Chapter 10. Biological Rhythms and Sleep

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Lynne Peeples Carole Godain remembers a lot of the little details from the clinical trial she took part in nine years ago. There was the blue button she pushed to get her chemotherapy drugs, and the green light that came on to confirm that the medication was dripping into her veins. Then, of course, there was the hour — 10:00 p.m. without fail, for every treatment. By all accounts, Godain’s own time was running short. The first treatment for her colon cancer had failed, and her last body scan had revealed 27 tumours growing inside her liver. So the psychologist from Tours, France, jumped at the opportunity to take part in a trial at Paul Brousse hospital in Villejuif, which aimed to test whether delivering drugs at a specific time of day might make them more effective or reduce their toxic side effects. Ideally, it would accomplish both. “I was interested in increasing my chances of being cured,” says Godain. Today, at the age of 43, she is cancer-free. And Francis Lévi, the oncologist who treated Godain, says that although such an amazing result is anomalous, emerging evidence should encourage more interest in the concept of chronotherapy — scheduling treatments so that they provide the most help and do the least harm. More than four decades of studies describe how accounting for the body’s cycle of daily rhythms — its circadian clock — can influence responses to medications and procedures for everything from asthma to epileptic seizures. Research suggests that the majority of today’s best-selling drugs, including heartburn medications and treatments for erectile dysfunction, work better when taken at specific times of day. “When you give a medication, you always know the dose,” says Lévi, who also now works at Warwick Medical School in Coventry, UK, where he leads a team associated with INSERM, the French national biomedical research agency. “We have found that the timing is sometimes more important than the dose.” © 2018 Macmillan Publishers Limited

Keyword: Biological Rhythms
Link ID: 24877 - Posted: 04.18.2018

by Robby Berman She was wide awake and it was nearly two in the morning. When asked if everything was alright, she said, “Yes.” Asked why she couldn’t get to sleep she said, “I don’t know.” Neuroscientist Russell Foster of Oxford might suggest she was exhibiting “a throwback to the bi-modal sleep pattern." Research suggests we used to sleep in two segments with a period of wakefulness in-between. A. Roger Ekirch, historian at Virginia Tech, uncovered our segmented sleep history in his 2005 book At Day’s Close: A Night in Time’s Past. There’s very little direct scientific research on sleep done before the 20th century, so Ekirch spent years going through early literature, court records, diaries, and medical records to find out how we slumbered. He found over 500 references to first and second sleep going all the way back to Homer’s Odyssey. “It’s not just the number of references—it is the way they refer to it as if it was common knowledge,” Ekirch tells BBC. "He knew this, even in the horror with which he started from his first sleep, and threw up the window to dispel it by the presence of some object, beyond the room, which had not been, as it were, the witness of his dream." — Charles Dickens, Barnaby Rudge (1840) Here’s a suggestion for dealing with depression from English ballad 'Old Robin of Portingale': "And at the wakening of your first sleepe/You shall have a hott drinke made/And at the wakening of your next sleepe/Your sorrowes will have a slake." Two-part sleep was practiced into the 20th century by people in Central America and Brazil and is still practiced in areas of Nigeria. © Copyright 2007-2018 & BIG THINK

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 24856 - Posted: 04.12.2018

By NICHOLAS BAKALAR Morning people may live longer than night owls, a new study suggests. Researchers studied 433,268 people, aged 38 to 73, who defined themselves as either “definite morning” types, “moderate morning” types, “moderate evening” types or “definite evening” types. They followed their health for an average of six-and-a-half years, tracking cause of death with death certificates. The study is in Chronobiology International. After controlling for age and sex, smoking, body mass index, sleep duration and other variables, they found that compared with “definite morning” types, “definite evening” types had a 10 percent increased risk of dying from any cause. Each increase from “morningness” to “eveningness” was associated with an increased risk for disease. Night owls were nearly twice as likely as early risers to have a psychological disorder and 30 percent more likely to have diabetes. Their risk for respiratory disease was 23 percent higher and for gastrointestinal disease 22 percent higher. The lead author, Kristen L. Knutson, an associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University, said that while being a night owl is partly genetic, people can make adjustments — gradually making bedtime earlier, avoiding using smartphones before bed, and eventually moving themselves out of the “night owl zone.” Although the reasons for their increased mortality remain unclear, she said, “Night owls should know that there may be some health consequences.” © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Biological Rhythms
Link ID: 24854 - Posted: 04.12.2018

