Chapter 10. Biological Rhythms and Sleep

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By Carolyn Wilke Young jumping spiders dangle by a thread through the night, in a box, in a lab. Every so often, their legs curl and their spinnerets twitch — and the retinas of their eyes, visible through their translucent exoskeletons, shift back and forth. “What these spiders are doing seems to be resembling — very closely — REM sleep,” says Daniela Rößler, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Konstanz in Germany. During REM (which stands for rapid eye movement), a sleeping animal’s eyes dart about unpredictably, among other features. In people, REM is when most dreaming happens, particularly the most vivid dreams. Which leads to an intriguing question. If spiders have REM sleep, might dreams also unfold in their poppy-seed-size brains? Rößler and her colleagues reported on the retina-swiveling spiders in 2022. Training cameras on 34 spiders, they found that the creatures had brief REM-like spells about every 17 minutes. The eye-darting behavior was specific to these bouts: It didn’t happen at times in the night when the jumping spiders stirred, stretched, readjusted their silk lines or cleaned themselves with a brush of a leg. Though the spiders are motionless in the run-up to these REM-like bouts, the team hasn’t yet proved that they are sleeping. But if it turns out that they are — and if what looks like REM really is REM — dreaming is a distinct possibility, Rößler says. She finds it easy to imagine that jumping spiders, as highly visual animals, might benefit from dreams as a way to process information they took in during the day. Young jumping spiders have translucent skin. Behind their eyes, tube-shaped retinas move as the spiderlings look about. As shown in this sped-up video, researchers have also observed such retinal tube-shifting behavior in resting — possibly sleeping — spiders. In these intermittent, active bouts, the animals’ legs curl and their spinnerets twitch — suggesting that spiders may experience something like REM sleep. © 2023 Annual Reviews

Keyword: Sleep; Evolution
Link ID: 28896 - Posted: 09.07.2023

By Maria Temming When Christopher Mazurek realizes he’s dreaming, it’s always the small stuff that tips him off. The first time it happened, Mazurek was a freshman at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. In the dream, he found himself in a campus dining hall. It was winter, but Mazurek wasn’t wearing his favorite coat. “I realized that, OK, if I don’t have the coat, I must be dreaming,” Mazurek says. That epiphany rocked the dream like an earthquake. “Gravity shifted, and I was flung down a hallway that seemed to go on for miles,” he says. “My left arm disappeared, and then I woke up.” Most people rarely if ever realize that they’re dreaming while it’s happening, what’s known as lucid dreaming. But some enthusiasts have cultivated techniques to become self-aware in their sleep and even wrest some control over their dream selves and settings. Mazurek, 24, says that he’s gotten better at molding his lucid dreams since that first whirlwind experience, sometimes taking them as opportunities to try flying or say hi to deceased family members. Other lucid dreamers have used their personal virtual realities to plumb their subconscious minds for insights or feast on junk food without real-world consequences. But now, scientists have a new job for lucid dreamers: to explore their dreamscapes and report out in real time. Dream research has traditionally relied on reports collected after someone wakes up. But people often wake with only spotty, distorted memories of what they dreamed. The dreamers can’t say exactly when events occurred, and they certainly can’t tailor their dreams to specific scientific studies. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2023.

