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Sleep Archive


Spring forward, fall asleep

This weekend, most Americans will follow the annual ritual of setting their clocks ahead one hour—and lose an hour of sleep in the process. We pay for it on Monday. According to sleep expert Dr. Charles Czeisler, U.S. researchers have seen increases of 6% to 17% in motor vehicle crashes on the Mondays after we […]

Snoring in kids linked to behavioral problems

Children who snore, or sometimes stop breathing during sleep for a few seconds then recover with a gasp (a pattern known as sleep apnea), are more likely to become hyperactive, overly aggressive, anxious, or depressed, according to a new new study in the journal Pediatrics. How could snoring or apnea contribute to behavioral or emotional problems? It is possible that nighttime breathing problems during the brain’s formative years decrease the supply of oxygen to the brain. That could interfere with the development of pathways that control behavior and mood. It is also possible that breathing problems disturb sleep, and it’s the interrupted or poor sleep by itself that may cause trouble in the developing brain.

Sleep helps learning, memory

Sleep may be time off for the body, but it’s part of a day’s work for the brain. During sleep, the brain is hard at work processing the events of the day, sorting and filing, making connections, and even solving problems. New research suggests that dreaming can improve memory, boost performance, and even improve creativity. Naps have been shown to improve recall. Napping won’t make you smart or assure success, but it can help improve your memory and solve problems. Sleeping well at night, and long enough, is associated with good health. The combination is a two-step approach that should give everyone something to sleep on.

Learning while you sleep: Dream or reality?

A good night's sleep is remarkably powerful. It restores mind and body, preparing both for the challenges that lie ahead. Without restful sleep, mood, concentration, and mental performance suffer. Sleep deprivation is a major cause of car crashes and other accidents, and it has been linked to important medical problems ranging from hypertension, obesity, and diabetes to heart disease, erectile dysfunction, and possibly even prostate cancer.

Health-conscious men don't take sleep for granted, and scientists don't either. In fact, research suggests that even a brief nap may help boost learning, memory, and creative problem solving — all while your head is on the pillow.

Ask the doctor: Is it okay to keep on taking Ambien for my sleeping problems?

Q. I am 70, have had sleep problems, and have started to take Ambien every night. It seems to be working very well. Is it okay if I keep on taking it?

A. When Ambien (the generic name is zolpidem) was approved by the FDA in the early 1990s, it was supposed to be an improvement over the benzodiazepines like lorazepam (Ativan) and triazolam (Halcion) because it acted in a more targeted way and didn't stay in the body as long. Other nonbenzodiazepines were subsequently approved, including Sonata (zaleplon) and Lunesta (eszopiclone).

Sleep apnea increases dementia risk in older women

More than half of adults ages 65 and over have sleep apnea, a disorder characterized by abnormal pauses in breathing during sleep. Chronic sleep apnea is associated with many health risks, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. It's also been linked to deficiencies in memory and attention in children and middle-aged adults, but studies of older adults have produced conflicting results. Now, a well-designed study has concluded that older women with sleep apnea are more likely to develop cognitive problems and dementia. The findings were published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (Aug. 10, 2011).

The study. At the start of the study, 298 healthy women, average age 82, completed tests of cognitive function and underwent overnight sleep testing that monitored changes in respiration, heart rate, blood oxygen levels, brain activity, and other measures. Sleep apnea was defined as 15 or more "sleep-disordered breathing events" — pauses in breathing or shallow breathing — per hour. Five years later, the women were given further cognitive tests.

Napping boosts sleep and cognitive function in healthy older adults

With age come changes in the structure and quality of our sleep. After about age 60, we have less deep (slow-wave) sleep and more rapid sleep cycles, we awaken more often, and we sleep an average of two hours less at night than we did as young adults. It was once thought that older people didn’t need as much sleep as younger ones, but experts now agree that’s not the case. Regardless of age, we typically need seven-and-a-half to eight hours of sleep to function at our best. So if you’re not getting enough sleep at night, what about daytime naps? Or does napping disrupt the sleep cycle, ultimately yielding less sleep and more daytime drowsiness?

These questions were addressed in a study by researchers at the Weill Cornell Medical College in White Plains, N.Y., and published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (February 2011). The authors concluded that napping not only increases older individuals’ total sleep time — without producing daytime drowsiness — but also provides measurable cognitive benefits.

Happy - and healthy - trails to you

Some tips for keeping your vacation medically uneventful.

It's summer, a prime time for getting away. But even a minor health problem can spoil a vacation. And a major one — well, that can cause regret about ever leaving home.

Of course, there are no guarantees, but taking a few precautions can improve the odds for the medically uneventful vacation. International travelers should visit for information about vaccinations, disease outbreaks, and the like, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Fight fatigue by finding the cause

Feeling tired? If so, it’s not surprising. Fatigue is one of the most common problems people report to their doctors. But fatigue is a symptom, not a disease. Different people experience it in different ways. The tiredness you feel at the end of a long day or after a time zone change might feel similar to that resulting from an illness. Fatigue from stress or lack of sleep usually subsides after a good night’s rest, while disease-related lethargy is more persistent and may be debilitating even after restful sleep. Either way, you don’t have to live with it. You can find out what is causing you to feel tired and discover what you can do to renew your energy levels.

Sleep helps with fat reduction

Losing the excess fat a lot of us carry around is never easy, and a small study shows that not getting enough sleep may make it even harder.

Researchers at the University of Chicago put 10 moderately overweight people (average BMI, 27.4) on pretty strict diets (about 1,450 calories a day). For two weeks, six were allowed to sleep 8� hours a night while the other four were restricted to sleeping just 5� hours. Several months later, for a separate two-week study period, people who had been allowed to sleep for 8� hours had their sleep restricted to 5� hours, while the short sleepers were allowed to get a full night's rest this time.

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