By Danna Staaf "You're doing your surgery, but you don't know if the animal still feels it and you've just stolen its ability to respond," says biologist Robyn Crook of San Francisco State University (SFSU) in California. Until recently, researchers working with octopuses, squids, and other cephalopods routinely faced this dilemma, an ethical and, in some cases, legal challenge to studying these intelligent creatures in the laboratory. But Crook has now shown that both ordinary alcohol and magnesium chloride are effective anesthetics—crucial information for scientists pursuing cephalopod research. Cephalopods might not seem to be ideal laboratory animals. They're exclusively marine, so a complex seawater system is needed to keep them alive, and they're disinclined to stay put—octopuses can escape through minuscule holes, while squids may jet right out of their tanks. But their unique biology and behavior have made them indispensable to researchers in many fields. Studies of the squid's giant axon helped spawn modern neuroscience decades ago, and the light organ of the bobtail squid (Euprymna scolopes) powered a revolution in the study of symbiotic host-microbe interactions. Today, some researchers are studying how the animals accomplish their striking feats of regeneration, while others use them in ecotoxicology studies; cephalopods even guide research into the origins of consciousness. Because of their complex brains, cephalopods became the first invertebrates to be protected by laboratory animal laws. In 1991, the Canadian Council on Animal Care decided to extend the standards for vertebrate care to cephalopods, meaning, among other things, that researchers have to get ethical approval for their studies and must use anesthesia, when possible, for procedures that could cause pain. Since then, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and some Australian states have passed similar regulations. The biggest expansion of cephalopod rights came in 2013, when an EU-wide directive gave them the same protections as vertebrates in scientific studies in 28 countries. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science. A

Keyword: Animal Rights; Sleep
Link ID: 24823 - Posted: 04.06.2018

By KAREN BARROW Creepy-crawly, itchy, tingly, aching legs — while different people may describe restless leg syndrome differently the results are the same: sleepless nights and restless days. What is it like to be diagnosed with R.L.S.? Six men and women speak about their experiences. Lynne Kaiser, an artist, believes she has had restless leg syndrome for most of her life. She recalls waking up in the middle of the night as a child to take a hot bath or fill a hot water bottle to try to relieve the prickly sensations in her legs. It wasn’t until recently that a specialist confirmed the diagnosis. Today, Mrs. Kaiser advocates for R.L.S. patients. Dopaminergic medications, as well as art and needlework, help her to “get in a tunnel” where she can be distracted from the uncomfortable sensations, she said. Mrs. Kaiser says the symptoms of R.L.S. strained her relationship with her husband. He couldn’t understand why she couldn’t just relax in bed with him, or why she would get up at night to stretch her legs or sit in a scalding hot bath. Because of R.L.S., Mrs. Kaiser finds it difficult to travel. She also knows that R.L.S. medications tend to lose their effectiveness over time, so she focuses on how good she feels today. “I really try not to think about the future,” she said. Dr. David Rye, a professor of neurology at Emory University in Atlanta, discovered that he had restless leg syndrome several years after he began researching the disease. He says that many in the medical community believe that R.L.S. is a psychological disease rather than a physical ailment. However, Dr. Rye and his colleagues were among the first to discover a gene variant linked to R.L.S. Genetic factors help to explain why R.L.S. is so much more prevalent among Caucasians than other ethnicities. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 24799 - Posted: 03.29.2018

