When You're Drowsy, Is Your Brain Partly Asleep? - NeuroskepticThis restgram shows that over the space of about an hour, this patient (“SC553”) gradually went from being awake to being asleep. But the sleep-like “inactive” pattern of activity (blue) didn’t arrive all at once. Some points in the brain (i.e some electrodes) ‘fell asleep’ before others. And most electrodes went through several cycles of ‘waking’ and ‘sleeping’ over the course of the 50 minutes.
Chronic sleep deprivation suppresses immune system: Study one of first conducted outside of sleep lab -- ScienceDaily"The results are consistent with studies that show when sleep deprived people are given a vaccine, there is a lower antibody response and if you expose sleep deprived people to a rhinovirus they are more likely to get the virus," Watson said. "This study provides further evidence of sleep to overall health and well-being particularly to immune health. The researchers, citing data from the Centers for Disease Control, said that over the past century people in the United States are sleeping an estimated 1.5 to two hours less, and about one-third of the working population sleeps less than six hours per night. "Modern society, with its control of light, omnipresent technology and countless competing interests for time, along with the zeitgeist de-emphasizing sleep's importance, has resulted in the widespread deprioritization of sleep," they wrote.
Synapses shrink 20% every night?!The team deliberately did not know whether they were analyzing the brain cells of a well-rested mouse or one that had been awake. When they finally "broke the code" and correlated the measurements with the amount of sleep the mice had during the six to eight hours before the image was taken, they found that a few hours of sleep led on average to an 18 percent decrease in the size of the synapses. These changes occurred in both areas of the cerebral cortex and were proportional to the size of the synapses. The scaling occurred in about 80 percent of the synapses but spared the largest ones, which may be associated with the most stable memory traces.
Provocative New Insights From the Largest Consumer Sleep Study Ever Released | The Huffington Post• Exercise is good for sleep: Any amount is helpful, but the optimal amount is 30 minutes, which correlates to 14 minutes of extra sleep per night. • Caffeine: Good news here! Three or fewer cups of coffee didn’t notably affect average sleep time much, but those who drank four cups or more slept 26 minutes less. • Alcohol: Surprisingly, those who had one or two drinks slept an average of 16 minutes more than people who had more than two drinks (or none at all).
Sleep Deprivation Mimics Psychosis"A single night of sleep deprivation may not at first seem like a particularly drastic intervention, and can for instance occur with students out partying or people working through the night; therefore, we were surprised to see such statistically significant increases in self-ratings of all 3 dimensions of schizophrenia ― thought disorder, perceptual aberrations, and negative symptoms."
Portions of the brain fall asleep and wake back up all the time, Stanford researchers find | EurekAlert! Science NewsThe team used what amounts to sets of very sensitive pins that can record activity from a column of neurons in the brain. In the past, people had known that individual neurons go through phases of being more or less active, but with this probe they saw for the first time that all the neurons in a given column cycled together between firing very rapidly then firing at a much slower rate, similar to coordinated cycles in sleep. "During an on state the neurons all start firing rapidly," said Kwabena Boahen, a professor of bioengineering and electrical engineering at Stanford and a senior author on the paper. "Then all of a sudden they just switch to a low firing rate. This on and off switching is happening all the time, as if the neurons are flipping a coin to decide if they are going to be on or off." Those cycles, which occur on the order of seconds or fractions of seconds, weren't as visible when awake because the wave doesn't propagate much beyond that column, unlike in sleep when the wave spreads across almost the entire brain and is easy to detect.
Bad timing is depressing: Disrupting the brain's internal clock causes depressive-like behavior in mice -- ScienceDailyInherent circadian clocks help us function throughout the day, by telling us when to sleep, wake and eat, as well as by synchronizing our bodily processes. "It is perhaps not surprising that disruptions of our natural synchronization can have heavy impacts on our physical and mental health," Dr. Landgraf added. However, until now researchers did not know if disturbed circadian rhythms were a cause or consequence of mood disorders. In the new study, a team led by David K. Welsh has shown for the first time a causal relationship between functioning circadian clocks and mood regulation.
