure.

From stem cells, a team at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, United States (U.S.), created beta-like cells that produce insulin in response to glucose.

When these cells were transplanted into diabetic mice, controlled blood glucose and the rodents didn’t need to be given immunosuppressive drugs.

The treatment is experimental and in early stages of testing, but scientists believe that its powerful effect could be a game-changer in the treatment of diabetes.

For the new study, published in Nature, the team focused on how to grow these beta-like cells in an environment similar to the human pancreas.

They found another protein-coding gene, WNT4, turns on a switch that allows the beta-like cells to attain their fully functional state that mimic islets in the pancreas.

To prevent immune rejection, they used the protein PD-L1, which keeps immune cells from attacking non-harmful cells in the body.

“By expressing PD-L1, which acts as an immune blocker, the transplanted organoids are able to hide from the immune system,” said first author Dr. Eiji Yoshihara, a former staff scientist at the Salk Institute.

When these completed clusters were transplanted into diabetic mice, they controlled blood glucose control and were not attacked by the immune system.

The team hopes to conduct more experiments in mice and prove that it’s safe for humans as well.

“We now have a product that could potentially be used in patients without requiring any kind of device,” Evans said.

In this Special Feature, we hack into some of the myths that surround sleep duration. Among other questions, we ask whether anyone can truly get by on 5 hours of sleep each night. We also uncover whether sleep deprivation can be fatal.

Although we all know sleep is vital to maintain good health, there are still many unanswered questions. And, over the millennia, a variety of myths and half-truths have developed and stuck.

This feature is the second and final part of our series that tackles sleep-related myths. Find the first part here.

This time, we focus on myths that surround how much sleep the average person needs. We also discuss naps, the effects of sleeping too little or too long, and sleep in the animal kingdom.

1. Everyone needs 8 hours

As with many aspects of human biology, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to sleep. Overall, research suggests that for healthy young adults and adults with normal sleep, 7–9 hours is an appropriate amount.

The story gets a little more complicated, though. The amount of sleep we need each day varies throughout our lives:

  • newborns need 14–17 hours
  • infants need 12–15 hours
  • toddlers need 11–14 hours
  • preschoolers need 10–13 hours
  • school-aged children need 9–11 hours
  • teenagers need 8–10 hours
  • adults need 7–9 hours
  • older adults need 7–8 hours

You can train your body to need less sleep

There is a widely shared rumor that you can train your body to need fewer than 7–9 hours’ sleep. Sadly, this is a myth.

According to experts, it is rare for anyone to need fewer than 6 hours’ sleep to function. Although some people might claim to feel fine with limited sleep, scientists think it is more likely that they are used to the negative effects of reduced sleep.

People who sleep for 6 hours or fewer each night become accustomed to the effects of sleep deprivation, but this does not mean that their body needs any less sleep. Cynthia LaJambe, a sleep expert at the Pennsylvania Transportation Institute in Wingate, explains:

“Some people think they are adapting to being awake more, but are actually performing at a lower level. They don’t realize it because the functional decline happens so gradually.”

“In the end, there is no denying the effects of sleep deprivation. And training the body to sleep less is not a viable option.” – Cynthia LaJambe

However, it is worth noting that some rare individuals do seem to function fine with fewer than 6.5 hours’ sleep each night. There is evidence that this might be due to a rare genetic mutation, so it is probably not something that someone can train themselves to achieve.

2. Daytime naps are unhealthy

Generally, experts recommend people avoid naps to ensure a better night’s sleep. However, if someone has missed out on sleep during previous nights, a tactical nap can help repay some of the accrued sleep debt.

Around 20 minutes is a good nap length. This gives the body ample time to recharge. People who sleep much longer than this could mean they descend into a deep sleep, and once awake, they feel groggy.

Daytime napping is relatively common in the United States, but taking a “siesta” is the norm in some countries. Naturally, our bodies tend to dip in energy during the early afternoon, so perhaps napping around that time is more natural than avoiding sleep until nighttime.

After all, the vast majority of mammals are polyphasic sleepers, which means they sleep for short periods throughout the day.

In a large review of the effects of napping, the authors explain afternoon naps in people who are not sleep deprived can lead to “subjective and behavioral improvements” and improvements in “mood and subjective levels of sleepiness and fatigue.” They found people who nap experience improved performance in tasks, such as “addition, logical reasoning, reaction time, and symbol recognition.”

