Chapter 14. Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming

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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

Keyword: Sleep; 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

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 26781 - Posted: 11.01.2019

By Vanessa Barbara SÃO PAULO, Brazil — It’s hard to feel normal when you wake up at 4 p.m. every day. No, I’m not a nurse who works the evening shift. No, I’m not the hard-partying heir to a Brazilian agribusiness fortune. And before you think it, I’m not lazy, either — I’ve written seven books so far! I sleep until the late afternoon because I’ve finally learned, after fighting it for years, that it’s better to come across as pathetic than to be always exhausted, depressed or sick. I have a severe case of delayed sleep phase syndrome, a chronic misalignment of the body’s circadian rhythms with the daily light-dark cycle of our environment. The phrase “night owl” doesn’t really do it justice; my natural bedtime is around 6 a.m. While we as a culture are gradually becoming more aware of the many ways that bodies can differ from the norm, much of the world still takes for granted that people sleep at night and are awake during the day. Not me. I miss having lunch. According to conventional wisdom, going to bed early and waking up with the birds is a mere matter of habit and will power. This misconception is widespread, even among doctors. And for a long time, I believed it. I spent years taking melatonin and Ambien in order to fall asleep by 2 a.m.; I used to wake up at 11 a.m. and then spend the rest of the day on stimulants such as Provigil and Ritalin. Yet I was always tired and depressed — the outcome that so often results when we try to force ourselves to be different from what we naturally need to be. The last two decades have seen rapid advances in the field of chronobiology, the study of the biochemical clocks that keep our natural physiological rhythms. The 2017 Nobel Prize in Medicine, for instance, was awarded to three American geneticists for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythms in fruit flies. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Biological Rhythms; Sleep
Link ID: 26776 - Posted: 10.31.2019

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

Keyword: Sleep
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

Keyword: Sleep; Development of the Brain
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

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 26764 - Posted: 10.29.2019

By Laura Sanders CHICAGO — Wide swings in blood sugar can mess with sleep. Food’s relationship with sleep gets even more muddled when signs of Alzheimer’s disease are present, a study of mice suggests. The results, presented in a news briefing October 20 at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, show that Alzheimer’s disease is not confined to the brain. “Your head is attached to your body,” says neuroscientist Shannon Macauley of Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C. Metabolism, sleep and brain health “don’t happen in isolation,” she says. Along with Caitlin Carroll, also of Wake Forest, Macauley and coauthors rigged up a way to simultaneously measure how much sugar the brain consumes, the rate of nerve cell activity and how much time mice spend asleep. Injections of glucose into the blood led to changes in the brain: a burst of metabolism, a bump in nerve cell activity and more time spent awake. “It’s like giving a kid a lollipop,” Macauley says. “They’re going to run around in a circle.” But a dip in blood sugar, caused by insulin injections, also led to more nerve cell action and more wakefulness. “You can have it go up high or go down low, and it was just really bad either way,” Macauley says. Researchers did similar analyses in mice genetically engineered to have one of two key signs of Alzheimer’s. Some of these mice had clumps of amyloid-beta protein between nerve cells, while others had tangles of a protein called tau inside nerve cells. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2019.

Keyword: Alzheimers; Sleep
Link ID: 26740 - Posted: 10.23.2019

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

Keyword: 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.

Keyword: Sleep; Learning & Memory
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

Keyword: Sleep; Genes & Behavior
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

Keyword: 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

Keyword: Sleep; Evolution
Link ID: 26686 - Posted: 10.09.2019

By Nicholas Bakalar During pregnancy, sleeping on your back may be a bad idea. Previous studies have found that sleeping in a supine position causes compression of veins and arteries that can lead to a reduction in blood flow to the placenta severe enough to double the risk for stillbirth after 28 weeks of gestation. Now a new study, in JAMA Network Open, concludes that supine sleeping is also associated with low birth weight in full-term babies. Of 1,760 pregnant women in the analysis, 57 went to sleep lying on their backs. (The initial sleep position is the one maintained for the longest time during the night.) After controlling for age, body mass index, previous pregnancies, hypertension, diabetes and other factors, they found that compared with those sleeping in other positions, women who slept on their backs had babies who were three times as likely to be in the lowest 10th percentile for birth weight. “It’s a small number of pregnant women who go to sleep on their backs — only about 3 percent,” said the lead author, Dr. Ngaire H. Anderson, a senior lecturer in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Auckland. “But we are keen to encourage the message that sleeping on one’s side is a way to optimize the baby’s health, both in reducing stillbirth and optimizing the baby’s growth.” © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 26677 - Posted: 10.08.2019

