Nov
19
2022

Lack of Sleep Harms the Immune System and Causes Inflammation

A research group from Boston, MA and New York, NY found that a lack of sleep harms the immune system and causes inflammation. This was summarized in this CNN article.

Specifically, they first conducted experiments with a mouse model. They studied the effects of sleep disruption and sleep deprivation and could later confirm identical changes in man. The observation was that a lack of sleep caused the hematopoietic cells in the bone marrow to proliferate, but the cell diversity was less than in people with normal sleep patterns. The same pattern of bone marrow proliferation was present in mice. This research was published Sept. 21, 2022 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Chronic sleep deficit

A chronic sleep deficit caused chronic inflammation and eventually autoimmune diseases. Again, this was a pattern present in both the mouse model and in humans. Next the researchers observed what happened with sleep recovery. In the past it was assumed that with sleep recovery all of the physical changes from sleep deprivation would disappear. However, the opposite was true: both in mice and in humans the bone marrow stimulation and the lack of cell diversity persisted.

In the mouse model the researchers could show that there were permanent epigenetic changes, which were caused by sleep deprivation. The same is true with humans, but this is more difficult to show than in the mouse model. The researchers came to the conclusion that sleep deprivation stimulates bone marrow maturation, but restricts the clonal differentiation. In doing so the body initiates inflammation, which becomes chronic even with sleep restoration.

Human sleep studies

There were 14 volunteers that were the test subjects. One group was the normal sleep control. The other group underwent chronic sleep deprivation. Each group did this for 6 weeks. There was a 4-to-6-week washout period. Following this the previous normal sleep group started a 6-week sleep deprivation program. On the other hand, the prior sleep-deprived group switched to 6 weeks of normal sleep. All of the participants had daily late afternoon blood tests.

There are many sleep disruptions, which cause a sleep deficit

In modern life sleep gets disrupted in many ways. There can be sleep fragmentation, sleep restriction, jet lag, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and insomnia.

People with these conditions often oscillate between these various types. They may have a few days of normal sleep, but then have sleep deprivation again for a few days. Every time they have sleep deprivation the bone marrow enhances hematopoietic activity. Normally there is a high leukocyte number in the blood at the end of the day and in the morning a lower leukocyte count. But with sleep deprivation there is a high monocyte count in the blood that stays high even when subjects switch back to a normal sleep pattern.

Epigenetic effect of sleep deprivation on bone marrow cells

The authors found that sleep deprivation affects the genetic control of hematopoietic cells in the bone marrow. They called this the epigenetic effect of sleep deprivation. This is responsible for the evening leukocyte response, the monocytosis and the tendency for autoimmune diseases. They summed this up by saying: “Our findings support the hypothesis that periods of poor sleep, even if followed by sleep recovery, have sustained consequences on immunological health.”

Lack of sleep harms the immune system and causes inflammation says the literature

There is ample evidence that a lack of sleep causes cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and more frequent infections. Healthy sleep is important when you want to age well without complications. But enough sleep is also necessary to prevent obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Experts consider getting enough high-quality sleep as essential as a balanced diet and regular exercise.

Lack of Sleep Harms Immune System and Causes Inflammation

Lack of Sleep Harms Immune System and Causes Inflammation

Conclusion

So far, most researchers believed that when you miss some sleep for a few nights that a afternoon nap or a few nights of longer sleep would compensate for the sleep deficit with no sequelae. Think again, because new research from a group in Boston, MA and New York, NY found that lack of sleep harms the immune system and causes inflammation permanently. Sleep deprivation stimulates the bone marrow cells to multiply and causing proliferation of monocytes, called monocytosis as well. Despite afternoon naps and recovery sleep this condition remains  and can lead to autoimmune diseases. All this was unknown up to now. Our bone marrow cells need regular sleep hours to stay diversified and to optimally fight infections in the body. This prevents autoimmune diseases and keeps our defenses against viral diseases strong.

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Jul
03
2022

Can Surgery Help with Snoring?

Snoring is a common problem in people, and so the question is: can surgery help with snoring? About 25% of adults snore regularly, 45% snore occasionally. You are more likely to snore when you are overweight. Other factors are being a middle-aged or older male or a postmenopausal woman. Over the last decades various surgical procedures were in development in an attempt to cure snoring.

Obstructive sleep apnea

A person with obstructive sleep apnea has a problem of a relaxed rooftop in the mouth, where the uvula drops down. At the same time the tongue is falling backwards and together with the relaxed rooftop this leads to intermittent obstruction of the airway. The end result is loud snoring, which can lead to intermittent cessation of breathing. A positive pressure device is a common remedy for this condition, which keeps the airway open during your sleep. It is called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). However, this system is somewhat noisy, and about 50% of patients find it disturbing and cannot tolerate it. Many patients prefer a surgical, permanent solution.

Classification of snoring

Most snorers have primary snoring. Among these patients there is a minority who stop breathing periodically, which lowers the blood oxygen content. The patient awakes from this and tightens the muscles in the palatine-pharyngeal area and then breathes normally again for a while. These patients have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). However, when deeper sleep is reached in OSA patients the cycle repeats itself. A clinical test how to distinguish between primary snoring and OAS is a polysomnography study, which also goes by the name of a sleep study.

Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty

This sounds like a tongue twister! In lay terms it is a surgical procedure which removes the uvula and the adjacent tissues of the palate and throat walls. There are side effects like swallowing problems, throat changes and the permanent feeling of a foreign body in the throat. Since the original design several modifications were introduced, which reduce the side effects of this procedure, but do not entirely eliminate them.

Somnoplasty or radiofrequency ablation

For patients with primary snoring, who do not have OSA a new procedure utilizes low levels of radiofrequency heat energy to create finely controlled localized burns in the lining of the soft tissues of the palate. This tightens the palate tissue and avoids the vibrations that cause snoring. The procedure can be done in the office setting under local anesthetic. It takes only about 30 minutes. When researchers compared pre-treatment scores with scores after three years following two ablation radiofrequency treatments there was a significant reduction of the snoring activity. Somnoplasty is another name for the FDA approved ablation radiofrequency treatment. This treatment works well for patients with primary snoring, but is not so successful for patients with OSA.

Maxillomandibular advancement (MMA)

The physician orders this fairly invasive surgery for patients with OSA who cannot tolerate continuous positive airway pressure. The goal of the surgery is to remove the two obstruction points where the patient chokes at night. This occurs most often behind the palate and behind the tongue. MMA was introduced more than 35 years ago. On the plus side, the success rate is about 90%. The minus side is the fact that it is major invasive surgery where the surgeon moves both the upper and lower jaws forward opening up the two choke points in the back. The surgery lasts about 6 hours and it takes approximately 6 weeks for it to heal.

Hypoglossal nerve stimulation

An alternative for patients with moderate to severe OSA is the use of hypoglossal nerve stimulation. Patients with OSA have a weakness in the muscle tone of the muscles that push the tongue forward. When they fall asleep the tongue tends to fall backwards obstructing the airways. This can be remedied with the use of hypoglossal nerve stimulation that stimulates the muscles that push the tongue forward.

