EIC Social Media Team
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Orexin, a protein developed in the brain by the hypothalamus, is responsible for helping to wake the brain from a sleep state. It stimulates wakefulness, acting like a switch to wake the sleeping brain up. Researchers looking at this protein have learned that its presence in mice is a contributing factor to the development of brain plaques, mostly consisting of amyloid beta, which have been linked to memory loss, disorientation, personality changes, and dementia, all symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Brain plaques are always present before the onset of these conditions, and they increase in accumulation on the brain throughout their duration. Because of these known correlations, researchers are now looking at brain plaques, and at the orexin protein, for possible methods of preventing Alzheimer’s. By preventing the buildup of these plaques, researchers hope to slow, and possibly avoid, the onset of Alzheimer’s and other brain-related diseases.
Researchers out of Washington University School of Medicine looked at lab rats that were genetically manipulated to develop brain plaques more rapidly than normal. These rats developed symptoms of memory loss and dementia. They were then bred with rats that had a deficiency in the orexin protein. The result was as the researchers had hoped: the rats with less orexin slept an average of an entire hour more – over a 12 hour cycle – than rats with normal levels of the protein. The other result that researchers were hoping for also occurred; the rats that slept more (with deficient levels of the orexin protein) developed brain plaques at half the rate of those who had more orexin protein and slept less each day. Now that researchers are beginning to understand the link between sleep disorders and the development of Alzheimer’s, they are hopeful that the orexin protein could be a major factor in future Alzheimer’s prevention. One possible setback they learned from the study, though, is that decreasing the levels of orexin without changing the amount of sleep the rats got each night did not change the rate of brain plaque development. This means that in order for the elimination of the orexin protein to make any difference in slowing or stopping the onset of Alzheimer’s, there has to be a change in sleep patterns as well, which could be difficult to control on a large scale. Regardless, researchers are hopeful that this new understanding will help us get closer to eliminating Alzheimer’s disease in the future.
Scientists from the University of Wisconsin’s School of Medicine and Public Health, in Madison, Wisconsin have released the results of a long-term study looking at possible connections between the symptoms of asthma and the development of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) in adults. The study began in 1988, and the results were released in January of this year. From the beginning of the study, the team of researchers looked at over 500 randomly selected adults, ages 30 to 60 years old at the onset of the study, and followed them every four years until shortly before releasing their results. These results, they found, show that asthma is linked to sleep apnea risks being higher, especially as adults further age.
Of those chosen randomly for the study, 466 of them did not have adult asthma symptoms and 81 of them did. Each participant attended an in-laboratory overnight stay to study their sleep patterns, concluding with a questionnaire about their sleeping habits, daytime sleepiness, etc. roughly every four years. The rate of OSA in each grouping remained essentially constant within each four-year interval, as twenty-two of the eighty-one participants who suffered from asthma experienced incidents of Obstructive Sleep Apnea, which is twenty-seven percent of this group, while only seventy-five of the four hundred and sixty-six participants who did not suffer from asthma experienced incidents of Obstructive Sleep Apnea, which is roughly sixteen percent of the group. In the last four-year interval that the participants were studies, the rate of Obstructive Sleep Apnea incidents remained at twenty-seven percent for those with asthma, and only increased to seventeen percent for the group without asthma. The authors of this study wrote, “This study prospectively examined the relationship of asthma with OSA assessed with laboratory-based polysomnography and found that preexistent asthma was a risk factor for the development of clinically relevant OSA in adulthood over a 4-year period. Furthermore, the asthma-OSA association was significantly dose-dependent on duration of asthma.” These results showed the scientists that, indeed, asthma is linked to sleep apnea risks being higher than they normally would without asthma. They concluded, “Studies investigating the mechanisms underlying this association and the value of periodic OSA evaluation in patients with asthma are warranted,” adding that they would conduct further studies to find a direct causal relationship between asthma and the risks of Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
Video Games and Sleep Research: Video Games Used to Help Measure Memory Loss
Conventional wisdom holds that video games contribute to a lack of sleep, especially in younger people. Young men tend to play more video games, so it is not surprising that they are the primary sufferers of this form of sleep deprivation, simply from staying up to play video games. There is even evidence that late-night video gamers suffer from sleep disturbances caused by their addiction to the flashing lights of the games; they may actually be waking in the middle of the night to ‘get their fix.’ Studies have, in fact, confirmed these effects on some people. Thus, the common belief is video games are responsible for many more negative effects on a person’s sleep patterns than any positive effects that they could produce. This is probably generally true. However, the connection between video games and sleep research is not uniformly bad, as video games were recently enlisted for use in a sleep study involving memory loss and sleep deprivation.
