Study: Possible Correlation Between Sleep and Overall Good Health

As if you didn’t already have enough to worry about to keep you up at night, a new study indicates that poor sleep can negatively affect your gut microbiome, which can, in turn, lead to additional health issues.

Great.

That’s at the heart – or gut – of the study just published in PLoS ONE that involved several researchers from Nova Southeastern University (NSU.) They wanted to see just how much of a connection there is between what is going on in our insides and how that may impact the quality of sleep we experience.

“Given the strong gut-brain bidirectional communication they likely influence each other,” said Jaime Tartar, Ph.D., a professor and research director in NSU’s College of Psychology who was part of the research team. “Based on previous reports, we think that poor sleep probably exerts a strong negative effect on gut health/microbiome diversity.”

What you may be asking yourself right now is: “what in the world is a gut microbiome?” Simply put – it’s all the microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, protozoa and fungi) and their genetic material found in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. And yes, we all have these in our GI tract, but not all at the same levels (diversity.) As it turns out, it’s this diversity that could be the key.

For this study, subjects wore what Tartar called an “Apple Watch on steroids” to bed, which monitored all sorts of vitals. This way the researchers could determine just how well a night’s sleep the subjects got, and then they tested the subjects’ gut microbiome. What they found was those who slept well had a more diverse – or “better” – gut microbiome.

Tartar said that gut microbiome diversity, or lack thereof, is associated with other health issues, such as Parkinson’s disease and autoimmune diseases, as well as psychological health (anxiety and depression.) The more diverse someone’s gut microbiome is, the likelihood is they will have better overall health.

“We know that sleep is pretty much the ‘Swiss Army Knife of health,” Tartar said. “Getting a good night’s sleep can lead to improved health, and a lack of sleep can have detrimental effects. We’ve all seen the reports that show not getting proper sleep can lead to short term (stress, psychosocial issues) and long-term (cardiovascular disease, cancer) health problems. We know that the deepest stages of sleep is when the brain ‘takes out the trash’ since the brain and gut communicate with each other. Quality sleep impacts so many other facets of human health.”

Tartar’s area of research focuses on the mechanisms and consequences of acute and chronic stress in humans and the impact of normal sleep and sleep deprivation on emotion processing and physiological functioning.

So what determines someone’s gut microbiome? According to Robert Smith, Ph.D., an associate professor and research scientist at Nova Southeastern University (NSU) Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography, who is also a member of the research team, there are a couple of factors that come into play.

One is genetics – some people are predisposed at a genetic level to have a more diverse gut microbiome than their friends and neighbors. Another factor is drugs – certain medications, including antibiotics, can have an impact on the diversity of your gut microbiome. He also said that your diet plays a factor as well.

Smith said that their team, which included colleagues from Middle Tennessee State University, examined the association between sleep, the immune system and measures of cognition and emotion. He said understanding how these parts of human physiology work may lead to a better understanding of the “two-way communication” between the person and their gut microbiome, and could lead to novel sleep intervention strategies.

“The preliminary results are promising, but there’s still more to learn,” Smith said. “But eventually people may be able to take steps to manipulate their gut microbiome in order to help them get a good night’s sleep.”

Source: Nova Southeastern University


Today’s Comic

Deep Sleep May ‘Rinse’ Day’s Toxins From Brain

Amy Norton wrote . . . . . . . . .

The deep stages of sleep may give the brain a chance to wash itself free of potentially toxic substances, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that during deep sleep, the “slow-wave” activity of nerve cells appears to make room for cerebral spinal fluid to rhythmically move in and out of the brain — a process believed to rinse out metabolic waste products.

Those waste products include beta-amyloid — a protein that clumps abnormally in the brains of people with dementia, said researcher Laura Lewis, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Boston University.

Lewis stressed that the findings, reported in the Nov. 1 issue of Science, do not prove that deep sleep helps ward off dementia or other diseases.

