A male doctor is checking blood pressure of a young woman at a medical office, in order to find out if see has hypertension.

Sleep Apnea-Related Hypertension

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A male doctor is checking blood pressure of a young woman at a medical office, in order to find out if she has hypertension.

Hypertension is just one of the many conditions that can arise due to sleep apnea.

Untreated obstructed sleep apnea (OSA) is known to lead to other disorders. One condition it contributes to is hypertension. Hypertension, which is better known as high blood pressure, is a medical condition where the blood pressure in the arteries is elevated. According to a new study performed by scientists at the University of Chicago, there may be a way to manage this condition in those with sleep apnea.

How Does Hypertension Affect the Body?

Hypertension is a troubling condition. According to the CDC, 1 of 3 U.S. adults (70 million people) have high blood pressure. It is also the second leading cause of death in America — because it can lead to heart disease and stroke.

Patients with hypertension will often display the following symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Lightheadedness
  • Vertigo
  • Tinnitus
  • Altered vision

Some lifestyle choices and health conditions, like sleep apnea, may cause high blood pressure. Unfortunately, the condition can also be a part of one’s family history. This makes it harder to lower or control risk factors.

Sleep Apnea-Related Hypertension

OSA is a common cause of high blood pressure. Scientists have found that a signaling cascade associated with sleep apnea is the cause of this condition. This means that when your body doesn’t get enough blood-oxygen, the carotid bodies send signals to increase breathing and return oxygen to normal. However, blood pressure increases along with oxygen.

By nailing down which signals lead to high blood pressure, the scientists were able to offer a solution. Researchers suggest using a drug to disrupt the enzyme, known as cystathionine-y-lyase, which sends the signal (hydrogen sulfide) to increase oxygen and blood pressure.

According to the authors of the study, “Our results … suggest that inhibiting cystathionine-y-lyase to reduce hydrogen sulfide signaling in the carotid body with more potent inhibitors than L-PAG may be a novel approach to treat hypertension in patients with sleep apnea.”

Young woman is covering her ears due to her tinnitus symptoms.

The Severity of Tinnitus Symptoms Among Adults

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Young woman is covering her ears due to her tinnitus symptoms.

More and more adults seem to be experiencing tinnitus symptoms.

Loud noises and environments seem to be doing more damage than expected to people’s hearing. While the lifestyle of teenagers has led to a them experiencing tinnitus symptoms, the same appears to be true for adults. According to a recent study by the University of California, approximately 1 in 10 adults in the U.S. have tinnitus.

Research into Tinnitus Symptoms

Tinnitus is a symptom of an underlying condition. People with tinnitus will often hear noises when there are none. These noises present themselves as a ringing, clicking, hissing or roaring.

The most common causes include ear infections, heart disease, brain tumor, emotional stress, and head injuries. However, tinnitus itself can lead to functional impairments in thought processing, emotions, hearing, sleep and concentration.

Researchers at the University of California examined a 2007 National Health Interview Survey. Their initial findings revealed that an estimated 3.4 million U.S. adults experienced tinnitus in the past 12 months.

Among those, 27 percent have suffered from symptoms over the past 15 years, while another 36 percent constantly deals with symptoms. Only 7.2 percent felt tinnitus was a big problem. This is a stark difference from the 42 percent who believe the condition didn’t affect their lives.

Researchers believe that work-related noise is the main cause of these symptoms. The problem is that many people do not report experiencing tinnitus to their physician. The CDC estimates that four million people work each day in damaging noise. Even worse, ten million people in the U.S. have hearing loss related to noise.

More studies need to be performed to get a better idea of how tinnitus affects people, as well as how to treat their tinnitus symptoms.  The authors of the study say that “The recent guidelines published by the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery (AAO­HNSF) provide a logical framework for clinicians treating these patients, but the current results indicate that most patients may not be offered management recommendations consistent with the suggested protocol.”

A doctor making notes about a patient with stroke risk.

Sleep Disorders Increase Stroke Risk

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A doctor making notes about a patient with stroke risk.

Stroke risk increases as patients ignore their sleep apnea symptoms.

