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By Nicholas Bakalar Weighted blankets, which have long been popular aids to induce calm, could help reduce insomnia, a new study suggests. Swedish researchers studied 121 patients with depression, bipolar disorder and other psychiatric diagnoses, all of whom had sleep problems. They randomly assigned them to two groups. The first slept with an 18-pound blanket weighted with metal chains, and the second with an identical looking three-pound plastic chain blanket. The study, in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, used the Insomnia Severity Index, a 28-point questionnaire that measures sleep quality, and participants wore activity sensors on their wrists to measure sleep time, awakenings and daytime activity. More than 42 percent of those using the heavy blanket scored low enough on the Insomnia Severity Index to be considered in remission from their sleep troubles, compared with 3.6 percent of the controls. The likelihood of having a 50 percent reduction on the scale was nearly 26 times greater in the weighted blanket group. The weighted blankets did not have a significant effect on total sleep time, but compared with the controls, the users had a significant decrease in wakenings after sleep onset, less daytime sleepiness and fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety. The senior author, Dr. Mats Adler of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, acknowledged that this is only one study and doesn’t provide scientific proof that the blankets work. “I have colleagues using it, and they love it,” he said, “but that’s not proof. This study is an indication that they may work, but more studies should be done.” © 2020 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 27524 - Posted: 10.16.2020

By Benedict Carey The swarm of insects — sometimes gnats, sometimes wasps or flying ants — arrived early in this year of nightmares. With summer came equally unsettling dreams: of being caught in a crowd, naked and mask-less; of meeting men in white lab coats who declared, “We dispose of the elders.” Autumn has brought still other haunted-house dramas, particularly for women caring for a vulnerable relative or trying to manage virtual home-schooling. “I am home-schooling my 10-year-old,” one mother told researchers in a recent study of pandemic dreams. “I dreamed that the school contacted me to say it had been decided that his whole class would come to my home and I was supposed to teach all of them for however long the school remained closed.” Deirdre Barrett, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School and the author of “Pandemic Dreams,” has administered dream surveys to thousands of people in the last year, including the one with the home-schooling mother. “At least qualitatively, you see some shifts in content of dreams from the beginning of the pandemic into the later months,” Dr. Barrett said. “It’s an indication of what is worrying people most at various points during the year.” Dr. Barrett is the editor in chief of the journal Dreaming, which in its September issue posted four new reports on how the sleeping brain has incorporated the threat of Covid-19. The findings reinforce current thinking about the way that waking anxiety plays out during REM sleep: in images or metaphors representing the most urgent worries, whether these involve catching the coronavirus (those clouds of insects) or violating mask-wearing protocols. Taken together, the papers also hint at an answer to a larger question: What is the purpose of dreaming, if any? The answers that science has on offer can seem mutually exclusive, or near so. Freud understood dreams as wish fulfillment; the Finnish psychologist Antti Revonsuo saw them as simulations of pending threats. In recent years, brain scientists have argued that REM sleep — the period of sleep during which most dreaming occurs — bolsters creative thinking, learning and emotional health, providing a kind of unconscious psychotherapy. Then again, there is some evidence that dreaming serves little or no psychological purpose — that it is no more than a “tuning of the mind in preparation for awareness,” as Dr. J. Allan Hobson, a Harvard psychiatrist, has said. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 27514 - Posted: 10.07.2020

