Children’s Brains React Differently to Sleep Loss

eeg sleep study

All parents can identify the problems that arise from their child not getting enough sleep the night before; however, there is not a whole lot of information available in medical literature that looks at how sleep deprivation affects children’s brain chemistry and early development.

First author of this new study, Salome Kurth, from the University Hospital of Zurich, noted that sleep processes may be wiring a child’s brain and affect the brain’s development and maturation. This research indicates that there is a need for increased sleep for posterior brain regions in young children.  Findings were published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

This information differs from the research that has been done on adults with sleep deprivation, where the effect is more concentrated in the frontal regions.

Studies have found that both adults and children who lose sleep need a period of deep sleep to recover from that loss.  The recovery period is marked by electrical patterns on the non-invasive electroencephalogram (EEG) called slow-wave activity.  The EEG distributes several electrodes across the entire scalp to look at various channels, which help detect the brain regions with the most slow-wave activity.

Dr. Kurth and her colleagues, Sean Deoni from Brown University and Monique LeBourgeois from University of Colorado Boulder, along with a team of students studied how 50% sleep loss would affect 13 children aged between 5 and 12 years.  The children’s deep sleep patterns were measured first during a normal night of sleep.  Then, they were measured again on a different night after the children were kept awake for several hours past their bedtime using activities like playing games and reading with them.

The children received only a half night’s sleep.  On their EEG, they showed increased slow-wave activity in the parieto-occipital areas, which are located in the back regions of the brain.  This indicates the circuitry in these brain regions may be significantly affected by sleep deprivation.

One of the cornerstones of early brain development is the myelin content, so the team also analyzed how the slow-wave activity in deep sleep correlated with this myelin content.  Myelin is measured with MRI; it is the fatty material within the white matter of the brain that allows electrical information and communication to happen between the cells, allowing them to travel faster.

Dr. Kurth notes that these results indicate that sleep deprivation affects the brain in specific regions, which correlates with the myelin connections in the adjacent regions.  Essentially, the more myelin in those areas, the more the effect resembles what happens in adult brains.  Furthermore, it is possible that this is a temporary effect, occurring only in a sensitive period of development when the brain undergoes changes.

As with all new findings, further exploration is needed before making conclusive statements regarding how sleep deprivation affects child brain development in the long-term.  In the meantime, it is sufficient to say that later bedtimes have a different effect on children’s brains than on adults’


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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Women with Breast Cancer and Sleep Disturbance


One of the lesser-known adverse side effects of breast cancer is persistent hot flashes, which some studies suggest occur in approximately 30% to 40% of women.  More specifically, nighttime hot flashes are problematic for them because they disrupt sleep.

New research has found that electro-acupuncture may be helpful in providing some relief to these hot flashes.  The research is going to be published in the online journal, Menopause, by the North American Menopause Society (NAMS).

Women with breast cancer are more likely to suffer from hot flashes than those who go through menopause naturally.  This is due to the early menopause caused by chemotherapy, surgery, and the use of drugs that cause estrogen deficiencies like tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors.  Some scientists estimate that by the year 2020, there will be almost 6 million breast cancer survivors in America.

Data was analyzed from a randomized, controlled trial of 58 women who survived breast cancer and were experiencing hot flashes which significantly interfered with their quality of sleep and life.  The benefits of using electro-acupuncture – pulsating electrical currents applied to different areas of the body – were compared with gabapentin medication – an anti-seizure drug that is sometimes used to help treat insomnia and other sleep disturbances that are related to hot flashes.

The findings indicated that electro-acupuncture was comparable to, or even better than, the medication with regard to reducing the severity and frequency of hot flashes.  Further, it improved overall sleep quality, especially with respect to how long it took to fall asleep and how many times they were awoken with hot flashes.  Scientists do not fully understand how or why acupuncture helps with sleep, but multiple studies have shown that it affects neurotransmitters that are associated with sleep, like melatonin and serotonin.

Breast cancer survivors are bothered by hot-flash-induced sleep deprivation because it frequently comes with increased levels of depression, anxiety, fatigue, and pain.  While electro-acupuncture did offer significant improvements in sleep, scientists note that the quality of sleep for the patients was not as good as perhaps it could be, which implies that additional research will be needed to determine if combination pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic treatments would help.

Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, executive director of NAMS, notes that the study tells us that electro-acupuncture may be an alternative option for women who choose or need to avoid medications, since electro-acupuncture has fewer risks; however, Dr. Pinkerton notes that blind control studies are necessary to find out more.


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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Parents’ Sleep Health Behaviors May Affect Children’s Sleep

Family sleeping

New research has found that family-based interventions for treating sleep deprivation in children may be the most beneficial way to address this concern. Sleep duration in children is likely influenced by their parents’ sleep duration and confidence, the researchers note.

Findings of a parental survey showed that higher confidence in their ability to help their kids get plenty of sleep was directly linked to increased sleep duration in the children by 0.67 hours each night.  This was after controlling for things like parent education, child gender, race/ethnicity, and age.  The survey indicated that about 57% of parents feel ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ confident in their ability to help their child get adequate sleep.  This survey noted that the children’s sleep duration was increased by 0.09 hours/night for every additional hour in the parent’s sleep duration.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Corinna Rae, who is also the pediatrics instructor at Harvard Medical School and a Boston Children’s Hospital attending physician, notes that these results suggest two possible additions to intervention.  Parent education about their own sleep, while boosting their confidence in handling their children’s sleep habits through pediatric programs, will go a long way to improving children’s sleep duration.

These results were published and discussed in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has recommended 9 to 12 hours of sleep each night on a regular basis for children between 6 and 12 years of age, which is ideal for optimal health.  Getting less than the recommended number of hours on a regular basis has been linked to problems with behavior, attention, and learning.  Additionally, sleep deprivation increases health and safety risks.

Furthermore, this study reviewed the relationship between parent behaviors and practices, like screen time and physical activity, and the child’s sleep duration.  After findings were adjusted for demographics, the behaviors did not prove notable differences in the child’s sleep duration.

Dr. Rea explained that these results indicate that while regular behaviors do not really show a family lifestyle, parental sleep duration is directly connected to their child’s sleep behaviors, regardless of the other behaviors.

This research included 790 parents with an average age of 41 years.  The children were aged between 6 and 12 years, and they were part of a controlled randomized obesity trial.  Several research assistants administered a phone survey to the parents, with 92% of respondents being mothers.  The average sleep duration for parents was 6.9 hours, and 9.2 hours for children.

The authors of the study note that the format and platform of the study did not allow for analysis of causality; however, they do note that there were several mediators that could be playing a role in both parent and sleep duration.  For instance, a child’s sleep duration may be influenced by parents behaving as role models and providing encouragement and support for healthy choices, while also creating a regular bedtime family routine.


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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Immediate Impact Sleep Apnea Has on Blood Pressure

health monitor and sleep

New research has found that even a single episode of sleep apnea interferes with the body’s ability to regulate the blood pressure.

Researchers at UBC’s Okanagan campus performed this new study, which found that even just six hours of fluctuating oxygen saturation levels commonly seen in sleep apnea cases seriously impacts and deteriorates a person’s circulatory system as well.

Sleep apnea is a condition that is characterized by frequent starts and stops in breathing during sleep.  It can directly result in several long periods of low oxygen saturation levels in the body, which is referred to as intermittent hypoxia.

Glen Foster, assistant professor of exercise and health science at UBC, noted that it is a well-known fact that sleep apnea is directly linked to hypertension (high blood pressure); however, this study shows that sleep apnea has an immediate impact on the heart and circulatory system, which can happen in a single day or a single episode of sleep apnea.  Even as little as six hours of constant fluctuations in oxygen levels, Mr. Foster notes, can seriously limit the body’s ability to regulate the blood pressure.

The changes were noted to occur immediately in healthy adults who were not at risk or experiencing any long-term effects or symptoms of sleep apnea.

This study included an examination of how intermittent hypoxia affected the cardiovascular systems in 10 healthy young adults over the age of 18.  All of the participants wore a ventilation mask for six hours during sleep, during which time oxygen levels were manipulated to mimic symptoms of sleep apnea.

It was a notable finding in this study that sleep apnea seriously compromised the person’s baroreceptor function.  Baroreceptors are the biological sensors responsible for regulating blood pressure.  Furthermore, the study found damage to the blood flow patterns in legs, indicating there was a disturbance in circulation and suggesting risk of impaired vascular health.

Mr. Foster notes that the findings are indicative of the need for interventions in those who have sleep apnea because of the risk of blood pressure and vascular problems.

