sleep and the brain

Sleep and the Brain – The Healing Power of Sleep

Sleep and the Brain – When you sleep, you might think your body is inactive. But in reality, your body is actually working harder to repair and recover itself.

Here are 5 ways that sleep helps our brains stay healthy and balanced:

Sleep orders and strengthens our memories

Sleep helps the brain file the day’s activities away. As we sleep, the brain fast-forwards through the patterns of brain activity that occurred during the day. This replay not only organizes memories, but also strengthens the microscopic connections between nerve cells in the hippocampus, the brain’s own filing system.

Sleep may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia

Lack of sleep, or sleeping less than five hours a night, can lead to a build-up of beta-amyloid, a toxic protein that forms harmful plaques in the brain of those with Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia. Getting a good seven hours of sleep a night can reduce the risk that these plaques accumulate in our brains.

Sleep makes the brain stronger

There’s a reason we feel more clear-headed after a good night’s sleep: we are. Sleep boosts alertness, replenishing the neurotransmitters that organize the neural networks in our brains. These networks are essential not only for memory, but also for learning, mental performance and problem solving.

Sleep gives the brain time to detox

Sleep helps restore the brain by flushing out toxins (including harmful proteins) that build up during waking hours. Our brains have a drainage system based on the movement of clear cerebrospinal fluid through channels surrounding the blood vessels. The process, has been named the brain’s glymphaticsystem by researchers.

Sleep enables our brains to perceive pleasure

The link between sleep and pleasure has to do with stress. The more stressed we are, the less we sleep; the less we sleep, the more stressed we get. The result is lowered levels of DHEA, the “life is good” hormone. Without sufficient DHEA, it’s harder for us to experience happiness. It doesn’t just seem as if we’re in a bad mood. Chemically, we are.

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Sleep and the Brain – The Healing Power of Sleep

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childhood sleep apnea

Childhood Sleep Apnea – Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

It’s fairly well known that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is common in adults. What many of us don’t know is that it’s also is becoming a big problem world-wide for children.

How does childhood sleep apnea occur?

The main reason why more kids are getting diagnosed with childhood sleep apnea because are kids are getting fatter. An obese child is 4-5 times more likely to have breathing-related sleep problems than a non-obese child.

The other major cause of sleep apnea in kids is big tonsils and adenoids. These days, most tonsillectomies in kids are done for OSA.

The remaining cases of childhood sleep apnea occur as a result of congenital syndromes, such as Down Syndrome, that result in noses and throats that don’t work like they should. A fair number of kids with chronic nasal congestion from allergies get childhood sleep apnea as well.

Diagnosing childhood sleep apnea

Diagnosis happens the same way as with adults, with the overnight sleep study, also known as polysomnography. It’s important to make sure that the child really has the problem, and not merely “simple snoring”.

The criteria for making the diagnosis in a child are different than in an adult. In children, it’s important to pay attention to inadequate breathing (hypopnea) in addition to obstructions. This is because hypopnea can lead to the same consequences as obstruction.


Because so much childhood sleep apnea is related to obesity, weight loss programs are effective, and can forestall the need for surgery.

If weight loss is not an immediate option, tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy is the treatment of choice.

For allergy sufferers whose OSA appears to be caused by their stuffy noses, steroid nasal sprays appear to help. Many varieties are available over-the-counter in the US.

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Childhood Sleep Apnea – Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

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Genetics of Sleep

Genetics of Sleep – How Your Genes Can Affect Your Sleep Behavior

Scientists have uncovered a number of surprising ways that genes might affect your sleep. Here are five:

“Short-sleepers” can get by on just 4 to 6 hours a night

In 2009, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco discovered a gene mutation that allows some people to feel refreshed on much less sleep than the normal population.

The gene is heritable and rare. So for the rest of us, a minimum of 7.5 hours it is.

