Sleep Deprivation, Gut Changes, and Metabolic Disease

Sleep deprivation and microbes

Researchers from Uppsala University published a new study in the journal, Molecular Metabolism, stating that sleep deprivation alters the level of gut bacteria that has previously been linked to dysfunctional metabolic health, including diseases like diabetes and insulin resistance.

The changes in the diversity and composition of the bacteria, or gut microbiota, have been directly associated to common chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and obesity.  Furthermore, these conditions are associated with loss of quality sleep.  It is uncertain if sleep deprivation actually leads to the changes in the gut microbiota, however.

Keeping this thought in mind, Dr. Christian Benedict, neuroscience associate professor, along with Dr. Jonathan Cedernaes, MD, PhD, worked with scientists at the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke on this project.  They focused primarily on the sleep habits of nine healthy men who were of normal weight.  They wanted to determine if restricting sleep to four hours a night for two days altered their gut bacteria.  This was compared to people who get the normal amount of sleep, which is about eight hours a night.

Dr. Cedernaes noted in his findings that there was no evidence suggesting any changes in the diversity of the gut bacteria after restricting sleep.  However, he does note that this was an expected result, given the short-term nature of the restriction and the very small sample size.  When groups of bacteria were specifically analyzed in other studies, however, they did find changes in the gut that were similar to those found in obese patients when compared to people of normal weight.

As with all new findings, larger samples and longer clinical interventions are needed to completely investigate the extent of these microbiota alterations, as it is indicative in the other studies that these changes could have negative health consequences that are attributed to sleep loss, like insulin resistance and weight gain.

As noted by Dr. Benedict, the participants in this study were over 20% less sensitive to insulin after losing sleep.  Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas and used to break down sugars in the blood.  It is not clear if there is any link between sleep loss, gut bacteria changes, and this decreased insulin sensitivity.  This tells us that, in the short term at least, there may not be a link between curtailed sleep, gut bacteria changes, and insulin sensitivity, so linking it to diabetes may not be indicated.

The gut microbiota analyzed in this study is extremely rich, but its functional role is not yet understood or characterized.  In the future, research should be able to determine the functional role and composition of this microbiota, as well as determine whether it plays a role in how individual humans respond both metabolically and cognitively to sleep loss.



Rachael Herman is a professional writer with an extensive background in medical writing, research, and language development. Her hobbies include hiking in the Rockies, cooking, and reading.

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New Recommendations to Avoid Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Baby Sleeping

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has updated their policy on best sleep practices to avoid sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).  The policy titled, SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Updated 2016 Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleep Environment, uses new studies to validate their finding, which is that parents and infants should sleep in the same room; however, they should use different surfaces and never on a couch, soft surface, or armchair.

This is the first update to sleep recommendations by the Academy since 2011.

New evidence from studies suggests that sharing a bedroom reduces risk when done for the first six months, at a minimum, and for the first year of life for the most benefit.

The policy statement is set to be released Monday, 10/24, at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition, which will be held in San Francisco, CA.  The report was originally published in the journal, Pediatrics, and it cites new evidence that suggests recommendations for bedside and in-bed sleepers, as well as benefits of skin-to-skin contact with newborns.  The article included recommendations for how to make a safe infant sleep environment.

Dr. Rachel Moon, MD, FAAP, lead author of the article, notes that many parents can become overwhelmed with having a newborn at home, so the goal of AAP is to give sound guidance on sleep positions and locations for their infants.  Dr. Moon adds that babies should never be placed on cushioned chairs, sofas, or couches, even if someone is laying with them.  These surfaces can be dangerous for an infant.

SIDS and other sleep-related deaths, like accidental suffocation or strangulation and ill-defined deaths, account for approximately 3500 infant mortalities every year in the United States.  This number has decreased since the 1990s after the AAP initiated their sleep campaign, but the number has plateaued recently.

Recommendations for an infant safe sleep environment include the following, according to the AAP:

  • Use a firm sleep surface like a bassinet or crib with a tight fitted sheet, and place the infant on his or her back.
  • Avoid soft products like extra blankets, pillows, soft toys, and bumpers. Keep the crib bare and free of anything that could wind up over the infant’s face or cause overheating.
  • For the first year of life (or at least the first six months), parents should share a bedroom with their infant, but not the same sleeping surface. Room-sharing has been known to decrease risk of SIDS by 50%.
  • Do not expose the baby to alcohol, drugs, or smoke.

