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By Jade Wu Savvy Psychologist This week, let’s ask the million-dollar question: How much sleep do you really need? We all know sleep is important. Shakespeare called it the “sore labor’s bath, balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course, chief nourisher in life’s feast.” Less poetically, headlines these days seem to be shouting: “Sleep deprivation will make you slower and dumber!” “It will give you Alzheimer's disease and heart attacks!” One mattress advertisement I saw simply said, “You can only live seven days without sleep.” Yikes. Talk about pressure to perform! Fear-mongering aside, there is good evidence that sleep is important for health, well-being, and performance. A recent meta-analysis including over 1600 participants confirmed that sleep restriction is associated with poorer attention and thinking. We’ve known for decades that sleep deprivation disrupts mood. For example, it can trigger manic episodes in those with bipolar disorder. And we’re learning now, from researchers in Sweden and Germany, that insufficient sleep can even affect the microbiota in your gut. But how much sleep is enough? Is there such a thing as too much sleep? If you ask Dr. Google, you’ll get over a billion answers. (That’s right; “billion” with a “b.”) The most common answer seems to be “eight hours.” That seems pretty straightforward. But where does this number come from? And if you’re thinking, “Dr. Google hasn’t examined me; how would she know how much sleep I need,” then you’re asking exactly the right question. © 2020 Scientific American

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 26977 - Posted: 01.22.2020

By Philippa Roxby Health reporter A sleep disorder that can leave people gasping for breath at night could be linked to the amount of fat on their tongues, a study suggests. When sleep apnoea patients lost weight, it was the reduction in tongue fat that lay behind the resulting improvements, researchers said. Larger and fattier tongues are more common among obese patients. But the Pennsylvania team said other people with fatty tongues may also be at risk of the sleep disorder. The researchers now plan to work out which low-fat diets are particularly good at slimming down the tongue. Tongue tied "You talk, eat and breathe with your tongue - so why is fat deposited there?" said study author Dr Richard Schwab, of Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia. "It's not clear why - it could be genetic or environmental - but the less fat there is, the less likely the tongue is to collapse during sleep." Sleep apnoea is a common disorder that can cause loud snoring, noisy breathing and jerky movements when asleep. It can also cause sleepiness during the day, which can affect quality of life. The most common type is obstructive sleep apnoea, in which the upper airway gets partly or completely blocked during sleep. Those who are overweight or who have a large neck or tonsils are more likely to have the condition. Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, scanned 67 people with obstructive sleep apnoea who were obese and had lost 10% of their body weight, improving their symptoms improved by 30%. © 2020 BBC.

Related chapters from BN8e: 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: 26946 - Posted: 01.10.2020

By Matthew Hutson When you are stuck on a problem, sometimes it is best to stop thinking about it—consciously, anyway. Research has shown that taking a break or a nap can help the brain create pathways to a solution. Now a new study expands on the effect of this so-called incubation by using sound cues to focus the sleeping mind on a targeted problem. When humans sleep, parts of the brain replay certain memories, strengthening and transforming them. About a decade ago researchers developed a technique, called targeted memory reactivation (TMR), aimed at further reinforcing selected memories: when a sound becomes associated with a memory and is later played during sleep, that memory gets reactivated. In a study published last November in Psychological Science, scientists tested whether revisiting the memory of a puzzle during sleep might also improve problem-solving. About 60 participants visited the laboratory before and after a night of sleep. In an evening session, they attempted spatial, verbal and conceptual puzzles, with a distinct music clip repeating in the background for each, until they had worked on six puzzles they could not solve. Overnight they wore electrodes to detect slow-wave sleep—slumber's deepest phase, which may be important for memory consolidation—and a device played the sounds assigned to three of the six unsolved puzzles. The next day, back at the lab, the participants attempted the six puzzles again. (Each repeated the experiment with a different set of puzzles the following night.) All told, the subjects solved 32 percent of the sound-prompted puzzles versus 21 percent of the untargeted puzzles—a boost of more than 50 percent. © 2020 Scientific American

