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By ANAHAD O'CONNOR Many people occasionally wake up in the middle of the night and find themselves unable to get back to sleep. But if it happens often, and you are consistently tired and not functioning well during the day, that is indicative of a problem, said Dr. Meir H. Kryger, a professor at Yale School of Medicine and the author of “The iGuide to Sleep.” Stressful events, a loud pet or a snoring bedmate may be to blame, or the problem could be a medical issue such as a cough, sleep apnea or getting up to urinate — which could be a sign of diabetes. Dr. Kryger said he has had patients who are stirred awake by the sensation of their heart beating rapidly because of a cardiac rhythm problem. Worrying about being awake only makes the problem worse. “We see that in patients who’ve had insomnia for a while,” Dr. Kryger said. “They wake up and become so angry, frustrated and aroused that they can’t fall asleep.” In some cases better habits can help. Nicotine or alcohol levels fall during sleep and can cause people to awaken, so quitting smoking or avoiding alcoholic beverages, especially before bedtime, can help. Steer clear of heavy or spicy meals before trying to sleep if heartburn or acid reflux is keeping you up. You may be tempted to nap during the day to compensate for lost sleep time, but this can just prolong the problem, Dr. Kryger said. Avoid taking naps that are longer than 20 minutes, particularly in the evening. If you wake up at night and find that you still cannot get back to asleep after 20 minutes, do not lie there in anguish staring at your clock. Get out of bed and do something that distracts and relaxes you, like reading a book. Then return to bed when you feel sleepy. © 2014 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 19276 - Posted: 02.22.2014

By Caitlin Kirkwood Glorious, refreshing sleep is eluding the majority of Americans. According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2013 International Bedroom Poll 56 percent of people between the ages of 25 and 55 get an insufficient amount of sleep on workdays. On non-workdays individuals are then more likely to oversleep. They spend an additional 45 minutes catching Z’s in an attempt to compensate for accrued workweek sleep debt. Why are we constantly playing sleep-catch up during free time? As a society we are socially jet lagged. Social jet lag is the difference betweensleep patterns on work days and free days. These inconsistent sleeping habits result in sleep loss that is reminiscent of flying west across several time zones every Friday evening and traveling back East come Monday morning. The pattern reveals a critical disparity between society-imposed obligations, like work and family commitments, and our innate biological clock. Social jet lag might not sound like a big deal. What’s an hour or two of sleep lost here and there? But the chronic misalignment between our social and biological clocks is wreaking havoc on our health. Large-scale epidemiological studies have pointed a finger at short sleep duration for it’s causative role in the nationwide obesity crisis. When you get too little sleep, normal levels of appetite hormones are altered in a way that could lead to increased food consumption and weight gain. Unfortunately for people struggling with social jet lag, short sleep duration comes with the territory of the workweek. Some data even suggest that for every hour the biological clock is offset from the social clock, the chances of being overweight shoot-up by a whopping 33 percent. And supersizing the body mass index isn’t the only problem. Social jet lag has also been linked to the increased likelihood of nicotine and alcohol use, which independently contribute to additional health problems. © 2014 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 19240 - Posted: 02.12.2014

Posted by Maria Konnikova On a typical workday morning, if you’re like most people, you don’t wake up naturally. Instead, the ring of an alarm clock probably jerks you out of sleep. Depending on when you went to bed, what day of the week it is, and how deeply you were sleeping, you may not understand where you are, or why there’s an infernal chiming sound. Then you throw out your arm and hit the snooze button, silencing the noise for at least a few moments. Just another couple of minutes, you think. Then maybe a few minutes more. It may seem like you’re giving yourself a few extra minutes to collect your thoughts. But what you’re actually doing is making the wake-up process more difficult and drawn out. If you manage to drift off again, you are likely plunging your brain back into the beginning of the sleep cycle, which is the worst point to be woken up—and the harder we feel it is for us to wake up, the worse we think we’ve slept. (Ian Parker wrote about the development of a new drug for insomnia in the magazine last week.) One of the consequences of waking up suddenly, and too early, is a phenomenon called sleep inertia. First given a name in 1976, sleep inertia refers to that period between waking and being fully awake when you feel groggy. The more abruptly you are awakened, the more severe the sleep inertia. While we may feel that we wake up quickly enough, transitioning easily between sleep mode and awake mode, the process is in reality far more gradual. Our brain-stem arousal systems (the parts of the brain responsible for basic physiological functioning) are activated almost instantly. But our cortical regions, especially the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain involved in decision-making and self-control), take longer to come on board. © 2013 Condé Nast.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 19211 - Posted: 02.06.2014

