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Sleep Apnea Can Worsen Blood Sugar Control in People with Type 2 Diabetes

April 2nd, 2014 Raquel Rothe No comments

Researchers at the University of Chicago found that sleep apnea can worsen blood sugar control in people with Type 2 diabetes.

The findings provide another good reason for people with sleep apnea to wear a CPAP mask that helps assure uninterrupted breathing, the standard treatment for the condition, throughout the night. It is well known that sleep apnea, which causes breathing pauses and dangerous drops in oxygen during sleep, sharply raises the risk of Type 2 diabetes. More severe cases of sleep apnea are generally associated with poorer blood sugar control in diabetics

As originally reported on the American Diabetes Association web site (and published in Diabetes Care), disruption during the REM phase of sleep had the most detrimental effects on long-term blood sugar control. The problem, says Dr. Babak Mokhlesi, an author of the study “Association of Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Rapid Eye Movement Sleep with Reduced Glycemic Control in Type 2 Diabetes: Therapeutic Implications”, is that most REM sleep occurs in the early morning hours before waking, at a time when many patients remove their CPAP mask.

“In type 2 diabetes, OSA during REM sleep may influence long-term glycemic control,” writes Mokhlesi, director of the sleep disorders center at the University of Chicago, in the study’s abstract. “The metabolic benefits of CPAP therapy may not be achieved with the typical adherence of 4 h per night.”

http://www.sleepdt.com/sleep-apnea-can-worsen-blood-sugar-control-in-people-with-type-2-diabetes/

Omega-3 Linked to Better Sleep

March 25th, 2014 Raquel Rothe No comments

Higher levels of omega-3 DHA, the group of long-chain fatty acids found in algae and seafood, are associated with better sleep, according to a randomized placebo-controlled study by the University of Oxford.

The researchers explored whether 16 weeks of daily 600 mg supplements of algal sources would improve the sleep of 362 children. The children who took part in the study were not selected for sleep problems, but were all struggling readers at a mainstream primary school. At the outset, the parents filled in a child sleep questionnaire, which revealed that four in 10 of the children in the study suffered from regular sleep disturbances. Of the children rated as having poor sleep, the researchers fitted wrist sensors to 43 of them to monitor their movements in bed over 5 nights. This exploratory pilot study showed that the children on a course of daily supplements of omega-3 had nearly 1 hour (58 minutes) more sleep and seven fewer waking episodes per night compared with the children taking the corn or soybean placebo. The findings are due to be published in the Journal of Sleep Research.

The two-phased study looked at sleep in 362 healthy 7-9 year old UK schoolchildren in relation to the levels of omega-3 and omega-6 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFA) found in fingerstick blood samples. Previous research has suggested links between poor sleep and low blood omega-3 LC-PUFA in infants and in children and adults with behavior or learning difficulties. However, this is the first study to investigate possible links between sleep and fatty acid status in healthy children.

At the start of the study, parents and carers were asked to rate their child’s sleep habits over a typical week (using a three-point scale). Their responses to the well-validated Child Sleep Habits Questionnaire indicated that 40% of the children had clinical-level sleep problems, such as resistance to bedtime, anxiety about sleep, and constant waking in the course of the night.

The study finds that higher blood levels of the long-chain omega-3 DHA (the main omega-3 fatty acid found in the brain) are significantly associated with better sleep, including less bedtime resistance, parasomnias, and total sleep disturbance. It adds that higher ratios of DHA in relation to the long-chain omega-6 fatty acid AA (arachidonic acid) are also associated with fewer sleep problems.

Lead author Professor Paul Montgomery of Oxford University says in a release: “To find clinical level sleep problems in four in ten of this general population sample is a cause for concern. Various substances made within the body from omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids have long been known to play key roles in the regulation of sleep. For example, lower ratios of DHA have been linked with lower levels of melatonin, and that would fit with our finding that sleep problems are greater in children with lower levels of DHA in their blood.”

Co-investigator Dr Alex Richardson of Oxford University says: “Previous studies we have published showed that blood levels of omega-3 DHA in this general population sample of 7-9 year olds were alarmingly low overall, and this could be directly related to the children’s behaviour and learning. Poor sleep could well help to explain some of those associations.

“Further research is needed given the small number of children involved in the pilot study. Larger studies using objective sleep measures, such as further actigraphy using wrist sensors, are clearly warranted. However, this randomised controlled trial does suggest that children’s sleep can be improved by DHA supplements and indicates yet another benefit of higher levels of omega-3 in the diet.”

- See more at: http://www.sleepreviewmag.com/2014/03/omega-3-better-sleep/#sthash.TEJ9eyBI.dpuf

Sleep apnea may hold hidden dangers for women

March 12th, 2014 Raquel Rothe No comments

Sleep apnea may hold hidden dangers for women

Monday 28 October 2013 – 3am PST

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Sleep apnea may hold hidden dangers for women

A new study on sleep apnea reveals there could be some hidden dangers – particularly for women who have the condition – where breathing is interrupted during sleep. Women with sleep apnea may appear healthy, but they have subtle symptoms so their sleep problem is often misdiagnosed.

