Sleep Health

  • Sleep and Time with Pets Help People Living with Bipolar Disorder

    by University of Western Sydney | Original Article Feb 2018

    Bipolar disorder is characterized by transitions between depression and mania. Credit: Wikipedia

    New research from Western Sydney University has revealed that simple self-care strategies, such as spending time with animals and getting enough sleep, are helpful for people managing bipolar disorder symptoms.

    The research, published in Clinical Psychologist this week, involved 80 participants with bipolar disorder reviewing the frequency and perceived helpfulness of 69 self-care strategies. These strategies were diverse, and included things such as abstaining from drugs and alcohol, practising yoga and finding things that make you laugh.

    The study found that an increased engagement in self-care strategies was associated with improved quality of life, reduced the impact of the illness, and reduced depression, anxiety and stress. Getting enough sleep was the most commonly rated strategy as “very helpful,” with “spending time with pets,” also rating highly.

    Lead researcher, honours student Edward Wynter from Western Sydney University’s School of Social Sciences and Psychology, says the study provides encouraging findings about the relationship between self-care and important functional and symptomatic outcomes, i.e. the ability of these strategies to alleviate the impact of the disorder.

    “The benefits of self-care have been reported in other chronic illnesses, but bipolar disorder research has focused primarily on medication management,” Mr Wynter says.

    “This research reveals support for strategies already well known to professionals and people living with bipolar disorder, including those relating to quality and quantity of sleep, and drug and alcohol abstinence; but this study also highlights the effectiveness of several strategies yet to be explored such as spending time with pets and engaging in creative pursuits.”

    Mr Wynter says he hopes this research leads to further exploration of self-care strategies used by people living with bipolar disorder, and their relationship with long-term quality of life.

    “I hope that knowledge of effective strategies can inspire proactive therapeutic engagement and empower people living with bipolar disorder to improve their health and wellbeing,” he says.

  • Link Between Sleep Apnea and Depression

    New research has explored the link between sleep apnea and depression and suggests that the former may be one reason that depression treatments fail.

    Around 20–30%Trusted Source of people with depression and other mood disorders do not get the help they need from existing therapies.

    Depression is the “leading cause of disabilityTrusted Source worldwide.”

    For this reason, coming up with effective therapies is paramount.

    New research points to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) as a potential culprit for treatment resistant depression and suggests that screening for and treating the sleep condition may alleviate symptoms of depression.

    Dr. William V. McCall — chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University — is the first and corresponding author of the study.

    He says, “No one is talking about evaluating for [OSA] as a potential cause of treatment resistant depression, which occurs in about 50% of [people] with major depressive disorder.”

    He hopes that the team’s new paper — appearing in The Journal of Psychiatric Research — will remedy this.

    14% of those with depression had OSA

    Dr. McCall and team examined the rate of undiagnosed OSA in a randomized clinical trial of people with major depressive disorder and suicidal tendencies.

    They recruited 125 people with depression, originally for the purpose of determining if treating their insomnia would improve their depression symptoms.

    The original trial excluded people at risk of OSA, such as those taking sleeping pills, or people with obesity or restless legs syndrome.

    The scientists tested the participants with a sleep study and found that 17 out of the 125 (nearly 14%) had OSA.

    Dr. McCall and colleagues note that people who had OSA did not present with the usual indicators of OSA severity, such as daytime sleepiness. Also, 6 of the 17 people were non-obese women.

    This is contrast with the demographic group usually at risk of OSA: overweight men.

    “We were completely caught by surprise,” says Dr. McCall, “that people did not fit the picture of what [OSA] is supposed to look like.”

    Also, 52 of the 125 participants had treatment resistant depression; 8 of those with treatment resistant depression also had OSA.

    Future treatment options

    The researchers point out that underlying conditions — such as hypothyroidismcancer, and carotid artery disease — may often be the cause of treatment resistant depression.

    Therefore, many people with depression undergo a series of invasive and costly tests in an attempt to figure out the cause of depression treatment failure.

    Such tests may include an MRI scan or even a spinal tap — but Dr. McCall and team urge for sleep tests first. “I am thinking before we do a spinal tap for treatment resistant depression, we might need to do a sleep test first,” he says.

    “We know that [people] with sleep apnea talk about depression symptoms,” he goes on. “We know that if you have [OSA], you are not going to respond well to an antidepressant.”

    “We know that if you have sleep apnea and get [a CPAP machine], it gets better and now we know that there are hidden cases of sleep apnea in people who are depressed and [have] suicidal [tendencies].”