|By Roni Jacobson There is nothing like a good night's sleep to help you feel your best the next day. Now scientists are finding that good sleep habits may do more than restore cognitive function on a nightly basis—they may also fortify the brain over the long term, according to a new study in the Journal of Neuroscience. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison found that during sleep, activity ramps up in genes that are involved in producing oligodendrocytes—brain cells responsible for coating neurons with myelin. Myelin is the brain's insulating material. The fatty substance surrounds the signal-transmitting tail that extends from every neuron, enabling electrical communications to travel quickly and efficiently to other neurons. Myelin deficiency is at the root of the neurodegenerative disease multiple sclerosis and can contribute to symptoms such as fatigue, vision and hearing impairment, and a loss of coordination. In this study, sleeping mice had heightened activity in the genes responsible for creating oligodendrocytes, but awake or sleep-deprived rodents showed greater activity in genes involved in cellular stress and death. Chiara Cirelli, a neuroscientist and author on the paper, suggests that sleep helps cells regenerate and repair themselves, by enabling the body to produce new myelin after it has deteriorated. Cellular repair probably takes weeks or even months, however, so pulling an occasional all-nighter is unlikely to disrupt the process. © 2014 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 19185 - Posted: 01.30.2014

By MARIA KONNIKOVA SLEEP seems like a perfectly fine waste of time. Why would our bodies evolve to spend close to one-third of our lives completely out of it, when we could instead be doing something useful or exciting? Something that would, as an added bonus, be less likely to get us killed back when we were sleeping on the savanna? “Sleep is such a dangerous thing to do, when you’re out in the wild,” Maiken Nedergaard, a Danish biologist who has been leading research into sleep function at the University of Rochester’s medical school, told me. “It has to have a basic evolutional function. Otherwise it would have been eliminated.” We’ve known for some time that sleep is essential for forming and consolidating memories and that it plays a central role in the formation of new neuronal connections and the pruning of old ones. But that hardly seems enough to risk death-by-leopard-in-the-night. “If sleep was just to remember what you did yesterday, that wouldn’t be important enough,” Dr. Nedergaard explains. In a series of new studies, published this fall in the journal Science, the Nedergaard lab may at last be shedding light on just what it is that would be important enough. Sleep, it turns out, may play a crucial role in our brain’s physiological maintenance. As your body sleeps, your brain is quite actively playing the part of mental janitor: It’s clearing out all of the junk that has accumulated as a result of your daily thinking. Recall what happens to your body during exercise. You start off full of energy, but soon enough your breathing turns uneven, your muscles tire, and your stamina runs its course. What’s happening internally is that your body isn’t able to deliver oxygen quickly enough to each muscle that needs it and instead creates needed energy anaerobically. And while that process allows you to keep on going, a side effect is the accumulation of toxic byproducts in your muscle cells. Those byproducts are cleared out by the body’s lymphatic system, allowing you to resume normal function without any permanent damage. © 2014 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 19123 - Posted: 01.13.2014