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming; Chapter 17: Learning and Memory
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 26938 - Posted: 01.07.2020

Getting a Good Night’s Sleep Without Drugs By Jane E. Brody As many as 20 percent to 30 percent of people in the general population sleep poorly. They may have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, some awaken much too early, while others do not feel rested despite spending a full night seemingly asleep in bed. For one person in 10, insomnia is a chronic problem that repeats itself night after night. Little wonder that so many resort to sleeping pills to cope with it. But experts report that there are better, safer and more long-lasting alternatives than prescription drugs to treat this common problem. The alternatives are especially valuable for older people who metabolize drugs more slowly, are more likely to have treatable underlying causes of their insomnia and are more susceptible to adverse side effects of medications. Is Your Sleep Cycle Out of Sync? It May Be Genetic By Jane E. Brody Early to bed, early to rise — a fine plan for a dairy farmer who has to get up long before dawn to milk the cows. But if you’re someone who works all day with stocks and clients and may want to enjoy an evening out now and then, it would be better not to be getting up at 2 a.m. and have to struggle to stay awake through dinner or a show. Such is the challenge faced by a friend who has what sleep specialists call an advanced sleep phase. Her biological sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, is out of sync with the demands of the modern world. Read more>>> By Perri Klass, M.D. The biology of adolescent sleep reflects a natural and normal delay in melatonin secretion that leads to a later sleep onset time, which unfortunately coincides with early high school start times, creating a high-stress set up. Pediatricians often see adolescents with insomnia, who have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, waking up too early or finding sleep not restful or refreshing. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 26919 - Posted: 12.27.2019

Alejandra Manjarrez When he was a postdoc at KU Leuven in Belgium, Daniel Vigo helped analyze results from an experiment that simulated a spaceflight to Mars. Six crew members were secluded in an artificially lit, spacecraft-like facility for 520 days starting in June 2010. Part of an international project known as the Mars500 mission, the experiment aimed to assess the psychological, social, and biological effects of prolonged confinement and isolation, along with the absence of normal day and night rhythms. That isolation, of course, was just an illusion, manufactured by the Institute for Biomedical Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the European Space Agency. The simulation took place in central Moscow, where any sudden medical problems could have received immediate attention—as Vigo, now a researcher at the Catholic University of Argentina and a member of the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET), tells The Scientist in Spanish. He began wondering what would happen in a less artificial scenario. One of the key findings from the study, for example, was that confinement—in this case in an artificially lit building—disrupted normal sleep patterns: the crew members in the Mars500 experiment had suffered from sleep problems and rapidly fell into sleep-wake routines that were out of sync with one another. But what would the story be like for people experiencing a similarly extreme living environment, Vigo wondered, without the safety net provided by a carefully controlled simulation? © 1986–2019 The Scientist

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 26918 - Posted: 12.27.2019

By Nicholas Bakalar The right diet might help you sleep better. In a study of 77,860 postmenopausal women, researchers found that consuming foods that had a low glycemic index is associated with a reduced risk for insomnia. Foods with low glycemic indexes — for example, vegetables, nuts and whole grain breads — have carbohydrates that are slowly absorbed and cause lower, and slower, rises in blood glucose and insulin levels after being consumed. For this study, in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, participants completed lengthy questionnaires about what foods they ate and how often. They also reported their degree of insomnia at the start of the study and after three years of follow-up. Compared with the one-fifth of participants whose diet had the lowest glycemic index, those with the highest were 11 percent more likely to have insomnia. Some low-glycemic index foods — whole grains and dairy foods, for example — were not associated with reduced insomnia. But people who ate the most fruits and vegetables were about 14 percent less likely to have insomnia, and the largest consumers of fiber were 13 percent less likely. In contrast, women who ate the most refined grains had a 16 percent higher risk of insomnia than those who ate the least. Although the study controlled for many health and behavioral characteristics, the study showed only an association and could not prove cause and effect. “Randomized controlled trials examining dietary patterns in relation to insomnia are needed to clarify these findings,” the authors write. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: 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: 26917 - Posted: 12.27.2019

