Author Topic: Sleep  (Read 43628 times)


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« on: October 23, 2007, 10:44:11 AM »
This certainly could fit within the Health thread, but I'm going to give it one of its own:


NY Times

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.


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Re: Sleep
« Reply #1 on: October 23, 2007, 10:47:10 AM »
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.”


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Re: Sleep
« Reply #2 on: October 23, 2007, 10:49:09 AM »

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
Night Life
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.


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Re: Sleep
« Reply #3 on: October 23, 2007, 11:06:03 AM »
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.”


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Re: Sleep
« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2007, 11:09:26 AM »
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.”


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The Sleep-Industiral Complex
« Reply #5 on: November 18, 2007, 05:11:14 AM »
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.”


Page 3 of 9)

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.


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Part Two
« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2007, 05:12:57 AM »
Page 4 of 9)

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?


(Page 5 of 9)

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.


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Sleep-Industrial Complex Part Three
« Reply #7 on: November 18, 2007, 05:14:02 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.


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Gene for less sleep
« Reply #8 on: August 15, 2009, 05:06:00 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.


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Force Science News: Sleep and the Midnight Shift
« Reply #10 on: December 21, 2009, 11:20:20 AM »

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 [] 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 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.


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NYT: Guided Dreams
« Reply #11 on: July 28, 2010, 12:30:55 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.


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WSJ: Short sleepers
« Reply #12 on: April 06, 2011, 11:31:08 AM »
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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Matt Colins
 .Normal Sleeper
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 Sleeper
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.
.Related Sleep Videos
What Is a Good Night's Sleep Worth to You?
Worth It?: Sleep Tracker Elite
Using A Sleep Monitor To Track Healthy Sleep
News Hub: Why Some Couples Sleep in Separate Beds

."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


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WSJ: Men, women, and sleep
« Reply #13 on: August 22, 2011, 10:46:41 PM »
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.

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.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.


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WSJ: Teen Sleep issues
« Reply #15 on: October 17, 2012, 08:48:15 AM »

Understanding the Zombie Teen's Body Clock
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
•   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
•   F.lux. This computer-screen app gradually dims the most stimulating light wavelengths, helping teens wind down while finishing homework; free at
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 2½ 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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Two sleeps
« Reply #16 on: August 25, 2013, 06:30:40 PM »


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« Reply #17 on: September 02, 2013, 06:21:27 PM »


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Best time for a nap is 1 to 4 PM
« Reply #18 on: September 02, 2013, 07:24:26 PM »
Sounds like Latinos had it right all along.  I wouldn't mind a nap at that time.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is about the short nap. For other uses, see Siesta (disambiguation).

A siesta (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈsjesta]) is a short nap taken in the early afternoon, often after the midday meal. Such a period of sleep is a common tradition in some countries, particularly those where the weather is warm.

Because the siesta is the traditional daytime sleep of Spain and, through Spanish influence, of many Hispanic American countries and the Philippines, the word siesta also derives from Spanish, originally from the Latin hora sexta "sixth hour" (counting from dawn, hence "midday rest"). Siesta is also common in Italy (there called riposo), where museums, churches and shops close during siesta so that proprietors can go home for a long lunch and perhaps a snooze during the day’s hottest hours. Einhard's Life of Charlemagne recounts the emperor's summertime siesta: "In summer, after his midday meal, he would eat some fruit and take another drink; then he would remove his shoes and undress completely, just as he did at night, and rest for two or three hours."[1]

Main factors explaining the geographical distribution of the modern siesta are high temperatures and heavy intake of food at the midday meal. Combined, these two factors contribute to the feeling of post-lunch drowsiness. In many countries that observe the siesta, the heat can be unbearable in the early afternoon, making a midday break at home ideal. However, siesta is also practiced in some colder regions, such as Patagonia. This could indicate that the siesta has a stronger relation with culture than with climate.
  [hide] 1 Biological need for naps
2 Sleep cultures
3 Cardiovascular benefits
4 Further resources
5 References
6 External links
Biological need for naps[edit source]

Older, pre-teenage children are usually capable of napping, but others acquire the ability to nap as teenagers as well.[2]

The timing of sleep in humans depends upon a balance between homeostatic sleep propensity, the need for sleep as a function of the amount of time elapsed since the last adequate sleep episode, and circadian rhythms which determine the ideal timing of a correctly structured and restorative sleep episode. The homeostatic pressure to sleep starts growing upon awakening. The circadian signal for wakefulness starts building in the (late) afternoon. As Harvard professor of sleep medicine Charles A. Czeisler notes, "The circadian system is set up in a beautiful way to override the homeostatic drive for sleep."[3]

Thus, in many people, there is a dip when the drive for sleep has been building for hours and the drive for wakefulness has not yet started. This is, again quoting Czeisler, "a great time for a nap."[3] The drive for wakefulness intensifies through the evening, making it difficult to get to sleep 2–3 hours before one's usual bedtime when the wake maintenance zone ends.

Dentist and pharmacist sharing similar business hours in the island of Lipsi, Greece
Taking a midday nap is common in a number of tropical and subtropical countries, where the afternoon heat dramatically reduces work productivity. The Washington Post of February 13, 2007 reports at length on studies in Greece that indicate that those who nap have less risk of heart attack.[4]

In the United States, the United Kingdom, and a growing number of other countries, a short sleep has been referred to as a "power nap", a term coined by Cornell University social psychologist James Maas[5] and recognized by other research scientists such as Sara Mednick[6] as well as in the popular press.[7]

Cardiovascular benefits[edit source]

La Siesta, Ramon Martí Alsina (MNAC)
The siesta habit has recently been associated with a 37 percent reduction in coronary mortality, possibly due to reduced cardiovascular stress mediated by daytime sleep (Naska et al., 2007).

Nevertheless, epidemiological studies (see Naska et al, 2007; Zaregarizi et al, 2007; Zaregarizi, 2012) on the relations between cardiovascular health and siesta have led to conflicting conclusions, possibly because of poor control of moderator variables, such as physical activity. It is possible that people who take a siesta have different physical activity habits, for example waking earlier and scheduling more activity during the morning. Such differences in physical activity may mediate different 24-hour profiles in cardiovascular function. Even if such effects of physical activity can be discounted for explaining the relationship between siesta and cardiovascular health, it is still unknown whether it is the daytime nap itself, a supine posture or the expectancy of a nap that is the most important factor.