Keyword: Sleep; Consciousness
Link ID: 28891 - Posted: 08.30.2023

By Christina Caron About one in four adults in the United States develops symptoms of insomnia each year. In most cases, these are short-lived, caused by things like stress or illness. But one in 10 adults is estimated to have chronic insomnia, which means difficulty falling or staying asleep at least three times a week for three months or longer. Sleep deprivation doesn’t just create physical health problems, it can also harm our minds. A recent poll from the National Sleep Foundation, for example, found a link between poor sleep health and depressive symptoms. In addition, studies have shown that a lack of sleep can lead otherwise healthy people to experience anxiety and distress. Fortunately, there is a well-studied and proven treatment for insomnia that generally works in eight sessions or less: cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, or C.B.T.-I. If you cannot find a provider, C.B.T.-I. instruction is easy to access online. Yet it is rarely the first thing people try, said Aric Prather, a sleep researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, who treats patients with insomnia. Instead, they often turn to medication. According to a 2020 survey from the Centers for Disease Control, more than 8 percent of adults reported taking sleep medication every day or most days to help them fall or stay asleep. Studies have found that C.B.T.-I. is as effective as using sleep medications in the short term and more effective in the long term. Clinical trial data suggests that as many as 80 percent of the people who try C.B.T.-I. see improvements in their sleep and most patients find relief in four to eight sessions, even if they have had insomnia for decades, said Philip Gehrman, the director of the Sleep, Neurobiology and Psychopathology lab at the University of Pennsylvania. © 2023 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 28890 - Posted: 08.30.2023

Nicola Davis Taking a short nap during the day may help to protect the brain’s health as it ages, researchers have suggested after finding that the practice appears to be associated with larger brain volume. While previous research has suggested long naps could be an early symptom of Alzheimer’s disease, other work has revealed that a brief doze can improve people’s ability to learn. Now researchers say they have found evidence to suggest napping may help to protect against brain shrinkage. That is of interest, the team say, as brain shrinkage, a process that occurs with age, is accelerated in people with cognitive problems and neurodegenerative diseases, with some research suggesting this may be related to sleep problems. “In line with these studies, we found an association between habitual daytime napping and larger total brain volume, which could suggest that napping regularly provides some protection against neurodegeneration through compensating for poor sleep,” the researchers note. Writing in the journal Sleep Health, researchers at UCL and the University of the Republic in Uruguay report how they drew on data from the UK Biobank study that has collated genetic, lifestyle and health information from 500,000 people aged 40 to 69 at recruitment. The team used data from 35,080 Biobank participants to look at whether a combination of genetic variants that have previously been associated with self-reported habitual daytime napping are also linked to brain volume, cognition and other aspects of brain health. © 2023 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Sleep; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 28829 - Posted: 06.21.2023

By Emily Underwood It’s a classic science fiction trope: Astronauts on an interstellar journey are kept in sleek, refrigerated pods in a state of suspended animation. Although such pods remain purely fictional, scientists have pursued research into inducing a hibernation-like state in humans to lessen the damage caused by medical conditions such as heart attacks and stroke, and to reduce the stress and costs of future long-distance space sojourns. In a study published today in Nature Metabolism, scientists report that they can trigger a similar state in mice by targeting part of their brain with pulses of ultrasound. Some experts are calling it a major technical step toward achieving this feat in humans, whereas others say it’s a stretch to extrapolate the results to our species. "It’s an amazing paper,” says Frank van Breukelen, a biologist who studies hibernation at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and co-authored an editorial accompanying the study. The work builds on a flurry of recent studies that pinpoint specific populations of neurons in a region called the preoptic area (POA) of the hypothalamus. These cells act like an on-off switch for “torpor”—a sluggish, energy-saving state the animals enter when they’re dangerously cold or malnourished. In previous studies, scientists genetically engineered these neurons to respond to light or certain chemicals, and found they could cause mice to enter a torpid state even when they were warm and well-fed. Such invasive techniques can’t be easily translated to people, however, Breukelen notes. “That’s really not going to happen in people.” The new ultrasound study, led by bioengineer Hong Chen and her team at Washington University in St. Louis required no genetic engineering. Chen knew from previous research that some neurons have specialized pores called TRPM2 ion channels that change shape in response to ultrasonic waves, including the subset of POA cells that controls mouse torpor. To see what effect that had on the animals’ behavior, her team next glued miniature, speakerlike devices on the heads of mice to focus these waves on the POA.