Placebo sleep affects cognitive functioning. - PubMed - NCBI↓ Full text Placebo sleep affects cognitive functioning. Draganich C, et al. J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2014. Show full citation Abstract The placebo effect is any outcome that is not attributed to a specific treatment but rather to an individual's mindset (Benson & Friedman, 1996). This phenomenon can extend beyond its typical use in pharmaceutical drugs to involve aspects of everyday life, such as the effect of sleep on cognitive functioning. In 2 studies examining whether perceived sleep quality affects cognitive functioning, 164 participants reported their previous night's sleep quality. They were then randomly assigned to 1 of 2 sleep quality conditions or 2 control conditions. Those in the "above average" sleep quality condition were informed that they had spent 28.7% of their total sleep time in REM, whereas those in the "below average" sleep quality condition were informed that they had only spent 16.2% of their time in REM sleep. Assigned sleep quality but not self-reported sleep quality significantly predicted participants' scores on the Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test and Controlled Oral Word Association Task. Assigned sleep quality did not predict participants' scores on the Digit Span task, as expected, nor did it predict scores on the Symbol Digit Modalities Test, which was unexpected. The control conditions showed that the findings were not due to demand characteristics from the experimental protocol. These findings supported the hypothesis that mindset can influence cognitive states in both positive and negative directions, suggesting a means of controlling one's health and cognition.
Rumor: Doctor Prescribes Donald Trump "Cheap Speed"Rumors of Trump’s predilection for stimulants first started really popping up in 1992, when Spy magazine wrote, “Have you ever wondered why Donald Trump has acted so erratically at times, full of manic energy, paranoid, garrulous? Well, he was a patient of Dr. [Joseph] Greenberg’s from 1982 to 1985.” At the time, Dr. Greenberg was notorious for allegedly doling out prescription stimulants to anyone who could pay.
Improved sleep can help addicts recoverStudy participants either received a placebo or 400 mg of modafinil — a mild stimulant drug often used to treat narcolepsy or shift-work-induced daytime fatigue. Compared to the group that received the placebo, cocaine addicts who received the 400mg of modafinil had more consecutive cocaine-free days during outpatient treatment and higher daily rates of abstinence. The study found that these protective effects were associated with increased slow-wave sleep, which modafinil promotes, suggesting that improved slow-wave sleep can help treat addiction.
Important associations between genetics, sleep behavior identified by study -- ScienceDailyThe focus of the CPMC paper was to identify the genes associated with sleep duration and validate the connection between sleep and several demographic and lifestyle factors, including age, gender, weight, ethnicity, exercise, smoking and alcohol. Analysis implicated genes involved in ATP metabolism, circadian rhythms, narcolepsy, sleep cycles in mice, and bear hibernation.
Circadian rhythm of genes in brain changes with aging, research showsA 24-hour circadian rhythm controls nearly all brain and body processes, such as the sleep/wake cycle, metabolism, alertness and cognition,[…]"Studies have reported that older adults tend to perform complex cognitive tasks better in the morning and get worse through the day," Dr. McClung said. "We know also that the circadian rhythm changes with aging, leading to awakening earlier in the morning, fewer hours of sleep and less robust body temperature rhythms."[…] Using the information they had about the time of death, they identified 235 core genes that make up the molecular clock in this part of the brain. "As we expected, younger people had that daily rhythm in all the classic 'clock' genes," Dr. McClung said. "But there was a loss of rhythm in many of these genes in older people, which might explain some of the alterations that occur in sleep, cognition and mood in later life."
Why sleep could be the key to tackling mental illnessFor example we know that sleep disruption usually happens before an episode of depression. Furthermore, individuals identified as “at risk” of developing bipolar disorder and childhood-onset schizophrenia typically show problems with sleep before any clinical diagnosis of illness.
