HealthMedicine 11

How lonely you are may impact how well you sleep

November 2, 2011
Science Daily/American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Study of adults in tight-knit South Dakota community shows lonely feelings associated with compromised sleep -- that is, the stronger the loneliness, the more disruptions during the night, with potentially negative consequences on wellness. Results agree with 2002 study of college students, indicating that individuals young and old, in big towns and small, need to feel secure in their social setting to get a healthy night's rest.

"It's not just a product of very lonely individuals having poor sleep. The relationship between loneliness and restless sleep appears to operate across the range of perceived connectedness," said lead author Lianne Kurina, PhD, of the Department of Health Studies at the University of Chicago.

"Loneliness has been associated with adverse effects on health," Kurina said. "We wanted to explore one potential pathway for this, the theory that sleep -- a key behavior to staying healthy -- could be compromised by feelings of loneliness. What we found was that loneliness does not appear to change the total amount of sleep in individuals, but awakens them more times during the night."

"Whether you're a young student at a major university or an older adult living in a rural community, we may all be dependent on feeling secure in our social environment in order to sleep soundly," Kurina said. "The results from these studies could further our understanding of how social and psychological factors 'get under the skin' and affect health."
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111101095302.htm

 

Dreaming takes the sting out of painful memories

November 27, 2011
Science Daily/University of California - Berkeley
They say time heals all wounds, and new research indicates that time spent in dream sleep can help. Researchers have found that during the dream phase of sleep, also known as REM sleep, our stress chemistry shuts down and the brain processes emotional experiences and takes the painful edge off difficult memories.

UC Berkeley researchers have found that during the dream phase of sleep, also known as REM sleep, our stress chemistry shuts down and the brain processes emotional experiences and takes the edge off difficult memories.

The findings offer a compelling explanation for why people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), such as war veterans, have a hard time recovering from distressing experiences and suffer reoccurring nightmares. They also offer clues into why we dream.

"The dream stage of sleep, based on its unique neurochemical composition, provides us with a form of overnight therapy, a soothing balm that removes the sharp edges from the prior day's emotional experiences," said Matthew Walker, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at UC Berkeley and senior author of the study to be published on Nov. 23, in the journal Current Biology.

For people with PTSD, Walker said, this overnight therapy may not be working effectively, so when a "flashback is triggered by, say, a car backfiring, they relive the whole visceral experience once again because the emotion has not been properly stripped away from the memory during sleep."

The results offer some of the first insights into the emotional function of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, which typically takes up 20 percent of a healthy human's sleeping hours. Previous brain studies indicate that sleep patterns are disrupted in people with mood disorders such as PTSD and depression.

"We know that during REM sleep there is a sharp decrease in levels of norepinephrine, a brain chemical associated with stress," Walker said. "By reprocessing previous emotional experiences in this neuro-chemically safe environment of low norepinephrine during REM sleep, we wake up the next day, and those experiences have been softened in their emotional strength. We feel better about them, we feel we can cope."

Walker said he was tipped off to the possible beneficial effects of REM sleep on PTSD patients when a physician at a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in the Seattle area told him of a blood pressure drug that was inadvertently preventing reoccurring nightmares in PTSD patients.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111123133346.htm

 

Brain Rhythm Predicts Real-Time Sleep Stability

Mar. 7, 2011 —
Science Daily/Massachusetts General Hospital
A new study finds that a brain rhythm considered the hallmark of wakefulness not only persists inconspicuously during sleep but also signifies an individual's vulnerability to disturbance by the outside world. In their report in the March 3 PLoS One, the team from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Division of Sleep Medicine uses computerized EEG signal processing to detect subtle fluctuations in the alpha rhythm during sleep and shows that greater alpha intensity is associated with increased sleep fragility. The findings could lead to more precise approaches to inducing and supporting sleep.

"We found that the alpha rhythm is not just a marker of the transition between sleep and wakefulness but carries rich information about sleep stability," says Scott McKinney, informatics manager at the MGH Sleep Lab and lead author of the study. "This suggests that sleep -- rather than proceeding in discrete stages -- actually moves along a continuum of depth. It also opens the door to real-time tracking of sleep states and creates the potential for sleep-induction systems that interface directly with the brain."

