Posts tagged insomnia

One person smashing alarm clock in bed waking up smashing alarm clock due to insomnia condition.

Researchers Prove Insomnia Condition Is Genetic

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One person smashing alarm clock in bed waking up smashing alarm clock due to insomnia condition.

Is your insomnia condition keeping you up? You’ll be happy to know it’s not all in your head.

You lay awake at night, staring at the ceiling. Closing your eyes doesn’t help, nor can you get comfortable as you toss and turn to find the right position. You’ve finally come to the conclusion that you cannot fall asleep. These are the sure signs of someone with an insomnia condition.

Many cases of insomnia are considered psychological, as it is caused by stress. Other cases have shown that the disorder is associated with other conditions like chronic pain, heart failure, and hyperthyroidism. Unfortunately, scientists have had a hard time pinpointing what exactly causes insomnia.

A new study seems to unravel a bit of this mystery. Researchers, made up of an international team, discovered that insomnia isn’t purely psychological, as some have suggested in the past. The team discovered seven risk genes for insomnia in an in-depth study.

Proving the Insomnia Condition Is More

“As compared to the severity, prevalence and risks of insomnia, only few studies targeted its causes. Insomnia is all too often dismissed as being ‘all in your head’. Our research brings a new perspective. Insomnia is also in the genes,” says Professor Eus Van Someren, one of the lead researcher of this international project.

After testing 113,006 individuals, the team was able to find the seven genes related to insomnia. These genes are also involved in the process of transcription and exocytosis. One of the genes, MEIS1, is associated with other sleeping disorders like Periodic Limb Movements of Sleep (PLMS) and Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS). Using assistance from the Institute of Neurogenomics at the Helmholtz Zentrum, München, Germany, the team found that the genetic variants contribute to PLMS, RLS, and insomnia.

Emotional Disorders and Gender

Another interesting fact is that these genes are also connected to behavior conditions. Anxiety, depression, and neuroticism have long been associated with insomnia. Now it appears that they genes that are causing insomnia are contributing to these emotional disorders.

“This is an interesting finding, because these characteristics tend to go hand in hand with insomnia. We now know that this is partly due to the shared genetic basis,” says neuroscientist Anke Hammerschlag (VU), PhD student and first author of the study.

Another finding showed the difference between men and women with the condition. “We also found a difference between men and women in terms of prevalence: in the sample we studied, including mainly people older than fifty years, 33% of the women reported to suffer from insomnia. For men this was 24%,” states Professor Danielle Posthuma, another of the study’s lead researchers.

Hope for the Future

Professor Someren hopes that their study can inspire others to look more into the insomnia condition. Learning about the connection between the disease and these genes is important for developing new treatment methods. Hopefully, they begin to understand the disease better. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention linked insomnia to accidents and mistakes on the job and along the road.  Another study reports that 10 percent of adults in the U.S. have chronic insomnia. These people deal with the condition three times a week.

A woman sitting up in her bed, in desperate need of insomnia treatment.

Insomnia Treatment: Tricking the Mind

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A woman sitting up in her bed, in desperate need of insomnia treatment.

Scientists test both a real and fake insomnia treatment.

Insomnia is not only a serious condition, it’s practically unbearable. Over time, a lack of sleep will affect the mind and body, causing emotional and physical disorders. For example, the CDC list diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression as chronic diseases connected to poor sleep. Scientists may have found an insomnia treatment that works, and it may not be a treatment at all.

Testing Real and Fake Insomnia Treatment

Neurofeedback is an exercise with positive results that trains the brain. During this treatment, the brain’s activity is monitored using electrodes. Researchers are trying to find out if tricking the brain with a fake or placebo neurofeedback treatment will produce positive results.

In a relatively small study, featuring 30 patients with insomnia, researchers tested both forms of neurofeedback. All patients completed 12 sessions of neurofeedback and 12 sessions of placebo neurofeedback treatment over the course of four weeks. During eight nights in a sleep laboratory, the patient’s sleep-wake cycle was monitored.

The Results

Both forms of neurofeedback proved to be an effective insomnia treatment. Scientists found no difference between the two. However, there is one concern among the researchers. They are unsure whether or not patients are reacting to the treatment or their care at the hands of experimenters. This is because most of the participants felt they were treated well and with compassion during their nights in the sleep laboratory.

“Given our results,” said lead author Manuel Schabus, “one has to question how much of published neurofeedback effects are due to simple expectations on the side of the participants or, in other words, unspecific placebo effects.”

These calls into question what is really affecting how patients sleep. Is a little kindness all it takes or did the neurofeedback truly have an effect? In the end, more studies on insomnia need to be performed to find out what works best.

A young asian woman suffering from insomnia, which can lead to brain dysfunctions.

The Brain and Sleep: Insomnia’s Troubling Contribution

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A young asian woman suffering from insomnia, which can lead to brain dysfunctions.

What’s the connection between insomnia and the brain?

Imagine your worst night of sleep. No matter how hard you close your eyes, your mind races with a million thoughts, your body can’t find the perfect position, and before you know it, it is time to get ready for a new day. Now, imagine that one sleepless night becomes a recurring situation. This is insomnia and its effect on the mind (that big old brain of yours) is substantial.

How Insomnia Takes Its Toll on the Brain

It’s not that hard to understand how insomnia can have a negative impact on your life. It’s a key sleeping disorder. This condition prevents people from falling asleep at night, causing daytime sleepiness and anxiety. Some have been known to experience hallucinations if their condition becomes chronic.

In a recent study by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), researchers were able to pinpoint which regions of the brain are altered in patients with insomnia. By comparing and monitoring the brain activity of patients with and without insomnia, they were able to gain some insights.

“While patients with insomnia often have their symptoms trivialized by friends, families and even physicians, the findings in this study add strong evidence to the emerging view that insomnia is a condition with neurobiological as well as psychological causes,” said Dr. Buysse, professor of psychiatry and clinical and translational science, and the UPMC Professor of Sleep Medicine.

They discovered that the regions of the brain that help self-awareness, contemplation, and mood did not work properly. Another interesting insight is that the brain does not completely “shut off” when sleep. Certain regions stay active. This may be to help recall, memory, and other important functions.

Unfortunately, they were unable to decipher whether or not insomnia is the cause of these dysfunctions or if the altered brain activity in these areas is causing the troubling condition. Hopefully, the researchers can find the answer in the future. For now, those with insomnia need to see a doctor

in order to receive care and return to a good quality of life.

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