Category Archives: Sleep Research

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Raising Awareness For Sleep Apnea Treatment To Reduce Seizures In Epilepsy

Because sleep habits have an affect on so many of our body’s systems, comorbidity or co-occurring disorders are common. One pair of conditions that show evidence of being related are sleep apnea and epilepsy.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea, also called sleep-disordered breathing or obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), is a condition where you have interruptions or pauses in your breathing while you sleep. Have you ever heard someone snoring and then notice it seems like they aren’t breathing? Then one loud gasp or snore (like a snorting sound) jolts them back into normal breathing again?

As you sleep, the muscles around your throat and neck area relax which reduces the size of your windpipe. This means that you may not be getting enough oxygen which is called oxygen desaturation. When the pause in breathing occurs, your body tells your brain to interrupt your sleep by activating those muscles to stiffen and open your windpipe. This is what causes the choking sound as someone returns to normal breathing.

When someone has sleep apnea, they can also have symptoms like headaches in the morning, trouble with concentration or mood, and sleepiness throughout the day. The troubles significantly worsen with increased risk for heart attack or heart failure, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, and obesity with those diagnosed with sleep apnea.

Unfortunately, not everyone obtains a diagnosis since we don’t all know what happens to us while we’re asleep. Paying attention to our sleep partners or family’s sleeping habits and symptoms plays such a huge role in identifying those who may be at risk.

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological condition that results in recurring seizures that can range in duration, type, and frequency. Doctors and scientists classify seizures into motor or non-motor types where a person either moves uncontrollably or they have absence seizures with no movement. A brain injury or genetic tendencies could cause these seizures, but typically, the source is not known.

Why are sleep apnea and epilepsy related?

A good portion of those who have epilepsy also have sleep apnea, about 40%. Of those, 16% have a moderate to severe form. The relationship exists because those who have epilepsy are at higher risk for obesity due to often having a more sedentary lifestyle. Patients are often unable to work or drive a car. There is also the side effect of weight gain from anti-seizure medications which leads to obesity. Not getting enough or not having quality sleep can lead to an increased frequency of seizures which results in negative health cycle of cause and effect that is difficult to alleviate without some kind of clinical intervention.

What does the latest research show?

Fortunately, there does seem to be hope. One researcher found in her latest study that treating sleep apnea in patients with epilepsy significantly reduced seizures. After one year of treatment, successful outcome as measured by reduced or no seizures, was recorded more often (85%) for epilepsy patients who received sleep apnea treatment than for those who did not. The researcher is Dr. Thapanee Somboon, and she is a research fellow at the Sleep Disorder Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Dr. Somboon’s findings were presented at the American Epilepsy Society’s annual conference.

The results are significant as they add to a growing body of work on the topic which could help doctors and neurologists be more aware of sleep apnea as a trigger of seizures. This can be particularly in those who haven’t responded to medications or other treatment which can be up to 30% of all patients.

Despite the relationship between seizures and sleep apnea becoming more well-known, there are still some epilepsy patients who have never been asked about their sleep habits by their doctors. A simple in-office questionnaire to identify those at risk for sleep apnea may be all that is needed to get someone on the right path for sleep apnea treatment like CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines to reduce or even remove their seizures. Many neurologists may be surprised to find the degree to which epilepsy improvements are found with sleep therapy.

While additional studies must be performed on various populations to continue to quantify this work, results to date should encourage those who suffer from seizures. In an effort to improve quality of life and perhaps help those with epilepsy return to work, doctors and family members of those with epilepsy should consider a sleep study to identify any sleep conditions which could be contributing to negative health outcomes.

Sleep and Men's Health

Men: Here’s How Sleep Deprivation Can Mess with Your Health

June is all about the guys: with Father’s Day just around the corner, and Men’s Health Week underway, this month is a great time to take a moment and reflect on the lives and health of men. Men face specific challenges when it comes to all aspects of health — they’re less likely to see a doctor when they’re sick, thanks to outdated stereotypes, and mental health concerns often take a backseat to work and family obligations. There’s a fair amount of pressure on men to tough out any health concerns they may have, which means that if they do end up on the exam table, they’re likely to play down what’s really going on.