One of numerous neuroelectrical signals produced by the brain and detected by electroencephalography (EEG), the alpha rhythm was first discovered nearly a century ago. Typically generated when the brain is relaxed but awake, the alpha rhythm fades as consciousness recedes and seems to disappear when sleep begins. However, a mathematical technique called spectral analysis, which quantifies the elemental oscillations that make up complicated signals, reveals that fluctuations in the alpha rhythm persist during sleep at levels that cannot be detected by visual inspection of an EEG.

Since alpha activity is associated with both wakefulness and receptiveness to sensory signals, the researchers hypothesized that it also could indicate a sleeper's sensitivity to environmental stimuli. To test this hypothesis, they monitored EEG rhythms in 13 healthy volunteers who spent three nights in the MGH Sleep Lab. At frequent intervals through each night the volunteers were exposed to 10 seconds of typical background noises like traffic or a ringing telephone. The sounds were repeated at successively louder levels until the EEG reflected that sleep had been disturbed.

Spectral analysis of the EEG measurements revealed that the strength of the alpha signal predicted how easily volunteers could be disturbed at the moment the measurement was taken, with a more intense alpha signal associated with more delicate sleep. The predictive power of alpha activity persisted for up to four minutes after the initial measurement, and the association was seen during both stage 2 and stage 3 non-REM sleep but not during REM sleep.

"We've found a quantitative measure that discloses sleep's momentary fragility," McKinney explains. "This technology may someday allow the development of adaptive sleep-inducing agents that can be guided by real-time feedback from neural activity -- a great enhancement over conventional sleep drugs that act like sledgehammers, inducing a blanket sedation throughout the brain for an entire night."

Jeffrey Ellenbogen, MD, chief of the MGH Division of Sleep Medicine and senior author of the PLoS One report adds, "This finding paves the way toward futuristic sleep treatments in which medication or other therapies are delivered moment-to-moment, only when needed, to protect sleep when the brain is most vulnerable but otherwise let natural brain rhythms run their course. Learning more about the mechanism behind this association between the alpha rhythm and sleep fragility should lead to an even greater understanding of the factors that maintain sleep's integrity in the face of noise and other nuisances."
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110303184107.htm

 

New 'Chemical Pathway' in the Brain for Stress: Breakthrough Offers Hope for Targeted Treatment of Stress-Related Disorders

Apr. 20, 2011 —
Science Daily/University of Leicester
A team of neuroscientists at the University of Leicester, UK, in collaboration with researchers from Poland and Japan, has announced a breakthrough in the understanding of the 'brain chemistry' that triggers our response to highly stressful and traumatic events.

The study found that the emotional centre of the brain -- the amygdala -- reacts to stress by increasing production of a protein called neuropsin. This triggers a series of chemical events which in turn cause the amygdala to increase its activity. As a consequence, a gene is turned on that determines the stress response at a cellular level.

"However when the proteins produced by the amygdala were blocked -- either pharmacologically or by gene therapy -- the mice did not exhibit the same traits. The behavioural consequences of stress were no longer present. We conclude that the activity of neuropsin and its partners may determine vulnerability to stress."
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110420143614.htm

Sleep Deprivation in Doctors

May 24, 2011 —
Science Daily/Canadian Medical Association Journal
Sleep deprivation is an issue that affects practising physicians and not only medical residents, and we need to establish standards for maximum work and minimum uninterrupted sleep to ensure patient safety, states an editorial in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

A recent study indicated that lack of sleep can result in higher rates of surgical complications if a surgeon had less than six hours of sleep the preceding night. Doctors practising post-call may not be at optimal levels as fatigue can effect mental acuity. "We doctors ourselves are part of this problem," write the authors. "We need to shift our professional culture. Long periods on call should not be accepted as routine or a source of pride."
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110524124041.htm

 

The Good Life: Good Sleepers Have Better Quality of Life and Less Depression

June 15, 2011 —
Science Daily/American Academy of Sleep Medicine
People with a "normal" sleep duration of six to nine hours per night had higher self-reported scores for quality of life and lower scores for depression severity compared to short and long sleepers. Among patients who reported having perfect health, there were a higher percentage of normal sleepers, who also had significantly lower scores for depression severity compared to short and long sleepers with perfect health. Data were analyzed from 10,654 patient records.