Now, new research, led by the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Nursing, shows that the body’s autonomic responses, which normally control blood pressure, heart rate, sweating and other basic functions, are not as strong in people with obstructive sleep apnea, and even less so in women.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious condition that happens when the person is asleep, sometimes hundreds of times a night. When it occurs, blood oxygen drops and eventually damages many cells of the body.

There are over 20 million adult Americans living with the condition, note the researchers, who explain that it is linked with several serious health problems and also early death.

Women are much less likely to be diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea than men.

Lead researcher Dr. Paul Macey says:

“We now know that sleep apnea is a precursor to bigger health issues. And for women in particular, the results could be deadly.”

Early detection and intervention needed

Dr. Macey and his colleagues describe their work in a recent online issue of PLOS ONE.

For their study, the team recruited 94 adult men and women, comprising 37 newly diagnosed, untreated obstructive sleep (OSA) patients and 57 healthy volunteers to act as controls.

The three groups had their heart rates measured as they went through three different physical challenges:

  • The Valsalva maneuver – where they had to breathe out hard while keeping the mouth closed
  • A hand-grip challenge – where they had to just squeeze hard with one hand
  • A cold pressor challenge – where the right foot is inserted into near-freezing water for a minute.

The team notes the main results:

“Heart rate responses showed lower amplitude, delayed onset and slower rate changes in OSA patients over healthy controls, and impairments may be more pronounced in females.”

Dr. Macey adds:

“This may mean that women are more likely to develop symptoms of heart disease, as well as other consequences of poor adaptation to daily physical tasks. Early detection and treatment may be needed to protect against damage to the brain and other organs.”

The team now intends to investigate if the usual treatments for OSA, such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), help to improve the autonomic responses.

CPAP is where a machine helps the OSA patient breathe more easily while asleep.

Funds from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Nursing Research helped finance the study.

In another study published recently, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, found that sleep apnea is linked to early sign of heart failure.

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If You Sleep Less Than 6 Hours, You Must Read This…

February 28th, 2014 Raquel Rothe No comments

I haven’t talked a great deal about sleep deprivation, so when I came across this articleon Medscape, I thought the overview of the various epidemiologic findings related to sleeping less than 6 hours was worth reviewing:

“Sleep deprivation has a profound impact on multiple disease states. For example, if you sleep less than 6 hours, epidemiologic studies show the following:

Stroke is increased by a factor of 4 times.

Obesity is increased by an increase in ghrelin, which is a hunger hormone.

Diabetes is increased because sleep deprivation increases insulin resistance.

Memory loss is accelerated. Epidemiologic studies show that there is not only permanent cognitive loss but also evidence of early brain deterioration.

Osteoporosis is increased, at least in an animal model, with changes in bone mineral density. Even changes in bone marrow are evident within 3 months of a study in a rat model.

Cardiac disease is increased. There is a 48% increase in early cardiac death, as well as increased cardiac-related mortality.

A 4-fold overall increase in mortality.

As it relates to gastrointestinal disease, there is an increased risk for colon cancer, and at least 1 epidemiologic study shows an association between sleep deprivation (or lack of sleep) and an increase in the likelihood of precancerous (adenomatous) polyps.”

The author also summarized the results of this finding that sleep deprived mice had higher rates of tumor growth.

More and more studies are linking sleep deprivation and obstructive sleep apnea with numerous medical conditions, including cancer.

If you sleep less than 6 hours, something else to sleep on…

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American Heart Month Means Time to Get in Shape

February 6th, 2014 Raquel Rothe No comments

María Simón

Celebrity fitness trainer, volunteer

So it’s February, and although resolutions are beginning to fade, they’re still there, shining dimly in the background of your mental to-do list. The determination to get back in shape is still alive, but already unforgiving schedules, nagging colds, and less-than-optimal weather conditions have gotten in the way.

Whatever you do, don’t give up… February is here to the rescue! What better time to get back on the wagon than during American Heart Month! Whether your goal is to lose weight, lower your blood pressure or simply become more active, the path is clear and, contrary to what the negative voices in our heads are saying, these goals are attainable.

I’m all for vanity as a great motivator to get healthy, but let’s not lose sight of the most important goal: to live longer and stronger. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, even more than all cancers… combined! Obviously, excess fat is a contributing factor, and dropping a few pounds greatly improves heart health. Nevertheless, losing weight shouldn’t be the only focus. After all, in case you haven’t heard, strong is the new skinny! It is important to be informed and have realistic goals.

Research by the American Heart Association has shown that visceral (abdominal) fat is directly related to higher incidences of heart health issues. But before you throw yourself to the floor in a frantic attempt to do as many crunches as humanly possible, know that six-pack abs are no more healthier than those with reasonable height-to-weight ratios. The American Heart Association recommends a waist circumference that is less than 35 inches for women. However, this is relative to height. Therefore, a waist circumference that is less than half of one’s height is another guideline toward procuring a healthy size, as opposed to going by the air-brushed model on the cover of your favorite magazine.

By now, we’ve been bombarded with every lose-weight-quick diet tip and get-flat-abs-quicker exercise routine. Fitness professionals, like myself, are forever searching for exciting exercise combinations in order to motivate our clients. But between you and me, the truth is, simple is best. Sometimes, just finding the time (and a wearable sports bra) is complicated enough.

