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Topic: Sleep (Read 6002 times)
October 23, 2007, 12:44:11 PM »
This certainly could fit within the Health thread, but I'm going to give it one of its own:
By BENEDICT CAREY
Published: October 23, 2007
The task looks as simple as a “Sesame Street” exercise. Study pairs of Easter eggs on a computer screen and memorize how the computer has arranged them: the aqua egg over the rainbow one, the paisley over the coral one — and there are just six eggs in all.
Most people can study these pairs for about 20 minutes and ace a test on them, even a day later. But they’re much less accurate in choosing between two eggs that have not been directly compared: Aqua trumped rainbow but does that mean it trumps paisley? It’s hazy.
It’s hazy, that is, until you sleep on it.
In a study published in May, researchers at Harvard and McGill Universities reported that participants who slept after playing this game scored significantly higher on a retest than those who did not sleep. While asleep they apparently figured out what they didn’t while awake: the structure of the simple hierarchy that linked the pairs, paisley over aqua over rainbow, and so on.
“We think what’s happening during sleep is that you open the aperture of memory and are able to see this bigger picture,” said the study’s senior author, Matthew Walker, a neuroscientist who is now at the University of California, Berkeley. He added that many such insights occurred “only when you enter this wonder-world of sleep.”
Scientists have been trying to determine why people need sleep for more than 100 years. They have not learned much more than what every new parent quickly finds out: sleep loss makes you more reckless, more emotionally fragile, less able to concentrate and almost certainly more vulnerable to infection. They know, too, that some people get by on as few as three hours a night, even less, and that there are hearty souls who have stayed up for more than week without significant health problems.
Now, a small group of neuroscientists is arguing that at least one vital function of sleep is bound up with learning and memory. A cascade of new findings, in animals and humans, suggest that sleep plays a critical role in flagging and storing important memories, both intellectual and physical, and perhaps in seeing subtle connections that were invisible during waking — a new way to solve a math or Easter egg problem, even an unseen pattern causing stress in a marriage.
The theory is controversial, and some scientists insist that it’s still far from clear whether the sleeping brain can do anything with memories that the waking brain doesn’t also do, in moments of quiet contemplation.
Yet the new research underscores a vast transformation in the way scientists have come to understand the sleeping brain. Once seen as a blank screen, a metaphor for death, it has emerged as an active, purposeful machine, a secretive intelligence that comes out at night to play — and to work — during periods of dreaming and during the netherworld chasms known as deep sleep.
“To do science you have to have an idea, and for years no one had one; they saw sleep as nothing but an annihilation of consciousness,” said Dr. J. Allan Hobson, a psychiatry professor at Harvard. “Now we know different, and we’ve got some very good ideas about what’s going on.”
The evidence was there all along. Infants make sucking motions when asleep, and their closed eyelids quiver, as if the eyeballs beneath had a life of their own. But it wasn’t until the early 1950s, in a lab at the University of Chicago, that scientists recorded and identified what was happening.
Eugene Aserinsky, then a graduate student in physiology, reportedly was monitoring sleep and waking in his 8-year-old son, using electronic leads stuck to the boy’s head, connected to a brain-wave detecting machine. He had attached two leads to the boy’s eyelids as well, so he could tell whether his son woke up. One night he noticed percolating wave patterns that showed the boy had awoken. But he hadn’t.
Dr. Aserinsky confirmed the activity in others, and in 1953 he and his adviser, Nathaniel Kleitman, published the finding in a now-famous paper in Science. They later called the odd, unconscious state rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep.
“This was really the beginning of modern sleep research, though you wouldn’t have known it at the time,” said Dr. William Dement, then a medical student in Dr. Kleitman’s lab and now a professor of psychiatry and sleep medicine at Stanford University. “It took years for people to realize what we had.”
Dr. Dement, infatuated with Freud’s theories about dreams, quickly threw himself into the study of REM. He found that it was universal and occurred periodically through the night, alternating with other states. He gave them names: Stages 3 and 4, or deep sleep, when electrical waves roll as slow as mid-ocean swells; Stage 2, an intermediate stage between REM and deep sleep; and Stage 1, light sleep.
He also confirmed the link between REM and dreaming, and for a time hopes for sleep research — and money for it — soared.
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Yet Drs. Dement, Hobson and others found in their studies scant evidence to confirm that dreams were the disguised, forbidden wishes described by Freud. They found instead a tangle of apparent anxieties, fantasy and vivid, often nonsensical replays of events that showed few verifiable patterns or measurable function.
They had hit a wall, and sleep research, like its nocturnal subjects, dropped from REM excitement back into a void. “You had this great excitement, basically followed by 40 years of nothing; it was just horrible,” said Robert Stickgold, a cognitive neuroscientist at Harvard. “Just a period of darkness.”
The sun came up in 1994, in Rehovot, Israel. There, a research team led by Avi Karni found that depriving people of REM sleep undermined memory of patterns they had learned the day before, while depriving them of deep sleep did not.
This result raised more questions than it answered — Were the participants simply sleepy, or stressed? Why just REM? What was the purpose of the other sleep states? — but it was an invitation to researchers interested in sleep.
“I called Karni immediately, and he sent me all his protocols, everything,” Dr. Stickgold said.
Others called, too. The field was waking up, and now turning its focus to a long-neglected area: learning and memory.
Since then the study findings have come almost too fast to digest, and they suggest that the sleeping brain works on learned information the way a change sorter does on coins. It seems first to distill the day’s memories before separating them — vocabulary, historical facts and dimes here; cello scales, jump shots and quarters over there. It then bundles them into readable chunks, at different times of the night. In effect, the stages of sleep seem to be specialized to handle specific types of information, the studies suggest.
On a recent Monday afternoon in Dr. Stickgold’s lab at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, a postdoctoral student, Matthew Tucker, was running a study of the effect of naps on memorized words. In a neighboring room, a Boston University student was cramming on a list of 48 word-pairs; in another, a stubbly University of Massachusetts student had finished studying and was reclining for a nap, his face covered with electrode patches, like leeches sprouting antenna.
“College students are always ready for nap; we have no problems there,” Dr. Tucker was saying, as he moved back and forth, checking his watch, timing one student’s nap and the other’s study period.
He sat down for a moment. “We are finding that if a person takes a nap that contains slow-wave sleep — deep sleep — that performance on declarative memory tasks, which require the memorization of fact-based information like word-pairs, is enhanced compared to a person who doesn’t take a nap,” Dr. Tucker said.
Previous studies of nocturnal sleep have found the same thing. Memory of learned facts, whether they are names, places, numbers or Farsi verbs, seems to benefit in part from deep sleep. Healthy sleepers usually fall into deep sleep about 20 minutes or so after head meets pillow. They might spend an hour or more in those lolling depths early in the night, and typically less time later on. When cramming on facts, in short, it may be wiser to crash early at night and arise early, than to burn the candle until 2 a.m., the research suggests.
REM sleep, the bulk of which comes later in the night, seems important for pattern recognition — for learning grammar, for example, or to bird-watch, or play chess.
In one 2003 study, Sara Mednick, then at Harvard and now at the University of California, San Diego, led a team that had 73 people come into the lab at 9 a.m. and learn to discriminate between a variety of textured patterns. Some of the participants then took a nap of about an hour at 2 p.m. and the others did not.
When retested at 7 p.m. the rested group did slightly better. When tested again the next morning, after everyone had slept the night, the napping group scored much higher. The naps included both REM and deep sleep.
“We think that a nap that contains both these states does about the same for memory consolidation as a night’s sleep,” when it comes to pattern recognition learning, Dr. Mednick said.
Not that Stage 2 is an empty corridor between destinations. In series of experiments that he began in the early 1990s, Dr. Carlyle Smith of Trent University in Canada has found a strong association between the amount of Stage 2 sleep a person gets and the improvement in learning motor tasks. Mastering a guitar, a hockey stick or a keyboard are all motor tasks.
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Musicians, among others, have sensed this for ages. A piece that frustrates the fingers during evening practice often flows in the morning. But only in recent years has the science caught up and given their instincts a practical shape.
For instance, Dr. Smith said that people typically got most of their Stage 2 sleep in the second half of the night. “The implication of this is that if you are preparing for a performance, a music recital, say, or skating performance, it’s better to stay up late than get up really early,” he said in an interview. “These coaches that have athletes or other performers up at 5 o’clock in the morning, I think that’s just crazy.”
For all these nighttime fireworks, memory researchers have yet to work out a complete picture of how all the pieces fit together. Each has a theory, but they differ: Dr. Smith focuses on Stage 2, others on deep sleep, still others on REM or a combination of REM and deep sleep. And no one knows how individual differences, between night owls and early birds, for instance, affect nighttime learning.
In addition, said Jerome Siegel, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles, millions of people have taken drugs that suppress REM without reporting serious memory problems. “I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that sleep contributes to learning and memory consolidation, but the claim is that it’s essential, that it’s doing something the waking brain won’t, and the research hasn’t shown that,” Dr. Siegel said.
Even the college all-nighter provides evidence that some consolidation occurs during waking, he said. “College students know that the best way to learn stuff isn’t to stay up all night because it’s going to impair your judgment,” Dr. Siegel said, “but it doesn’t matter how good your judgment is if the information isn’t in there. And students know from experience that a lot of it is.”
One reason some neuroscientists are confident that the sleeping brain is actively working on the day’s streaming video of information is because they have seen it with their own eyes — or heard it, at least.
In his lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Matthew Wilson has been studying rats and mice wearing what look like Carmen Miranda hats. These are ultralight implants through which researchers thread hairlike wires to record the activity of single cells deep in the brain, in the left and right hippocampus, where the day’s memories are recorded.
Past research has shown that the hippocampus is spatially sensitive: it seems literally to pair the firing of individual neurons with locations outside the body. These systems are thought to function in similar ways in humans and rodents.
Computers record the cells’ firing in real time and can broadcast it over speakers. “I would listen to this background music of the brain sometime when the animals were asleep, and I started hearing this section that sounded very much like the pattern when the animals were in the maze,” Dr. Wilson said in an interview. “I recognized the firing pattern.”
The maze route is an important memory for these animals; it’s about all they know. In a paper published last December, Dr. Wilson and Daoyun Ji reported that in sleeping animals they had recorded chatter in neurons in the visual center of the neocortex, followed by an apparent response in the hippocampus — and not just any response, but a replay of the activity in the hippocampus that occurred during a maze task.
Dr. Wilson thinks of this as a kind of off-line conversation between the neocortex, which is involved in conscious learning during waking, and the hippocampus. “What we notice is that the light goes on in the neocortex a fraction of a second before it goes on in the hippocampus, as if the cortex is asking for information,” he said.
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He said that this process was probably similar to what goes on when people take a moment to reflect, without distractions, sifting through the experiences of the day, also flagging important details, replaying events. “The question is not whether this is an essential process; it is,” Dr. Wilson said. “The question is whether there is something going on during this process that is unique to sleep.”
Subimal Datta, a neuroscientist across the river at Boston University School of Medicine, thinks so. In his studies of animals, he has documented that during sleep the brain is awash in a chemical bath unlike any during waking. Levels of inhibitory transmitters increase sharply, and levels of many activating messengers drop, or shut down entirely.
Even before REM is detectable, Dr. Datta said, a small pocket of cells in the brainstem spurs a surge in glutamate — an activating chemical — which leads to protein synthesis and other changes that support long-term memory storage.
“During waking we have a thousand things happening at once, the library is filling up, and we can’t possibly process it all,” Dr. Datta said. While awake the brain is also gathering lots of valuable information subconsciously, he said, without the person’s ever being aware of it.
“It’s during sleep that we have this special condition to clear away this overload, and these REM processes then help store what’s important,” Dr. Datta said.
In the jargon of the field, the “signal to noise ratio” becomes much stronger. The neural trace of the trivia has weakened, and crucial details are replayed and reinforced.
Dreams still defy scientific measurement but they, too, have a place in the evolving theory of sleep-dependent learning.
It is likely during REM, some scientists argue, that the brain proceeds to mix, match and juggle the memory traces it has preserved, looking for hidden connections that help make sense of the world. Life experience is cut up and reordered, sifted and shuffled again. This process could account for the cockeyed, disjointed scenes that occur during dreams: the kaleidoscope of distilled experience is being turned.
It also might account for that golden gift often attributed to a night’s sleep: inspiration.
To hear some people tell it, a night’s sleep changed their world. It was reportedly during sleep that the Russian scientist Dmitri Mendeleev’s periodic table of the elements tumbled into place. Friedrich August Kekule, a 19th-century chemist, said he worked out the chemical structure of the benzine ring — an important discovery — when he dreamed of a snake biting its tail. Athletes, including the golfer Jack Nicklaus, have also talked about insight coming during sleep.
Slight corrections in technique are revealed; sand traps are averted; mountains move.
“It does make sense these insights come during REM,” Dr. Walker said. “I mean, what better time to play out all these different scenarios and solutions and ideas than in dreams, where there are no consequences?”
The problem, he and others say, is how to study it. That, most neuroscientists agree, will take some very creative thinking — both of the daytime and nighttime kind.
Reply #1 on:
October 23, 2007, 12:47:10 PM »
As every sleep researcher knows, the surest way to hear complaints about sleep is to ask the elderly.
“Older people complain more about their sleep; they just do,” said Dr. Michael Vitiello, a sleep researcher who is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington.
And for years, sleep scientists thought they knew what was going on: sleep starts to deteriorate in late middle age and steadily erodes from then on. It seemed so obvious that few thought to question the prevailing wisdom.