But the ultimate goal of research like this is to understand why poor sleep quality is linked to higher risks of various chronic conditions, from dementia to heart disease to depression, she said.

Researchers have known that cerebral spinal fluid, or CSF, helps clear metabolic byproducts from the brain, so that they do not build up there. They’ve also known that the process appears to amp up during sleep. But various “hows” and “whys” remained.

So the investigators recruited 11 healthy adults for a sleep study using noninvasive techniques: advanced MRI to monitor fluid flow in the brain, and electroencephalograms to gauge electrical activity in brain cells.

Sleep is marked by REM and non-REM cycles. During REM sleep, breathing and heart rates are relatively higher, and people often have vivid dreams. Non-REM sleep includes stages of deep — or slow-wave — sleep. During those stages, there’s a slow-down in brain cell activity, heart rate and blood flow, and research has found that deep sleep may aid memory consolidation and allow the brain to recover from the daily grind.

“There are all these fundamental things your brain is taking care of during deep sleep,” Lewis said.

Her team found that housecleaning may be one. When study participants were in deep sleep, each pulse in slow-wave brain activity was followed by oscillations in blood flow and volume, which allowed CSF to flow into fluid-filled cavities in the central brain.

CSF moved in “large, pulsing waves” that were seen only during deep sleep, Lewis explained.

Based on what’s known about the work of CSF, experts said it’s reasonable to conclude that slow-wave sleep promotes the flushing of waste from the brain.

The study “elegantly” illustrates the importance of deep sleep, according to Dr. Phyllis Zee, a sleep medicine specialist not involved in the work.

It “helps to explain how and why sleep is important for keeping neurons healthy — facilitating the removal of toxic molecules,” said Zee, a professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in Chicago.

“One can think of sleep as a top way to take care of your brain,” she said.

Another sleep medicine specialist agreed. “There is growing evidence, with this study and others, that sleep plays a role in clearing toxins from the brain,” said Dr. Raman Malhotra, an associate professor of neurology at Washington University in St. Louis.

Other research has suggested that sleep loss can promote the buildup of “unwanted proteins” in the brain, said Malhotra, who also serves on the board of directors of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

A recent government study, for instance, found that one night of sleep deprivation triggered an increase in beta-amyloid in the brains of healthy adults.

“As we learn more about this role of sleep,” Malhotra said, “it may help explain why individuals who don’t get enough sleep, or suffer from sleep disorders, are at higher risk of certain chronic health conditions.”

The latest study involved younger adults with no health problems. Lewis said that it will be important to find out whether healthy older adults, or people with certain health conditions, show any differences in CSF dynamics during deep sleep.

A big question for future research, she said, will be whether alterations in those dynamics precede the development of disease.

Source: HealthDay


Today’s Comic

Why We Crave Junk Food After a Sleepless Night

When you’re sleep deprived, you tend to reach for doughnuts, fries and pizza. A new Northwestern Medicine study has figured out why you crave more calorie-dense, high-fat foods after a sleepless night — and how to help thwart those unhealthy choices.

Blame it on your nose — or olfactory system — which is affected in two ways by sleep deprivation, according to the study. First, it goes into hyperdrive, sharpening the food odors for the brain so it can better differentiate between food and non-food odors.

But then there is a breakdown in the communication with other brain areas that receive food signals. And with that, decisions about what to eat change.

“When you’re sleep deprived, these brain areas may not be getting enough information, and you’re overcompensating by choosing food with a richer energy signal,” said senior author Thorsten Kahnt, assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

“But it may also be that these other areas fail to keep tabs on the sharpened signals in the olfactory cortex. That could also lead to choosing doughnuts and potato chips,” Kahnt added.

The paper was published in eLife.

Past research shows sleep deprivation increases certain endocannabinoids, which are naturally produced by the body and are important for feeding behavior and how the brain responds to odors, including food smells.

