Sleep and Aging


Is your sleep different than it used to be when you were younger? It happens to a lot of people.

Nearly half of men and women over the age of 65 say they have at least one sleep problem. With age, many people get insomnia or have other sleep disorders.

It’s true that as we get older, our sleep patterns change. In general, older people sleep less, wake up and go back to sleep more often, and spend less time in deep sleep or dreaming than younger people.

But at any age, you still need quality rest to be healthy.

What Causes Sleep Problems With Age?

Some common reasons include:

Poor sleep habits: If you don’t keep a steady schedule for going to bed and waking up, it can affect your body’s internal clock and make it even harder to get good sleep. Also, at any age, it’s a minus if you drink alcohol before bedtime, nap too much, or stay in bed when you’re not sleeping.

Medications: Some drugs make it harder to fall or stay asleep, or even stimulate you to stay awake. If you think that might be true for you, ask your doctor to check.

Worry, stress, or grief. Aging brings many life changes. Some are positive. Others are really hard. When you lose someone you love, move from your family home, or have a condition that changes your life, that can cause stress, which can hamper your sleep.

If changes like these affect you or an aging loved one, talk with your doctor or a counselor. It could help ease your mind so you can sleep better.

Sleep disorders: Besides insomnia, these include apnea, restless legs syndromeperiodic limb movement disorder, and REM behavior disorder. Your doctor can see if you have one of these conditions.

Too much downtime. Many people stay active well into their golden years. But if your days are too idle, you may find it harder to get good sleep.

Do You Get Enough Sleep?

Everyone is different. If you sleep less than when you were younger but still feel rested and energetic during the day, it might be that you now need less sleep.

But if you have noticed that your lack of sleep affects you during the day, tell your doctor. There are steps you can take to get better rest. Many are simple tweaks to your daily routine, like setting a regular bedtime, being more active, and taking steps to ease your mind before you hit the hay.

Dancing to the circadian rhythm: NHLBI researcher finds new genes for body’s internal clock


Might lead to better understanding of sleep disorders, heart disease, and more

If you feel energized or tired around the same time each day, or routinely get up early or stay up late—the familiar ‘early riser’ or ‘night owl’ syndrome—you are witnessing, in real time, your circadian rhythm at work. That’s the 24-hour internal body clock which controls your sleep/wake cycle.

Circadian rhythms have long fascinated researchers—decades ago three of them marked a critical milestone when they discovered the molecular components behind that mysterious timing cycle. For this game-changing finding, the trio recently was awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Since their discovery researchers have come to know that the circadian clock affects not just sleep, but hormone production, eating habits, body temperature, heart rate, and other biological functions.

Yet, for all these advances, scientists still know relatively little about the clock’s genetic underpinnings. Now a team of NHLBI researchers is working to change that with the discovery of scores of new genes they say have a profound impact on the circadian rhythm. These researchers say these genes could hold the key to a new understanding of a wide range of health conditions, from insomnia to heart disease, and perhaps pave the way for new treatments for them.

Dr. Susan Harbison holding a sleep monitor
NHLBI researcher Dr. Susan Harbison displays a device used to record sleep and activity in fruit flies.

“We all ‘dance’ to the circadian rhythm,” said Susan Harbison, Ph.D., an investigator in the NHLBI’s Laboratory of Systems Genetics, who is among an elite cadre of scientists studying the complex genetics of the biological clock. “Quietly, this clock influences our body and our health in ways that are just now being understood.”For sure, the studies are slowly unfolding. For example, long-term night shift work has been associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, obesity, and heart disease. Some studies have shown a link between circadian rhythm changes and cancer.  And a recent study by researchers in France found that heart surgery is safer in the afternoon than in the morning, a phenomenon they attribute to the body’s circadian clock having a better repair mechanism in the afternoon than in the morning.

Now, thanks to Harbison and her research team, new insights into why some people experience longer or shorter periods of wakefulness or sleepiness than others—and what it might mean for a host of health conditions—could be on the horizon.

