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Monthly Archives: September 2014

  • Do Insomnia Medications Raise your Risk for Alzheimer’s?

    Benzodiazepines are medications that are prescribed frequently for symptoms of insomnia and anxiety. They include such familiar names as Ativan, Valium and Xanax.  Though the medications are effective, their use has been called into question in the past for a number of reasons. The American Geriatrics Society has specifically warned against their use in older adults, citing concerns about side effects that can lead to falls and hip fractures as well as car crashes, but despite these concerns almost half of all older adults in the United States have used these drugs. But the results of a new study linking their use to a higher incidence of Alzheimer’s may cause physicians to reconsider when prescribing. Continue reading

  • On Being a Night Owl

    Scientific studies have shown that our tendencies to be either an early bird or a night owl seem to be genetically programmed, and now a new study has revealed that whether you are born with or without the early bird gene can have a great deal to do with your financial success, and even with your sex life.

    Though much has been made of short-sleepers, people who possess a gene mutation that allows certain people to get by on just a few hours of sleep per night and to function perfectly well, the presence of that gene is extremely rare. But there is a common gene variant that we all seem to have, and the way that it presents itself is what determines whether you are the kind of person who wakes up early in the morning or stays up into the wee hours of the night.  Interestingly, the gene also seems to predict the time of day at which a person is most likely to die. Researchers in the laboratory of the Department of Neurology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center studied 1,200 people who wore actigraphs to provide a record of their activity. The group agreed to donate their brains to science after their death. Analysis of the information showed that the wake-sleep behaviors of the group were closely linked to the location of a nucleotide near a gene called Period 1, and that its location determined what time people woke up and what time they went to bed.  The discovery, which took place a few years ago, marked one of the biggest contributions of a single gene to determining the body’s circadian rhythm.  Continue reading

  • Improving our Circadian Health

    Much has been said and learned about our circadian rhythms – our internal clock that tells us when to go to sleep and when to wake up. There are some times when they simply are sacrificed for convenience or pleasure, such as when we travel abroad and experience jet lag. These circadian disruptions are generally temporary, and though we may feel their effects they are generally temporary. We return from vacation and resume our normal routine and quickly feel better.

    The circadian rhythm is an approximately 24-hour cycle that keeps us adjusted to our local time zone and schedule. It is not just one clock but many that are located within the body. Though it was once thought that the circadian rhythm was strictly associated with the brain it has become clear that it pervades every organ and system of the human organism.  Continue reading

  • The Learning Process and Sleep

    Though sleep scientists have long ago disproved the notion that we can learn in our sleep, that by no means that the learning process comes to a stop. Though the idea of setting ourselves to listen to a book on audiotape as we sleep will not mean that we have consumed, understood and learned the content, a recent study has shown that simple learning or classification tasks can continue even once we are asleep.  Continue reading

  • Schizophrenia Symptoms Can Be Replicated with 24 Hours of Sleep Deprivation

    A fascinating study was recently conducted by researchers at the University of Bonn into the impact of staying awake for 24 hours straight. Their results revealed that the effect on the human body yields personality and emotional conditions that are extremely similar to that of the mental condition known as schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is characterized by auditory hallucinations, and is a condition that is usually treated with medication.

    The Bonn researchers believe that their findings are particularly useful because they may lead to a greater understanding of the experience of psychosis, a condition which is described as losing contact with reality, and which is often associated with delusions and hallucinations.  They also provide evidence that those who perform shift work and work throughout the night may have a higher likelihood of developing mental disorders. Continue reading

  • Children’s Bedroom Devices Robbing them of Sleep

    One of the most often-repeated cautions issued by sleep scientists regards the use of electronic devices within a few hours of bedtime. It has been shown that the blue light that emanates from laptops, cell phones, tablets and even our televisions is a specific type of light ray that fools our brains into thinking that it is daytime and actually causes a chemical shift that makes us feel more alert. Adults who are having trouble falling asleep are warned to shut down their cell phones and engage in relaxing activities for at least two hours before turning in, and now experts are saying that the same is true for children. Continue reading

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