Keyword: Sleep; Brain imaging
Link ID: 28800 - Posted: 05.27.2023

By Carolyn Wilke Costello the octopus was napping while stuck to the glass of his tank at the Rockefeller University in New York. He snoozed quietly for half an hour, and then entered a more active sleep stage, his skin cycling through colors and textures used for camouflage — typical behavior for a cephalopod. But soon things became strange. A minute later, Costello scuttled along the glass toward his tank’s sandy bottom, curling his arms over his body. Then he spun like a writhing cyclone. Finally, Costello swooped down and clouded half of his tank with ink. As the tank’s filtration system cleared the ink, Eric Angel Ramos, a marine scientist, noticed that Costello was grasping a pipe with unusual intensity, “looking like he was trying to kill it,” he said. “This was not a normal octopus behavior,” said Dr. Ramos, who is now at the University of Vermont. It’s not clear when or if Costello woke up during the episode, Dr. Ramos said. But afterward, Costello returned to normal, eating and later playing with his toys. “We were completely dumbfounded,” said Marcelo O. Magnasco, a biophysicist at Rockefeller. Perhaps Costello was having a nightmare, he and a team of researchers speculated. They shared this idea and other possible explanations in a study uploaded this month to the bioRxiv website. It has yet to be formally reviewed by other scientists. After the incident, Dr. Ramos reviewed the footage of Costello’s activity, which was recorded as part of a behavior and cognition study (the lab was also observing another octopus, Abbott; both were named after the heptapod aliens in the movie “Arrival”). In total, the team found three more shorter instances that appeared similar. To Dr. Magnasco, the behaviors exhibited in Costello’s longest spell evoked the acting out of a dream. The curling of arms over his body looked like a defensive posture, he said. In the footage, the animal is seen perhaps trying to make himself look larger, and then he tries an evasive maneuver — inking. When he fails to escape, it seems like Costello seeks to subdue a threat by strangling the pipe, Dr. Magnasco said, adding, “This is the sequence of a fight.” © 2023 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep; Evolution
Link ID: 28798 - Posted: 05.27.2023

Nicola Davis Science correspondent From loud snores to twitching paws, dogs often appear to have a penchant for a good snooze. But researchers have said elderly canines with dementia appear to spend less time slumbering than those with healthy brains – mirroring patterns seen in humans. It has long been known that people with dementia can experience sleep problems, including finding it harder to get to sleep. Researchers have also found changes in the brainwaves of people with dementia during sleep – including decreased slow brain waves that occur during non-rapid eye movement deep sleep. These are important in memory consolidation and appear to be linked to the activity of the brain’s system for clearing away waste. Now it seems sleep impairment may occur in dogs experiencing a condition similar to dementia in humans. “Changes in sleep habits should be expected in older dogs, and could be a harbinger of decline in cognition,” said Prof Natasha Olby, senior author of a study at North Carolina State University. Writing in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science, Olby and colleagues reported on their study of 28 dogs aged between 10 and 16 years old. The canines’ brainwaves were recorded by electroencephalogram (EEG) while the dogs took a two-hour afternoon nap. The researchers also assessed owners’ answers to a questionnaire and each dog’s performance on a range of problem-solving, memory and attention tasks, to provide a score indicating whether the dog had, or was at risk of, canine dementia. Twenty of the dogs were deemed to have cognitive impairment, with this judged to be severe in eight of them. Combining their data, the team found dogs with higher dementia scores took longer to fall asleep and spent less time sleeping. © 2023 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Alzheimers; Sleep
Link ID: 28760 - Posted: 04.29.2023