The Public Health Agency of Canada reported that 5.4 million Canadians either have or are at risk of developing sleep apnea.  The numbers in the U.S. are even greater.  This research was published in the American Journal of Physiology, and will likely be followed by additional research on the overall effects of sleep apnea.


 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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Princess Leia Sleeping Brainwaves that Help You Store Memories


When you sleep, your brain’s electrical waves circle around to either side of your head, making a pattern resembling the twin buns of Princess Leia in ‘Star Wars.’  Salk Institute scientists discovered these oscillations in electrical activity and described them in the journal, eLife.  They believe the waves are responsible for the memory associations that are formed during the day.

Head of the Computational Neurobiology Laboratory at Salk Institute, Terrence Sejnowski, noted that the speed and scale of these electrical waves in the brain is unheard of, which will help to advance the Brain Research through the Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative.

The hippocampus stores all short-term memories and events; however, the long-term memories reside within the neocortex and are encoded like secret messages.  Memory transfers from hippocampus to neocortex are what is known as memory consolidation, which happens during sleep.

Sleep spindles are involved in memory consolidation, and these spindles happen in the earlier stages of non-REM sleep.  Studies in the past have found that people who had more sleep spindles overnight were able to remember more numbers the next day; however, the exact nature of how these sleep spindles relate to memory was unclear.  This limited the research because the electrodes used to identify sleep spindles could only find them in one area of the brain at a time.

One of the authors of this study, Lyle Muller, notes that previous neuroscience research had to record activity in one area of the brain at a time, and then put all the data points together later, without looking at the whole picture.  Many scientists believed the oscillating spindles were peaking at the same time all within the neocortex.

The lead authors of the study wanted the broader picture, though, so they turned their attention to large-scale recordings.  This is known as intracranial electrocorticograms, or ECoGs.  This study measures brain activity in multiple areas at the same time.  ECoG arrays are often implanted into the brains of epileptic patients to try and identify the exact origin of their seizures.  In this way, scientists were able to look at all the data at once from five different patients on those seizure-free nights.

It was a surprise to find the results after putting in all the ECoG data for each night.  The theory that spindles peaked simultaneously throughout the cortex was proven wrong.  The oscillations swept in circular patterns on either side of the brain around the neocortex, peaking in specific areas and then again in an adjacent area just milliseconds later.

Mr. Muller stated that they believe the activity is the result of neurons talking to other neurons in various areas of the brain.  The time it takes the waves to travel is the same speed it would take for communication between different neurons.

These same swirling patterns were noted all throughout the night, and each one lasted for approximately 70 milliseconds.  They repeated hundreds of times in a matter of hours.

A single memory has various components that are obtained through each of our senses, and each component is stored in a different area of the cortex.  This is why parts of the neocortex need to be able to communicate with each other in order to store and transfer memories.  The oscillating spindle waves are thought to help form links between the different components of each memory.

These findings may help determine new methods for disrupting memories after a trauma.  The results open the door to new treatments for other brain diseases that affect sleep spindles as well, such as schizophrenia, so researchers in this study believe further study is warranted.


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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Four Harmful Effects of Sleep Apnea

sleep better

Sleep apnea is a disorder which is characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. The brief pauses disrupt the quality of sleep, but that’s not all. Sleep apnea can also have serious health consequences including the following complications.

Daytime Sleepiness

Feeling tired in the a.m. may not seem like a serious problem. After all, many of us hit the snooze button each morning. But sleep apnea is a chronic problem, which means your overall quality of sleep is diminished on a regular basis.

The brief pauses in breathing also cause a partial arousal from sleep. Imagine being woken up several times each hour. Even if you don’t realize you’re waking up, it can take its toll. Fragmented sleep often leaves you feeling tired the next day. If not treated, sleep apnea can lead to chronic sleep deprivation.

But excessive daytime sleepiness is not just about feeling tired. It also affects your ability to concentrate, alertness and mood. According to American Academy of Sleep Medicine, people with sleep apnea are two and a half times more likely to be involved in a car accident than those without the condition.

Heart Disease

According to the American Heart Association, there is a connection between sleep apnea and an increased risk of heart disease. In people who have obstructive sleep apnea, the flow of air into their lungs is blocked. The blockage or obstruction occurs due to a loss of tone in the muscles that keep the airway open.

When your breathing momentarily stops, your oxygen level can also dip. It’s not uncommon for someone with sleep apnea to have up to 20 or 30 pauses an hour.