Getting six to nine hours of sleep per night is associated with higher ratings for quality of life and lower ratings for depression, suggests a research abstract that will be presented on June 14, in Minneapolis, Minn., at Sleep 2011, the 25th Anniversary Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC (APSS).

Results show that people with a "normal" sleep duration of six to nine hours per night had higher self-reported scores for quality of life and lower scores for depression severity compared to short and long sleepers. These differences were statistically significant in all comparisons. Among patients who reported having perfect health, there were a higher percentage of normal sleepers, who also had significantly lower scores for depression severity compared to short and long sleepers with perfect health.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110614101120.htm

Exposure to 'white' light LEDs appears to suppress body's production of melatonin more than certain other lights

September 12, 2011
Science Daily/University of Haifa
Exposure to the light of 'white' LED bulbs appears to suppress melatonin five times more than exposure to the light of high pressure sodium bulbs that give off an orange-yellow light, according to new research.

"White" light bulbs that emit light at shorter wavelengths are greater suppressors of the body's production of melatonin than bulbs emitting orange-yellow light, a new international study has revealed. Melatonin is a compound that adjusts our biological clock and is known for its anti-oxidant and anti-cancerous properties.

The study investigated the influence of different types of bulbs on "light pollution" and the suppression of melatonin, with the researchers recommending several steps that should be taken to balance the need to save energy and protecting public health.

The fact that "white" artificial light (which is actually blue light on the spectrum, emitted at wavelengths of between 440-500 nanometers) suppresses the production of melatonin in the brain's pineal gland is already known. Also known is the fact that suppressing the production of melatonin, which is responsible, among other things, for the regulation of our biological clock, causes behavior disruptions and health problems.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110912092554.htm

 

Listening to music can be effective for reducing pain in high-anxiety persons

January 9, 2012
Science Daily/American Pain Society
Distraction is a proven pain reliever, and a new study reported in The Journal of Pain concludes that listening to music can be effective for reducing pain in high-anxiety persons who can easily become absorbed in cognitive activities.

Researchers from the University of Utah Pain Research Center evaluated the potential benefits of music for diverting psychological responses to experimental pain stimuli. They hypothesized that music may divert cognitive focus from pain. If true, the key to successful pain control from this method would be the degree of engagement by the patient in the diversion task.

One hundred forty-three subjects were evaluated for the study. They were instructed to listen to music tracks, follow the melodies, and identify deviant tones. During the music tasks, they were given safe, experimental pain shocks with fingertip electrodes.

The findings showed that central arousal from the pain stimuli reliably decreased with the increasing music-task demand. Music helps reduce pain by activating sensory pathways that compete with pain pathways, stimulating emotional responses, and engaging cognitive attention. Music, therefore, provided meaningful intellectual and emotional engagement to help reduce pain.

Among the study subjects, those with high levels of anxiety about pain had the greatest net engagement, which contradicted the authors' initial hypothesis that anxiety would interfere with a subject's ability to become absorbed in the music listening task. They noted that low anxiety actually may have diminished the ability to engage in the task.

The findings suggest that engaging activities like music listening can be effective for reducing pain in high anxiety persons who can easily become absorbed in activities. They noted that interaction of anxiety and absorption is a new finding and implies that these personality characteristics should be considered when recommending engagement strategies for pain relief.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120105161750.htm

 

Low vitamin D levels linked to depression

January 9, 2012
Science Daily/UT Southwestern Medical Center
Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to depression, according to psychiatrists.