by Ariana Eunjung Cha) Sally Clark lost both her infant sons shortly after their births. In 1996, 11-week-old Christopher fell unconscious after being put to bed and never woke up. Two years later, 8-week-old Harry was found dead slumped forward in his bouncy chair. Doctors initially concluded the first boy had died of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) — in which a seemingly healthy baby dies without warning and without an obvious cause. But after Clark's second child died, prosecutors in the United Kingdom charged her with murder and put her on trial. According to scholars analyzing the widely publicized case, Clark was wrongly convicted based on a statistic. An expert witness for the prosecution claimed the chance of two cases of SIDS, in an affluent family like hers, was astronomically high — 1 in 73 million. Her defenders said the numbers assumed that SIDS strikes at random, even though we had no idea back then whether that was true. An important study published Wednesday in the Lancet shows a link between SIDS and a rare genetic mutation that would make some families more vulnerable than others — providing a possible explanation for situations like Clark's. The research involved 278 infants who died of SIDS, also called “crib death” or “cot death,” and 729 healthy controls. Four of those who died of SIDS had a variant of a gene called SCN4A associated with an impairment of breathing muscles, while no babies in the control group had it. Authors Michael Hanna from the United Kingdom's Medical Research Council's Center for Neuromuscular Diseases and Michael Ackerman from the Mayo Clinic in the United States wrote that these mutations are typically found in fewer than 5 out of 100,000 people. © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Sleep; Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 24795 - Posted: 03.29.2018

By KAREN BARROW Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that causes excessive sleepiness and frequent daytime sleep attacks. What is it like to never feel fully rested? Three women discuss the realities of living with a sleep disorder. Kailey Profeta learned she had narcolepsy at age 9 after her mother noticed she was unusually tired and had inexplicably gained a lot of weight. Kailey was home-schooled for several years while she and her family learned what combinations of medicines and behavioral adjustments worked to keep her on a normal sleep schedule. She now takes a medicine every night that helps her sleep, but leaves her nauseated in the morning. To cope, she eats breakfast in bed and takes other medications to help her stay awake during the day. Kailey goes home from school every day during third period to take a nap, and she rests again after school. Kailey, who wants to be a fashion designer, works at a bridal boutique during the summer and on weekends. She said that most of her friends understand when she has to rest, but that being a teenager with narcolepsy is not always easy. Patricia A. Higgins suffers from narcolepsy with cataplexy – sudden muscle weakness that causes her to fall and feel temporarily paralyzed. She first began falling from cataplexy as a teenager, and the condition reached its worst point when she was 32; she remembers falling 17 times in one weekend. Getting the correct diagnosis was a struggle. Ms. Higgins went from doctor to doctor and was told at various times that she had a seizure disorder and a psychiatric condition. Eventually, a sleep study confirmed that she had narcolepsy. Narcolepsy has disrupted Ms. Higgins’s work and family life. She is married and the mother of three children, but she left her job as a nurse and cannot drive. She volunteers regularly with the Narcolepsy Network, a support and information group for narcoleptics. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Narcolepsy
Link ID: 24774 - Posted: 03.21.2018

To understand the link between aging and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, scientists from the National Institutes of Health compared the genetic clocks that tick during the lives of normal and mutant flies. They found that altering the activity of a gene called Cdk5 appeared to make the clocks run faster than normal, and the flies older than their chronological age. This caused the flies to have problems walking or flying later in life, to show signs of neurodegeneration, and to die earlier. “We tried to untangle the large role aging appears to play in some of the most devastating neurological disorders,” said Edward Giniger, Ph.D., senior investigator at the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the senior author of the study published in Disease Models & Mechanisms. “Our results suggest that neurodegenerative disorders may accelerate the aging process.” On average, the normal flies in this study lived for 47 days. To create a genetic clock, Dr. Giniger’s team measured the levels of every gene encoded in messenger RNA molecules from cells from the heads and bodies of flies at 3, 10, 30, and 45 days after birth. This allowed the researchers to use advanced analysis techniques to search for the genes that seemed to be sensitive to aging, and create a standard curve, or timeline, that described the way they changed. When they performed the same experiments on 10-day-old mutant flies and compared the results with the standard curve, they found that the flies were “older” than their chronological age. Altering Cdk5 activity made the brains of the flies appear genetically to be about 15 days old and their bodies to be about 20 days old.