By Aaron E. Carroll and Austin Frakt Both of us have sleep apnea, and both of us receive treatment that makes a world of difference. It could make a big difference in your life, too. Sleep apnea is quite common, with estimates that it affects up to 17 percent of men 50 to 70, and 10 percent of men 30 to 49. But there’s a problem. In the American health system, we often make it hard for people to get care, and the same is true here. Obstructive sleep apnea is when the upper airway collapses during sleep, leading to periods of, well, not breathing. About 24 million Americans have sleep apnea and don’t know it, research suggests, and many who do know don’t get treatment. The consequences can be severe. It’s a leading cause of vehicle accidents, as apnea-afflicted drivers fall asleep behind the wheel. Snoring and sleep apnea are on the same spectrum and are associated with Type 2 diabetes in adults. Treatment is associated with improvements in insulin resistance. Having sleep apnea, and not treating it, increases the risk of postoperative cardiovascular surgery complications. Treating sleep apnea improves sleep duration and quality. People who sleep better are much happier and healthier in general. Reducing snoring also helps partners sleep better. How hard is it to get used to a mask? We were treated with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). It’s intrusive, though not nearly as much as we had feared. Each night we strap on masks connected to CPAP machines. The modern machines are silent. And we both use masks that cover only our nostrils, though others need full face masks. The air that the machines push through the masks keeps our airways open. It takes some getting used to, but we adapted within a week. This isn’t to say that it’s not a big deal for many people — it can be. But it’s not as scary as many fear. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 26882 - Posted: 12.09.2019

Alejandra Manjarrez Typically, the worm Caenorhabditis elegans falls asleep after it experiences stress or hours of swimming. In a recent study, scientists observed another sleep trigger: being confined to a microfluidic chamber. As such devices are widely used to analyze different worm behaviors, the authors caution that the sleep induction could interfere with data interpretation. The results were published November 6 in Nature Communications. “In our field, microfluidic chambers have become very commonly used, and they are valuable tools for precise environmental control and for neural imaging . . . but what this study highlights is that we are significantly impacting the physiology and behavior of these animals by confining them in such a way,” says Cheryl Van Buskirk, a geneticist at California State University in Northridge. Van Buskirk studies sleep and stress response in worms, but she was not involved in this research. The team first observed this behavior while developing a technique to make electrical measurements of individual cells in worms placed in microfluidic chambers. They noticed that the muscle cells of these animals would not show any activity during some periods of time. Inactivity, however, is not always equivalent to sleep. “There are specific criteria for sleep, so we actually spent a good deal of the [latest] paper testing those specific criteria,” says Daniel Gonzales, who participated in this study as a graduate student at Rice University in Houston, but has now moved to Purdue University in Indiana. They tested, for example, whether this behavior was reversible, if it was associated with a decreased response to stimuli, and if the worms took on a stereotypical sleep posture. They found that, in addition to fulfilling these criteria, this microfluidics-induced quiescence was also regulated by neurons previously reported to control sleep in C. elegans. © 1986–2019 The Scientist.