Naska, A., Oikonomou, E., Trichopoulou, A., Psaltopoulou, T. and Trichopoulos, D. (2007). Siesta in healthy adults and coronary mortality in the general population. Archives of Internal Medicine, 167, 296-301.
MohammadReza Zaregarizi, Ben Edwards, Keith George, Yvonne Harrison, Helen Jones and Greg Atkinson. (2007). Acute changes in cardiovascular function during the onset period of daytime sleep: Comparison to lying awake and standing. American J Appl Physiol 103:1332-1338.
MohammadReza Zaregarizi (Author). Effects of Exercise & Daytime Sleep on Human Haemodynamics: With Focus on Changes in Cardiovascular Function during Daytime Sleep Onset. BOOK, ISBN (978-3-8484-1726-1), March, 2012.


1.^ Einhard, Life of Charlemagne, §24.
2.^ Dement, William (1999). The Promise of Sleep. Dell Publishing. pp. 113–115. ISBN 0-440-50901-7.
3.^ a b Lambert, Craig, PhD (July–August 2005). "Deep into Sleep. While researchers probe sleep's functions, sleep itself is becoming a lost art". Harvard Magazine. Retrieved 2008-02-25.
4.^ Stein, Rob. "Midday Naps Found to Help Fend Off Heart Disease", Washington Post, 13 February 2007, p. A14.
5.^ Maas, James B. (1998) Miracle Sleep Cure: London: Thorsons
6.^ "The National Institute of Mental Health Power Nap Study". 2002-07-01. Retrieved 2002-07-01.
7.^ "Researchers: Power Nap Better than Caffeine to Fight Afternoon Fatigue". Fox News. 2007-09-04.****


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Konnickovajan: Goodnight. Sleep Clean
« Reply #21 on: January 12, 2014, 08:43:42 AM »
Goodnight. Sleep Clean.


SLEEP seems like a perfectly fine waste of time. Why would our bodies evolve to spend close to one-third of our lives completely out of it, when we could instead be doing something useful or exciting? Something that would, as an added bonus, be less likely to get us killed back when we were sleeping on the savanna?

“Sleep is such a dangerous thing to do, when you’re out in the wild,” Maiken Nedergaard, a Danish biologist who has been leading research into sleep function at the University of Rochester’s medical school, told me. “It has to have a basic evolutional function. Otherwise it would have been eliminated.”

We’ve known for some time that sleep is essential for forming and consolidating memories and that it plays a central role in the formation of new neuronal connections and the pruning of old ones. But that hardly seems enough to risk death-by-leopard-in-the-night. “If sleep was just to remember what you did yesterday, that wouldn’t be important enough,” Dr. Nedergaard explains.

In a series of new studies, published this fall in the journal Science, the Nedergaard lab may at last be shedding light on just what it is that would be important enough. Sleep, it turns out, may play a crucial role in our brain’s physiological maintenance. As your body sleeps, your brain is quite actively playing the part of mental janitor: It’s clearing out all of the junk that has accumulated as a result of your daily thinking.

Recall what happens to your body during exercise. You start off full of energy, but soon enough your breathing turns uneven, your muscles tire, and your stamina runs its course. What’s happening internally is that your body isn’t able to deliver oxygen quickly enough to each muscle that needs it and instead creates needed energy anaerobically. And while that process allows you to keep on going, a side effect is the accumulation of toxic byproducts in your muscle cells. Those byproducts are cleared out by the body’s lymphatic system, allowing you to resume normal function without any permanent damage.

The lymphatic system serves as the body’s custodian: Whenever waste is formed, it sweeps it clean. The brain, however, is outside its reach — despite the fact that your brain uses up about 20 percent of your body’s energy. How, then, does its waste — like beta-amyloid, a protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease — get cleared? What happens to all the wrappers and leftovers that litter the room after any mental workout?

“Think about a fish tank,” says Dr. Nedergaard. “If you have a tank and no filter, the fish will eventually die. So, how do the brain cells get rid of their waste? Where is their filter?”

UNTIL a few years ago, the prevailing model was based on recycling: The brain got rid of its own waste, not only beta-amyloid but other metabolites, by breaking it down and recycling it at an individual cell level. When that process eventually failed, the buildup would result in age-related cognitive decline and diseases like Alzheimer’s. That “didn’t make sense” to Dr. Nedergaard, who says that “the brain is too busy to recycle” all of its energy. Instead, she proposed a brain equivalent of the lymphatic system, a network of channels that cleared out toxins with watery cerebrospinal fluid. She called it the glymphatic system, a nod to its dependence on glial cells (the supportive cells in the brain that work largely to maintain homeostasis and protect neurons) and its function as a sort of parallel lymphatic system.

She was hardly the first to think in those terms. “It had been proposed about one hundred years ago, but they didn’t have the tools to study it properly,” she says. Now, however, with advanced microscopes and dyeing techniques, her team discovered that the brain’s interstitial space — the fluid-filled area between tissue cells that takes up about 20 percent of the brain’s total volume — was mainly dedicated to physically removing the cells’ daily waste.

When members of Dr. Nedergaard’s team injected small fluorescent tracers into the cerebrospinal fluid of anesthetized mice, they found that the tracers quickly entered the brain — and, eventually, exited it — via specific, predictable routes.

The next step was to see how and when, exactly, the glymphatic system did its work. “We thought this cleaning process would require tremendous energy,” Dr. Nedergaard says. “And so we asked, maybe this is something we do when we’re sleeping, when the brain is really not processing information.”

In a series of new studies on mice, her team discovered exactly that: When the mouse brain is sleeping or under anesthesia, it’s busy cleaning out the waste that accumulated while it was awake.

In a mouse brain, the interstitial space takes up less room than it does in ours, approximately 14 percent of the total volume. Dr. Nedergaard found that when the mice slept, it swelled to over 20 percent. As a result, the cerebrospinal fluid could not only flow more freely but it could also reach further into the brain. In an awake brain, it would flow only along the brain’s surface. Indeed, the awake flow was a mere 5 percent of the sleep flow. In a sleeping brain, waste was being cleared two times faster. “We saw almost no inflow of cerebrospinal fluid into the brain when the mice were awake, but then when we anesthetized them, it started flowing. It’s such a big difference I kept being afraid something was wrong,” says Dr. Nedergaard.

Similar work in humans is still in the future. Dr. Nedergaard is currently awaiting board approval to begin the equivalent study in adult brains in collaboration with the anesthesiologist Helene Benveniste at Stony Brook University.

So far the glymphatic system has been identified as the neural housekeeper in baboons, dogs and goats. “If anything,” Dr. Nedergaard says, “it’s more needed in a bigger brain.”