by Kyle H. Kallman In 2010, when I was 18, a sleep study confirmed what kids at sleepovers and camp, and my freshman-year dorm mate who slept with headphones blaring heavy metal, already knew: I snored, and very loudly. The breathing passages in my nose, throat and mouth weren’t staying open, forcing my brain to wake up from deep sleep and open my airways. Over 30 times an hour. I awoke each morning exhausted. At the time, I thought it was normal to feel terrible every morning. “He’s a typical teenager,” said my mom when I slept in until the evening on weekends. My dad’s solution was pouring water on me so I could “seize the day!” I was a regular night owl who hated mornings. I never felt fully awake until the afternoon. Kyle H. Kallman wears a mask for his CPAP machine. (Kyle H. Kallman) But my physician suggested I get tested for sleep apnea since my levels of sleepiness were off the charts, even for a teen. And he warned me that the health effects of sleep apnea over time could be bad: stroke, heart problems, diabetes, and in some cases, even a shortened life span. A specialist looked at my test and said I needed a continuous positive airway pressure machine, a clunky contraption that sits beside your bed and straps on your face at night, providing a little constant air pressure that basically keeps your airways open as you sleep. No way was I going to do that. Sleep apnea seemed like a problem for old people — most CPAP users start at age 55 — and I was living in a college dorm and dating. If I ever brought somebody back to my college dorm room, they’d see the dorky machine on my nightstand and any possibility of romance would end. Besides, I didn’t think snoring was a big deal — I didn’t hear it.

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 28759 - Posted: 04.29.2023

Ruth Ogden A year and half alone in a cave might sound like a nightmare to a lot of people, but Spanish athlete Beatriz Flamini emerged with a cheerful grin and said she thought she had more time to finish her book. She had almost no contact with the outside world during her impressive feat of human endurance. For 500 days, she documented her experiences to help scientists understand the effects of extreme isolation. One of the first things that became apparent on April 12 2023 when she emerged from the cave was how fluid time is, shaped more by your personality traits and the people around you than a ticking clock. When talking to reporters about her experiences, Flamini explained she rapidly lost her sense of time. The loss of time was so profound that, when her support team came to retrieve her, she was surprised that her time was up, instead believing she had only been there for 160-170 days. Our actions, emotions and changes in our environment can have powerful effects on the way in which our minds process time. For most people, the rising and setting of the sun mark the passing of days, and work and social routines mark the passing of hours. In the darkness of an underground cave, without the company of others, many signals of passing of time will have disappeared. So Flamini may have become more reliant on psychological processes to monitor time. One way in which we keep track of the passage of time is memory. If we don’t know how long we have been doing something for, we use the number of memories formed during the event as an index to the amount of time that has passed. The more memories we form in an event or era, the longer we perceive it to have lasted. © 2010–2023, The Conversation US, Inc.

Keyword: Attention; Biological Rhythms
Link ID: 28755 - Posted: 04.26.2023

By Carolyn Todd Any sleep tracker will show you that slumber is far from a passive affair. And no stage of sleep demonstrates that better than rapid eye movement, or REM, commonly called dream sleep. “It’s also called paradoxical sleep or active sleep, because REM sleep is actually very close to being awake,” said Dr. Rajkumar Dasgupta, a sleep medicine and pulmonary specialist at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. Before scientists discovered REM sleep in the 1950s, it wasn’t clear that much of anything was happening in the brain at night. Researchers today, however, understand sleep as a highly active process composed of very different types of rest — including REM, which in some ways doesn’t seem like rest at all. While the body typically remains “off” during REM sleep, the brain is very much “on.” It’s generating vivid dreams, as well as synthesizing memories and knowledge. Scientists are still working to unravel exactly how this strange state of consciousness works. “It is fair to say that there is a lot left to learn about REM sleep,” Dr. Dasgupta said. But from what researchers do understand, REM is critical to our emotional health and brain function — and potentially even our longevity. Where does REM sleep fall in the sleep cycle? Throughout the night, “We’re going in and out of this rhythmic, symphonic pattern of the various stages of sleep: non-REM 1, 2, 3 and REM,” said Rebecca Robbins, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School and an associate scientist in the division of sleep and circadian disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. As you doze off, you enter the first stage of non-REM. This lasts less than 10 minutes and is considered a light sleep. Your breathing and heart rate decelerate and your muscles relax as you slip into the second stage of non-REM sleep, where your body temperature drops and your brain waves get slower. Then you enter the third stage, known as deep sleep, when your body repairs your bones and muscles, strengthens your immune system, releases hormones and restores your energy. © 2023 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 28750 - Posted: 04.26.2023