“We put all this together and asked if changes in food intake after sleep deprivation are related to how the brain responds to food odors, and whether this is due to changes in endocannabinoids,” Kahnt said. “What makes our brain respond differently that makes us eat differently?”

He and colleagues investigated that question in a two-part experiment with 29 men and women, ages 18 to 40. Study participants were divided into two groups. One got a normal night’s sleep, then four weeks later, were only allowed to sleep for four hours. The experience was reversed for the second group. The day after each night (good sleep and deprived sleep), scientists served participants a controlled menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but then also offered them a buffet of snacks. Scientists measured how much and what they ate.

“We found participants changed their food choices,” Kahnt said. “After being sleep deprived, they ate food with higher energy density (more calories per gram) like doughnuts, chocolate chip cookies and potato chips.”

Researchers also measured the participants’ blood levels of two endocannabinoid compounds — 2AG and 2OG. One of the compounds, 2-OG, was elevated after the night of sleep deprivation and this increase was related to changes in food selection.

In addition, scientists put subjects in an fMRI scanner before the buffet. They then presented them with a number of different food odors and non-food control odors while they observed the piriform cortex, the first cortical brain region that receives input from the nose.

They observed that activity in the piriform cortex differed more between food and non-food odors when subjects were sleep deprived.

The piriform cortex normally sends information to another brain area, the insular cortex. The insula receives signals that are important for food intake, like smell and taste, and how much food is in the stomach.

But the insula of a sleep-deprived subject showed reduced connectivity (a measure of communication between two brain regions) with the piriform cortex. And the degree of this reduction was related to the increase in 2-OG and how much subjects changed their food choices when sleep deprived.

“When the piriform cortex does not properly communicate with the insula, then people start eating more energy-dense food,” Thorsten said.

The solution? Other than getting more sleep, it may help to pay closer attention to how our nose sways our food choices.

“Our findings suggest that sleep deprivation makes our brain more susceptible to enticing food smells, so maybe it might be worth taking a detour to avoid your local doughnut shop next time you catch a 6 a.m. flight,” Kahnt said.

Source: Science Daily

Study: Warm Bath Can Send You Off to a Sound Slumber

Alan Mozes wrote . . . . . . . . .

Here’s a win-win for all those bath lovers who struggle with poor sleep: New research suggests a soak in the tub before bedtime may shorten the time it takes to fall asleep.

A well-timed warm bath, or even a warm shower, also appears to prolong how long someone stays asleep, investigators found. And indications are that overall sleep quality improves as well.

Why? In large part, it has to do with lowering a person’s body temperature.

Body temperature “starts to naturally decline as part of its natural [24-hour] cycle about one to two hours before the usual time of going to sleep,” explained study author Shahab Haghayegh.

And a warm bath or shower can give that process a shove in the right direction, he explained, by boosting blood circulation from the inner body to the outer body. The result is a “very efficient removal of heat from the body, which causes a decline in body temperature,” he said.

The trick is to both time and heat that bath to perfection.

“Yes, the temperature matters,” stressed Haghayegh, a doctoral candidate in sleep research and bio-med engineering at the University of Texas at Austin.

“It should be warm. Not too hot or cold,” he noted. “Actually, a too cold or too hot bath can have an effect opposite than that desired, causing an increase, rather than a decrease, in core body temperature, and disturbed sleep.”

Timing is also important. “The optimal timing of bathing for cooling down of core body temperature in order to improve sleep quality and help with falling asleep faster is approximately one to two hours prior to going to bed,” he said. Taking it outside that window can actually disrupt the natural body temperature cycle, he warned, and not in a good way.

But after analyzing the findings of 17 previous investigations, Haghayegh and his colleagues found that a properly heated bath or shower taken at the right time for as little as 10 minutes can have a positive impact on sleep.

The review was published in the August issue of Sleep Medicine Reviews.

The studies in the review included all sorts of participants, including young, healthy soccer players, middle-aged patients struggling with traumatic brain injury, and older patients diagnosed with sleep apnea. Some even focused on cancer patients and those coping with heart disease.