In addition to the above, Dr. Moon and colleagues recommend skin-to-skin contact immediately after the baby is born, regardless of how they were delivered or how they are feeding.  Doing this for the first hour of life helps decrease the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related deaths.

As additional protection against SIDS, the AAP recommends breastfeeding, followed by immediately putting the baby in their sleeping space.

Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter, MD, FAAP, who is a member of the SIDS Task Force and another author of this new policy, reminds parents that if you feel you might fall asleep while feeding your baby, it is better to feed them in bed rather than on a couch or in a chair.  Move the baby to his or her separate sleeping space as soon as you wake up.  The policy frequently mentions that the baby’s sleep environment should be void of anything that could obstruct breathing or cause the infant to overheat.

Current research says that infants are at higher risk of SIDS between the ages of 1 and 4 months; however, newer studies indicate that soft bedding poses additional dangers to babies even after 4 months.

Further AAP sleep environment recommendations include:

  • Make use of a pacifier for bedtime and naptime.
  • Give infants all recommended vaccinations.
  • Do not use any commercial devices marketed to reduce the risk of SIDS, like positioners and wedges.
  • Facilitate infant physical and mental development with daily supervised, awake tummy time play.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that pediatricians and other family physicians have open conversations with parents about sleep hygiene and practices.  The media can help with community education by presenting messages and images that are in line with the above recommendations.

It is important to share this information without frightening the parents; however, it is vital for them to understand the risks of an unsafe sleep space.  Taking precautionary measures is the best way to keep infants safe without spending a ton of money on home devices.


 Rachael Herman is a professional writer with an extensive background in medical writing, research, and language development. Her hobbies include hiking in the Rockies, cooking, and reading.

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FAQ’s about Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea

Common Questions and Answers About Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a disorder characterized by brief pauses in breathing during sleep. The pauses cause a partial arousal from sleep and prevent a good night’s rest.

Whether you have just been diagnosed with sleep apnea or think your partner may have the condition, you probably have some questions. Learning more about sleep apnea and how it’s treated will help you manage the condition, decrease complications and improve your quality of sleep. Below are some common questions and answers to help you understand more about sleep apnea.

  1. What causes sleep apnea?

    Sleep apnea can occur if your airway becomes obstructed while you’re sleeping. In some cases, the tongue and throat muscles relax and block the windpipe. Structural issues, such as a large tongue or tonsils can increase your risk of developing the condition. People who are overweight are also at an increased risk of sleep apnea.

    Snoring Mouth Picture
    Snoring Mouth Picture
  1. What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?

    One of the main symptoms of sleep apnea is snoring. Although it’s important to understand, not all people who snore have sleep apnea. A bed partner may also notice your breathing periodically stops for brief periods of time through the night. Since people with sleep apnea have disrupted sleep, they often have excessive daytime sleepiness and may have morning headaches.

  1. How do I know for sure If I have sleep apnea?

    The best way to know for sure whether you have sleep apnea is to have a sleep study called a polysomnogram. During the study, a sleep technologist will monitor you while you sleep. When you arrive for your study, the tech hooks you up to various equipment, which monitors your brain activity, blood oxygen levels, heart rate and breathing patterns while you sleep. The results of the study help your doctor make an accurate diagnosis.

    sleep study data
    sleep study data
  1. How long does a sleep study take?

    Although it can vary, your sleep study will usually take between nine and ten hours from start to finish. Once you arrive at the sleep center, you’ll spend a short time talking to the tech who will explain the procedure. It also takes about 45 minutes to attach monitors and equipment used in the study. After that, many sleep studies require about six hours of recording time while you sleep.

  1. What negative effects can sleep apnea cause?

    Sleep apnea decreases your quality of sleep, which can have a cumulative effect. Sleep deprivation can have several consequences including memory problems, trouble concentrating and mood disturbances. It can also increase your chances of having an accident while driving.

  1. Are there complications?

    Sleep apnea can cause several health complications. When your breathing stops, the oxygen level in your blood can drop. This drop can strain your cardiovascular system making your heart work harder. People with sleep apnea have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure, having irregular heartbeats and diabetes. Untreated sleep apnea is associated with an increased risk of heart attacks and stroke.

