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By Rick Nauert PhD

New research suggests that for at least some groups of “emerging adults,” sleep problems are a predictor of chronic pain and worsening pain severity over time.

Investigators say, however, that the presence of pain generally doesn’t predict worsening sleep problems during the transition between adolescence and young adulthood.

Drs. Irma J. Bonvanie and colleagues of University of Groningen, the Netherlands, believe early identification and treatment of sleep problems might help reduce later problems with pain in some groups of emerging adults.

Results of the study appear in suggests a study in PAIN®, the official publication of the International Association for the Study of Pain® (IASP).

In attempting to discover which come first — sleep problems or pain — Drs. Bonvanie and colleagues performed a “bidirectional” relationship assessment between sleep problems and pain among young adults, ages 19-22.

The study focused on overall chronic pain as well as specific types of pain: musculoskeletal, headache, and abdominal pain.

The long-term associations between sleep problems and three pain types were compared between the sexes, and the combined effects of anxiety and depression, fatigue, and physical activity were explored.

The study included approximately 1,750 young Dutch men and women who were followed for three years.

About half of young people who had sleep problems at the initial evaluation still had them three years later. At baseline, subjects with sleep problems were more likely to have chronic pain and had more severe musculoskeletal, headache, and abdominal pain.

Three years later, those with sleep problems were more likely to have new or persistent chronic pain. Overall, 38 percent of emerging adults with severe sleep problems at initial evaluation had chronic pain at follow-up, compared with 14 percent of those without initial sleep problems.

The relationship between sleep problems and pain was stronger in women than men — a difference that may start around older adolescence/emerging adulthood.

Fatigue appeared to be a modest intervening factor, while anxiety/depression and lack of physical activity were not significant contributors.

Sleep problems predicted increased severity of abdominal pain in women only. Sleep problems, however, did not predict headache severity in either sex. Abdominal pain was the only type of pain associated with a long-term increase in sleep problems, and the effect was small.

“Emerging adulthood…is characterized by psychosocial and behavioral changes, such as altered sleep patterns,” Drs. Bonvanie and coauthors write.

Chronic pain is also common in this age group, especially among women. Sleep problems might be an important risk factor for increased pain, acting through altered pain thresholds, emotional disturbances, or behavioral changes.

The new study suggests that sleep problems are significantly associated with chronic pain and specific types of pain problems in emerging adults.

“Our findings indicate the sleep problems are not only a precursor for pain, but actually predict the persistence of chronic pain and an increase in pain levels,” say the researchers.

In addition, they conclude, “Our findings suggest that sleep problems may be an additional target for treatment and prevention strategies in female emerging adults with chronic pain and musculoskeletal pain.”

Feb 7

Sleep Apnea Takes Toll on Brain


By Janice Wood
A new study shows that people with sleep apnea show significant changes in the levels of two important brain chemicals.

This could be the reason so many people with sleep apnea — a disorder in which a person’s breathing is frequently interrupted during sleep, as many as 30 times an hour — report problems with thinking, such as poor concentration, difficulty with memory and decision-making, depression and stress.

Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles School of Nursing looked at levels of the neurotransmitters glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid, known as GABA, in a brain region called the insula. This area integrates signals from higher brain regions to regulate emotion, thinking, and physical functions, such as blood pressure and perspiration.

They found that people with sleep apnea had decreased levels of GABA and unusually high levels of glutamate.

GABA is a chemical messenger that acts as an inhibitor in the brain, which can slow things down and help keep people calm. It affects mood and helps make endorphins, researchers explain.

Glutamate, by contrast, is like an accelerator. When glutamate levels are high, the brain is working in a state of stress, and consequently doesn’t function as effectively. High levels of glutamate can also be toxic to nerves and neurons, the researchers noted.

“In previous studies, we’ve seen structural changes in the brain due to sleep apnea, but in this study we actually found substantial differences in these two chemicals that influence how the brain is working,” said Dr. Paul Macey, the lead researcher on the study and an associate professor at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Nursing.

Macey said the researchers were taken aback by the differences in the GABA and glutamate levels.

“It is rare to have this size of difference in biological measures,” he said. “We expected an increase in the glutamate, because it is a chemical that causes damage in high doses and we have already seen brain damage from sleep apnea. What we were surprised to see was the drop in GABA. That made us realize that there must be a reorganization of how the brain is working.”