    Dr. William V. McCall

    However, the study authors also acknowledge that other factors — such as the side effects of other medications, including beta-blockers and corticosteroids — may cause treatment resistant depression.

    They also point out that suicidal tendencies are also a key factor, and the researchers suggest that a further area of investigation should be the question of whether or not treating sleep apnea will also reduce suicide ideation.

    In the United States, suicide is the 10th leading cause of deathTrusted Source among people of all ages.

  • Have trouble grinding your teeth? Here’s how to control it.

    By Sally Wadyka | June 20, 2022 featured in Washington Post

    Dr. Vicki Cohn was interviewed for her professional insight regarding the issues with grinding your teeth at night. Below is the article including Dr Cohn’s input.

    Dentists reported a 69 percent jump in patients who clench or grind their teeth during the pandemic, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). And most of these people are probably unaware that they’re doing it. “It’s an almost completely unconscious behavior,” says Vicki Cohn, chair of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s Dental Assembly.

    The condition, called bruxism, can apply up to 200 pounds of force to the teeth. “The bite strength of grinding can be up to six times greater than normal chewing,” says Ada Cooper, a dentist and a spokesperson for the American Dental Association. So it’s no surprise that it can wear down or even break teeth. And for older adults — whose teeth may be more fragile — bruxism may be especially troubling.

    Wearing a mouth guard can help protect teeth from grinding at night.

    In these trying times, dentists are seeing more people with teeth-grinding and jaw-clenching — a.k.a. bruxism

    A host of causes

    Bruxism can occur during the day or at night. Stress can be a significant factor, either in moments of acute tension or during sleep, when elevated levels of stress hormones may still circulate after a difficult day, Cohn says. Habits such as alcohol and tobacco use hike the likelihood, too. “Smokers are about twice as likely to grind their teeth as nonsmokers,” Cooper says. Certain medications — such as some antidepressants and antipsychotics — can also increase the risk.

    Conditions that affect the central nervous system, such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease or stroke, can cause or exacerbate bruxism. And it often goes hand in hand with temporomandibular joint disorders, which cause pain around the jaw. Finally, there’s obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), where the upper airway becomes repeatedly blocked during sleep, leading to numerous breathing pauses at night. This can cause people with OSA to “unconsciously overcompensate and grind their teeth as they thrust their jaw forward to open the airway,” says Manar Abdelrahim, a dentist at Cleveland Clinic. (If you’re told you have OSA, ask about being evaluated for bruxism.)

    Untreated sleep apnea may worsen markers of heart health and diabetes

    Spotting the signs

    A cracked tooth, crown or filling may be a clear signal something is amiss, but there are less dramatic signs to watch for. People with sleep bruxism, for instance, may wake up with a sore jaw or neck, a headache, a stiff jaw, ringing in the ears, or marks around the edge of the tongue where it pressed against clenched teeth. If you notice these, see your dentist, who will check for tooth wear, fractures and gum recession. But “if the only evidence is wear on your teeth, you might not have active bruxism,” Cohn says. Chronic severe heartburn is a common cause of tooth wear in older adults.


    A video recording in a sleep lab or electromyography can definitively diagnose sleep bruxism. For the latter, electrodes attached to the skin check for repetitive jaw muscle movements.

    Need a quick stress-reliever? Try one of these surprising science-based strategies.

    Treatments to consider

    While bruxism can be hard to remedy, the following may help:

    • A plastic mouth guard: “Wearing a guard at night is usually the number one line of defense,” Abdelrahim says. “A guard puts space between the upper and lower teeth to protect them and allows the jaw muscles to relax.” A guard customized for you ($324 to $788) is usually more effective than an over-the-counter product, and is sometimes covered by insurance. Neither breaks the habit but will prevent further tooth damage.
    • Botox: Botulinum toxin injections into the jaw muscles that control chewing may reduce the pressure you exert on teeth.
    • Stress reduction: Relaxing activities (such as yoga and meditation) may help. So can increasing your awareness of the behavior. A tip: “If, during a stressful moment, you feel your teeth touching, gently allow your jaw to open and the teeth to float away from each other,” Cooper says.
    • Physical therapy: A physical therapist trained to treat bruxism can teach you exercises to stretch, strengthen and relax neck and jaw muscles, which can reduce the muscle tension that may lead to clenching and grinding.
    Copyright 2022, Consumer Reports Inc.

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  • Sleep Disturbances Common in Patients Who Recovered from COVID

    Original Article | Jun 6, 2022 | Sleep Review Magazine

    Nearly all patients who recovered from COVID-19 report lingering fatigue, while half experience sleep disturbances, according to a recent analysis from Cleveland Clinic. Researchers found that race, obesity, and mood disorders are contributors. 