Keyword: Biological Rhythms
Link ID: 24748 - Posted: 03.14.2018

Children and adults who spend a lot of time outside in the summer may be less likely to develop multiple sclerosis years later, a U.S. study suggests. Sun exposure is thought to lessen the risk of MS, a chronic disease in which a person's immune system targets nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, leading to damage. It is estimated Canada may have among the highest prevalence of MS in the world. While the disease is common, little is known about its causes. But for more than 10 years, sun exposure has been thought to be linked to MS risk. Previously, researchers focused on how UV-B rays from sunlight seem protective during childhood years. Now, University of British Columbia neurology professor Helen Tremlett and her co-authors have taken a broader view, extending the association into adulthood. In Wednesday's online issue of the journal Neurology, Tremlett and her team report combing through data on 151 women with MS and 235 others of similar age without the disease who were all participating in the Nurses' Health Study based in Boston. The long-running U.S. study is one of the largest investigations into risk factors such as diet, hormones, and environment for major chronic diseases in women. "We found that just generally going out in the summer was a beneficial thing and didn't matter so much if you were exposing yourself to direct sunlight. It was just going out in the summer that was associated with a reduced risk," Tremlett said in an interview. ©2018 CBC/Radio-Canada.

Keyword: Multiple Sclerosis; Biological Rhythms
Link ID: 24731 - Posted: 03.08.2018

Bruce Bower People have evolved to sleep much less than chimps, baboons or any other primate studied so far. A large comparison of primate sleep patterns finds that most species get somewhere between nine and 15 hours of shut-eye daily, while humans average just seven. An analysis of several lifestyle and biological factors, however, predicts people should get 9.55 hours, researchers report online February 14 in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. Most other primates in the study typically sleep as much as the scientists’ statistical models predict they should. Two long-standing features of human life have contributed to unusually short sleep times, argue evolutionary anthropologists Charles Nunn of Duke University and David Samson of the University of Toronto Mississauga. First, when humans’ ancestors descended from the trees to sleep on the ground, individuals probably had to spend more time awake to guard against predator attacks. Second, humans have faced intense pressure to learn and teach new skills and to make social connections at the expense of sleep. As sleep declined, rapid-eye movement, or REM — sleep linked to learning and memory (SN: 6/11/16, p. 15) — came to play an outsize role in human slumber, the researchers propose. Non-REM sleep accounts for an unexpectedly small share of human sleep, although it may also aid memory (SN: 7/12/14, p. 8), the scientists contend. “It’s pretty surprising that non-REM sleep time is so low in humans, but something had to give as we slept less,” Nunn says. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2018.

Keyword: Sleep; Evolution
Link ID: 24728 - Posted: 03.07.2018

Alice M. Gregory, Erin Leichman, Jodi Mindell Pairing the words “baby” and “sleep” can evoke strong emotions. Those who have had limited contact with little ones might interpret this word-combination as implying deep and prolonged slumber. For others, this union of words may elicit memories of prolonged periods of chaotic sleep (or what can feel like no sleep at all). Coping with the way babies sleep can be difficult. It’s not that babies don’t sleep. In fact, they sleep more than at any other stage of life. It’s more an issue of when they sleep. Newborns start by sleeping and waking around the clock. This is not always easy for parents. There is even research suggesting that in adults waking repeatedly at night can feel as bad as getting hardly any sleep in terms of attentional skills, fatigue levels and symptoms of depression. As to why infants wake at night, this is best explained by thinking about the two things that govern our sleep: the homeostatic and circadian processes. The crux of the homeostatic process is the straightforward idea that the longer we have been awake the greater our sleep drive (and the more sleepy we feel). It may take an adult an entire day to build up enough sleep drive to fall asleep at bedtime, but an infant may only need an hour or two of wakefulness before being able to drift off to sleep. The second process is circadian, which works like a clock. Adults typically feel more awake during the morning hours and sleepy at night, regardless of when we last slept. In very young babies this process is not yet developed. This means that sleep is more likely to occur at different points across the 24-hour day. © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Sleep; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 24713 - Posted: 03.01.2018