Not all naps are equal, however. There is a great deal of variation, such as the time of day, duration, and frequency of naps. One author explains:

“Epidemiological studies suggest a decrease in the risk of cardiovascular and cognitive dysfunction by the practice of taking short naps several times a week.”

The author also acknowledges that much more research is needed to understand how factors associated with napping influence health outcomes. Medical News Today recently examined the relationship between napping and cardiovascular disease in a Special Feature.

It is also important to note if an individual experiences severe tiredness during the day, this might be a sign of a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea.

Scientists will need to conduct more research before they can finally put all the napping myths and mysteries to bed.

3. All animals sleep

Because humans sleep, and our companion animals appear to sleep, many people assume all animals do the same. This is not true. The authors of a paper entitled “Do all animals sleep?” explain:

“Some animals never exhibit a state that meets the behavioral definition of sleep. Others suspend or greatly reduce ‘sleep’ behavior for many weeks during the postpartum period or during seasonal migrations without any consequent ‘sleep debt.’”

They also explain that some marine animals, reptiles, fish, and insects do not appear to enter REM sleep.

Because sleep is not simply a lack of consciousness, but a rhythmic cycle of distinct neural patterns, it is a challenge to distinguish whether an animal sleeps or takes a rest.

“[F]ewer than 50 of the nearly 60,000 vertebrate species have been tested for all of the criteria that define sleep,” the authors explain. “Of those, some do not meet the criteria for sleep at any time of their lives, and others appear able to greatly reduce or go without sleep for long periods of time.

4. More sleep is always better

Although many people struggle to get the amount of sleep they need to feel refreshed, some regularly sleep longer than their body needs. One might think this could endow these individuals with superpowers.

However, researchers identify a link between longer sleep durations and poorer health. For instance, one study, which followed 276 adults for 6 years, concluded:

“The risk of developing obesity was elevated for short and long duration sleepers, compared to average-duration sleepers, with 27% and 21% increases in risk, respectively.”

This finding held even when the scientists controlled the analysis for age, sex, and baseline body mass index. Sleep duration might also impact mortality, according to some researchers.

A meta-analysis, which appears in the journal Sleep, concludes “Both short and long duration of sleep are significant predictors of death in prospective population studies.”

5. Sleep deprivation can be lethal

There is no record of anyone dying from sleep deprivation. In theory, it may be possible, but as far as scientists can ascertain, it is improbable.

It is understandable why this myth may have taken root, though. Sleep deprivation, as many people can attest, can feel horrendous. However, the case of Randy Gardner demonstrates that extreme sleep deprivation is not fatal.

In 1965, when Gardner was just 16, he was part of a sleep deprivation experiment. In total, he stayed awake for 11 days and 24 minutes, which equates to 264.4 hours.

During this time, he was monitored closely by fellow students and sleep scientists. As the days rolled on, sleep deprivation symptoms worsened, but he survived. So why has this myth persisted?

The belief that sleep deprivation can kill might have its roots in a study from the 1980s. Rechtschaffen and colleagues found if they deprived rats of sleep with a particular experimental method, they would die after 2–3 weeks.

In their experiments, the researchers placed rats on a disc suspended above water. They continuously measured their brain activity. Whenever the animal fell asleep, the disc would automatically move, and the rat would need to act to avoid falling in the water.

Despite the fatalities in Rechtschaffen’s experiments, later research showed this is not the norm. Rats deprived of sleep using different methods do not die. Also, other researchers who used the disc method on pigeons found it was not fatal for these creatures.

Sleep deprivation is not painless for humans, though. Back in 1965, Gardner’s parents were worried about their son. They asked Lieutenant Commander John J. Ross from the U.S. Navy Medical Neuropsychiatric Research Unit in San Diego to observe him. He describes a steady deterioration in function.

For instance, by day 2, Gardner found it more difficult to focus his eyes. By day 4, he struggled to concentrate and became irritable and uncooperative. On day 4, he also reported his first hallucination and delusion of grandeur.

On day 6, Gardner’s speech became slower, and by day 7, he was slurring as his memory worsened. Paranoia kicked in during day 10, and on day 11, his facial expression and tone of voice became expressionless. Both his attention and memory span were significantly diminished.