On off switch for sleepThe activation of this circuit signals the termination of light sleep: using a recent technology called optogenetics, the researchers made neurons from the hypothalamus controllable with millisecond-timescale light pulses and showed that their transient activation during light sleep induced rapid awakenings, while their chronic activation maintains prolonged wakefulness. In contrast, optogenetic silencing of this circuit stabilizes light sleep and increases its intensity. In a translational analogy, hyperactivity of this circuit may cause insomnia, while its hypo-activity could be responsible for hypersomnia, making it a new therapeutical target for sleep disorders.
Caffeine At Night Resets Your Inner Clock : Shots - Health News : NPRThe study showed that the amount of caffeine found in a double espresso, if taken three hours before bedtime, delayed the melatonin surge by about 40 minutes, according to a report published online Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine. "We found that caffeine did indeed, in the evening, shift your clock later," Wright says. It was about half the effect the scientists noticed when they instead exposed the volunteers to bright light.
A nap a day could save your life, research suggests - TelegraphThe research found that overall, the average systolic blood pressure readings of the regular nappers were four per cent lower than the non-nappers when they were awake (5 mmHg) and 6 per cent lower while they slept at night (7 mmHg). When hearts are healthy, blood pressure should drop at night. The study found that those who achieved a significant drop in pressure when sleeping, had on average 17 minutes more mid-day sleep than those for whom findings remained constant.
Biological Rhythms as a Basis for Mood DisordersExogenous rhythms are the result of external factors, such as a change in the seasons, or the transition from day to night. Environmental stimuli that help to maintain these cycles are called zietgebers, which comes from German and translates as "time givers." Zietgebers include sunlight, noise, food, and even social interaction, all cues that help the biological clock maintain a 24-hour day.
Are habits (or nurture) actually just epigeniticsMolecular analyses of the collected tissue samples showed that the regulation and activity of clock genes was altered after one night of sleep loss. The activity of genes is regulated by a mechanism called epigenetics. This involves chemical alterations to the DNA molecule such as methyl groups -- a process called methylation -- which regulates how the genes are switched on or off. The researchers found that clock genes had increased numbers of such DNA marks after sleep loss. They also found that the expression of the genes, which is indicative of how much of the genes' product is made, was altered. "As far as we know, we are the first to directly show that epigenetic changes can occur after sleep loss in humans, but also in these important tissues," says Dr. Cedernaes. "It was interesting that the methylation of these genes could be altered so quickly, and that it could occur for these metabolically important clock genes," he continues.
REM sleep processes negative emotions?Interestingly, some recent research has found that sleepers tend to report more negative emotions when woken during REM sleep than during non-REM sleep, suggesting that REM dreams and non-REM dreams may serve different (although complementary) functions in this regard. In particular, the amygdala, which specializes in dealing with unpleasant emotions (e.g. anger, aggression, fear, etc), is very active during REM sleep, and may be involved in the process of resolving emotional issues. This may be supported by the example of clinical depression: one symptom of depression is that sufferers tend to spend a disproportionately large amount of time in REM sleep, in which case these negative emotions may be over-represented, thus perpetuating the depression (deliberate deprivation of REM sleep is often helpful in alleviating depression symptoms).