    Investigators analyzed data from 962 patients from the Cleveland Clinic ReCOVer Clinic between February 2021 and April 2022. The patients were recovered from COVID-19 and completed the sleep disturbance and fatigue questionnaires of the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System. More than two-thirds of patients (67.2%) reported at least moderate fatigue, while 21.8% reported severe fatigue. Eight percent of patients reported severe sleep disturbances, and 41.3% reported at least moderate sleep disturbances.  

    “Sleep difficulties are highly prevalent and debilitating symptoms reported in patients with post-acute sequealae of COVID-19,” says Cinthya Pena Orbea, MD, a sleep specialist at Cleveland Clinic, in a release. “Our study suggests that the prevalence of moderate to severe sleep disturbances is high and that Black race confers increased odds to suffer from moderate to severe sleep disturbances highlighting the importance to further understand race-specific determinants of sleep disturbances in order to develop race-specific interventions.” 

    Patients with moderate-to-severe compared with normal-to-mild sleep disturbances had higher body mass indices, were more likely to be Black, and had worse general anxiety disorder.  

    After adjusting for demographics, Black patients were three times more likely to experience moderate-to-severe sleep disturbances. 

    The research abstract was published recently in an online supplement of the journal Sleep and will be presented June 6 and 7 during SLEEP 2022.

    Photo 188719463 © Robert Knesc

  • ‘Why Does Alcohol Mess With My Sleep?’

    Posted by Sleep Review Staff | Jan 26, 2022 

    New York Times: Alcohol disrupts what’s known as your sleep architecture, the normal phases of deeper and lighter sleep we go through every night.

    A night of drinking can “fragment,” or interrupt, these patterns, experts say, and you may wake up several times as you ricochet through the usual stages of sleep.

    Men Raising Alcohol in A Toast

    “You pay for it in the second half of the night,” said Dr. Jennifer Martin, a psychologist and professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. Alcohol is “initially sedating, but as it’s metabolized, it’s very activating.”

    Here’s how it breaks down. In the first half of the night, when fairly high levels of alcohol are still coursing through your bloodstream, you’ll probably sleep deeply and dreamlessly. One reason: In the brain, alcohol acts on gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, a neurotransmitter that inhibits impulses between nerve cells and has a calming effect. Alcohol can also suppress rapid eye movement, or REM sleep, which is when most dreaming occurs.

  • For some women, a connection may exist between poor sleep and hormones

    Original Post | Washington Post Health

    By Leigh WeingusSeptember 18, 2021 at 9:00 a.m. EDT

    I’ve struggled with sleep since I was a teenager, and have spent almost as long trying to fix it. I’ve absorbed countless books and articles on getting better sleep that instructed me to go blue-light free at least two hours before bedtime, take nightly baths to lower my body temperature, keep my phone far from my bedroom and avoid caffeine after 12 p.m.

    In between all my diligent sleep hygiene work, I couldn’t help but feel like there was a larger force at play. My sleep seemed to change throughout my menstrual cycle, for example, getting worse in the days before my period and significantly better afterward. When I was pregnant, I experienced the best sleep of my life, and when I stopped breastfeeding, I didn’t sleep for days.

    Hormones and Women Sleep

    I finally started to ask myself: When we talk about getting better sleep, why aren’t we talking more about hormones?

    According to the National Sleep Foundation, the lifetime risk of insomnia is 40 percent higher for women than it is for men. Blaming this discrepancy entirely on hormones oversimplifies it — women also tend to take on the bulk of household worrying and emotional labor, and they tend to experience higher levels of anxiety.

    But according to Mary Jane Minkin, an obstetrician-gynecologist and clinical professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at the Yale School of Medicine, anecdotal evidence and studies suggest that hormones likely play a role.

    If you look at the curve of hormonal secretion throughout the average menstrual cycle, Minkin says, you’ll see varying levels of estrogen and progesterone throughout the month, with a big drop of estrogen occurring right before menstruation.

    “Many people will tell me that a day or two before their period, their sleep is terrible,” Minkin says.

    When a woman enters perimenopause, she starts to experience more fluctuations and produces less estrogen and progesterone throughout the month, which may wreak havoc on her sleep. The true correlation between these hormone dips and fluctuations and insomnia needs to be studied more extensively, Minkin and other experts say, and understanding this connection is confused by how a lack of estrogen is associated with hot flashes, which can disrupt sleep.

    Studies of women on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and sleep strongly suggest a connection between female hormones and insomnia, Minkin and other experts say.