  1. How is sleep apnea treated?

    Fortunately, sleep apnea can usually be successfully treated. The most common treatment is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). CPAP is delivered through a mask attached to a small CPAP machine that provides the air pressure. The pressur

    cpap bipap
    cpap bipap

    e keeps the airway open and prevents cessation of breathing during sleep. Although CPAP is very effective at treating sleep apnea, other options are also available including dental devices and surgery. Weight loss may be effective if overweight.

  2. Is CPAP hard to sleep with?

    CPAP machines for home use are small. They are often smaller than a shoebox. You’ll need to wear a small mask over your nose, which is connected to tubing and the machine. Most people are able to tolerate CPAP and get used to wearing it after a few nights. When you’re first adjusting to CPAP, keep the health benefits in mind, which may help you stick with it. If after a few weeks, you’re still having trouble using your CPAP, talk with your sleep specialist. Your doctor may be able to adjust the pressure on the machine or suggest different masks, so you’re more comfortable.


Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Treating Sleep Apnea.  Retrieved October 2016.

Harvard University. What Happened During OSA.   Retrieved October 2016.

National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. What is Sleep Apnea. Retrieved October 2016.

Author: MaryAnn DePietro, CRT is a medical writer and licensed respiratory therapist with over a decade of clinical experience, MaryAnn DePietro has been published in magazines, newspapers and on health websites. She earned degrees in both respiratory therapy and rehabilitation.
Summary: Common questions answered about sleep apnea.

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Sleep Deprivation in Preschoolers Leads to Increased Appetite

child sleep deprivation and hunger

A new study out of the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Michigan reported that preschoolers who missed their naps and stayed up later at night were more likely to gain weight due to increased sugar and carbohydrate intake.  A paper on the study was published in the Journal of Sleep Research.

In this study, researchers deprived preschoolers their regular afternoon nap and kept them awake two hours after their normal bedtime, accounting for a total of three hours’ sleep loss.  The children were awakened at their regular time the next morning.

Monique LeBourgeois, lead author of the study, noted that on the day of the sleep loss, the children took in about 20% more calories than they normally would, including 26% more carbohydrates and 25% more sugars.  On the next day, “recovery day,” the children could sleep as much as they wanted.  They all returned to their normal sugar and carbohydrate consumption levels; however, they still had 23% more fat and 14% more calories than usual.

This study included a loss of nap and staying up late, which accurately mimics the type of sleep loss that would happen in the real world.  The National Sleep Foundation notes that approximately 30% of preschool aged children are sleep deprived.

It was notable that dietary intake was increased both the day of sleep loss and the day after.  This may give insight into how sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain and childhood obesity.

Even with prevention measures for obesity over the last decade, the problem of childhood obesity continues to rise to epidemic levels.  About 23% of children in the U.S. under the age of 5 are overweight or obese, according to a 2014 study.  Obese and overweight children are at higher risk of chronic illnesses later in life such as depression, low self-esteem, diabetes, and heart disease.  Overweight children are four times more likely to suffer from obesity as an adult.

Dr. LeBourgeois notes that this study was beneficial because there was no control of the dietary intake.  Parents did not restrict or enforce any of their child’s food and drink intake.  The parents fed the children the same foods they would eat on any given day.

Additionally, researchers reviewed each child individually based on study conditions like when sleep was restricted, when it was recovered, and when it was optimized.  This gave scientists control over how the children differed in their eating habits, preferences, and sleep routines.

Five girls and five boys participated in the study.  Each of the children were given small sensors on their wrists to monitor activity, time in bed, sleep quality, and sleep duration.  Parents were asked to keep track of all food and drinks their child took, including brands, quantities, and portions using measures in grams, teaspoons, and cups.  All ingredients, including spices, were logged for all homemade dishes, including cooking methods and quantities.

This study is the first of its kind to measure the effect sleep has on food consumption in preschool aged kids.  Results of this study are consistent with other studies that have been done on teens and adults.

Follow-up studies using larger samples to confirm these findings are in line to start.  These studies will be experimental and control food and beverage intake, as well as objectively measure energy levels in children.


Rachael Herman is a professional writer with an extensive background in medical writing, research, and language development. Her hobbies include hiking in the Rockies, cooking, and reading.

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How Sleep Changes With Aging

sleep deprivation human

It’s no surprise that your body goes through some changes as you age. But some people may be unaware that your sleep patterns can also change as you grow older.