Because of the decreasing oxygen level, various physiological responses occur. First, your brain senses your inability to breath and rouses you from sleep. As you startle awake, you open your airway and take a breath.  Your heart rate, as well as your blood pressure, briefly increase.

Your body also responds to the decreased oxygen level by increased production of adrenaline, which is a stress hormone. Over time, these responses can strain the heart and contribute to heart disease, irregular heartbeats and an even a heart attack.

Type 2 Diabetes

Obstructive sleep apnea may also play a role in developing type 2 diabetes. According to the Mayo Clinic, people with sleep apnea have a higher chance of developing insulin resistance than those without the condition. The release of stress hormones into the bloodstream that occurs with sleep apnea may be partly to blame for the increased risk of developing diabetes.

Being overweight is a risk factor for both type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea. But the connection between both conditions appears to be independent of being overweight, according to the International Diabetes Federation.


Hypertension also called high blood pressure, is a leading risk factor for strokes and heart attacks. Several factors contribute to your chances of developing high blood pressure including sleep apnea.

Normally when you sleep, your blood pressure decreases. But if you have sleep apnea, chances are your BP increases to keep blood flowing adequately to your brain and heart.

When your blood oxygen levels decrease, your brain sends a signal that causes your blood vessels to constrict and allows increased blood flow to your heart. As a result, your blood pressure rises. In time, the increased blood pressure during sleep may start to overlap and occur during the wakefulness.

Fortunately, you can decrease your risk of all the above complications by treating sleep apnea. After having a sleep study, your sleep specialist will discuss treatment options, such as a CPAP machine, dental appliance or surgery. In most cases, sleep apnea can be successfully treated.


American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Risk of Motor Vehicle Accidents is Higher in People with Sleep Apnea.  Retrieved November 2016.

American Heart Association. Sleep Apnea, Heart Disease and Stroke. Retrieved November 2016.

International Diabetes Federation. Sleep Apnea and Type 2 Diabetes.  Retrieved November 2016.

Mayo Clinic. Sleep Apnea. Complications.   Retrieved November 2016.


Author: MaryAnn DePietro, CRT is a medical writer and licensed respiratory therapist with over a decade of clinical experience.

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Sleep, Breakfast, and Smoking – How they Effect a Child’s Weight


New research out of University College London has found that a combination of erratic bedtimes, skipping breakfast, and mothers smoking during pregnancy may be core factors in childhood obesity.

All three components can be modified, scientists note, and this new research shows that quick intervention could seriously affect the growing problem of childhood obesity and above-average weight gain.

This research was published in Pediatrics, a US journal, and is the first research out of Britain that looks at lifestyle factors that may be predicting weight gain while focusing on patterns of weight development through body mass index (BMI) in the first 10 years of life.

Studies in the past have found that children who are overweight or obese also have poorer mental health, which can seep into adolescence and adulthood if not addressed.  Psychosocial elements of well-being addressed in these studies are looking at self-esteem, general happiness, and risky behaviors like drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes.

The basis of this research came from the Millennium Cohort Study, which collected weight and height data on children born into over 19,000 British families between September 2000 and January of 2002.  Data were collected when the children were aged 3, 5, 7, and 11.

Unfortunately, no firm cause and effect conclusions could be drawn in this research because information gathered was observational.  However, it is notable that there were thousands of children who were studied, so scientists were able to identify and take into account several influences that play a part in a child’s weight.

Professor Yvonne Kelly of UCL Epidemiology and Public Health noted that there may be a genetic predisposition of weight gain in children of overweight or obese mothers.  What the information in this study has suggested is that disrupted routines like skipping breakfast on busy mornings and erratic sleeping patterns could be influencing weight gain because of higher appetite and higher consumption of junk foods.  This emphasizes the need for early interventions aimed at all the different components that affect BMI.

Further, in this study analysis, it was noted that smoking during pregnancy was linked to higher risk of childhood obesity or above-average weight gain.  This could be due to the link between infant motor coordination and fetal tobacco exposure and is indicative of BMI growth development.

Four patterns of weight gain and development were identified in this study.  Most of the children, 83.3%, had stable average BMI, but 13.1% had regularly increasing BMI.  About 2.5% had steep BMI increases.  The smallest group of children, making up 0.6%, had obese range BMI at 3 years of age, but then they evened out and became similar to the 7-year-old group.