To explore this line of research more deeply, Harbison is working with a favorite laboratory model of sleep researchers: Drosophila melanogaster, the common fruit fly.  While this little fly may seem like an unlikely choice, it turns out to be an appropriate stand-in for humans.

“The clock mechanisms regulating circadian rhythm in humans and fruit flies are remarkably similar,” Harbison said. “They both have biological rhythms of about 24 hours. In fact, the genes involved in mammalian circadian rhythms were first identified in flies.”

Previous studies by other researchers had identified approximately 126 genes for circadian rhythms in fruit flies.  In recent studies using a natural population of flies, Harbison’s group estimates that there are more than 250 new genes associated with the circadian clock, among the largest number identified to date.  Many of the genes appear to be associated with nerve cell development—not surprising, she said, given the wide-ranging impact of circadian rhythms on biological processes.

In addition to finding this treasure trove of clock-related genes, Harbison’s group also found that the circadian patterns among the flies were highly variable, and that some of the genes code for variability in the circadian clock. Some flies had unusually long circadian periods—up to 31 hours—while others had extremely short circadian periods of 15 hours.  In other words: Just like people, there were ‘early risers’ and ‘night owls’ and long sleepers and short sleepers among the fruit flies.

“Before we did our studies, there was little attention paid to the genes responsible for variability in the circadian period,” noted Harbison, who is also looking at environmental factors that might influence these genes, such as drugs like alcohol and caffeine. “We now have new details about this variability, and that opens up a whole new avenue of research in understanding what these genes do and how they influence the circadian clock.”

See description
This graph shows rest and activity patterns for two different fruit flies. The graph on the left shows the rest and activity of a fly with a normal circadian period (about 24 hours). Vertical blue bars show the fly's activity during the day (yellow horizontal bars) and night (black horizontal bars). The graph on the right shows the rest and activity of a fly with an abnormal circadian period (about 31 hours). The abnormal pattern is similar to an individual with a circadian rhythm disorder. Graphic courtesy of Susan Harbison, NHLBI.

Harbison says that for most people, disruptions to the circadian clock have a temporary effect, as occurs with daylight saving time or jet lag from overseas travel, when a person may experience short-term fatigue as they adjust to a time change or new time zone. But for some, disruptions to the clock are associated with chronic health effects, as occurs with night shift workers. Others who suffer from certain circadian rhythm disorders— such as delayed sleep phase disorder—may find it extremely difficult to fall asleep at a desired time.

“The clock architecture is not set in stone and is not a ‘one size fits all’ device,” she noted. “What we’re finding is that the effect of disrupting the circadian clock differs depending on the genetic makeup of the individual. Just as human height and other traits are variable, the same is true of circadian traits among different individuals.”

In the future, Harbison hopes that these newly identified genes might ultimately be linked to specific disease processes in humans. Her findings could lead to the discovery of new biomarkers for diagnosing circadian disorders and lay the groundwork for new treatments for sleep and circadian disorders in humans.

Beautiful Noise


Sound helps you to release blocked energy, says music therapist and sound healing practitioner, PANKAJ BORICHA


Among the world’s noisiest cities are Shanghai,Tokyo,New York and Mumbai — cities full of sound pollutants.We are surrounded by different sound frequencies, some of which are not even audible. Unconsciously, these noise forms have multiple adverse effects on our health.As the effects of noise pollution pile up, we end up with hearing loss, stress, sleep disturbance and heart disease. According to a new analysis, stress hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline released over time could eventually lead to high blood pressure, stroke and heart failure. We are also losing our power of listening due to these excessive sound pollutants. Eventually, these affect us mentally and physically and lead to behavioural changes. We must educate ourselves on how we can harness this ancient technique and use the power of sound and music for healing and curing diseases. Once we understand this knowledge,we can spread awareness about sound and use it as a healing tool.