What does not appear to change is how much sleep you need. According to the National Institute of Health, sleep needs do not change later in life. Although the amount of sleep adults need varies individually, typically you don’t need less sleep later in life.

Still, getting a good night’s sleep may be harder to come by as you get older. For instance, some people have trouble falling or staying asleep. Waking up several times a night may also be an issue as you age.

What Causes Increased Sleep Problems in Later Life? 

Several factors may contribute to sleep problems later in life including the following:

Decreased production of melatonin: According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, studies have indicated that melatonin production may decrease as you age. Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate sleep. If less is melatonin is produced, sleep may be affected.

Chronic medical problems: Conditions that may affect good quality sleep also tend to occur more frequently as we grow older. For example, although arthritis and back problems can develop at any age, they are more common in older adults. Both conditions can cause you to toss and turn and interfere with getting a good night’s rest.

Advanced sleep phase syndrome: Advanced sleep phase syndrome is a sleep disorder in which you fall asleep much earlier than a typical bedtime and wake up earlier. For example, if you used to go to bed at 10 p.m., but have developed a pattern of falling asleep at 6 and waking at 3 a.m., it might be due to advanced sleep phase syndrome. It occurs when the rhythm of your internal clock is off. It tends to occur more frequently in the elderly.

Consequences of poor sleep

Just like proper nutrition and exercise, sleep is vital for overall wellbeing. Quality sleep and good health are connected. If you don’t get the sleep you need, it can have several consequences. For instance, problems with memory may increase as you age, and poor sleep can make the issue worse. Lack of restorative sleep can also lead to following:

  • Increased fall risk
  • Mood changes
  • Depression
  • Weight gain
  • Problems concentrating

Improving Sleep as You Age

It’s important to get good quality sleep at any age. Individual sleep needs are influenced by many factors, such as genetics and activity level. But most adults including the elderly need between seven and nine hours of sleep a night. Ideally, you should wake up naturally without the need for an alarm clock. Consider the following tips:

Stick to a schedule: Try to go to sleep at around the same time each night. Keeping to the same schedule helps you set your internal clock and improves your quality of sleep.

Consider medication schedule: If possible, avoid getting up in the middle of the night to take medication. But always talk with your doctor about your medication schedule before making any changes.

Exercise: Exercising on a regular basis is good for your waistline, heart and may also improve sleep. Exercise promotes relaxation. If you feel less stressed, you might fall asleep easier. Keep in mind, when it comes to sleep, the timing of your workout is important. Working out too close to bedtime can raise your body temp and make it more difficult to fall asleep.

Treat underlying medical conditions: Many medical conditions can make it harder to get good sleep. For instance, if you’re dealing with medical problems, such as chronic pain, asthma or bladder problems, they can interfere with getting the shuteye you need. Be sure to talk with your doctor about any medical issues that may be interfering with your sleep.



National Institute of Health. Sleep and Aging.  Retrieved October 2016.

Family Sleep Changes in Older Adults.    Retrieved October 2016.


Author: MaryAnn DePietro, CRT A medical writer and licensed respiratory therapist with over a decade of clinical experience. MaryAnn DePietro has been published in magazines, newspapers and on health websites. She earned degrees in both respiratory therapy and rehabilitation. As a therapist, she has worked with hundreds of patients with medical conditions, such as COPD, asthma, sleep apnea and cancer.

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Common CPAP Issues and How to Minimize Them


If you have sleep apnea, you might have been prescribed CPAP by your doctor. CPAP treats sleep apnea by delivering a continuous stream of positive air pressure into the airways. The pressure keeps the airway open, which prevents pauses in breathing. A CPAP machine, which is usually no bigger than a shoebox, is attached to a mask that you wear while you sleep.

The good news is CPAP is very effective at treating sleep apnea and improving the quality of your sleep. Most people find CPAP to be comfortable and adjust well to wearing it each night while they sleep. But in some cases, CPAP causes a few unwanted side effects. Although the side effects from CPAP are not usually serious, they can be annoying. Luckily, there are several ways you can combat minor CPAP side effects.

Pressure Sores

Pressure sores are possible if your CPAP mask is too tight. The most common site of a pressure sore is the bridge of the nose. Keep in mind, a CPAP mask should be tight enough to avoid too much air from leaking out around it. But if it is too tight, it can be uncomfortable.