Now, though, new research is leading many to change their minds. To researchers’ great surprise, it turns out that sleep does not change much from age 60 on. And poor sleep, it turns out, is not because of aging itself, but mostly because of illnesses or the medications used to treat them.
“The more disorders older adults have, the worse they sleep,” said Sonia Ancoli-Israel, a professor of psychiatry and a sleep researcher at the University of California, San Diego. “If you look at older adults who are very healthy, they rarely have sleep problems.”
And new studies are indicating that poor sleep may circle back to cause poor health. At least when it comes to pain, a common cause of disrupted sleep, a restless night can make pain worse the next day. Then with worse pain, sleep may become even more difficult — a vicious cycle common in people with conditions that tend to afflict the elderly, like back pain and arthritis.
The new view of sleep emerged from two parallel lines of research. The first asked what happened to sleep patterns when healthy people grew old. The second sought to uncover the relationship between sleep and pain.
To find out what happens with aging, some investigators, including Dr. Vitiello, studied older people who reported no sleep problems. They actually make up a large group — nearly half of people over 65. Were these people somehow spared age-related changes in sleep?
They were not. Their sleep turned out to be different from sleep in young people: it was lighter, more often disrupted by brief awakenings, and shorter by a half hour to an hour. Dr. Vitiello reasoned that the age-related changes in sleep patterns might not be an issue in themselves. Something else was making people complain about their sleep.
Dr. Vitiello and his colleagues also asked what normally happened to sleep over the life span. It had long been known that sleep changes, but no one had systematically studied when those changes occurred or how pronounced they were in healthy people.
With analysis of 65 sleep studies, which included 3,577 healthy subjects ages 5 to 102, the investigators had their next surprise. Most of the changes in sleep patterns occurred when people were between the ages of 20 and 60. Compared with teenagers and young adults, healthy middle-aged and older people slept a half hour to an hour less each night, they woke up a bit more often during the night, and their sleep was lighter. But after age 60, there was little change in sleep, at least in people who were healthy.
And even though sleep changed during adulthood, many of the changes were subtle. Middle-aged and older people, for example, did not have more difficulty falling asleep. The only change in sleep latency, as it is called, emerged when the investigators compared latency at the two extremes, in 20- and 80-year-olds. The 80-year-olds took an average of 10 more minutes to fall asleep.
Contrary to their expectations, the investigators found no increase in daytime drowsiness in healthy older people. Nor did aging affect the time it took for people to start dreaming after they fell asleep.
Instead, the biggest change was the number of times people woke after having fallen asleep.
Healthy young adults sleep 95 percent of the night, said Dr. Donald Bliwise, a sleep researcher at Emory University. “They fall asleep,” he said, “and don’t wake up until the alarm goes off.”
By age 60, healthy people are asleep 85 percent of the night. Their sleep is disrupted by brief wakeful moments typically lasting about 3 to 10 seconds. “There is some aspect of sleep that isn’t going to be as good as when you were 20,” Dr. Bliwise said. But he added, “When that crosses the threshold and becomes a significant complaint is difficult to say.”
The real sleep problems, he and others say, arise when people have any of a number of conditions that make them wake up in the night, like sleep apnea, chronic pain, restless leg syndrome or urinary problems. That, of course, describes many older people.
“The sheer number of challenges to maintaining solid sleep in old age is just huge,” Dr. Bliwise said. “You come out with the question, Well, what is normal? What should I expect?”
The new frontier of what to expect, and what to do about it, involves studies of the relationship of sleep to pain. It’s no surprise that pain can disrupt sleep. But what is new is that a lack of sleep can apparently increase the sensation of pain.
Michael T. Smith, the research and training director of the behavioral sleep medicine program at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, reached that conclusion with a study of healthy young people. One group slept normally for eight hours in the hospital. Another was awakened every hour by a nurse and kept up for 20 minutes. Their sleep pattern was meant to mimic the fragmented sleep of elderly people. A third group was allowed four hours of solid sleep.
Comparing the second and third groups allowed Dr. Smith to tease apart the causes of the problems that arise from fragmented sleep: were they because of the short total sleep time, or because of the disrupted nature of the sleep?
Fragmented sleep, he found, led to severe impairments the next day in pain pathways. The subjects felt pain more easily, were less able to inhibit pain, and even developed spontaneous pain, like mild backaches and headaches.
Timothy Roehrs, director of the sleep disorders research center at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, also found that healthy young people became exquisitely sensitive to pain after a night of fragmented sleep.
And getting more sleep, Dr. Roehrs found, had the opposite effect. His subjects were young healthy people who said they were chronically sleepy, just not getting enough time to sleep at night. Dr. Roehrs had them stay in bed 10 hours a night. The extra sleep, he said, reduced their sensitivity to pain to the same degree as a tablet of codeine.
Now, Dr. Smith says, he and others have markedly changed their attitude about sleep problems and aging.
Of course, he said, sleep is different in 20-year-olds and 70-year-olds. But he added, “It’s not normal to get a clinical sleep disorder when you get old.”
Reply #2 on:
October 23, 2007, 12:49:09 PM »
By NATALIE ANGIER
Published: October 23, 2007
The patient was a 37-year-old man who had been physically abused as a boy by his schizophrenic mother, often while he lay in bed trying to fall asleep. Nevertheless, he had grown into a reasonably normal, gainfully employed adult, and he thought that the worst was behind him, until one night he awoke to find an intruder rummaging through his dresser drawers. After that, his nightmares began — terrifying, recurrent dreams in which the intruder was a middle-age woman and a knife dangled with Damoclesian contempt from the ceiling fan over his head.
Skip to next paragraph
A special issue of Science Times examines a cascade of research into the science of sleep.
Times Health Guide: Nightmares
VideoMore Video » “The old fear memories had not gone away,” said Dr. Ross Levin, a psychologist and sleep researcher at Yeshiva University in New York. They “were easily reactivated by the recent trauma,” and just as readily twisted into the basis of a repetitive nightmare. Dr. Levin urged the patient to reframe the dream and rehearse alternatives to swinging blades and frozen fear, until finally the nightmares abated and the man could regain his footing.
Few of us suffer from nightmares crippling and persistent enough to demand treatment. Yet we all know how bad a nightmare feels, how it surrounds you and surges up to drown you and makes your teeth fall out in chunks and gives you leukemia and look, your 6-year-old daughter is running back and forth through traffic, and oh no, this train is headed the wrong way and it’s past midnight, and there you are a cowardly third-grader back on Creston Avenue in the Bronx, no, please, not the Bronx! And you scream and you thrash and you want to wake up.
By all evidence, outrageously bad dreams are a universal human experience. Sometimes the dreams are scary enough to jolt the slumberer awake, in which case they meet the formal definition of nightmares — bad dreams that wake you up. At other times, they are even worse. The sleeper thinks the nightmare is over, only to step into Your Nested Nightmare, Chapter II. Whatever the particulars of the plot, researchers say, nightmares and dreadful dreams offer potentially telling clues into the larger mystery of why we dream in the first place, how our dreaming and waking lives may intersect and cross-infect each other, and, most baffling of all, how we manage to construct a virtual reality in our skull, a seemingly life-size, multidimensional, sensorily rich nocturnal roundhouse staffed with characters so persuasive you want to ... strangle them, before they can strangle you.
A big reason bad dreams offer insight into the architecture of dreams generally is that, as a host of studies have shown, most of our dreams are bad. Whether research subjects keep dream journals at home or sleep in research labs and are periodically awoken out of rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep — the stage most often associated with dreaming — the results are the same: about three-quarters of the emotions described are negative.
Moreover, said Robert Stickgold, a sleep researcher at the Harvard Medical School, we are ridiculously industrious dreamers, spending 60 to 70 percent of somnolence dreaming or in a dreamlike state called sleep mentation, which works out to three hours nightly spent in a state of anxiety or frustration as we show up late for tests or walk barefoot over broken glass because our shoes have melted.
Even bona fide nightmares are more common than most of us realize. Ask people to recall spontaneously how many nightmares they had in the last year, and they might say one or two, said Mark Blagrove, a dream researcher at the University of Wales in Swansea. Ask them to keep a dream diary, and they will report nightmares once or twice a month.
Survey and diary studies have shown that nightmare frequency varies by age and sex. Preschoolers are relatively immune to the bogeyman fetish, but not so their elder siblings. Roughly 25 percent of children ages 5 to 12 report being awakened by bad dreams at least once a week.
Nightmare rates climb through adolescence, peak in young adulthood, and then, like so much else in life, begin to drop. The average 55-year-old has one-third the number of nightmares as the average 25-year-old. At nearly every age, girls and women report having significantly more nightmares than do boys and men, a fact that some researchers say may be related to women’s comparatively higher rates of anxiety and mood disorders.
Nightmare content also shifts over time and across cultures. A young man in 21st-century America might not mind the occasional bawdy dream, but for St. Augustine, the fourth-century Christian philosopher, “sexual dreams were nightmares,” said Kelly Bulkeley, a dream researcher and visiting scholar at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif. “He considered them threats to his faith.”
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Cultural specifics can also tweak universal themes. Dr. Bulkeley and his colleagues have found that nightmares about falling through the air are common among women in Arab nations, perhaps for metaphorical reasons. “There’s such a premium in these countries on women remaining chaste, and the dangers of becoming a ‘fallen woman’ are so intense,” he said, “that the naturally high baseline of falling dreams is amped up even more.”
Using brain imaging devices that are noisy and uncomfortable and less than conducive to a good night’s sleep, scientists have nonetheless begun identifying which regions of the brain are active during sleep and which are largely off-line. The brain proceeds through four stages of sleep at night, each characterized by its own pattern of brainwaves and neurochemical activity. REM sleep, when the eyes are flitting behind closed lids, is rightly renowned as the dreaming stage, with at least 90 percent of it spent dreaming. But dreams occur in parts of non-REM sleep, as well.
When slipping into REM sleep, Dr. Levin said, “the whole brain changes.” “Neurochemically, it’s like the Fourth of July,” as cortical precincts shift colors in scanning images to indicate arousal or quiescence, he said, adding, “The limbic system becomes incredibly active, much more so than when you’re awake, which is why you’re emotionally on edge in dreams.”
Blazing with particularly patriotic fervor in the limbic system are the amygdala and anterior cingulate cortex, constituting what Steven H. Woodward, a psychologist at the V.A. hospital in Menlo Park, Calif., terms the brain’s “axis of fear.” At the same time, the prefrontal cortex, seat of rational thought and critical reasoning, is on lunch break, Dr. Levin said, “which is why you can have a dream where something has 4 heads and 12 legs, and you think, ‘No problem, what’s next?’”
Also relatively tranquilized is the primary visual cortex, recipient of visual signals from the outside world. The secondary visual cortex, however, which helps process and interpret those signals, remains alert. It is here that the fabulous imagery of dreams probably arises, said Tore Nielsen of the University of Montreal, as the secondary visual cortex strives to decipher the signals ricocheting through it, many of them internally generated, and to splice them into some approximation of a coherent whole.
Other sensory and motor systems remain active in REM, including those that would normally control the arms and legs, which is why motion figures prominently in many dreams. But if you often feel frustrated, as though you can never get to where you’re going, well, you can’t.
As it happens, one vigilant player in dreaming is a small region of the brainstem that paralyzes most of the body, preventing you from physically acting out your dream. People with neurogenerative diseases that disable this brainstem disabler can end up injuring themselves during extreme dream-driven actions. Most cases of sleepwalking occur in non-REM sleep, when the body is not paralyzed.
With so much of the sleeping body and brain apparently colluding to allow us to wander safely through an ominous dreamscape of extravagant characters, most sleep scientists are convinced that dreaming serves an essential, possibly evolutionarily adaptive, purpose.
In a recent paper in Psychological Bulletin, Dr. Nielsen and Dr. Levin proposed that dreaming served to create what they call “fear extinction memories,” the brain’s way of scrambling, detoxifying and finally discarding old fearful memories, the better to move on and make synaptic space for any novel threats that may show up at the door. “The brain learns quickly what to be afraid of,” Dr. Nielsen said. “But if there isn’t a check on the process, we’d fear things in adulthood we feared in childhood.”
Ordinary bad dreams rarely recapitulate unpleasant events from real life but instead cannibalize them for props and spare parts, and through that reinvention, Dr. Nielsen explained, the fears are defanged. “A bad dream that doesn’t lead to awakening is successful in dealing with intense emotion,” he said. “It’s disturbing, but there is some kind of resolution to the extent we don’t wake up.”
By this scenario, nightmares, in allowing you to escape prematurely, represent a failure of the “fear extinction” system. “Bad dreams are functional, nightmares dysfunctional,” he said.
If you feel yourself falling, spread your arms out and learn how to fly.
Reply #3 on:
October 23, 2007, 01:06:03 PM »
By TARA PARKER-POPE
Published: October 23, 2007
A few years ago, my daughter told me about a dream involving a giant bag of Doritos. The crinkles in the package had formed a sort of ladder, and she had climbed them to reach the giant chips inside. “It was such a good dream, Mom,” she told me.
The Doritos dream is just one of the countless parent-child memories that I have experienced in the middle of the night. Since she was an infant, my daughter, now in the third grade, has shared my bed and my sleep. I certainly never expected to be a “co-sleeping” parent, but sharing a bed was simply easier when she was a baby still breast-feeding, and getting her out of the bed as she got older has been next to impossible.
In most of the world, sleeping next to your child is a necessity: families of limited means live in cramped quarters. But in the affluent West, the practice is widely frowned on, not just by grandparents and friends, but by the medical community at large.