Different modalities of sound have been used in medical science — ultra sound and lithotripsy are among a few of them. But the majority of us are not aware about the power of sound as a sonic and acoustic weapon. Sound has been used in various cultures for centuries as a tool for healing — through the use of mantras and chanting, by playing instruments such as didgeridoo to heal bone fractures, and Tibetan bowl bells and gongs to produce different sound frequencies to align mental and physical health.All these techniques use sound to move us from imbalance to a balanced state of mind. Sound therapy offers cure for a variety of health problems including sleep disorders,anxiety,depression,stress management, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and pain management.

Our brainwaves are tuned to different sound vibrations through sound rhythm and frequency.We entrain our brainwaves to down-shift our normal waking consciousness beta state to a relaxed alpha state and can reach theta meditative state and deep sleep delta state where internal healing can occur. This same concept has been utilised in meditation by regulating the breath,but with sound and music at a certain frequency, it’s easier to influence a shift.In sound therapy, as you prepare yourself to become the receiver of sound,by becoming more receptive and aware of each sound, it creates a pathway of stillness,the same way as meditation or chanting a mantra does.Eventually, this helps us reach the still point to an active subconscious state of mind. The tools here are sound, voice, rhythm, drumming and frequency. Awareness plays a huge role in our own healing. Also, we must realise that our voice is incredibly powerful. It is our body that has the ability to fine-tune our greatest vibrational instrument. Sound frequency helps in releasing blocked energy and you are able to recycle your energy back into your life force,toward the energetic filtration system of each chakra.You must be aware of the different kinds of sounds that you take in daily from your immediate living environment. For instance,we are usually irritated with traffic sounds and the constant high decibel levels in local trains.Loud sounds elevate our stress levels, creating imbalances in our nervous system,lower our immunity and in extreme cases, cause hearing loss. When we are stressed, our whole relationship to sound changes.Even routine, everyday sounds become magnified and contribute to the feedback cycle of the stress. However, by utilising sound therapy techniques, we can become better listeners and more aware of the sounds we take in. Many of us already have a pretty good understanding of the benefits of healthy eating, yoga,meditation,and exercise.The same is true of sound therapy. We know mindfulness practices like chanting and vocal toning help us to find a centre and feel grounded. Our body, mind and spirit always want to move in a direction toward balance from noise to silence, yet we often have excess outer stimulus and noise and not enough time to dedicate to ourselves. This prevents us from achieving a better state of harmony. Sound has a way of helping us reach the source of the inner peace that we all seek. Let’s improve our power of listening and be aware consciously of different sounds, so that we can gradually improve the quality of our life and that of people around us.

Source: speakingtree.in

What Happens to Your Body When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep


If you eat well and exercise regularly but don’t get at least seven hours of sleep every night, you may undermine all your other efforts.

Sleep disorders expert Harneet Walia, MD, says it’s important to focus on getting enough sleep, something many of us lack. “First and foremost, we need to make sleep a priority,” she says. “We always recommend a good diet and exercise to everyone. Along the same lines, we need to focus on sleep as well.”

How much sleep do you actually need?

Everyone feels better after a good night’s rest.  But now, thanks to a report from the National Sleep Foundation, you can aim for a targeted sleep number tailored to your age.

The foundation based its report on two years of research. Published in a recent issue of the foundation’s journal Sleep Health, the report updates previous sleep recommendations. It breaks them into nine age-specific categories with a range for each, which allows for individual differences:

  • Older adults, 65+ years: 7-8 hours
  • Adults, 26-64 years: 7-9 hours
  • Young adults, 18-25 years: 7-9 hours
  • Teenagers, 14-17 years: 8-10 hours
  • School-age children, 6-13 years: 9-11 hours
  • Preschool children, 3-5 years: 10-13 hours
  • Toddlers, 1-2 years: 11-14 hours
  • Infants, 4-11 months: 12-15 hours
  • Newborns, 0-3 months: 14-17 hours

Dr. Walia says there’s evidence that genetic, behavioral and environmental factors help determine how much sleep an individual needs for the best health and daily performance.