By Eva Frederick Yellow is usually the color of happy, joyful emotions. But according to a new study, not all people associate the sunshiney shade with good vibes. To find out what factors might play a role, researchers tested a new hypothesis: What if people’s physical surroundings affect their feelings about certain colors? For instance, if someone lived in cold and rainy Finland, would they feel differently about the color yellow from someone who lived near the Sahara Desert? The researchers looked at color-emotion data from an ongoing international survey of 6625 people in 55 countries. The survey asks participants to rate 12 colors on how closely they are associated with feelings including joy, pride, fear, and shame. Yellow is not so fun in the sun The darker the shade in the below map, the higher the likelihood of people associating the color yellow with joyful emotions. Overall, people were more likely to associate yellow with joy when they lived in rainier countries that lay farther from the equator, researchers report in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. © 2019 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Emotions; Biological Rhythms
Link ID: 26675 - Posted: 10.07.2019

By Laura Sanders A sleeping rat may look peaceful. But inside its furry, still head, a war is raging. Two types of brain waves battle over whether the rat will remember new information, or forget it, researchers report October 3 in Cell. Details of this previously hidden clash may ultimately help explain how some memories get etched into the sleeping brain, while others are scrubbed clean. By distinguishing between these dueling brain waves, the new study helps reconcile some seemingly contradictory ideas, including how memories can be strengthened (SN: 6/5/14) and weakened during the same stage of sleep (SN: 6/23/11). “It will help unite the field of sleep and learning, because everyone gets to be right,” says neuroscientist Gina Poe of the University of California, Los Angeles, who wasn’t involved in the study. Researchers led by neuroscientist and neurologist Karunesh Ganguly of the University of California, San Francisco, have been teaching rats to control a mechanical water spout with nothing but their neural activity. The team soon realized that the rats’ success with these brain-computer interfaces depended heavily on something that came after the training: sleep. To study how the new learning was strengthened during snoozing, Ganguly and his team monitored the brains of sleeping rats after they practiced moving the spout. The scientists focused on brain waves that wash over the motor cortex, the part of the brain that was controlling the external water spout, during non-REM sleep. That stage of sleep usually makes up more than half of an adult human’s night. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2019.

Keyword: Sleep; Learning & Memory
Link ID: 26672 - Posted: 10.04.2019

By Lisa Sanders, M.D. “I don’t know what’s going on,” the 19-year-old exclaimed in a panicked voice as his parents entered the nearly deserted emergency room of a hospital in Eau Claire, Wis. He was a freshman at the university there. A high school friend, now at the university with him, had called them with a strange story. She told them that their son had been uncharacteristically quiet for a couple of days — he had a terrible headache. But that morning, he felt well enough to go with her to pick apples. He had been a little out of it all morning, but suddenly he was totally gone — just standing in the orchard staring into space. He wouldn’t even respond to his name. That’s when she called his mother. Take him to the emergency room, the mother instructed. She and her husband drove 90 minutes from their home near Minneapolis to meet them. The doctors there had ordered tests but gotten no answers. A head CT scan was normal; so were the basic blood tests looking for signs of an electrolyte abnormality or infection. There was no evidence that drugs were involved. The young man had been there for a couple of hours, and he seemed a little more engaged. Though the doctors weren’t sure what was going on, they felt that he wasn’t in danger and said he could go home. But he is not O.K., the mother protested; he had no history of mental illness or drug use. The doctors replied that she should take him to his primary-care doctor in the next couple of days. The young man was quiet on the drive home. He couldn’t articulate how he felt. At home, he continued to act strange. He didn’t even recognize the family dog. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 26668 - Posted: 10.03.2019