The study, conducted by NYU’s Langone Medical Center in New York City, was led by Andrew Varga, clinical instructor of Medicine in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine. This study demonstrated that the deprivation of REM sleep has a detrimental effect on a person’s memory of everyday events. They tested several subjects who played video games both at the beginning and the end of each trial, introducing a period of sleep deprivation in between the game playing. The mistakes and confusions which resulted when the subjects played the video games after sleep deprivation underscored the need for proper, unbroken REM sleep throughout the night.
Sleep apnea, the most common sleep disorder in the United States, has two main negative effects. It creates numerous repetitive dips in the blood’s oxygen levels, and it creates numerous small arousals that interrupt sleep continuity. The disruption of spatial memory caused by sleep apnea was easily measured in the playing of repetitive video games. Moreover, the study utilizing video games and sleep research showed that the loss of memory can have further implications. Clearly, our bodies need more than just rest, as unbroken sleep seems to be the key to gaining all of the positive effects of sleeping each night.
Your Skin and Sleep: Deep Relationship Discovered Between Skin and Sleep Patterns
Researchers have long known that there is a distinct connection between a person’s skin and the sleep that they receive each night. Skin can absorb vitamin D through sunlight, which is a key factor in the production of melatonin. The more sunlight we receive, the less melatonin we create. The more melatonin we create, the more prone we are to sleep restfully throughout the night. So, darkness promotes sleep and proper rest. This connection between your skin and sleep is key to regulating your sleep cycle and helping to keep your sleeping patterns normal and healthy. The more constant your sleep cycle is, the better your overall health can be. But there are more connections being discovered every year, and new studies have revealed a deeper relationship between skin and sleep patterns.
A new connection that has been discovered has to do with the risk and prevalence of fracture and bone or joint injury. Researchers have found an unlikely link between adult eczema – or the inflammation, discomfort, and discoloration of skin – and sleep disturbances that cause a higher prevalence of fracture and bone or joint injury (FBJI). The newly found connections between your skin and sleep show that those with adult eczema and sleep disturbances suffer from more of these FBJI incidents than those who have sleep disturbances but no adult eczema. Sleep disturbances, a common risk factor in FBJI incidents, seems to have added risks for those with eczema. The study – conducted by Northwestern University, Chicago – examined the link between eczema and sleep disturbances in those who suffer FBJI. They concluded that adult eczema is a previously unrecognized risk factor for fracture and other injury. This has led to the idea that eczema and sleep disturbances should be treated in conjunction with one another.
Symptoms of Insomnia Increase Risk of Fatal Accidents: Motor Vehicle Deaths and Sleep Disorders
Everyone knows that the less you sleep the worse you feel. Your thoughts are slower and sluggish, as is your body strength and reflexes. In-depth research has concluded that symptoms of insomnia increase risk of fatal accidents, including vehicle motor deaths. This research was conducted by the Norwegian University of Science in Technology in Trondheim, Norway, and supported by the ‘Sleep Well, Be Well’ campaign of the National Healthy Sleep Awareness Program. The researchers compiled data from around the world in which insomnia symptoms were or were not identified in those who had died in a motor vehicle accident. The results indicated that those who had difficulty falling asleep were over two times more likely to die from motor vehicle injury, and more than one-and-a-half times more likely to die from any fatal injury. The results went further to say that self-reported difficulties in falling asleep contributed to over 34 percent of motor vehicle deaths and 8 percent of all unintentional fatal injuries and, in the absence of insomnia, that most of these deaths could have been prevented.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), there are more than 125,000 unintentional injury deaths in the United States every year. Thus, unintentional injury deaths are the fifth leading cause of death nationwide. Of these deaths, over 33,000 were motor vehicle deaths and 27,000 were from unintentional falls. Research shows that the symptoms of insomnia increase the risk of fatal accidents in every circumstance. Difficulty falling asleep, sluggish behavior during the day, and overall grogginess are the biggest contributing factor to these accidents. Obviously, it is important to get a good night’s sleep every night. If you are finding it difficult to sleep nightly, consult your physician or a sleep specialist.