By CATHERINE SAINT LOUIS The standard treatment for people with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea is a mask worn at night that helps them breathe without interruption. The mask is unwieldy and uncomfortable, however; one study found that46 percent to 83 percent of patients with obstructive sleep apnea do not wear it diligently. Now scientists may have found an alternative, at least for some patients: a pacemaker-like device implanted in the chest that stimulates a nerve in the jaw, helping to keep part of the upper airway open. The device, called a neurostimulator, helped reduce breathing interruptions and raise blood oxygen levels in about two-thirds of sleep apnea patients participating in a trial, researchers reported on Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine. “This is a new paradigm of surgical treatment that seems to effectively control obstructive sleep apnea in selected patients,” said Dr. Sean M. Caples, a sleep specialist in the division of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. “It’s very exciting.” Still, Dr. Caples, who was not involved in the new study, noted that “a third of patients were not improved when all was said and done,” even though they were chosen because they were seen as likely to benefit. The new trial was funded by the maker of the device, Inspire Medical Systems. At 22 sites internationally, in 126 patients, doctors surgically implanted a remote-controlled neurostimulator that, activated at night, sends regular electric impulses to a nerve inside the jaw. The impulses cause the tongue to move forward during inhalation, opening the airway. Copyright 2014 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 19120 - Posted: 01.11.2014

The maker of a type of sleeping pill is lowering the dose to minimize the risk of next-day drowsiness. The drug, Sublinox, has been associated in the past with abnormal sleep behaviours. In late 2011, Meda Valeant Pharma Canada warned that some people taking the drug had reported getting out of bed while not fully awake and performing activities they were unaware of doing. Those activities including driving a car, eating and making phone calls The drug company has lowered the recommended initial dose to five milligrams for women and either five or 10 milligrams for men. The drug company says Sublinox should be taken immediately before bedtime, when the user will have the opportunity to get at least seven or eight hours of sleep. People aged 65 and older should use the five-milligram dose, regardless of gender, the company says. Meda Valeant Pharma Canada issued the new advice in conjunction with Health Canada. Long-term use not recommended The advisory says women metabolize the drug more slowly than men, and therefore have a higher chance of experiencing next-day drowsiness. Sublinox — the brand name for the drug zolpidem — is a hypnotic. As with all drugs of this class, long-term use is not recommended. It should not be taken in the middle of the night or at any time other than bedtime, the statement says. © CBC 2014

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming; Chapter 18: Attention and Higher Cognition
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep; Chapter 14: Attention and Consciousness
Link ID: 19094 - Posted: 01.04.2014

By Rafael Pelayo, M.D. Perhaps nowhere else does modern neuroscience and psychiatry merge as naturally as in a discussion of sleep disorders. Sleep and dreams are at the core of the mystery (and wonderment) of the relationship between the brain and the mind. Seeking an understanding of sleep has been influential in the development of our culture. As we trace its history, we can also look forward to the advances in the field of sleep medicine that are yet to come. In prehistoric societies, attempts to understand the imagery of nighttime dreams and nightmares might have given rise to concepts of the spiritual world and religion. In medieval times, the phenomena of sleep paralysis, night terrors, and sleepwalking may have been interpreted as supernatural events. Three hundred years ago the recurring nighttime afflictions of restless leg syndrome were thought to be a curse until Dr. Thomas Willis (famed for recognizing the blood supply to the brain, now called the Circle of Willis) accurately described it as a neurological disease. In the late 19th century sleep was viewed as a passive state which occurred in the absence of brain stimulation. Thomas Edison even thought that the invention of the light bulb would allow us to avoid sleeping. The interest of a young neurologist named Sigmund Freud in sleep and dreams opened a new chapter in psychiatry. Years later, a medical student named William Dement was interested in finding a neurological basis to understand Freud's dream theories. In 1952, Dement helped discover the relationship between rapid eye movements in sleep as measured by an electroencephalogram (EEG) and dream recall. © 2014 TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 19093 - Posted: 01.04.2014