As sleep disorders become more and more prevalent, so does the risk from not treating them. It’s important to have these disorders diagnosed; otherwise it will evolve into something much worse. In a new study by the American Academy of Neurology, their research suggests that sleep disorders, like insomnia and oversleeping, may increase stroke risk.

Patients and Stroke Risk

A stroke is essentially an attack within the brain that happens when blood vessels are blocked or the brain starts to bleed. It can cause weakness, dizziness, slurred speech, vision problem and numbness. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than 800,000 people in the United States have a stroke each year, and on average, one American dies every 4 minutes from a stroke.

Disorders, like insomnia and oversleeping, are common among patients who have suffered from a stroke. However, research shows that they also can act as a telling sign. According to Dirk M. Hermann, MD, of the University Hospital Essen, and study author, “People with sleep disorders may be more likely to have another stroke or other negative outcomes than people without sleep problems, such as having to go to a nursing home after leaving the hospital.”

This study stresses the importance of getting tested. Without testing, patients are left undiagnosed and untreated for their sleeping disorders. The negative outcomes of insomnia include depression, daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and irritability. Oversleeping has been known to cause diabetes, obesity, and headaches.

The most common treatment for sleep disorder is a continuous positive airway pressure machine (CPAP). This treatment has proven itself success for resolving sleep disorder. The researchers also note that stroke risk in patients with sleep disorder decreased after receiving this treatment.

Stroke risk certainly increases the longer one waits to be treated. The researchers hope that the study will make more patients aware of the issue.

A graphic image of fatty liver disease.

Sleep Apnea and Liver Disease: Obese Adolescents at Risk

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A graphic image of fatty liver disease.

As sleep apnea goes untreated, people are at risk for non-alcoholic liver disease.

Sleep disorders like sleep apnea are dangerous if left untreated. New studies suggest that the risks to those who develop the disorder are becoming greater and greater every day. One such study, reported in the “Journal of Hepatology,” suggests that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) contributes a great deal to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in adults and children.

What Is NAFLD?

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition where fat builds up in the liver. This may be due to a resistance to insulin and a metabolic syndrome. This disorder usually shows up in a high percentage of those with obesity.  This is a liver disease that is not caused by alcohol, hence the name.

It is unhealthy to have too much fat stored in the liver. This causes the liver to swell up, scarring is developed, and can lead to liver cancer or failure. There aren’t that many symptoms with NAFLD. Typically the disorder causes the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Malaise
  • Spider-like blood vessels
  • Jaundice
  • Edema
  • Ascites (abdominal swelling)
  • Abdominal discomfort.

How Sleep Apnea Causes Liver Disease

Due to low levels of oxygen during sleep, many patients with sleep apnea develop oxidative stress, which means that their body has trouble detoxifying the harmful effects of free radicals. This can speed up the progression of NAFLD, and eventually lead to a worst disease called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

Lead investigator Shikha Sundaram, MD, MSCI, of the Children’s Hospital Colorado, University of Colorado School of Medicine stated, “According to recent reports, pediatric NAFLD patients with OSA/hypoxia have more advanced liver disease and fibrosis, supporting a role for OSA/hypoxia in the development of NASH. However, the mechanisms underlying this relationship have not yet been explained.”

The disease affects 30% of the general population in Western countries, and about 9.6% of all children. With the growing issue of obesity, this condition could potentially affect more people every year.

The researcher’s findings showed that patients with severe liver disease also had a serious case of OSA. They hope that correlation between the two conditions will lead to finding a way to treat patients. “We definitely need trials designed to investigate whether CPAP treatment may significantly affect NAFLD progression in this age range. The only randomized controlled trial was of relatively short duration, performed on adult patients with mild OSA/hypoxia and normal baseline transaminases, and apparently did not demonstrate any impact on steatosis, NASH or liver fibrosis,” says Dr. Sundaram.

A doctor looking into the hearing of a young boy. A connection between hearing and autism may be an early indicator of ASD.

The Connection Between Hearing and Autism

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A doctor looking into the hearing of a young boy. A connection between hearing and autism may be an early indicator of ASD.

New study reveals that there may be a connection between hearing and autism.