Solution: When you first start using CPAP, you’ll be fitted for a mask to determine what size and style works best. Make sure you select something that feels comfortable. It some cases, the solution may be as simple as using a different size or style of mask. In addition, nasal pads are available that cushion the nose and help prevent irritation. The pads are usually made of a gel material and are placed on the bridge of the nose under the mask.

Dry Mouth or Nose

The continuous flow of air delivered by a CPAP machine can be drying. Waking up each morning with a dry mouth or nose can be irritating. But there is usually an easy fix.

Solution: Using heated humidification with your CPAP machine adds warm moisture to the air and eases dryness. CPAP machines differ by manufacturer. Some machines have built-in humidifiers. In other cases, you’ll attach a specific humidifier. Use distilled or sterile water when filling the humidifier.

Leaky Mask

If your mask is not fitted properly or if you don’t put it on correctly, it can leak around the edges. The leak is not harmful, but it could prevent the prescribed levels of pressure from being delivered. Plus, a leaky mask could be noisy, which may bother your bedmate.

Solution: If you notice air leaks, you may not have a properly fitted mask. Also, be sure you’re adjusting the mask right when you put it on at night. One option to consider is switching from a face mask that covers both the nose and mouth to a nasal mask. A nasal mask just covers the nose, which means there is less surface area to cover and less potential for leaks.


Wearing a mask that covers your mouth and nose can make some people feel claustrophobic, especially since it is something you’re not used to. If you feel anxious, it can be difficult to get comfortable and fall asleep.

Solution: If the mask you’re using makes you feel confined, consider using a nasal mask. If that does not do the trick, you can try nasal pillows. Nasal pillows are small, soft prongs that go into your nose. Your nose or mouth are not covered.

Stomach Bloating

Occasionally the air that is supposed to go into your lungs may go into your stomach instead. Excess air in the belly can lead to bloating and gas. No one wants to wake up belching.

Solution: If you feel stomach bloating is a problem and think it’s due to CPAP and not what you ate, talk with your doctor about slightly decreasing the pressure setting on your CPAP.



National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. What is Sleep Apnea. Retrieved October 2016.

American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure.    Retrieved October 2016


Author: MaryAnn DePietro, CRT A medical writer and licensed respiratory therapist with over a decade of clinical experience. MaryAnn DePietro has been published in magazines, newspapers and on health websites. She earned degrees in both respiratory therapy and rehabilitation. As a therapist, she has worked with hundreds of patients with medical conditions, such as COPD, asthma, sleep apnea and cancer.

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Sleep Deprivation in Children Affects Developing Brain

Sleep and brain

As we all know, sleep is imperative for our health and survival.  We cannot live without quality, restorative sleep.  If adults are awake longer than their brains are used to, it will respond by needing more deep sleep than is typical.  This is the slow wave stage of sleep, which can be seen on EEG (electroencephalography).

Deep-sleep waves in adults are generally more prevalent in the prefrontal cortex, which is the area of the brain that plans and controls our actions, plays a role in memory, and helps with decision-making and problem solving.

Children who have been sleep deprived have more deep sleep in the posterior regions of the brain, as noted by researchers from the University Hospital Zurich.

Lack of sleep means there is locally increased deep sleep in certain portions of the brain.  Salome Kurth, lead researcher of the study from the Pulmonary Clinic at UZH, notes that children have different brains than adults, so they react differently to sleep deprivation.  In children, the deep-sleep effect seen on EEG does not happen in the front of the brain, but in the back, which is the opposite of adults.

Scientists discovered that an increased need for sleep in children, which is measured by the increase of deep-sleep waves on EEG, is linked to the optic radiation, or the myelin found in nerve fiber bundles.  This part of the brain is involved with the vision system that is primarily responsible for processing sensory input and spatial perceptions.

Myelin is a fatty sheath that surrounds the nerve fibers, accelerating the electrical signal transfers.  The level of myelin helps measure brain development and maturity, which increases throughout childhood, adolescence, and into young adulthood.  This new study shows that the more myelin the children have in their brain regions, the more likely they will have the same deep-sleep effect as adults.

University Hospital Zurich collaborated with the University of Colorado Boulder to study the complete effects of sleep deprivation in children.

Thirteen healthy kids between the ages of 5 and 12 participated in the study.  The researchers monitored and measured their brain activity while they slept.  The EEG was connected to the children overnight in the comfort of their own homes with their families.  A total of 128 electrodes were used to measure sleep stages, which was done on two occasions.