By Annie Roth It long seemed as though African elephants were the champions of the all-nighter. They can get by on about two hours of sleep. Other mammals need much more, like koalas (20 hours) or you (at least seven plus at least one strong cup of coffee). But the largest living mammals on land have some competition at sea. Northern elephant seals are also able to sustain themselves on about two hours’ sleep, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science. The study found that Northern elephant seals sleep far less at sea than they do on land, and the z’s they do catch at sea are caught hundreds of feet below the ocean’s surface. The study’s authors believe that sleeping in the deep allows the seals to power-nap without being eaten by prowling predators. Northern elephant seals, which are found along the West Coast, are champion divers that can descend to depths of 2,500 feet and stay under for about two hours. They are not as big as elephants, but males can weigh as much as a car and stretch 13 feet long. To maintain their blubbery bulk, Northern elephant seals must spend around seven months at sea each year, gorging on fish and squid. During these epic voyages, the seals are vulnerable to predation by great white sharks and killer whales. Some marine mammals, such as dolphins and fur seals, can rest half of their brain at a time. This type of slumber, known as unihemispheric sleep, enables some mammals at sea to snooze with one eye open, literally, which prevents predators from catching them off guard. However, elephant seals sleep like us, shutting down their brains completely. Jessica Kendall-Bar, now a postdoctoral fellow at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, wondered how Northern ​​elephant seals managed to sleep, given how much time they need to spend eating and avoiding being eaten while at sea. © 2023 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep; Evolution
Link ID: 28746 - Posted: 04.22.2023

By Simon Makin Waves of cerebrospinal fluid which normally wash over brains during sleep can be made to pulse in the brains of people who are wide awake, a new study finds. The clear fluid may flush out harmful waste, such as the sticky proteins that accumulate in Alzheimer’s disease (SN: 7/15/18). So being able to control the fluid’s flow in the brain could possibly one day have implications for treating certain brain disorders. “I think this [finding] will help with many neurological disorders,” says Jonathan Kipnis, a neuroscientist at Washington University in St. Louis who was not involved in the study. “Think of Formula One. You can have the best car and driver, but without a great maintenance crew, that driver will not win the race.” Spinal fluid flow in the brain is a major part of that maintenance crew, he says. But he and other researchers, including the study’s authors, caution that any potential therapeutic applications are still far off. In 2019, neuroscientist Laura Lewis of Boston University and colleagues reported that strong waves of cerebrospinal fluid wash through our brains while we slumber, suggesting that one unappreciated role of sleep may be to give the brain a deep clean (SN: 10/31/19). And the team showed that the slow neural oscillations that characterize deep, non-REM sleep occur in lockstep with the waves of spinal fluid through the brain. “If you drop your clothes in a bath of water, eventually dirt will come out. But if you swish them back and forth, things are moving much more effectively,” Lewis says. “That’s the analogy I think of.” These flows were far larger than the small, rhythmic influences that one’s breathing and heartbeat have on spinal fluid. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2023.

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 28727 - Posted: 04.01.2023

By Meghan Rosen The patient arrived at the hospital one hot night in Masi-Manimba, an agricultural town unfurled along the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Lukula River. He couldn’t speak, he couldn’t walk, he was conscious but “barely could make … gestures,” says Béatrice Kasita, a nurse who was there when he came in. She remembers his deformed posture, how his body curved into a fetal position. He was also unusually drowsy — a telltale sign of his illness. The patient, a 27-year-old man, had been brought in by a medical team screening villagers for sleeping sickness, a deadly parasitic disease spread via the bite of a blood-feeding fly. Since the first case report in the late 14th century, the illness has ebbed and flowed in sub-Saharan Africa. Across the continent, the predominant form of sleeping sickness shows up in about two dozen countries, most cases now occurring in the DRC. The disease is a nightmarish scourge that can maim the brain and ultimately kill. But today, cases hover near an all-time low. In 2021, the World Health Organization reported just 747 cases of the predominant form, down from more than 37,000 in 1998. That precipitous plunge came out of decades of work, millions of screenings, spinal taps upon spinal taps, toxic treatments and the rapid rise of safer though often burdensome ones, countless IV infusions, long hospital days and nights, medicine lugged to remote villages, and communities on constant alert for sleeping sickness’s insidious symptoms. Now, a promising drug has fanned hope for halting transmission of the disease. Called acoziborole, the drug is taken by mouth in just a single dose. Kasita’s patient, who arrived at the hospital in June 2017, was among the first to try it. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2023.