One night of sleep deprivation can increase the levels of molecules that are biomarkers for brain damage, according to a new study out of Sweden. The study, conducted by researchers from Uppsala University's Department of Neuroscience and published in the journal Sleep, looked at levels of two types of brain molecules. These molecules typically rise in the blood under conditions resulting in brain damage or distress. An increase in levels of the molecules can be measured after everything from sports injuries to the head and carbon monoxide poisoning, to sleep apnea and fetal distress after childbirth. Researchers measured the levels of NSE and S-100B in the blood of 15 healthy young men who were sleep-deprived for one night, and found morning serum levels of the molecules increased by about 20 per cent compared with values obtained after a night of sleep. "The blood concentration of both biomarkers was elevated after sleep loss. This makes it unlikely that our results were caused by chance," lead researcher Christian Benedict said. He said the results indicate a lack of sleep may promote "neurodegenerative processes. "In conclusion, the findings of our trial indicate that a good night's sleep may be critical for maintaining brain health," he said. © CBC 2014

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 19085 - Posted: 01.02.2014

By Gary Stix Is sleep good for everything? Scientists hate giving unqualified answers. But the more sleep researchers look, the more the answer seems to be tending toward a resounding affirmative. The slumbering brain plays an essential role in learning and memory, one of the findings that sleep researchers have reinforced repeatedly in recent years. But that’s not all. There’s a growing recognition that sleep appears to be involved in regulating basic metabolic processes and even in mental health. Robert Stickgold, a leading sleep researcher based at Harvard Medical School, gives a précis here of the current state of sommeil as it relates to memory, schizophrenia, depression, diabetes—and he even explains what naps are good for. How far have we come in understanding sleep? Although we understood the function of every other basic drive 2,000 years ago, we are still struggling to figure out what the biological functions of sleep are. One of the clearest messages now is that for every two hours humans spend awake during the day, the brain needs an hour offline to process the information it takes in and figure out what to save and what to dump and how to file and what it all means. So what is sleep for? Memories are processed during sleep. But sleep doesn’t have just one function. It’s a little bit like listening to tongue researchers arguing about whether the function of the tongue has to do with taste or speech. And you want to say: ‘Guys, c’mon, it’s both.’ There’s very good evidence now that sleep, besides helping memory, has a role in immune and endocrine functions. There’s a lot of talk about to what extent the obesity epidemic is actually a consequence of too little sleep. © 2013 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming; Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep; Chapter 12: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavioral Disorders
Link ID: 19061 - Posted: 12.21.2013

By Sanaz Majd MD Scientific American presents House Call Doctor by Quick & Dirty Tips. Scientific American and Quick & Dirty Tips are both Macmillan companies. Have you been told by your spouse that you “fidget” in the middle of the night? Or have you noticed your legs or feet may have a mind of their own when you’re trying to fall asleep? Do you have an urge to move your legs a lot at bedtime? You may very well be one of the many people who remain undiagnosed with the condition called Restless Legs Syndrome, or RLS. For those who have never experienced RLS, it may seem like a very odd and peculiar phenomenon. But if you’ve ever had these symptoms, you may be surprised to learn that this is an actual medical condition. Maybe you’ve already mentioned it to your doctor, or maybe you never realized it was real until now. Either way, let’s find out more about Restless Legs Syndrome and how it’s treated. What Is RLS? I’ve actually discussed RLS in a previous episode on insomnia, and you may want to revisit that episode before moving on to this one. But in a nutshell, here are the symptoms that up to 10% of the American population are estimated to be suffering from: © 2013 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 19026 - Posted: 12.12.2013