"Our findings suggest that screening for vitamin D levels in depressed patients -- and perhaps screening for depression in people with low vitamin D levels -- might be useful," said Dr. E. Sherwood Brown, professor of psychiatry and senior author of the study, done in conjunction with The Cooper Institute in Dallas. "But we don't have enough information yet to recommend going out and taking supplements."

Vitamin D levels are now commonly tested during routine physical exams, and they already are accepted as risk factors for a number of other medical problems: autoimmune diseases; heart and vascular disease; infectious diseases; osteoporosis; obesity; diabetes; certain cancers; and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, multiple sclerosis, and general cognitive decline.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120105131645.htm

 

Treatment With Light Benefits Alzheimer's Patients

Jan. 11, 2012

Science Daily/Wayne State University - Office of the Vice President for Research

In a study published recently in the Western Journal of Nursing Research, LuAnn Nowak Etcher, Ph.D., assistant professor of nursing, reported that patients treated with blue-green light were perceived by their caregivers as having improved global functioning.

Caregivers said patients receiving the treatment seemed more awake and alert, were more verbally competent and showed improved recognition, recollection and motor coordination. They also said patients seemed to recapture their personalities and were more engaged with their environment. Patients' moods also were described as improved.

Etcher's work is inspired by her interest in a phenomenon known as "sundowning," when Alzheimer's patients sleep during the day, wake up later and may be up all night long. Part of her doctoral research was to utilize light, a common intervention for circadian disorders, to regulate the rest-activity patterns of women with Alzheimer's.

This study, Etcher said, was an effort to address disagreement among researchers on the effect of therapeutic light in regulating rest-activity patterns in Alzheimer's patients. The study involved 20 women older than age 65 with Alzheimer's dementia from nursing homes in southeast Michigan. Each patient was assigned randomly to an experimental group receiving blue-green light treatments or a control group receiving dim red light.

A commercially available visor used to treat seasonal affective disorder and jet lag was used to administer the light to patients. Caregivers -- patients' family members and nursing facility personnel -- were not told which type of light was hypothesized to have physiologic effects.

Although blue-green light recipients comprised the active experimental group, Etcher said she was surprised when some recipients of red light -- the placebo group -- also were reported as showing improvements, with caregivers saying their patients were calmer and had reduced resistance to care.

The level of effects varied, Etcher said, noting that while the blue-green group recipients were largely reported by caregivers as showing improvement, a few showed little to no effect from the treatments.

"Some of the rest-activity pattern disruptions that we see associated with Alzheimer's dementia may not necessarily be circadian based," Etcher said. "They may be due to unmet needs, pain or other phenomena, and therefore would not respond to an intervention aimed at regulation of the circadian system."

Calling her study preliminary, she said it now needs to be replicated with a larger sample and different demographics.

In addition to ascertaining which behaviors are circadian based, establishing which methods are most appropriate to analyze data like Etcher's requires exploration, she said. She is proposing further work that uses two different nonlinear analytic methods to examine sensitivity and specificity to detect change in circadian patterns, with a long-term goal of developing interventions to regulate those patterns to the benefit of patients' overall function.

"If they sleep better at night, and are more awake during the day, they can eat, they can interact with other people and they can take advantage of other cueing agents in the environment," she said. "In addition to light during daytime and darkness during the nighttime, smells at mealtimes, food intake, interactions -- all these things in conjunction help regulate our day."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120111154126.htm

Hyperactivity in Brain May Explain Multiple Symptoms of Depression

Feb. 27, 2012 —
Science Daily/University of California - Los Angeles

https://www.sciencedaily.com/images/2012/02/120227162656_1_540x360.jpg
Brain hyperactivity. Maps showing the difference in the strength of brain connections between depressed subjects (left) and controls (right). Depressed subjects show much stronger connections, as evidenced by red colors in their maps.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of California - Los Angeles

Most of us know what it means when it's said that someone is depressed. But commonly, true clinical depression brings with it a number of other symptoms. These can include anxiety, poor attention and concentration, memory issues, and sleep disturbances.

Traditionally, depression researchers have sought to identify the individual brain areas responsible for causing these symptoms. But the combination of so many symptoms suggested to UCLA researchers that the multiple symptoms of depression may be linked to a malfunction involving brain networks -- the connections that link different brain regions.