He added that the study’s results are actually encouraging.

“In contrast with damage, if something is working differently, we can potentially fix it,” he said.

“What comes with sleep apnea are these changes in the brain, so in addition to prescribing continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, physicians now know to pay attention to helping their patients who have these other symptoms,” he continued. “Stress, concentration, memory loss — these are the things people want fixed.”

A CPAP machine helps an individual sleep easier, and is considered the gold standard treatment for sleep disturbance.

In future studies, the researchers said they hope to determine whether treating sleep apnea using CPAP or other methods returns patients’ brain chemicals back to normal levels.

If not, they will turn to the question of what treatments could be more effective. The researchers said they are also studying the impacts of mindfulness exercises to see if they can reduce glutamate levels by calming the brain.

The study, conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles Sleep Disorder Center, was published in the Journal of Sleep Research.

Source: University of California Los Angeles

By Traci Pedersen
Common Sleep Aid, Ambien, Intensifies Emotional, Negative MemoriesResearchers have identified the sleep mechanism that enables the brain to strengthen emotional memories.

They also found that a commonly prescribed sleep aid heightens the brain’s remembrance of and response to negative memories.

Dr. Sara Mednick from the University of Riverside and her colleagues found that a sleep condition known as sleep spindles — bursts of brain activity that last for a second or less during a specific stage of sleep — are vital for emotional memory.

In earlier research, Mednick demonstrated the vital role that sleep spindles play in transferring memories from short-term to long-term in the hippocampus.

The drug zolpidem (brand names include Ambien and others) was found to enhance the process, a discovery that could lead to new sleep therapies to improve memory for aging adults and for those with dementia, Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia. It was the first study to show that sleep could be manipulated with medication to improve memory.

“We know that sleep spindles are involved in declarative memory — explicit information we recall about the world, such as places, people and events,” she explained.

But until now, researchers did not know that sleep spindles were involved in emotional memory; they had been focusing on rapid eye movement (REM) sleep instead.

Using two commonly prescribed sleep aids — zolpidem and sodium oxybate (Xyrem) — the researchers were able to tease apart the effects of sleep spindles and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep on the recall of emotional memories. They determined that sleep spindles, not REM, affect emotional memory.

For the study, the researchers gave zolpidem, sodium oxybate and a placebo to 28 men and women between the ages of 18 and 39 who were normal sleepers. They waited several days between doses to allow the medications to leave their bodies.

The participants were shown images known to induce positive or negative responses for one second before and after taking supervised naps. After taking zolpidem, participants recalled more images that had negative or highly arousing content, which also suggests that the brain may lean more strongly toward consolidation of negative memories, Mednick said.

“I was surprised by the specificity of the results, that the emotional memory improvement was specifically for the negative and high-arousal memories, and the ramifications of these results for people with anxiety disorders and PTSD,” she remarked. “These are people who already have heightened memory for negative and high-arousal memories. Sleep drugs might be improving their memories for things they don’t want to remember.”

The study, published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, has implications for people suffering from insomnia related to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other anxiety disorders, and who are also prescribed zolpidem as a sleep aid.

Currently, the U.S. Air Force uses zolpidem as one of the prescribed “no-go pills” to help flight crews calm down after using stimulants to stay awake during long missions, the researchers noted in the study.

“In light of the present results, it would be worthwhile to investigate whether the administration of benzodiazepine-like drugs may be increasing the retention of highly arousing and negative memories, which would have a countertherapeutic effect,” they wrote. “Further research on the relationship between hypnotics and emotional mood disorders would seem to be in order.”

Source: University of California, Riverside

Dec 22

Study Reveals the Wandering Mind Behind Insomnia


By Janice Wood
Study Reveals the Wandering Mind Behind InsomniaA new brain imaging study may help explain why people with insomnia often struggle to concentrate during the day.

“We found that insomnia subjects did not properly turn on brain regions critical to a working memory task and did not turn off ‘mind-wandering’ brain regions irrelevant to the task,” said Sean P.A. Drummond, Ph.D., an associate professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego and secretary/treasurer of the Sleep Research Society.

“Based on these results, it is not surprising that someone with insomnia would feel like they are working harder to do the same job as a healthy sleeper.”