Surgery Could Improve Asthma Control: Sleep Apnea in Children and Young Adults
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), is one of the most commonly experienced sleep disturbances in the world. This sleep disorder causes an obstruction in the airway during sleep (usually the tonsils and soft palate of the mouth). The passages close temporarily, creating a brief moment where the person stops breathing. These moments cause the person to slightly wake up, but only just enough to push enough air out to start the breathing process again. The sufferer usually never realizes they have awoken in this manner – yet they do it many times each night. The result is a person who is not getting solid rest and who fails to reach those stages of sleep that are needed for proper rest and rejuvenation. When this sleep disorder is diagnosed in children and younger adults, surgery is a possible route to stop the OSA from causing a lifetime of problems. However, this swelling of the back of the throat may also be related to asthma, another disorder that affects millions of Americans, including a large population of America’s children. The connection between breathing problems and their common source (blockage of the airway), leads to the question of whether there is a common solution to both disorders. This is a distinct possibility, as researchers studying the effects of sleep apnea surgery have concluded this surgery could improve asthma control in children and young adults.
The study took data from over 40,000 US citizens between the ages of three and seventeen. Of these children, about 13,500 had asthma and had undergone the surgery that removed their tonsils and adenoids (soft tissue at the back of the throat), as a treatment for OSA. The preliminary research concludes that the children averaged a 30 percent reduction in acute asthma triggers. Moreover, there was a nearly 40 percent decrease in the medical emergency of acute status asthmaticus (where the inability to breathe reaches the point of suffocating). It should be noted that the research is only preliminary. Thus, even though this surgery may possibly improve asthma control, more extensive studies are needed to understand the exact connection between the two disorders. This, in turn, may lead to singular or unified treatments.
Insomnia Is a Persistent Risk: Problems in Early Addiction Recovery
A proper amount of rest each night is one of the greatest natural methods our body uses to repair and replenish itself. Sleep increases health restoration, both mentally and physically, among people who have suffered some sort of sickness or trauma. When a full night’s rest is continually achieved, our immune systems increase exponentially in their ability to fight invading bacteria or viruses. Other physical ailments, whether it is muscular problems or an injury, also benefit from a person getting their required nightly rest. Taking all of these factors out of the equation, sickness, injury, etc., the body just functions better overall when it gets the rest it needs. This fact also holds true for people who are recovering from an addiction; whereas good sleep can help the person fight their addiction, a lack of sleep is a dangerous thing for those just starting their recovery. Research has shown that insomnia is a persistent risk in relapse for early addiction recovery.
A study, out of the University of San Francisco, claims that “treating sleep disturbances in early recovery may have [a] considerable impact on maintenance of sobriety and quality of life.” The researchers compiled evidence showing that insomnia is a persistent risk for these individuals, especially those recovering from alcoholism. In fact, recovering addicts are five times more likely to encounter prolonged insomnia than the general public. This means that the recovery can feed the insomnia, which in turn can threaten the recovery’s success. There is evidence that treating the sleep disturbances in these patients helps in their recovery. However, the treating physician must be careful. Treating the sleep disturbances in a holistic manner, one that takes into account patient behavior, is more effective than relying only on pharmacological treatment. Finding what activities or nuances keeps the person awake each night, and dealing with these, can help one get better sleep. This is especially important with addicts, as trying to make a recovering addict sleep with medicine can lead to abuse. Indeed, it could mirror or replace the recovering patient’s past bad habits.
Study of Osteoarthritis and Sleep: the Results Are Mixed
A new study of osteoarthritis and sleep by The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa found mixed results. On the positive side, the evidence shows that sleep disturbances in patients who suffer from osteoarthritis (OA) – the most common form of arthritis in the US – do not suffer more OA caused pain. Specifically, this means that the patients who were studied did not complain of a higher level of pain caused by OA, one year after reporting sleep disturbances or sleep loss. This is the good news. The bad news is that these same patients – those who have osteoarthritis and who claim to have sleep disturbances and sleep loss over the span of a year – almost unanimously reported higher levels of both depression and disability than did those patients with OA who were also able to generally sleep soundly.