However, he did not die and apparently, did not experience any long-term health issues.

Another reason why the myth that sleep deprivation can be fatal persists might be due to a condition called fatal familial insomnia. People with this rare genetic disorder become unable to sleep. However, when individuals with this disease die, it is due to the accompanying neurodegeneration rather than lack of sleep.

Although sleep deprivation will probably not kill you directly, it is worth adding a note of caution: being overtired does increase the risk of accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “Drowsy driving kills — it claimed 795 lives in 2017.”

Similarly, a review published in 2013 concludes, “[a]pproximately 13% of work injuries could be attributed to sleep problems.” So, although sleep deprivation is not deadly in a direct sense, it can have fatal consequences.

Additionally, if we consistently deprive our bodies of sleep for months or years, it increases the risk of developing several conditions, including cardiovascular disease, hypertension, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer.

The takehome

Overall, we should try and aim for 7–9 hours’ sleep every night. It sounds simple, but in our neon-lit, bustling, and noisy lives, it is more challenging than we might like. All we can do is keep making an effort to give sleep the space that it needs.

It is only through persistent research that we will eventually decode all the mysteries of sleep. If you are interested in reading more about the myths associated with sleep, part one of this series can be found here.

Finally, if you find it difficult to get the sleep you need, here is a link to an MNT article with tips for better sleeping.

Hallucinations are sensory perceptions that appear in the absence of stimuli. Although they are often associated with illnesses such as schizophrenia, these phenomena can occur in the absence of mental ill health. But what explains these uncanny occurrences?

There are many types of hallucinations. They can be visual (sight hallucinations), auditory (sound hallucinations), olfactory (smell hallucinations), gustatory (taste hallucinations), or tactile (touch hallucinations).

For every sense, a form of hallucination is possible. The reason for this is that these phenomena are “ghost sensations” — perceptions of stimuli in the absence of actual external stimuli.

More often than not, when people think of hallucinations, they associate them with illnesses that can involve psychosis, such as schizophrenia, or neurocognitive disorders, such as forms of dementia.

Hallucinations are also associated with the use of mind-altering drugs, including LSD and DMT.

But hallucinations are not always due to psychotic disorders or psychedelics. Sometimes, they occur in the absence of these factors.

So what explains hallucinations, how common are they, and what role might they teach us about ourselves? In this Special Feature, we investigate.

More common an occurrence than we think

A study that appeared in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2017 suggests that hallucinations are far more common among people without psychotic disorders than scientists had previously thought.

The study authors — Dr. Ian Kelleher, from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, and Jordan DeVylder, Ph.D., from the University of Maryland in Baltimore — analyzed data that they had obtained through the 2007 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey, a nationally representative study of mental health in England.

These data included information on the mental health of 7,403 people aged 16 years and older throughout 1 year.

Dr. Kelleher and DeVylder found that visual and auditory hallucinations were almost equally prevalent among participants with borderline personality disorder and those with a nonpsychotic mental illness.

They also found that more than 4% of all the survey respondents — including those who had no diagnosed mental health issues — reported experiencing visual or auditory hallucinations.

“Hallucinations are more common than people realize. They can be frightening experiences, and few people openly talk about it,” Dr. Kelleher observed in an interview for International Business Times.

“Our research is valuable because it can show them they are not alone and that having these symptoms is not necessarily associated with having a mental health disorder. It breaks the taboo,” he added.

Research published in the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology in 2015 also showed that auditory hallucinations were surprisingly common in a representative sample of the general population in Norway.

In a cohort of 2,533 individuals, the “current lifetime prevalence of [auditory verbal hallucinations] was 7.3%.”

Phantom smells also seem to be a more common occurrence than people might think. In 2018, a study published in JAMA Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery showed that 6.5% of people aged 40 years and over had experienced phantom odor perception.

This percentage is based on data from a cohort of 7,417 participants with a mean age of 58 years. However, when it came to explaining this phenomenon, the researchers were at a loss.

“The causes of phantom odor perception are not understood. The condition could be related to overactive odor-sensing cells in the nasal cavity or perhaps a malfunction in the part of the brain that understands odor signals,” says first author Kathleen Bainbridge, Ph.D., from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD.