The American Heart Association recommends at least 30-45 minutes of any exercise to achieve a healthier lifestyle. The keyword here is “any.” You don’t have to be drenched in sweat and feel like you’re about to die in order to have accomplished a good work-out, but if you’re determined, a lot can be done in just 30 minutes.

Start with a casual warm-up, jogging in place for a minute, increase to sprinting for another minute, and add jumping jacks for yet another minute. You can go back to sprinting, then jogging to bring your intensity down before stopping. Add some arm circles and leg swings for dynamic stretches while keeping your heart rate somewhat elevated.

Now that you’re all warmed up, let’s use your home as a gym. The bottom two steps of any stairway can be used as a “stepper” to do alternating step-ups, adding knee raises to work the quadriceps and then heel lifts to work the hamstrings and glutes. Use a dining room chair for tricep dips, and you can even sit in the chair, hold on to your seat (literally), bring your knees into your chest and extend your legs for a great abdominal workout.

Finally, take it to the floor and add some planks to the mix, going from elbows to hands to make it a little more interesting (if not entertaining) for an effective core and upper body exercise. Spend a couple of minutes at each of your homemade stations, take a one-minute water break, and repeat three times. End your at-home exercise routine by holding a few static stretches and you are good to go!

Find out more information about Health Benefits of Weight Training for Women,Abdominal Exercises that Strengthen Your Core and other heart-healthy routines by visiting Go Red For Women.

This blog post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post andlesscancer.org, in recognition of both World Cancer Day and National Cancer Prevention Day (both Feb. 4), and in conjunction with lesscancer.org’s panel oncancer in Washington that day. To see all the other posts in the series, clickhere. For more information about lesscancer.org, click here

10 Unconventional (But Great) Sleeping Tips You’ve Probably Never Heard

January 10th, 2014 Raquel Rothe No comments

By: Lifehack

Increasingly, science is showing that sleep is a basic building block for sustaining life and that sleep, like digestion, respiration and meaningful relationships, is one of the most important processes for the human body. During sleep the body heals, grows, and replenishes itself so that people can thrive with abundant, vibrant lives.

When we are children, sleep comes very naturally. The body demands it and it occurs. Children can sleep in almost any circumstance—driving in a car, with a TV on in the next room, with the dog barking. Children, teens and even young adults fall easily into sleep providing their circadian rhythm has not been disrupted. Unfortunately for adults, sleep is too often an elusive state that escapes us, causing a myriad of problems with health, happiness and productivity.

Sleep issues can arise for many different reasons, and for different reasons at different times in one’s life. Physical or emotional stress, changes in schedules and routines, dietary changes and disruptions to our natural circadian rhythm are the most common reasons that sleep problems arise. Unfortunately, when sleep problems do develop, they can become the norm rather than the exception for many people, and reversing these patterns takes some time and effort.

Next time you’re struggling with sleep, experiment with any of the following 10 unconventional but great sleeping tips to determine what will work best for you:

1. Strategize Your Day Plan

Plan your day as closely as you can so that you follow the same pattern and routine each day. Although this may sound boring, as it lacks spontaneity, when it comes to improving your sleep, your body thrives on daily rhythms and schedules. Wake up and go to sleep at the same time and try to have your meals at the same time as well. This will allow your body, hormones and other brain chemicals to function optimally, and this will allow your body to produce the hormones needed to fall and stay asleep.

2. Move Your Body Daily

Exercise has numerous benefits, and research finds new benefits every day. Regular exercise improves heart health and blood pressure, builds bone and muscle, helps combat stress and muscle tension, improves mood, and improves sleep. Exercise helps you sleep sounder and longer and feel more awake during the day.

When engaging in physical activity, it’s important that you choose activities that resonate with you and bring you happiness while participating. If you love dancing, try a Zumba class, if you like being outside, try running, cycling or skating. An additional benefit to exercising outside is exposure to sunshine. Twenty minutes per day of sunshine helps produce vitamin D, an important vitamin to your overall health and hormonal system. Also consider the time of day you are engaging in physical activity. Earlier in the day is better when it comes to sleep. Exercise excites the body and creates new energy, when you do this too close to bed time it could interfere with sleep.

3. Sleep Naked

The body naturally cools down as it produces melatonin and prepares the body for rest. Among other things, this process requires the body temperature to drop. When you sleep with heavy pajamas and blankets, the body has a difficult time lowering your temperature and this will wake you up. Try sleeping naked in good quality, comfortable sheets, and keep the temperature down in your bedroom.

4. Understand You Have a Circadian Rhythm

The body’s system and functions are based on rhythms. Humans have a circadian rhythm and a circannual rhythm. These rhythms control many things. The circadian rhythm—our daily time clock—is particularly important when it comes to sleep. Hormones provide signals to the body all day and all night long that control sleep and eating patterns. For this rhythm to function optimally, there are environmental components we can control to support this important process. When your sleep is compromised by work or stress, for example, you will lose this rhythm and re-establishing it can be difficult.