Results with hypoglossal nerve stimulation devices were encouraging, as more than 80% of patients with OAS who had this device inserted had a successful treatment outcome. 4 years later, in the same patients there was still effectiveness of the hypoglossal nerve stimulator and the improvement in quality of life remained the same.

Can Surgery Help with Snoring?

Can Surgery Help with Snoring?

Conclusion

There are several procedures that can help patients with primary snoring or patients with an obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). For patients with primary snoring, who do not have OSA a new procedure utilizes low levels of radiofrequency heat energy to create finely controlled localized burns in the lining of the soft tissues of the palate. This tightens the palate tissue and avoids the vibrations that cause snoring. In patients with obstructive sleep apnea a continuous positive airway pressure device (CPAP) is a common remedy for this condition, which keeps the airway open during their sleep. But only about 50% of patients tolerate this procedure.

More surgical procedures

The uvulopalatopharyngoplasty can help a certain number of patients. Here the ear/nose/throat surgeon removes the uvula and the adjacent tissues of the palate and throat walls. The surgeon does this under general anaesthesia, and patients will take about two weeks to fully recover. Another more invasive procedure is the maxillomandibular advancement (MMA). The goal of the surgery is to remove the two obstruction points where the patient chokes at night. This occurs most often behind the palate and behind the tongue. The surgical procedure is in use for more than 35 years and the success rate is about 90%. However the surgery will take several hours, and recovery of the patient will take about 6 weeks.

Jan
08
2022

Sleep Training to Prevent Insomnia and Depression

A new study describes that sleep training to prevent insomnia and depression is desirable. Notably, the study published in JAMA Psychiatry took 291 people age 60 years and older and followed them for three years. In this case half the participants received treatment with sleep training, the other half treatment with cognitive behavioral therapy. The other half was the control who received sleep education therapy from a public health educator. It is important to realize that both groups received 120 minutes weekly group sessions for two months. That is to say, following training of 2 months the subjects were followed for 36 months. It must be remembered that they completed monthly questionnaires to monitor for depression and insomnia. At the end of the study almost 1/3 of the cognitive behavioral group still were free of insomnia.

The control group who received sleep education therapy initially showed no longer any

improvement. In other words, the initial progress did not last with sleep education only. The study was also published in CNN.

Results about rates of depression

Those subjects of the cognitive behavioral therapy group who had a sustained remission of their insomnia disorder had a rate of 82.6% less depression. This was in comparison to the subjects who did not sustain their treatment against insomnia. Dr. Pim Cuijpers commented that the results of the study show “a completely new and innovative way” of tackling the growing problem of depression. Dr. Cuijpers is a professor of Clinical Psychology at the Free University of Amsterdam.

A brief background about depression in older patients

Depression is common in people above the age of 60. About 30-50% of this age group develop depression. Part of this could be that older people often do not get enough sleep as middle-age or younger adults do. Melatonin production declines with older age and this may play a role in insomnia of older people. On the other hand, one of the major symptoms of depression is a lack of sleep. It seems that a lack of REM sleep, the deep sleep that makes us dream, is responsible for both troubles, sleeping (insomnia) and depression.

Cognitive behavioral therapy administered by a therapist is effective for insomnia

It is important that a therapist administers the cognitive behavioral therapy. There are recordings available online that provide cognitive therapy, but they are not individualised. Dr. Irwin said: “That’s why CBT-I is so effective in person, because the therapist is helping that individual navigate and negotiate with themselves — and it can be really hard work,” Irwin added. “I believe that’s also why CBT-I apps or online tools often don’t work — people get frustrated, disappointed or angry at themselves, and they basically stop the work.”

The rationale for cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT for insomnia has five components: Stimulus control, sleep restriction, sleep hygiene, relaxation and cognitive behavioral therapy. Researchers gave the program the name CBT-I. Sleep hygiene and relaxation involve these sleeping habits: going to bed at the same time every day, eliminating noise and blue light from electronic devices. Also, you want to keep your bedroom cool, take warm baths and do yoga for relaxation.

Stimulus control and sleep restriction

Stimulus control involves getting out of bed, if you can’t sleep. Dr. Irvin said: “Most people stay in bed, fretting about not falling asleep, which then turns the bed into a negative space. Instead, people are taught to get up after 10 minutes of tossing and turning, do quiet, non-stimulating activities, and not to come back to bed until they are sleepy.” Sleep restriction means that a person lies in bed only to sleep plus 30 minutes. It is a way to make people with insomnia get out of bed instead of lying there awake.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy disrupts irrational thoughts and beliefs about sleep. Patients with insomnia often think “I can never sleep” or “I might die if I don’t sleep tonight.” A therapist has training to help the patient find a way back to a more realistic mindset. Eventually the patient accepts the bed as a welcoming place.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is effective in preventing depression

Dr. Irwin pointed out that chronic insomnia often leads to depression. A dangerous consequence of depression can be preoccupation with suicide. A certain percentage of patients with depression in any age group want to kill themselves. This is where cognitive behavioral therapy can intervene and make a huge difference. As mentioned earlier almost 1/3 of patients who received cognitive behavioral therapy for two months retained their normal sleep pattern. It was among this group that 82.6% had no depression compared to a control group. These are very important statistics. Dr. Irwin said: “We have shown that we can actually target insomnia with cognitive behavior therapy and prevent depression from occurring”.

Sleep Training to Prevent Insomnia and Depression


Sleep Training to Prevent Insomnia and Depression

Conclusion

A new study in JAMA Psychiatry describes that sleep training to prevent insomnia and depression is feasible. Sleep researchers used cognitive behavioral therapy sessions for two months on subjects who suffered from insomnia. The treatment group had profound effects with respect to improving insomnia and depression. Almost 1/3 of subjects treated with cognitive behavioral therapy returned to a normal sleeping pattern. And this subgroup of patients had 82.6% less depression. The lead author, Dr. Irwin thinks that cognitive behavioral therapy could become the new way of how to treat and prevent depression.

Nov
13
2021

How to Fall Asleep Quicker

Early October 2021 CNN had an article about how to fall asleep quicker. Most people take 15 to 20 minutes to fall asleep.

Sleep environment

It is important to arrange a sleep environment where you can sleep well. This includes bedroom darkening and keeping the room temperature of 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 20 degrees Celsius). Make sure your bed is comfortable and use your bedroom only for sleeping and sex. Do not read in the bedroom, keep your cell phone in another room and do not have a TV or computer in the bedroom. These produce blue light, which stimulates your brain. This is exactly what you do not want to have in your bedroom.

Normal sleep duration for different ages

There are always exceptions to rules. In this case there is a rare gene that allows the carrier to sleep only 5 hours at night and still have normal energy during the day. It is called short sleep gene.

Here are the hours of sleep that everybody else needs every night in different age groups:

  • Adults: 7-8 hours
  • School-age children: 12 hours
  • Teenagers: 8-10 hours

If you get the proper hours of sleep, but you are still tired during the day, you may have a lack of quality of sleep. Older people often have to go to the bathroom several times during the night. As it takes some time to reach the deepest level of sleep at night (REM sleep) older people often miss significant amounts of REM sleep during which they dream. The end result is a lack of energy during the day.