By Jill U. Adams, Every morning I am greeted by Facebook friends complaining of sleepless nights or awakenings. I know the feeling — as do many other Americans. In a 2005 survey of 1,506 Americans by the National Sleep Foundation, 54 percent reported at least one symptom of insomnia — difficulty falling asleep, waking a lot during the night, waking up too early or waking up feeling unrefreshed — at least a few nights a week over the previous year. Thirty-three percent said they had experienced symptoms almost every night. If insomnia visited me that often, I’d be tempted to pick up something at the pharmacy — something easy, something safe, something that didn’t involve making a doctor’s appointment. Indeed, 10 to 20 percent of Americans take over-the-counter sleep aids each year, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. The way they’re marketed, over-the-counter sleep aids sound very appealing: The new product ZzzQuil (yes, from the maker of NyQuil) promises “a beautiful night’s sleep;” an ad says you’ll “fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer” after using Unisom. Companies marketing the herb valerian root and the hormone melatonin as over-the-counter sleep aids make similar claims. But what’s the evidence that supports these claims? “It’s quite lean,” says Andrew Krystal, who directs the sleep research program at Duke University. Over-the-counter sleep aids work differently from prescription drugs for insomnia. Most are simply antihistamines in sheep’s clothing. (Yes, that’s a joke.) The majority of them — ZzzQuil, TylenolPM and Unisom SleepGels — contain diphenhydramine as the active ingredient, the same compound in Benadryl. (Unisom SleepTabs use doxylamine, another antihistamine.) © 1996-2013 The Washington Post

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 18973 - Posted: 11.26.2013

By Joss Fong Sleep is such a large feature of our lives that it’s easy to forget how utterly weird it is. Every night, if we’re lucky, our brain cells switch into a synchronized pattern, putting our lives and minds on hold for hours. Sleep scientists have yet to fully explain why we spend a third of our lives in this state, let alone why we use some of that time wandering through vivid, nonsensical and sometimes upsetting hallucinations. A recent study in Science suggests that sleep may serve to wash the brain of harmful waste products that build up during the day. Medical researchers observed an increased flow of cerebrospinal fluid in mice that were sleeping or anesthetized. This fluid carries away waste proteins, including one linked to Alzheimer’s disease. The findings join other theories on the function of sleep, some of which I discuss above, in our latest Instant Egghead video. © 2013 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 18878 - Posted: 11.06.2013

By Consumer Reports, You wake up tired after a full night’s sleep. Maybe you’ve become a bit forgetful, and you struggle to stay awake at work or behind the wheel. The problem might be obstructive sleep apnea, an often overlooked condition that has increased sharply in the past 20 years. In the United States, more than 40 percent of men and 28 percent of women between the ages of 50 and 70 experience obstructed breathing while asleep, according to researchers whose work was published online in April by the American Journal of Epidemiology. About 17 percent of the men and 9 percent of the women have cases serious enough to meet the Medicare criteria for a sleep apnea diagnosis. But even milder cases can affect your health. Obstructive sleep apnea causes the muscles and tissues in the lower throat to collapse, blocking the flow of air to the lungs during sleep. A person with obstructive sleep apnea may stop breathing, typically for 20 to 25 seconds or for as long as two minutes. The amount of carbon dioxide in the blood rises, triggering an alarm in the brain that stirs the sleeper to resume breathing. That cycle can repeat itself dozens of times an hour throughout the night, preventing the sleeper from reaching the restorative stages of deep sleep. Upon awakening, he or she usually has no recollection of those events. Overweight men are the most frequently affected because they tend to have a throat with bulkier soft tissue and fat deposits, but women and people of normal weight also develop sleep apnea. Loud snoring can be a warning sign, especially if you learn from a bed partner or roommate that you gasp for breath or choke while you are asleep. High blood pressure and heart-rhythm abnormalities are also red flags, especially if you take antihypertensive medication and still have trouble keeping blood pressure under control. Waking up with a headache may also signal the condition. © 1996-2013 The Washington Post