5. Turn Off Your Screens

Your circadian rhythm is strongly signaled by light. The bright light of the morning produces certain hormones and signals and the darkness of the evening and night produce others. The access to 24-hour lighting has largely influenced our exposure to light and therefore our daily rhythms. The one key thing you can do is limit your exposure to light in the evening, particularly the light emitted by TVs and computers. The light produced by these devices significantly interferes with the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone produced in the pituitary gland that signals sleep to the body. It’s crucial that the amount of light the body is exposed to decreases slowly over the course of the evening. Ideally, you would turn off all screens one to two hours before you’d like to sleep.

6. Do Something Relaxing

Avoid activity that is too stimulating in the evening. The brain is wired to respond to your physical and emotional needs at any time of day. When you engage in stimulating activity such as a dramatic TV program, a heated discussion with a family member, or work-related emailing, your brain’s awareness is heightened and bringing yourself down from that will take time. Avoid that by winding down. Have a cut-off time, perhaps one to two hours before bed, in which you will not engage in anything too stimulating. Make this a daily practice and tell the people you live with that it’s a goal you have. Try something relaxing like reading a book, meditation or gentle stretching.

7. Have Sex

After a day of work, commuting and children, the last thing many people want to consider is sex. But there are many health benefits to having sex, including better sleep. Weekday sex can be a simple quickie if time and energy are concerns, and that too will provide benefit. You’ll fall asleep faster after orgasm and there’s good reason for that. The hormone prolactin is released after orgasm. Prolactin is responsible for feelings of relaxation and sleepiness. As well, following orgasm, the body produces oxytocin, the feel-good hormone that reduces stress and helps us bond with others, so the benefit extends to your relationship and your overall health.

8. Watch Your Food Intake

The body is sensitive to all of the things you do to it, expect of it and feel throughout the day. Food digestion is a key function of the body that influences many things, including sleep. Keep your consumption of caffeinated beverages, including coffee, to a minimum and consume them before 3 p.m. if possible. Caffeine is very stimulating and interferes with the hormones required to relax the body and produce sleep.

Also, consider the type of food you’re eating. Having simple carbs in the evening has a relaxing effect on many people and helps with relaxation and sleep. Keep in mind how close you’re eating to bedtime. Ideally, you should stop eating three hours before bed. Digestion requires a lot of energy and time. If the body is busy digesting your last meal, you will have problems falling and staying asleep. Give your body the break it needs during the night to heal and repair you by allowing it to be free of the job of digesting food.

9. Drink Calming Tea After A Warm Bath

Magnesium is a mineral responsible for many functions in the body. One of its most important functions is calming muscles. By adding magnesium to a warm bath with some essential oil, you will be able to relax and drift into a deep sleep. Having a cup of herbal tea in the evening is calming and when done regularly (like turning off screens, taking a bath or reading a book), functions as an important signal to the brain and body that time for rest is near, allowing the required systems to begin their work. Chamomile tea has long been thought to be a helpful sleep aid. There are many companies producing blends that help relax the body and aid with sleep.

10. Keep Your Room Dark

Even the smallest amount of light hitting the eyelid (some research says the size of a pinhole will do it) can interfere with the production of melatonin, which would result in poor quality sleep or lack of sleep. Keeping your room both dark and cool have been shown to be imperative in regulating sleep. Invest in blackout curtains to ensure that your room is dark all night. Turn off and block the light from all electronic appliances, such as clock radios and cell phones. Better yet, remove them from your bedroom if possible. If blocking out the light is problematic, purchase a soft eye-mask that you can wear comfortably throughout the night.

Sleep apnea may hold hidden dangers for women

November 5th, 2013 Raquel Rothe No comments

A new study on sleep apnea reveals there could be some hidden dangers – particularly for women who have the condition – where breathing is interrupted during sleep. Women with sleep apnea may appear healthy, but they have subtle symptoms so their sleep problem is often misdiagnosed.

Now, new research, led by the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Nursing, shows that the body’s autonomic responses, which normally control blood pressure, heart rate, sweating and other basic functions, are not as strong in people with obstructive sleep apnea, and even less so in women.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious condition that happens when the person is asleep, sometimes hundreds of times a night. When it occurs, blood oxygen drops and eventually damages many cells of the body.

There are over 20 million adult Americans living with the condition, note the researchers, who explain that it is linked with several serious health problems and also early death.

Women are much less likely to be diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea than men.

Lead researcher Dr. Paul Macey says:

“We now know that sleep apnea is a precursor to bigger health issues. And for women in particular, the results could be deadly.”

Early detection and intervention needed

Dr. Macey and his colleagues describe their work in a recent online issue of PLOS ONE.

For their study, the team recruited 94 adult men and women, comprising 37 newly diagnosed, untreated obstructive sleep (OSA) patients and 57 healthy volunteers to act as controls.

The three groups had their heart rates measured as they went through three different physical challenges:

  • The Valsalva maneuver – where they had to breathe out hard while keeping the mouth closed
  • A hand-grip challenge – where they had to just squeeze hard with one hand
  • A cold pressor challenge – where the right foot is inserted into near-freezing water for a minute.

The team notes the main results:

“Heart rate responses showed lower amplitude, delayed onset and slower rate changes in OSA patients over healthy controls, and impairments may be more pronounced in females.”