A research team led by Drummond and co-principal investigator Matthew Walker, Ph.D., studied 25 people with primary insomnia and 25 good sleepers. While most often insomnia occurs with another disorder, such as depression or chronic pain, primary insomnia is defined as a difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep in the absence of another condition, the researchers explain.

The study participants, who had an average age of 32, underwent a functional magnetic resonance imaging scan while performing a working memory task.

The study’s findings, published in the journal Sleep, show that participants with insomnia did not differ from good sleepers in objective cognitive performance on the task.

However, the MRI scans revealed that people with insomnia could not modulate activity in brain regions typically used to perform the task, according to the researchers.

As the task got harder, good sleepers used more resources within the working memory network of the brain, especially the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the study found. Those with insomnia, however, were unable to recruit more resources in these brain regions.

As the task got harder, those with insomnia did not dial down the “default mode” regions of the brain that are normally only active when our minds are wandering, the researchers noted.

“The data help us understand that people with insomnia not only have trouble sleeping at night, but their brains are not functioning as efficiently during the day,” said Drummond.

“Some aspects of insomnia are as much of a daytime problem as a nighttime problem. These daytime problems are associated with organic, measurable abnormalities of brain activity, giving us a biological marker for treatment success.”

Source: The American Academy of Sleep Medicine

Dec 13

Short Sleepers May Catch More Colds


By Roni Caryn Rabin
Want to avoid catching a cold this winter? Start by getting more than six hours of sleep a night.

In what may be the first study of this kind, researchers say they found that adults who sleep less than five or six hours a night are four times more likely to catch a cold than than those who get at least seven or more hours of sleep.

“Sleep plays a role in regulating the immune system, and that’s how we think it influences susceptibility to the common cold,” said Aric A. Prather, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, who is the lead author of the study, published this week in the journal Sleep.

Previous research had suggested a link between less sleep and higher vulnerability to colds, but that study relied on subjects self-reporting the number of hours they slept. The new study was the first to measure actual sleep. To do so, the researchers used a technique called wrist actigraphy, which uses a watchlike device with an accelerometer that measures movement and inactivity and which, when combined with sleep diaries, provides a more accurate accounting of sleep.

“This study reinforces the notion that sleep is just as important to your health as diet and exercise,” said Dr. Nathaniel F. Watson, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “People need to view sleep as a tool to achieve a healthy life, rather than as something that interferes with all their other activities.”

Many Americans don’t get enough sleep; a 2013 survey by the National Sleep Foundation said that one in five adults gets less than six hours of sleep on an average work night.

Poor sleep has been linked to numerous chronic illnesses, and new guidelines issued this year by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society urge adults to get seven or more hours of sleep per night on a regular basis to promote optimal health.

The guidelines say that sleeping less than seven hours per night is associated with weight gain, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and stroke, depression and premature death, as well as “impaired immune function, increased pain, impaired performance, increased errors and greater risk of accidents.”

The new study recruited 164 men and women aged 18 to 55 from the Pittsburgh area between 2007 and 2011, and put them through extensive health screenings, questionnaires and interviews to determine their levels of stress, their general temperament and their use of alcohol and tobacco. Then the researchers measured the subjects’ normal sleep habits for a week, before sequestering them in a hotel and deliberately administering them nasal drops containing the cold virus.

The volunteers were monitored for a week and daily mucus samples were collected to see if they had become infected.

Those who slept less than six hours a night the week before the exposure were 4.2 times more likely to catch the cold compared with those who got more than seven hours of sleep, researchers found. Those who slept less than five hours a night were 4.5 times more likely to catch the cold. (Those who slept just over six hours but less than seven weren’t at increased risk.)

It didn’t seem to matter whether the sleep was continuous or fragmented, Dr. Prather said. The results were adjusted to control for differences among subjects, including pre-existing antibody levels to the rhinovirus, age, sex, race, body mass index, the time of year when the trial was done, education, income, health habits such as smoking and physical activity, and psychological variables such as stress.

“The good thing about this is that there are opportunities for people to improve their sleep, and most people admit they need more and want more,” Dr. Prather said, adding, “it’s just about looking at the barriers and making it a priority.”

Oct 31

Interrupted Sleep Tied to Cranky Mood


By Janice Wood

A new study has found that awakening several times throughout the night is more detrimental to people’s positive moods than getting the same shortened amount of sleep without interruption.