By Veronique Greenwood Hummingbirds live a life of extremes. The flitting creatures famously have the fastest metabolisms among vertebrates, and to fuel their zippy lifestyle, they sometimes drink their own body weight in nectar each day. But the hummingbirds of the Andes in South America take that extreme lifestyle a step further. Not only must they work even harder to hover at altitude, but during chilly nights, they save energy by going into exceptionally deep torpor, a physiological state similar to hibernation in which their body temperature falls by as much as 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, as dawn approaches, they start to shiver, sending their temperatures rocketing back up to 96 degrees. It’s an intense process, says Andrew McKechnie, a professor of zoology at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. “You’ve got a bird perching on a branch, whose body temp might be 20 degrees Celsius,” or 68 Fahrenheit, he said. “And it’s cranking out the same amount of heat as when it is hovering in front of a flower.” Now, Dr. McKechnie and colleagues reported on Wednesday in Biology Letters that the body temperatures of Andean hummingbirds in torpor and the amount of time they spend in this suspended animation vary among species, with one particular set of species, particularly numerous in the Andes, tending to get colder and go longer than others. They also report one of the lowest body temperatures ever seen in hummingbirds: just under 38 degrees Fahrenheit. On a trip to the Andes about five years ago, Blair Wolf, a professor of biology at the University of New Mexico and an author of the new paper, and his colleagues captured 26 of the little birds for overnight observation. They measured the hummingbirds’ body temperatures as they roosted for the night and found that almost all of them entered torpor, showing a steep decline in temperature partway through the night. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 13: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment; Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 9: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment; Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 27463 - Posted: 09.09.2020

By Charlotte Hartley “I was at home and that scary red monster thing from that stupid Looney Tunes show was hanging around,” reads the dream diary of Izzy, a teenage girl. “There were lots of them trying to get in and I was scared to death.” Like many people, Izzy dreams about strange characters in unlikely situations. But according to a new study, in which researchers analyzed thousands of dreams with an automated tool, Izzy’s dream is probably just an expression of her adolescent anxieties—a funhouse reflection of her everyday experiences. The researchers say the tool, which identifies and quantifies the characters, interactions, and emotions of dreams, could help psychologists quickly identify potential stressors and mental health issues among their patients. Throughout history, people have tried to extract hidden meaning from dreams. Ancient Babylonians believed dreams contained prophecies, whereas ancient Egyptians revered them as messages from the gods. In the 1890s, Sigmund Freud assigned symbolic meanings to dream characters, objects, and scenarios—with an emphasis on sex and aggression. Today, however, most psychologists support the “continuity hypothesis,” which posits that dreams are a continuation of what happens in waking life. Indeed, numerous studies have shown that dreams often reflect day-to-day activities and can act as a sort of nocturnal therapist, helping people process experiences and prepare for real-life problems. “If we can understand our dreams better at scale, then maybe we can also tailor technologies that improve our waking life,” says Luca Maria Aiello, a computational social scientist at Nokia Bell Labs and co-author of the study. © 2020 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 27434 - Posted: 08.26.2020

By Gretchen Reynolds People who are evening types go to bed later and wake up later than morning types. They also tend to move around far less throughout the day, according to an interesting new study of how our innate body clocks may be linked to our physical activity habits. The study, one of the first to objectively track daily movements of a large sample of early birds and night owls, suggests that knowing our chronotype might be important for our health. In recent years, a wealth of new science has begun explicating the complex roles of cellular clocks and chronotypes in our health and lifestyles. Thanks to this research, we know that each of us contains a master internal body clock, located in our brains, that tracks and absorbs outside clues, such as ambient light, to determine what time it is and how our bodies should react. This master clock directs the rhythmic release of hormones, such as melatonin, and other chemicals that affect sleep, wakefulness, hunger and many other physiological systems. Responding in part to these biochemical signals, as well as our genetic inclinations and other factors, we each develop a chronotype, which is our overall biological response to the daily passage of time. Chronotypes are often categorized into one of three groups: morning, day or night. Someone with a morning chronotype will naturally wake early; feel most alert and probably hungry in the morning; and be ready for bed before Colbert comes on. Day types tend to wake a bit later and experience peak alertness a few hours deeper into the day. And evening types rise as late as possible and remain vampirically wakeful well past dark. Our chronotypes are not immutable, though. Research shows that they have a yearslong rhythm of their own, with most people harboring a morning or day chronotype when young, an evening version during adolescence and young adulthood, and a return to a day or morning type by middle age. But some people remain night owls lifelong. Our shifting chronotypes are known to affect our health, especially if someone is an evening type. In past studies, people identified as evening types were more likely to develop heart disease, obesity, diabetes and other metabolic conditions than people with other chronotypes. They also tended to exercise less and sit far more, which some researchers suspect contributes to their risks for health problems. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 27425 - Posted: 08.18.2020