Conditions that interrupt your sleep

There are some medical conditions that can interfere with a good night’s sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea is one such condition that 25 million Americans have. A person with this kind of condition snores, gasps, chokes or stops breathing periodically during the course of the night. Restless leg syndrome is another condition, which interferes with a restful, deep sleep. Other conditions are chronic pain, heart disease, diabetes, asthma and gastroesophageal reflux. Medication can affect sleep depth as well.

Falling asleep naturally

Despite many studies it is not clear why some people have no problem falling asleep while others find it difficult. Taking 10 to 20 minutes of falling asleep is normal. If you cannot fall asleep after 20 minutes of trying, go to a dim room and do something calming until you feel drowsy again. Then return to your bed. Follow the same procedure, if you wake up in the middle of the night and you have difficulties falling asleep again. Deep breathing, yoga and meditation are proven remedies to pipe down and help you to fall asleep.

Monitoring sleep at a sleep clinic

A sleep study can be very helpful in diagnosing sleep disturbances.  The sleep expert measures several body functions simultaneously. These are heart rate, air flow, blood oxygen level, breathing rate, brain wave activity, muscle movements and eye movements. During a night sleep study, a polysomnogram records all these body functions automatically. The finding helps the sleep expert to diagnose and treat the sleep disturbance.

Self-help supplements for insomnia

My regular sleep supplement every night is 3 mg of melatonin.

Sometimes this is not enough, because I watched an exciting movie or I wrote too much for Quora online. When I can’t fall asleep within 30 minutes, I take a capsule of 500 mg of valerian root. I would say that this helps in 95% of the nights to fall asleep.

If for some reason I still can’t fall asleep, I use 25 drops of  Passion Flower Extract:  I find that this is very reliable and puts me to sleep within 15 to 20 minutes of taking it. This way I am avoiding prescription narcotics and I am not getting addicted to benzodiazepines. The last step (Passion Flower Extract) I require only once or twice a month. The chemical in the Passion Flower Extract is very similar to benzodiazepines, which means you don’t want to take this every night or your system could get addicted to it.

How to Fall Asleep Quicker

How to Fall Asleep Quicker

Conclusion

Falling asleep is something we all can learn. It starts with a quiet and relaxing bedroom ambience. We need to allow for enough sleep duration. Adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep, children and youth more. Deep breathing, yoga and meditation are proven remedies to prepare you to fall asleep easier. When all fails there are a number of self-help supplements you can take to help you ease into sleep. If you still have problems falling asleep a sleep study can be very helpful in diagnosing sleep disturbances. In a sleep clinic your heart rate, air flow, blood oxygen level, breathing rate, brain wave activity, muscle movements and eye movements are recorded with a polysomnogram. The doctor from the sleep clinic can formulate the diagnosis of the sleep disorder and help you overcome any identified problems.

The subchapter “Self-help supplements for insomnia” was published by me earlier here.

Jun
26
2021

Being A Morning Person Can Prevent Depression

A British study concluded that being a morning person can prevent depression. It was reviewed also in CNN. The study used sleep data from 85,000 UK participants in the Great Britain Biobank Study. They wore wrist activity monitors that provided sleep data. Researchers compared the sleep data with the self-reported mood changes. They found that if the sleep pattern is misaligned with the circadian rhythm, those who are night owls are at a higher risk of developing mood disorders. The controls were those who were morning persons. They were not affected by the misalignment effect.

Normal sleep pattern

Natural sleep habit or the circadian rhythm starts between 10 PM and 11 PM and continues for 7 to 8 hours. Your hormones are replenished during your sleep. This helps your body’s hormones and the immune system to restore itself overnight.

“The health problems associated with being a night owl are likely a result of being a night owl living in a morning person’s world, which leads to disruption in their body’s circadian rhythms”. This is what sleep specialist Kristen Knutson said. She is an associate professor of neurology and preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Reclaim your natural sleep habit

The key is to learn to live within your circadian rhythm pattern. Caffeine is a powerful stimulant and will stop you from falling asleep. For this reason, it is best to avoid caffeine-containing beverages. If you cannot live without your favourite cup of java, switch to the decaffeinated version. Stop using LED lights (from TV, computers, tablets or smartphones) 2 hours prior to your bedtime. Use dark curtains and enjoy a comfortable bed. Maybe read that thriller, earlier in the day instead of making it your bedtime story. And do yourself a favour: you do not need the eleven o’clock news on TV!  They will probably stop you from falling asleep. Go to sleep between 10PM and 11PM.

Children can have problems with sleep disturbances and depression

Another study published March 22, 2021 in the Jama Network showed that depression had an association with sleep disturbances in youth and children.

A meta-analysis of 16 publications looked at depression and disturbed sleep. It showed that depression was 1.5-fold higher in sleep disturbed youths/children compared to controls with a normal sleep pattern.

Other studies re. being a morning person can prevent depression

Another study with Dr. Knutson as the lead author appeared in 2018. The authors found that various health conditions, mood disorders and mortality were on the increase the more the sleep rhythm deviated from the circadian rhythm. Morning persons were protected from this effect. But night shift workers and night owls were at a higher risk of disease. Specifically, they found the following associations for evening types.

  • Evening types compared to morning types had a 1.94-fold risk of psychological disorders
  • The risk of diabetes was 1.30-fold for evening types
  • Neurological disorders had a 1.25-fold risk in evening types
  • Gastrointestinal/abdominal disorders occurred 1.23-fold more often in evening types
  • respiratory disorders were 1.22-fold more common in evening types
  • Evening types had a 10% increased risk of all-cause mortality

The researchers concluded that externally imposed timing of work and social activities has potentially serious health consequences.

Circadian misalignment responsible for disease

Dr. Knutson also said: “Circadian misalignment could also lead to inadequate sleep duration and quality, which could also impair mood and exacerbate mood disorders.”

In other words, circadian misalignment to circadian rhythm problems. This can cause mood disturbances, but eventually lead to the diseases listed above.

Evidence of health risks in night shifts workers

The medical literature is full of examples that the health of night shift workers is significantly affected by circadian misalignment. Here are a few examples.

1.Here is a random selection to illustrate the health risks of night shifts workers. A study from 2015 examined the sleep patterns of 315 shift nurses and health care workers in Iranian teaching hospitals. They found that 83.2% suffered from poor sleep and half of them had moderate to excessive sleepiness when they were awake.

2.This South Korean study examined 244 male workers, aged 20 to 39 in a manufacturing plant. Researchers compared blood tests from daytime workers to blood tests from night shift workers. They also obtained inflammatory markers like the C-reactive protein and leukocyte counts. Night shift workers had significantly higher values. The investigators concluded that shift workers have increased inflammatory markers. This is a sign of a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the future.

Higher mortality and higher cancer risk in nighttime workers

3. A Swedish study found that white-collar shift workers had a 2.6-fold higher mortality over a control group of daytime white-collar workers.

4. Another study compared night workers in the age group of 45 to 54 with daytime workers and found a 1.47-fold higher mortality rate in the night shift workers.

5.In a study from China 25,377 participants were part of a study that investigated cancer risk in males with more than 20 years of night shift work. They had a 2.03-fold increased risk to develop cancer compared to males working day shifts. Women with night shift work in this study showed no effect with regard to cancer development.