The vicious cycle of the pain caused by osteoarthritis and the resulting lack of sleep, is common among those who suffer from OA, especially the obese and elderly. The head of the study, Dr. Patricia Parmelee, from the university’s Center for Mental Health & Aging, reports that, “Our research is unique as we investigate the complex relationships among sleep, OA-related pain, disability and depressed mood simultaneously in a single study.” This study on osteoarthritis and sleep has helped researchers to focus on other elements of treating OA, not just the glaring issue of constant pain. Dr. Parmelee further noted: “This study shows that depression plays a strong role in the sleep-pain connection, particularly with severe pain. Further investigation of sleep in disability progression may lead to new interventions that disrupt the cycle of OA distress.” Ultimately, this was the goal of the study. Hopefully, that goal may be achieved earlier than expected.
Alzheimer’s Disease Linked to Sleep Disturbances: Several Studies Suggest
Is Alzheimer’s Disease linked to sleep disturbances throughout one’s life? Some striking studies suggest a strong link between sleep disturbances and the disease. For example, in March of 2014 researchers from Temple University published a report in which they feel there is a definite link between a constant last of proper sleep and the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia, and similar disorders. Their study involving lab rats prevented the rats from having full cycles of proper rest for the first year of their lives. These rats, all of them, showed Alzheimer’s pathways of brain cognition around 14 to 15 months old. The equivalent in human-lifespan years would be around 65 years old. Their learning abilities were also greatly diminished, as compared to rats with normal sleep patterns, as were their memorization skills.
Though it seems quite cruel to deprive rats of sleep, even if is for important scientific reasons, researchers have done this same thing to humans. A group of 15 healthy, college-aged men, stayed awake all night under two different conditions (one with food, games, entertainment, etc. and one without these available and with nighttime conditions given). The study, conducted by the Department of Neuroscience at Uppsala University, observed that morning serum levels were raised by 20 percent. This type of serum raise is usually attributed to brain trauma, and are levels found in Alzheimer’s patients.
Christian Benedict, who was a part of the study mentioned above of the 15 young men and sleep deprivation, also led a study that lasted 40 years. The results of the latter study were just released in October of 2014. This study, also under the aegis of Uppsala’s Department of Neuroscience, tracked over 1,000 men between the years 1970-2010, who were all 50 years old at the commencement of the study. During this 40-year span, the men were periodically examined for two things, self-reported sleep disturbances and signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia. The study showed that men who had self-reported sleep disturbances over several years were 1½ times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease, as compared to those who did not show sleep disturbances during the 40-year span. Also, men who exhibited sleep disturbances that began later in life were even more likely to develop Alzheimer’s or dementia. With Alzheimer’s Disease linked to sleep disturbances, it is imperative that you report any sleep disturbances that you may be suffering, even if they have only recently begun.
Sleep Disorders and Childhood Obesity: Is Lack of Sleep Making Your Child Fat?
Obesity is a major concern in the United States today, and it doesn’t only affect adults. According to the CDC, nearly one third of American children are considered overweight or obese. But, how harmful is it really for your child to be overweight, and, how can you help them to get their weight under control? An even more important question is whether sleep disorders and childhood obesity are linked.
The health risks of obesity are well documented. Conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, social and psychological problems, and more, have been connected to being overweight. So, helping your child to control his or her weight involves much more than helping them to avoid the social stigma of being a bigger kid at school. Their health and well-being throughout their entire lives could be affected.
Consider a cause of childhood obesity that you may not have previously thought of—lack of sleep. Recent studies have revealed that those who sleep less (regardless of age or gender), seem to have a slower metabolism. The result is a direct correlation between sleep and weight. Less sleep equals more weight, while more sleep equals less weight.
So, what keeps children awake? Decades ago, kids would beg their parents for a little more TV time before bed. Later, it was video games. Next, it was the Internet. Now, it is often a combination of the three. One major issue is that most children have electronic devices in their room. Bedtime doesn’t necessarily mean sleep time, as children may stay up late (even though they are in bed), using their mobile devices and hand held video games.
What can you do to help?
If your children have mobile devices, teach them to not use these in bed. Perhaps you can have a place in the living room where they must charge their devices at night. This way, not only are the devices not being used, the sounds or vibrations from texts and emails received during the night will not interrupt their sleep. The CDC study alluded to earlier, indicated that kids with earlier bedtimes were also thinner. Thus, although sleep disorders and childhood obesity are linked, they don’t have to be. You may not be the most popular parent in school for urging implementing of these suggestions, at least among the kids, but it might help improve the health of everyone’s child.