MODERN society is increasingly ill equipped to provide our brains with the requisite cleaning time. The figures are stark. Some 80 percent of working adults suffer to some extent from sleep deprivation. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should sleep seven to nine hours. On average, we’re getting one to two hours less sleep a night than we did 50 to 100 years ago and 38 minutes less on weeknights than we did as little as 10 years ago. Between 50 and 70 million people in the United States suffer from some form of chronic sleep disorder. When our sleep is disturbed, whatever the cause, our cleaning system breaks down. At the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology, Sigrid Veasey has been focusing on precisely how restless nights disturb the brain’s normal metabolism. What happens to our cognitive function when the trash piles up?

At the extreme end, the result could be the acceleration of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. While we don’t know whether sleep loss causes the disease, or the disease itself leads to sleep loss — what Dr. Veasey calls a “classic chicken-and-egg” problem — we do know that the two are closely connected. Along with the sleep disturbances that characterize neurodegenerative diseases, there is a buildup of the types of proteins that the glymphatic system normally clears out during regular sleep, like beta-amyloids and tau, both associated with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.

“To me,” says Dr. Veasey, “that’s the most compelling part of the Nedergaard research. That the clearance for these is dramatically reduced from prolonged wakefulness.” If we don’t sleep well, we may be allowing the very things that cause neural degeneration to pile up unchecked.

Even at the relatively more benign end — the all-nighter or the extra-stressful week when you caught only a few hours a night — sleep deprivation, as everyone who has experienced it knows, impedes our ability to concentrate, to pay attention to our environment and to analyze information creatively. “When we’re sleep-deprived, we can’t integrate or put together facts,” as Dr. Veasey puts it.

But there is a difference between the kind of fleeting sleep loss we sometimes experience and the chronic deprivation that comes from shift work, insomnia and the like. In one set of studies, soon to be published in The Journal of Neuroscience, the Veasey lab found that while our brains can recover quite readily from short-term sleep loss, chronic prolonged wakefulness and sleep disruption stresses the brain’s metabolism. The result is the degeneration of key neurons involved in alertness and proper cortical function and a buildup of proteins associated with aging and neural degeneration.

Yes, it's the usual approach - don't prevent, which might be done with work hours, diet, exercise and lifestyle changes --- but go to any...


It’s like the difference between a snowstorm’s disrupting a single day of trash pickup and a prolonged strike. No longer quite as easy to fix, and even when the strike is over, there’s likely to be some stray debris floating around for quite some time yet. “Recovery from sleep loss is slower than we’d thought,” Dr. Veasey notes. “We used to think that after a bit of recovery sleep, you should be fine. But this work shows you’re not.”

If you put her own research together with the findings from the Nedergaard lab, Dr. Veasey says, it “very clearly shows that there’s impaired clearance in the awake brain. We’re really starting to realize that when we skip sleep, we may be doing irreparable damage to the brain, prematurely aging it or setting it up for heightened vulnerability to other insults.”

In a society that is not only chronically sleep-deprived but also rapidly aging, that’s bad news. “It’s unlikely that poor sleep as a child would actually cause Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s,” says Dr. Veasey, “but it’s more likely that you may shift one of those diseases by a decade or so. That has profound health and economic implications.”

It’s a pernicious cycle. We work longer hours, become more stressed, sleep less, impair our brain’s ability to clean up after all that hard work, and become even less able to sleep soundly. And if we reach for a sleeping pill to help us along? While work on the effects of sleeping aids on the glymphatic system remains to be done, the sleep researchers I spoke with agree that there’s no evidence that aided sleep is as effective as natural sleep.

There is, however, reason to hope. If the main function of sleep is to take out our neural trash, that insight could eventually enable a new understanding of both neurodegenerative diseases and regular, age-related cognitive decline. By developing a diagnostic test to measure how well the glymphatic system functions, we could move one step closer to predicting someone’s risk of developing conditions like Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia: The faster the fluids clear the decks, the more effectively the brain’s metabolism is functioning.

“Such a test could also be used in the emergency room after traumatic brain injury,” Dr. Nedergaard says, “to see who is at risk of developing decline in cognitive function.”

We can also focus on developing earlier, more effective interventions to prevent cognitive decline. One approach would be to enable individuals who suffer from sleep loss to sleep more soundly — but how? Dr. Nedergaard’s mice were able to clear their brain’s waste almost as effectively under anesthesia as under normal sleeping conditions. “That’s really fascinating,” says Dr. Veasey. Though current sleeping aids may not quite do the trick, and anesthetics are too dangerous for daily use, the results suggest that there may be better ways of improving sleep pharmacologically.

Now that we have a better understanding of why sleep is so important, a new generation of drug makers can work to create the best possible environment for the trash pickup to occur in the first place — to make certain that our brain’s sleeping metabolism is as efficient as it can possibly be.

A second approach would take the opposite tack, by seeking to mimic the cleanup-promoting actions of sleep in the awake brain, which could make a full night of sound sleep less necessary. To date, the brain’s metabolic process hasn’t been targeted as such by the pharmaceutical industry. There simply wasn’t enough evidence of its importance. In response to the evolving data, however, future drug interventions could focus directly on the glymphatic system, to promote the enhanced cleaning power of the sleeping brain in a brain that is fully awake. One day, scientists might be able to successfully mimic the expansion of the interstitial space that does the mental janitorial work so that we can achieve maximally efficient round-the-clock brain trash pickup.

If that day comes, they would be on their way to discovering that all-time miracle drug: one that, in Dr. Veasey’s joking words, “could mean we never have to sleep at all.”

Maria Konnikova is the author of “Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes.”
« Last Edit: January 12, 2014, 08:46:23 AM by Crafty_Dog »


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Dick Morris and the class action ambien attorney
« Reply #23 on: January 24, 2014, 06:10:52 PM »

PS  Lunesta is not used nearly as much for one reason - it ain't generic.  No one wants to pay for it.


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When to go to sleep
« Reply #24 on: May 03, 2014, 07:29:15 AM »


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WSJ: The healthy tend to sleep 7 hours
« Reply #25 on: July 22, 2014, 07:56:57 AM »
Why Seven Hours of Sleep Might Be Better Than Eight
Sleep experts close in on the optimal night's sleep
Sumathi Reddy


July 21, 2014 7:22 p.m. ET

American adults get less sleep today than in the past, research shows. Corbis

How much sleep do you really need?

Experts generally recommend seven to nine hours a night for healthy adults. Sleep scientists say new guidelines are needed to take into account an abundance of recent research in the field and to reflect that Americans are on average sleeping less than they did in the past.