Surprising potential mechanisms

Researchers have been trying to build a better understanding of the biological mechanisms behind the different types of hallucinations.

In 2019, investigators from the University of Oregon in Eugene conducted a study in mice to try to find out how hallucinations manifest in the brain.

Their study paper — published in Cell Reports — revealed some surprising findings. As the researchers induced visual hallucinations in the rodents by injecting them with a hallucinogenic substance, they saw that this did not “map out” how they expected it to in the brain.

The researchers observed that the hallucinating mice experienced fewer signals firing between the neurons of the visual cortex, the brain region associated with the interpretation of visual information.

“You might expect visual hallucinations would result from neurons in the brain firing like crazy or by mismatched signals. We were surprised to find that a hallucinogenic drug instead led to a reduction of activity in the visual cortex.” – Senior author Prof. Cris Niell

Despite the initial surprise, the study’s senior author notes that it makes sense that visual hallucinations should appear in the brain in this way.

“Understanding what’s happening in the world is a balance of taking in information and your interpretation of that information. If you’re putting less weight on what’s going on around you but then overinterpreting it, that could lead to hallucinations,” he explains.

There is also a large amount of research into the causes and mechanisms associated with auditory hallucinations — some of the most fascinating kinds of ghost sensations.

For instance, a 2017 study featuring in eLife goes some way toward explaining how and why some people may think they hear voices that are actually not there.

According to the authors, this may be the effect of an error or “short-circuit” in processing internal speech and differentiating it from speaking out loud.

When people speak out loud, the researchers explain, the brain does two things. First, it sends instructions to the vocal cords, tongue, and lips — our vocal apparatus — to prompt them to move in the right way so as to vocalize the correct sounds.

At the same time, the brain also makes an internal copy of these instructions, which scientists call the “efference copy.” This duplicate allows the brain regions associated with hearing to predict the sounds that the vocal apparatus is about to make correctly.

This is part of how we recognize our own voice and speech.

“The efference copy dampens the brain’s response to self-generated vocalizations, giving less mental resources to these sounds because they are so predictable,” explains first author Prof. Thomas Whitford.

Through their study, Prof. Whitford and his colleagues found that the brain makes an efference copy not just of the thoughts intended for vocalization, but also of the inner talk — the internal chatter that people process in the background without expressing out loud.

It is likely, the scientists hypothesize, that auditory hallucinations arise when something goes wrong with the efference copy of people’s internal monologues.

“We all hear voices in our heads. Perhaps the problem arises when our brain is unable to tell that we are the ones producing them.” – Prof. Thomas Whitford

What hallucinations teach us

Many of the hallucinations that people might experience are, in fact, of the run-of-the-mill variety. For example, a vague sensation that you have heard the phone ringing when no one actually called or catching the shadow of a silhouette from the corner of the eye when there is no one there.

Dr. Philip Corlett and Dr. Albert Powers, two scientists from Yale University and the Connecticut Mental Health Center in New Haven, CT, have conducted many experiments into the nature of hallucinations.

They argue that there is a spectrum of phantom sensations and that many hallucinations might actually reflect how our brains work — namely, by making predictions about stimuli and the environments that we navigate.

In a paper published in World Psychiatry in 2018, they write that hallucinations might emerge from a “mismatch” between the predictions that our brains make about our surrounding reality and the actual reality.

In another study paper, published in 2017 in the journal Science, the two researchers and Dr. Christoph Mathys, an associate professor at Aarhus University in Denmark, present the evidence they collected through a series of experiments that appear to support this notion.

“When we go about the world, we’re not just passively perceiving sensory inputs through our eyes and ears. We actually build a model in our minds of what we expect to be present,” Dr. Corlett told The Atlantic, noting that when those expectations do not come to pass, this may sometimes translate as a hallucination.

Other scientists note that even more pronounced hallucinations could sometimes be of benefit to the person experiencing them.

In a 2017 paper in Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, Drs. Filippo Varese, Warren Mansell, and Sara Tai — from the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom — note that not all auditory hallucinations are distressing.

Their study, which enlisted people with mental health issues who also experienced auditory hallucinations, found that how people reacted to the voices that they thought they heard made an important difference to whether those voices hindered or encouraged them in their daily pursuits.

