Posts tagged sleep research
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.
Sleep and Depression: Sleep’s Depression-Fighting Properties
There is a link between sleep and depression. According to one study, when a person sleeps between 7 and 9 hours per night, their risk of developing depression is cut in half. This holds true for both adults and teens alike. Thus, sleep’s depression-fighting properties can be a significant factor in the diagnosis and treatment of depression.
Unfortunately, sleep isn’t the only factor when it comes to mood. However, sleeping well each night may make depression easier to treat. This, in itself, is a big deal.
The reason for this stems from the fact that when we sleep, our brains have a chance to take out the trash, as it were. Imagine a hotel room where one guest immediately follows upon the other, with no chance for a cleaning in between. Imagine what that room would look like, after just a few days. Similarly, each night we need to give our brains the time they need to clean house. Sleep may not eliminate altogether eliminate the symptoms of depression, but it certainly may help to relieve them.
So, if you or a loved one suffers from depression, try to maintain a healthy sleep pattern. Of course, for those dealing with chronic depression, that is easier said than done. Talk to your doctor about your sleep problems. Getting this issue cleared up may very well brighten your mood a little, and, every little bit helps when dealing with a debilitating condition such as depression.
Yes, sleep does a body good—especially the brain. We have long known of the importance of sleep to physical health. The same is true of mental health. The link between sleep and depression is strong. But it is good to know that sleep’s depression-fighting properties can be activated simply with proper sleep.