Still, it is far more common than many people think. Nearly 13 percent of parents in the United States slept with their infants in 2000, up from 5.5 percent in 1993, according to a report last month in the journal Infant and Child Development. Countless children start the night in their own beds, only to wake up a few hours later and pad into their parents’ bedrooms, crawling into the bed or curling up nearby on the floor.
Ask parents if they sleep with their kids, and most will say no. But there is evidence that the prevalence of bed sharing is far greater than reported. Many parents are “closet co-sleepers,” fearful of disapproval if anyone finds out, notes James J. McKenna, professor of anthropology and director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame.
“They’re tired of being censured or criticized,” Dr. McKenna said. “It’s not just that their babies are being judged negatively for not being a good baby compared to the baby who sleeps by himself, but they’re being judged badly for having these babies and being needy.”
In fact, research shows that parents often talk about their children’s sleep habits in terms of where the child starts off the night or where the child is supposed to sleep — not necessarily where the child usually ends up sleeping.
In a series of studies in Britain, scientists interviewed parents about their children’s sleep habits, but also used infrared cameras to monitor the parents’ bedroom. The children often spent part of the night in the adults’ bed, but in about half those cases, the parents did not reveal that unless they were specifically asked. As a result, many experts say most of the data in the United States vastly understates how common the practice really is.
One reason may be that adults feel guilty because pediatricians frown on co-sleeping. The American Academy of Pediatrics has said babies should sleep close to their parents but not in the same bed. The concern is that a sleeping parent could trap a baby in bed covers or in the space between the bed and the wall.
Although some studies suggest bed sharing puts children at higher risk for sudden infant death syndrome, the data are not conclusive. And some researchers say the risk is higher only if parents smoke, drink too much alcohol and fail to take proper precautions to make sure the bed is safe.
One common concern is whether the practice interferes with the development of healthy sleep habits. For example, studies in Italy, China, the United States and elsewhere have consistently found links between co-sleeping and frequent night wakings.
But the studies are generally based on reports from the parents themselves, and some researchers question whether such data are all that meaningful. Kathleen Dyer, an assistant professor of child, family and consumer sciences at California State University, Fresno, says this measurement bias may lead scientists to overstate the problems associated with bed sharing.
In one study, for example, 139 parents were asked about the sleep habits of their young children. Parents who slept with their children reported a much higher frequency of nighttime wakings than parents who did not.
Of course, Dr. Dyer says. “When you’re sleeping with your kid and he wakes up once during the night, you know about it because you’re there,” she said. “If he’s in the next room, he’s still waking up at night, but you just don’t see it.” The more important question, she says, is whether the parents regard nighttime wakings as a problem. “What the researcher thinks is a problem,” she said, “is often not what the family thinks is a problem.”
Another fear is that bed sharing will take a heavy toll on a marriage. That is certainly likely if the parents disagree about where a child should sleep. But in cases where both parents agree on the sleeping arrangement, parents who sleep with their children are typically as happy as parents of solitary sleepers.
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In a paper last month in Infant and Child Development, Dr. Dyer proposed that co-sleeping families fall into three distinct categories. There are intentional co-sleepers — those who sleep with their children because they want to breast-feed for a long stretch and believe bed sharing is good for a child’s well-being and emotional development. Another group is reactive co-sleepers, those parents who don’t really want to sleep with their kids, but do so because they can’t get their children to sleep any other way or because financial hardship requires them to share a room with a child.
And then there is a third group that she tentatively calls circumstantial co-sleepers — parents who sleep with their children occasionally because of circumstances like sharing a bed on a family vacation, during a thunderstorm or because the child is sick.
Bed sharing is most likely of greatest concern among reactive co-sleepers, Dr. Dyer says, because the practice is essentially forced on parents. In those cases, the practice is likely to be stressful for both parent and child.
“I think it’s possible to sleep next to a baby and not be responsive to their tender needs,” Dr. Dyer said. She recalled a story of a mother who was temporarily living with her in-laws and sharing a room with her child. “I think she was resentful of the fact that they were crammed into this room,” she went on. “Where a person sleeps is not what it’s about. It’s about the quality of the emotional relationship.”
When my daughter was born, I certainly didn’t want her in my bed. (I was recovering from a Caesarean section.) But the nurses insisted that I hold her in my hospital bed because her cries were disturbing the other babies. I didn’t have the fortitude to let her “cry it out,” so with the encouragement of my pediatrician, I made my peace with the situation.
“You just have one of those babies who needs to be held,” he said.
It hasn’t always been easy. A friend of mine correctly notes that sleeping with a child is much like sleeping inside a washing machine. But today, my daughter is far more independent about sleep, venturing to sleepovers at friends’ houses, staying overnight at camp and sleeping some nights in her own bed.
And while there are still many nights when she crawls into bed next to me, my pediatrician assures me it’s nothing to worry about.
“I can tell you with certainty,” he says, “that one day you will wake up, and she won’t be there.”
Reply #4 on:
October 23, 2007, 01:09:26 PM »
Published: October 23, 2007
Last month, a bird known as a bar-tailed godwit took flight from Alaska and headed south. A day later, it was still flapping its way over the Pacific. An airplane pilot would have a hard time staying awake after 24 hours of flight (the Federal Aviation Administration allows pilots to fly just eight hours in a row). But the godwit kept flying for an additional week. After eight days and 7,200 miles, it landed in New Zealand, setting a record for nonstop flight.
“If they spend so many hours flying,” said Ruth M. Benca of the University of Wisconsin, “where do they find the time to sleep?”
Bird sleep is so mysterious that scientists are considering several answers, all intriguing. The godwit may have managed to stay awake for the entire journey. Or it may have been able to sleep while flying. Or, as Dr. Benca and other scientists suspect, its brain may have been in a bizarre state of semilimbo that they do not understand.
Bird brains produce patterns of electrical activity that look strikingly like human brains during sleep, a remarkable similarity considering that birds and their brains have been on a separate evolutionary course from mammals for 300 million years. But similarities reach just so far.
The amount of sleep birds need can change drastically through the year. Birds may be able to put parts of their brains to sleep while keeping others awake. They may be able to adjust sleep in the course of minutes, even seconds. By figuring out the mysteries of bird sleep, scientists hope to understand some universal rules of sleep.
Like humans, birds typically get some sleep every day. A pigeon usually sleeps through the night, for example, and has a few naps during the day. Why birds and mammals should sleep so much has long puzzled scientists. Some researchers have even argued that sleep is something that animals do when they have nothing else on their agendas.
Many sleep experts disagree. Something about sleep is essential to human well-being. It is possible that certain types of sleep are particularly important. In the course of a night’s sleep, humans pass through distinct stages. In one stage, the eyes move rapidly behind closed lids while the brain produces electrical signals with a pattern much like that of a waking brain. It is during this so-called REM sleep that people experience dreams.
In other parts of sleep, however, many neurons produce electric signals with a nearly identical rhythm. The neurons also fire more slowly than in REM sleep, from 40 to 400 times a second. This dream-free sleep is so deep that it is hard to rouse people from it.
Several experiments suggest that slow-wave sleep, in particular, has a crucial role in human well-being. As neurons fire in synchrony, their connections change, consolidating the memories formed in the previous day. One sign of the importance of slow-wave sleep is that if people do not have enough of it, they catch up when they can, producing stronger waves.
“If you pull an all-nighter,” Dr. Benca said, “the next night your slow waves will be much larger.”
Other mammals experience REM sleep and slow-wave sleep, as well, indicating that humanlike sleep patterns existed early in the history of mammals. But beyond mammals, scientists have had a hard time finding humanlike sleep patterns. So far, they have been seen just in birds. The fact that the closest relatives of birds, like alligators and turtles, do not have our kind of REM sleep and slow-wave sleep suggests that birds, or their dinosaur ancestors, evolved humanlike sleep independently.
This parallel evolution has given scientists the opportunity to test the hypothesis that slow-wave sleep is essential. “If slow-wave sleep is a fundamental building block of sleep, then it should be true in birds as well as in mammals,” Dr. Benca said.
Niels Rattenborg of the Max Planck Institute of Ornithology in Germany tested this hypothesis by depriving pigeons of some slow-wave sleep. “We kept pigeons from taking their daytime naps,” he said. “All we did was tap their cage or move the cage floor or give them things to play with for eight hours before we turned the lights off.”
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After the lights went dark, the pigeons had slow waves 27 percent stronger than on undisturbed nights. “What we found was that they actually showed response very much like that observed in mammals,” Dr. Rattenborg said. “There’s something in common in being a bird and being a mammal that results in sleeping this way.”
Asleep but Active Dr. Rattenborg contends that birds and mammals have similar kinds of sleep because birds and mammals have much larger and more complex brains for their size than other vertebrates. In mammals, much of that expansion occurred in the front of the brain, in the neocortex. The neocortex endows mammals with sophisticated, flexible learning and decision making.
Only in recent years have scientists realized that birds have a brain region similar to the mammal neocortex. Known as the pallium, it arises from the same population of embryonic cells that produces the neocortex in mammals.
The pallium is made up of clumps of neurons, while the neocortex is organized in layers. Despite the differences, the pallium also lets birds carry out many impressive mental tasks. Some birds can remember thousands of locations where they hide food. Others fashion tools like sticks, to obtain food. Others can learn many bird songs. Pigeons can learn how to distinguish between Cubist and Impressionist paintings.
Dr. Rattenborg proposes that big, powerful brains need the same kind of slow-wave sleep to work properly, whether those brains are in birds or mammals.
“If we didn’t have birds,” he said, “people might say, ‘Well a neocortex is absolutely necessary.’ But here we have birds doing the same thing. So clearly, it’s not having the neocortex that’s essential.”
Although the parallels between sleep in birds and humans is striking, they extend just so far. A bout of slow-wave sleep in a human may last for hours. In birds, a normal period may last a few minutes, even a few seconds. “You and I can’t sleep in 10-second bouts,” Dr. Benca said.
Dr. Rattenborg has found that birds can also keep one side of their brain awake while the other sleeps. He suspects that the awake half can keep a lookout for predators while the other half sleeps.
Dr. Benca suspects that birds may be able to make smaller parts of their brains go to sleep or wake up.
“Maybe,” she said, “we need to get away from thinking of sleep as something you have to do for so many minutes, and if the whole brain isn’t doing something that looks like sleep, then sleep isn’t happening. I think their brains are doing something else.”
Part of Dr. Benca’s hunch comes from her difficulty in keeping birds awake. Working with Dr. Rattenborg and other colleagues, she tried to deprive pigeons of sleep. The researchers put pigeons on a circular platform over a tank of water. When the pigeons produced slow waves for four seconds or more, the platform began to turn slowly, so that they had to walk.
In humans and other mammals, sleep deprivation eventually causes weight loss, hunger and other symptoms. It can even lead to serious illnesses. But pigeons showed none of those changes, as Dr. Benca and her colleagues will report in a paper to be published in Physiology and Behavior.
Birds have apparently evolved an ability that many humans would envy.
“We could deprive the pigeons for weeks,” Dr. Benca said, “and they seemed to be doing fine.”
The Sleep-Industiral Complex
Reply #5 on:
November 18, 2007, 07:11:14 AM »
By JON MOOALLEM
Published: November 18, 2007
Pete Bils’s background is in sales — or, as he puts it, “retail concepts.” He joined Select Comfort 12 years ago to teach its salespeople how to better sell the company’s Sleep Number Bed. The Sleep Number Bed is an air-filled mattress. Each side can be inflated with a little remote control to the ideal level of firmness for the person sleeping on it — his or her “sleep number,” zero to 100 — thus accommodating a husband who prefers his side firm and a wife who likes hers softer. You may recognize the Sleep Number Bed from its television commercials featuring the original Bionic Woman, Lindsay Wagner. Or you may have seen Bils himself explicating its many features and benefits in the loneliest hours of the night on the QVC shopping network.
Off-camera, Bils spends much of his time reading scientific research. He mingles at medical conferences and is chairman of the company’s “Sleep Advisory Board,” a consortium of doctors. He “sleep tinkers,” coordinating pilot studies in sleep labs to understand how to build the mattress of the future. His goal at Select Comfort is to educate Americans about the science and benefits of healthful sleep, and this, plus his title — senior director of sleep innovation and clinical research — makes him seem deliberately more man-of-science than mattress-salesman. The distinction is less clear-cut when it comes to the man himself.
“How’d you sleep last night?” Bils asked, strolling into a conference room to meet me at the company’s headquarters outside Minneapolis one morning last summer. He blared it, the way certain men blare, “Darn glad to meet you.” Later, sitting down to lunch, he noted that the weather had not been “muggy” or “unbearable” but “bad sleeping weather.” Then raising a smile from behind his menu, he issued another electrifying “How’d you sleep last night?”— this time at the waiter who’d come to take his order. The waiter, it turned out, hadn’t slept so well. After some chitchat, Bils ordered the risotto.
Bils, who is 48, is olive-skinned, handsome and, like virtually everyone else Select Comfort arranged for me to meet, relentlessly upbeat. At lunch, I let several minutes pass just listening to the table of executives tell one another how awesome their own Sleep Number Beds are. (Employees have their individual sleep numbers printed on their business cards.) One woman described having to take Tylenol PM to make it through a recent night away from home. Bils said he ships out a Sleep Number Bed when he travels to do QVC tapings. His daughters have slept on Sleep Numbers since they left the crib, and he even jury-rigged something similar for his bulldog. “I’ve learned a lot about sleep from my dogs,” he said. For starters, all bulldogs appear to have sleep apnea. One of the two public relations officers supervising my visit jumped in: her dog’s sleep number is 10, she said; she sets her bed for him at night. “Do whales have REM sleep?” another colleague asked Bils. “Yes, a form of it,” Bils said. Eventually, he turned to me and summed up with a groaner: “We firmly believe — no pun intended — that a mattress can make significant changes in sleep quality.” This turns out to be a very radical idea.