Dr. Macey adds:

“This may mean that women are more likely to develop symptoms of heart disease, as well as other consequences of poor adaptation to daily physical tasks. Early detection and treatment may be needed to protect against damage to the brain and other organs.”

The team now intends to investigate if the usual treatments for OSA, such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), help to improve the autonomic responses.

CPAP is where a machine helps the OSA patient breathe more easily while asleep.

Funds from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Nursing Research helped finance the study.

In another study published recently, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, found that sleep apnea is linked to early sign of heart failure.

Written by Catharine Paddock PhD

Circadian Rhythms in Modern Life

October 10th, 2013 Raquel Rothe No comments
Circadian-RhythmThis paper discusses the Western human circadian rhythm and its relation to health.

1. The circadian rhythm of a modern man

“In 1910, the average American slept nine hours a night, disturbed only by the occasional Model T backfiring. We now average 7.5 and declining.” – Robert Sapolsky (Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers)

The typical Western person’s circadian rhythm differs in at least three main ways of which the human species has adapted to in its history

First of all, the amount of light during night time. Before artificial lighting popularized, people spent the night in almost complete darkness . Today, most families live in almost constant light even if it is pitch black outside.

Second, the amount of light during the day is now lower than it has ever been in human history . The reason is that we do not spend much time outdoors. We spend the days indoors, where the amount of light can be over a hundred times less than the amount of light outside.

“Bright light can help shift even the most extreme body clocks,” says Professor Roenneberg. “But the amount of light in most offices is laughable. You would be lucky to get 400 lux [a unit of measurement of the intensity of light] at a bright vertical office window during the day, whereas outside on a cloudy day in summer you would experience more like 10,000 lux. If it’s a blue sky, you could get as much as 150,000 lux.” (Independent: Could you be suffering from ‘social jet lag’?)

The third current problem is sleep duration, which has been decreasing in recent decades.

In a study on connections between sleep and obesity published this year, it was found that in the 1960’s people slept about 8-9 hours a night. By 1995, the amount had shrunk to seven hours. In 2005, a third of the population slept for about six hours a night. Actigraphic and polysomnographic studies show that middle-aged people only get six hours of sleep on average. (Reiter et al. 2011)

Now we are going to speculate the effect of these on health by studying some research material on the subject.

2. The circadian rhythms’ connection with health – shift work and clinical sleep studies

People doing shift work is an interesting group when reflecting on the circadian rhythms’ effects on health. These people must for follow a very unnatural sleep rhythm because of their profession. Epidemiologic data shows that certain health problems are much more common among shift workers than in the average population.

  • Obesity – In a Swedish study 27485 people answered a survey and according to the results, shift work correlates to a 40% higher risk for obesity (BMI over 30) after adjusting for age and socioeconomic factors. (Karlsson et al. 2001)
  • Breast cancer – In Denmark the risk of breast cancer in nurses is 80% higher in those working day and night shifts. The longer the shift work had lasted, the larger the risk was. Those who had been working in shifts for over two years, the risk was 160% higher (after adjusting the results) than in those only working during the day. (Hansen&Stevens 2011)
  • Cortisol and obesity – In the Netherlands a small study (122 persons) showed, that in people doing shift work the amount of cortisol in a hair sample was larger (47 .32 vs 29.72 pg/mg). In young people doing shift work the BMI of these people was clearly higher compared to day workers (27.2 vs 23.7). (Manenschijn et al. 2011)

“If light were a drug, the government would not approve it,” says Professor Charles Czeisler of the Harvard Medical School. And Professor George Brainard of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, adds: “Humans evolved on a planet without electric light over thousands and thousands of generations. The body is designed to be alert and awake during daytime hours and to sleep at night. Now we have a 24-7 society that isn’t in harmony with our biological design.”

“In the new study, scientists grafted human breast cancer tumours on to rats and infused them with blood taken from women during the day, in the early hours of the morning, and after being exposed to light at night. The blood taken in darkness slowed the growth of the cancers by 80 per cent, but the blood taken after exposure to light accelerated it.” (Independent: Avoid breast cancer. Sleep in the dark…)

If even a few years of shift work can clearly be seen as an elevated risk for breast cancer, could a lifetime of sleep deprivation or other light related problems that affect most people have an effect on the risk of chronic disease? I would say it’s possible.

Some experimental studies have been done, in which for example the test subjects duration of sleep has been reduced.

  • In a study conducted by the University of Chicago, eleven young men were sleep deprived (four hours of sleep per night) for six days. This caused the test subjects’ cortisol levels to rise and sugar tolerance to temporarily decline. (Spiegel et al. 1999)
  • The same university published a cross over study, in which 10 overweight people were calorie deprived for two different time periods. During the one period they were allowed to sleep for 8.5 hours and in the other only 5.5 hours. The actual amounts of sleep were 7h 25 min and 5h 14 min. In both groups the subjects weights declined 3 kilograms, but in the sleep deprived group 80% of this weight was muscle. Without sleep deprivation 52% of the dropped weight was muscle and the rest fat. (Nedeltcheva et al. 2010Whole Health Source – The Big Sleep)
  • In an American study conducted in 2009, ten test subjects followed a 28 hour day instead of the normal, 24 hour day. Half way in the study the test subjects spending night time as day time, the test subjects leptin levels were about 20% lower during the day than before the test but during sleep the difference was smaller. Also the insulin levels were on average 22% higher and after breakfast (2h) the blood sugar rose 32% higher than normally. (Scheer et al. 2009)

3. The environmental light and melatonin secretion

Next we’ll dive into the world of melatonin, but first the basics.