On the first part of the study, children were put to bed at their normal time.  In the second part of the study, however, they were allowed to stay up very late to receive half or less of their normal amount of sleep.  Before the start of the study, researchers measured the amount of myelin content in their brains.  This was done using a noninvasive MRI technique.

Overall, Dr. Kurth notes, the results indicate that deep-sleep patterns are seen in a specific region of the brain that is associated with the amount of myelin in that region.  This may only be a temporary effect, such as occurring only during developmental phases of childhood or adolescence, however.

Researchers logically assumed that quality sleep was directly linked to neuronal connections in the brain that develop during childhood and adolescence.  That is why it is so important for children to have regular sleep habits and patterns during this phase of life.  International guidelines dictate the normal amount of sleep for children between 6 and 13 years of age is 9 to 11 hours each night.


Author: Rachael Herman is a professional writer with an extensive background in medical writing, research, and language development. Her hobbies include hiking in the Rockies, cooking, and reading.

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Changing Meal Times May Help with Jet Lag

Food and sleep

New research has found that:

  • By regulating meal times on days off, long-haul cabin crew members can make jet lag less uncomfortable
  • Generally, long-haul cabin crew avoid jet lag by relying on specific sleep patterns and strategies like avoiding caffeine or sleeping in a completely dark room, but these strategies do not help reset circadian rhythm or biological clocks.
  • Further research is needed to determine if changing meal times and content has a positive effect on jet lag.

This new study was published in the journal, Psychology and Health.  It reported that long-haul cabin crew members can alleviate their jet lag by regulating meal times on their days off.

Research was done out of the University of Surrey.  It recruited long-haul cabin crew members for the study since they are the most common sufferers of jet lag due to constant and rapid travel between time zones.  Jet lag was most pronounced on their leg home, with other symptoms present like fatigue, sleep deprivation, moodiness, appetite changes, and declined cognitive performance.  Melatonin and other sleep aids were prohibited in this study because scientists did not want sedative effects present.

Further, while sleep hygiene like sleeping in a cool, dark room, and avoiding caffeine at least four hours before bed, are needed on a regular basis, the participants were asked to avoid these because they do not reset the biological sleep-wake clocks.

A total of 60 flight crew members participated in the study and took part in one of two tests.  One group planned to eat regular meals at regular times on their days off, and the other group had no plan for meals on those days.  For the most part, participants had an average of three days off after their trip.  Findings showed that meal times and plans were important for overall well-being and helping cabin crew adapt their biological clock during those days off.

Cristina Ruscitto, lead author of this study from the University of Surrey School of Psychology, noted that long-haul cabin crew members are most affected by jet lag during their days off because they try to acclimate to local time during those layovers rather than trying to adjust their activities and eating to their home time zone.  However, researchers note that adapting the home time zone to those layover days off is particularly beneficial and improves overall well-being, decreasing the effects of jet lag.

Scientists noted that the crew relies heavily on sleep to alleviate symptoms of jet lag rather than eating habits, which generally makes sense; however, this research indicates that meal times and a plan based on your home time zone are essential to resetting the biological body clock.

Further research will be interesting, Ms. Ruscitto notes, in that it will help them determine whether the positive effects of meal planning and regulation found in this study will persist for longer than the few days they were monitored.  A followup with these participants is necessary to determine the effects of whether simply having regular meal times makes a difference in jet lag symptoms.


Author: Rachael Herman is a professional writer with an extensive background in medical writing, research, and language development. Her hobbies include hiking in the Rockies, cooking, and reading.

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Sleep, Menopause, and Depression

Sleeping woman

Mild Depression in Women who have Nighttime Hot Flashes

The Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism published a study that found menopausal women suffer mild symptoms of depression, which are likely triggered by an irregularly high number of hot flashes at night, or at least her perception of hot flashes.

According to the Hormone Health Network, women go through menopause when their ovaries no longer make hormones like estrogen, leading to a cessation of menstrual periods.  This transition into menopause is usually gradual, over about four or five years.  In the United States, the average age for menopause is 51.  There is a Menopause Map™, developed by the Hormone Health Network, which is available to women who want to learn more about the menopause stages and determine where they are in the process.

In this recent research, scientists gave menopausal women a medication that decreased their estrogen levels.  This led to sleep interruptions, as well as a perception of having more nighttime hot flashes, leading to mood disturbance.