But a minimum of seven hours of sleep is a step in the right direction to improve your health, she says.

What happens when you don’t get enough sleep?

Your doctor urges you to get enough sleep for good reason, Dr. Walia says.  Shorting yourself on shut-eye has a negative impact on your health in many ways:

Short-term problems can include:

  • Lack of alertness: Even missing as little as 1.5 hours can have an impact, research shows.
  • Impaired memory: Lack of sleep can affect your ability to think and to remember and process information.
  • Relationship stress: It can make you feel moody, and you can become more likely to have conflicts with others.
  • Quality of life: You may become less likely to participate in normal daily activities or to exercise.
  • Greater likelihood for car accidents: Drowsy driving accounts for thousands of crashes, injuries and fatalities each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

If you continue to operate without enough sleep, you may see more long-term and serious health problems. Some of the most serious potential problems associated with chronic sleep deprivation are high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure or stroke. Other potential problems include obesity, depression and lower sex drive.

Chronic sleep deprivation can even affect your appearance.  Over time, it can lead to premature wrinkling and dark circles under the eyes. Also, research links a lack of sleep to an increase of the stress hormone cortisol in the body. Cortisol can break down collagen, the protein that keeps skin smooth.

Make time for downtime

“In our society, nowadays, people aren’t getting enough sleep. They put sleep so far down on their priority list because there are so many other things to do – family, personal and work life,” Dr. Walia says. “These are challenges, but if people understand how important adequate sleep is, it makes a huge difference.”

What Happens to Your Body When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep


If you eat well and exercise regularly but don’t get at least seven hours of sleep every night, you may undermine all your other efforts.

Sleep disorders expert Harneet Walia, MD, says it’s important to focus on getting enough sleep, something many of us lack. “First and foremost, we need to make sleep a priority,” she says. “We always recommend a good diet and exercise to everyone. Along the same lines, we need to focus on sleep as well.”

What Happens to Your Body When You Don't Get Enough Sleep

How much sleep do you actually need?

Everyone feels better after a good night’s rest.  But now, thanks to a report from the National Sleep Foundation, you can aim for a targeted sleep number tailored to your age.

The foundation based its report on two years of research. Published in a recent issue of the foundation’s journal Sleep Health, the report updates previous sleep recommendations. It breaks them into nine age-specific categories with a range for each, which allows for individual differences:

  • Older adults, 65+ years: 7-8 hours
  • Adults, 26-64 years: 7-9 hours
  • Young adults, 18-25 years: 7-9 hours
  • Teenagers, 14-17 years: 8-10 hours
  • School-age children, 6-13 years: 9-11 hours
  • Preschool children, 3-5 years: 10-13 hours
  • Toddlers, 1-2 years: 11-14 hours
  • Infants, 4-11 months: 12-15 hours
  • Newborns, 0-3 months: 14-17 hours

Dr. Walia says there’s evidence that genetic, behavioral and environmental factors help determine how much sleep an individual needs for the best health and daily performance.

But a minimum of seven hours of sleep is a step in the right direction to improve your health, she says.

What happens when you don’t get enough sleep?

Your doctor urges you to get enough sleep for good reason, Dr. Walia says.  Shorting yourself on shut-eye has a negative impact on your health in many ways:

Short-term problems can include:

  • Lack of alertness: Even missing as little as 1.5 hours can have an impact, research shows.
  • Impaired memory: Lack of sleep can affect your ability to think and to remember and process information.
  • Relationship stress: It can make you feel moody, and you can become more likely to have conflicts with others.
  • Quality of life: You may become less likely to participate in normal daily activities or to exercise.
  • Greater likelihood for car accidents: Drowsy driving accounts for thousands of crashes, injuries and fatalities each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

If you continue to operate without enough sleep, you may see more long-term and serious health problems. Some of the most serious potential problems associated with chronic sleep deprivation are high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure or stroke. Other potential problems include obesity, depression and lower sex drive.