Several sleep studies have found that seven hours is the optimal amount of sleep—not eight, as was long believed—when it comes to certain cognitive and health markers, although many doctors question that conclusion.
The Way We Sleep

    People say they need an average of 7 hours, 13 minutes of sleep to function at their best. They sleep 6 hours, 31 minutes on an average weekday, and 7 hours, 22 minutes on weekends.
    69% of Americans get less sleep on weekdays than they say they need.
    Sleeping with a partner is preferred by 60% of adults. About 1 in 5 people sleep with a pet.
    Pajamas are worn by 73% of people and 12% sleep with nothing on.
    A third of adults sleep with one pillow, 41% use two and 14% keep four or more pillows.

Source: National Sleep Foundation, 2013 International Bedroom Poll

Other recent research has shown that skimping on a full night's sleep, even by 20 minutes, impairs performance and memory the next day. And getting too much sleep—not just too little of it—is associated with health problems including diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease and with higher rates of death, studies show.

"The lowest mortality and morbidity is with seven hours," said Shawn Youngstedt, a professor in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation at Arizona State University Phoenix. "Eight hours or more has consistently been shown to be hazardous," says Dr. Youngstedt, who researches the effects of oversleeping.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is helping to fund a panel of medical specialists and researchers to review the scientific literature on sleep and develop new recommendations, probably by 2015.

Daniel F. Kripke, an emeritus professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego, tracked over a six-year period data on 1.1 million people who participated in a large cancer study. People who reported they slept 6.5 to 7.4 hours had a lower mortality rate than those with shorter or longer sleep. The study, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry in 2002, controlled for 32 health factors, including medications.

In another study, published in the journal Sleep Medicine in 2011, Dr. Kripke found further evidence that the optimal amount of sleep might be less than the traditional eight hours. The researchers recorded the sleep activity of about 450 elderly women using devices on their wrist for a week. Some 10 years later the researchers found that those who slept fewer than five hours or more than 6.5 hours had a higher mortality.

Other experts caution against studies showing ill effects from too much sleep. Illness may cause someone to sleep or spend more time in bed, these experts say. And studies based on people reporting their own sleep patterns may be inaccurate.

"The problem with these studies is that they give you good information about association but not causation," said Timothy Morgenthaler, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, which represents sleep doctors and researchers, and a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic Center for Sleep Medicine.

Dr. Morgenthaler advises patients to aim for seven to eight hours of sleep a night and to evaluate how they feel. Sleep needs also vary between individuals, largely due to cultural and genetic differences, he said.

Getting the right amount of sleep is important in being alert the next day, and several recent studies have found an association between getting seven hours of sleep and optimal cognitive performance.

A study in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience last year used data from users of the cognitive-training website Lumosity. Researchers looked at the self-reported sleeping habits of about 160,000 users who took spatial-memory and matching tests and about 127,000 users who took an arithmetic test. They found that cognitive performance increased as people got more sleep, reaching a peak at seven hours before starting to decline.

After seven hours, "increasing sleep was not any more beneficial," said Murali Doraiswamy, a professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., who co-authored the study with scientists from Lumos Labs Inc., which owns Lumosity. He said the study replicated earlier research, including a look at memory loss. "If you think about all the causes of memory loss, sleep is probably one of the most easily modifiable factors," he said.

Most research has focused on the effects of getting too little sleep, including cognitive and health declines and weight gain. David Dinges, a sleep scientist at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine who has studied sleep deprivation, said repeatedly getting just 20 or 30 minutes less than the minimum recommendation of seven hours can slow cognitive speed and increase attention lapses.

Experts say people should be able to figure out their optimal amount of sleep in a trial of three days to a week, ideally while on vacation. Don't use an alarm clock. Go to sleep when you get tired. Avoid too much caffeine or alcohol. And stay off electronic devices a couple of hours before going to bed. During the trial, track your sleep with a diary or a device that records your actual sleep time. If you feel refreshed and awake during the day, you've probably discovered your optimal sleep time.

The new sleep guidelines will be drawn up by a panel of experts being assembled by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the Sleep Research Society, an organization for sleep researchers, and the CDC. The recommendations are meant to reflect evidence that has emerged from scientific studies and are expected to take into account issues such as gender and age, says Dr. Morgenthaler, the academy president.

Another group, the National Sleep Foundation, a nonprofit research and advocacy group, also has assembled an expert panel that expects to release updated recommendations for sleep times in January.

These groups currently recommend seven to nine hours of nightly sleep for healthy adults. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends seven to eight hours, including the elderly. Most current guidelines say school-age children should get at least 10 hours of sleep a night, and teenagers, nine to 10.

"I don't think you can overdose on healthy sleep. When you get enough sleep your body will wake you up," said Safwan Badr, chief of the division of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit.

A study in the current issue of Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine seemed to confirm that. Five healthy adults were placed in what the researchers called Stone Age-like conditions in Germany for more than two months—without electricity, clocks or running water. Participants fell asleep about two hours earlier and got on average 1.5 hours more sleep than was estimated in their normal lives, the study said.

Their average amount of sleep per night: 7.2 hours.


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Naps are good
« Reply #27 on: April 01, 2016, 12:11:13 PM »


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WSJ: Napping, early morning insomnia
« Reply #29 on: September 22, 2017, 08:59:46 AM »
What’s the Best Way to Take an Afternoon Nap?
A sleep expert explains theories behind why humans have evolved to make time for a short midday snooze
Illustration: MARK MATCHO
By Heidi Mitchell
Sept. 18, 2017 10:02 a.m. ET

Settling in for a midday snooze has been given a bad rap. Getting caught napping is often code in the U.S. for being lazy. Yet many cultures build catnaps into their normal routines, and dozens of studies have shown that grabbing a few Zs in the daylight hours is healthy.

So what’s the best way to take a nap? One expert, David Dinges, the chief of the Division of Sleep and Chronobiology in Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, explains how to optimize midday shut-eye.
Two Kinds of Naps

Dr. Dinges, who is also a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, says that naps actually come in two forms: voluntary and involuntary. A voluntary nap, he says, is where a person makes a conscious decision to catch some relief before continuing her day.

“Those are naps that fill in additional sleep needs, and they have many health benefits,” he says. Involuntary naps, often the kind that happen when you’re caught napping, are considered to be a mark of someone who lacks the fortitude to stay awake. Dr. Dinges calls voluntary, or intentional, sleep the best way to fill up a person’s “sleep tank.”