For the study, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine recruited 62 healthy men and women and randomly subjected them to three experimental sleep conditions in an inpatient clinical research suite: Three consecutive nights of either forced awakenings, delayed bedtimes, or uninterrupted sleep.

The volunteers subjected to eight forced awakenings and those with delayed bedtimes showed similar low positive mood and high negative mood after the first night, as measured by a standard mood assessment questionnaire administered before bedtimes. The questionnaire asked the volunteers to rate how strongly they felt a variety of positive and negative emotions, such as cheerfulness or anger.

Those similarities ended after the second night, according to the researchers.

The forced awakening group had a reduction of 31 percent in positive mood, while the delayed bedtime group had a decline of 12 percent compared to the first day.

Researchers add they did not find significant differences in negative mood between the two groups on any of the three days, which suggests that sleep fragmentation is especially detrimental to positive mood.

“When your sleep is disrupted throughout the night, you don’t have the opportunity to progress through the sleep stages to get the amount of slow-wave sleep that is key to the feeling of restoration,” explained lead author Patrick Finan, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Frequent awakenings throughout the night are common among new parents and on-call health care workers, he says. It is also one of the most common symptoms among people with insomnia, who make up an estimated 10 percent of the U.S. adult population.

“Many individuals with insomnia achieve sleep in fits and starts throughout the night, and they don’t have the experience of restorative sleep,” Finan said.

Depressed mood is a common symptom of insomnia, but the biological reasons for this are poorly understood, according to Finan.

To investigate the link, he and his team used a test called polysomnography to monitor certain brain and body functions while volunteers were sleeping to assess sleep stages.

Compared with the delayed bedtime group, the forced awakening group had shorter periods of deep, slow-wave sleep. The lack of sufficient slow-wave sleep had a statistically significant association with the volunteers’ reduction in positive mood, the researchers said.

They also found that interrupted sleep affected different domains of positive mood. For example, it not only reduced energy levels, but also feelings of sympathy and friendliness.

The study also suggests that the effects of interrupted sleep on positive mood can be cumulative, since the group differences emerged after the second night and continued the day after the third night of the study, according to Finan.

“You can imagine the hard time people with chronic sleep disorders have after repeatedly not reaching deep sleep,” he said.

He notes that further studies are needed to learn more about sleep stages in people with insomnia and the role played by a night of recovering sleep.

The study was published in the journal Sleep.

Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine

Jun 7

Sleep Benefits Memory Even After Brain Injury


By Janice Wood

After a concussion, a person can be left with disturbed sleep, memory deficits and other cognitive problems for years, but a new study shows that sleep can still help them overcome memory deficits.

According to researcher Rebecca Spencer, Ph.D., at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the benefit is equivalent to that seen in individuals without a history of mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), also known as concussion.

Spencer, with graduate student Janna Mantua and undergraduates Keenan Mahan and Owen Henry, found that individuals who had sustained a mild TBI more than a year earlier had greater recall in a word memorization task after they had slept.

“It is interesting to note that despite having atypical or disturbed sleep architecture, people in our study had intact sleep-dependent memory consolidation,” she said. “Supporting opportunities to sleep following a concussion may be an important factor in recovery from cognitive impairments. The changes in sleep architecture we observed are in an optimal direction, that is, more rich, slow wave sleep and less light or Stage 1 sleep, (which) is a shift in the positive direction.”

The researchers did notice differences in sleep in the participants who had a concussion. They spent a significantly greater part of the night in deep, slow-wave sleep, a sleep stage where memories are replayed and consolidated to long-term storage. However, their memory and recall ability was not significantly different from the participants who had not suffered a concussion, the researchers noted.

“Overall, sleep composition is altered following TBI, but such deficits do not yield insufficiencies in sleep-dependent memory consolidation,” the researchers wrote in the study.

For the study, researchers recruited 26 young adults 18 to 22 years old with a history of diagnosed TBI an average three to four years earlier, and 30 people with no history of brain injury. All slept more than six hours a night, took few naps, drank moderate amounts of coffee and alcohol, and had no neurological disorders other than participants who had a TBI, the researchers reported.

Participants learned a list of word pairs and their memory for them was assessed 12 hours later. Half in each group learned the word pairs in the morning and their memory was tested in the evening, while half were tested in the evening and their memory was tested in the morning after sleep.