By Helen Macdonald I found a dead common swift once, a husk of a bird under a bridge over the River Thames, where sunlight from the water cast bright scribbles on the arches above. I picked it up, held it in my palm, saw the dust in its feathers, its wings crossed like dull blades, its eyes tightly closed, and realized that I didn’t know what to do. This was a surprise. Encouraged by books, I’d always been the type of Gothic amateur naturalist who preserved interesting bits of the dead. I cleaned and polished fox skulls; disarticulated, dried and kept the wings of roadkill birds. But I knew, looking at the swift, that I could not do anything like that to it. The bird was suffused with a kind of seriousness very akin to holiness. I didn’t want to leave it there, so I took it home, swaddled it in a towel and tucked it in the freezer. It was in early May the next year, as soon as I saw the first returning swifts flowing down from the clouds, that I knew what I had to do. I went to the freezer, took out the swift and buried it in the garden one hand’s-width deep in earth newly warmed by the sun. Swifts are magical in the manner of all things that exist just a little beyond understanding. Once they were called the “Devil’s bird,” perhaps because those screaming flocks of black crosses around churches seemed pulled from darkness, not light. But to me, they are creatures of the upper air, and of their nature unintelligible, which makes them more akin to angels. Unlike all other birds I knew as a child, they never descended to the ground. When I was young, I was frustrated that there was no way for me to know them better. They were so fast that it was impossible to focus on their facial expressions or watch them preen through binoculars. They were only ever flickering silhouettes at 30, 40, 50 miles an hour, a shoal of birds, a pouring sheaf of identical black grains against bright clouds. There was no way to tell one bird from another, nor to watch them do anything other than move from place to place, although sometimes, if the swifts were flying low over rooftops, I’d see one open its mouth, and that was truly uncanny, because the gape was huge, turning the bird into something uncomfortably like a miniature basking shark. Even so, watching them with the naked eye was rewarding in how it revealed the dynamism of what before was merely blankness. Swifts weigh about 1½ ounces, and their surfing and tacking against the pressures of oncoming air make visible the movings of the atmosphere. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 27391 - Posted: 07.29.2020

By Baland Jalal Imagine waking up in the middle of the night to an unearthly figure with blood dripping down its fangs. You try to scream, but you can’t. You can’t move a single muscle! If this sounds familiar, you’ve probably experienced an episode of sleep paralysis, which involves the inability to move or speak upon falling asleep or awakening and is often coupled with hallucinations. About one in five people have had sleep paralysis at least once. But despite its prevalence, it has largely remained a mystery. For centuries, cultures across the world have attributed these hallucinations to black magic, mythical monsters, even paranormal activity. Scientists have since dismissed such explanations, yet these cultural beliefs persist. In fact, my and my colleagues’ research, conducted over roughly a decade in six different countries, suggests that beliefs about sleep paralysis can dramatically shape the physical and psychological experience, revealing a striking type of mind-body interaction. Sleep paralysis is caused by what appears to be a basic brain glitch at the interface between wakefulness and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. During REM, you have intensely lifelike dreams. To prevent you from acting out these realistic dreams (and hurting yourself!), your brain has a clever solution: it temporarily paralyzes your entire body. Indeed, your brain has a “switch” (a handful of neurochemicals) that tilts you between sleep and wakefulness. Sometimes the “switch” fails, however—your brain inadvertently wakes up while your body is still under the “spell” of REM paralysis, leaving you stuck in a paradoxical state between parallel realities: wakefulness and REM sleep. During sleep paralysis, the crisp dreams of REM “spill over” into waking consciousness like a dream coming alive before your eyes—fanged figures and all. © 2020 Scientific American