The ambient light contributes significantly to the body’s circadian rhythm. In particular, blue light (460-490nm) inhibits the pineal gland from secreting melatonin. Melatonin is often called the dark hormone, because it is secreted at night.

Only blue light affects the secretion of melatonin, so if a person is wearing blue blocker sunglasses, melatonin secretion will not be affected. Of course, removing the short wavelengths (blue light) from lamps will have the same effect. (Sasseville et al. 2006Kayumov et al. 2007Chellappa et al. 2011).

Even normal lighting before going to sleep can decrease melatonin secretion which can have effects on health. The melatonin blocking effects of blue light can be significant especially in winter time, when the small amount of daytime exposure to light can cause the body to react more significantly to bright artificial light used in the evening. (Gooley et al. 2011Higuchi et al. 2007Park&Tokura 1999).

Only blue wavelengths of light have effect on melatonin secretion, but for example cortisol levels can rise from other wavelengths as well. (Figueiro&Rea 2010Leproult et al. 2001).

Below are empirical studies in which the amount or type of light has been altered and the results have been documented:

  • In Ohio the effect of blue blocker glasses and their effect on a person’s quality of sleep and mood was studied. Orange colored blue blocking glasses improved quality of sleep, but grey control glasses didn’t. (Burkhart&Phelps 2009)
  • Blue blocker lenses seem to be very effective for insomnia in ADHD subjects. The average PSQI score fell from 11.15 to 4.54, dropping below the cut-off score of 5 for clinical insomnia“. (Fargason et al. 2013)
  • Doctor James Phelps described a small experiment in his article, in which persons (n=21) suffering from bipolar disorder and sleep complications were given blue blocker glasses for evening usage. Nine test subjects felt their condition improve “very much” while eight people didn’t notice any effect. Also a few felt smaller improvement and also a few were somewhat bothered because of falling asleep too early. (Phelps 2008 ; see also Seth Roberts’ blog post Bipolar Disorder: Good Results with Blue-Blocker Glasses).
  • In New York State a study was conducted in which school children wore blue blocker glasses (with orange lenses) during the day for one school week. This caused their melatonin secretion at evening to begin a half an hour later than normally. (Figueiro&Rea 2010)
  • Bright light treatment seems to be beneficial in the treatment of specific mood disorders, including depression and seasonal affective disorder (Golden et al. 2005Lieverse et al. 2011).

I believe that the effect seen in the bright light study mentioned before could be replicated and possibly surpassed with ordinary daylight. Expensive bright lights shine light at 10 000 lux at the best, but outside the amount of light can be ten times larger. Daylight might also have other benefits like vitamin D production caused by UV-radiation, the temporary lowering of blood pressure caused by nitric oxide metabolism, plus the stress-relieving effects of red and near-infrared light. The problem of course is, that in the winter time natural light isn’t available in large amounts in all parts of the world. (Holick et al. 2007Opländer et al. 2009Feelisch et al. 2010Barrett&Gonzalez-Lima 2013).
Melatonin can also be used as medication and in clinical trials it has been portrayed as quite a useful drug:

  • In one study, melatonin had quite a good effect on irritable bowel syndrome. (Lu et al. 2005)
  • Melatonin supplements might be beneficial to patients suffering from CFS and/or fibromyalgia. The benefits are possibly caused at least in part, by the improvement of subjects’ quality of sleep. Those who used melatonin showed significant improvement in sleep / sleep parameters. (Hussain et al. 2011van Heukelom et al. 2006)
  • According to a recent meta-analysis of melatonin, a slightly higher dose (20mg) seems to be have quite a large effect on conventional cancer treatments. It decreases the mortality rate and reduces treatment side effects significantly. (Wang et al. 2012, see also Mills et al. 2005)

Even though light is very important influence to human / animal circadian rhythm, apparently among light, food, other people and physical activity also have a notable effect. I’m not yet particularly familiar with that data, so it will not be discussed in this essay.

4. Tips for improving sleep and health
Get some light after waking up and during the day

The effect of light on the circadian rhythm seems to be the largest immediately after waking up, so walking outside for ten minutes after waking up can be beneficial.

If you want an adequate amount of blue light during the winter, there are roughly two types of light therapy lamps. Large ones and small ones. The larger lamps have a large lux amount (they are brighter), and the smaller ones compensate with the light spectrum and by a smaller distance between the user and lamp. The lights of small lamps are slightly bluer to compensate for the smaller intensity of light. (Meesters et al. 2011)

I have noticed that if I don’t get enough light during the first 1-2 hours after waking, I’ll stay more or less sleepy for the rest of the day.

Sufficient blue light during the day might be important for alertness, mood and sleep. (Viola et al. 2008)

circadian1

A light box (left), blue blocker sunglasses (right).