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 28715 - Posted: 03.23.2023

By Katherine Harmon Courage We all might wish for minds as retentive as a hard drive. Memory file created. Saved. Ready for access at any time. But don’t yet go wishing for the memory performance of AI. Artificial neural networks are prone to a troublesome glitch known, evocatively, as catastrophic forgetting. These seemingly tireless networks can keep learning tasks day and night. But sometimes, once a new task is learned, any recollection of an old task vanishes. It’s as if you learned to play tennis decently well, but after being taught to play water polo, you suddenly had no recollection of how to swing a racket. This apparent network overload put an idea in the head of Maxim Bazhenov, a professor who studies computational neuroscience and sleep at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine. Perhaps the spiking neural networks he was working with simply needed a rest. In natural sleep, he had seen that the same basic brain processes occur in humans and in honeybees, working over information accumulated during waking moments. “That machinery presumably was doing something useful” in order to be conserved across evolutionary paths, he says. So, he thought, why not try a similar state for the machines. The idea was to simply provide the artificial neural networks with a break from external stimuli, to instruct them to go into a sort of rest state. Like the dozing human brain, the networks were still active, but instead of taking in new information, they were mulling the old stuff, consolidating, surfacing patterns.

Keyword: Sleep; Learning & Memory
Link ID: 28709 - Posted: 03.18.2023

By Virat Markandeya It’s evening at the northern tip of the Red Sea, in the Gulf of Aqaba, and Tom Shlesinger readies to take a dive. During the day, the seafloor is full of life and color; at night it looks much more alien. Shlesinger is waiting for a phenomenon that occurs once a year for a plethora of coral species, often several nights after the full moon. Guided by a flashlight, he spots it: coral releasing a colorful bundle of eggs and sperm, tightly packed together. “You’re looking at it and it starts to flow to the surface,” Shlesinger says. “Then you raise your head, and you turn around, and you realize: All the colonies from the same species are doing it just now.” Some coral species release bundles of a pinkish- purplish color, others release ones that are yellow, green, white or various other hues. “It’s quite a nice, aesthetic sensation,” says Shlesinger, a marine ecologist at Tel Aviv University and the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences in Eilat, Israel, who has witnessed the show during many years of diving. Corals usually spawn in the evening and night within a tight time window of 10 minutes to half an hour. “The timing is so precise, you can set your clock by the time it happens,” Shlesinger says. Moon-controlled rhythms in marine critters have been observed for centuries. There is calculated guesswork, for example, that in 1492 Christopher Columbus encountered a kind of glowing marine worm engaged in a lunar-timed mating dance, like the “flame of a small candle alternately raised and lowered.” Diverse animals such as sea mussels, corals, polychaete worms and certain fishes are thought to synchronize their reproductive behavior by the moon. The crucial reason is that such animals — for example, over a hundred coral species at the Great Barrier Reef — release their eggs before fertilization takes place, and synchronization maximizes the probability of an encounter between eggs and sperm. © 2023 Annual Reviews

Keyword: Biological Rhythms; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 28681 - Posted: 02.25.2023