Essentially, when the women were interviewed about their sleep, and when they were awake for long enough to recall nighttime hot flashes during the time they should have been sleeping, they reported a mood disturbance.  All of these women had decreased estrogen levels at the time.

First author of the study, Dr. Hadine Joffe, MD, MSc from Harvard Medical School’s Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA stated there was a notable link between middle-of-the-night hot flashes, mood disturbances, and sleep interruption in these women.

This study included 29 premenopausal, otherwise healthy women between the ages of 18 and 45.  All of the women were given a medication that decreased the production of estrogen in the ovaries, which essentially resembles menopause, inducing symptoms with different degrees of intensity for each woman.  This drug was taken for four weeks.  Before and after that four-week timeframe, the scientists kept an eye on hormone levels and sleep.  All participants completed a mental health questionnaire both before and after the study.

In this study and the reports given by the women, those who reported experiencing hot flashes through the night were more likely to have mild depression symptoms than those who reported no or fewer hot flashes at night.  Interestingly, it was only the women’s perception of hot flashes and frequency that was associated with their mood disturbance.  The researchers made sure to pay close attention to physiological signs of hot flashes on the sleep studies, and there was no link to actual hot flashes and mood changes.

Sleep interruption was another component that was linked to symptoms of depression in the participants.  Those who reported sleep interruption were more likely to have mild symptoms than those who got more sleep.  Of note, there was no link to daytime hot flashes and mood disturbance.

Dr. Joffe and colleagues note that menopausal women who are reporting sleep disruption and nighttime hot flashes should be screened for mood changes.  Their treatment for mood disturbances should include all efforts to address the nighttime hot flashes and sleep interruption as well.


Author: Rachael Herman is a professional writer with an extensive background in medical writing, research, and language development. Her hobbies include hiking in the Rockies, cooking, and reading.

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How We Think About Sleep Affects Chronic Pain Symptoms

brain and sleep

New research out of the University of Warwick Department of Psychology Sleep and Pain Lab has found that negative thoughts about pain and insomnia affect conditions like fibromyalgia, arthritis, and back pain.  Cognitive behavior therapy, or CBT, can be used to manage and treat this issue.

One of the primary authors of the study, Esther Afalalu, and her colleagues developed a scale that measures how chronic long-term pain patients think and feel about pain and sleep, as well as the measurement of their quality of sleep.  This study is the first of its kind to look at both sleep and pain in order to explore how the cycle of pain continues more rapidly in sleep-deprived persons.

There were four groups a part of this study, of which all participants were suffering from some form of chronic pain condition and poor sleep.  The scale used to test these patients found that those who believed they would get poor sleep as a result of pain ended up sleeping more poorly and suffering from worsened pain.  The results indicate that the scale was vital in determining the patient’s level of pain difficulty and their level of insomnia.  Furthermore, the more quality sleep they received, the more relieved their pain was.  This change and reduction in pain was even more prevalent in those who underwent CBT for both insomnia and pain.

This study gives therapists and providers the necessary means to identify, treat, and monitor thoughts about pain and sleep that may be interfering with sleep quality.  This allows for the application of effective CBT treatments for chronic pain patients who suffer from insomnia.

Dr. Afalalu reported in the press release of this study that current treatments for chronic pain are focused mostly on managing symptoms with medications, without much emphasis on sleep patterns.  However, developing therapies and new research indicates that tackling both sleep problems and pain simultaneously is the best option for treatment in these patients.  The scale is a good clinical tool that can be used to accurately and effectively monitor treatment during therapy.

Another one of the study’s authors, Dr. Nicole Tang, PhD, reported that our thoughts can have a major impact on our behaviors, emotions, and physiology, both directly and indirectly.  How we think about the link between sleep and pain influences how we cope with the pain and manage the insomnia.  While some of these thoughts are likely healthy and well-intended, based on prior clinical practices, more rigid thoughts are misinformed and detrimental to sleep and pain management.

This new Pain-Related Beliefs and Attitudes about Sleep (PBAS) scale was created in order to help clinicians identify the beliefs that are potentially harmful to the patient, causing them increased insomnia and pain symptoms.  These research findings and information about the scale were published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.


Author: Rachael Herman is a professional writer with an extensive background in medical writing, research, and language development. Her hobbies include hiking in the Rockies, cooking, and reading.

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