“So if you live on a schedule where you only get six hours of sleep a night and you get 45 minutes of intentional naps a day, you don’t develop much of a sleep debt,” he says. Doctors recommend that adults get at least seven hours of sleep in a 24-hour period.
01:11 / 04:21
Insomnia, specifically waking up early and not being able to fall back to sleep, can ruin someone's day before it even begins. WSJ's Andrea Petersen and Lunch Break's Tanya Rivero discuss symptoms and tips from experts to overcome it. Illustration: Zohar Lazar
You’re Getting Sleepy…

Studies have shown that work hours and commute times are the two largest sources of sleep debt for Americans, Dr. Dinges says. This is why when sleep-deprived people get on the train or bus to commute home, they frequently doze off. The first sign of falling asleep is that the muscles relax. “First go the arms, then the hands, then the eyelids,” says Dr. Dinges, whose book, “Sleep and Alertness: Chronobiological, Behavioral and Medical Aspects of Napping,” dives deep into the science of siestas. “Next goes the neck, so your head falls over.”

That triggers the part of your brain that feels you’re falling, which wakes you up. These involuntary sleep attacks don’t provide much benefit, because “the brain doesn’t progress into sleep far enough for recovery, so it’s more like a disturbed night of sleep,” Dr. Dinges says. One way to prevent them is to drink caffeine, a natural stimulant that aids in alertness. The better way is to set yourself up for a proper, preventive nap.
A Window of Opportunity

Humans are biologically programmed to sleep at night, and to take a nap in the midafternoon, though scientists aren’t sure why. “There is no melatonin triggering the sleep, it just seems to be this harmonic phenomenon,” Dr. Dinges says. The consensus among his colleagues, he says, is that human civilization evolved mostly in equatorial climates, where it got very hot later in the day, and napping during the extreme heat optimized work performance.

To make the most of this biological need, don’t overthink it. Find a cool, dark, quiet place to lie down or put your head down. And put all your electronics away. The light from screens can mess with your ability to fall asleep.

A napper has to feel safe, which is why napping in public (or in a glass-walled office) is often less than ideal. “Set an alarm so you don’t oversleep” more than 15 to 60 minutes so as not to affect nighttime sleep. To alleviate the post-nap sleep inertia, have a cup of coffee.

Even a 15-minute nap is enough to relieve some sleep pressure, since the brain goes into light non-REM sleep, which contributes to recovery. “Being awake is like carrying a bag on your back. The longer you’re awake, the more bricks you add,” he says. “And when you take a nap, you remove some of those bricks.”


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Locked down teens stay up all night
« Reply #33 on: May 22, 2020, 10:56:21 PM »
Locked-Down Teens Stay Up All Night, Sleep All Day
Parents share a roof but see little of teenagers who have adopted vampire schedules; ‘Sometimes, my dad just wants me to wake up for no reason’
Cole Cancellieri working at night. PAUL CANCELLIERI
By Nicole Friedman
May 22, 2020 10:04 am ET

Paul Cancellieri wakes up most mornings around 6 a.m. He makes himself breakfast. Then he says good night to his 16-year-old son, Cole.

Cole, a high-school junior in Wake Forest, N.C., is one of the American teens who have gone nocturnal in the Covid-19 pandemic.

While some schools require students to log on to live classes, many others are instead assigning work for students to complete on their own. With no daytime commitments, some teens prefer to stay up all night and sleep days.

Some watch movies or chat with friends on similar schedules. Others do homework without their folks hovering.

“I feel more relaxed, honestly,” said Zach Zimmerman, a high-school senior in Mansfield, Texas. That was in April, when he was in the habit of going to bed around 10 a.m. and waking up in the late afternoon.

This month, Zach started taking an online college class that starts at 1 p.m., forcing him back to daylight hours. “When my college classes are over,” he said, “I’ll probably go back.”

What new habits have you picked up during the pandemic?Join the conversation below.

Some parents welcome the daytime peace and quiet. They say it isn’t worth arguing over bedtimes when teens are stuck at home and have no compelling reason to rise early.

Gabrielle Powell, a 17-year-old in Escondido, Calif., spends her nights on Snapchat and video calls with friends. She plows through TV shows like “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” and “All American,” she said, and makes macaroni and cheese. Her post-dawn bedtime varies.

She recently broke her routine for the Advanced Placement calculus exam, at the ungodly late 11 a.m. Gabrielle stayed awake the rest of the day before going to sleep, but she soon returned to the night shift.

Cole Cancellieri’s dad, a middle-school science teacher, pieces together his son’s overnight activities.

“It’s almost like being a crime scene investigator,” Mr. Cancellieri said. “I’ll find the wrappers from some snacks that he had, there will be dishes in the sink from what he ate. Sometimes he’ll leave the TV on to what he was watching….It’s like having a raccoon that came through my house in the night.”

Some parents are content to share evening meals, which the adults call dinner and their kids call breakfast. Others mourn the hours of lost family time.

Lauren Kellogg, of Ledyard, Conn., used to talk with her 14-year-old son, Ben, during the drive to and from school. Now, he sleeps during the day.

“This is going to sound terrible because he’s my only child—I probably see him for like 10 minutes a day now,” she said.

Some parents are fed up with split schedules. Dana Hamilton of Birmingham, Ala., said she and her husband wake their son, Preston, some mornings to yank his schedule closer to theirs. The high-school senior prefers to sleep until midafternoon.

“Sometimes, my dad just wants me to wake up for no reason,” Preston said.

Some moms and dads are seeking professional advice about nocturnal teens. Laura Sterni, director of the Johns Hopkins Pediatric Sleep Center, fields calls from upset parents and said they have reason to worry.

“If it keeps going, it really gets hard to shift back to a normal schedule,” Dr. Sterni said. “We’re really telling people, our young patients, please try and stay on as normal a schedule as possible.”

Staying up late is part of a natural transition from childhood. The internal clock of teenagers tends to shift about two hours later than when they were kids, though they still need eight to 10 hours of sleep. That is why many sleep scientists campaign for high schools to start later in the morning, Dr. Sterni said.

Sebastien Luce, of Auckland, New Zealand, got an early school holiday because of the pandemic and slipped to nights, playing guitar and videogames with friends while his parents slept.

“You’re free of distractions,” the 16-year-old said. “During the day, my parents are always coming in and vacuuming and yelling at me.”

Sebastien’s mother, Lea Narciso, said she had been fighting with her two teenage sons about bedtime and screen time.

“I was unplugging the modem and taking it to bed with me and sleeping on top of it, and that created a lot of conflict,” she said. “The kids, when I was grousing about it, said, ‘Mom, the prime minister said it’s OK!’”