By Eva Frederick As the weather cools, one species of squirrel in the U.S. Midwest is gearing up for one of the most intense naps in the animal kingdom. For up to 8 months, the tiny mammals won’t eat or drink anything at all—and now scientists know how they do it. Most squirrels don’t hibernate—instead, they stash food for the cold season and spend the winter snug in their nests. Not the 13-lined ground squirrel (Ictidomys tridecemlineatus), whose heart rate, metabolism, and body temperature dramatically plummet during their long rest—similar to bears, woodchucks, and other hibernating animals. To find out how the squirrels suppress their thirst—a powerful force that could potentially wake them up—researchers measured the blood fluid, or serum, of dozens of squirrels, divided into three groups: those that were still active, those that were in a sleep-of-the-dead hibernation state called torpor, and those that were still hibernating, but in a drowsy in-between state. Generally, a high serum concentration makes animals, including humans, feel thirsty. The sleeping squirrels’ serum concentration was low, preventing them from waking up for a drink. Even when researchers roused the torpid squirrels, they wouldn’t drink a drop—until the team artificially increased the concentration of their blood serum. Next, the researchers wanted to know how the squirrels’ blood concentration dropped so low. Perhaps the squirrels drank a lot of water prehibernation to dilute their blood, the researchers thought. But when they filmed squirrels preparing for their winter snooze, they found the animals actually drank less water than they normally did. © 2019 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 26661 - Posted: 10.02.2019

Patti Neighmond Many American teenagers try to put in a full day of school, homework, after-school activities, sports and college prep on too little sleep. As evidence grows that chronic sleep deprivation puts teens at risk for physical and mental health problems, there is increasing pressure on school districts around the country to consider a later start time. In Seattle, school and city officials recently made the shift. Beginning with the 2016-2017 school year, the district moved the official start times for middle and high schools nearly an hour later, from 7:50 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. This was no easy feat; it meant rescheduling extracurricular activities and bus routes. But the bottom line goal was met: Teenagers used the extra time to sleep in. Researchers at the University of Washington studied the high school students both before and after the start-time change. Their findings appear in a study published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances. They found students got 34 minutes more sleep on average with the later school start time. This boosted their total nightly sleep from 6 hours and 50 minutes to 7 hours and 24 minutes. "This study shows a significant improvement in the sleep duration of students, all by delaying school start times so they're more in line with the natural wake-up times of adolescents," says senior author Horacio de la Iglesia, a University of Washington researcher and professor of biology. The study also found an improvement in grades and a reduction in tardiness and absences.

Keyword: Biological Rhythms; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 26660 - Posted: 10.01.2019

By Natasha Singer CVS Health wants to help millions of American workers improve their sleep. So for the first time, the big pharmacy benefits manager is offering a purely digital therapy as a possible employee benefit. The company is encouraging employers to cover the costs for their workers to use Sleepio, an insomnia app featuring a cartoon therapist that delivers behavior modification lessons. CVS Health’s push could help mainstream the nascent business of digital therapeutics, which markets apps to help treat conditions like schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis. The company recently introduced, along with Sleepio, a way for employers to cover downloads as easily as they do prescription drugs. The company said it had already evaluated about a dozen apps. Some industry executives and researchers say the digital services should make therapy more accessible and affordable than in-person sessions with mental health professionals. Big Health, the start-up behind Sleepio, is one of more than a dozen companies that are digitizing well-established health treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy, or devising new therapies — like video-game-based treatments for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — that can be delivered online. Since last year, a few pharmaceutical companies, including Novartis, announced partnerships with start-ups to develop digital treatments for mental health and other conditions. So far, the use of treatment apps has been limited. But with the backing of CVS Health, which administers prescription drug plans for nearly one-third of Americans, those therapies could quickly reach tens of millions of people. A few employers have started offering Sleepio, and more are expected to sign on this fall, CVS Health said. Like in-person therapy, the insomnia app does not require a prescription. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 26655 - Posted: 09.28.2019

By Tina Hesman Saey Mice (and maybe people) may metabolize food according to daily, circadian rhythms set by gut bacteria. Microbes in the small intestine of mice rhythmically dictate when fat is taken up by cells that line the organ, researchers report. The study, described in the Sept. 27 Science, details how gut microbes influence a host’s metabolism. If the findings carry over to people, the research may give clues to why jet lag and night-shift work, which can throw off circadian rhythms, often lead to obesity, diabetes and other health problems. Researchers knew that human cells have molecular clocks that time 24-hour circadian cycles of metabolism (SN: 11/8/18), and that gut microbes in the colon follow their hosts’ biological beat (SN: 10/16/14). But the new study finds that, at least in the small intestine, microbes can set rhythms for host cells to follow. That work was done in mice, but the process may work similarly in people. The new research “is helping us appreciate just how intertwined are the metabolisms of the microbiota and their mammalian hosts,” says microbiologist and immunologist Andrew Gewirtz of Georgia State University in Atlanta who was not involved in the work. “It’s a very intimate interaction, regulating things as basic as circadian rhythms, which was quite a surprise.” © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2019.

Keyword: Biological Rhythms
Link ID: 26651 - Posted: 09.27.2019