Now, for the first time, these UCLA researchers have shown that people with depression have increased connections among most brain areas. Indeed, their brains are widely hyperconnected. The report, published this week in the online journal PLoS ONE, sheds new light on the brain dysfunction that causes depression and its wide array of symptoms.

"The brain must be able to regulate its connections to function properly," said the study's first author, Dr. Andrew Leuchter, a professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA. "The brain must be able to first synchronize, and then later desynchronize, different areas in order to react, regulate mood, learn and solve problems."

The depressed brain, Leuchter said, maintains its ability to form functional connections but loses the ability to turn these connections off.

"This inability to control how brain areas work together may help explain some of the symptoms in depression," he said.

In the study, the largest of its kind, the researchers studied the functional connections of the brain in 121 adults diagnosed with major depressive disorder, or MDD. They measured the synchronization of electrical signals from the brain -- brain waves -- to study networks among the different brain regions.

While some previous studies have hinted at abnormal patterns of connections in MDD, the UCLA team used a new method called "weighted network analysis" to examine overall brain connections. They found that the depressed subjects showed increased synchronization across all frequencies of electrical activity, indicating dysfunction in many different brain networks.

Brain rhythms in some of these networks regulate the release of serotonin and other brain chemicals that help control mood, said Leuchter, who is also the director of UCLA's Laboratory of Brain, Behavior, and Pharmacology and chair of the UCLA Academic Senate.

"The area of the brain that showed the greatest degree of abnormal connections was the prefrontal cortex, which is heavily involved in regulating mood and solving problems," he said. "When brain systems lose their flexibility in controlling connections, they may not be able to adapt to change.

"So an important question is, to what extent do abnormal rhythms drive the abnormal brain chemistry that we see in depression? We have known for some time that antidepressant medications alter the electrical rhythms of the brain at the same time that levels of brain chemicals like serotonin are changing. It is possible that a primary effect of antidepressant treatment is to 'repair' the brain's electrical connections and that normalizing brain connectivity is a key step in recovery from depression. That will be the next step in our research."
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120227162656.htm

 

REM Sleep Disorder Doubles Risk of Mild Cognitive Impairment, Parkinson's

Mar. 13, 2012 —
Science Daily/Mayo Clinic
People with symptoms suggesting rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder, or RBD, have twice the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or Parkinson's disease within four years of diagnosis with the sleep problem, compared with people without the disorder, a Mayo Clinic study has found.

One of the hallmarks of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is a state of paralysis. In contrast, people with rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder, appear to act out their dreams when they are in REM sleep. Researchers used the Mayo Sleep Questionnaire to diagnose probable RBD in people who were otherwise neurologically normal. Approximately 34 percent of people diagnosed with probable RBD developed MCI or Parkinson's disease within four years of entering the study, a rate 2.2 times greater than those with normal rapid eye movement sleep.

"Understanding that certain patients are at greater risk for MCI or Parkinson's disease will allow for early intervention, which is vital in the case of such disorders that destroy brain cells. Although we are still searching for effective treatments, our best chance of success is to identify and treat these disorders early, before cell death," says co-author Brad Boeve, M.D., a Mayo Clinic neurologist.

Previous studies of Mayo Clinic patients have shown that an estimated 45 percent of people who suffer from RBD will develop a neurodegenerative syndrome such as mild cognitive impairment or Parkinson's disease within five years of diagnosis.

RBD, MCI and Parkinson's Disease

"This study is the first to quantify the risk associated with probable RBD in average people, not clinical patients, and it shows that we can predict the onset of some neurodegenerative disorders simply by asking a few critical questions," says lead author Brendon P. Boot, M.D., a behavioral neurologist. Dr. Boot was at Mayo Clinic when the study was conducted. He is now at Harvard University.

•    MCI is an intermediate stage between the expected cognitive decline of normal aging and the more pronounced decline of dementia. It involves problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment that are greater than typical age-related changes.