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern discussed changing teenager sleep habits during a wide-ranging conversation with psychologist Nigel Latta posted on Facebook in early April. “Don’t worry if they live the vampire lifestyle of young people,” Mr. Latta advised.

Parents should cut their teens some slack in these tough times, Mr. Latta said Thursday: “If your kids want to go to bed at 4 a.m. and get up at 2 p.m. then that’s just fine. Biologically, that’s where their brains are at anyway.”

When Sebastien’s school holiday ended, the teenager started online classes in mid-April and struggled with the return to daytime hours.

As U.S. businesses prepare to reopen, and states start to relax stay-at-home guidelines, some parents are trying to get their teens back on track.

Jameson Jones, right, with his cousin Danny Stern.
For a while, James Jones of Benicia, Calif., and his 12-year-old son Jameson mostly saw each other over breakfast. Mr. Jones sometimes woke up during the night and checked on his son. “Most of the time, he was just watching ‘King of the Hill’ and eating a microwave burrito,” Mr. Jones said.

After prodding from his parents, Jameson has mostly resumed his traditional bedtime hours. Mr. Jones found readjusting his son’s sleep schedule easier than expected. “I think he was missing us, too,” he said.


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Why Sleep Deprivation Kills
« Reply #34 on: June 08, 2020, 10:36:14 AM »

Why Sleep Deprivation Kills
Going without sleep for too long kills animals but scientists haven’t known why. Newly published work suggests that the answer lies in an unexpected part of the body.

Illustration of an extremely tired person, surrounded by empty coffee cups.
Feeling dead tired? Scientists may finally be on the verge of learning why too little sleep is inevitably fatal.

Corey Brickley for Quanta Magazine

Veronique Greenwood
Contributing Writer

June 4, 2020


Inside a series of tubes in a bright, warm room at Harvard Medical School, hundreds of fruit flies are staying up late. It has been days since any of them have slept: The constant vibrations that shake their homes preclude rest, cling as they might to the caps of the tubes for respite. Not too far away in their own tubes live other sleepless flies, animated with the calm persistence of those consigned to eternal day. A genetic tweak to certain neurons in their brains keeps them awake for as long as they live.

They do not live long. The shaken flies and the engineered flies both die swiftly — in fact, the engineered ones survive only half as long as well-rested controls. After days of sleeplessness, the flies’ numbers tumble, then crash. The tubes empty out. The lights shine on.

We all know that we need sleep to be at our best. But profound sleep loss has more serious and immediate effects: Animals completely deprived of sleep die. Yet scientists have found it oddly hard to say exactly why sleep loss is lethal.

Sleep is primarily seen as a neurological phenomenon, and yet when deprived creatures die, they have a puzzlingly diverse set of failures in the body outside the nervous system. Insufficient sleep in humans and lab animals, if chronic, sets up health problems that surface over time, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. But those conditions are not what slays creatures that are 100% sleep deprived within days or weeks.

What does sleep do that makes it deadly to go without? Could answering that question explain why we need sleep in the first place? Under the pale light of the incubators in Dragana Rogulja’s lab at Harvard Medical School, sleepless flies have been living and dying as she pursues the answers.

On a cold morning this winter, Rogulja leaned over a tablet in her office, her close-cropped dark hair framing a face of elfin intensity, and flicked through figures to explain some of her conclusions. Rogulja is a developmental neuroscientist by training, but she is not convinced that the most fundamental effect of sleep deprivation starts in the brain. “It could come from anywhere,” she said, and it might not look like what most people expect.

Dragana Rogula, an assistant professor of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School, suspects that the fundamental effects of sleep deprivation start outside the brain. “It could come from anywhere,” she said.

She has findings to back up that intuition. Publishing today in the journal Cell, she and her colleagues offer evidence that when flies die of sleeplessness, lethal changes occur not in the brain but in the gut. The indigo labyrinths of the flies’ small intestines light up with fiery fuchsia in micrographs, betraying an ominous buildup of molecules that destroy DNA and cause cellular damage. The molecules appear soon after sleep deprivation starts, before any other warning signs; if the flies are allowed to sleep again, the rosy bloom fades away. Strikingly, if the flies are fed antioxidants that neutralize these molecules, it does not matter if they never sleep again. They live as long as their rested brethren.

The results suggest that one very fundamental job of sleep — perhaps underlying a network of other effects — is to regulate the ancient biochemical process of oxidation, by which individual electrons are snapped on and off molecules in service to everything from respiration to metabolism. Sleep, the researchers imply, is not solely the province of neuroscience, but something more deeply threaded into the biochemistry that knits together the animal kingdom.

More Fatal Than Starvation

The first studies to investigate total sleep deprivation had a maniacal quality to them. In Rome in 1894, Maria Mikhailovna Manaseina, a Russian biochemist, made a presentation at the International Congress of Medicine about her experiments on 10 puppies. She and her lab assistants had kept the dogs awake and in constant motion 24 hours a day; within about five days, all the puppies had died. Sleep deprivation seemed to kill puppies much more quickly than starvation, she reported: “The total absence of sleep is more fatal for the animals than the total absence of food.”

Autopsies revealed that the puppies’ tissues were in bad repair, particularly in the brain, which was rife with hemorrhages, damaged blood vessels and other gruesome features. Sleep, Manaseina concluded, is not a useless habit. It does something profound for brain health.

Animals completely deprived of sleep die. Yet scientists have found it oddly hard to say exactly why sleep loss is lethal.

More all-day, all-night dog walking followed. In 1898 Lamberto Daddi, an Italian researcher, published detailed drawings of the brains of dogs that had been sleep-deprived; he reported apparent degenerative damage in the brain, similar to that seen in dogs that had faced other stressors. Around the same time, the psychiatrist Cesar Agostini kept dogs in cages rigged with bells that jangled horribly whenever they tried to lie down and sleep, and in the 1920s researchers in Japan did something similar with cages studded with nails.

The studies, aside from their consistent cruelty, had a similar weakness: They had no valid controls. The dogs had died and their tissues looked abnormal — but was that truly because they had not slept? Or was it because nonstop walks and stimulation are inherently stressful? Separating the effects of sleeplessness from being kept on your feet until it killed you seemed impossible.

The Turntable Cage

It took decades for scientists to return to the question in a serious way. In the 1980s, Allan Rechtschaffen, a sleep researcher at the University of Chicago celebrated for his pioneering work on narcolepsy, began to design experiments that could separate the effects of overstimulation from those of sleeplessness. He devised a rat cage in the form of a turntable suspended over water. A divider ran down the middle, so animals could live on either side while the turntable floor beneath them spun freely. Into the device the experimenters put pairs of rats, one of which was destined to be denied sleep. Whenever that rat tried to rest, the scientists spun the table, knocking both rats into the water.