Kevin Rawlinson It is no mystery that a good night’s sleep and a lie-in can improve your day. But researchers are suggesting that, far from just being enjoyable, quality sleep may even add years to people’s lives. Men who regularly sleep well could live almost five years longer than those who do not, while women could benefit by two years, research suggests. And they could also enjoy better health during their lives. Researchers found that young people who had better sleep habits were less likely to die early. But the researchers said their findings indicated quantity of sleep was not in itself enough to achieve the possible health benefits – quality of sleep is also important. Good sleep was based on five different factors: ideal sleep duration of seven to eight hours a night; difficulty falling asleep no more than two times a week; trouble staying asleep no more than two times a week; not using any sleep medication; and feeling well rested after waking up at least five days a week. The findings suggested that about 8% of deaths from any cause could be attributed to poor sleep patterns. Dr Frank Qian, an internal medicine resident physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, America, said: “We saw a clear dose-response relationship, so the more beneficial factors someone has in terms of having higher quality of sleep, they also have a stepwise lowering of all cause and cardiovascular mortality.” © 2023 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 28679 - Posted: 02.25.2023

By Dani Blum There are a few tried and true pieces of advice that sleep doctors always give for battling insomnia: Watch those alcoholic drinks at dinner, cut the afternoon coffee, stop scrolling before bed. And please, they beg: Keep your sleep schedule consistent. Flip-flopping between wake-up times — jolting awake at 7:30 on a Friday morning and then dozing until the afternoon on Saturday — wreaks havoc on our internal body clocks. Sleep experts refer to this as “social jet lag,” said Dr. Sabra Abbott, a sleep medicine specialist at the Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine. Similar to changing time zones, heading to bed at vastly different times from night to night may throw off your circadian rhythm. And still, as anyone who’s worked a night shift, taken care of a toddler or fumbled back home after a party might tell you: Going to bed and waking up at the same times is easier said than done. “It’s a luxury, right?” said Kelsie Full, a behavioral epidemiologist and an assistant professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Dr. Full is the lead author of a new study that tied irregular sleep to an early marker of cardiovascular disease. Researchers examined a week’s worth of sleep data from 2,000 adults over 45 and found that those who slept varying amounts each night and went to bed at different times were more likely to have hardened arteries than those with more regular sleep patterns. People whose overall sleep amounts varied by two or more hours from night to night throughout the week — getting five hours of sleep on Tuesday, say, and then eight hours on Wednesday — were particularly likely to have high levels of calcified fatty plaque built up in their arteries, compared with those who slept the same number of hours each night. The study could not confirm that inconsistent sleep patterns definitively caused the heart issues, Dr. Full said. And the findings don’t necessarily mean that the occasional late night or very early morning should be off the table. © 2023 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 28676 - Posted: 02.22.2023

Jane Clinton For those of us who struggle to leave our beds in the winter, taunts of “lazy” could well be misplaced. New research suggests that while humans do not hibernate, we may need more sleep during the colder months. Analysis of people undergoing sleep studies found that people get more REM (rapid eye movement) sleep in the winter. While total sleep time appeared to be about an hour longer in the winter than the summer, this result was not considered statistically significant. However, REM sleep – known to be directly linked to the circadian clock, which is affected by changing light – was 30 minutes longer in the winter than in summer. The research suggests that even in an urban population experiencing disrupted sleep, humans experience longer REM sleep in winter than summer and less deep sleep in autumn. Researchers say if the study’s findings can be replicated in people with healthy sleep, this would provide the first evidence for a need to adjust sleep habits to season – perhaps by going to sleep earlier in the darker and colder months. Dr Dieter Kunz, corresponding author of the study, based at the Clinic for Sleep & Chronomedicine at the St Hedwig hospital, Germany, said: “Seasonality is ubiquitous in any living being on this planet. “Even though we still perform unchanged over the winter, human physiology is down-regulated, with a sensation of ‘running-on-empty’ in February or March. “In general, societies need to adjust sleep habits including length and timing to season, or adjust school and working schedules to seasonal sleep needs.”