For years, doctors have been discouraged by Americans’ disregard for and mismanagement of their sleep. (“I might as well have been running a chain of beauty parlors for the last four decades” is how one described his advocacy.) But bragging about how little you sleep, a hallmark of the ’80s power broker, is starting in certain circles to come off as masochistic buffoonery. The sleep docs we once ignored appear on morning shows to offer tips. Health professionals and marketers are hopeful that a new seriousness about sleep will continue moving out of a luxury-minded vanguard and into the mainstream. Sleep may finally be claiming its place beside diet and exercise as both a critical health issue and a niche for profitable consumer products.
A sleep boom, or as Forbes put it last year, “a sleep racket,” is under way. Business 2.0 estimates American “sleeponomics” to be worth $20 billion a year, which includes everything from the more than 1,000 accredited sleep clinics (some of them at spas) conducting overnight tests for disorders like apnea, to countless over-the-counter and herbal sleep aids, to how-to books and sleep-encouraging gadgets and talismans. Zia Sleep Sanctuary, a first of its kind luxury sleep store that I visited in Eden Prairie, Minn., carries “light-therapy” visors, the Zen Alarm Clock, the Mombasa Majesty mosquito net and a $600 pair of noise-canceling earplugs as well as 16 varieties of mattresses and 30 different pillows.
Prescription sleeping pills have been the most obvious beneficiary. Forty-nine million prescriptions were written last year, up 53 percent from five years ago, according to IMS Health, a health-care information company. It is now a $3.7 billion business, more than doubling since 2003. At $3 or $4 per pill, their success indicates not only that we have an increasingly urgent craving for sleep but also that many of us have apparently forgotten how to do it altogether — quite a feat for any mammal.
To hear the mattress industry tell it, we’re skipping them over. A few companies have tried to cash in with ultra-high-end novelties. A video promoting Hastens’s $60,000 Vividus bed shows the horsehair it’s stuffed with being sensuously detangled and fluffed by shapely Nordic women. But more down-to-earth mattresses have not conjured any of that allure. Despite long and influential success in the industry, for instance, Select Comfort’s stock was struggling around the time of my visit. And so America’s mattress men, traditionally a band of fast-talking, price-busting commodities brokers, are now trying to figure out how to transform their anonymous white rectangles into holistic health and wellness machines.
More than once, I heard mattress executives invoke the spectral characters of sleeping-pill commercials — the Day-Glo green moth; Abe Lincoln and the talking beaver — as chastening mascots of everything they’re missing out on. Some point to the quick-fix mentality sleeping pills represent as a sign of how thoroughly confused about sleep society has become. “The good news is, there’s more and more awareness about the power of a good night’s sleep,” says David Perry, bedding editor of the trade magazine Furniture Today. The bad news: “What we’re doing in America is, we’re drugging people to make it through the night on, in many cases, a lousy bed.”
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Our misunderstandings about sleep have been centuries in the making. As has already happened in the food and nutrition businesses, some sectors of our new sleep-industrial complex will surely find it profitable to clear up our confusion, while others will simply exploit it. But as mattress companies and sleeping-pill makers both barrel into the marketplace to sell us a good night’s sleep, it’s tough to know where in the jumble of science and storytelling the truth about sleep lies.
All good nights of sleep are alike. Each miserable night of sleep is miserable in its own way. You either close your eyes and, many hours later, open them, or you endure an idiosyncratic epic of waiting, trying, failing, irritation, self-sabotage and despair, then stand up at sunrise racked with war stories you don’t have the energy to tell.
Sleep research is a young field and still doesn’t have a definitive picture of what “normal” sleep is, making discussions of abnormal sleep imprecise. The National Institutes of Health can define insomnia only very broadly, as “complaints of disturbed sleep in the presence of adequate opportunity and circumstance for sleep.” Insomnia can be transient — a few off nights — or horrifically chronic. Complaints may be about difficulty falling asleep or about waking up during the night. But it’s hard to know exactly what those complaints should be judged against. Nor has research determined which objective measures — total time slept, percentage of time spent in the various stages of sleep, etc. — correlate to a person’s subjective feeling of having slept well or poorly. Some people whose sleep looks normal in the lab complain bitterly; some whose sleep looks terrible never do.
Even something as empirical-seeming as how long we sleep becomes problematic. In studies, insomniacs almost invariably overestimate how long it took them to fall asleep and underestimate how long they slept; in one, more than a third of the participants consistently thought they’d slept at least an hour less than their brain-wave activity indicated. Yet in a way, this hardly matters. Wallace Mendelson, past president of the Sleep Research Society, explained to me, “When a patient comes to a doctor, he doesn’t say, ‘I’m here to see you because my EEG shows an insufficient number of minutes of sleep.’ He comes to you saying: ‘I don’t feel like I’m getting enough. I’m tired.’ ” Thus, while insomnia is frequently linked to another, distinct physiological disease or disorder, its diagnosis and treatment often remain, much like pain, locked in the realm of our own inscrutable reports.
Fewer than half of Americans say they get a good night’s sleep every night or almost every night, according to a 2005 poll by the National Sleep Foundation. The N.S.F. is a nonprofit largely financed by the pharmaceutical industry and one of many groups — including the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Better Sleep Council, a nonprofit supported by the mattress industry — that have pushed the value of sleep, and the perils of sleep deprivation and disorders, into public view. (You can mark the change in seasons with their press releases. End of summer: “From Zzzs to A’s: Healthy Sleep Is Key for Back-to-School Success.” Daylight Savings Time: “Fall Back Into Bed and Catch Up on Your Sleep.”)
Some of America’s dissatisfaction likely boils down to poor “sleep hygiene” — basic bad habits like not keeping a regular bedtime; overconsumption of alcohol or coffee; or winding ourselves up with work or television before bed. There is a sometimes-stunning failure to see sleep’s cause-and-effect relationship to what we do while awake. One therapist told me he cured a man’s insomnia by suggesting he stop eating spicy Indian curry late at night. Bils says, “Most sleep problems are self-inflicted by sleepers not knowing how to sleep.” Moreover, doctors have long warned that Americans are suffering from self-caused sleep deprivation without even realizing it. The most damaging and persistent delusion we’ve acquired about sleep is that the vital human function is optional. As one psychologist puts it, “You don’t have people walking around figuring out how to get by on less air.”
Getting Americans to come to bed is therefore still the mattress industry’s first challenge. Recently it has been gathering behind the idea of “selling better sleep,” promoting a fuller understanding of sleep and its health benefits. Bils’s research and advocacy at Select Comfort exemplifies the approach, as does a recent series of appearances by doctors at mattress stores around the country, sponsored by Leggett & Platt, the leading supplier of steel springs. Mark Quinn, a Leggett & Platt vice president, told me, “I think nutrition and fitness have done a great job, and I look at them as example industries.” They’ve taught the public: “If you don’t eat right, you’ll die. If you don’t exercise, you’ll die.”
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Quinn delivered a galvanizing pep talk on selling better sleep to an industry convention in April. He cited new research linking insufficient sleep to poorer metabolism and appetite control. “Are you telling me that we can say, as an industry, ‘If you sleep better you might be able to lose weight?’ ” he said as a slide reading “Chronic sleep deprivation could be making you fat!” filled the wall behind him. Plus, he continued, a bad night of sleep makes you look worn out. “We have a product that can make you look good, and we never talk about it to anybody!” Quinn later told me, “Create the pain, then give them the solution.”
Still, says Furniture Today’s David Perry: “the mattress is not nearly as sexy a part of the equation as drugs or sleep-disorder centers. It just kind of lies there.” For generations many consumers perceived the innerspring beds of the three dominant “S-brands” — Sealy, Serta and Simmons — to be interchangeable. A Gallup poll 10 years ago found that nearly half of Americans didn’t know what brand of mattress they slept on. The industry blamed itself, often ruthlessly.
“The sleep industry has cheapened the mattress,” says Rick Anderson, North American president for Tempur-Pedic. (Tempur-Pedic is the leader in visco-elastic foam, sometimes called “memory foam,” mattresses, made from spongy polyurethane.) Retailers know they are selling a product bought only grudgingly and only once every 12 or 15 years. So they’ve emphasized low prices, shouting about limited-time-only sales that never actually end. “It’s ‘Buy it cheap, buy it now,’ ” Anderson says. “You turn the mattress into a low-priced commodity and, lo and behold, you shouldn’t be surprised when the consumer tells you the mattress isn’t that important.”+
Both Select Comfort and Tempur-Pedic began trying to change that perception when they introduced their beds in the late ’80s and ’90s. As noninnerspring or “alternative bedding” companies, they were burdened with proving that what they had — air and foam respectively — was not only better than the grid of steel springs we’d employed for a century but worth prices as high as $7,000. Unfortunately, the scant published scientific literature on mattresses offered little help. (There had been few real developments since the ’50s, when one of the first studies exploring the effects of different sleep surfaces found that the differences between sleeping on a new mattress and on a piece of plywood with some carpet slung over it were “not large and not always statistically significant.”) So Select Comfort financed its own mattress research and now shows in its marketing how people’s sleep improved on the Sleep Number Bed in labs at Stanford and Duke.
Select Comfort also began using pressure mapping in its stores. Pressure mapping is a digital diagnostic that shows on a computer screen how the mattress is evenly distributing a customer’s weight and conforming around his body. It illustrates “that you’re wearing the mattress versus lying on top of it,” Bils says. Points of high pressure are uncomfortable, the thinking goes. They force a sleeper to shift or roll over, and that movement disturbs sleep. There doesn’t appear to be solid scientific validation of this theory; typical sleepers have been shown to change positions 20 to 60 times a night. But when I mentioned that to Anderson at Tempur-Pedic, which promotes its beds for the same reason, he shot back: “They don’t need to.”
By 2005, noninnerspring beds accounted for nearly a quarter of the
$4.6 billion spent on mattresses. Their staying power and overt sciencey-ness had colossal ripple effects on the entire industry. Jim Gabbert, the second-generation mattress retailer behind Zia Sleep Sanctuary, explains: “At first everyone saw air and visco as a fad, like water beds. ‘It won’t amount to much.’ Now all the mainstream innerspring manufacturers are scrambling to compete with those guys. Those specialty manufacturers taught the mainline brand names that you can price things higher, add more features, have a better story.”
The big question became, what else might Americans sleep on — and what combinations of things? The S-brands rolled out their own memory foam beds. Latex foams, modestly successful for decades, also came into vogue — as did various gels. Meanwhile, the industry was finally breaking down the wives’ tale that firm mattresses are always better. “Comfort” became the new buzzword, freeing manufacturers to combine all their new, high-tech materials in infinite iterations on a single bed. Pillowtops, distinct slabs of cushy material stitched on the tops of mattresses, gradually thickened, and beds ascended skyward, layer by layer, in towers of trademarked babble. Serta offers KoolComfort foam. Simmons makes Natural Care Latex and, via its brand ComforPedic, NxG Advanced Memory Foam. Having muscled their way into a virtual stalemate of technology inside the mattress, manufacturers seem to have merely started their arms race all over again on top of it. The end result may not be much better; rather than seeing beds as all the same, consumers are often totally incapable of understanding their countless differences. “It does get confusing,” says Brandon Jackson, bedding director at Houston’s Gallery Furniture store. “After a while, those layers are really only there to add to the cost.” When Jackson started six and a half years ago, selling a $1,000 mattress was “a home run.” Now his average ticket is $3,300.
Standing in Select Comfort’s R. and D. building, among the new, retooled Sleep Number Beds just released, it was clear that the company couldn’t disagree more with Jackson’s view. Two engineers knelt and unzipped the covering of the Sleep Number 9000, the top of the line, to show me its layers. Stacked above the two inflatable air chambers were a blue memory foam, another proprietary foam called Intralux and a thin white scrim with a honeycomb pattern on it. This was called Outlast Adaptive Comfort, which, like Tempur-Pedic’s foam, was originally developed for NASA. Outlast’s tiny, “encapsulated phase change materials” actually switch back and forth from liquid to solid, absorbing heat and producing a pronounced cooling sensation.
Reply #6 on:
November 18, 2007, 07:12:57 AM »
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The 9000 was engineered with heat in mind. Bils explained that, as you fall asleep, your body temperature drops. A mattress should disperse the heat you’re expelling. Otherwise the bed “sleeps hot,” cooking you in your own trapped body heat. Sleeping hot is a growing complaint about many beds and may be a consequence of the industry’s manic emphasis on comfort: the shift toward using less-breathable, synthetic materials that conform more snugly to the body, and then stacking them to greater thicknesses. Memory foam especially has a reputation for sleeping hot, though Tempur-Pedic, which sells only foam beds, disputes it as “largely urban myth.” For the 9000, Select Comfort claims to have used a memory foam porous enough to provide air flow but not porous enough to tear apart over time. Yet as they detailed these meticulous solutions to the heat issue, the half-dozen Select Comfort executives in the room insisted that sleeping hot had never been a problem with their beds to begin with.