This setup ensured that although both rats fell into the water equally often, the control rat could still catch some winks whenever the rat denied sleep was active. In fact, control rats managed to sleep about 70% as much as they normally would, suffering only mild sleep deprivation. The unluckier experimental rats got less than 9%, almost total sleep loss.

Both sets of rats were disturbed the same number of times. Both suffered the stress of falling into the water and having to clamber back out, dripping. But only the severely sleep-deprived rats began to decline. Their fur grew rough and disheveled, and it went from white to a mangy yellow. They developed lesions on their skin. They lost weight. After around 15 days on average, they died. Rechtschaffen had discovered a way to show that sleep loss itself really did kill.

For the graduate students running these experiments, the days were long. “The lab was in an apartment building, so you’d have a bedroom next to an animal testing room,” said Ruth Benca, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Irvine who worked with Rechtschaffen for some years. “They had bedrooms next to the rooms where their animals were being deprived so they could monitor around the clock.”

The results suggest that one very fundamental job of sleep — perhaps underlying a network of other effects — is to regulate the ancient biochemical process of oxidation.

The work was challenging in other ways as well. “They were tough, tough experiments to do, psychologically, to put an animal through that,” said Paul Shaw, one of Rechtschaffen’s later graduate students and now a professor of neuroscience at Washington University in St. Louis. “The last seven days of the experiment, you’re working with this cloud over your head.” When his rats were just a day or two from death, the experimental protocol called for him to let them sleep and observe their electroencephalograms, or EEGs. Shaw recalls that as the monitor exploded with life, announcing the animals’ long-awaited slumber, he felt a weight fall from his shoulders. “To this day I can see it,” he said, speaking of the EEG readout. “I could put it in a frame up on my wall, and it could make me happy every time.”

But the work was also thrilling. “You have to believe in the outcome to do it. There’s no other way,” Shaw said. He arrived at the lab after students who had pioneered these experiments received their degrees and left, but he still heard their stories at meetings, where they reminisced about the excitement. “No one wanted to get their Ph.D.,” he recalled, because if they could stay, “they all thought that tomorrow, they’d discover the function of sleep.”

Confusing Causes of Death

Rechtschaffen’s experimental successes should have finally enabled scientists to see how insufficient sleep kills, which might have led to bigger insights into what makes sleep so indispensable. But when the researchers performed autopsies on the animals, what they found mostly just added to the confusion. There were few consistent differences between the control rats and those that died from lack of sleep, and no sign of what had killed them. The deprived rats were thin and had enlarged adrenal glands, but that was about it. “No anatomical cause of death was identified,” the researchers concluded.

Observations of the animals’ behavior showed something more interesting. “Animals [chronically] sleep-deprived under these carefully controlled conditions would increase their food intake two and three times normal amounts, and lose weight,” said Carol Everson, a professor of medicine and neurobiology at the Medical College of Wisconsin who was one of Rechtschaffen’s graduate students. “We did all sorts of metabolic studies to try to find out if there was an impairment we could detect.”

There was a strong feeling in the sleep field, however, that answers about sleep’s most basic functions would be found in the brain. John Allan Hobson, a prominent Harvard Medical School sleep researcher, had just published a paper in Nature with the title “Sleep is of the brain, by the brain and for the brain.” As Shaw recalled, “This captured the zeitgeist of the entire sleep community.”

Indeed, the vast preponderance of sleep research today still centers on the brain and on subjects like cognitive impairment. Sleep loss does alter metabolism in humans — there are connections to diabetes and metabolic syndrome — but public health researchers are often the only ones who concern themselves with it. Those looking to understand the fundamental purpose of sleep rarely seek answers in metabolism or other chemical processes.

Reactive Oxygen Species

The neurons involved in regulating sleep are a focus of Rogulja’s work. But the fact that sleep loss impairs circulation, digestion, the immune system and metabolism made her curious about whether these were downstream effects of neurological problems, or if they were independent. “It seems like it can’t be all about the brain,” she said.

She knew about the Rechtschaffen experiments — “real classics” — and that there had been few follow-ups. Once it was established that total sleep loss kills, using deprivation to study sleep’s purpose had fallen by the wayside. In the intervening decades, however, fruit flies had become a major model organism in the sleep field, because their genetics are widely understood and easy to manipulate and they are inexpensive to keep in the lab. Many sleep discoveries first made in flies have been verified in mammals. With the rise of flies as proven test subjects, when Rogulja became curious about terminal sleep deprivation, it again seemed like a plausible thing to study.

When the postdoctoral researcher Alexandra Vaccaro arrived at Rogulja’s lab in 2016, the two came up with a plan. First, from other laboratories they obtained flies genetically engineered to have temperature-sensitive channels in certain neurons. Above 28 degrees Celsius, the channels opened and stayed open, keeping the neurons activated and the flies awake. With the channels closed, the flies enjoyed normal 110-day life spans. With the channels open, they started dying of total sleep deprivation after only 10 days or so, and they were all dead within 20 days.

A set of fluorescence micrographs showing the accumulation of Reactive Oxygen Species in the intestines of sleep-deprived flies and mice.
5W Infographics for Quanta Magazine

Intriguing patterns emerged as Vaccaro performed tests. If she closed the channels and allowed the flies to sleep on day 10, they recovered and lived as long as controls. But if she deprived them again five or 10 days later, they died: Whatever damage had accrued during their initial sleeplessness had apparently not yet been repaired. It took a full 15 days of sleeping normally before they could be sleep-deprived again without immediately dying.

When Vaccaro dissected flies at various levels of deprivation, their tissues all seemed unharmed, with one very marked exception: Their guts were thick with reactive oxygen species (ROS), molecules with an oxygen atom that bears a spare electron. Some ROS are produced in the normal course of organisms’ respiration, metabolism and immunological defense, sometimes for specific functions and sometimes as byproducts. But if ROS are not swept up by antioxidant enzymes, they become extremely dangerous, because that unbalanced oxygen rips electrons away from DNA, proteins and lipids. Indeed, after ROS appeared a week into the flies’ sleep deprivation, markers of oxidative damage soared — a sign that cells were in crisis.

ROS levels peaked on the 10th day of deprivation. When flies were allowed to start sleeping normally, it took about 15 days for their ROS levels to get close to baseline again — the same time it took for flies to be able to withstand renewed deprivation.