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 26840 - Posted: 11.21.2019

By Kim Tingley We humans spend a third of our lives asleep, oblivious to our surroundings and temporarily paralyzed. It’s a vulnerability that would seem to diminish our odds of survival, so evolutionarily speaking it must also somehow confer tremendous benefits. Yet our best guesses about what those benefits are tend to come from observing what happens when sleep is curtailed. As far as we know, all animals sleep in some way; deprive most of them of it for long enough, and they will die, but exactly why is unclear. In 2015, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society published a joint statement, based on a comprehensive review of research, saying that “sleeping less than seven hours per night on a regular basis” — which is the case for an estimated 35 to 40 percent of Americans during the workweek — is associated with adverse health outcomes. These include weight gain and obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and stroke, depression, impaired immune function, increased pain, greater likelihood of accidents and “increased risk of death.” The National Institutes of Health reported last year that sleep deficits may increase the beta-amyloid proteins in the brain linked with Alzheimer’s disease. But when it comes to “what sleep is, how much you need and what it’s for,” says Louis Ptacek, a professor of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco, “we know almost nothing — other than it’s bad not to get enough of it.” Indeed, says David Dinges, one of the statement’s authors and a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, “All of this makes it really tough to send out simple messages to the public about when you should sleep and how much you should sleep.” Scientists believe that there are two separate but interrelated internal systems that regulate sleep. The first is the circadian system that tells our body when to sleep. Medicine already knows a great deal about how it works: Approximately every 24 hours, the suprachiasmatic nucleus, a small region in the hypothalamus, orchestrates physiological changes to prepare us for sleep, like lowering body temperature and releasing dopamine. But the second system — the one that tells our body the amount of sleep it needs — is still mysterious. One way to elucidate it would be to find genes that govern how long or deeply people sleep and observe where those genes are active. This fall, Ptacek, Ying-Hui Fu and other colleagues announced, in the journals Neuron and Science Translational Medicine, the discovery of two genetic mutations that seem to cause certain people to sleep far less than average. This brought the number of genes known to be involved in sleep duration to just three. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 26833 - Posted: 11.19.2019

By Nicholas Bakalar Poor sleepers may be at increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Chinese researchers used data on 487,200 people ages 30 to 79, generally healthy at the start of the study. The participants reported on the frequency of three symptoms of poor sleep: difficulty falling or staying asleep, daytime sleepiness and early morning awakening. The study is in Neurology. The scientists followed the group for an average of 10 years, during which there were 130,032 cases of cardiovascular disease. After adjusting for age, alcohol consumption, family history of cardiovascular disease and many other factors, they found that difficulty falling asleep was associated with a 9 percent increased relative risk for cardiovascular disease, early morning awakening with a 7 percent increased risk, and daytime sleepiness with a 13 percent increased risk. Compared with those who had no sleep problems, those with all three symptoms had an 18 percent increased relative risk of cardiovascular disease. The link was especially strong in younger people. The lead author, Canqing Yu, an associate professor at Peking University, noted that the sleep data depended on self-reports, and this observational study does not prove cause and effect. “People with difficulty sleeping shouldn’t be alarmed by this finding,” he said. “Poor sleep is a minor contributor to cardiovascular disease. But among young people who have no other risk factors, this can be important.” © 2019 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 26813 - Posted: 11.12.2019

By Austin Frakt Daylight Saving Time ended on Sunday, and for many of us the extra hour of sleep has provided a small energy boost. It’s widely known that sleep affects our mood and health. Less understood is how it can also affect our paychecks. A study published last year in the Review of Economics and Statistics found that workers who live in locations where people get more sleep tend to earn more than those in areas where people get less. One theory: Better-rested workers are more productive and are compensated for it with additional income. “There are other explanations, but we consider them less likely,” said an author of the study, Matthew Gibson, an economist at Williams College. It’s not as if simply sleeping more will cause your boss to pay you more. In fact, if you get that extra sleep by being late for work, you might earn less or even lose your job. So how would the sleep-income relationship actually work? Studying the issue is complicated by reverse causality: Not only does sleep affect work, but work also affects sleep. On an individual level, people who work more, and earn more for it, often sleep less. Studies show that higher-income earners sleep less than lower-income ones. That could be because higher-income people are spending more time working, so they have less time for sleep. Additionally, working more is stressful, and stress disrupts sleep. But poor sleep contributes to stress, too. A study in Sleep Health found that a poorer night’s sleep is followed by more stress and distracting thoughts at work. Other studies also find that less and poorer sleep is associated with more conflict and stress the next day. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: 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: 26787 - Posted: 11.04.2019