Many children with autism have difficulties interacting and communicating with others. Due to these social, communication and behavioral challenges, it is important that parents are aware of how to properly care for their children – especially when they are young. However, it may be a while before parents discover that their child has autism. New research suggests that a connection between hearing and autism might be able to identify which children are at risk for the disorder.

Hearing and Autism: Inner-Ear Deficiency

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is classified as a neurodevelopmental disorder, in which it is difficult for one to interact socially or communicate with others (verbally and non-verbally). Some even display restrictive or repetitive behavior. The behavioral signs of autism are not the same for every person. Some children with autism are able to interact with people better than other kids can.

Diagnosis is often troublesome. Most parents identify the disorder after their child is two. However, since the disorder’s symptoms are behavioral, some children will develop normally—and then start to show signs after they turn four.

The new research from the University of Rochester Medical Center has discovered an inner-ear deficiency in children with autism. It may be why some children have trouble recognizing speech. The researchers hope that doctors can use their findings to start identifying the deficiency in younger children, in order to inform parents that their child is at risk.

“This study identifies a simple, safe, and non-invasive method to screen young children for hearing deficits that are associated with Autism,” says Anne Luebuke, Ph.D., co-author of the study, and associate professor of the University of Rochester Medical Center Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Neuroscience.

The hearing test they used measures optoacoustic emissions by using a miniature microphone and speakers to listen to the inside of the ear. Certain sounds are made inside the ear in response to the sounds heard by the individual. When the inner workings of the ear do not respond to certain sounds, then it is determined that this function is impaired. Of the 17 children who were tested, half where already diagnosed with ASD. Those children had difficulties hearing certain frequencies.

With this new research into hearing and autism, Dr. Luebuke is optimistic, stating “This technique may provide clinicians a new window into the disorder and enable us to intervene earlier and help achieve optimal outcomes.”

A pregnant woman sleeping on her side. If she has gestational sleep apnea, she is at risk.

Gestational Sleep Apnea: The Risk to Pregnant Women

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A pregnant woman sleeping on her side. If she has gestational sleep apnea, she is at risk.

As doctors ignore gestational sleep apnea in pregnant patients, they are at risk for complications.

According to new research, one of every four pregnant women suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Unfortunately, pregnant women with OSA are more likely to be left untreated because it is not seen as a danger to either the mother or child. However, this new research suggest that OSA can be the cause of several symptoms in pregnant women. Now, researchers are recommending that doctors diagnose this condition as gestational sleep apnea.

Doctors Ignore OSA in Pregnant Women

Doctors are ignoring OSA in pregnant women because they attribute difficulty breathing during sleep, as well as daytime fatigue, to their pregnancy. Doctors are usually unwilling to refer pregnant patients to an ENT specialist, believing that symptoms will subside after their child is born. Some researchers believe that this thinking is a misstep in helping pregnant women with gestational sleep apnea.

Prof. Yehuda Ginosar, director of the Mother and Child Anesthesia Unit at the Hebrew University, and co-author of the study, states that “Currently there is a lack of uniform criteria to diagnose, treat and classify OSA in the pregnant population, which in turn complicates efforts to determine the risk factors for, and complications of, gestational sleep apnea.”

The Risk of Gestational Sleep Apnea

Without proper diagnosis and treatment of Gestational Sleep Apnea, pregnant women are left at risk. Not only do they suffer from both difficulty breathing during sleep and daytime fatigue, but the disorder is known to cause several complications in their condition, including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and heart disease.

When non-pregnant adults are diagnosed with OSA, they are treated with continuous positive airway pressure (PAP machine) to relieve their symptoms. Researchers stress the importance of diagnosing pregnant women so that they might receive the same treatment. Without proper action, women and their babies are at risk.

Dr. Suzanne Karan, co-author of the study and Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Director of the Anesthesiology Respiratory Physiology Laboratory at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, sends out a call to action for doctors, stating, “The time has come for our profession to wake up to the diagnosis of Gestational Sleep Apnea. This will allow us to research obstructive sleep apnea in pregnant women more effectively, and to develop and implement more effective treatments.”

A little girl, who appears restless in bed due to sleep loss.

Sleep Loss: Children at Risk For Emotional Disorders

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A little girl, who appears restless in bed due to sleep loss.