    HRT is often prescribed to women going through menopause (and the years after it) to help them deal with unpleasant side effects of that transition, which include sleep problems, Minkin says. Some types of HRT include only estrogen, while others have a combination of estrogen and progesterone. High levels of estrogen and progesterone occur naturally during pregnancy, which may explain why some pregnant women like me often experience blissful sleep, Minkin says.

    “During pregnancy, guess what? Your levels of estrogen and progesterone are very high,” Minkin says.

    Although postmenopausal women have very low levels of estrogen and progesterone, once the process of menopause is complete, they often begin to sleep better. “We think hormone fluctuations can be more bothersome to some women than their actual hormone levels,” Minkin says.

    She adds that if a postmenopausal woman does struggle with insomnia, low hormone levels could be the culprit, so it’s a good idea to talk with a medical professional about HRT options. A 2008 randomized, controlled study of some 2,000 postmenopausal women in the United Kingdom found “small but significant” improvements in sleep after a year of HRT vs. those taking a placebo.

    Hadine Joffe, a psychiatry professor who is executive director of the Mary Horrigan Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard, says hormonal fluctuations may be a cause of insomnia for some women. But for others, she says, sleep disruptions might be anxiety-related, or caused by noisy neighbors or a snoring bed partner.

    She says that while some women experience amazing sleep during pregnancy, many others report terrible insomnia during that time of life. Her advice? If you want to figure out whether any connection exists for you, track it.

    “Try a [sleep] app or even a conventional sleep diary,” Joffe says. “If you track your sleep for several months, you may start to notice a pattern emerge, like more waking in the middle of the night right before your period.”

    If you do notice a pattern, she says, that information may be helpful going forward.

    “If you know there are two or three days in every month when you don’t sleep well, make sure that’s a time when you practice the best possible sleep hygiene, avoid alcohol, and if you have a partner you share family responsibilities with, you can ask them to get up with the baby or toddler,” Joffe says.

    Sometimes targeted treatment for those days can help, too, she adds. For example, supplementing with a few milligrams of melatonin before bedtime — the hormone our brains naturally produce in response to darkness — can help signal to the brain that it’s time to sleep. Or if you have a prescription for a sleep aid, this could be the time to use it, she says.

    While it’s not always possible due to work or family responsibilities, Kin Yuen, a sleep medicine specialist at Stanford Medicine, suggests trying your best to honor your natural daily hormone fluctuations to help keep your sleep on track. To do this, you’ll have to try to figure out when your body naturally releases cortisol (the hormone we produce in the morning that helps us wake up) and melatonin (the hormone we produce at night to help us fall asleep).

    By figuring out when you have the most energy — are you an “early bird” who wakes up full of energy, or a “night owl” who still feels sluggish at 9 a.m.? — you can better pinpoint when your body naturally releases these hormones. If you adjust your schedule to honor these rhythms, you may experience fewer sleep disruptions even in the face of constantly fluctuating female hormones, Yuen says.

    Finally, while HRT is not prescribed for women who have not yet gone through menopause, both Minkin and Joffe say that if someone is sure that their insomnia is hormone-related — preferably by having kept a diary for a while and after having tried other techniques without success — it’s worth talking to their doctor about taking a birth control pill.

    “Hormonal birth control can smooth out the ups and downs that just aren’t good for some people’s brains,” Joffe says. “It has to be the right treatment for the right person, but it can help.”

    Of course, there are side effects to birth control. Some women report nausea, headaches and lower libido. Although rare, more serious side effects have been reported, too, such as blood clots.

    But for many women suffering from what seems to be hormonally related insomnia, the benefits may outweigh the risks.

    Minkin says that even for patients going through menopause, if they are otherwise healthy, she’ll often prescribe birth control pills. Birth control pills have higher levels of hormones than traditional HRT, and if a woman has used them in the past and hasn’t experienced negative side effects, this can be a good indication that they will work well for her.

    “The only drawback is that we have no way of knowing when a woman is done with menopause, because the pill will artificially give her a period,” Minkin says. “So in order to find out if she’s done with menopause, she has to stop the pill.”

    At this point, Minkin and other experts say more research needs to be done to truly understand how the ebbs and flows of female hormones impact sleep.

    Sleep diaries, trackers and apps can be powerful tools to help a woman understand whether a connection exists for her, and they can help her act accordingly, the experts say.

    The pandemic is ruining our sleep. Experts say ‘coronasomnia’ could imperil public health.

    It’s not just the pandemic. The moon may be messing with your sleep, too.

    Poor sleeping, no energy, low libido: Is it aging?