Healthy telomeres with healthy sleep pattern

It is true that you can suffer multiple health problems, as all of your hormones depend on the resetting during your deepest sleep between 2AM and 4AM triggered by the nighttime melatonin response. Even your telomeres, the caps of chromosomes in every cell get shortened from too much stress and too little sleep.

One example of such a study comes from Milan, Italy. https://oem.bmj.com/content/75/Suppl_2/A480.1

In this 2018 study researchers compared 46 nurses who had worked in night shifts with 51 nurses working day shifts. Among the night shift workers breast cancer was common, but not among day workers.

Shortened telomeres, hypomethylation of BRC1 gene and p53 gene

In the night shift nurses from Milan there was hypomethylation of the breast cancer gene BRC1. There was also hypomethylation of the general cancer gene p53. At the same time significant telomere shortening occurred in night shift nurses who had worked night shifts for more than 15 years. This likely all worked together in causing night nurses to develop breast cancer more frequently.

Shortened telomeres mean a shortened life span. The reason for this is that people with shortened telomeres develop heart attacks, strokes and cancer. This is what shortens the life span. How do we avoid this risk? Go back to healthy sleep habits. As mentioned above it is best to start going to sleep between 10PM and 11PM and sleep for 7 to 8 hours. Night owls delay going to sleep by 2 to 3 hours.

Being A Morning Person Can Prevent Depression

Being A Morning Person Can Prevent Depression (click image to enlarge)

Conclusion

A publication in Molecular Psychiatry demonstrated that evening person (night owls) are more likely to develop depression. This is in comparison to morning persons. As discussed, other researchers showed that evening persons also can develop diabetes and neurological disorders. In addition, respiratory disorders and gastrointestinal disorders are more common in night owls as well. When it comes to mortality, evening persons have a 10% increase of mortality over morning persons. There is a large body of literature regarding diseases of night shift workers. Night Shift work is perhaps the most extreme example of a circadian misalignment. It leads to poor sleep, inflammation in the body, increased cancer risk and higher mortality compared to day shift workers.

Prevent telomere shortening

Even the telomeres get shortened in night owls and night shift workers. We can prevent problems like these by going to bed in time and sleeping according to our circadian rhythm. If you had a poor night’s sleep, make up for it with the help of an afternoon nap. Do not sleep all afternoon though; half an hour or one hour will be enough. Even a short, restful nap after coming home from work can restore your feeling of wellness.

Jan
09
2021

Melatonin Is More Than a Sleeping Aid

Notably, the January 2021 issue of the Life Extension magazine informs you that melatonin is more than a sleeping aid. It contains an interview between Dr. Roman Rozencwaig and a Life Extension (LE) magazine reporter. It must be remembered that Dr. Rozencwaig dedicated much of his career to the healing effects of melatonin. Another keypoint is that in 1987 Dr. Rozencwaig published a paper together with two other researchers. Specifically, it showed that melatonin production by the pineal gland declines in older age. Markedly, they stated that this is the reason why people age and why diseases of aging develop. Another key point is that Dr. Rozencwaig also stated that taking oral melatonin can promote a healthier life.

Melatonin deficiency causing aging and various illnesses

With the aging process the pineal gland calcifies and melatonin production is steadily declining. Surely, along with this is a deterioration of the circadian hormone rhythm. Meanwhile, the neuroendocrine system in the brain gets disorganized. Accordingly, this causes various diseases to occur. To emphasize, Dr. Rozencwaig says that a proper balance between melatonin and neurotransmitters is what we need to maintain health and longevity. As a result, a daily intake of melatonin supports healthy aging and longevity.

The many clinical effects of melatonin

Oral melatonin tablets help you to fall asleep easier, particularly the population that is older than 60 years.

But besides that, melatonin has many other clinical effects.

  • Melatonin improves immunity, which improves resistance against infections. It helps also in cancer prevention
  • Melatonin maintains the circadian hormone rhythm by synchronizing pituitary and hypothalamic hormone production
  • It protects the brain and may prevent Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, autism, and others
  • Melatonin modulates anti-inflammatory cytokinins in different diseases

Dr. Rozencwaig mentioned that melatonin slows down the aging process. There are multiple intertwining reasons for this. 

Melatonin’s actions against the aging process 

  • Melatonin regulates gene expression. This means that some signs and symptoms of aging can be reversed through genetic switches
  • Because melatonin regulates the immune response, the body is more protected against viral, bacterial and parasitic infections
  • Melatonin helps to overcome chronic inflammation that produces cytokines
  • Melatonin is also liver-protective through stimulation of an enzyme (AMPK). This enzyme regulates cellular metabolism.
  • There are other processes that melatonin is involved in: energy metabolism by protection and restoration of mitochondria.
  • Melatonin protects against osteoporosis by balancing and regulating bone formation versus bone loss.

More actions of melatonin

  • An important function of melatonin is the stimulation of antioxidant enzymes like glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase (SOD)
  • Melatonin regulates sirtuins, which are proteins that maintain cellular health. They protect you from obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart attacks and strokes, dementia and more
  • As already mentioned, melatonin is a neuroprotective agent and may prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia
  • Melatonin stimulates apoptosis of cancer cells.
  • Oral health and melatonin are related. Melatonin suppresses herpes infections and periodontal disease. Melatonin prevents oral cancers to a certain degree. In addition, dental implants survive better when melatonin is present in saliva.

Prevention of cognitive decline

Dr. Rozencwaig mentioned that melatonin stops much of the cognitive decline of aging. To achieve this the following processes take place.

  1. Melatonin improves the sleeping pattern and increases the amount of REM sleep.
  2. During sleep melatonin removes toxic amyloid and tau proteins. We know that with Alzheimer’s disease these are the proteins that accumulate in the brain.
  3. Melatonin improves myelination of white matter in the brain. This prevents brain atrophy of old age.
  4. The brain is metabolically very active and produces toxic free radicals. But melatonin is a strong antioxidant dealing with free radicals. Melatonin can cross the blood brain barrier and stimulates enzyme production to eliminate toxic reactive oxygen species.
  5. Chronic inflammation also increases with age, but melatonin deals with this condition in the brain.
  6. Here are 3 subtypes of melatonin receptors. The body integrates the multitude of actions of melatonin with the help of these receptors.
Melatonin Is More Than a Sleeping Aid

Melatonin Is More Than a Sleeping Aid

Conclusion

Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant that has many other useful protective qualities as explained. The body integrates various functions like anti-aging, anti-free radical activity, neuroprotection in the brain and more. Melatonin even synchronizes pituitary and hypothalamic hormone production. This helps to integrate the effect of melatonin, which benefits the body in many ways. Melatonin prevents Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, autism, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart attacks, strokes and dementia. Melatonin production deteriorates from the age of about 60 onwards. It is important to supplement with melatonin at nighttime from that age on. Usually, you only need small amounts of melatonin, between 1mg and 3 mg at bedtime. This prevents most of the serious diseases of old age, stimulates your immune system and lets you age gracefully.

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Nov
03
2018

When you are sleepless

You are not alone when you are sleepless. Insomnia is a widespread problem in society.

Previous review of the topic of insomnia

I have reviewed the topic of insomnia before in a blog.