Avoid unnecessary light during the late evening

Turning lamps off and dimming your computer’s display are some of the simplest non-pharmaceutical ways to increase melatonin levels at night. And to make it easier to fall asleep.

If I get a too much light into my eyes at bedtime, I will suddenly become very alert and that means that I need to wait another 1-2 hours until I’ll be able to fall asleep. When I was in high school, this was a significant problem for me. I had to wake up at 7am on almost every morning, yet I usually couldn’t fall asleep before midnight. The late evening, the time when I should have been already sleeping, was the most productive time of the day, because of the strong alerting effect of light at night.

F.lux is a popular computer program that changes the displays color to orangish automatically in the evening. Personally I prefer to use Gamma Panel (gapa.exe), a program that allows you to remove blue light completely from your computer screen.

The blue blocker sunglasses are another alternative. If you want to block out blue light, you can buy some nice lenses from ebay (use keyword “aviator blue blocker”) and wear them in the evenings.

Also red light bulbs (LED) can be used can be used as night reading lamps.

Poor curtains can leave the room too bright during the night or early morning. A sleep mask is an easy and cheap way to correct this problem.

redden computer screen

In the evening, I usually use Gamma Panel software to redden my computer screen. This makes falling asleep much easier.

Nutrition and sleep

A combination of melatonin, magnesium and zinc has been shown to have great results in sleep quality studies. (Rondanelli et al. 2011)

In a few studies, glycine has been shown to improve quality of sleep. The primary source of glycine is collagen protein or gelatin. This means that head cheese and bone broth are a good source of glycine and can improve quality of sleep. I occasionally make jelly out of gelatin and concentrated juice. (Yamadera et al. 2007Inagawa et al. 2006)

I personally agree with the basics of Matt’s “Eat for Heat” ideology. If I have trouble falling asleep, I try to eat some extra starch and fat calories (e.g. rye/wheat bread with butter and cheese) and avoid too large amounts of fluid.
Other ideas

Seth Roberts, a Professor of Psychology, has written a lot about his various experiments, some of which are related to circadian rhythm. (Roberts 2004Seth’s blogPerfect Health Diet – Seth Roberts and Circadian Therapy)

Here’s a list of things that, according to Roberts’ experiments, could benefit those having problems related to their diurnal rhythm.

  • Intake of vitamin D3 might affect one’s circadian rhythm if the doses are high enough. Because of this, Roberts has recommended taking 4000IU (100µg) of vitamin D shortly after waking up. (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15)
  • Standing so much that your legs become fatigued might be useful. Roberts noticed consistently high quality of sleep when he stood at least 9 hours during a day. He also noticed that this time can be dramatically reduced by standing on one leg. (1 (p.13-15) ja2)
  • Morning Faces Therapy: According to Roberts, if one sees faces after waking up, he/she will be more sleepy and unmotivated in the evening, but more alert and motivated in the next morning. (1 ja 2 (p. 5-13)

A mirror, to see my own face during my piano improvisations. (Seth Roberts' faces therapy)

A mirror, to see my own face during my piano improvisations. (Seth Roberts’ faces therapy)

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Laura Mikkonen for doing most of the translating work.

Working Memory Deficit Linked to Insomnia

October 2nd, 2013 Raquel Rothe No comments

Published on Wednesday, 11 September 2013 04:15

Researchers in the department of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego believe they’ve found a distinct link between memory deficits and insomnia.

For the study, 25 patients with primary insomnia and 25 healthy sleepers underwent functional MRI while performing the N-back working memory task. Sleep was measured using self-reports and actigraphy, and patients underwent polysomnography for two consecutive nights.

“We found that after undergoing MRI, insomnia subjects did not properly turn on brain regions critical to a working memory task and did not turn off ‘mind-wandering’ brain regions irrelevant to the task,” said Sean P.A. Drummond, PhD, associate professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, in a press release. “Based on these results, it is not surprising that someone with insomnia would feel like they are working harder to do the same job as a healthy sleeper.”

The resultswhich were published in the journal Sleep, reveal that patients with insomnia did not differ significantly from healthy sleepers in objective cognitive performance. However, as the working memory task increased in difficulty, patients with insomnia showed reduced activation of task-related working memory regions, particularly in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. What’s more, patients with insomnia exhibited increased activation of default mode regions, which are typically active when the mind is “wandering.”

The Perfect Nap: Sleeping Is a Mix of Art and Science

September 21st, 2013 Raquel Rothe No comments

There’s an art to napping.

Studies have found different benefits—and detriments—to a nap’s timing, duration and even effect on different people, depending on one’s age and possibly genetics.

“Naps are actually more complicated than we realize,” said David Dinges, a sleep scientist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. “You have to be deliberative about when you’re going to nap, how long you’re going to nap and if you’re trying to use the nap relative to work or what you have coming up.”

For a quick boost of alertness, experts say a 10-to-20-minute power nap is adequate.

A snooze on the couch on a Sunday afternoon may seem like the perfect way for a responsible adult to unplug. But at a time when roughly one-third of people report not getting enough sleep, more naps, albeit short ones, might make for a more functional workforce, researchers say.