Keyword: Biological Rhythms; Sleep
Link ID: 28672 - Posted: 02.18.2023

By Kristen French George Church looks like he needs a nap. I’m talking to him on Zoom, and his eyelids have grown heavy, inclining toward slumber. Or maybe my mind is playing tricks on me. He assures me he is wide awake. But sleeping and waking life are often blurred for Church. One of the world’s most imaginative scientists, Church is a narcoleptic. A rare disorder, narcolepsy causes sudden attacks of sleep, and Church has fallen asleep in some unfortunate circumstances—at The World Economic Forum, just a few feet away from Microsoft founder Bill Gates, for instance. He also had to give up driving due to the risk that a bout of sleepiness will strike while he is behind the wheel. But Church, a Harvard geneticist known for his pathbreaking contributions to numerous fields—from genetics to astrobiology to biomedicine—says the benefits of his condition outweigh the inconveniences. Many of his wildest and most prescient ideas come from his narcoleptic naps. “The fact is, I fall asleep several times a day, and so almost everything comes from there,” Church says. His idea for a quick and simple way to “read” DNA—which resulted in the first commercial genome sequence, of the human pathogen H. pylori—came from a narcoleptic nap. He also conceived of editing genomes with CRISPR and building new genomes with off-the-shelf molecules during narcoleptic naps. More recently, in December, a wild idea for a space probe that could reach distant stars within just 20 years, at one-fifth the speed of light, came to him after a narcoleptic nap. He proposed that these lightning-speed interstellar missions could be launched by microbes and powered by laser sails. The ideas that come to him are often the result of collisions of unexpected images in his head. “I try to turn science fiction into science fact,” Church tells me. © 2023 NautilusNext Inc.,

Keyword: Sleep; Attention
Link ID: 28648 - Posted: 02.01.2023

By Diana Kwon Alan Alda was running for his life. The actor, best known for his role on the television series M*A*S*H, wasn’t on a set. This threat was real—or at least it felt that way. So when he saw a bag of potatoes in front of him, he grabbed it and threw it at his attacker. Suddenly, the scene shifted. He was in his bedroom, having lurched out of sleep, and the sack of potatoes was a pillow he’d just chucked at his wife. Acting out dreams marks a disorder that occurs during the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep. Called RBD, for REM sleep behavior disorder, it affects an estimated 0.5 to 1.25 percent of the general population and is more commonly reported in older adults, particularly men. Apart from being hazardous to dreamers and their partners, RBD may foreshadow neurodegenerative disease, primarily synucleinopathies—conditions in which the protein α-synuclein (or alpha-synuclein) forms toxic clumps in the brain. Not all nocturnal behaviors are RBD. Sleepwalking and sleep talking, which occur more often during childhood and adolescence, take place during non-REM sleep. This difference is clearly distinguishable in a sleep laboratory, where clinicians can monitor stages of sleep to see when a person moves. Nor is RBD always associated with a synucleinopathy: it can also be triggered by certain drugs such as antidepressants or caused by other underlying conditions such as narcolepsy or a brain stem tumor. When RBD occurs in the absence of these alternative explanations, the chance of future disease is high. Some epidemiological studies suggest that enacted dreaming predicts a more than 80 percent chance of developing a neurodegenerative disease within the patient’s lifetime. It may also be the first sign of neurodegenerative disease, which on average shows up within 10 to 15 years after onset of the dream disorder. One of the most common RBD-linked ailments is Parkinson’s disease, characterized mainly by progressive loss of motor control. Another is Lewy body dementia, in which small clusters of α-synuclein called Lewy bodies build up in the brain, disrupting movement and cognition. A third type of synucleinopathy, multiple system atrophy, interferes with both movement and involuntary functions such as digestion. RBD is one of the strongest harbingers of future synucleinopathy, more predictive than other early markers such as chronic constipation and a diminished sense of smell.

Keyword: Parkinsons; Sleep
Link ID: 28642 - Posted: 01.25.2023