There’s a gene linked to both seasonal depression and poor sleep

A two-for-one special that no one wants: Two rare variants of the PERIOD3 (PER3) gene are linked to both Seasonal Affective Disorder – depression related to change in the seasons and poor sleeping patterns.

DNA may be why sleep and metabolism are associated

In 2013, scientists identified a “gene region” that’s linked with longer sleep, better glucose metabolism and a lower likelihood of ADHD. The region is located near a gene called PAX8,  which helps regulate thyroid hormone levels. The thyroid can impact sleep cycles: People with inadequate thyroid hormones often sleep excessively, and people with too much of it can be hyperactive.

An overactive gene is linked to severe insomnia

The gene known as neuromedin U (Nmu) has been called “nature’s stimulant” for its apparent role in wakefulness and, by extension, insomnia. A new study,published this month in the journal Neuron, showed that zebrafish with over-expressed Nmu became more active both day and night and displayed a “profound form of insomnia.”

Being a “morning person” could be part of your DNA

Scientists recently isolated 15 areas in the human genome that are associated with the tendency toward “morningness,” or a preference for rising early. They also found that morning people were less likely to suffer from insomnia or depression, and had lower average BMIs than so-called “night owls.”

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Genetics of Sleep – How Your Genes Can Affect Your Sleep Behavior

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women with sleep apnea

Women with Sleep Apnea More Prone to Brain Damage Than Men

Sleep apnea has been linked to many health problems and consequences, including high blood pressure, fatigue, and – as it was recently found – brain damage.

The study looked at 400 women from a random sample of 10,000 women who underwent sleep tests and filled out questionnaires.

Sleep apnea was found in 50 percent of the women, and the researchers also found a link between age, hypertension, and obesity. They uncovered that overweight women and women with hypertension were more likely to develop sleep apnea. In fact, 80 percent of women with hypertension and 84 percent of overweight women had sleep apnea. Sleep apnea was also worse in overweight women aged 55 to 70 years.

Lead author Dr Karl Franklin said, “We were very surprised to find such a high occurrence of sleep apnea in women, as it is traditionally thought of as a male disorder. These findings suggest that clinicians should be particularly aware of the association between sleep apnea and obesity and hypertension, in order to identify patients who could also be suffering from the sleeping disorder.”

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Women with Sleep Apnea More Prone to Brain Damage Than Men

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sleep disruption

Sleep Hygiene – Brushing Your Teeth May Cause Sleep Disruption

According to a talk by Russell Foster, neuroscientist and professor of circadian neuroscience at Oxford University in England, we’ve been brushing our teeth wrong. Instead of relying on light, it may be more beneficial for our sleep habits if we brush in the dark.

‘Often people will turn their lights down at night which helps to get the body ready for sleep, but then they will go and brush their teeth and turn their bathroom light on. That is very disrupting. I often think someone should invent a bathroom mirror light which has a different setting for night-time.’ said Russell Foster, neuroscientist and professor of circadian neuroscience at Oxford University in England.

Out of sync

Whilst your body and mind may be perfectly relaxed and ready for bed, when you step into the brightly lit bathroom to spend a few minutes brushing your teeth, you effectively reset your body’s sleep cycle and send it “wake up” signals. This happens because at night, in response to falling light levels, the pineal gland in your brain starts producing melatonin – the ‘drowsy hormone’ – which helps to ease us into sleep each night. But flipping on that bright bathroom light sends your circadian rhythm spiralling into confusion all over again, and your melatonin back into storage for another time.

While brushing your teeth in complete darkness may sound impractical and unappealing, it’s worth considering the advice of the scientists. If a total blackout is impractical try swapping your current lightbulbs for lower-wattage bulbs, or even a night light. A few minutes in a dark, or more dimly-lit bathroom might might help you improve the quality of your precious shut-eye, and maybe even your wider health concerns.

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Sleep Hygiene – Brushing Your Teeth May Cause Sleep Disruption

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