Soon the engineers turned the program over to Kris Willardson, the company’s accessories maven. Willardson had set up a makeshift display on top of a cabinet and, now and again, had been interjecting to show me whichever of her pillows or sheets dovetailed on the subject at hand. “What we also did,” she now said, “was build Outlast into a pillow protector.” I didn’t know what that was. “Pillow protectors are used on top of your pillow but under your pillow case,” she explained, holding one up. There were phase-changing microcapsules in there as well.
Too many sleepers flip their pillows all night long, looking for the cool side, only to heat it up again, Willardson said. “To the extent that it disturbs your sleep, that is one less thing you’ll be doing. So complementary products keep reinforcing those messages.”
The message, I suppose, behind so many of the mattress industry’s claims is that all of a bed’s high-tech features should combine to create nothing at all — a space free of any impediments to sleep whatsoever. Even the message of the Sleep Number Bed itself, with its two independently inflatable halves, was that your sleep should not be compromised by the adversarial preferences for firmness of the person you love. Now the mattress would shield you from your own body heat, free you from rolling over and end the Sisyphean cycle of flipping and reflipping your sizzling pillow. The industry was clearing the decks for that big, long nothingness to take hold.
Even the most comfortable mattress can only create a place for sleep, not manufacture it directly. But a sleeping pill puts us down — and under circumstances when we’re unable to do it ourselves. Bils told me: “The sleeping pill is an easy path. It promotes sleep over all the rules you break.” In trying to deride his competition, he spelled out its greatest advantage.
Pharmaceutical companies realize they are selling a reassuring guarantee. “Does your restless mind keep you from sleeping?” asks one Lunesta commercial, while the green moth floats in front of a tossing man. Suddenly, like a hypnotist’s watch, it dispatches him into a deep slumber and flies on to lull even the stern, stone visages of Mount Rushmore to sleep. A couple in a commercial for Ambien CR, meanwhile, lie absolutely motionless all night until the darkness around them fades to daylight.
Last year the industry spent more than $600 million on advertising, helping the newest generation of pills, the so-called “Z drugs,” destigmatize sleeping-pill use. The nation’s most popular, Ambien and its extended-release counterpart Ambien CR, accounted for 60 percent of all sleep-aid prescriptions last year according to IMS Health, for $2.8 billion in sales. Surely great numbers of Americans are experiencing the kind of satisfying knockouts depicted in the commercials.
Yet, as a very infrequent but contented user of both Lunesta and Ambien myself, I was startled to read efficacy trials for those drugs submitted to the F.D.A. In one six-week trial, for example, people taking Ambien every night fell asleep, on average, only 23 minutes faster than those taking the placebo. They spent 88 percent of their time in bed asleep, as opposed to 82 percent. Given that their objectively measured improvements are frequently this meager, why do sleeping pills create incommensurate feelings of having slept so well?
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A popular theory is that one of the pill’s side-effects is actually contributing to their success. Most sleeping pills are known to block the formation of memories during their use, creating amnesia. This is why people who endure freaky side-effects — so-called “complex sleep-related behaviors” like getting into a car and driving or ravenously eating, all while asleep — don’t remember those events. Yet this amnesia could be quite beneficial, suggests Michael Bonnet, a professor of neurology at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine in Dayton, Ohio. “How do you know you slept last night?” Bonnet asked me. A night of lousy, interrupted sleep, he points out, is easy to remember. “It’s full of memories, noise and pain, and heat and rolling around and obtrusive thoughts and worries — all of these various stimuli.” And we may continue to register such things even while asleep, making sleep vaguely unrefreshing. But a good night of sleep, Bonnet went on to say, “is always the antithesis to all those things, which is oblivion.” A sleeping pill, Bonnet speculates, in addition to encouraging sleep chemically in the brain, also “erases all of these thoughts that we use to define ourselves as being awake. The pill knocks them all out, and the patient says, ‘Hey, I must have been asleep because I don’t remember anything.’ ”
Drug-company representatives and consultants I spoke to confirm that their pills can create this mild form of amnesia but disagree that it contributes any significant benefit. “That is not my understanding of how Ambien works,” Dario Mirski, a psychiatrist and spokesman for Ambien’s manufacturer, Sanofi-Aventis, told me. It is difficult to find a clinical trial in which Z-drug takers drastically overestimated how long they slept.
Andrew Krystal, a Duke University psychiatrist and consultant to pharmaceutical companies like Sepracor, Lunesta’s manufacturer, acknowledges an apparent discrepancy in studies between small, objectively recorded improvements and the large percentage of subjects who end up feeling that a pill alleviated their insomnia. But because insomnia is complaint-based, he explained to me, an insomniac is cured when he stops complaining. Who’s to say how many more minutes of sleep or fewer awakenings during the night it should take to relieve each individual’s highly subjective dissatisfaction? Many insomniacs don’t show impaired sleep by any objective measure to begin with — but presumably they benefit from sleeping pills, too. So, Krystal asked, what would you expect to see improve? (A 1990 study presents a jarring example: it focused on a group of insomniacs who, when woken up, swore they hadn’t been sleeping. But if given a sleeping pill first, then woken up, they knew they’d been asleep.) He added, “I’m not a person who shares the view that the reason the drugs work is because they’re amnestic.”
Another prevalent theory is that sleeping pills produce a beneficial physiological effect that clinicians don’t realize they should be measuring. The standard battery of brain-wave and other measurements used in sleep labs provide only a “limited picture,” Krystal said. Nevertheless, several researchers suggested why the amnesia factor isn’t likely to be explained to patients, even as a theory. We tend to see sleep problems as physiological. A treatment that works, even in part, by altering our perception of that problem would seem like “more of a fake,” says Charles Morin, director of the Sleep Research Center at Laval University in Quebec City. Imagine, Morin said, if doctors told their patients: “You keep waking up at night but you just don’t remember it.”
Sleep doctors have criticized sleeping-pill ads for setting up an unattainable expectation of how blissful and easy sleep should be. But the mattress industry operates under that expectation, too, trying vigorously to build a state-of-the-art, NASA-engineered arena on which that idealized, paralytic oblivion can occur. But how did we come to need so much help sleeping in the first place, and how did we come to want, much less expect, the sleep these people are selling?
The story of our ruined sleep, in virtually every telling I’ve heard, begins with Thomas Edison: electric light destroyed the sanctity of night. Given more to do and more opportunity to do it, we gave sleep shorter and shorter shrift. But the sleep that we’re now trying to reclaim may never have been ours to begin with. “It’s a myth,” A. Roger Ekirch, a professor of history at Virginia Tech, told me. “And it’s a myth that even some sleep experts today have bought into.”
Ekirch’s 2005 book, “At Day’s Close,” described just how frenetic night in preindustrial times was. People slept, or tried to, in poorly insulated buildings that let in the weather and noise. Livestock huffed and mewled and stank just outside — if not inside. Generally, you slept beside a chamber pot of your own excrement, staggering across the room every few hours to keep your fire alive. With physical health comparatively poor, night was when people simmered most acutely in their discomfort. In 1750, one writer described London between the hours of 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. as a ghastly encampment of “sick and lame people meditating and languishing on their several disorders, and praying for daylight.”
(Page 6 of 9)
Because there was inadequate bedding, if there were beds at all, three family members and the odd houseguest might sleep on a single mattress — sharing in all the usual annoyances of tossing, blanket-hogging and snoring. Beds were not always, or even often, seen as having much impact on sleep. Another book, “Warm and Snug: The History of the Bed,” by a scholar named Lawrence Wright, suggests that they were valued primarily as furniture, settings for public rituals around birth, death and courtship. Beds did raise you up off the floor, away from the bugs and vermin, and kept you warm. But warmer bedding also created a new vector for mites. And when comfort was a consideration, preferences were just as idiosyncratic as today. Mattresses were stuffed with hair, moss, feathers, wood shavings, seaweed or straw. Louis XI had an uncannily Sleep Number-esque mattress, filled with air and inflated to his liking with a royal bellows.
More surprising still, Ekirch reports that for many centuries, and perhaps back to Homer, Western society slept in two shifts. People went to sleep, got up in the middle of the night for an hour or so, and then went to sleep again. Thus night — divided into a “first sleep” and “second sleep” — also included a curious intermission. “There was an extraordinary level of activity,” Ekirch told me. People got up and tended to their animals or did housekeeping. Others had sex or just lay in bed thinking, smoking a pipe, or gossiping with bedfellows. Benjamin Franklin took “cold-air baths,” reading naked in a chair.
Our conception of sleep as an unbroken block is so innate that it can seem inconceivable that people only two centuries ago should have experienced it so differently. Yet in an experiment at the National Institutes of Health a decade ago, men kept on a schedule of 10 hours of light and 14 hours of darkness — mimicking the duration of day and night during winter — fell into the same, segmented pattern. They began sleeping in two distinct, roughly four-hour stretches, with one to three hours of somnolence — just calmly lying there — in between. Some sleep disorders, namely waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to fall asleep again, “may simply be this traditional pattern, this normal pattern, reasserting itself,” Ekirch told me. “It’s the seamless sleep that we aspire to that’s the anomaly, the creation of the modern world.”
In fact, many contemporary, nonindustrialized cultures contentedly pass portions of the night in the same state of somnolence, says Carol Worthman, an anthropologist at Emory University who is one of the first to look at how other societies sleep. Sleep and wakefulness are rarely seen as an either/or, but rather as two ends of a wide spectrum, and people are far more at peace with the fluidity in between. Among the Efe in Zaire, and the !Kung in Botswana, for example, someone who wakes up in the middle of the night and cannot sleep “may begin to hum, or go out and play the thumb piano,” Worthman and a colleague have written. Others might wake up and join in. “Music or even a dance may get going.”
Worthman says, “In our culture, quality sleep is going into a dark room that is totally quiet, lying down, falling asleep, doing that for eight hours, and then getting up again.” She calls it the “lie down and die” model. “But that is not how much of the world has slept in the past or even sleeps today.” In some cultures sleep is more social, with crowds crammed together on little or no bedding, limbs entangled, while a steady traffic comes and goes. And while it all sounds unbearable, Worthman notes that science has never looked empirically at whether our more sophisticated arrangements actually benefit us. For children, learning to sleep amid all that stimulation may actually have developmental advantages.
Still, we can’t afford the same equanimity about not sleeping through the night as the Efe and !Kung; the flipside is that men and women in those cultures are content to pull a cloth over their faces and doze off during the day if necessary. Our peculiar preference for one well-organized hunk of sleep likely evolved as a corollary to our expectation of uninterrupted wakefulness during the day — as our lives came to be governed by a single, stringent clock. Eluned Summers-Bremner, author of the forthcoming “Insomnia: A Cultural History,” explains that in the 18th century, “we start overvaluing our waking time, and come to see our sleeping time only as a way to support our waking time.” Consequently, we begin trying to streamline sleep, to get it done more economically: “We should lie down and go out right away so we can get up and get to the day right away.” She describes insomniacs as having a ruthless ambition to do just this, wanting to administer sleep as an efficiency expert normalizes the action in a factory. Certainly all of us, after a protracted failure to fall asleep for whatever reason, have turned solemnly to our alarm clocks and performed that desperate arithmetic: If I fall asleep right now, I can still get four hours.
Nevertheless, while it may be at odds with our history and even our biology, lie-down-and-die is the only practical model for our lifestyle. Unless we overhaul society to tolerate all schedules and degrees of sleepiness and attentiveness, we are stuck with that ideal. Perhaps the real problem is that we still haven’t come to terms with the unavoidable imperfection of this state of affairs.
Electric light didn’t obliterate nighttime so much as reinvent it. Our power to toggle between light and dark encouraged us to see night as an empty antithesis to day — an unbroken nothing-time that begins the instant we flip off the switch. And this significantly reshaped and rigidified our expectations of how we ought to be spending it. All of this leaves us — regardless of the circumstances or how poor our sleep hygiene is — insisting that we go out, and stay out, like a light.
Our expectation of perfect sleep may not always be biologically feasible. But it is indisputably reasonable, and thus a failure to fulfill it can be maddening. Difficulty sleeping, it turns out, is often inseparable from and heightened by anxiety about sleep itself.
Sleep-Industrial Complex Part Three
Reply #7 on:
November 18, 2007, 07:14:02 AM »
(Page 7 of 9)
Charles Morin, the Laval University psychologist, told me that it’s not uncommon to discover that a particularly implacable case of insomnia snowballed out of a single stretch of poor sleep — even one with a clear, unavoidable cause, like stress over a new job. While most people eventually shrug off their trouble, the insomniac “forgets what brought about the sleeping problem in the first place,” Morin said. “They worry about not sleeping and how it will impact their daytime functioning, and they start to do things that make sleep more difficult.”
They take naps, throwing their schedule out of whack. Or they become too determined — Morin described patients taking a bath or getting into their pajamas at 7 o’clock, “just to get ready” — and that anticipation turns into performance anxiety. Lying there, they may monitor their progress too vigilantly or worry about the ramifications the next day of not falling asleep right away. This can produce a physiological reaction. Body temperature and blood pressure rise. Metabolism speeds up. Heart rate and brain waves quicken. In other words, the body can respond to the threat of not getting a good night’s sleep the same way it does to most threats: by becoming hyperaroused. “It’s a vicious cycle,” Morin said.
Those who get snared in it may share an unknown, physiological predisposition to insomnia. But whatever its cause, this feedback loop of agony, effort and failure plays out like an escalation of the kind of self-sabotage we’ve all probably experienced when we felt pressure to sleep well and be sharp the next day. “Most of the beliefs these people develop and strategies they employ are very logical and sensible,” Jack Edinger, a psychologist at Duke University and the V.A. Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, told me. But “unlike most things in life where, the harder you try, the better you do, with sleep the harder you try the worse you do.”