•    An estimated 500,000 Americans suffer from Parkinson's disease, which is characterized by tremor or shakiness, stiffness of the limbs and trunk, slowness of movement, and impaired balance and coordination.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120314101240.htm

 

Circadian Rhythms Have Profound Influence On Metabolic Output

Mar. 19, 2012

Science Daily/University of California - Irvine

By analyzing the hundreds of metabolic products present in the liver, researchers with the UC Irvine Center for Epigenetics & Metabolism have discovered that circadian rhythms -- our own body clock -- greatly control the production of such key building blocks as amino acids, carbohydrates and lipids.

They identified more than 600 liver-originated metabolites, which are the chemical substances created by metabolism that sustain and promote cell health and growth. Approximately 60 percent of these metabolites were found to be dependent on the endogenous circadian clock -- many more than expected, as only about 15 percent of the body's genes are regulated by it.

Circadian rhythms over 24 hours govern fundamental biological and physiological processes in almost all organisms. They anticipate environmental changes and adapt certain bodily functions to the appropriate time of day. Disruption of these cycles can seriously affect human health.

Center for Epigenetics & Metabolism director Paolo Sassone-Corsi, lead author on the study and one of the world's preeminent researchers on circadian rhythms, said the liver metabolites reveal how the body clock -- through the main circadian gene, CLOCK -- orchestrates the interplay between metabolites and signaling proteins in much the same way a conductor leads a symphony.

"Metabolites and signaling proteins -- like the horns and strings in an orchestra -- need to be perfectly coordinated, and we've found that CLOCK provides that direction," he said.

Since external cues such as day-night lighting patterns and nutrition influence the circadian machinery, metabolites and their relationship to signaling proteins in cells seem to be acutely tied to circadian disruptions. This may help explain, Sassone-Corsi added, some of the primary physiological factors underlying obesity, high cholesterol and metabolic-based diseases like diabetes.

"This interplay has far-reaching implications for human illness and aging, and it is likely vital for proper metabolism," he said. Study results appear this week in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"By identifying the relationship between metabolites and the body clock, we have taken a first step toward a better understanding of how nutrients interact with our metabolism, giving researchers a new opportunity to spot the optimal times for us to get the fullest benefits from the foods we eat and the medications we take," added Kristin Eckel-Mahan, a UCI postdoctoral researcher in biological chemistry and study co-author.

Working with Metabolon Inc., Sassone-Corsi and Eckel-Mahan created the first liver metabolome -- the full set of metabolites. With this information, they partnered with Pierre Baldi, director of UCI's Institute for Genomics & Bioinformatics, and his graduate student Vishal Patel to analyze the data and build CircadiOmics, a Web-based data system that provides detailed profiles of the metabolites and related genes in the liver and the underlying networks through which they interact.

"Within CircadiOmics, we were able to integrate this circadian metabolite data with multiple other data sources to generate the first comprehensive map of the liver metabolome and its circadian oscillations and develop regulatory hypotheses that have been confirmed in the laboratory," said Baldi, Chancellor's Professor of computer science. "CircadiOmics is being expanded with metabolic data about other tissues and conditions and will be invaluable to further our understanding of the interplay between metabolism and circadian rhythms in healthy and diseased states."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120319163803.htm

Scientists Redraw the Blueprint of the Body's Biological Clock

Apr. 5, 2012

Science Daily/Salk Institute for Biological Studies

The discovery of a major gear in the biological clock that tells the body when to sleep and metabolize food may lead to new drugs to treat sleep problems and metabolic disorders, including diabetes.

"This fundamentally changes our knowledge about the workings of the circadian clock and how it orchestrates our sleep-wake cycles, when we eat and even the times our bodies metabolize nutrients," says Evans. "Nuclear receptors can be targeted with drugs, which suggests we might be able to target REV-ERBα and β to treat disorders of sleep and metabolism."