By Laura Sanders Every 20 seconds, a wave of fresh cerebrospinal fluid rolls into the sleeping brain. These slow, rhythmic blasts, described for the first time in the Nov. 1 Science, may help explain why sleep is so important for brain health. Studies on animals have shown that the fluid, called CSF, can wash harmful proteins, including those implicated in Alzheimer’s disease, out of the brain. The new results give heft to the idea that a similar power wash happens in sleeping people. Researchers studied 13 healthy, young people in an MRI scanner as they fell into non-REM sleep, the type of slumber that takes up most of the night. At the same time, the scientists monitored different sorts of activity in participants’ heads. Electrodes measured the activity of large collections of nerve cells, and functional MRI measured the presence of oxygenated blood that gives energy to those nerve cells. By using a form of rapid fMRI, the team also measured another type of activity — the movements of CSF in the brain. Fast fMRI revealed waves of fresh CSF that flowed rhythmically into the sleeping brains, a pattern that was obvious — and big, says study coauthor Laura Lewis, a neuroscientist and engineer at Boston University. “I’ve never had something jump out at me to this degree,” she says. “It was very striking.” Awake people have small, gentle waves of CSF that are largely linked to breathing patterns. In contrast, the sleep waves were tsunamis. “The waves we saw during sleep were much, much larger, and higher velocity,” Lewis says. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2019

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming; Chapter 2: Functional Neuroanatomy: The Cells and Structure of the Nervous System
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep; Chapter 2: Cells and Structures: The Anatomy of the Nervous System
Link ID: 26781 - Posted: 11.01.2019

By Gretchen Reynolds Taking more steps during the day may be related to better sleep at night, according to an encouraging new study of lifestyle and sleep patterns. The study, which delved into the links between walking and snoozing, suggests that being active can influence how well we sleep, whether we actually exercise or not. Sleep and exercise scientists have long been intrigued and befuddled by the ties between physical activity and somnolence. To most of us, it might seem as if that relationship should be uncomplicated, advantageous and one-way. You work out, grow tired and sleep better that night. But a variety of past studies indicate that the effects of exercise on sleep are more scrambled than that. In some studies, when people work out strenuously, they sleep relatively poorly, suggesting that intense exercise might disrupt slumber. Other experiments have found that the impacts of exertion and sleep work both ways; after a night of ragged sleep, people often report finding their normal workout extra wearing. Past research also has produced conflicting results about whether and how the timing of exercise matters, and if afternoon workouts aid or impair that night’s sleep. Most of these past studies have focused on planned exercise, though, not more incidental, everyday physical activity, and much of the research has involved people with clinical sleep problems, such as insomnia. Little has been known about whether simply moving around more during the day, absent formal exercise, might influence sleep, particularly in people who already tend to sleep fairly well. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming; Chapter 11: Motor Control and Plasticity
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep; Chapter 5: The Sensorimotor System
Link ID: 26771 - Posted: 10.30.2019

By Perri Klass, M.D. Sleeping through the night is a hot topic in pediatrics, so it was no surprise that there was a standing-room-only crowd for a lecture on it at the national conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics in New Orleans over the weekend. The speaker, Dr. Adiaha I.A. Spinks-Franklin, a developmental behavioral pediatrician, did her training at Children’s Hospital, Boston, where her teachers included the pediatric sleep expert, Dr. Richard Ferber, whose name has become a verb: “we Ferberized our baby.” But Dr. Spinks-Franklin, an associate professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, wasn’t talking about the burning question of whether to let babies cry. In her presentation, “Strategies to Help Sleepless Teens,” she started by reviewing the factors that can contribute to inadequate sleep in adolescents: social media and electronic devices in the bedroom. Intensely caffeinated drinks. The pressures of heavily overloaded schedules, including academic demands, extracurricular activities, travel sports teams, jobs and social lives. The biology of adolescent sleep reflects a natural and normal delay in melatonin secretion that leads to a later sleep onset time, which unfortunately coincides with early high school start times, creating a high-stress set up. Pediatricians often see adolescents with insomnia, who have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, waking up too early or finding sleep not restful or refreshing. Evaluating insomnia in an adolescents means looking at the predisposing factors, she said, including how that adolescent responds to stress, and possible genetic influences, and the precipitating factors — the specific triggers for insomnia — and finally, the perpetuating factors, which can keep the pattern going. All these adolescents should be screened for depression and anxiety, Dr. Spinks-Franklin said; both can affect sleep onset or sleep maintenance. And both are alarmingly common in adolescents. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 26765 - Posted: 10.29.2019