Edinger and Morin have been influential in the use of cognitive behavioral therapy, or C.B.T., to treat chronic insomnia. Studies have arguably shown it to be the most successful treatment for the problem and an astonishingly effective method of weaning insomniacs from sleeping pills — even those who have taken them every night for decades. C.B.T. Therapists work to establish good sleep habits but also to rewrite an insomniac’s unhelpful beliefs about sleep. One of the most typical and debilitating ones, Morin explained, is “that eight hours of solid, uninterrupted sleep is a must every night — and otherwise, without it, you can’t function during the day.” Fixating on that as a requirement only undoes a person. Besides, Morin added, a universal need for eight hours is simply “untrue.”
This is exactly the kind of admission other sleep experts I spoke with seemed not to want to make. They may worry that they’ll cause people to take sleep even less seriously than they already do. But C.B.T. seems to succeed by stripping away a crippling sense of urgency with respect to sleep. How powerless one feels over the quality of his sleep; how realistic his expectations; and whether he exaggerates the consequences of sleeping poorly — these have all been shown to correlate with the severity of an insomniac’s complaints. Morin has developed a scale to measure these beliefs. In a study utilizing this scale and led by Edinger, a person’s score emerged, with other measures of anxiety and mood, as a better predictor of his satisfaction with a night’s sleep than objective measures made in the lab — including how long he slept and how quickly he fell asleep. In fact, these objective measures didn’t seem to correlate to people’s sense of how well they slept at all.
Because sleep deprivation may exact a host of severe tolls on the body over time — which is to say nothing of exhaustion-related car accidents and other dangers — Edinger warns that there are people with appallingly disturbed sleep who “roll with the punches a little better and don’t seem to mind or complain — but maybe they should.” Still, C.B.T. suggests that, in certain cases, creating a purely subjective satisfaction with your sleep can have actual value, even if the sleep itself hasn’t yet objectively improved. While undermining the appeal of sleeping pills by positing the self-evident seeming role of amnesia, Morin noted that C.B.T. tries to foster a kind of amnesia, too. “After a poor night of sleep we’re asking people to forget about it and go about their business as usual,” he says. “Because if you wake up and think, Wow, what a terrible night of sleep, I’m going to have a lousy day, you’re setting yourself up for failure.”
Page 8 of 9)
This is not to say that a person who is more tolerant and less threatened by sleep’s inherent imperfections will suddenly get eight uninterrupted hours. But he might be less likely to start down that long, miserable road of perfectly sensible but damaging efforts to control sleep. And that could trigger a quantifiable improvement. If he establishes good habits and puts sufficient faith in his body to get the job done, he might stop trying, stop scrutinizing his progress and thereby stop perpetuating his own hyperarousal. He’d just lie there and wait. “The placebo effect may actually not just be a placebo,” Morin said. “It may produce a physiological predisposition to better sleeping.”
With that in mind, I decided to go see some more mattresses.
Twice a year, at the Las Vegas Market, furniture and mattress manufacturers fill 3.8 million square feet of showrooms in two titanic towers so that 50,000 retailers from around the world can see their wares. The mattress people I met there in August were affable, relaxed and, as always, frank about their industry’s challenges. At a seminar on creating “SleepSperiences” at the retail level, the speaker kicked things off by asking the room full of mattress salespeople what they thought shoppers most often compare them to. Everyone groaned, “Used-car salesman” at once, except the woman seated in front of me. She said, “Like going to the dentist.”
Pete Bils did not attend. He was getting ready to introduce the Sleep Number 9000 at a media event in New York, an upbeat counterpunch to the company’s recent announcement that same-store sales and net earnings had dropped in the previous quarter. There was significant buzz about Tempur-Pedic, though, specifically its new television commercials. The spots, which explained the beds’ even pressure distribution over montages of all things tranquil — tide pools, redwoods, yoga — were emerging as early masterworks of the new, selling-better-sleep genre. They ended with an invitation to “learn more about our science and experience our soul.” “I mean, what an awesome combination of words,” Furniture Today’s David Perry told me.
When I visited Serta’s Las Vegas showroom, an executive named Andrew Gross was eager to show me that a traditional innerspring company like his was just as capable of selling better sleep. Right off the bat, he pointed me to the Serta Perfect Day mattress, noting its emphasis on the mattress as a facilitator of perfect days. Eventually, he led me to an all-foam bed conceived with the participation of the clothing designer Vera Wang and sold under the Vera Wang by Serta label. Gross reached down and picked an almost invisible black speck of something off the top of the bed, then began describing its specifications. In conclusion, he told me that, like all of Serta’s products, this particular mattress was designed to “relieve stress.” I asked him how it did that. We stood there for a second, side by side. Then he said, “Well, it’s a combination of the sleep surface materials and the peace of mind that comes from it being a Vera Wang.”
I looked around the showroom. A man painted white, wearing a toga, stood on a podium, changing statuesque positions every few minutes. In the corner, a harpist played “Desperado.” I began to wonder if much of the hyperrational mattress talk I’d been hearing also provided this kind of emotional, Vera Wang benefit. The hard-to-follow, layer-by-layer tours of each bed’s many patented technologies; the scientific studies and pressure maps; the frequent invocations of NASA engineers; and even the outsize, sleep-obsessed persona of Pete Bils, senior director of sleep innovation and clinical research, himself — they reassure us that a mattress maker is serious and capable; that, given how precarious a thing we’ve turned sleep into, their bed will give us the best shot of succeeding when we climb into it. Even our relationship with the mattress, then, appears muddled up in the same mysterious space between a subjectively good night’s sleep and an objectively good one — how we feel and whether or not we can prove it. And whether the industry realizes it or not, its fledgling campaign to sell better sleep is grappling with the question of which is actually more important to us and which we’re willing to pay for.
(Page 9 of 9)
If ramping up messages about sleep science and technology while bombarding us with medical incentives helps sell more beds, it will be because it speaks to our view that better sleep is primarily a requirement for better wakefulness — that we “sleep to succeed,” as a recent industry-financed release puts it. (This same report notes that “sleep deprivation currently costs U.S. businesses nearly $150 billion annually in absenteeism and lost productivity.”) And yet it’s this very view — that sleep is a bothersome means to an end, like eating enough Omega-3’s — that problematized sleep in the first place. It encouraged us to power through sleep as efficiently as possible or look for shortcuts.
We all might be better off if the industry sold sleep as something to be savored for its own sake, if it just sold sanctuaries and not sanctuaries that are also clinically proven “sleep systems.” That might help us shed an anxiety about sleeping correctly for a more tolerant love of sleeping well, in whatever form sleeping well might take. Oddly, in some cases, that may be the most efficient way of getting empirical results anyway. That is, the industry may only be able to truly offer the kind of life-changing mattresses it sometimes claims to if it fixes the people sleeping in them first.
But that may be just too big a job. When I carried on about this to David Perry in Las Vegas, he told me that enjoying sleep is wonderful but it, by itself, is a hopeless way to move mattresses given how results-oriented the American consumer is. “Remember,” he said, “the key benefit is what happens the next morning.” To make sure I understood, he tossed off a few slogans in the direction he thought the business ought to be heading: “Sleep better, lose weight.” “Sleep better and live longer.” “Sleep better and be more productive the next day.”
Ultimately the Las Vegas Market wore me out. Everywhere I went people were selling me mattresses — if not a particular mattress, then the mystique of mattresses in general. I left exhausted, making my way down the tower’s endless segments of escalators. When I got halfway, I started to find, on each of the landings, a man strumming a ukulele and a woman in a grass skirt and coconut bikini, hula dancing.
The “Polynesian Dreams” luau was getting under way. Below, in the atrium, the staff was rolling thatched-roofed tiki bars into place and stocking them with ice and mugs with totemic faces painted on them. A massive sea horse rose from an hors d’oeuvres table. The same salesmen I’d been seeing around the showrooms turned up wearing leis, loosening up for what looked like a late night. I caught a shuttle back to my hotel, set two alarms for seven the next morning and eventually drifted off watching “Knocked Up” on pay-per-view. As far as I know, I slept well enough.
Gene for less sleep
Reply #8 on:
August 15, 2009, 07:06:00 PM »
Scientists Identify Why Some People Thrive on Fewer Hours of Sleep
Friday, August 14, 2009
Scientists have discovered a gene that helps a mother and daughter stay alert on about six hours sleep a night, two hours less than the rest of their family needs.
It's believed to be a very rare mutation, not an excuse for the rest of us who stay up too late. But the finding, published in Friday's edition of the journal Science, offers a new lead to study how sleep affects health.
The National Institutes of Health says adults need seven hours to nine hours of sleep for good health. Regularly getting too little increases the risk of health problems, including memory impairment and a weakened immune system. A major 2006 study estimated that as many as 30 million Americans suffer chronic insomnia, and millions more have other sleep disorders, including sleep apnea.
University of California, San Francisco, researchers have long hunted genes related to how and when people sleep. In 2001, they discovered a mutation that puts its carriers' sleep patterns out of whack: These people regularly go to bed around 7:30 p.m. and wake around 3:30 a.m.
Now the same team has found a gene involved in regulating length of sleep. In one family, the 69-year-old mother and her 44-year-old daughter typically go to bed around 10 p.m., and Mom rises around 4 and her daughter around 4:30, with no apparent ill effects. The rest of the family has typical sleep patterns.
Blood tests showed the women harbored a mutation in a gene named DEC2 that's involved in regulation of circadian rhythms, the body's clock.
A check of more than 250 stored DNA samples didn't find another carrier.
Then lead researcher Ying-Hui Fu, a neurology professor, and colleagues bred mice and fruit flies that carried the mutation. Sure enough, the flies' activity and brain-wave measurements on the mice showed those with the mutation slept less — and the mice needed less time to recover from sleep deprivation.
The result: A model that "provides a unique opportunity" to study the effects of different amounts of sleep, Fu concluded.
A good night's sleep can be a challenge
Reply #9 on:
September 15, 2009, 06:55:08 AM »
Force Science News: Sleep and the Midnight Shift
Reply #10 on:
December 21, 2009, 01:20:20 PM »
Midnight shift and health risks: New study tells sobering truths
Officers who predominately work midnights are at greater risk of developing severe health problems than civilians and other cops, especially if they average more than about 90 minutes of overtime per week and have trouble sleeping.
This is established in a new study by an 8-member team of health experts, headed by Dr. John Violanti, a former state trooper and now a research associate professor at the State University of New York-Buffalo.
In an ongoing series of groundbreaking investigations, Violanti and cohorts have previously explored shift work and its relationship to suicidal thoughts and to problems of sleep quality. In one earlier study, they found that retired LEOs in general tend to die some 6 years sooner than other retired civic workers.
"The newest findings confirm one more way that policing endangers those who serve," says Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Research Center, which was not involved in the team's discoveries.
"Inescapably, some officers are forced to work undesirable hours, due to the 'round-the-clock nature of law enforcement. Now, knowing their special risks, it becomes all the more important for those on late shifts to rally their personal defenses against the potential assaults on their well-being."
Violanti agrees. "This is the first time that working officers have been examined from this particular perspective," he told Force Science News. "We hope these findings create an awareness of the importance of health education for police. Shift work is not going away. Officers need to learn how to adjust to it and come out alive."
The researchers' test group consisted of 61 male and 37 female volunteers randomly chosen from an eastern city with more than 900 sworn officers. Blood samples, blood pressure readings, and other pertinent data were collected from them at a medical clinic, and their shift assignments and overtime hours were confirmed from payroll records.
Day shift assignments were considered to be those that started between 4 AM and 11:59 AM; afternoon, starting between noon and 7:59 PM; and midnights beginning between 8 PM and 3:59 AM. The officers, who all worked 10-hour shifts, were categorized according to which shift they most often worked during the 5-year period preceding the study.
As a measurement of the officers' health risks, the researchers screened them for abdominal obesity (more than a 40.2-in. waistline in men, 34.6 inches in women); elevated triglycerides (above 150); reduced HDL ("good") cholesterol (less than 40 for men, less than 50 for women); glucose intolerance; and hypertension (blood pressure higher than 130/85).
A combination of any 3 of these "abnormalities" is said to constitute "metabolic syndrome," a condition that carries an increased risk of such health perils as stroke, cardiovascular disease, and Type 2 diabetes.
"In most individual categories, officers in the midnight-shift classification ranked the worst," one of the researchers, Dr. Bryan Vila, a member of the CJ faculty at Washington State University in Spokane, told FSN.
For example, 55% on midnights showed "elevated waist circumference," more than double the percentage found in the other 2 shifts. Half had sub-desirable levels of "good" cholesterol, compared to 30% on days and 44% on afternoons, and 25% had high blood pressure, compared to 15% on days and 9% on afternoons. (Figures are rounded here to avoid fractions.)
In measurement of triglycerides and glucose intolerance, midnight officers fared slightly better than their afternoon counterparts, but in no category were late-shift officers found to be in better shape than officers working days.
Over all, 30% of midnight officers had metabolic syndrome, versus 11% on days and about 15% on afternoon shifts.
"This is a very significant finding for a couple of reasons," Vila says. "First of all, studies of the general population have found that about 22% exhibit metabolic syndrome, and that includes sick people, old people, and others who might be expected to have a negative impact on the number. Cops at least have been screened for good overall physical and mental health when they joined the force.