Nurses, emergency personnel and others who work shifts that alter the normal 24-hour cycle of waking and sleeping are at much higher risk for a number of diseases, including metabolic disorders such as diabetes.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120405224456.htm

Less Sleep, Disrupted Internal 24-Hour Clock: Higher Risk of Diabetes and Obesity

Apr. 11, 2012 —
Science Daily/Brigham and Women's Hospital
A study by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) reinforces the finding that too little sleep or sleep patterns that are inconsistent with our body's "internal biological clock" may lead to increased risk of diabetes and obesity. This finding has been seen in short-term lab studies and when observing human subjects via epidemiological studies. However, unlike epidemiological studies, this new study provides support by examining humans in a controlled lab environment over a prolonged period, and altering the timing of sleep, mimicking shift work or recurrent jet lag.

The researchers saw that prolonged sleep restriction with simultaneous circadian disruption decreased the participants' resting metabolic rate. Moreover, during this period, glucose concentrations in the blood increased after meals, because of poor insulin secretion by the pancreas.

According to the researchers, a decreased resting metabolic rate could translate into a yearly weight gain of over 10 pounds if diet and activity are unchanged. Increased glucose concentration and poor insulin secretion could lead to an increased risk for diabetes.

"We think these results support the findings from studies showing that, in people with a pre-diabetic condition, shift workers who stay awake at night are much more likely to progress to full-on diabetes than day workers," said Orfeu M. Buxton, PhD, BWH neuroscientist and lead study author. "Since night workers often have a hard time sleeping during the day, they can face both circadian disruption working at night and insufficient sleep during the day. The evidence is clear that getting enough sleep is important for health, and that sleep should be at night for best effect."
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120411144316.htm

Role of Impaired Sleep in Fibromyalgia Pain Explored

Apr. 23, 2012

Science Daily/American Pain Society

Patients coping with the complex pain disorder fibromyalgia often have difficulty sleeping, and a new study published in The Journal of Pain reports that despite the negative quality of life implications, poor sleep is not a significant predictor of fibromyalgia pain intensity and duration.

 

Many fibromyalgia patients complain about poor sleep, and studies have shown that interrupted sleep experienced by individuals with other pain conditions is predictive of next day clinical pain. Also, sleep duration has been shown to predict clinical pain in healthy adults. For this study, a research team from the University of Florida hypothesized that decreased total sleep time would predict higher clinical pain in a sample of patients with fibromyalgia.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120423103724.htm

 

Intense Light Prevents, Treats Heart Attacks, Study Suggests

Apr. 25, 2012 —
Science Daily/University of Colorado Denver

https://www.sciencedaily.com/images/2012/04/120425143641_1_540x360.jpg
Strong light, or even just daylight, might ease the risk of having a heart attack or suffering damage from one.
Credit: © Iakov Kalinin / Fotolia

There are lots of ways physicians might treat a patient after a heart attack -- certain resuscitation methods, aspirin, clot-busters and more. Now University of Colorado medical school researchers have found a new candidate: Intense light.

"The study suggests that strong light, or even just daylight, might ease the risk of having a heart attack or suffering damage from one," says Tobias Eckle, MD, PhD, an associate professor of anesthesiology, cardiology, and cell and developmental biology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. "For patients, this could mean that daylight exposure inside of the hospital could reduce the damage that is caused by a heart attack."
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120425143641.htm

 

Change in Attitude May Ease Chronic Pain by Aiding Sleep, Study Suggests

Apr. 26, 2012 —
Science Daily/Johns Hopkins Medicine
Chronic pain sufferers who learn to dwell less on their ailments may sleep better and experience less day-to-day pain, according to results of research conducted on 214 people with chronic face and jaw pain.

"We have found that people who ruminate about their pain and have more negative thoughts about their pain don't sleep as well, and the result is they feel more pain," says Luis F. Buenaver, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the leader of a study published online in the journal Pain. "If cognitive behavioral therapy can help people change the way they think about their pain, they might end that vicious cycle and feel better without sleeping pills or pain medicine."