Convincing men to take physical and mental health ‘red flags’ seriously means leaping over a few hurdles thrown up by societal gender perceptions, and that goes double for sleep. As a whole, we’re all more likely to write sleep off as something that’s nice to have, not something we need. Of course, the opposite is true. And guys? If you don’t get enough sleep often enough, it can mess with your body and head in some really serious ways. Continue reading

good sleep quality

Are You Getting Quality Sleep? Four Ways to Tell

When we talk about sleep, it’s easy to focus on the fact that people simply aren’t getting enough of it. When so many people skimp on a full night’s rest that our collective lack of slumber is considered a public health crisis, it’s tempting for sleep professionals and physicians to remind people to at least aim for the recommended 7-9 hours. But there’s so much more to the science of sleep besides how long we spend in bed. Quantity without quality won’t do much to rectify the health and accident risks of sleeping too little — we’ve got to make those hours count. It begs the question: What is good quality sleep? Continue reading

New Moms Want More Sleep: 7 Ways to Sleep with a Newborn

Earlier this year, a “groundbreaking” study enjoyed a good bit of popularity on social media and other corners of the internet, in part because it confirmed what so many of us already knew: moms are more sleep deprived than dads.

It was tempting to poke fun at the findings, which noted that while the presence of children in the home did nothing to alter the sleep patterns of men, over half of the women in the pool of 5,805 total participants reported getting insufficient sleep. Insufficient sleep, in this case, is generally considered to be less than the optimal 6-9 hours of sleep a night. But when you consider that as a whole, America is already sleep-deprived and suffering the detrimental health impacts of that, the way that moms — particularly new moms — are disproportionately affected is really no laughing matter. The study, authored by Georgia Southern University’s Dr. Kelly Sullivan — and other studies like it — paint a less than peaceful nightly picture for moms: Continue reading

Test-Everyone-Diabetes-Should-Know-About

The One Test Everyone with Diabetes Should Know About

Does Sleep Loss Cause Diabetes?

It’s no secret that insufficient sleep makes us cranky and wreaks havoc on our ability to focus and function. But sleep deprivation’s more insidious side effects include physical risks that are far more serious. There’s certainly no dearth of sobering study results that point to negative long-term health concerns brought on by sleep deprivation. One that’s particularly alarming? The link between insufficient sleep or poor quality sleep and one of America’s biggest public health concerns: diabetes. Continue reading

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The Case For Later School Start Times For Teens

If you have a teenager, you’ve likely noticed that they tend to sleep half the day away when Saturday rolls around. Maybe you’re not surprised — teens aren’t particularly well known for their early bedtimes, either. And when the alarm begins to screech at 6:00 on Monday morning, it probably seems like everyone hears it but them, making school mornings an exercise in mutual torture. Even if you have a kid who can’t get enough of algebra, getting them up and moving in time for the bell isn’t always easy.

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New Year’s Resolutions: Know the Effects of Sleep on Learning

All week long, we’ll be talking about how you can keep your New Year’s resolutions in 2017 by fostering healthy sleep habits. Don’t forget to catch up on what you missed! Today we’re talking about the effects of sleep on learning new things.

Next to shedding weight and committing to healthier food and lifestyle choices, there’s no resolution more popular than “learning something new”. With 365 shiny new days stretched out in front of you, you may decide that it’s time to finally learn a new language or pick up a new skill.

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5 Facts About Sleep Health Every Veteran Should Know

Each year on November 11th, we celebrate Veterans Day — a day set aside to honor, celebrate, and express our gratitude for the men and women who place country above self daily. But as the day is winding down and many of us settle in for a good night’s rest, many of those same veterans won’t find it easy to sleep at all.

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Sleep is Likely A Missing Piece in the Alzheimer’s Disease Puzzle

Sleep & Alzheimer’s Dementia —

Scientists at the University of California (UC), Berkeley, have found compelling evidence that poor sleep—particularly a deficit of the deep, restorative slumber needed to hit the save button on memories—is a channel through which the beta-amyloid protein believed to trigger Alzheimer’s disease attacks the brain’s long-term memory.

“Our findings reveal a new pathway through which Alzheimer’s disease may cause memory decline later in life,” says UC Berkeley neuroscience professor Matthew Walker, senior author of the study published Monday in the journal Nature Neuroscience, in a release.

Excessive deposits of beta-amyloid are key suspects in the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease, a virulent form of dementia caused by the gradual death of brain cells. An unprecedented wave of aging baby boomers is expected to make Alzheimer’s disease, which has been diagnosed in more than 40 million people, one of the world’s fastest-growing and most debilitating public health concerns.

The good news about the findings, Walker says, is that poor sleep is potentially treatable and can be enhanced through exercise, behavioral therapy, and even electrical stimulation that amplifies brain waves during sleep, a technology that has been used successfully in young adults to increase their overnight memory.

“This discovery offers hope,” he says. “Sleep could be a novel therapeutic target for fighting back against memory impairment in older adults and even those with dementia.”

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