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.

Read the full article:

Sleep and the Brain – The Healing Power of Sleep

Read More

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.

Original Source:

Childhood Sleep Apnea – Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

Read More

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.”

Original Source:

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

Read More

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.”

Original Source:

Women with Sleep Apnea More Prone to Brain Damage Than Men

Read More

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.

Original Source:

Sleep Hygiene – Brushing Your Teeth May Cause Sleep Disruption

Read More

sleep and seasonal affective disorder

Newly Discovered Gene Links Sleep and Seasonal Affective Disorder

A poor night’s sleep is enough to put anyone in a bad mood, and although scientists have long suspected a link between mood and sleep, the molecular basis of this connection remained a mystery. Now, new research has found several rare genetic mutations on the same gene that definitively connect the two.

Sleep goes hand-in-hand with mood. People suffering from depression and mania, for example, frequently have altered sleeping patterns, as do those with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). And although no one knows exactly how these changes come about, in SAD sufferers they are influenced by changes in light exposure, the brain’s time-keeping cue.

Although a number of tantalizing leads have linked the circadian clock to mood, there is “no definitive factor that proves causality or indicates the direction of the relationship,” says Michael McCarthy, a neurobiologist at the San Diego Veterans’ Affairs Medical Center and the University of California (UC), San Diego.

To see whether they could establish a link between the circadian clock, sleep, and mood, scientists in the new study looked at the genetics of a family that suffers from SAD and advanced sleep phase. The scientists screened the family for mutations in key genes involved in the circadian clock, and identified two rare variants of the PERIOD3 (PER3) gene in members suffering from SAD and advanced sleep phase.

“We found a genetic change in people who have both seasonal affective disorder and the morning lark trait” says lead researcher Ying-Hui Fu, a neuroscientist at UC San Francisco. When the team tested for these mutations in DNA samples from the general population, they found that they were extremely rare, appearing in less than 1% of samples.

Fu and her team then created mice that carried the novel genetic variants. “PER3’s role in mood regulation has never been demonstrated directly before,” she says. “Our results indicate that PER3 might function in helping us adjust to seasonal changes,” by modifying the body’s internal clock.

“The identification of a mutation in PER3with such a strong effect on mood is remarkable,” McCarthy says. “It suggests an important role for the circadian clock in determining mood.”

The next step will be to investigate how well these results generalize to other people suffering from mood and sleep disorders.

Original Source:

Newly Discovered Gene Links Sleep and Seasonal Affective Disorder

Read More

narcolepsy and weight gain

Narcolepsy and Weight Gain Linked to Hormone Deficiency

People with narcolepsy are prone to weight gain and are often overweight. Narcolepsy is characterized by excessive sleepiness, but the new findings suggest it can also increase weight gain. The findings further unveil that even if narcoleptics consume less than those without the condition, they are still prone to weight gain.

Deficiency in Orexin

The researchers found that deficiency in a hormone – known as orexin – may be to blame, as it encourages hunger and wakefulness, leaving individuals with a lack of energy-burning brown fat. The findings suggest that orexin-targeted weight loss therapies may help narcoleptics and others who are overweight.

There are two types of fat: white and brown. White fat stores calories, whereas brown fat works to burn calories by generating heat.

The evidence found in mice suggests that orexin is crucial for the formation of mature brown fat, but with minimal orexin, brown fat activity drops. Mice injected with orexin showed substantial fat loss. The findings also reveal that those with minimal brown fat are essentially predisposed from birth to live an overweight life, as their bodies simply do not have the mechanisms to burn fat like others with more brown fat.

There are ways to naturally promote brown fat, for example, spending time in the cold. But the study suggests, orexin-specific treatments may help those struggling to lose weight as well.

Original Source:

Narcolepsy and Weight Gain Linked to Hormone Deficiency

Read More

severity of sleep apnea

Upper Airway Length May Be Associated with the Severity of Sleep Apnea

Anesthesiologists should consider using a larger Ring, Adair and Elwyn (RAE) tube for patients with diagnosed obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) to prevent dislodgment during surgery, a new study suggests.

Obstructive sleep apnea is characterized by repetitive narrowing or collapse of the upper airway during sleep. Although the “precise mechanism of pharyngeal collapse is unclear,” it may be related to upper airway length (UAL), according to researchers from the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, in Philadelphia.

The researchers initially identified 1,740 patient records. The researchers compared the UAL, UAL adjusted for height, body mass index (BMI), sex and age of the 33 patients with a positive polysomnogram versus the seven patients in the control group.