"Besides that, officers in our study who worked midnights tended to be younger than those working days by an average of 6 years. You would expect younger officers to be less susceptible to the risk factors for serious diseases."
Midnight officers took additional hits when sleep and overtime were factored into the study.
The researchers report: "Officers who worked midnight shifts and [averaged] less than 6 hours sleep had a significantly higher mean number of metabolic syndrome components" than those who worked day and afternoon shifts. Indeed, their mean number of risk factors was more than 4 times that of day officers and more than 2 ? times that of those working afternoons.
Overtime, too, seems to impact midnight officers more negatively than those on other shifts. Among officers averaging more than 1..7 hours of overtime per week, those working midnights had a "significantly higher" mean number of metabolic syndrome factors--more than 4 times higher than day officers and more than twice the number for afternoon shifters.
The study notes in brief: "
horter sleep duration and more overtime combined with midnight shift work may be important contributors to the metabolic syndrome."
The researchers did not attempt to document the specific causes of the link between midnights and health dangers, but Violanti and Vila offer observations about a couple of likely suspects: eating habits and sleep patterns.
On late shifts, officers may feel more dependent on restaurants and vending machines that "point them more toward candy, Cokes, coffee, donuts, and fast foods than toward nutritious meals," Vila explains. In short, Violanti notes, "Diet on the night shift basically stinks."
Plus, he says, "Endocrine function and body balance are disturbed by circadian [daily rhythm] disruption. Working nights, especially on a job that's highly stressful, can cause significant wear and tear on the body."
"Sleep times for officers on midnights tend to be outside the normal range," Vila explains, "so they customarily get not only less sleep but sleep of lesser quality." This produces fatigue and sets up a vicious cycle. Insufficient sleep causes hormonal changes that, in effect, make the body crave quick energy bursts. "This triggers an appetite for the kind of foods that result in weight gain, bad cholesterol, and strain on the organs that help you metabolize sugars. In turn, being overweight makes you more susceptible to sleep apnea and other problems that interfere with restorative sleep."
If midnight officers want assurance of nutritious meals while working, they can pack their own, making sure what they eat is low in processed sugar and high in complex carbohydrates, he suggests.
"You'll sleep better," he says, "if you end vigorous physical activity 2 or more hours before you want to sleep. Minimize your caffeine consumption the last 4 hours of your shift, because it takes about 6 hours to diminish caffeine in the blood to a level where it won't interfere with sleep. And don't eat a big meal just before bedtime." Darkening the room when you have to sleep during daylight hours also helps.
"Make an agreement with your family that sleep for you is an important priority," Violanti suggests, so they can help minimize disturbances.
If you have persistent sleep problems, arrange to be screened for sleep disorders. "More than 40% of cops have serious sleep disorders, and these can usually be treated," Vila says. On the website of the nonprofit National Sleep Foundation [www.sleepfoundation.org] you can locate a sleep professional near you, as well as access helpful tips on better sleeping, books on the subject, and sleep aids.
Lewinski notes that the National Institutes of Health recommend the following for preventing or managing metabolic syndrome:
• Eating a diet low in fat, with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain products
• Getting at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise almost every day
• Losing weight so that your body mass index is less than 25
• Controlling blood pressure and blood sugar
• Not smoking
• Including fish, preferably oily fish, in your diet at least twice a week.
Violanti would like to see law enforcement agencies provide training on diet and sleep, but he points out that "in the end, we are responsible for our own health. We can't depend on an organization to take care of us. Taking our own simple steps to improve lifestyle--eating better, sleeping better, exercising--is the best way to deal with this problem."
With the new metabolic study serving as a baseline, Violanti and his team are planning longer-term monitoring of 460 officers to see if continued exposure to midnight service makes results worse and, hopefully, to pinpoint specific causes of related health problems.
Meanwhile, Vila says, more than a dozen research papers are in development as a part of Violanti's broad-based studies. "We are trying to look one piece at a time at why police work is such an unhealthy profession and what can be done about that."
As more becomes known, Force Science News will keep you updated.
Meanwhile, our strategic partner PoliceOne.com this week posted a news article you may find interesting, concerning a Maryland officer who is suing his county for compensation for heart problems that he claims arose because of his police service.
According to this report, "Maryland law presumes that if public safety officials develop heart diseases, then it was their jobs that caused it and the officials should be eligible for worker's compensation claims, regardless of other possible contributing factors like obesity, smoking habits, and family medical history."
Click here to check it out.
A full report on the newest study, "Atypical Work Hours and Metabolic Syndrome Among Police Officers," appears in the journal Archives of Environmental & Occupational Health, vol. 64, #3, 2009 and is available online for a fee. Click here to go to the report.
NYT: Guided Dreams
Reply #11 on:
July 28, 2010, 02:30:55 AM »
Nightmares resulting from traumatic events usually fade over time, as the haunting images and terrifying plots become less intense. The dreams may also naturally evolve into what some specialists call “mastery dreams,” in which the dreamer has found a way to ease the pain or horror — say, confronting a rapist or saving someone from a fire. But when that does not happen of its own accord, many therapists use behavioral interventions to reduce nightmares or guide the waking patient toward having a mastery dream — using the conscious mind to control the wild ways of the unconscious.
Some of these techniques have been in use for years. In one treatment, known as lucid dreaming, patients are taught to become aware that they are dreaming while the dream is in progress. In another, called in vivo desensitization, they are exposed while awake to what may be haunting them in their sleep — for example, a live snake, caged and harmless — until the fear subsides. Both techniques have been researched extensively.
More recently, therapists and other experts have been using a technique called dream incubation, first researched in the early 1990s by Deirdre Barrett, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School.
And Hollywood has just produced its own spin on lucid dreaming and the idea of controlling dreams, with the release earlier this month of “Inception,” a thriller whose plot swirls through the darkest layers of the dream world. As Dr. Barrett wrote in an online review of “Inception,” for the International Association for the Study of Dreams, “I love the idea of millions of action-film fans the world over leaving theaters asking each other if they’re ever had a dream in which they knew they were dreaming — or whipping out their smartphones and Googling to find out if you really can learn to influence dream content.”
Using dream incubation for problem solving, Dr. Barrett, the author of “The Committee of Sleep,” which expanded on her initial research, asks patients to write down a problem as a brief phrase or sentence and place the note next to the bed. Then she tells them to review the problem for a few minutes before going to bed, and once in bed, visualize the problem as a concrete image, if possible.
As they are drifting off to sleep, the patients should tell themselves they want to dream about the problem and ideally keep a pen and paper, and perhaps a flashlight or a pen with a lit tip, on the night table. No matter what time they wake up, they should lie quietly before getting out of bed, note whether there is “any trace of a recalled dream and invite more of the dream to return if possible.” They should write down everything they remember.
For reducing nightmares, she helps patients devise a mastery scenario to work with, and they can remind themselves of it as they fall asleep, saying to themselves, “Tonight if I have the dream of the fire, of Vietnam, I want to find a fire hose, freeze the action, speak to the Vietnamese boy,” She said.
Dr. Barry Krakow of the Maimonides Sleep Arts and Sciences center in Albuquerque and the author of “Sound Sleep, Sound Mind,” helped develop imagery rehearsal therapy. In a 110-page manual he gives his patients, he has them select a nightmare they want to transform into a dream of lesser intensity.
“Change the nightmare any way you wish,” the manual says. “Let new positive images emerge in your mind’s eye to guide you in ‘painting’ your new dream.”
Patients then rehearse the new dream, which could be a less haunting version of the nightmare or a completely different dream, at least once a day for 10 or 20 minutes. He suggests recalling a nightmare only once or twice a week — and only when changing it into a new dream.
WSJ: Short sleepers
Reply #12 on:
April 06, 2011, 01:31:08 PM »
For a small group of people—perhaps just 1% to 3% of the population—sleep is a waste of time.
Natural "short sleepers," as they're officially known, are night owls and early birds simultaneously. They typically turn in well after midnight, then get up just a few hours later and barrel through the day without needing to take naps or load up on caffeine.
They are also energetic, outgoing, optimistic and ambitious, according to the few researchers who have studied them. The pattern sometimes starts in childhood and often runs in families.
While it's unclear if all short sleepers are high achievers, they do have more time in the day to do things, and keep finding more interesting things to do than sleep, often doing several things at once.
Nobody knows how many natural short sleepers are out there. "There aren't nearly as many as there are people who think they're short sleepers," says Daniel J. Buysse, a psychiatrist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and a past president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, a professional group.
Out of every 100 people who believe they only need five or six hours of sleep a night, only about five people really do, Dr. Buysse says. The rest end up chronically sleep deprived, part of the one-third of U.S. adults who get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep per night, according to a report last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
To date, only a handful of small studies have looked at short sleepers—in part because they're hard to find. They rarely go to sleep clinics and don't think they have a disorder.
A few studies have suggested that some short sleepers may have hypomania, a mild form of mania with racing thoughts and few inhibitions. "These people talk fast. They never stop. They're always on the up side of life," says Dr. Buysse. He was one of the authors of a 2001 study that had 12 confirmed short sleepers and 12 control subjects keep diaries and complete numerous questionnaires about their work, sleep and living habits.One survey dubbed "Attitude for Life" that was actually a test for hypomania. The natural short sleepers scored twice as high as the controls.
There is currently no way people can teach themselves to be short sleepers. Still, scientists hope that by studying short sleepers, they can better understand how the body regulates sleep and why sleep needs vary so much in humans.
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Most adults have normal sleep needs, functioning best with 7 to 9 hours of sleep, and about two-thirds of Americans regularly get it. Children fare better with 8 to 12 hours, and elderly people may need only 6 to 7.
Wannabe Short Sleeper
One-third of Americans are sleep-deprived, regularly getting less than 7 hours a night, which puts them at higher risk of diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and other health problems.
Short sleepers, about 1% to 3% of the population, function well on less than 6 hours of sleep without being tired during the day. They tend to be unusually energetic and outgoing. Geneticists who spotted a gene variation in short sleepers were able to replicate it in mice—which needed less sleep than usual, too.
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."My long-term goal is to someday learn enough so we can manipulate the sleep pathways without damaging our health," says human geneticist Ying-Hui Fu at the University of California-San Francisco. "Everybody can use more waking hours, even if you just watch movies."
Dr. Fu was part of a research team that discovered a gene variation, hDEC2, in a pair of short sleepers in 2009. They were studying extreme early birds when they noticed that two of their subjects, a mother and daughter, got up naturally about 4 a.m. but also went to bed past midnight.
Genetic analyses spotted one gene variation common to them both. The scientists were able to replicate the gene variation in a strain of mice and found that the mice needed less sleep than usual, too.
News of their finding spurred other people to write the team, saying they were natural short sleepers and volunteering to be studied. The researchers are recruiting more candidates and hope to find more gene variations they have in common.
Potential candidates for the gene study are sent multiple questionnaires and undergo a long structured phone interview. Those who make the initial screening wear monitors to track their sleep patterns at home. Christopher Jones, a University of Utah neurologist and sleep scientist who oversees the recruiting, says there is one question that is more revealing than anything else: When people do have a chance to sleep longer, on weekends or vacation, do they still sleep only five or six hours a night? People who sleep more when they can are not true short sleepers, he says.
That All-Nighter Feels Good—Temporarily
Sleep deprivation makes most people grumpy. It's sometimes used as a form of torture. Oddly enough, it can also bring on temporary euphoria, according to a study in the journal Neuroscience last month.
Researchers had 14 healthy young adults stay up all night and all the next day and then compared their reactions with 13 subjects who had slept normally. In one test, sleepless subjects asked to rate a series of images uniformly saw them as more pleasant or positive. "We saw this strange lopsided shift," says lead author Matthew Walker, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of California-Berkeley.
Brain scans also showed that the subjects who had pulled all-nighters had heightened activity in the mesolimbic pathway, a brain circuit driven by dopamine, a neurotransmitter that typically regulates feelings of pleasure, addiction and cravings.
The boost of dopamine after an all-nighter may help explain why sleep deprivation can alleviate major depression in about 60% of patients, although the effect is only temporary. "As soon as they get recovery sleep, all that mood elevation is lost," says Dr. Walker.
Could the sleep-deprived brain be somehow compensating for the lack of downtime with a surge of dopamine to keep on going? Scientists don't yet know.
Earlier studies have also shown that sleep deprivation amplifies activity in the amygdala, the primitive emotional center of the brain, and reduces it the prefrontal cortex, where higher, more rational thought occurs. It may be that the brain reverts to a more basic mode of operating when it is sleep deprived, Dr. Walker speculates. Alternatively, he says, "we know that different parts of the brain are more sensitive than others to sleep deprivation. It may be that the prefrontal cortex just goes down first."
Although the feelings of euphoria sound great, Dr. Walker warns that operating more on emotion than reason can be very risky. "You are all gas pedal and no brake," he says. That can be dangerous, indeed, if you are in a job that requires both long hours and difficult decision making
.To date, Dr. Jones says he has identified only about 20 true short sleepers, and he says they share some fascinating characteristics. Not only are their circadian rhythms different from most people, so are their moods (very upbeat) and their metabolism (they're thinner than average, even though sleep deprivation usually raises the risk of obesity). They also seem to have a high tolerance for physical pain and psychological setbacks.
"They encounter obstacles, they just pick themselves up and try again," Dr. Jones says.
Some short sleepers say their sleep patterns go back to childhood and some see the same patterns starting in their own kids, such as giving up naps by age 2. As adults, they gravitate to different fields, but whatever they do, they do full bore, Dr. Jones says.