Briefly I pointed out that in some people there is a mutation of the gene that controls the circadian sleep rhythm. It is called the CRY1mutation. Some people have sleep disturbances from working night shifts. I mentioned the blue light of electronics that is produced by the TV screens or computer screens. The more you are exposed to it, the more it stimulates the brain to produce serotonin. This undermines the melatonin production, and as a result the person finds it extremely difficult to fall asleep. Children playing with i-phones, tablets or watching children’s programs on television can have sleep disturbances from the blue light. Blue has the frequency that over stimulates the brain and interferes with melatonin production. Drug and alcohol abuse can also interfere with the normal circadian sleep rhythm and cause insomnia.

Hormone factors of insomnia

For natural sleep to occur, we need melatonin which the pineal gland releases in the evening. It initiates and maintains sleep during the night. The natural opponent of melatonin is cortisol, the stress hormone, from the adrenal glands. Both hormones need to be in balance to allow you to sleep normally. Shortly before we wake up in the morning melatonin production goes down and cortisol production is up. Cortisol levels are low at night and high during the day. So it is cortisol that keeps us going throughout the day. But an excess of cortisol from chronic stress can also interfere with falling asleep and sleeping through the night.

Stress and insomnia

When we feel stressed, cortisol production goes way up. This has consequences regarding our sleep pattern. It can interfere with falling asleep, causes us to wake up from a deep sleep in the middle of the night and can give us problems falling asleep again. Chronic stress exposure leads to high cortisol production by the adrenal glands, which in turn will lower melatonin and cause sleep disturbances. Older people (above the age of 50) have very little melatonin production left, as there is an age-related decline of melatonin production. The melatonin production is highest in younger years and lowest in older age.

What to do when you are sleepless

There are several over-the-counter remedies, which in combination can be quite effective.

Melatonin for when you are sleepless

Melatonin (3 mg at bedtime) is a good start to see what it does for your sleeplessness. Taking a small amount of melatonin at bedtime we can re-establish the balance between cortisol and melatonin, which helps the circadian hormone rhythm and sleep pattern to come back. Some people wake up in the middle of the night and find it difficult to fall asleep again. If this happens at 3 AM, a good remedy at this time is to take another 3 mg of melatonin. Melatonin stays in the system for about 4 hours. Light during the day de-activates the effect, when light hits the retinas upon opening your eyes. You should not exceed 6 mg of total melatonin overnight. Otherwise it will interfere with the balance of cortisol and melatonin, lowering cortisol levels, which would rob you of energy during the day.

Phosphorylated serine (Seriphos)

A supplement that is freely available in the US (but not in Canada) consists of a simple amino acid. As this link shows (second item in the link) phosphorylated serine Seriphos) helps to down-regulate cortisol levels (lowering them). This means that melatonin gets the upper hand and you can sleep again.

The dosage for phosphorylated serine (Seriphos) varies from person to person, but will be in the range of 1000 mg to 3000 mg in the evening. After about 30 days the circadian rhythm may have recovered and you can stop the Seriphos. A one-day pause is required once a month for resetting the hormone receptors. Should you still have problems sleeping, you can continue with it for another month and pause again for a day. Seriphos has very few side effects.

Valerian root capsules

Another useful sleep aid is valerian root (as capsules). 500 mg to 1000 mg will help you to relax. It does not have the side effect of feeling groggy the next morning.

Other considerations when you are sleepless

Hormone problems like thyroid abnormalities (too much or too little thyroid hormones) are issues that your doctor has to investigate. Women in menopause often have sleep disturbances due to a lack of estrogen and progesterone. A knowledgeable healthcare professional is able to take care of that by prescribing bioidentical hormone creams.

When men approach andropause (the equivalent of menopause in women), they lose testosterone production. This can cause insomnia. The doctor can verify the hormone loss by a blood test. Replacement with either bioidentical testosterone cream or injections will rebalance testosterone levels. Insomnia may disappear. It is essential not to overdose testosterone, as this can also cause insomnia.

Sleep lab for when you are sleepless

When home remedies do not help, it may be time to check into one of the sleep labs to diagnose the kind of sleep disorder you are suffering from. Here is an overview what is happening there.

Essentially you get hooked up to monitors and are encouraged to just sleep as you would normally do. The physician in charge of the lab will later explain to you what the monitors showed, and tell you what type of sleep. According to the findings your doctor will recommend what measures are appropriate to remedy the situation.

Treatment for insomnia when over-the-counter remedies fail

Short acting benzodiazepams

When anxiety is not a problem, but only insomnia is (falling asleep or staying asleep) lorazepam 1 mg (Ativan) or temazepam 10 mg (Restoril) are shorter acting benzodiazepams that will help. It is not a permanent but a short “emergency break” for intermittent use, so that the GABA benzodiazepine receptors have time to recover. Otherwise, with continuous use tolerance would set in. This means higher and higher doses of the sleep medication would be necessary to achieve the same effect. Another non-benzodiazepine is Zolpidem 5 mg (Ambien). Even though this medication is not a benzodiazepine, it works on stimulating the same GABA benzodiazepine receptors.

Longer acting benzodiazepams combined with antidepressant Trazodone

For several years the combination of a small amount of the longer acting benzodiazepams, clonazepam (Rivotril) at 0.5 mg combined with a small amount of the anti-depressant trazodone (Oleptro or Desyrel) at 50 mg at bedtime has been has been in use quite successfully.

But there is a concern of drowsiness caused by Rivotril as this link shows.

Trazodone, which is an antidepressant has a sleep cycle restoring effect at low doses and has less side effects, because it is used at ¼ the dose for a full-blown depression. Males are often complaining that it reduces their sex drive, and it may cause erectile dysfunction.

Clonazepam side effects

Rivotril was originally in use to control epileptic seizures and anxiety. The combination therapy for sleep disorders uses Rivotril at ¼ of the regular dose. Although it is good as a sleep aid, it has a long half-life and stays in the system well into the next day. This may present as sleepiness and cause falls in elderly patients because of clouded attention. Replacement by one of the medium long acting benzodiazepams could be the solution. A drug pause for 1 day will help to reset the GABA benzodiazepine receptors and prevent tolerance from happening. Knowing all those effects and side effects it is wiser to reserve the use of these medication strictly when everything else has failed!

When you are sleepless

When you are sleepless

Conclusion

As I mentioned before, you are not alone when you are sleepless. Insomnia can present as having problems to fall asleep, but it may present in others as a problem in the middle of the night waking up and having problems going back to sleep again.

I described non-conventional methods to help you to sleep using melatonin, Seriphos and valerian root capsules. If this fails, a sleep lab investigation may be necessary to get to the bottom of your insomnia problem. Physicians often prescribe short acting benzodiazepams like lorazepam (Ativan) and temazepam 10 mg (Restoril).

Other possibilities to treat insomnia

There are other possibilities to treat insomnia, with a combination of a low-dose antidepressant (trazodone, brand name Oleptro in the US) and low-dose anti-seizure and anti-anxiety drug clonazepam (Klonopin or Rivotril). Anxiety can often be a big component in insomnia and this treats both. On the other hand, anxiety is a separate problem, which needs professional treatment. There can be side effects of sleepiness from clonazepam and men complain of a lack of sex drive and erectile dysfunction from trazodone. Help is available when you are sleepless. But you need professional help to work on the problem and find the solution.