Girls made up the majority of the moderately increasing BMI group.  Black Caribbean, Black African, and Pakistani children were more likely to be in the high increasing BMI group.

A number of factors were taken into account to determine if they played a part in the child’s weight.  They looked at background like breastfeeding and the introduction of solid foods.  Additionally, consumption of sugary drinks and fruits were noted, as well as TV time and participation in sports.  All of these factors seemed to be strong predictors of weight gain.


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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Treating Insomnia May Help Reduce Sugar Intake

Sugar intake and insomnia

A new study out of UC San Francisco looking at over 18,000 American adults has found that those who get five or fewer hours of sleep each night are more likely to take in sugary caffeinated drinks, like energy drinks and soda.

It is as yet unclear if sugar drinks lead to sleep deprivation or if lack of sleep leads to a constant search for sugary caffeinated drinks to stay awake.  The authors note that previous studies have indicated both may be true.

Dr. Aric A. Prather, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry and lead author of this study, notes that there is a lot of feedback regarding the cyclical link between sugar intake and sleep loss, making either one hard to manage because of its dependency on the other.  He notes that it is well known that high sugar intake is linked to metabolic diseases like diabetes and obesity, but this data suggests that improving sleep deprivation could help break the habit of high sugar drink intake and reduce the risk of metabolic disease.

This study will be published in December’s issue of Sleep Health, but is available online starting 11/09/2016.

A good amount of medical literature has positively linked metabolic syndrome – a group of conditions like high body fat and increased blood sugar levels – with increased intake of sugary beverages.  Metabolic syndrome, as most know, leads to type 2 diabetes and obesity.  Furthermore, sleep deprivation is linked to high risk of metabolic diseases.  In recent studies, these two factors have been positively linked in school-aged children, indicating that children who were getting fewer hours of sleep were more likely to drink sugary or caffeinated drinks during the day.

Dr. Prather and colleagues looked at the results in the National Health and Nutrition Survey given to 18,779 people between the years 2005 and 2012.  This survey was an ongoing review of health status and dietary habits and was administered by the National Center for Health Statistics.  It reviewed the amount of sleep the participants got on a weekly basis, as well as total consumption of any number of drinks, including both non-caffeinated and caffeinated beverages.  The analysis of this study was an attempt to determine if the results were the norm and general pattern in the American adult population.

The researchers controlled for a number of demographic, social, and health factors that would impact the intake of sugary beverages and the amount of sleep one gets.  However, researchers still found that people who slept five or fewer hours each night had 21% more intake of sugary beverages than those who got seven to eight hours of sleep each night.  Those who reported six hours each night consumed 11% more caffeinated and sugary beverages than those who got more sleep.  On the other side of the coin, however, there was no link between juice, tea, and diet drink consumption and sleep duration.

It is notable that past research indicates a strong link between sleep deprivation and increased hunger, especially for unhealthy junk foods.

Prather notes that chronically short sleepers may be seeking out caffeinated sugar beverages to help improve their daytime alertness and prevent sleepiness; however, they are not entirely clear if drinking so many of those beverages is what is causing the short sleep or if it is the short sleep that is driving the intake.  Sadly, this current study can only give a logical hypothesis rather than conclusive evidence of either side.

Sleep duration should also be figured into the analysis, and the duration figures in this study were based on self reports, which may not be as accurate as they would be if they were done in a sleep center.  Additional studies in the future will use more objective measures of sleep like sleep devices and EEG recordings.  There needs to be a long-term prospective study plan to better understand the link and cause-and-effect properties between sleep deprivation and sugary-caffeinated beverage intake.

Whatever the relationship between sleep and sugar, the study suggests a new way to address the sugar consumption problem that has swept the culture.

There are obvious negative metabolic responses to short sleep and high sugar intake, Dr. Prather notes, and given the probable two-way connection between the two components, increasing sleep duration and improving sleep quality could go a long way to improving overall health and well-being.


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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Study Confirms CBT Good for Insomnia in Older Adults


About 30-50% of people in the United States have trouble sleeping, which makes insomnia one of the most common problems in adults.  For many older adults, it is a chronic problem closely related to other health conditions.  Unfortunately, the elderly who have insomnia are at higher risk of falls, stroke, memory lapse, cognitive dysfunction, and depression, seriously decreasing their quality of life.

Adding to this concern, older adults are more likely to take sleeping pills or sedatives to help them sleep, increasing their risk of fractures, falls, and death.