Sleep trimming synapsesWhile we’re awake, your brain is forming memories. Memory formation involves a process called long-term potentiation (LTP), which is essentially the strengthening of synaptic connections between nerve cells. We also know that learning can actually cause neurons to sprout entirely new synapses. Yet this poses a problem for the brain. If LTP and synapse formation is constantly strengthening our synapses, and we are learning all our lives, might the synapses eventually reach a limit? Couldn’t they “max out,” so that they could never get any stronger? Worse, most of the synapses that strengthen during memory are based on glutamate. Glutamate is dangerous. It’s the most common neurotransmitter in the brain, and it’s also a popular flavouring: “MSG”, monosodium glutamate. But in the brain, too much of it is toxic. Glutamate works as a transmitter molecule by opening channels on the cells that receive it. The channels allow calcium into the cells on the receiving end, which activates them, allowing messages to go through. But too much glutamate can cause excess calcium to build up inside the very cells that receive the message, a harmful process called excitotoxicity. So, if our brains were constantly forming stronger glutamate synapses, we might eventually run into serious problems. One function of sleep, according to the theory, is to protect the brain against excitotoxicity or other “synaptic overload” problems by pruning the synapses. If the brain is essentially removing the “extra” synaptic strength formed during the previous day, it must do so in a way that preserves the new information. One possible mechanism for this is synaptic scaling. After some of the neural connections into a given cell, or “inputs,” become stronger, then all of the synapses on that cell could be weakened. This would preserve the relative strength of the different inputs, while keeping the total inputs constant. It’s as if each neuron were a cup, and each synapse corresponds to a different liquid. During the day, memories form and certain synapses get stronger, which means pouring more of those particular liquids into the cup. At night, synaptic scaling pours some of the mixture back out, bringing it back to the baseline level without changing the relative proportions of the mix. We know that synaptic scaling happens in the brain, but it’s not yet clear whether it has anything to do with sleep. This is an area of ongoing research. While synaptic scaling seems to treat each neuron like a cup to be kept from overfilling, the effect of sleep on for the brain overall may be more like disk defragmentation, according to this idea. After heavy use, hard disks tend to get “fragmented.” This is because when data gets stored, it is written to wherever there happens to be free space on the disk. This makes it inefficient to keep track of it all as files may be split and written in many different places. A defrag consolidates the same data into a more logical order. Defragmentation is a taxing chore for the computer, so many people schedule it to happen overnight. In the same way, sleep may serve to reorganize and reconsolidate memories. The mechanics of how this defragmentation works remain unclear; synaptic scaling might be just one of several processes at work. Defragmentation is not an exact analogy, however. The process could also be likened to archiving your emails to make room in your inbox, or compressing data into zipped files, to free up room on the disk. (This theory is specifically about slow-wave sleep (SWS). It doesn’t try to explain rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, when dreams happen. Interestingly, some animals do not have REM, but they all have SWS. In some animals, like dolphins, only one side of the brain has it at a time, which is strong evidence that SWS, but not REM, is vital for life.)
Sleep primes your emotional connectionsThe fMRI brain scans revealed that the emotion-sensing areas of the sleep-deprived brain did not distinguish between the friendly and the threatening faces. The heart rates of the sleep-deprived participants also did not respond to the threatening faces. What's more, the neural link between the brain and the heart -- which normally allows the body to receive distress signals -- was disconnected in the sleep-deprived participants.
The Apple Watch fails one key fitness testThat’s a much bigger problem than anybody seems to be acknowledging.For one thing, that fact makes the Apple Watch the only fitness tracker on the market that can’t track your sleep. One of the great joys of the Up band, Fitbit, and other bands is that they track not just your steps, but also your cycles of deep and light sleep. Not the Watch. For a device so thoroughly designed to help monitor your physical well-being, that omission is a heart-breaker.And if the watch is on your nightstand, you can’t exploit its brilliant wrist-tapping feature as a silent alarm that won’t wake your partner.
WNYC's sleep competition yields resultsWNYC’s earlier sleep project in the city that never sleeps. In spring, Clock Your Sleep involved 5,200 listeners in a project that involved good reporting and then invited people to join teams, led by WNYC hosts, to “compete” for better sleep, tracking their results. The quick data: More than 40 percent of respondents said they noticed a change in their sleep since they started tracking it. 19.4 percent reported getting more sleep. 77 percent of respondents reported learning something while participating in the project.
Children who went to bed at different times on school nights when they were 3, 5 and 7 years old did worse on tests of reading, math and spatial ability when they reached 7, the researchers at University College London wrote in a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. The findings were adjusted for factors such as socioeconomic status, and the effect didn’t differ for children in families with one or two working parents.
Some of the most insidious effects of too little sleep involve mental processes like learning, memory, judgment and problem-solving. During sleep, new learning and memory pathways become encoded in the brain, and adequate sleep is necessary for those pathways to work optimally. People who are well rested are better able to learn a task and more likely to remember what they learned. The cognitive decline that so often accompanies aging may in part result from chronically poor sleep.