Sleep stages were identified by polysomnography, attaching a set of electrodes to the head for physiological recordings during sleep.

While slow wave sleep was greater in those with a TBI, they also had less non-REM stage 1 sleep, a form of very light sleep seen during the wake-to-sleep transition, according to the study’s findings. This suggests that those with a concussion history can reach deep sleep sooner and get more of it, the researchers said.

For both those with a history of concussion and those without, recall was better following sleep than being awake in the daytime, according to the study’s findings.

“We know this is not just a matter of the time of day we tested them at as they were able to learn equally regardless of whether we taught them the task in the morning or the evening,” Spencer said.

Source: University of Massachusetts Amherst

Mar 17

Power Naps Help Your Brain Retain New Information


By TRACI PEDERSEN Associate News Editor

Taking a brief nap after studying — instead of participating in other activities — can significantly increase retention of the information just learned, according to a new study at Saarland University.

“Even a short sleep lasting 45 to 60 minutes produces a five-fold improvement in information retrieval from memory,” says Professor Axel Mecklinger, Ph.D.

“The control group, whose members watched DVDs while the other group slept, performed significantly worse than the nap group when it came to remembering the word pairs. The memory performance of the participants who had a power nap was just as good as it was before sleeping, that is, immediately after completing the learning phase.”

During the study, the researchers focused mostly on the role of the hippocampus, the part of the brain where memories are consolidated. In the hippocampus, previously learned information is transferred into long-term memory storage.

“We examined a particular type of brain activity, known as ‘sleep spindles,’ that plays an important role in memory consolidation during sleep,” explains Sara Studte, a graduate biologist specializing in neuropsychology. A sleep spindle is a short burst of rapid oscillations in the electroencephalogram (EEG).

The greater the number of sleep spindles in a person’s brain, the better he or she will remember newly acquired information. New information is essentially given a label, making it easier to recall that information at some later time.

“We suspect that certain types of memory content, particularly information that was previously tagged, is preferentially consolidated during this type of brain activity,” says Mecklinger.

In an effort to rule out the possibility that the study subjects only recall the learned items due to a feeling of familiarity, the researchers used the following trick: participants were asked to learn not only 90 single words, but also 120 word pairs, in which the word pairs were essentially meaningless.

“A word pair might, for example, be ‘milk-taxi.’ Familiarity is of no use here when participants try to remember this word pair, because they have never heard this particular word combination before and it is essentially without meaning. They therefore need to access the specific memory of the corresponding episode in the hippocampus,” said Mecklinger.

“A short nap at the office or in school is enough to significantly improve learning success. Wherever people are in a learning environment, we should think seriously about the positive effects of sleep.”

Feb 24

Link between Chronic Insomnia and Mortality


By RICK NAUERT PHD Senior News Editor

Researchers have identified an association between persistent insomnia and increased inflammation and mortality.

Scientists from the University of Arizona found that people who suffer from persistent insomnia are at greater risk of death than those who experience intermittent insomnia.

Their study has been published in The American Journal of Medicine.

Experts say that although about 20 percent of U.S. adults are affected by insomnia, only half (10 percent) suffer from persistent (or chronic) insomnia.

“We hypothesized that insomnia that was persistent over eight years, rather than intermittent insomnia, was associated with death independent of the effects of sedatives, opportunity for sleep (to distinguish it from sleep deprivation), and other confounding factors in a representative sample of the general adult community,” explained lead investigator Sairam Parthasarathy, M.D., associate professor of medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Tucson.

“An enhanced understanding of the association between persistence of insomnia and death would inform treatment of the ‘at-risk’ population.”

Researchers found that after adjusting for various factors such as age, sex, body weight, smoking, hypnotics, and physical activity — subjects with persistent insomnia were 58 percent more likely to die during the study than subjects with no insomnia.

The findings held for mortality that was cardiovascular — rather than cancer-related. The study also determined that serum levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), an independent risk factor for mortality, was higher in subjects with persistent insomnia.

Intermittent insomnia also appeared to be associated with mortality although statistical adjustments for factors such as body mass index, smoking status, and regular physical activity, showed that excess risk was not present.

In the research, investigators assessed the persistence of insomnia complaints in 1409 adult participants from the Tucson Epidemiological Study of Airway Obstructive Disease (TESAOD).

