From the category archives:

Research

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Guys.  Do you find yourself up late watching those NBA playoffs? There’s just no way to get to bed on time when something that cool is on till midnight and they don’t cancel work the next morning. Want to know what happens when you give your sleep short shrift?

Just when you thought you could skate by on five or six hours of sleep, comes news from the National Institute of Health that an unexpected phenomenon was found in animal research that very likely applies to humans as well.  The animals were sleep-deprived to five or six hours per night, as many of us try to get by with in our very busy world when our responsibilities mount.

What the researchers learned quite by accident was that while appearing to be fully awake the next day, certain brain cells were selectively turned off throughout the next day, so that brief periods of non-functioning occurred.
While we knew that lack of sleep, especially on a consistent basis, had its consequences for cognitive functioning, we did not suspect before this study that specific brain cells ”fell asleep” or ceased to function while research subjects appeared to be (on EEG) and remained fully awake.  Ever have the feeling that your brain just wasn’t working right after a poor night’s sleep?  Now you know you were right.  NIH, our most prestigious and well-funded body of health research, was so excited about the news that they issued a press release, which you can read here about what the NIH calls “sleeping neurons” . To quote the researcher who did the study, “Such tired neurons in an awake brain may be responsible for the attention lapses, poor judgment, mistake-proneness and irritability that we experience when we haven’t had enough sleep, yet don’t feel particularly sleepy.”

This study again underlines not only the need for adequate sleep (7-8 hours for the vast majority of us), but some of the important consequences to our work and daytime performance relative to sleep deprivation. Have you noticed “attention lapses, poor judgment, mistake-proneness and irritability” in yourself and is it time to get serious about getting more sleep more regularly?   Can you and your work afford these next day lapses?
Since we can’t truly make up missed sleep, we just lose what we lose during the playoffs, but the biggest risk is that you may get the idea that you made it through the next day after each game, and you can do this as a regular thing. Think again. The evidence is not really in your favor.  For more information and specific help, contact http://thesleepdiva.com.

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Here’s a short quiz for you.

Question:  What’s one of the greatest benefits of getting enough sleep every night?

Answer:  WEIGHT LOSS AND LESS HUNGER THROUGHOUT THE DAY!!!

Wow.  How’s that for a free benefit you can do on your own, and without spending any money or buying any equipment?

Click here to read this great article from Psychology Today.

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Bedtime routines can be a great way to wind down from an eventful day and can set the tone for a good night’s rest. Bedtime activities seem to be pretty universal across the U.S., but this study explores an interesting connection between racial/ethnic backgrounds and bedtime rituals and sleep quality.

Click here to read the article.

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The old saying that “you can’t fool Mother Nature” may be true in some places we never expected. Long ago, before electricity became universal, we used to get up when the sun came up and go to bed when the sun went down. Then we had an era in which everyone had electric lights, and eventually television. Now in our modern era, we are nearly a 24-7 culture. Not only can your banking and Ipod downloads be carried out in the middle of the night, but the boundaries of time have blurred to the point where almost anything electronic or computerized can be done in the middle of the night.

What’s wrong with this, you ask? Isn’t this more convenient for everyone to be able to do things whenever they want, or have the time to do so? Mother Nature had a plan in connecting our bodies to the light and dark cycle. The plan was that our bodily rhythms, our hormones, our sleep cycles, indeed even the regulation of our blood sugar was tied to this internal clock. The more we study “clock genes”, the more we understand that these genes regulate not only the sleep-wake cycle, but a cascade of hormones and endocrine functions that follow and are controlled by the clock genes.

Well known in scientific research today is the fact that light-dark cycles and sleep-wake cycles help to control the functioning of:

  • Blood sugar
  • Appetite
  • Therefore Obesity (and Potentially Diabetes)
  • Hypertension

It’s no wonder that there’s an epidemic of obesity in our 24-7 culture. Is it only the food? NO. Is it only that we’re not exercising enough? NO. Too much sugar in the diet? YES, but what’s the cause of that? Sleep is a vital part of the equation, in fact, may be the MOST vital part of the equation. When was the last time your doctor told you to get better sleep to lose weight? When was the last time you read an article about the effects of sleep on weight loss? Read this series on sleep cycles and weight loss and get the skinny on getting back to what Mother Nature intended for us.

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More Than Just Nightmares

by admin on February 8, 2010 · 0 comments

in Research

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This video shows that people with chronic nightmares also often have other sleep disorders.

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In this study with 892 participants, reporting over time about sleep as well as other variables, 59% were shown to have at least one symptom suggestive of a major sleep disorder. In order of most-often reported to least-often reported were symptoms of Sleep-Related Leg Cramps, Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Periodic Limb Movement Disorder, REM Sleep Behavior Disorder and Restless Leg Syndrome. This large number of study participants provided information also verified by someone who could report on their typical sleep behavior, adding to the accuracy of the findings. This substantial percentage suggests the need for diagnosis and treatment of sleep-related disorders in an aging population.