Sleep loss can affect your child’s emotional state, leading to disorders like insomnia and anxiety.

Parents constantly worry about their child’s development. They stress over their child’s health, as well as their emotional state of being. However, what if their health and emotions were tied together? One study suggests that sleep loss in children increases their risk for emotional disorders.

Emotional Disorders

Scientists for the University of Houston recently revealed the long-term effects of sleep loss. Without an adequate amount of sleep, children are at risk for developing depression and anxiety as they grow up. These are serious conditions that can have severe consequences down the line.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than 1 out of 20 Americans, 12 years of age and older, reported current depression in 2009–2012. Depression comes with a variety of emotional symptoms. This includes a loss of appetite, loss of interest, sadness and hopelessness, insomnia, and thoughts of death or suicide.

While occasional anxiety is common among people, conditions such as general anxiety, panic, and social anxiety disorder can deeply affect one’s quality of life. Symptoms of this condition can affect the way people operate within the world around them, as they are in constant fear. Intense worry, attacks of fear, and an inability to interact with others, are just some of the issues people with anxiety have to deal with on a daily basis.

How Sleep Loss Affects Children Emotionally

Candice Alfano, a clinical psychologist and associate psychology professor at the University of Houston, says that the study’s purpose was to determine “how children appraise, express, regulate and later recall emotional experiences, both when sleep is adequate and when it is inadequate.”

The study tested 50 children, between the ages of 7 to 11, by restricting their sleep. They found that the children not only began to show sign of negative emotions, but were less impacted by positive experiences. Sleep loss seemed to have affected how they view things emotionally, putting a negative veil over everything they did, and making activities less exciting.

In the end, Alfano suggested that “Continually experiencing inadequate sleep can eventually lead to depression, anxiety and other types of emotional problems. Parents, therefore, need to think about sleep as an essential component of overall health in the same way they do nutrition, dental hygiene and physical activity. If your child has problems waking up in the morning or is sleepy during the day, then their nighttime sleep is probably inadequate. This can result for several reasons, such as a bedtime that is too late, non-restful sleep during the night, or an inconsistent sleep schedule.”

An X-Ray of a Human brain with parts like the auditory cortex highlighted in several colors.

Auditory Cortex Is Identical in Deaf and Hearing People

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An X-Ray of a Human brain with parts like the auditory cortex highlighted in several colors.

Scientists discover new information about the auditory cortex and the role it plays in hearing.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, nearly 10 percent (25 million people) of the United States population has experienced tinnitus lasting at least five minutes. Approximately 15 percent (26 million people) of Americans, between the ages of 20 and 69, have hearing loss due to exposure to loud noises.

Scientists continue to search for answers to how hearing loss affects the body. A recent study has made an interesting discovery about the auditory cortex—which is the part of the brain that processes sound.

Revealing Details About the Auditory Cortex

Researchers at several institutions, including Harvard University, sought to better understand how the auditory cortex works. Using tonotopic maps (images of the brain), the scientists were able to analyze how this part of the brain reacts to different tones. They discovered that for both the hearing impaired and those with normal hearing, the neural architecture in the auditory cortex is identical.

“One reason this is interesting is because we don’t know what causes the brain to organize the way it does,” said Striem-Amit, the lead author of the study. “How important is each person’s experience for their brain development? In audition, a lot is known about (how it works) in hearing people, and in animals…but we don’t know whether the same organization is retained in congenitally deaf people.”

The result of the study raises a lot of questions. In their test, the auditory cortex reacted to not only sound but visual stimulation. “We know the architecture is in place—does it serve a function?” Striem-Amit said. “We know, for example, that the auditory cortex of the deaf is also active when they view sign language and other visual information. The question is: What do these regions do in the deaf? Are they actually processing something similar to what they process in hearing people, only through vision?”

More research needs to be done. While the auditory cortex seems to develop in a similar manner, whether or not the person is deaf, some suggest it still might play a vital role in hearing.

A woman sleeping in bed because of a sleep aid.

Over-the-Counter Sleep Aid Improves Quality of Sleep

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A woman is sleeping in bed because of a sleep aid.

An over-the-counter sleep aid proves to be just as effective as it claims.