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 18820 - Posted: 10.22.2013

by Tina Hesman Saey Sleep hoses garbage out of the brain, a study of mice finds. The trash, including pieces of proteins that cause Alzheimer’s disease, piles up while the rodents are awake. Sleep opens spigots that bathe the brain in fluids and wash away the potentially toxic buildup, researchers report in the Oct. 18 Science. The discovery may finally reveal why sleep seems mandatory for every animal. It may also shed new light on the causes of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. “It’s really an eye-opening and intriguing finding,” says Chiara Cirelli, a sleep researcher at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The results have already led her and other sleep scientists to rethink some of their own findings. Although sleep requirements vary from individual to individual and across species, a complete lack of it is deadly. But no one knows why. One popular idea is that sleep severs weak connections between brain cells and strengthens more robust connections to solidify memories (SN Online: 4/2/09; SN Online: 6/23/11). But a good memory is not a biological imperative. “You don’t die from forgetting what you learned yesterday,” says Maiken Nedergaard, a neuroscientist at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York who led the study. Researchers in Nedergaard’s lab stumbled upon sleep’s role in garbage clearance while studying a brain drainage system they described last year (SN: 9/22/12, p. 15). This service, called the glymphatic system, flushes fluid from the brain and spinal cord into the space between brain cells. Ultimately, the fluid and any debris it carries washes into the liver for disposal. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2013

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming; Chapter 17: Learning and Memory
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18813 - Posted: 10.19.2013

by Laura Sanders After Baby V joined our team, one of the first things people would ask is, “Are you getting any sleep?” (The answer was, and is, no.) The recurring question highlights how sorely lacking sleep is for new parents. Capitalism noticed us tired parents, too: Countless products beckon exhausted families with promises of eight, 10, even 12 hours of blissful, uninterrupted sleep. You can buy special swaddles, white noise machines, swings that sway like a moving car and books upon books that whisper contradictory secrets of how to get your baby to sleep through the night. (If you don’t have time to read them all, mother-of-twins Ava Neyer helpfully breaks down all of the advice for you.) As the owner of a stack of such books, I was intrigued by this recent review: “Behavioral sleep interventions in the first six months of life do not improve outcomes for mothers or infants: A systematic review.” Excuse me? The Sleep Sheep, the Baby Whisperer and the Sleep Lady lied to me? At the behest of the United Kingdom’s National Institute for Health Research, Australians Pamela Douglas and Peter Hill combed through the existing scientific literature on sleep interventions looking for benefits. These interventions included delaying responses to infant cues (also known by its cold-hearted name of “crying it out”), sticking to a feeding or sleeping schedule and other ways that aim to teach a baby how to fall asleep without the need to eat or be held. After analyzing 43 studies on infant sleep interventions, the team concluded that these methods weren’t beneficial for babies younger than six months, or their mothers. The studies didn’t convincingly show that interventions curb infant crying, prevent sleep or behavioral problems later or protect against maternal depression, Douglas and Hill write in the September Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2013.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18778 - Posted: 10.12.2013

by Andy Coghlan Swifts are said to spend most of their lives airborne, but no one has ever proved this. Now, a study suggests there's some truth to it: alpine swifts spend more than six consecutive months aloft, not even resting after migrating to north Africa following their breeding season in Europe. "Up to now, such long-lasting locomotive activity had been reported only for animals living in the sea," says Felix Liechti of the Swiss Ornithological Institute in Sempach. Liechti and his colleagues attached 1.5-gram data loggers to three alpine swifts (Tachymarptis melba) at a Swiss breeding site, and recaptured the birds the following year. The loggers recorded the birds' acceleration and geographic location. The measurements suggest that for 200 days, all three swifts remained airborne while migrating to and wintering in Africa. Liechti says researchers have previously asserted but never proved that newborn common swifts spend three years aloft before landing for breeding. "Amazing, truly amazing," says Carsten Egevang of the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources in Nuuk of Liechti's findings. "We knew that swifts stay on the wing for long periods, but 200 days is very impressive." The birds survive on airborne plankton, and almost certainly sleep on the wing too, Liechti says. "It has been assumed that the birds 'sleep' only for seconds, or use only one half of the brain while the other half is resting," he says. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 18767 - Posted: 10.09.2013