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 27367 - Posted: 07.16.2020

By Nicholas Bakalar Artificial outdoor light at night may disrupt adolescents’ sleep and raise the risk for psychiatric disorders, a new study suggests. Researchers tracked the intensity of outdoor light in representative urban and rural areas across the country using satellite data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They interviewed more than 10,123 adolescents living in these neighborhoods about their sleep patterns, and assessed mental disorders using well-validated structured scales. They also interviewed the parents of more than 6,000 of the teenagers about their children. The study, in JAMA Psychiatry, found that the more intense the lighting in your neighborhood, the more sleep was disrupted and the greater the risk for depression and anxiety. After adjustment for other factors such as sex, race, parental education and population density, they found that compared with the teenagers in the one-quarter of neighborhoods with the lowest levels of outdoor light, those in the highest went to bed, on average, 29 minutes later and reported 11 fewer minutes of sleep. Adolescents living in the most intensely lit neighborhoods had a 19 percent increased risk for bipolar illness, and a 7 percent increased risk for depression. The study is observational, and does not prove cause and effect. The senior author, Kathleen R. Merikangas, a senior investigator with the National Institute of Mental Health, said that future policy changes could make a difference. In the meantime, she said, “At least as individuals, we ought to try to minimize exposure to light at night.” © 2020 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: 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 and Learning
Link ID: 27362 - Posted: 07.15.2020

By Anna Goldfarb It’s understandable that you may be struggling to fall asleep these days. Our world has been turned upside down, so it is especially hard to unplug from the day and get the high-quality sleep your body needs. “Almost every single patient I’m speaking with has insomnia,“ said Dr. Alon Y. Avidan, a professor and vice chair in the department of neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, and director of the U.C.L.A. Sleep Disorders Center. “Especially now with Covid-19, we have an epidemic of insomnia. We call it Covid-somnia.” An increase in anxiety in both children and adults is affecting our ability to fall asleep. Additionally, our lifestyles have changed drastically as people observe sheltering in place guidelines. With more people staying indoors, it can mean they are not getting enough light exposure. “Without light exposure in the morning,” Dr. Avidan said, people “lose the circadian cues that are so fundamentally important in setting up appropriate and normal sleep-wake time.” There are nonmedical ways to help you sleep better: Meditation, turning off screens early in the night, warm showers and cool bedrooms can help your body rest better. But if these options don’t work, or if you are ready for the next step, you may have considered trying melatonin supplements. These pills are commonplace enough that you have most likely heard of them and seen them in your local pharmacy. Here’s what you need to know about the pros and cons of using melatonin supplements for sleeping difficulties. What is melatonin? Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate sleep timing. It is produced in the pea-size pineal gland, which is nestled in the middle of your brain and syncs melatonin production with the rising and setting of the sun. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the gland remains inactive during the day but switches on around 9 p.m. (when it’s generally dark) to flood the brain with melatonin for the next 12 hours. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming; Chapter 5: Hormones and the Brain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep; Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex
Link ID: 27360 - Posted: 07.14.2020