The study commenced in 1972 with multiple follow-up surveys to 1996 and continuous mortality follow-up data to 2011 for a total of 38 years. Blood was collected and serum samples cryopreserved at baseline in 1972 and subsequently at multiple time points.

Questions about sleep and related habits were inserted in the two surveys completed between 1984 and 1985 and between 1990 and 1992.

The persistence of insomnia was assessed based upon whether insomnia was present in both the 1984-1985 and 1990-1992 surveys (persistent insomnia), in either but not both (intermittent insomnia), or in neither of the two surveys (never insomnia).

The level of C-reactive protein (CRP), which can be measured in your blood, increases when there’s inflammation in your body. Many believe increased levels of inflammation (an increased CRP) is associated with increased risk of coronary artery disease, stroke or heart attack.

In the study, researchers found that serum CRP levels increased significantly only in the persistent-insomnia group.

In those subjects where CRP data was available, persistent insomnia was associated with a 58 percent increased mortality risk (after adjustments for confounding factors).

CRP levels are themselves associated with increased mortality, but even after adjusting for that factor, the mortality risk remained at 36 percent for subjects with persistent insomnia.

Source: Elsevier/EurekAlert

Nov 16

Using Sound to Enhance Deep Sleep, Memory


By TRACI PEDERSEN Associate News Editor

Using sound that matches a person’s particular brain activity during sleep may be able to enhance that individual’s quality of deep sleep, and as a result, benefit metabolism and cognition, according to new research by a graduate student at Northwestern Medicine.

“Sleep deprivation, particularly of deep sleep, has been linked to poor cardio-metabolic functioning as well as problems in cognition,” said Nelly Papalambros, a third-year graduate student at Northwestern University’s Interdepartmental Neuroscience Ph.D. Program.

“There have been attempts at improving deep sleep with moderate success, but these approaches many times have unwanted side effects.”

The sound stimulation is personalized through an algorithm developed by Giovanni Santostasi, Ph.D. The algorithm reads a person’s specific EEG frequencies, or brain activity, and matches the bursts of sound during certain phases of slow wave sleep. The sound is pink noise, much like soft static or humming.

“The algorithm is unique because it can be customized to a specific person, older people have less slow wave sleep and the amplitude of their slow waves is smaller, so it allows you to hone in on that specific person for optimal stimulation,” Papalambros said.

For the study, patients with elevated risk of cardiovascular disease stayed overnight at an inpatient sleep research clinic to get a baseline measure of their physiological data, including insulin, blood glucose, hormone, and inflammation levels and information regarding their sleep patterns.

“We are seeing if the sound stimulation has acute effects on their health, but I think this is something that people could need to use over weeks or months to see any long lasting change. The hope is that this is an intervention for people with metabolic problems,” Papalambros said.

Spectral analysis was used to measure delta waves, which occur during deep sleep. Papalambros took note of any changes in the power of the waves with and without sound stimulation. The findings showed that in young people, sound does enhance deep sleep, and it may also have a positive effect on older adults.

Papalambros also studied whether enhancing deep sleep might improve cognition or memory. Before and after participants fell asleep, they were given a word pair test. Similar to the metabolism study, participants came into the clinic for nights with and without sound stimulation.

“Instead of extending the amount of sleep you get, these studies are more about the quality of sleep you get. If we can enhance sleep then hopefully we can improve metabolic function and cognition,” Papalambros said.

“Sound is non-invasive and, in theory, this method could be used as a clinical method or even adapted to a smart phone.”

Source: Northwestern Medicine

Reports of insomnia are common among the elderly, but a new study finds that sleep problems may stem from the quality of rest and other health concerns more than the overall amount of sleep that patients get.

An estimated 30 percent of adults report having some symptoms of insomnia, which includes difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up too early and then not feeling well rested during the daytime. Prior studies suggest that nearly half of older adults report at least one insomnia symptom and that lack of restorative sleep might be linked to heart disease, falls, and declines in cognitive and daytime functioning.

The new study found discrepancies between self-reported insomnia and outcomes recorded on a sleep-monitoring device. Older adults’ perception of sleep does not always match what’s actually happening when a more objective assessment is used to monitor sleep patterns and behaviors.

A study, published online by Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, used data from 727 participants in the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project who were randomly invited to participate in an “Activity and Sleep Study.” The activity and sleep study had two components: a self-administered sleep booklet, which included questions about the person’s sleep experience, (e.g., “how often do you feel really rested when you wake up in the morning?”) and 72-hours of wrist actigraphy, which is a wristwatch-like sensor that monitors sleep patterns and movements.