Answer by Paul King, computational neuroscientist: The emerging view in neuroscience is that dreams are related to memory consolidation happening in the brain during sleep. This may include reorganizing and recoding memories in relation to emotional drives as well as transferring memories between brain regions. During the day, episodic memories (memories for events) are stored in the hippocampus, a region of the brain specialized for long-term memory that learns particularly quickly. At night, memories from this region appear to be transferred to the cerebral cortex, the region specialized for information processing, cognition, and knowledge. Studies in animals have found that during sleep, the neural activity of the hippocampus "replays" the events of the day. This replay happens faster than real-time, and sometimes happens in reverse. The activity replay is correlated with neural activity patterns in both the visual cortex (responsible for visual experience) and the prefrontal cortex (responsible for strategy, goals, and planning). The memory replay occurs during REM sleep and dreaming. Philosopher Daniel Dennett proposes the Dream Weaving party game: One person, the Dream Guesser is asked to leave the room, and while away, someone will share a dream with the group. When the Dream Guesser returns, their job will be to ask yes/no questions of random people in the group to attempt to reconstruct the plot of the dream. © 2013 The Slate Group, LLC.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 18744 - Posted: 10.05.2013

Few features of child-rearing occupy as much parental brain space as sleep, and with it the timeless question: Is my child getting enough? Despite the craving among many parents for more sleep in their offspring (and, by extension, themselves), the purpose that sleep serves in young kids remains something of a mystery—especially when it comes to daytime naps. Do they help children retain information, as overnight sleep has been found to do in adults? A study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides the first evidence that daytime sleep is critical for effective learning in young children. Psychologist Rebecca Spencer of the University of Massachusetts (UMass), Amherst, had more than a passing interest in the subject: Her daughters were 3 and 5 when she began chasing answers to these questions. She also wondered about growing enthusiasm for universal public preschool, where teachers don’t necessarily place much emphasis on naps. “There is a lot of science” about the best curriculum for preschool classrooms, “but nothing to protect the nap,” Spencer says. Still, data to support a nap’s usefulness were scarce: Studies in adults have found that sleep helps consolidate memories and learning, but whether the same is true of brief naps in the preschool set was unknown. So Spencer approached the first preschool she could think of that might help her find out: her daughters’. She later added other local preschools to her sample, for a total of 40 children ranging from nearly 3 to less than 6 years old. The goal of Spencer, her graduate student Laura Kurdziel, and undergraduate Kasey Duclos of Commonwealth Honors College at UMass, was to compare each child against him or herself: How well did a child learn when she napped, and what happened when she didn’t? © 2012 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming; Chapter 17: Learning and Memory
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18696 - Posted: 09.24.2013

By Laura Sanders A nap can ease the burden of a painful memory. While fast asleep, people learned that a previously scary situation was no longer threatening, scientists report September 22 in Nature Neuroscience. The results are the latest to show that sleep is a special state in which many sorts of learning can happen. And the particular sort of learning in the new study blunted a fear memory, a goal of treatments for disorders such as phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder. “It’s a remarkable finding,” says sleep neuroscientist Edward Pace-Schott of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. Researchers led by Katherina Hauner of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine first taught 15 (awake) volunteers to fear the combination of a face and odor. Participants saw a picture of a certain man’s face and at the same time smelled a distinctive scent, such as lemon. This face-odor combo was paired with a nasty shock, so that the volunteers quickly learned to expect something bad when they saw that particular face and smelled the associated odor. Then the volunteers tucked in for a nap in the laboratory. When the participants hit the deepest stage of sleep, called slow-wave sleep, Hauner and her colleagues redelivered the smell that had earlier come with a shock. During the nap, some participants had learned that the smell was safe. The volunteers sweated less (a measure of fear) when the face-odor combination appeared after the nap, the scientists found. When the odor wasn’t presented during sleep, volunteers’ responses to the associated face were unchanged. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2013

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming; Chapter 17: Learning and Memory
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18689 - Posted: 09.23.2013