Chronic sleep deprivation can even affect your appearance.  Over time, it can lead to premature wrinkling and dark circles under the eyes. Also, research links a lack of sleep to an increase of the stress hormone cortisol in the body. Cortisol can break down collagen, the protein that keeps skin smooth.

Make time for downtime

“In our society, nowadays, people aren’t getting enough sleep. They put sleep so far down on their priority list because there are so many other things to do – family, personal and work life,” Dr. Walia says. “These are challenges, but if people understand how important adequate sleep is, it makes a huge difference.”

Have You Ever Been Sleep Drunk? New Study Finds It’s Quite Common


If you’ve ever been so startled by your alarm clock that you reach for the phone instead of the snooze, you’re in good company. A new study finds as many as one in seven people may suffer from a disorder called “sleep drunkenness.” It’s described as that feeling of confusion or amnesia we sometimes experience after suddenly waking up.

In this study, Stanford university researchers questioned more than 19,000 people about their sleep habits. They found one out of seven of them reported having an episode of “sleep drunkenness” (also called “confusional arousal”) within the past year. Also, more than half reported more than one episode per week.

This finding came as a surprise to researchers. “It showed that sleep drunkenness is much more common in the general population than we’ve thought,” says Jessica Vensel-Rundo, MD, who treats sleep disorders though she did not take part in this study.

Researchers say 84 percent of the people with sleep drunkenness also had a sleep disorder, mental health disorder, or were taking psychotropic drugs, such as antidepressants.

Of the study participants with sleep drunkenness:

  • 37.4 percent had a mental health disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, alcoholism, panic or post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety. The highest odds were observed people with bipolar disorders or panic disorder.
  • 31 percent were on psychotropic medications, such as antidepressants.

But researchers say the amount of sleep you get may also play a role. Both long and short sleep times are associated with the disorder. That’s because 20 percent of the people who’ve experienced “sleep drunkenness” admitted getting less than six hours of sleep per night, while 15 percent of them were getting at least nine hours.

Dr Vensel-Rundo says that many times, when people experience chronic sleep drunkenness, there is an underlying problem.

“The issue is that it can be caused by other untreated sleep disorders like sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, or insomnia,“ Dr. Vensel-Rundo says.

Experts say these episodes of confusion after sleep have not received the same attention as sleepwalking, but in some cases, the consequences can be just as serious. Some people act aggressively without any memory of doing so.  In one extreme case, a man woke in such a confused state that he fell off the deck of a ship.

More studies are needed to pinpoint an actual cause for sleep drunkenness, but animal studies give us some clues. When animals are awakened suddenly, it seems to trigger a startle reflex, allowing them to respond quickly to potential threats. Imagine how a deer might freeze as you approach, body tightening with eyes and ears scanning for danger.

This reflex is a trait shared by humans. In babies, a loud noise that startles them will trigger this reflex. The infant will suddenly bring his arms and legs toward his chest. When, as adults, we are foggy with sleep and suddenly awakened, our brains may respond to it as a potential emergency, where quick action — and not thought — is needed.

New Hypothesis Explains Why We Sleep.


Every night, while we lie asleep, blind, dumb and almost paralyzed, our brains are hard at work. Neurons in the sleeping brain fire nearly as often as they do in a waking state, and they consume almost as much energy. What is the point of this unceasing activity at a time when we are supposedly resting? Why does the conscious mind disconnect so completely from the external environment while the brain keeps nattering on?

The brain’s activity during rest likely serves some essential function. The evidence for this importance starts with sleep’s ubiquity. All animals apparently sleep even though being unconscious and unresponsive greatly raises the risk of becoming another creature’s lunch. Birds do it, bees do it, iguanas and cockroaches do it, even fruit flies do it, as we and others demonstrated more than a decade ago.

Source: http://www.scientificamerican.com