How Long to Nap

Sleep experts break sleep down into several stages, which the brain cycles through roughly every 90 to 120 minutes. These stages are broadly characterized into non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. NREM is further broken down into stage one and two, which are considered light and intermediate sleep, followed by slow-wave sleep. Awakening from slow-wave sleep, the deepest kind, results in what doctors call sleep inertia or sleep drunkenness: that groggy feeling that can take awhile to shake off. Finally, there’s REM sleep, often associated with dreaming.

Sara Mednick, an assistant psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside, said the most useful nap depends on what the napper needs.

For a quick boost of alertness, experts say a 10-to-20-minute power nap is adequate for getting back to work in a pinch.

For cognitive memory processing, however, a 60-minute nap may do more good, Dr. Mednick said. Including slow-wave sleep helps with remembering facts, places and faces. The downside: some grogginess upon waking.

Finally, the 90-minute nap will likely involve a full cycle of sleep, which aids creativity and emotional and procedural memory, such as learning how to ride a bike. Waking up after REM sleep usually means a minimal amount of sleep inertia, Dr. Mednick said.

Experts say the ideal time to nap is generally between the hours of 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Napping later in the day could interfere with nighttime sleep.

The body’s circadian rhythms help people to expect to be awake in the morning and early in the night. “So if you take naps when your brain doesn’t expect to be sleeping, you feel kind of thrown off,” contributing to the sleep inertia effect, said Rafael Pelayo, a clinical professor at Stanford University School of Medicine’s Sleep Medicine Center.

A telltale sign of being very sleep-deprived, he said, is dreaming during a short nap. “Definitely in a 20-minute nap you should not be dreaming,” he said.

Ilene Rosen, an associate professor of clinical medicine at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine, said the ideal duration of a nap is still being debated, but generally speaking the “10-to-20-minute nap is really the optimal time in terms of bang for your buck.”

Leon Lack, a psychology professor at Flinders University in Australia, found in a 2006 study in the journal Sleep that among shorter breaks, 10-minute naps packed the most punch.

The study compared naps ranging from 30 seconds to 30 minutes, testing 24 participants at each of several intervals. After each nap the individuals were tested on a variety of mental-processing tasks. The sharpness of the 10-minute nappers became apparent “right away,” Dr. Lack said, and remained apparent for about two to 2 1/2 hours.

Those who took 20- and 30-minute naps tended to feel groggy immediately after the nap for up to about 30 minutes. From there, they showed mental sharpness similar to what researchers saw from the 10-minute nappers, with that sharpness lasting a bit longer.

Jonathan Brandl is a Newton, Mass.-based consultant who works from home. Up at 5 a.m. to hit the gym, he finds himself fading around 2 p.m. His solution is a fast snooze in a comfy chair in his den. His trick for waking up: He holds a pen or pencil in his hand, which usually falls about 10 to 15 minutes into his nap, waking him up.

“After the nap, I feel totally refreshed and then power through the rest of the day,” the 56-year-old Mr. Brandl said.

Though napping at work often remains taboo, experts say growing scientific evidence of its benefits has led select workplaces to accept it.

Christopher Lindholst, chief executive and co-founder of New York-based MetroNaps, has installed specially designed sleeping pods for Google, Huffington Post, an Iowa construction company and the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team. The chairs retail for $8,995 to $12,985.

The 60-minute nap may not be kosher in most workplaces, but it also has its pluses.

In a 2012 study in the journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, researchers split 36 college-aged students into three groups. Each group learned a memory task, pairing words on a screen with a sound. Afterward, one group had 60 minutes to nap, another 10 minutes. The final group didn’t sleep.

Upon retesting, the napping groups fared better, as expected, said Sara Alger, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Notre Dame.

More interesting, she noted, was that on further testing, including a week later, the 60-minute group performed far better than the 10-minute group, which now performed as poorly as the non-napping group. The researchers concluded that slow-wave sleep—only experienced by the 60-minute nappers—is necessary for memory consolidation.

Researchers continue to explore why some individuals don’t seem to benefit from naps. Dr. Mednick said ongoing studies are looking at potential genetic differences between habitual and nonhabitual nappers.

Kimberly Cote, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, said individuals who don’t normally nap tend to slip into the deep stages of sleep more quickly than those who do. Studies have found through monitoring brain waves that regular nappers are good at maintaining a light sleep when they nap and show better performance improvements than their non-napping counterparts.

“We’re not sure what those individual differences are,” she said, “if that’s something that they’ve learned to do over time or if there’s something biologically different that allows them to nap like that.”

Another trick to waking up perky after a short nap is to drink a cup of coffee before sleeping. Caffeine won’t hurt such a short break and should lessen the effect of sleep inertia.

Dr. Dinges recommends sleeping partially upright to make it easier to wake up. Studies, he said, have found that not lying totally flat results in avoiding falling into a deeper sleep.

“A lot of people say, ‘I only need four hours of sleep a night.’ There’s a few of them around but not very many,” he said.

Write to Sumathi Reddy at sumathi.reddy@wsj.com

A version of this article appeared September 3, 2013, on page D1 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: A Field Guide to the Perfect Nap.