Buenaver and his colleagues say the study highlights the function of a major neurological pathway linking negative thinking about pain to increased pain through disturbed sleep. Buenaver says roughly 80 percent of people with chronic pain experience sleep disturbances, and previous studies have shown that people whose sleep patterns are altered are more sensitive to pain. It is also known, he says, that those who focus frequently on their pain and think more negatively about their pain report more debilitating pain. Such "pain catastrophizing," he adds, has been found to be a more robust predictor of worse pain and pain-related disability than depression, anxiety or neuroticism.

For the study, researchers recruited 214 people with myofascial temporomandibular disorder, or TMD, serious facial and jaw pain believed to be stress-related in many cases. The participants were mostly white and female, with an average age of 34 years. Each participant underwent a dental exam to confirm TMD, then filled out questionnaires assessing sleep quality, depression, pain levels and emotional responses to pain, including whether they ruminate or exaggerate it.

Researchers found a direct correlation between negative thinking about pain and poor sleep, as well as with worse pain in the TMD patients.

Buenaver says sleeping pills and painkillers can help, but these pain patients may benefit just as much, if not more, from cognitive behavioral therapy. He says the same may be true of people who suffer from other stress-related ailments without a clear underlying pathology, including fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and some headaches, neck and back pain.

"It may sound simple, but you can change the way you feel by changing the way you think," Buenaver said.

He and his colleagues currently are studying whether older adults with arthritis and insomnia can benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia.

The research is supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120426104343.htm

 

Some Adults With Sleep Disturbances Are Actually Afraid of the Dark

June 11, 2012

Science Daily/American Academy of Sleep Medicine

A small study of Toronto college students is shedding light on a contributing factor of insomnia that might be hard to admit -- an adult fear of the dark.

Nearly half of the students who reported having poor sleep also reported a fear of the dark. Researchers confirmed this objectively by measuring blink responses to sudden noise bursts in light and dark surroundings. Good sleepers became accustomed to the noise bursts but the poor sleepers grew more anticipatory when the lights were down.

"The poor sleepers were more easily startled in the dark compared with the good sleepers," said Taryn Moss, the study's lead author. "As treatment providers, we assume that poor sleepers become tense when the lights go out because they associate the bed with being unable to sleep. Now we're wondering how many people actually have an active and untreated phobia."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120611092343.htm

Top Risk of Stroke for Normal-Weight Adults: Getting Under 6 Hours of Sleep

June 11, 2012 —
Science Daily/American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Habitually sleeping less than six hours a night significantly increases the risk of stroke symptoms among middle-age to older adults who are of normal weight and at low risk for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), according to a study of 5,666 people followed for up to three years.

The participants had no history of stroke, transient ischemic attack, stroke symptoms or high risk for OSA at the start of the study, being presented June 11 at SLEEP 2012. Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham recorded the first stroke symptoms, along with demographic information, stroke risk factors, depression symptoms and various health behaviors.

After adjusting for body-mass index (BMI), they found a strong association with daily sleep periods of less than six hours and a greater incidence of stroke symptoms for middle-age to older adults, even beyond other risk factors. The study found no association between short sleep periods and stroke symptoms among overweight and obese participants.

"In employed middle-aged to older adults, relatively free of major risk factors for stroke such as obesity and sleep-disordered breathing, short sleep duration may exact its own negative influence on stroke development," said lead author Megan Ruiter, PhD. "We speculate that short sleep duration is a precursor to other traditional stroke risk factors, and once these traditional stroke risk factors are present, then perhaps they become stronger risk factors than sleep duration alone."

Further research may support the results, providing a strong argument for increasing physician and public awareness of the impact of sleep as a risk factor for stroke symptoms, especially among persons who appear to have few or no traditional risk factors for stroke, she said.

"Sleep and sleep-related behaviors are highly modifiable with cognitive-behavioral therapy approaches and/or pharmaceutical interventions," Ruiter said. "These results may serve as a preliminary basis for using sleep treatments to prevent the development of stroke."

Ruiter and colleagues collected their data as part of the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study, led by George Howard, PhD, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health. REGARDS enrolled 30,239 people ages 45 and older between January 2003 and October 2007, and is continuing to follow them for health changes. The study is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120611092341.htm

 

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