Research has found, however, that cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTI) can be an effective way to treat this problem in older adults.  CBTI is a form of talk therapy where counselors help patients change their behavior, emotional responses, and thinking patterns that are related to sleep problems.

Many people do not receive CBTI, even though it is highly recommended as a primary form of therapy for insomnia.  This is likely due to there being few therapists who have been trained in CBTI techniques.  Furthermore, primary doctors have found it difficult to motivate their older patients to see a therapist.

A team of researchers decided to delve into this problem and see if there was a way around it.  They developed a new CBTI program using “sleep coaches” rather than therapists.  These sleep coaches have supervised weekly phone calls with patients, using a manual to help them with techniques.  The sleep coaches are health educators and social workers who undergo brief CBTI training.

This study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 

In this study, 159 patients were divided into one of three groups.  Participants were primarily male Caucasian veterans between the ages of 60 and 90 years.

Sleep coaches performed CBTI in the first two groups of participants.  One of the groups took therapy in a group setting, while the other had one-on-one sessions.  The third group of participants only received general sleep education.  Each group received five one-hour sessions given over a period of six weeks.

The two CBTI groups were taught in these sessions how to improve sleep habits and how to avoid things that could make sleeping more difficult.  New techniques were taught including using the bed for sleep only and limiting the amount of time they spent in bed.  In both of the CBTI groups, the participants had one weekly call with their sleep coaches and a trained CBTI psychologist to review how the patient was doing.

Sleep habits were analyzed at the start of the study and then again one week after the end of treatment.  The patients had 6- and 12-month follow-ups as well.

The participants who received CBTI reported that their sleep difficulties were significantly less following treatment.  The following statistics were reported:

  • Awake time was 18 minutes less after falling asleep
  • It took 23 minutes less to fall asleep
  • There was better quality of sleep
  • Total awake take was reported as about 68 minutes less through the entire night, so fewer awakenings

At the follow-up visits, both CBTI group participants had maintained improvement in their sleep.

There was no difference between the two CBTI groups in improvements, so it did not matter if they got one-on-one sessions or obtained the training through group therapy.

Since this was a limited study of mostly male veterans, there will need to be further studies on women and non-veterans; however, it is still notable that CBTI had a significant impact on insomnia for these older adults, and they believe it will be the same in other demographics as well.


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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CPAP May Improve High Blood Pressure

cpap and hypertension

Positive Airway Pressure Therapy May Help with Hypertension

In October of this year, a new study was published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, which reported that sleep apnea therapy with the use of positive airway pressure might positively affect sleep-related functional conditions in people who also have high blood pressure (hypertension).

In this study, researchers suggest that sleep apnea, when left untreated, may be the result of decreased quality of life that has been reported in patients with hypertension.

Findings in this study indicated significant and consistent improvement in outcomes reported by hypertensive patients when they use PAP therapy for their sleep apnea.  This study also reported significant improvement in symptoms of depression, severe fatigue, and daytime sleepiness within the first year of the start of therapy.  These improvements were notable even in patients with resistant hypertension, a very difficult condition to treat.

Dr. Harneet Walia, MD, lead author of the study and assistant professor of Family Medicine at Case Western Reserve University’s Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, noted that there was really no difference between the non-resistant hypertensive and resistant hypertensive groups when it came to patient-reported outcomes.  The predominant finding was that patient-reported outcomes showed a more pronounced improvement in people who had objective adherence to the positive airway pressure therapy.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep-related breathing disorder with symptoms of frequent and repetitive episodes of starts and stops in breathing while asleep, indicating either complete or partial obstruction of the upper airway.  The American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that approximately 30% to 40% of people with high blood pressure also have obstructive sleep apnea.  Therefore, it only makes sense that adherence to sleep apnea treatment methods is a good means of decreasing blood pressure and improving overall general health.

This observational study was done at a single center and included 900 patients with both hypertension and sleep apnea.  About 15% of those patients had resistant type hypertension.  The average age of participants was 58 years, 52% of which were male and 72% of which were Caucasian.  All patients were being actively treated with positive airway pressure therapy at the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center.  Patient-reported outcomes were done with questionnaires, including the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) for depression, the Fatigue Severity Scale, as well as the Epworth Sleepiness Scale.

To their knowledge, the scientists report that they know of no previous study that has looked at the changes PAP therapy has on sleep-related functional outcomes in patients with hypertension, including resistant type hypertension.


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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