Amelia Hill For a serious examination of the devastating and incurable disability that is narcolepsy, Henry Nicholls’s book, Sleepy Head, is a surprisingly funny account. There is the obvious, if somewhat cruel, humour to be found in stories of people falling asleep in surprising places: in a small boat sailing around the Farne Islands, with the freezing North Sea cascading over the gunwale; while scuba diving; on a rollercoaster; at the dentist’s; on the back of a horse; on a surfboard. But there are other extremely funny insights that Nicholls gives into the crepuscular world that narcoleptics inhabit: his laconic fretting over the etiquette of attending a CBT group for insomniacs, which he discovers he also suffers from while researching the book. “A narcoleptic attending an insomnia clinic could be seen as the height of insensitivity,” he deadpans. Then there’s the attempt to solve sleep apnoea by learning the didgeridoo. (Didgetherapy, since you ask. It involves acrylic didgeridoos and is, apparently, quite effective.) Misjudging his tone entirely, I arrive at our interview expecting a garrulous chat. I’m particularly excited that I opened Nicholls’s book thinking I was pretty special to be able to share with him the fact that my father also had narcolepsy – and close his book having realised that five of my closest family members (including myself) have had diagnosable sleep disorders ranging from sleep apnoea to night terrors to – my own thrilling self-realisation – an episode of hypnagogic hallucination and sleep paralysis. © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Narcolepsy; Sleep
Link ID: 24697 - Posted: 02.26.2018

By Catherine Offord River-dwelling populations of the Central American fish species Astyanax mexicanus sleep for more than 10 hours each day. But eyeless, cave-dwelling members of the same species barely sleep at all, and show no obvious health or developmental problems as a result. Now, researchers in the U.S. and in France have identified the signaling pathway behind this difference, offering a glimpse into the processes regulating sleep duration in vertebrates. The findings were published yesterday (February 6) in two papers in eLife. In one study, researchers at Florida Atlantic University compared the brains of cave-dwelling A. mexicanus with their surface-living cousins. They found that the number of neurons producing hypocretin—a neuropeptide linked to sleep-disorders such as narcolepsy when dysregulated—was significantly higher in the cave dwellers. What’s more, inhibiting hypocretin signaling genetically or pharmacologically increased cavefish’s sleep duration by several hours, while having minimal effect on surface-living fish. “These findings suggest that differences in hypocretin production may explain variation in sleep between animal species, or even between individual people,” study coauthor Alex Keene of Florida Atlantic University’s Brain Institute says in a statement. “It may also provide important insight into how we might build a brain that does not need to sleep.” © 1986-2018 The Scientist

Keyword: Sleep; Vision
Link ID: 24632 - Posted: 02.08.2018

By JOANNA KLEIN Plants don’t get enough credit. They move. You know this. Your houseplant salutes the sun each morning. At night, it returns to center. You probably don’t think much of it. This is simply what plants do: Get light. Photosynthesize. Make food. Live. But what about all the signs of plant intelligence that have been observed? Under poor soil conditions, the pea seems to be able to assess risk. The sensitive plant can make memories and learn to stop recoiling if you mess with it enough. The Venus fly trap appears to count when insects trigger its trap. And plants can communicate with one another and with caterpillars. Now, a study published recently in Annals of Botany has shown that plants can be frozen in place with a range of anesthetics, including the types that are used when you undergo surgery. Insights gleaned from the study may help doctors better understand the variety of anesthetics used in surgeries. But the research also highlights that plants are complex organisms, perhaps less different from animals than is often assumed. “Plants are not just robotic, stimulus-response devices,” said Frantisek Baluska, a plant cell biologist at the University of Bonn in Germany and co-author of the study. “They’re living organisms which have their own problems, maybe something like with humans feeling pain or joy.” “In order to navigate this complex life, they must have some compass.” © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Consciousness; Sleep
Link ID: 24611 - Posted: 02.03.2018