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May
13
2017

Results Of Insomnia Studies

Results of insomnia studies are focusing on all angles of insomnia. We know for some time that the circadian rhythm is linked to deep REM sleep, which we only reach about 2 hours into our nightly sleep. There are several reasons why our normal sleep pattern can get disrupted.

1. Night owls have a CRY1 mutation

A recent publication on March 27, 2017 has detected a mutation of the human circadian clock called CRY1. This is a dominant gene that is responsible for delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPD). People with this genetic feature tend to go to sleep 2 hours later than the average person every day.

It occurs between 0.2% and 10% in the general population and is inherited by the autosomal dominant mode.

This gene is responsible for the phenomenon of persons being “night owls”.

2. Sleep deprivation in nursing homes

Another publication has zeroed in to what happens in the frail elderly who live in nursing homes.

Here is what sleep researchers have found out about nursing homes.

  • Older people also need 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night, not less as previously thought.
  • Let people sleep at night, and give them undisturbed sleep. The practice of waking them up every 2 hours is unnecessary and undermines a restful sleep with normal amounts of REM sleep.
  • The color of light matters: Blue/purple light coming from TVs, iPod’s, laptops or cell phones stimulates serotonin production that wakes you up. In contrast to this orange/red light stimulates melatonin production that facilitates sleep. A nursing home owner, Guildermann said: “We have made it darker at night, and what light they do have is orange/amber/red light, and we are having phenomenal results.”
  • Sleep, exercise and nutrition are the biggest components of health.

3. Night workers

One of the news stories in 2016 was about health risks of night shifts. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2000 that 15 million workers (16.8 % of the working population) were doing alternative shifts (night shift work mixed with daytime shifts). In 2016 they reported 14.8% were working alternate shifts. Among blacks, Asians and Latino Americans the percentage of working alternative shifts was higher, namely 20.8%, 15.7% and 16%, respectively.

Effect of shift work on your diurnal hormone rhythm

Shift work is more common in certain industries, such as protective services like the police force, food services, health services and transportation.

Your body rewards you, when you sleep 7 to 8 hours during the night, but it will penalize you severely, if you turn it upside down. The reason is the diurnal hormone rhythm that we all have built in. Sleep is regulated by melatonin during the night, which is released by the pineal gland (on the base of the skull). Daytime wakefulness is regulated by the stress hormone cortisol from the adrenal glands. These two hormones inhibit each other, cortisol inhibits melatonin and melatonin inhibits cortisol. All the other hormones are also regulated according to the diurnal rhythm: testosterone, for instance is highest in the morning, human growth hormone is highest between midnight and 3 AM.

Studies about the effects of shift work

There are examples of what happens when you do shift work for several years:

  1. A) A Swedish study found that white-collar shift workers had a 260% higher mortality compared to a control group of daytime white collar workers: Shift work and mortality.
  2. B) A study compared night workers in the age group of 45 to 54 with daytime workers and found a 147% higher mortality rate in the night shift workers: Shift Workers’ Mortality Scrutinized. Shift workers work at night and sleep during the day. This can be done, but it is against the physiology of your body, as I explained above. Remember that melatonin does not only regulate your sleep, it also is one of the main stimulant hormones of the immune system. If you manipulate your diurnal hormone rhythm by staying awake during the night and sleeping during the day, you pay the price by an increased risk of mortality (increased risk of death). I think this is not worth it!

4. What to do when you cannot sleep?

The first step is to take 3mg to 5mg of melatonin at bedtime. It should be taken between 10PM and 11PM. It takes 20 to 30 minutes for melatonin to take effect. If you do not fall asleep within that time frame you are likely thinking too much! Relaxation before going to sleep should be part of your evening ritual. It can happen that we experience demanding, stressful days, and despite all better effort, it is difficult to be entirely relaxed. After demanding days like that I would recommend taking 1 or 2 capsules of valerian (500 mg strength) from the health food store. This combined with the melatonin should help in more than 80%-90% of insomnia cases.

Medical tests and sleep studies

If you cannot sleep, see your physician. Sleep studies may be required or you may have problems of the thyroid (hypo- or hyperthyroidism), which may need to be checked. Other medical problems including depression have to be checked out as well. Melatonin and valerian are safe. Other sleeping pills have multiple side effects including memory problems the next day or the feeling of a mild hangover.

5. Telomeres and insomnia

Some people have no problem disciplining themselves to go to sleep between 10PM and 11 PM, which seems to be the window of opportunity to catch a good night’s sleep. Others are so used to do their late night activities (reading, watching TV, being online, going to the pub etc.) that they finally drop into bed at 1 or 2 AM. People need 7 to 8 hours of good sleep; even hard-core party goers need to get that much sleep. Nature does not make exceptions! When you go to bed only at 1AM or 2AM, it is difficult to get enough sleep.

Healthy telomeres with healthy sleep pattern

It is true that you can suffer multiple health problems, as all of your hormones depend on the resetting during your deepest sleep between 2AM and 4AM triggered by the nighttime melatonin response. Even your telomeres, the caps of chromosomes in every cell get shortened from too much stress and too little sleep. Shortened telomeres mean a shortened life span. The reason for this is that people with shortened telomeres develop heart attacks, strokes and cancer. This is what shortens the life span. How do we avoid this risk? Go back to healthy sleep habits. As mentioned above it is best to start going to sleep between 10 PM and 11 PM and sleep for 7 to 8 hours.

6. Electronics in the bedroom

There is new research showing that electronics in the bedroom can interfere with a normal sleep pattern. Dr. Ben Carter is the lead author and a senior lecturer in biostatistics at King’s College London. He completed a study involving 125,198 children with an average age of 14½ years. There were about equal amounts of males and females. Both sexes had the same problem. Allowing the use of electronic media interfered with their sleep time. What electronic devices are we talking about? Watching TV, using the computer, the cell phone, tablets and computer games. The study was originally published at JAMA Pediatrics.

The blue/purple light of the TV screen or a computer screen stimulates the brain to produce serotonin. This undermines the melatonin production and as a result the person finds it extremely difficult to fall asleep.

What contributes to better sleep habits

Here is a list that contributes to better sleep habits and better sleep quality:

Sleep friendly environment in the bedroom

Ensure that the bedroom is dark, soundproof, and comfortable with the room temperature being not too warm. It is important to develop a “sleep hygiene”. This means going to sleep around the same time each night, to have some down time of 1 hour or so before going to bed and getting up after the average time of sleep (for most people between 7 to 9 hours). Sleeping in is not a solution, and an alarm clock will also help to develop a sleep routine.

Avoid stimulating drinks, drugs and nicotine

You need to avoid caffeine drinks, alcohol, nicotine and recreational drugs. Smokers should butt out no later than 7PM, as nicotine is a stimulant.

Adopt a regular exercise program

Getting into a regular exercise program, either at home or at a gym is beneficial.

No heavy meal at night

Avoid a heavy meal late at night. A light snack including some warm milk would be OK.