By Richard Sandomir Dr. William Dement, whose introduction to the mysteries of slumber as a postgraduate student in the 1950s led him to become an eminent researcher of sleep disorders and to preach the benefits of a good night’s sleep, died on June 17 in Stanford, Calif. He was 91. His son, Nick, a physician, said the cause was complications of a heart procedure. Dr. Dement spent his working life as a popular professor in the department of psychiatry at Stanford University, where he started what is believed to be the world’s first successful sleep disorders clinic. He taught a class on sleep and dreams that drew as many as 1,200 students. When he awakened dozing students with spritzes from a water gun, Dr. Dement gave them extra credit if they recovered and shouted, “Drowsiness is red alert!” — his rallying cry to make sleep deprivation a public health priority. Drowsiness was the last step before falling asleep, he often said. Sleep deprivation put people at a higher risk of an accident on the road, diminished their productivity, increased the likelihood of their making mistakes, made them irritable and actually hurt their ability to fall asleep. “Bill Dement was an evangelist about sleep,” Dr. Rafael Pelayo, a Stanford psychiatry professor who succeeded Dr. Dement in leading the sleep class, said in a phone interview. “He felt that not enough people knew about sleep disorders, and he thought of his students as multipliers who would tell the world about them.” Dr. Dement’s expertise led to his appointment as chairman of a federal commission on sleep disorders. The commission reported in 1992 that 40 million Americans had undiagnosed, untreated, mistreated or chronic sleep problems — findings that led Congress to establish the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, within the National Institutes of Health, in 1993. When Dr. Dement testified on Capitol Hill five years later about the sleep center’s progress, he said he was pleased with its research but disappointed that the government had not sounded loud enough alarms about the serious, sometimes fatal, consequences of unhealthful sleep. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 27333 - Posted: 06.29.2020

Kerry Grens William Dement, whose research and leadership were integral to the expansion of sleep science and medicine in the 20th century, died June 17 at age 91. He made fundamental contributions to understanding the phases of sleep and the array of sleep disorders people experience. In 1970, he launched one of the first sleep disorders clinic in the world. “William Dement was a force of nature. A pioneering researcher and clinician, and a legendary teacher, his passion to uncover sleep’s secrets and to share these discoveries was unquenchable,” Lloyd Minor, the dean of Stanford University School of Medicine, where Dement was a faculty member for half a century, says in a university obituary. “Not only did he make great contributions to Stanford, but his efforts directly led to the birth and development of the field of sleep medicine.” Dement was born in Wenatchee, Washington, in 1928. He served in the US Army in Japan and earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington. At the University of Chicago, where he received a PhD and an MD, Dement worked with Nathaniel Kleitman to describe the physiology of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and its relationship to dreaming. “The groundbreaking research and use of polysomnography by Kleitman, [Eugene] Aserinsky, and Dement in the U.S., and by Michel Jouvet in France, laid the foundation for the fields of sleep and circadian science and clinical sleep medicine,” according to a memoriam by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), the first professional organization for sleep disorders that Dement helped launch in 1975. © 1986–2020 The Scientist.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 27322 - Posted: 06.26.2020

By Simon Makin on June 15, 2020 A well-worn science-fiction trope imagines space travelers going into suspended animation as they head into deep space. Closer to reality are actual efforts to slow biological processes to a fraction of their normal rate by replacing blood with ice-cold saline to prevent cell death in severe trauma. But saline transfusions or other exotic measures are not ideal for ratcheting down a body’s metabolism because they risk damaging tissue. Coaxing an animal into low-power mode on its own is a better solution. For some animals, natural states of lowered body temperature are commonplace. Hibernation is the obvious example. When bears, bats or other animals hibernate, they experience multiple bouts of a low-metabolism state called torpor for days at a time, punctuated by occasional periods of higher arousal. Mice enter a state known as daily torpor, lasting only hours, to conserve energy when food is scarce. The mechanisms that control torpor and other hypothermic states—in which body temperatures drop below 37 degrees Celsius—are largely unknown. Two independent studies published in Nature on Thursday identify neurons that induce such states in mice when they are stimulated. The work paves the way toward understanding how these conditions are initiated and controlled. It could also ultimately help find methods for inducing hypothermic states in humans that will prove useful in medical settings. And more speculatively, such methods might one day approximate the musings about suspended animation that turn up in the movies. One of the two studies was conducted by neuroscientist Takeshi Sakurai of the University of Tsukuba in Japan and his colleagues. It began with a paradoxical finding about a peptide called QRFP. The team showed that injecting it into animals actually increased their activity. But when the researchers switched on neurons that were making the peptide in mice, they got a surprise. “The mice stayed still and were very cold: the opposite to what they expected,” says Genshiro Sunagawa, of the RIKEN Center for Biosystems Dynamics Research in Japan, who co-led the study. The animals’ metabolic rate (measured by oxygen consumption), body temperature, heart rate and respiration all dropped. © 2020 Scientific American,