“Most voice-hearers with mental health difficulties in our study experienced their voices as a hindrance to achieving their goals and viewed their voices as distressing and problematic. But other voice-hearers find that voices facilitate their valued goals and are, therefore, a pleasant and constructive part of their lives,” Dr. Varese points out.

Going forward, the researchers say, such insights might help mental health professionals assist their clients in turning the tables on potentially distressing hallucinations.

“[…] we should seek to help clients explore how their voices relate to goals that are important to them and empower them to progress toward those goals. That would be a more meaningful and acceptable way of supporting them,” he suggests.

These are unprecedented times. Given the real and tangible threat of the coronavirus pandemic on personal, community, and societal levels, it is normal to experience anxiety and sleep problems. Sleep is a reversible state marked by a loss of consciousness to our surroundings, and as members of the animal kingdom, our brains have evolved to respond to dangers by increasing vigilance and attention — in other words, our brains are protecting us, and by doing so it’s harder for us to ignore our surroundings.

Despite the threat of the coronavirus and its rapid and pervasive disruption to our daily lives, many of us are an in a position to control our behaviors and dampen the impact of the emerging pandemic on our sleep. Cultivating healthy sleep is important; better sleep enables us to navigate stressful times better in the short term, lowers our chance of developing persistent sleep problems in the longer term, and gives our immune system a boost.

Daytime tips to help with sleep
Keep a consistent routine. Get up at the same time every day of the week. A regular wake time helps to set your body’s natural clock (circadian rhythm, one of the main ways our bodies regulate sleep). In addition to sleep, stick to a regular schedule for meals, exercise, and other activities. This may be a different schedule than you are used to, and that is okay. Pay attention to your body’s cues and find a rhythm that works for you and that you can maintain during this “new normal.” Make this a priority for all members of your household.

Get morning light. Get up, get out of bed, and get some light. Light is the main controller of the natural body clock, and regular exposure to light in the morning helps to set the body’s clock each day. Natural sunlight is best, as even cloudy days provide over double the light intensity of indoor lighting. If you are living in an area with shelter-in-place, try to expose yourself to natural light by stepping outside, at a distance from others, for at least 20 minutes.

Exercise during the day helps improve your sleep quality at night, reduces stress, and improves mood. Fit in exercise as best as you can. If you need to go outside for exercise, maintain proper social distancing at least six feet away from others. Avoid any group exercise activities, especially contact sports. Many gyms and yoga studios are now “at home” and offering virtual programs at low or no cost.

Don’t use your bed as an escape. While the gravity of the pandemic certainly makes us all tired, try not to spend too much time in bed during the day, especially if you are having trouble sleeping at night. If you must take a nap, try to keep it short — less than 30 minutes.

Avoid caffeine late in the day
Helping others may help with feelings of uncertainty or unease. Even if you do not work in an “essential” industry, your role in maintaining physical distance is critical in our fight against coronavirus. If you would like to be more actively involved in helping people, seek out ways to contribute your skills, donate money, or leverage your social capacity locally, such as providing virtual social connection to your loved ones by checking in on elderly family members or a friend, or providing in-kind donations. Doing altruistic acts may provide a sense of purpose, reduce helplessness, and alleviate some of the uncertainty contributing to sleep problems.

Nighttime tips to help with sleep
Prepare for bedtime by having a news and electronic device blackout. Avoid the news and ALL electronics at least one hour before bedtime. Avoid the news and ALL electronics at least one hour before bedtime. (Yes, it’s so important, I am saying this twice!) The nonstop news cycle seldom provides new information in the evening hours that you can’t wait until morning to hear, and will likely stimulate your mind or incite fear, making it harder to fall and stay asleep. Remind yourself by setting a timer or putting your television on the sleep setting. Make a pact with your family members to respect these parameters.

Cell phones, tablets, and all electronic devices make it harder for your brain to turn off, and the light (even dim light) from devices may delay the release of the hormone melatonin, interfering with your body clock. If you need something to watch to help you unwind, watching something that you find relaxing on TV from far away and outside the bedroom is likely okay for a limited time. You can also curl up with a book or listen to music.

Minimize alcohol intake. While alcohol can help people fall asleep, it leads to more sleep problems at night.