By NIRAJ CHOKSHI Years of scolding from health experts about a good night’s rest may be breaking through. Americans are finally getting more sleep — about 18 minutes more per weeknight compared with 2003. It may not sound like much, but researchers say it’s a positive sign. Weeknight Sleep, in Hours Americans gained an average 1.4 minutes per year in weeknight sleep between 2003 and 2016. “If we only got more sleep, we would then see that we actually perform better and would probably be more creative and more productive during the day,” said Dr. Mathias Basner, the associate professor of sleep and chronobiology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania and the lead author of the analysis of federal survey data, published this month in the journal “Sleep.” The incremental gains took place over 13 years. Dr. Basner and his colleague, Dr. David F. Dinges, found that Americans gained about 1.4 minutes of sleep per weeknight each year between 2003 and 2016. People also slept more on weekends, though the improvement was not as great — an extra 50 seconds of sleep per weekend night per year, a total gain of about 11 minutes. On average, Americans get more than eight hours of sleep on weeknights and more on weekends, according to the data. But sleep length varies widely. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a third of adults get insufficient sleep, which it defines as less than seven hours. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 24588 - Posted: 01.30.2018

Nearly a third of older adults don’t get solid zzz’s, according to a University of Michigan poll of 1,065 people age 65 and older. To help them sleep, 36 percent report taking a prescription drug, over-the-counter aid or a dietary supplement such as melatonin. But research suggests the benefits are modest at best. A Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs analysis found that people taking prescription sleep medications such as Ambien (zolpidem and generic) or Lunesta (eszopiclone and generic) fell asleep only eight to 20 minutes faster than people taking a placebo. Worse, prescription sedatives and some OTC sleep aids can be risky, especially for older adults, with side effects that can include dry mouth, confusion, dizziness, next-day drowsiness, and impaired balance and coordination. Taking sleep meds may also cause dependency, increase the risk of car accidents, and more than double the risk of falls and fractures — common reasons for hospitalization and death in older adults, according to Consumer Reports’ Choosing Wisely campaign. Because of these dangers, the American Geriatrics Society includes the potent prescription sleep drugs — Ambien, Lunesta and zaleplon (Sonata) — on its list of medications that adults age 65 and older should avoid. Compounding those dangers is the tendency for many to use the medications for longer than recommended. In a 2015 Consumer Reports survey of 4,023 U.S. adults, 41 percent of people who used OTC sleep aids reported taking them for a year or longer. Most of these drugs should be taken for just a few weeks or less. That’s because mounting evidence suggests that long-term use of certain sleep meds that contain diphenhydramine, found in products including Sominex, Tylenol PM and ZzzQuil; antihistamines such as Benadryl; and some cold and cough medicines may increase the chances of dementia. © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Sleep; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 24587 - Posted: 01.30.2018

By Jennifer Hassan The first time sleep paralysis struck me was in the winter of 2012. My grandfather had recently died, and I was spending time at my grandmother’s house. After 60 years of marriage, she wasn’t used to being alone or to the sadness an empty home can bring. Determined to help her in any way I could, I moved into her spare bedroom. As night came, I tucked her into bed and turned out the light — a task she had done for me on countless occasions growing up. The role reversal saddened me but also gave me an overwhelming urge to protect one of the most important women in my life. I lay down in the next bedroom and listened to her muffled sobs. I woke up a few hours later, feeling cold. As I went to pull the blankets up around me, I realized I couldn’t move. I began to panic. What was happening to me? Why was my body paralyzed? I tried to lift my arms: Nothing. My head was cemented to the pillow, my body embedded, frozen. Then the pressure came, pushing against my chest. The more I panicked, the harder it became to breathe. Like something out of a bad horror movie, I tried to scream, but no words came out. Unable to move my eyes, I had no option but to stare upward into the darkness. I couldn’t see anyone else, but for some reason it felt as if I had company. There was a hidden presence and it was tormenting me, refusing to let me go. After what felt like hours but was probably just a few minutes, I was able to move again. Shaking, I switched the bedroom light on and sat upright in bed until morning came. © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 24580 - Posted: 01.29.2018