“We found that male sex is a significant predictor for UAL,” says Corey R. Herman, MD, lead study author and CA-3 resident at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. “BMI greater than 30 [kg/m2] and a positive polysomnography are both significant predictors for upper airway length divided by height ratio.” The UAL in female patients was significantly lower (P=0.001). The researchers also found a positive correlation between UAL adjusted for height and a diagnosis for OSA compared with patients with a negative polysomnogram. They did not find a correlation between UAL and OSA severity.

“Given our results, we would recommend anesthesiologists to choose a larger than anticipated tube for patients with diagnosed obstructive sleep apnea,” Dr. Herman said.

Dr. Herman suggested using a tube that is one-half size larger than would normally be used. He noted that this is a preliminary analysis, and further research is needed to determine the actual size tube anesthesiologists should use for patients with OSA.

Original Source:

Upper Airway Length May Be Associated with the Severity of Sleep Apnea

Read More

women's sleep health

Women’s Sleep Health – Sedentary Lifestyle in Menopausal Women is Associated with Insomnia

Sedentary middle-aged Hispanic women in Latin America have significantly worse menopause symptoms than their active counterparts, shows a study of more than 6,000 women across Latin America. The study was published online Jan 27 in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).

The study analyzed data from the Collaborative Group for Research of the Climacteric in Latin America surveys and health records of 6,079 women, ages 40 to 59, who attended one of 20 urban health centers in 11 Latin American countries. The women completed standard questionnaires about depression, anxiety, insomnia, and menopause symptoms.

Women were considered to be sedentary if they reported fewer than 3 weekly sessions of physical activity, such as walking, jogging, or swimming, that lasted 30 minutes or longer, and menopause symptoms were considered severe if the MRS score was 16 or more.

A sedentary lifestyle was very common, reported by 64% of the women. And the following statistically significant contrasts between the sedentary women and active women stood out: Some 16% of the sedentary women had severe menopause symptoms compared with 11% of the active women. The sedentary women also had higher total menopause scores, and more of them had any of the individual symptoms than the active women did. The sedentary women were also more likely to be obese and to have higher scores on the depression, anxiety, and insomnia scales.

Results of studies of the ability of exercise to reduce menopause symptoms have been conflicting, but this study adds some weight to the exercise side of the equation.

Original Source:

Women’s Sleep Health – Sedentary Lifestyle in Menopausal Women is Associated with Insomnia

Read More

sleep deprivation and health

Sleep Deprivation and Health – What Happens When You Don’t Sleep for Days

After 24 Hours: You May Have Trouble Focusing

The biggest thing that happens when you’re sleepless for 24 hours (or more) is that your ability to focus and pay attention slips, according to a 2010 analysis of studies published in Psychology Bulletin. They found that the big thing to suffer was “simple vigilance”, or your ability to pay attention to one kind of stimuli at a time.

The brain also finds it a lot more difficult to filter out relevant information from everything it picks up. A study from the Journal of Neuroscience found that, after one night without sleep, people were much less able to filter out irrelevant stimuli, leading to confusion from taking in too much information.

36 Hours: You May Struggle To Remember Things

One study showed that, while even a little bit of sleep deprivation has a negative effect on the cardiovascular system, after 39 hours without sleep, the pressure on the subjects’ hearts had increased, with a higher heart rate and bigger variations in blood pressure.

At this point of sleep deprivation, your cognitive performance is deteriorating, too. You won’t be able to recall faces properly, and your ability to remember words will be significantly impaired.

48 Hours: You May Get Sick More Easily

The body really starts to be under stress. The immune system in people deprived of two days of sleep is pretty drastically different from the body of someone who has gotten enough rest; levels of NK cells, or “natural killer” white blood cells, which are a key part of the body’s immune response, fell dramatically in people deprived of sleep for 48 hours in one study.

72 Hours: You May Be A Total Mess

The interesting thing about serious sleep deprivation is that it doesn’t make you feel uniformly hopeless. Instead, it makes your psychological and motor responses incredibly unstable. A study of people deprived of sleep for three to four days found that, when it came tasks where they had to pay attention, their performance was as erratic as hell: their ability to focus fluctuated madly and tried hard to compensate, but couldn’t maintain a constant for more than a few seconds. The scientists thought that, by this point, they weren’t either fully awake or asleep.

Original Source:

Sleep Deprivation and Health – What Happens When You Don’t Sleep for Days

Read More