No computer in the bedroom

It is not a sensible idea to use the bedroom as an office, reading place or media center. It stimulates by cortisol production, which keeps us awake. The bedroom is a place of rest and should be comfortable and relaxing.

What to do when waking up at night

Some sleepers wake up at night, and they are wide-awake! Leaving the bedroom and relaxing in the living room for a while can help. It goes without saying that playing video games will not help! An alternative is to take 3 mg of melatonin, which will helps to fall asleep faster, but melatonin will wear off after about 4 hours.

Self-hypnosis recording

A self-hypnosis recording is a useful adjunct to a sleep routine. Listening to it before going to sleep helps to focus on relaxation and to stop ruminating about the day and its events. Keep the volume low.

Results Of Insomnia Studies

Results Of Insomnia Studies

Conclusion

Recent results of insomnia studies have reconfirmed that we need our regular sleep to maintain our health. We have seen that some nursing homes have a practice of waking the client up every 2 hours. Nursing homes must abandoned this as it interferes with the restorative deep REM sleep. In turn this will interfere with hormone restoration overnight.

Children and adolescents must limit their time in front of the TV, iPhones and computer screens. The blue light has the frequency that over stimulates the brain and interferes with melatonin production. Some people work overnight as shift workers or party until the wee hours in the morning. This causes your telomeres in your body cells to shorten. As people restore their sleeping pattern to normal, the telomeres length will remain stable.

Important to restore normal sleep pattern

Even people who are night owls due to an inborn CRY1 gene that is responsible for delayed sleep phase disorder can normalize their sleep pattern by following a strict sleep hygiene. As people get older they lose the ability to make melatonin, but they can counter this by taking melatonin tablets at bedtime.

Remember what I said earlier: Sleep, regular exercise and good nutrition are the biggest components of health.

Dec
03
2016

Electronics In The Bedroom

There is new research showing that electronics in the bedroom can interfere with a normal sleep pattern. Dr. Ben Carter is the lead author and a senior lecturer in biostatistics at King’s College London. He just completed a study involving 125,198 children with an average age of 14½ years. There were about equal amounts of males and females. Both sexes had the same problem. When they were allowed to use electronic media, this interfered with their sleep time. What electronic devices are we talking about? Watching TV, using the computer, the cell phone, tablets and computer games. The study was originally published at JAMA Pediatrics.

Result of the study on electronics in the bedroom

  1. When media bedtime use was allowed, there was a 2.17-fold higher risk of not getting enough sleep quantity. This was compared to kids who did not use media devices in the bedroom.
  2. There was a 1.46-fold risk of having poor sleep quality.
  3. There was a 2.72-fold risk of excessive daytime sleepiness.
  4. Even children who had access to media use, but did not use it at night had similar findings. They had a risk of 1.79-fold to get inadequate sleep quantity. There was a 1.53-fold risk of poor sleep quality. And excessive daytime sleepiness was present with a 2.27-fold risk.

Melatonin level influenced by electronics in the bedroom

Physicians researched the diurnal hormone rhythm and sleep pattern for decades. Essentially two hormones work together.

In the morning when you open your eyes, light enters our eyes and is registered in the hypothalamus. There are also links from the hypothalamus to the pineal gland, where melatonin is synthesized and stored. The light signal stops the secretion of melatonin from the pineal gland, although it is still being produced during the day in the pineal gland, but stored there until the evening hours set in. You may have noticed that you start yawning when the light dims in the evening. That’s when melatonin is released into your system to let you know it’s time to slow down and go to sleep.

Balance of melatonin and cortisol

Of course, we have electrical light and can turn night into day if we choose to! This works for a limited time, but eventually tiredness sets in, and melatonin wins the upper hand. Melatonin is the master hormone of the circadian rhythm.

It is interesting to note that cortisol does exactly the opposite. Cortisol is the adrenal gland hormone that helps us cope with stress. When we are fully awake, we need cortisol to cope with the various stress situations of the day. Melatonin inhibits cortisol secretion and cortisol inhibits melatonin secretion, and they are natural opponents working together for your common good. This is part of the circadian rhythm. We can measure these hormones, and this is how researchers have found out how these two hormones work together.

What light stimulation does to your hormones

Too much exposure of children or adults to electronic devices overstimulates the brain and sends signals to the adrenal glands to produce more cortisol. In between the hypothalamus and the adrenal glands a cascade of hormones regulates this. The hypothalamus sends CRH, the corticotropin-releasing hormone to the pituitary, which stimulates in turn the release of the messenger hormone ACTH to produce more cortisol in the adrenal glands. It is the extra cortisol that keeps kids awake. The same applies to adults who invite electronics into their bedroom. All the excitement from watching the various media gadgets leads to extra cortisol. And we just learnt that cortisol counteracts melatonin. 

What can parents do about electronics in the bedroom?

First of all, parents need to be firm with their kids. They need to explain to them that electronics are staying out of the bedroom. There needs to be a cooling down period one hour before bedtime where they do not watch TV, use the cell phone or other electronic gadgets. They may rebel against this first, but when they sleep better, they likely will be more agreeable. Here is a list that contributes to better sleep habits and better sleep quality:

List for better sleep habits

  • Ensure that the bedroom is dark, soundproof, and comfortable with the room temperature being not too warm. It is important to develop a “sleep hygiene”. This means going to sleep around the same time each night, to have some down time of 1 hour or so before going to bed and get up after the average time of sleep (for most people between 7 to 9 hours). Sleeping in is not a solution, and an alarm clock will help also to develop a sleep routine.
  • Caffeine drinks, alcohol, nicotine and recreational drugs must be avoided. Smokers should butt out no later 7PM, as nicotine is a stimulant.
  • Getting into a regular exercise program, either at home or at a gym is beneficial.
  • Avoid a heavy meal late at night. A light snack including some warm milk would be OK.

More points for the better sleep habit list

  • It is not a sensible idea to use the bedroom as an office, reading place or media center. It paves the way to the stimulus of the cortisol effect that keeps us awake. The bedroom is a place of rest and should be comfortable and relaxing.
  • Some sleepers wake up at night, and they are wide-awake! Leaving the bedroom and relaxing in the living room for a while can help. It goes without saying that playing video games will not help! An alternative is to take 3 mg of melatonin, which will helps to fall asleep faster, but melatonin will wear off after about 4 hours.
  • A self-hypnosis recording is a useful adjunct to a sleep routine. Listening to it before going to sleep helps to focus on relaxation and to stop ruminating about the day and its events. Keep the volume low.

Some thoughts about sleep aids after electronics in the bedroom are removed

Sometimes an adolescent will have trouble falling asleep. Here is the solution of what to do: at the time the youngster is having problems sleeping, there is too much cortisol on board, which prevents the pineal gland to release melatonin. What is missing is melatonin.

The first step is to take 3mg of melatonin at bedtime. It takes 20 to 30 minutes for melatonin to take effect. If the youth does not fall asleep within that time frame he or she is likely thinking too much. If that were the case, I would recommend taking 1 or 2 capsules of valerian root (500 mg strength) from the health food store. This combined with the melatonin should help in more than 80%-90% of insomnia cases. If the child still cannot sleep, see your physician. The adolescent may need sleep studies done or may have problems with the thyroid (hypo- or hyperthyroidism), which may need to be checked. Physicians need to check out other medical problems, including depression. Melatonin and valerian are safe. Other sleeping pills have multiple side effects including memory problems.