"Typically, at the end of a long, structured phone interview, they will admit that they've been texting and surfing the Internet and doing the crossword puzzle at the same time, all on less than six hours of sleep," says Dr. Jones. "There is some sort of psychological and physiological energy to them that we don't understand."
Drs. Jones and Fu stress that there is no genetic test for short sleeping. Ultimately, they expect to find that many different genes play a role, which may in turn reveal more about the complex systems that regulate sleep in humans.
Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Leonardo da Vinci were too busy to sleep much, according to historical accounts. Winston Churchill and Thomas Edison came close but they were also fond of taking naps, which may disqualify them as true short sleepers.
Nowadays, some short sleepers gravitate to fields like blogging, videogame design and social media, where their sleep habits come in handy. "If I could find a way to do it, I'd never sleep," says Dave Hatter, a software developer in Fort Wright, Ky. He typically sleeps just four to five hours a night, up from two to three hours a few years ago.
"It's crazy, but it works for me," says Eleanor Hoffman, an overnight administrator at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York who would rather spend afternoons playing mahjong with friends than sleep anymore than four hours. Sometimes she calls her cousin, Linda Cohen, in Pittsburgh about 4 a.m., since she knows she'll be wide awake as well—just like they were as kids.
"I come to life about 11 at night," says Mrs. Cohen, who owns a chain of toy stores with her husband and gets up early in the morning with ease. "If I went to bed earlier, I'd feel like half my life was missing."
Are you a short sleeper? For more information on the genetic study, contact Dr. Jones at
WSJ: Men, women, and sleep
Reply #13 on:
August 23, 2011, 12:46:41 AM »
By ANDREA PETERSEN
He sleeps. She sleeps. They sleep differently.
Women tend to have more deep sleep and awaken fewer times during the night than men do. They also weather some of the effects of a lack of sleep better than men, according to recent studies. Still, men overall say they are more satisfied with the amount and quality of their shut-eye than are women.
Getting enough sleep is an important factor in maintaining overall health. Scientists are increasingly focusing on gender differences in sleep, seeking clues about why women are more likely to suffer insomnia, for instance. Some researchers suggest that differences in sleep patterns could help explain why women live longer than men.
Andrea Petersen explains on Lunch Break why men and women sleep differently and whether it may partly explain why women generally have better health and live longer.
."Women on average have longer sleep than men; women on average are healthier than men. It could be that those are related," says Daniel J. Buysse, a professor of psychiatry and clinical and translational science at the University of Pittsburgh. Sleep difficulties have been linked in many studies with chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Most people regularly sleep with a partner, and some research has shown that people wake up more and have less deep sleep when they sleep with another person. Still, people generally say they are more satisfied with their sleep when they are with a loved one. "There are objective costs to the physical presence of someone else in the bed," says Wendy M. Troxel, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh and a leading researcher on relationships and sleep. But "the safety and security we derive from our social relationships trumps the cost," she says.
Men and women have different body clocks. Men's average "circadian period" was 24 hours, 11 minutes—six minutes longer than for women, according to a study presented at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine's annual meeting in June in Minneapolis. Although six minutes doesn't seem like a big deal, the effects can compound day after day. Researchers determined circadian period by measuring core body temperature and levels of the hormone melatonin.
.During the study, which involved 157 healthy people, more men had circadian periods longer than 24 hours and therefore were predisposed to want to go to bed later and get up later each day—classic behavior of so-called night owls. By contrast, twice as many women as men had body clocks shorter than 24 hours and therefore wanted to go to bed earlier and get up earlier. "That may make it more difficult to stay asleep at the end of the night," contributing to insomnia in women, says Jeanne F. Duffy, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston and the lead author of the study.
For both sexes, a circadian period that is out of sync with the 24-hour clock can result in sleep deprivation as the week goes on. People with short biological clocks may want to increase exposure to light at night and eliminate it in the morning. Night owls should reduce light exposure before bedtime and get bright light in the morning. Trying to catch up on sleep on the weekends can just push one's biological clock further out of whack.
Women, on the whole, get more sleep and fall asleep faster than men. About 30% of women said they sleep eight hours or more on weekdays, compared with 22% of men, according to the National Sleep Foundation's 2005 Sleep in America Poll, which surveyed 1,506 people. A small study looking at the sleep of healthy young adults found that women slept an average of 7 hours, 43 minutes in a night, or 19 minutes more than men. And women took 9.3 minutes on average to fall asleep, whereas men took 23.2 minutes. The study, published in the journal Chronobiology International in 2005, followed 16 men and 15 women—a small but not uncommon number for sleep studies—over three nights in a sleep laboratory.
Given this, researchers say it isn't clear why in numerous studies women tend to complain more about their sleep, saying they don't get enough shut-eye and find it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Sleep studies might not be picking up the whole story, some researchers say, adding that more investigation is needed.
While mothers of young children often feel like they get no sleep, Dr. Buysee says the research doesn't bear that out. "This isn't going to be popular, but some studies show that mothers get more sleep than fathers," he says. Women likely feel worse because their sleep is so interrupted. "If the woman's sleep is more fragmented, she's going to suffer more consequences," he says.
Multiple studies have shown that women generally have more slow-wave sleep, which is the deepest sleep. It tends to happen in the first part of the night and is critical to memory formation.
Women may be better able to cope with sleep deprivation than are men, probably because they get more deep sleep, recent research suggests. A small study, presented at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine's annual meeting, aimed to mimic the common practice of people not getting enough sleep during the work week and then trying to make up for it on the weekends. Both men's and women's performance on a 10-minute computer task that measured reaction time and speed, among other variables, deteriorated after five nights of only six hours of sleep.
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Men and women have different body clocks, according to a study presented at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine's annual meeting.
.But women's scores slipped less then men's, and recovered to a greater degree after two nights of extended sleep, of eight hours. "I think what our data show is that women can deal with sleep loss better than men," says Alexandros Vgontzas, professor of psychiatry at Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, Pa., and a co-author of the study, which involved 16 men and 18 women.
Sleep can help reinforce learning in both men and women, such as college students readying for an exam. But to absorb certain kinds of knowledge, known as perceptual learning, men needed a nap whereas women didn't, according to another study presented at the sleep medicine academy's meeting.
In the study, 126 subjects completed a task that required them to identify differences in the movement of dots on a screen. The subjects then underwent some training in the task and were tested again to see how much they had learned. Men only learned after a nap. Women learned whether they napped or not. "It may be the case that women are better suited for tasks requiring sustained perception, jobs like air-traffic controllers or radiologists who are reading MRIs," says Elizabeth McDevitt, a study coordinator at the University of California, San Diego and the lead author of the study.
Life changes, including pregnancy and menopause, can wreak havoc on women's sleep. Overall, however, men wake up more often during the night, partly because of their greater risk for obstructive sleep apnea, researchers say.
Some researchers say some women may not feel they're getting a good night's sleep because sleep studies may not be seeing the whole picture when it comes to insomnia. New studies using PET scans have shown that in patients with insomnia, glucose metabolism is elevated in some parts of the brain. So even when they're asleep "their brain isn't completely shut off," says Dr. Buysse. Women are about 50% more likely to have insomnia than men. Other researchers say women, more than men, tend to suffer from depression and anxiety disorders, which can lead to insomnia.
A Japanese approach to Sleep Apnea
Reply #14 on:
December 18, 2011, 10:49:51 PM »
WSJ: Teen Sleep issues
Reply #15 on:
October 17, 2012, 10:48:15 AM »
Understanding the Zombie Teen's Body Clock
• By SUE SHELLENBARGER
Many parents know the scene: The groggy, sleep-deprived teenager stumbles through breakfast and falls asleep over afternoon homework, only to spring to life, wide-eyed and alert, at 10 p.m.—just as Mom and Dad are nodding off.
Fortunately for parents, science has gotten more sophisticated at explaining why, starting at puberty, a teen's internal sleep-wake clock seems to go off the rails. Researchers are also connecting the dots between the resulting sleep loss and behavior long chalked up to just "being a teenager." This includes more risk-taking, less self-control, a drop in school performance and a rise in the incidence of depression.
Few parents realize that the common practice of letting teens set their own bedtime can fuel further mutations in the biological processes that knocked them off track. Sue Shellenbarger and Brown University's Dr. Mary Carskadon discuss details on Lunch Break.
One 2010 study from the University of British Columbia, for example, found that sleep loss can hamper neuron growth in the brain during adolescence, a critical period for cognitive development.
Findings linking sleep loss to adolescent turbulence are "really revelatory," says Michael Terman, a professor of clinical psychology and psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and co-author of "Chronotherapy," a forthcoming book on resetting the body clock. "These are reactions to a basic change in the way teens' physiology and behavior is organized."
Despite such revelations, there are still no clear solutions for the teen-zombie syndrome. Should a parent try to enforce strict wake-up and bedtimes, even though they conflict with the teen's body clock? Or try to create a workable sleep schedule around that natural cycle? Coupled with a trend toward predawn school start times and peer pressure to socialize online into the wee hours, the result can upset kids' health, school performance—and family peace.
Jeremy Kern, 16 years old, of San Diego, gets up at 6:30 a.m. for school and tries to fall asleep by 10 p.m. But a heavy load of homework and extracurricular activities, including playing saxophone in his school marching band and in a theater orchestra, often keep him up later.
"I need 10 hours of sleep to not feel tired, and every single day I have to deal with being exhausted," Jeremy says. He stays awake during early-afternoon classes "by sheer force of will." And as research shows, sleep loss makes him more emotionally volatile, Jeremy says, like when he recently broke up with his girlfriend: "You are more irrational when you're sleep deprived. Your emotions are much harder to control."
Only 7.6% of teens get the recommended 9 to 10 hours of sleep, 23.5% get eight hours and 38.7% are seriously sleep-deprived at six or fewer hours a night, says a 2011 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's a biological 1-2-3 punch. First, the onset of puberty brings a median 1.5-hour delay in the body's release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, says Mary Carskadon, a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the Brown University medical school and a leading sleep researcher.
Sleep Tech for Teens
When adolescents stay up late, it's often because they're welded to their gadgets. Here are three that might actually ease their way to dreamland.
• Philips Wake-Up Light. Teens could wind down to its gradually dimming evening glow, then awaken to a gradual rise in light and nature sounds— especially good for dark winter mornings. Includes digital clock and AM/FM radio. $100 at amazon.com.
• Sleepsonic Stereo Speaker Pillow. With built-in digital stereo speakers, this could help music-loving teens drift off without the discomfort of headphones; $140 and up at sleepsonic.com.
• F.lux. This computer-screen app gradually dims the most stimulating light wavelengths, helping teens wind down while finishing homework; free at stereopsis.com/flux
Second, "sleep pressure," or the buildup of the need to sleep as the day wears on, slows during adolescence. That is, kids don't become sleepy as early. This sleep delay isn't just a passing impulse: It continues to increase through adolescence, peaking at age 19.5 in girls and age 20.9 in boys, Dr. Carskadon's research shows.
Finally, teens lose some of their sensitivity to morning light, the kind that spurs awakening and alertness. And they become more reactive to nighttime light, sparking activity later into the evening.
Dr. Carskadon says letting teens set their own schedules can lead to a downward spiral. Teens left to their own devices tend to cycle later, soaking up stimulating light from their computers. This can further delay sleep by 2˝ to 3 hours.
Many parents feel defeated by schools' early start times. More than half of public high schools start before 8 a.m., according to a 2011 Brookings Institution study.
Maya Zimmerman's first class is at 7:20 a.m., and "when I wake up in the morning, I literally want to die," says the 16-year-old Falls Church, Va., high-school junior. "I feel like it's the middle of the night and I don't feel like eating cereal." Ms. Zimmerman says she battles fatigue in class and often nods off while doing homework after school.
More than 35 schools or school districts in at least 21 states have delayed start times in recent years to allow teens to sleep longer, according to reports gathered by advocates. In Wake County, N.C., where school start times were changed several times over a seven-year period, a one-hour delay was linked to an increase of three percentile points in middle-school students' math and reading scores, according to a study published earlier this year in the Economics of Education Review.
Many schools, however, have rejected parental pressure to delay school starts, citing bus-cost savings, or the need to keep afternoons open for teens' sports or other activities.
Sleep loss is linked in research to decreases in memory, attention and academic performance. Impaired functioning of the prefrontal cortex, which helps regulate sleep, has been detected in youngsters with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Sleep-deprived teens are more likely to feel sad or hopeless, or to seriously consider suicide, according to a 2011 study by the CDC. A study published earlier this year by Dr. Carskadon and others links sleep deprivation in college freshmen to the expression of genetic factors linked to depression.
Still, most teens resist parents' setting bedtimes. Peer pressure plays a role. Teens with a friend who sleeps less than seven hours a night are 11% more likely to sleep less than seven hours themselves, says a 2010 study in the science journal PLoS One.
Claude Albertario of Oceanside, N.Y., says his 15-year-old daughter Rianna stays up much too late, leaving her TV on through the night, "no matter my yelling." Rianna says she isn't sleepy until after midnight and usually falls asleep at 1 a.m. or 1:30 a.m., just five hours before she has to get up for school. She claims her TV helps her sleep by masking nighttime noises around the house.
An argument that does work with Rianna: Citing research linking sleep loss in teens to obesity and other health problems. Knowing that more sleep will help her keep her skin clear and avoid gaining weight "motivates me more," says Rianna, who is trying gradually to move her bedtime up to midnight.
Write to Sue Shellenbarger at
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