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 27307 - Posted: 06.17.2020

Ruth Williams Research teams in the US and Japan have each discovered independently and by unrelated routes a population of hypothalamic neurons in mice that induce the low body temperature, reduced metabolism, and inactivity characteristic of hibernation and torpor. The two papers are published today (June 11) in Nature. “Trying to pin down which neurons are involved with initiating torpor and hibernation . . . is certainly something that biologists have been interested in for several years now,” says biologist Steven Swoap of Williams College who was not involved in the research. “Both of [the teams] come at it from a different angle and almost end up in the same place, so they complement each other in that way, which is pretty nice,” he adds. Hibernation and daily torpor are both forms of mammalian suspended animation and share a number of features. Both involve significant, but regulated, drops in body temperature, metabolism, heart rate, breathing rate, and activity, and both are thought to be ways of preserving energy when food is scarce. While hibernation lasts for weeks or months, however, daily torpor lasts several hours each day. Why some mammals such as bears and certain primates and rodents have the ability to enter periods of dormancy while others don’t is unknown. But the diversity of hibernator species suggests that the biological mechanisms controlling such states may also be preserved, albeit unused, in non-hibernating species. This tantalizing possibility sparks ideas of sending dormant astronauts on extended space journeys as well as more down-to-earth notions of temporarily lowering body temperature and metabolism to preserve tissues in patients with, for example, traumatic injuries. © 1986–2020 The Scientist.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming; Chapter 13: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep; Chapter 9: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Link ID: 27300 - Posted: 06.13.2020

By Lisa Sanders, M.D. “I know what Danny has,” said the boy’s aunt to the boy’s mother, her sister-in-law. Her voice on the phone cracked with excitement. “I saw someone just like him on TV!” This was last fall, and Danny was 18. He had been a medical mystery since he was 7 months old. His mother recalled that she had just finished changing his diaper and picked him up when she heard him make a strange clicking noise, his mouth opening and closing oddly. And then his head flopped back as she held him. She hurried to the living room of their Queens home to show her husband, but by the time she got there, Danny was fine. Those sudden episodes of clicking and collapse happened again and again, eventually occurring more than 100 times a day. His first doctors thought these episodes could be tiny seizures. But none of the antiseizure medications they prescribed helped. Then, when Danny was 8, and almost too big for his mother to catch when he slow-motion slumped to the floor, his parents found a doctor who was willing to explore a different diagnosis and treatment. Could this be a rare disease known as cataplexy? In this disorder, patients have episodes of sudden weakness in the skeletal muscles of the body. In some, cataplexy may affect only the face or neck, causing the eyelids to droop or the head to fall forward. But in others, it can also affect the entire body. These episodes are often triggered by strong emotion, which was the case for Danny. Cataplexy is usually part of another rare disorder, narcolepsy, in which the normal control of sleep and wakefulness is somehow lost. Those with narcolepsy have sudden episodes of sleep that invade their waking hours and transient periods of wakefulness that disrupt their sleep. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming; Chapter 3: Neurophysiology: The Generation, Transmission, and Integration of Neural Signals
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep; Chapter 2: Neurophysiology: The Generation, Transmission, and Integration of Neural Signals
Link ID: 27290 - Posted: 06.08.2020