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In a study of children born in New Zealand in 1972, researchers recorded sleep diaries of children ages 5, 7, 9 and 11 and found their amount of sleep connected with their body mass index at age 32. Although not examining the mechanism by which sleep and obesity are related, the study is significant for the large number of participants as well as the length of time over which the study was conducted. This research is one more link in the growing connection between sleep and weight. Be patient. It takes time for this video to load.

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What does this mean?  This beginning research points us in the direction of looking at the connection between sleep and weight.  In our efforts to lose weight,  if the results of this study are replicated with  larger samples, sleep may be a crucial variable in losing weight and maintaining a stable weight.

picture-11(click on picture for link to video)

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CAN NOT SLEEPING MAKE ME DEPRESSED?

We all have days that are down days, where something’s gone wrong in the universe of life and just doesn’t work out the way we had hoped. Or maybe the loss of a hoped-for job, the ending of a desired relationship or a fight with a family member. When this sad or down feeling lingers for two weeks or more, and we can’t seem to climb up out of it, we can be termed depressed. Persistent sadness or crying, lack of motivation to do the things we usually enjoy, even trouble concentrating are the hallmarks of this medical condition. But what about sleep?

Insomnia, especially the kind of insomnia where we awaken much too early in the morning, unable to go back to sleep is one of the cardinal features of depression. It signals the alteration of the calming brain chemistry that makes for normal good sleep. This applies to a whopping 80% of depressed people, though another, smaller percentage sleep far too much for their normal routine.

In a recent article from Psychology Today, a sleep researcher from the University of Rochester goes even further in making the connection between sleep and depression. Dr. Michael Perlis studied the onset of a depressive episode and found that the problems with sleeping preceded the depression by five weeks. And it’s not just the quantity of sleep that is different, but the quality of sleep as well. He goes on to learn that the stages of sleep leading up to REM sleep are shortened, and REM sleep is lengthened and intensified, interfering with the consolidation of memories. What this means is not completely certain, but it appears that managing the sleep problem may lead to avoiding the depression.

This is kind of startling news. We had always thought that depression makes for poor sleep, but never imagined that poor sleep might be a causative factor in depression. Although the evidence is not conclusive, it points again to the importance of getting good sleep, and getting help when we cannot get good sleep. And it points to a time frame for judging when poor sleep can have other unintended consequences, such as depression.

The results are not all in on this link between sleep and depression, but this study is one more piece of the picture linking the two in some new and complex ways.

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Writing about sleep medicines has not been a big part of my focus on how to improve sleep issues. But these recent findings from the American Association of Neurology offer possible hope to those plagued with a sleep disorder that is neurological in origin, and deserve mention. All research should be viewed with caution as an initial attempt to fit a small piece of data into a larger body of findings. Only when it has been replicated by other research, or studied on a longer term basis, can its place in the body of science be understood.

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is not only a sleep disorder, but also a daytime problem which worsens at night, and, more importantly, interferes with the architechture of sleep by robbing the sufferer of the deeper stages of sleep. This means that the person with RLS rarely gets a good night’s sleep and experiences all of the daytime maladies of lacking good restorative sleep.

The main symptoms of RLS are creepy, crawly, tingling , burning or numbing sensations in the legs which underlie an urge to move the legs or to get up and walk to relieve the symptoms. Walking or other activity does relieve the problem temporarily, but sensations return when the person is at rest. When symptoms get worse at night, they interfere with the deeper stages of sleep, often awakening the person or their bed partner with kicking movements. Diagnosis of this disorder is best made by a neurologist or through an overnight sleep study, where leg movements are actually recorded graphically, like an EEG or EKG.

Dr. Diego Garcia-Borreguerro, Director of the Sleep Research Institute in Madrid, Spain reported in April, 2009 on a study his clinic conducted, jointly funded by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. In his study, the medicine Pregabalin (aka Lyrica) was prescribed on a short term basis (12 weeks) to patients with RLS. Findings were significant for 66 % of the study participants, for whom Pregabalin relieved all of their RLS symptoms while those with remaining symptoms reported 66% improvement.

This particular medicine had already received FDA approval for and is currently being used to treat epilepsy, fibromyalgia, nerve pain and generalized anxiety. Other medicines approved for treatment of RLS have shown great promise for short-term relief of symptoms, but often include the rebound effect of having symptoms return in even stronger form over the long term. They all have in common that they treat through dopamine pathways, which Pregabalin does not, and, for the most part, do not improve the deeper stages of sleep.

Perhaps the most optimistic aspect of this study is the finding of the restoration of Stages 3 and 4 sleep over the course of this short term study. If this finding holds true for longer term use in other studies, it will be a remarkable aid to poor sleep worth examining.

Dr. Marcia Lindsey is a professional sleep coach/psychologist who trains individuals and groups by phone to change the mental and physical roadblocks to restful sleep. Read about her at www.thesleepdiva.com

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