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Sleep Medicine

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In what may be the largest study of sleep problems among individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS), researchers at UC Davis have found that widely undiagnosed sleep disorders may be at the root of the most common and disabling symptom of the disease: fatigue. Study paticipant reports of sleep disorder frequency, sleep patterns and complaints of excessive daytime sleepiness suggest that sleep problems may be a hidden epidemic in the MS population.

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A sleep-promoting circuit located deep in the primitive brainstem has revealed how we fall into deep sleep. Discovered by researchers at Harvard School of Medicine and the University of Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, this is only the second "sleep node" identified in the mammalian brain whose activity appears to be both necessary and sufficient to produce deep sleep.  Using designer genes, researchers were able to 'turn on' specific neurons in the brainstem that result in deep sleep.

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Insomnia can cause chronic inflammation, which can lead to weight gain, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and earlier death. This study finds that curing the insomnia reduces the inflammation and hopefully reduces disease. It also found the best way to cure lack of sleep is through the use of a common psychotherapy treatment - cognitive behavioural therapy.

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Getting enough sleep is important to people of any age, but it is especially so for teenagers, with insufficient sleep possibly being linked to obesity as an adult.

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A study is shining new light on a sleep disorder called “sleep drunkenness.” The disorder may be as prevalent as affecting one in every seven people. Sleep drunkenness disorder involves confusion or inappropriate behaviour, such as answering the phone instead of turning off the alarm, during or following arousals from sleep, either during the first part of the night or in the morning. An episode, often triggered by a forced awakening, may even cause violent behaviour during sleep or amnesia of the episode.

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Ever wondered about the effects of binge sleeping? Are naps bad or how long should you nap for? For all these myths debunked follow the link

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A New Way of Looking at Sleep

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Australia’s free-to-air channel SBSOne recently aired an interesting documentary based on the premise that we only need a few hours of sleep a night  (if that), to function normally.

Michael Mosley, the presenter and guinea-pig of the show undertakes a mission to sustained wakefulness as long as he can. A former doctor himself, Mosley finds that after 48 hours of wakefulness, the agony is unbearable and proceeds to recover with a long night’s sleep. This was followed with a successful second attempt, only this time, assisted by the stimulant prescription medication Modafinil.

The notion of the documentary stems from claims made by Tony Wright and Graham Gynn, arguing that a diet of raw fruit changes the biochemistry in the brain, increasing human potential – including the amount of time needed for sleeping.  This interesting theory has gained popularity with a handful of neuroscientists and psychologists, however there no  published peer reviewed research supporting this hypothesis .

Indeed there is well documented research proving the value of power-naps, with much research showing dramatic hormonal, physiological and cerebrovascular changes in the brain during wake-sleep transitions, suggesting that short sleep periods can in fact have significant beneficial effects for a short period of time.

Other research has proven that there are specific times during which mammals are most likely to fall asleep (that is, sleepability increases). Providing a person can sustain wakefulness through these times (3-5pm and 2-4am), that correlate with core body temperature oscillations, the following period will prove easier to maintain wakefulness. Combining this research one could assume power-napping during these times of low core body temperature could potentially allow someone to sustain wakefulness for a rather long period of time.

Saying this however, there are multiple studies that repeatedly show the detrimental impacts on cognition, memory, mood, immune health, physical health and mental health following sleep deprivation. As of yet Wright’s theory is just that, a theory, with no apparent research to back it.

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