Allison Aubrey Sleep makes everything easier, even in these difficult days. Why then is it so hard to get? For most of us, right now, it takes work to settle our minds so we can rest. From medication to melatonin to putting on fuzzy socks, we all have routines we hope will help us drift off into sleep. And for good reason. "You've just got to gradually bring the brain and the body down, sort of from that altitude of wakefulness onto the hard, safe landing pad of sleep at night," says Matthew Walker, a sleep researcher at the University of California, Berkeley and the author of Why We Sleep. Don't count sheep Not only will counting sheep not help you fall asleep faster, but a study by Allison Harvey at UC Berkeley found that it actually "made it harder to fall asleep, and it took you longer to fall asleep." Do use calming mental imagery Harvey found that other types of mental imagery, however, are conducive to sleep. Walker suggests imagining a pleasant walk you've taken before, "like a hike in the woods or if it's a walk down on a beach that you do on vacation." Mentally navigating that walk, he says, "tended to hasten the speed of the onset of sleep." Try relaxation and meditation apps as training wheels "I'm a big fan of those things," says Chris Winter, a neurologist and sleep researcher in Charlottesville, Virginia. These apps can train you to meditate — to clear away regrets about the past and worries about the future so you can learn to be in the moment. "The ability to settle your mind and initiate sleep is a skill," Winter says. "The more you practice it, the better you'll get at it and the more confident you become." Melatonin has mixed results © 2020 npr

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 27289 - Posted: 06.08.2020

Veronique Greenwood Inside a series of tubes in a bright, warm room at Harvard Medical School, hundreds of fruit flies are staying up late. It has been days since any of them have slept: The constant vibrations that shake their homes preclude rest, cling as they might to the caps of the tubes for respite. Not too far away in their own tubes live other sleepless flies, animated with the calm persistence of those consigned to eternal day. A genetic tweak to certain neurons in their brains keeps them awake for as long as they live. They do not live long. The shaken flies and the engineered flies both die swiftly — in fact, the engineered ones survive only half as long as well-rested controls. After days of sleeplessness, the flies’ numbers tumble, then crash. The tubes empty out. The lights shine on. We all know that we need sleep to be at our best. But profound sleep loss has more serious and immediate effects: Animals completely deprived of sleep die. Yet scientists have found it oddly hard to say exactly why sleep loss is lethal. Sleep is primarily seen as a neurological phenomenon, and yet when deprived creatures die, they have a puzzlingly diverse set of failures in the body outside the nervous system. Insufficient sleep in humans and lab animals, if chronic, sets up health problems that surface over time, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. But those conditions are not what slays creatures that are 100% sleep deprived within days or weeks. What does sleep do that makes it deadly to go without? Could answering that question explain why we need sleep in the first place? Under the pale light of the incubators in Dragana Rogulja’s lab at Harvard Medical School, sleepless flies have been living and dying as she pursues the answers. Simons Foundation © 2020

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 27285 - Posted: 06.06.2020

Patti Neighmond Having trouble getting to sleep these days? You're not alone. For people with a history of insomnia, sleep problems are magnified right now. And many who never struggled before are suddenly experiencing interruptions in their nightly rest or difficulty falling asleep. It's pretty typical that in moments of anxiety, sleep suffers, but the situation we're all living through today means the anxiety never stops, says neurologist and sleep specialist Dr. Douglas Kirsch, past president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. For occasional insomnia, the problems go away when the specific trigger is resolved. But now, he says, there's no resolution or relief from "the constant inflow of anxiety-provoking news." And that spells trouble for sleep. Family doctors and sleep specialists say many people who are feeling grief, frustration and anxiety, whether about the pandemic, financial worries or racial inequalities and unrest in the U.S., are finding themselves unable to sleep. And it's not just the worry. It's the interrupted schedules and isolation of the pandemic too. Here's why it's not all in your head and what they say you can do about it. We're suffering "collective social anxiety" — tame it to sleep better Before the pandemic, Arlene Rentas, a busy currency trader in Charlotte, N.C., kept a regular schedule and slept like clockwork. She would awaken at 5:30 in the morning and be out the door by 7 a.m., home by 8 p.m. and, after a quick run, in bed around 10 p.m. © 2020 npr