But regardless of the type of person at hand, the review indicated that those who took a timely warm bath or shower effectively set in motion a process known as “water-based passive body heating.”

And doing so reduced the time it took to fall asleep, also called “sleep onset latency.”

The total time patients were able to spend asleep also went up. And warm baths appeared to serve as a booster of “sleep efficiency,” meaning the amount of time a person spent in bed sleeping, relative to the amount of time spent in bed trying to sleep.

Sleep researcher Adam Krause, who was not involved in the study, said the sleep-promoting power of a warm bath or shower “has long been believed. And it’s nice to see the literature provide support for it.”

Krause is a doctoral candidate in psychology with the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley.

It may seem a bit counterintuitive, he acknowledged, given that it essentially involves exposing the skin to a certain amount of heat to trigger a drop in body temperature.

“[But] the net effect of this is a cooling of the core body and brain temperature, which is the necessary sleep-initiating cue the brain is waiting for,” Krause explained.

“I think this is such a nice, simple and subtle technique to help with sleep,” he added. “And it’s always one of my main recommendations for people having trouble initiating sleep.”

Source: HealthDay


Today’s Comic

Sleepless Nights Linked to High Blood Pressure

A bad night’s sleep may result in a spike in blood pressure that night and the following day, according to new research led by the University of Arizona.

The study, to be published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, offers one possible explanation for why sleep problems have been shown to increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and even death from cardiovascular disease.

The link between poor sleep and cardiovascular health problems is increasingly well-established in scientific literature, but the reason for the relationship is less understood.

Researchers set out to learn more about the connection in a study of 300 men and women, ages 21 to 70, with no history of heart problems. Participants wore portable blood pressure cuffs for two consecutive days. The cuffs randomly took participants’ blood pressure during 45-minute intervals throughout each day and also overnight.

At night, participants wore actigraphy monitors — wristwatch-like devices that measure movement — to help determine their “sleep efficiency,” or the amount of time in bed spent sleeping soundly.

Overall, those who had lower sleep efficiency showed an increase in blood pressure during that restless night. They also had higher systolic blood pressure — the top number in a patient’s blood pressure reading — the next day.

More research is needed to understand why poor sleep raises blood pressure and what it could mean long-term for people with chronic sleep issues. Yet, these latest findings may be an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to understanding the pathway through which sleep impacts overall cardiovascular health.

“Blood pressure is one of the best predictors of cardiovascular health,” said lead study author Caroline Doyle, a graduate student in the UA Department of Psychology. “There is a lot of literature out there that shows sleep has some kind of impact on mortality and on cardiovascular disease, which is the No. 1 killer of people in the country. We wanted to see if we could try to get a piece of that story — how sleep might be impacting disease through blood pressure.”

The study reinforces just how important a good night’s sleep can be. It’s not just the amount of time you spend in bed, but the quality of sleep you’re getting, said study co-author John Ruiz, UA associate professor of psychology.

Improving sleep quality can start with making simple changes and being proactive, Ruiz said.

“Keep the phone in a different room,” he suggested. “If your bedroom window faces the east, pull the shades. For anything that’s going to cause you to waken, think ahead about what you can do to mitigate those effects.”

For those with chronic sleep troubles, Doyle advocates cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, or CBTI, which focuses on making behavioral changes to improve sleep health. CBTI is slowly gaining traction in the medical field and is recommended by both the American College of Physicians and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine as the first line of treatment for insomnia.

Doyle and Ruiz say they hope their findings — showing the impact even one fitful night’s rest can have on the body — will help illuminate just how critical sleep is for heart health.

“This study stands on the shoulders of a broad literature looking at sleep and cardiovascular health,” Doyle said. “This is one more study that shows something is going on with sleep and our heart health. Sleep is important, so whatever you can do to improve your sleep, it’s worth prioritizing.”

Source: Science Daily