Everyone occasionally has trouble sleeping. For minor sleep difficulties, we search for over-the-counter medicines to help us get a good night’s rest. However, is an over-the-counter sleep aid really effective? A new study reveals good news for people who wish to sleep better at night.

Over-the-Counter Sleep Aid: ZzzQuil™

ZzzQuil is an over-the-counter sleep aid made up of diphenhydramine HCL (DPH), which is a type of pharmaceutical drug known as an antihistamine. Zzzquil has been available to the public as a nonprescription drug since 2012, and comes in both liquid and liquicap forms.

The medicine is primarily used to treat allergic symptoms, the common cold, insomnia, and also extrapyramidal symptoms – a drug-induced movement disorder. Due to the drug’s sedative properties, it has been used as an effective sleep-aid for years, as well as a substitute local anesthetic for those who are allergic to lidocaine.

The Study’s Results

Thomas Roth, Ph.D., director of the Sleep Disorder and Research Center at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, along with his team of researchers, sought to determine the benefits of sleep-aids such as ZzzQuil. “This study demonstrates that diphenhydramine HCI can provide benefit to people who sometimes need help getting a good night’s sleep,” said Roth.

In order to prove their theory, Roth and his researchers gathered 33 people, average age of 40. The researchers analyzed the effectiveness of DHP, versus a placebo, in order to find out if the drug had any impact on sleep.

Results were positive. On average, the test subjects fell asleep 8 minutes faster with DHP versus using the placebo, meaning they were able to fall asleep in less than 20 minutes.  They also stayed asleep longer, leading to better quality sleep.

This is good news for those who suffer from sleep occurrences, which is described as having trouble sleeping for more than two nights in a row, and taking more than 30 minutes to fall asleep. It is also positive news for those who deal with sleep disorders such as insomnia. A lack a sleep can lead to stress, anxiety, depression, asthma, diabetes, and other conditions. An over-the-counter sleep aid may be what some people need to sleep through the night.

A man is sleeping bed next to his alarm clock. Bad sleeping habits like oversleeping can increase the risk for diabetes in men.

Bad Sleeping Habits Linked to Diabetes Risk in Men

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A man is sleeping bed next to his alarm clock. Bad sleeping habits like oversleeping can increase the risk for diabetes in men.

Oversleeping or sleep deprivation can increase the risk of diabetes in men.

Diabetes mellitus is a disease affecting more than 22 million people in the United States. For some time, the condition has been linked to sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea. Scientists have yet to discover why the connection exists, but research into the matter is ongoing. One of the studies researching the link between the two disorders has found that bad sleeping habits in men can lead to a higher risk for diabetes.

Bad Sleeping Habits: Too Little and Too Much Sleep

This cross-sectional study was performed by the VU Medical Centre in Amsterdam. They tested and analyzed 788 healthy adults ranging in age from 30 to 60 years old. With this study, scientists hoped to discover whether the amount of sleep one receives correlates to his or her risk for diabetes. According to the CDC, for adults, 7 to 8 hours of sleep a day is recommended.

Testing included measuring the patient’s sleep and physical activity using a device called a single-axis accelerometer to track movements. Simultaneously, using a device called a hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp, researchers tested how effectively the body used the hormone insulin, which processes sugar in the bloodstream. Their findings presented interesting results.

Disparity Between Men and Women

“In a group of nearly 800 healthy people, we observed sex-specific relationships between sleep duration and glucose metabolism,” said Femeke Rutters, PhD, and the study’s senior author. “In men, sleeping too much or too little was related to less responsiveness of the cells in the body to insulin, reducing glucose uptake

and thus increasing the risk of developing diabetes in the future. In women, no such association was observed.”

Men were less likely to be able to process sugar in their blood stream due to their bad sleeping habits. However, the women who participated in the study seemed to have no such problem. In women, regardless of their sleep habits, their bodies produced more insulin due to their enhanced beta cells. Their bodies were also more receptive to the insulin.

Hopefully, the results of the study will prompt more men to consider how much sleep they are getting each night. A healthy amount of sleep has shown positive results in people. However, bad sleeping habits can have a negative effect on your health and lead to other disorders.

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