Rogulja and Vaccaro had not expected such a clear result within mere months of starting the project. It was so easy to see that it made them instantly skeptical. When Rogulja showed preliminary data at a meeting of Pew Biomedical Scholars, their excitement unnerved her a little. “It’s never like that,” she said, preferring to be cautious about the findings.

Portrait photo of Alexandra Vaccaro of Harvard University.
Alexandra Vaccaro, a postdoctoral researcher in Rogulja’s laboratory, found that flies could recover from severe sleep deprivation and have normal life spans, but they remained highly vulnerable to further sleep loss for some time.

As a result, over the last three years Vaccaro and Rogulja, along with the postdoctoral researcher Yosef Kaplan Dor, have been working to poke holes in this apparent connection between oxidation and sleep loss. They deprived flies of sleep by a more traditional method — shaking the tube containing them every two seconds — and checked to see whether levels of ROS correlated with levels of sleep loss; they did. The team looked at flies with mutations that promoted sleep or wakefulness; the sleep-deprived flies had ROS in their guts. Conversely, no ROS showed up in the guts of a strain of mutant flies known to tolerate a lack of sleep.

The strangest, most exciting period of the project may have been when the researchers decided that if oxidation from ROS was killing the flies, perhaps they should give the flies antioxidants. It sounded like a zany health food experiment, but Vaccaro searched out antioxidants known to work in flies, then fed them to the insects. To the researchers’ surprise, the lethally sleep-deprived flies reached a normal fly life span. The same thing happened when they raised levels of antioxidant enzymes in the gut (but, tellingly, not when they did it in the nervous system).

“I cannot imagine having more fun in science,” said Rogulja of that summer. “My whole family, and the whole lab, we would all gather around in the morning, once we started giving them these antioxidants: ‘They’re alive!’ And not only were they alive, they looked good.”

Vaccaro and a technician in the lab, Keishi Nambara, along with collaborators in the laboratory of Michael Greenberg at Harvard, performed a pared-down version of the fly experiment with mice. They kept the mice awake for up to five days in a cage with a rotating bar that gently pushed the animals to make them move. In the animals’ guts, the telltale glow of ROS appeared.

A Gut-Level Problem

For Shaw, the team’s new paper is very interesting. “It’s super exciting to see they’ve harnessed the power of genetics,” he said. “We gave up on the whole project of sleep-depriving flies [mechanically] till they die because they’re long, hard experiments to do,” and it’s difficult to control for stress. Because the study uses both genetic and mechanical means of sleep deprivation, it sidesteps that issue. “It’s fantastic, fantastic. … I was very impressed,” he said. “I thought it was very well controlled.”

Just what the findings mean still needs to be explored. They suggest that sleep is vitally important to the body’s regulation of oxidation, particularly in the gut, and that this is likely to have widespread consequences in the body. As Rogulja and Vaccaro write in their new paper: “Prevention of death by a single means would argue that the gradual collapse of nearly all major bodily functions derives from a common origin.” In the flies they studied, antioxidants were the single means.

A figure showing how feeding antioxidants to sleep-deprived flies enabled them to live a normal life span.
5W Infographics for Quanta Magazine

Their findings dovetail with a stream of previous reports that have linked oxidation and insufficient sleep, in particular those of Everson, who grew interested in metabolism while in Rechtschaffen’s lab. Everson felt early on that while the brain is a regulator of sleep, there’s more to sleep than neurology. In sleep-deprived rats, she observed signs of immunological failures and bacteria in tissues that should have been sterile. Then in 2016, she and her colleagues reported that they had found oxidation in the livers, lungs and small intestines of sleep-deprived rats. Markers of inflammation are often found floating around in tissues after sleep deprivation, Everson said, but their source has never been clear. If oxidation is out of control somewhere in the body, the resulting crisis of cellular damage could cause that boost.

Everson also found that the guts of sleep-deprived rats grew leaky, releasing bacteria into the animals’ bloodstreams. But from what Rogulja and her colleagues have seen, the flies’ guts do not seem to leak. ROS also did not seem to be rising in any of the other tissues they examined. And although the flies sometimes ate more when they were sleep-deprived, the ROS level in their guts looked the same regardless.

It’s unclear how all these puzzle pieces concerning oxidation in rats and flies might fit together, and Giorgio Gilestro, a sleep researcher at Imperial College London, notes that while these experiments make it clear that the ROS are killing the flies, that doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing killed the rats. A small study of humans who lost sleep showed that the makeup of their gut microbiomes, the bacteria that live in the intestines, shifted after insufficient sleep, an intriguing if preliminary finding drawing another link between sleep and the gut.

Still, perhaps the most pressing issue is that no one knows where the ROS are coming from, and why they accrue in the gut. What process — metabolic or otherwise — is generating them? Does sleep deprivation cause ROS to be overproduced? Or does it interfere with some process that normally clears them away? And why would ROS be linked to sleep anyway? Rogulja is planning experiments to explore some aspects of these questions.

Behind all this is the astonishing, baffling breadth of what sleep does for the body. The fact that learning, metabolism, memory, and myriad other functions and systems are affected makes an alteration as basic as the presence of ROS quite interesting. But even if ROS is behind the lethality of sleep loss, there is no evidence yet that sleep’s cognitive effects, for instance, come from the same source. And even if antioxidants prevent premature death in flies, they may not affect sleep’s other functions, or if they do, it may be for different reasons.

The flies that never sleep and their glowing guts remind us that sleep is profoundly a full-body experience, not merely a function of the mind and brain. In their deaths may lie some answers as to why sleeplessness kills and — potentially, tantalizingly — what sleep does to link disparate systems throughout the body. Shaw, for one, is interested to see what happens next in Rogulja’s lab. “It’s a super important question,” he said, “and they’ve come up with a way to address it.

C-Kumu Dog

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Re: SleepWatch App
« Reply #35 on: July 21, 2020, 01:35:27 PM »

My wife and I recently  bought a Apple Watches and I have been using the SleepWatch App to track sleeping habits.  So far so good, Ill have to figure out how to share screenshots.
I tried a few of the other apps but SleepWatch seems to work the best for me.

« Last Edit: July 21, 2020, 01:37:15 PM by C-Kumu Dog »
"You see, it's not the blood you spill that gets you what you want, it's the blood you share. Your family, your friendships, your community, these are the most valuable things a man can have." Before Dishonor - Hatebreed


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Re: Sleep
« Reply #36 on: July 21, 2020, 03:00:35 PM »
I have some seriously "off" sleeping patterns-- most nights I go to sleep 12:00-01:00 and wake up around 04:30 and then after eating breakfast around 06:00 go back to sleep for a few more hours.

This could be very good for me.  Thank you for bringing it to my attention.


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