Set a regular bedtime. There are certain times at night that your body will be able to sleep better than others. If you feel sleepy but your brain is busy thinking, it can’t shut off and go to sleep. It may be helpful to sit down with a pen and paper in the evening and write down the things that worry you; you can review this list in the morning and attend to any important concerns. If you have a bed partner, enlist their support to helping you stick to your schedule.

Reduce stress. The evening and bedtime hours are also a good time to perform some relaxation techniques, such as slow breathing or yoga. There are many free resources available for bedtime meditation.

Create a comfortable sleep environment, a place that is cool, dark, and quiet.

Don’t spend too much time in bed during the night (or the daytime). Minimize spending time in bed in which you are not sleeping. If you are having trouble going to sleep or staying asleep, don’t stay in bed for more than 20 minutes. Get out of bed and do a quiet activity — read a book, journal, or fold some laundry.

What if I am doing all these things and I still can’t sleep?
This may be a sign that you have a clinical sleep problem, such as insomnia disorder or sleep apnea. If you are doing all the right things, and still have trouble falling or staying asleep, you should discuss your sleep problems with your doctor.

What if I have been diagnosed with a sleep disorder?
If you have a history of insomnia and take sleep medications and can’t sleep, contact your doctor for medical advice, including questions about making changes in your medication. Many doctors are doing virtual visits now and they can review your current sleep problems and changes to management. You can also consider online programs for insomnia, such as Sleeping.

Remember, don’t stress out about sleep

Disrupted sleep is a normal response to stress, and it is okay to have a few nights of poor sleep as you adjust to new routines and big changes to your work and personal life. But with some simple measures you can preserve your sleep and improve your well-being during these uncertain times. We can’t control what’s happening in the world right now, but we can control our behaviors and dampen the impact of the emerging pandemic on our sleep.

*Dr. Suzanne Bertisch writes for Harvard Health Blog

Does catarrh show any symptoms?
CATARRH itself is a symptom, not a disease. Symptoms are pointers to a disease process occurring in the living body. Catarrh is a symptom of an allergy or a respiratory tract infection, not the other way around. Other symptoms that might accompany catarrh are fever, sore throat, cough and headaches.

What causes catarrh?
IT is commonly caused by a self-limiting virus (common cold virus), which might just run its course and might require no treatment. It could be caused by the bacteria affecting the sinuses (air spaces) within the skull. It could also build up as a response to allergens (things that provoke an allergic reaction). In other words, it could be a result of allergies. Examples of allergens are pollen grains, dust and dust mites, smoke, animal danders, strong perfumes and even some food.

What are the treatments?
Catarrh usually runs its course without treatment. However, if the condition persists longer than expected (well over three weeks), you should probably see your doctor. If it is caused by the common virus, you might require no serious treatment. If caused by a more serious bacterial infection, your doctor would place you on appropriate antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and anti-allergies.

If caused by allergies, your doctor would place you on anti-allergies and anti-inflammatories. Vitamin C is also a very important ingredient. Please note that some of these cases might require surgery, as it could be a pointer to something more sinister. Recurrent catarrh, drooling and sore throat in a child less than five years could be a result of massive tonsillitis, adenoiditis, or even a congenital respiratory or heart problem.

Are there home remedies for catarrh?
There are countless home remedies for catarrh. It all depends on tradition and the part of the world you find yourself. Note, however, that none is superior. People having catarrh should drink a lot of clean water to stay hydrated. They should avoid undue exposure to cold. Rather, they might take something hot (hot tea, hot chocolate or soup, and not alcohol) or something minty to clear the sinuses.

Harmattan is a season to expect more asthmatic attacks, because dust, a major component of the season is notorious for aggravating allergic reactions as we have in asthmatics. Nose bleeding is not left out this season. Mild trauma to the nose could unleash a scary amount of nose bleeding. This is as a result of the friable (fragile) blood vessels within the nose, which become extra thin during the harmattan season and ready to bleed on contact. This nose bleed can just be stopped by plugging the nostril(s) with cotton wool and elevating the head. The skin is usually very dry and thin this season, making it very prone to abrasions and bruises. So, people should ensure they keep their skin moist.

It is advised to dress appropriately this season to avoid unnecessary respiratory tract infections and allergies. Asthmatics should walk around with their inhalers. But if symptoms persist despite home remedies, then visit your doctor.