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 27276 - Posted: 06.03.2020

By Christina Caron For the Langstaff family, the bedtime routine had become more like a bedtime marathon. “My son has struggled with sleep from the moment he was born,” Anna Langstaff, the head of a Montessori school in Portland, Ore., said of her 6-year-old son, Henry. “We used to joke that he was like a little knight fighting a dragon called sleep.” When Henry was a toddler, dimming the lights and other bedtime cues simply sent him into “battle mode” she said. “He’d start yelling, ‘No bed! No bed!’” After years of struggling with what had become a two-hour bedtime routine, the Langstaffs turned to their pediatrician, who recommended a chocolate containing melatonin, a hormone secreted by a pea-size organ in the brain called the pineal gland that helps regulate the body’s internal clock and induces sleepiness. “It was like magic,” she said. Now Henry falls asleep at 7:30 p.m. and continues to wake up at the same time he always has, shortly before 6 a.m., Langstaff said. “Magic” — “game changer” — these are words frequently used by parents describing how melatonin helps their children fall asleep. An online survey of 933 parents with children under 18 conducted by YouGov for The New York Times in May found that only about a third had kids who were struggling with sleep issues in the past year. But among those parents, almost half had given melatonin to their children. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming; Chapter 5: Hormones and the Brain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep; Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex
Link ID: 27253 - Posted: 05.18.2020

By Alexandra Jacobs THE SHAPELESS UNEASE A Year of Not Sleeping By Samantha Harvey As if in unwitting aid of the malady they address, books about insomnia tend to be very dull indeed. Many are stuffed with statistics and unhelpful suggestions, like one of those oversize polyester-plumped sham pillows you see on the fancier beds — and just as likely to be flung in frustration to the floor. Samantha Harvey’s memoir of sleeplessness is more like a small and well-worn eiderdown quilt: It might not cover everything, but it both cools and warms, lofts and lulls, settling gradually on its inhabitant with an ethereal solidity. Harvey is a well-regarded novelist in the United Kingdom, and perhaps the only part of this book that feels a little lumpy and uncomfortable is her working out in its pages an O. Henry-like short story about a husband who loses his wedding ring while robbing an A.T.M. More compelled by her predicament, namely stretch after stretch of not only little sleep (or “petite nuit,” as the French more melodiously put it) but no sleep at all, I found it difficult to care about this fictional character, or figure out if his crime and punishment represented anything larger about what disenchanted millennials have taken to describing as “late-stage capitalism.” Not for nothing does the author’s own experience take place in 2016, that epoch of political shock during which a majority of her compatriots voted to leave the European Union, a.k.a. Brexit (“Why isn’t it called Ukexit,” Harvey wonders with the petty irritability of the sleep-deprived), and Donald J. Trump was elected over the pond. That these events have since been outdone by arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, with its attendant sleep disorders, only amplifies this small volume’s relevance and power. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 27242 - Posted: 05.12.2020

African Americans with severe sleep apnea and other adverse sleep patterns are much more likely to have high blood glucose levels — a risk factor for diabetes — than those without these patterns, according to a new study funded in part by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health. The findings suggest that better sleep habits may lead to better blood glucose control and prove beneficial for type 2 diabetes prevention and diabetes management in African Americans, who are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes than other groups. They also point to the importance of screening for sleep apnea to help fight the potential for uncontrolled blood sugar in this high-risk group, the researchers said. Previous studies have linked disturbed sleep patterns, including sleep apnea, to increased blood glucose levels in white and Asian populations. But this new study is one of the few to use objective measurements to link these disturbed sleep patterns to increased blood glucose levels in black men and women, the researchers said. Their findings appear online on April 28 in the Journal of the American Heart Association. “The study underscores the importance of developing interventions to promote regular sleep schedules, particularly in those with diabetes,” said Yuichiro Yano, M.D., Ph.D., the lead study author and a researcher in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at Duke University. “It also reaffirms the need to improve the screening and diagnosis of sleep apnea, both in African Americans and other groups.”

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming; Chapter 13: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep; Chapter 9: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Link ID: 27219 - Posted: 04.29.2020