Patti Neighmond More Americans have been getting less than seven hours of sleep a night in the past several years, especially in professions such as health care. ER Productions Limited/Getty Images If you often hit that midafternoon slump and feel drowsy at your desk, you're not alone. The number of working Americans who get less than seven hours of sleep a night is on the rise. And the people hardest hit when it comes to sleep deprivation are those we depend on the most for our health and safety: police and health care workers, along with those in the transportation field, such as truck drivers. In a recent study, researchers from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., analyzed data from the National Health Interview Survey. They looked at self-reports of sleep duration among 150,000 adults working in different occupations from 2010 to 2018. Researchers found the prevalence of inadequate sleep, defined as seven hours or less, increased from 30.9% in 2010 to 35.6% in 2018. But it was worse for police officers and health care workers. Around half of respondents in these professions reported not getting seven hours a night. For many, the norm was six or even just five hours. The researchers didn't examine why sleep time is dwindling. But Jagdish Khubchandani — professor of health science at Ball State University who headed the study — speculates one of the biggest reasons has to do with stress, which is on the rise among Americans. © 2019 npr

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 26764 - Posted: 10.29.2019

By Eric A. Taub Like clockwork, the sound of the freight train came roaring through our bedroom in the middle of each night. Or at least what sounded like a freight train. In reality, it was me, snoring. And according to my wife, that freight train had gotten considerably louder over the years. Unfortunately, snoring frequency and volume is exacerbated by age, among other factors. While there’s nothing I can do about getting older, there are products and procedures available that can eliminate or significantly reduce the annoyance to one’s bed partner caused by all that nighttime snorting and wheezing. Snoring and sleep apnea are not the same, although severe snoring can be an indication of apnea. If sleep apnea is not present, snoring is simply the benign result of an obstructed airway. As we age, the uvula — that soft, floppy, fingerlike projection in the back of the throat — gets softer and floppier. At the same time, muscles under the tongue get lax. And the condition is exacerbated if we are overweight or drink too much alcohol. “With age, the muscle tone of our airways decreases. That decreased tone allows the tissues to move more readily and become more prone to collapse and to vibrate,” said Dr. Michael D. Olson, an ear, nose and throat doctor and sleep surgeon in the Mayo Clinic’s department of head and neck surgery. In addition, if the size of the airway decreases, air pressure increases, allowing for tissue vibration and snoring. “Combine that with nasal congestion, a big tongue and body fat, and that leads to an excessive collapse of the airways,” Dr. Olson said. Another cause of snoring: teeth extraction, a particular issue for baby boomers who had braces in their youth. With the removal of four bicuspids as a common practice at the time, boomers may now be suffering snoring because of a larger tongue in a smaller mouth. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 26731 - Posted: 10.22.2019

Emma Yasinski Delta waves, patterns of slow, synchronized brain activity that occur during deep sleep, have long been considered “periods of silence,” in which neurons in the cortex stop firing. But these intervals may not be silent after all, researchers reported yesterday in Science. In rats, some cortical neurons remain active during delta waves, and their firing may even be involved in consolidating memories. “The paper is absolutely fascinating and will have a large impact on the field of memory and sleep,” says Björn Rasch, a biopsychologist at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland who was not involved in the study. He suggests it might even help explain surprising results in his own research in humans published earlier this year that indicated participants may better remember words from a foreign language if they are replayed during delta wave sleep than if they are never repeated during sleep. The latest study “challenges our views on the potential function of down states [when cortical neurons seem silent] in memory consolidation processes.” When humans (and rats) are awake, a brain structure called the hippocampus records the ongoing episodes of our lives. When we sleep, the hippocampus replays this activity, which is transmitted to the cortex where it forms long-term memories. Afterward, the cortex seems to go silent. This quiet delta wave period is known to be important for memory consolidation, but researchers have wondered how it helps the process. © 1986–2019 The Scientist.