An author on the study, Linda Waite, the University of Chicago Lucy Flower Professor in Urban Sociology and the director of the Center on Aging at NORC at UChicago, said the researchers wanted to objectively evaluate several aspects of older adults’ sleep characteristics, which is why they used the actigraphs in addition to the survey questions.

“Older adults may complain of waking up too early and not feeling rested despite accumulating substantial hours of sleep,” Waite said.

The actigraph measurements showed that most of the older adults got sufficient amounts of sleep.

Even though reported sleep problems are common among older individuals, according to the survey only about 13 percent of older adults in the study said that they rarely or never feel rested when waking up in the morning. About 12 percent reported often having trouble falling asleep, 30 percent indicated they regularly had problems with waking up during the night and 13 percent reported problems with waking up too early and not being able to fall asleep again most of the time.

The actigraph provided data that showed the average duration of sleep period among the study participants was 7.9 hours and the average total sleep time was 7.25 hours. Waite said this indicates that the majority of older adults are getting the recommended amount of sleep and usually not having common sleep problems.

One other unexpected finding for the researchers was that respondents who reported waking up more frequently during the night had more total sleep time. “This suggests that a question about feeling rested may tap into other aspects of older adults’ everyday health or psychological experience,” said Waite.

“Our findings suggest that reports of what seem like specific sleep problems from survey questions may be more accurately viewed as indicators of general problems or dissatisfaction with sleep that may be due to other issues in their lives affecting their overall well-being. These survey questions and actigraphy may measure different aspects of sleep experience.”

Joining Waite as one of the co-authors on the study was Martha McClintock, the David Lee Shillinglaw Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology and the College; Ronald Thisted, professor of health studies and statistics; and colleagues from the University of Missouri and Stanford University School of Medicine. The study was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Aging.

Oct 8

This is exactly how much sleep you need


Scientists make a direct link between work absence and lack of sleep
By QuentinFottrell

How much sleep do you get every night? Studies show that most people try to muddle by on less than seven hours, but new research claims to have found the exact amount of time we need.

Men need 7.8 hours per night and women need 7.6 hours, according to a study that tracked 3,760 people over seven years and published in the September issue of the journal Sleep. They cross-referenced data on work absence due to illness from Finland’s Social Insurance Institution with sleep disturbances and sickness absence of the study’s participants, who were examined by physicians. After adjusting for age, education, working conditions, health behaviors and mental health, the scientists calculated the “optimal sleep duration.”

Sleep experts say the results are particularly relevant in the U.S., where 40% of people get less than seven hours of sleep a night, according to a 2013 Gallup poll. Americans, on average, had what’s now regarded as the optimal amount of sleep in the 1940s (7.9 hours per night), but that’s fallen to 6.8 hours in 2013. Americans aged 65 and older report getting the most sleep (67% get 7 or more hours per night) while only 54% of 18- to 29-year-olds and less than half of 18- to 29-year-olds report getting 7 or more hours.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends between 7 and 9 hours per night, but Nathaniel Watson, president of the American Board of Sleep Medicine, says people are getting less sleep in part because of their increasing reliance on technology. “We generally recommend that people have a period where they wind down before they go to sleep,” he says. “When people are interacting with technology, not only are they interrupting with that wind down period, but they’re being stimulated by blue wavelengths of light, which further makes sleeping difficult.”

What’s more, studies show that people overestimate the amount of time they sleep by around 45 minutes, says James Maas, former chairman of the Department of Psychology at Cornell University who is widely credited with coining the term “power nap”. “Sometimes, you’re going to toss and turn before you fall asleep,” he says. “It’s hard to know accurately the quantity without measuring brainwaves. You can be in bed for eight or nine hours and have a bad sleep.” Bad dreams don’t help, he adds. “Your blood pressure may go up. Nightmares can be exhausting, mentally and physically.”

People experiencing sleep insufficiency are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity, plus cancer, increased mortality, and reduced quality of life, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Simon Rego, director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, says each person has a unique sleep requirement.

“A simple definition for sufficient sleep is a sleep duration that is followed by a spontaneous awakening and leaves the person feeling refreshed and alert for the day,” he says.

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