By LIZZ SCHUMER It happens every year, and every year, it’s a shock to the system. Nature throws itself one last party, festooning every tree in a crisp blaze of glory. After we’ve digested the last of the spiced cider, after the pumpkins have gone soft, the long, dark days of winter descend. In much of the Northern Hemisphere, December through March brings blustery cold that makes dreary days feel as if we’ve been banished to Siberia. Sound dramatic? Probably not to the roughly 6 percent of Americans suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder. Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal and his colleagues first put a name to the disorder in 1984. Today, it’s characterized as a seasonal pattern of major depressive episodes, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. SAD ranges widely in severity, from the doldrums Dr. Rosenthal calls the “winter blues” to disabling ennui. Its cyclical nature differentiates SAD from major depressive disorder. “We have a tendency to want to blame everything on psychological causes,” Dr. Rosenthal explained. “We overlook the obvious, which is that it’s dark as pea soup outside. That’s why I think [SAD] goes unrecognized — it’s right in front of our noses.” While SAD should be diagnosed and treated by a licensed medical professional, several treatment options have emerged in the decades since it was first recognized. Here are a few ways for patients and their doctors to address the disorder, ranging from most to least widely used. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Depression; Biological Rhythms
Link ID: 24558 - Posted: 01.24.2018

By Linda Searing That’s the number of babies in the United States who die each year as the result of a sleep-related issue, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The causes vary, but child health experts believe many of the deaths would be preventable if more parents adhered to safe-sleep practices. For instance, babies should be placed on their backs to sleep, but the CDC found that 22 percent of moms placed babies on their side or stomach. Soft bedding — blankets, pillows, bumper pads — should be kept out of the sleep area, but 39 percent of moms said they used soft bedding. And it’s a good idea to share a room with an infant but not a bed with a baby. Still, 61 percent of moms told the CDC they had slept with their babies. © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 24525 - Posted: 01.15.2018

By Diana Kwon Centuries ago, humans believed that seizures were tied to the lunar cycle. Although scientific evidence for this association is scarce, physicians have long suspected that temporal patterns connected with epilepsy may exist. These days, the condition’s link to our sleep-wake cycles, or circadian rhythms, is well-documented, primarily through observations that seizures are more prevalent at night or tend to occur at specific times of day. Scientists now report the existence of seizure-associated brain rhythms with longer periods, most commonly within the 20- to 30-day range, in a study published today (January 8) in Nature Communications. “People have made these observations since antiquity and have wanted to speculate and explain these oscillations for a long time,” study coauthor Vikram Rao, a neurologist at the University of California, San Francisco, tells The Scientist. “But only recently [have we gotten] the tools that might allow us to actually unravel this.” Rao and his colleagues analyzed data collected from one such tool—the NeuroPace device, an FDA-approved, implanted brain stimulator that continuously monitors neural activity and sends electrical pulses when a seizure is imminent. It acts, in some sense, like a “pacemaker for the brain,” Rao says. The device detects and records both seizures and interictal epileptiform discharges, pathological brain activity associated with these events, using electroencephalography (EEG). “In between seizures, we see electric discharges that signify irritability of the brain and a propensity to have seizures,” Rao explains. “It’s like seeing sparks from a match, where you say, wow, that looks like there’s potential for a fire but it’s not the fire itself.” © 1986-2018 The Scientist

Keyword: Epilepsy; Biological Rhythms
Link ID: 24513 - Posted: 01.10.2018