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming; Chapter 17: Learning and Memory
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 26730 - Posted: 10.22.2019

By Karen Weintraub We all wish we could get by on less sleep, but one father and son actually can—without suffering any health consequences and while actually performing on memory tests as well as, or better than, most people. To understand this rare ability, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, first identified a genetic mutation—in both individuals—that they thought might deserve the credit. Then the scientists intentionally made the same small genetic spelling mistake in mice. The mice also needed less sleep, remembered better and suffered no other ill effects, according to a study published today in Science Translational Medicine. Although a medication with the same benefits will not be available anytime soon—and might never materialize—the idea is incredibly appealing: take a pill that replicates whatever the father and son’s body does and sleep less, with no negative repercussions. “I find the concept of a gene product that might potentially provide protection against comorbid disorders of restricted sleep tantalizing,” says Patrick Fuller, an associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, who was not involved with the work. “If true, this would indeed have ‘potential therapeutic implications,’ as well as provide another point of entry for exploring and answering the question ‘Why do we sleep?’ which remains [one] of the greatest mysteries in neuroscience.” © 2019 Scientific American

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 26710 - Posted: 10.17.2019

By Emily Willingham Most of us could use more sleep. We feel it in our urge for an extra cup of coffee and in a slipping cognitive grasp as a busy day grinds on. And sleep has been strongly tied to our thinking, sharpening it when we get enough and blunting it when we get too little. What produces these effects are familiar to neuroscientists: external light and dark signals that help set our daily, or circadian, rhythms, “clock” genes that act as internal timekeepers, and neurons that signal to one another through connections called synapses. But how these factors interact to freshen a brain once we do sleep has remained enigmatic. Findings published on October 10 in two papers in Science place synapses at center stage. These nodes of neuronal communication, researchers show, are where internal preparations for sleep and the effects of our sleep-related behaviors converge. Cellular timekeepers rhythmically prep areas around the synapses in anticipation of building synaptic proteins during slumber. But the new findings indicate neurons don’t end up building these critical proteins in the absence of sleep. Advertisement The results suggest the brain is “getting prepared for an event, but it doesn’t mean you actually follow through on doing it,” says Robert Greene, a neuroscientist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, who was not involved in the study. Greene calls the studies “fascinating,” saying they confirm a “long suspected” connection between internal timekeeping and sleep behaviors. © 2019 Scientific American

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 26695 - Posted: 10.11.2019

By Elizabeth Preston Heidi the octopus is sleeping. Her body is still, eight arms tucked neatly away. But her skin is restless. She turns from ghostly white to yellow, flashes deep red, then goes mottled green and bumpy like plant life. Her muscles clench and relax, sending a tendril of arm loose. From the outside, the cephalopod looks like a person twitching and muttering during a dream, or like a napping dog chasing dream-squirrels. “If she is dreaming, this is a dramatic moment,” David Scheel, an octopus researcher at Alaska Pacific University, said in the documentary. Heidi was living in a tank in his living room when her snooze was captured by the film crew, and he speculates that she is imagining catching and eating a crab. But an octopus is almost nothing like a person. So how much can anyone really say with accuracy about what Heidi was doing? When our two branches of the animal family tree diverged, backbones hadn’t been invented. Yet octopuses, cuttlefish and squid, on their own evolutionary path, developed impressive intelligence. They came up with their own way to build big brains. Much of an octopus’s brain is spread throughout its body, especially its arms. It makes sense to be cautious when we guess what’s going on in these animals’ minds. Looking at a behavior like Heidi’s is “a bit like going to a crime scene,” said Nicola Clayton, a psychologist at the University of Cambridge who studies comparative cognition. “You’ve got some evidence in front of you, but you’d need to know so much more to understand better what’s causing the behavior.” It’s only conjecture to say the octopus is dreaming without more data, she said. Does the sequence of Heidi’s color changes match an experience she had while awake? Dreaming in humans mostly happens during rapid-eye movement, or R.E.M., sleep. Could we observe something similar in octopuses? Dr. Clayton points out that a human sleeper might flush red because she’s overheated. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: 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: 26686 - Posted: 10.09.2019