Electronics In The Bedroom

Electronics In The Bedroom

Conclusion

A new study has shown that electronics in the bedroom will often keep children awake. It has become a huge problem in schools where students fall asleep or have problems paying attention. There are simple rules regarding a quiet bedroom without electronics that will go a long way of rehabilitating a child who has sleeping problems because of electronics. There are natural ways to help nature along, if the simple measures don’t work. Melatonin and valerian root help to calm the mind and help catching some healthy sleep. If the problem were persisting, an appointment with the family physician would be in order.

Even though this article deals with children and adolescents and the use of electronics in the bedroom, the same applies to adults. They are not immune to the stressors that disrupt sleep. They are just as likely to feel tired and sluggish after a restless sleep, and their performance at the workplace will suffer. Sleep hygiene is as important for adults as it is for adolescents.

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Apr
16
2016

Sleeping Habits

When you are a child or a youngster sleeping habits are rarely a problem. But as people age, they tend to have problems falling asleep and sleeping through the night. Older people may also have certain hormone deficiencies, which can contribute to a change in sleeping habits.

Some basics regarding sleeping habits

There are a couple of facts that everybody should know about sleep, so you work with nature, not against it.

Need of 7 to 8 hours of sleep

The way our bodies are hardwired, we need 7 to 8 hours of sleep and we need to fall asleep between 10PM and 11PM.

Diurnal hormone rhythm

The reason for the relative rigid sleeping schedule time wise is the diurnal hormone rhythm. This is also known as the circadian clock that is dictated by the light of the sun (24 hour cycle). Light going into our eyes in the morning inactivates melatonin. But in the evening the pineal gland releases melatonin after sunset. This is what keeps the internal clock on time. We all know how we derail when we fly east or west. There are differences. I find that I am more affected when I fly west than east. The readjustment for me often takes one or two weeks for a 9-hour time zone difference.

Melatonin production is age-sensitive

Melatonin is gradually produced less as we age. The highest melatonin production occurs around 10 years of age. From then on melatonin production declines. This likely is the reason why older people more often have insomnia problems.

Melatonin rules at night, cortisol rules during the day

There is interplay between melatonin and cortisol. These two hormones complement each other. When you sleep melatonin governs and resets the hormones to be ready in the morning. This involves an early testosterone peak for the male and cortisol, which has to be ready the moment you wake up. It is cortisol coming from the adrenal glands that rules during the day and is giving us energy. Thyroid hormones also gives you energy during the day. As I will explain below, human growth hormone is an energy-giving hormone as well that also clears your mind.

Human growth hormone

What is not as much known is that human growth hormone (GH) provides energy for us. Growth hormone is released as a spurt between midnight and 3 AM, when you’re deep asleep. The purpose of that is to get you ready with regard to energy for the next day. If you drink alcohol after 5PM the afternoon before, you will miss most of that GH spurt during the night and have a hangover (lack of energy the following day).  At the 23 rd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine on Dec. 13, 2015 in Las Vegas the endocrinologist, Dr. Thierry Hertoghe from Belgium gave a talk about GH and said that even one drink during the evening before you go to sleep will cancel 75% of the GH spurt causing a lack of energy the following day.

Regular alcoholic drinks can interfere with growth hormone production

When you have alcoholic drinks evening after evening as many people do, you interfere with your deepest sleep, creating a fitful sleep and you can develop GH deficiency, which can be measured with blood and urine tests. GH deficiency leads to premature signs of aging, such as wrinkles, musculoskeletal problems, muscle weakness and dementia. Many people in their 80’s look “old”. In fact they may be growth hormone deficient and could be treated with human GH, if GH deficiency were confirmed by tests. Part of the aged appearance is reversible in cases of growth hormone deficiency by treating with daily GH injections.

Less melatonin as we age

As we age, we produce less melatonin and less growth hormone. All of these hormone levels can be determined. If they are low, they should be replaced with small amounts of whatever hormone is missing.

Other hormones that are important

There are other hormones that are important for energy: cortisol from the adrenal glands, thyroid hormones and DHEA from the adrenal glands. When people get older there is a problem with melatonin production and an evening dose of melatonin supplement of 3mg is advisable. People beyond the age of menopause (females) and andropause (males) need bioidentical sex hormone replacement. Once they have sufficient hormone levels, they will also have more energy. It is advisable to get all of these hormones tested using a saliva hormone test.

How to assess growth hormone deficiency

Growth hormone is a bit more difficult to assess, but IGF-1 levels give a first indication what your growth hormone levels are doing. The newest test is a 24-hour urine collection or an overnight urine sample looking for growth hormone metabolites. If levels are found to be low, daily replacement of growth hormone using a pen similar to insulin injections in diabetics can be given, using pure human growth hormone. You would need to seek the advice of a knowledgeable naturopath.

What does insomnia do to you?

From a psychological point of view performance is slower, there is a slower reaction time and there is a risk of developing anxiety or depression. The immune system gets weakened, high blood pressure can develop and there is a risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and cancer. It is common to gain weight becoming overweight or obese. Even your telomeres, the caps of chromosomes in every cell get shortened from too much stress and too little sleep. Shortened telomeres mean a shortened life span.

How to improve sleeping habits

Set your alarm clock for 8 hours later when you go to sleep. Make sure your bedroom is dark, but wake up to the alarm clock after 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Don’t sleep longer than 8 hours per night. Your internal diurnal hormone rhythm will thank you for regulating your sleep/wake rhythm by giving you the energy you want. I enjoy mine.

Sleeping habits include problems falling asleep or sleeping through

Falling asleep: As we mostly have a lack of melatonin, the first step is to take 3mg to 5mg of melatonin at bedtime. But it should be taken during the window of opportunity fitting into the diurnal hormone rhythm as mentioned above: between 10PM and 11PM. It takes 20 to 30 minutes for melatonin to take effect. If you do not fall asleep within that time frame, you are likely thinking too much. If that were the case, I would recommend taking 1 or 2 capsules of valerian (500 mg strength) from the health food store. This combined with melatonin should help in more than 80%-90% of insomnia cases.

Not sleeping through: Some of you, particularly if you are elderly, may wake up at 3 or 4 AM and have a hard time falling asleep again. At that time it would be safe to take another 3mg of melatonin and if this does not work within 20 minutes add another 500mg valerian capsule.

If you continue to have insomnia problems, see your physician. You may need sleep studies done or you may have problems with your thyroid gland (hypo- or hyperthyroidism), which needs to be checked. The doctor needs to be aware of other medical problems including depression. Melatonin and valerian are safe. Other sleeping pills have multiple side effects including memory problems.

Part of good sleeping habits is to provide a quiet, comfortable bedroom

The following points are good checklist for a comfortable sleep environment (Ref.1).

  • Ensure your bedroom is dark, soundproof, and comfortable with the room temperature being not too warm, and you develop a “sleep hygiene”. This means you get to sleep around the same time each night, have some down time 1 hour or so before going to bed and get up after your average time of sleep (for most people between 7 to 9 hours). Do not sleep in, but use an alarm clock to help you get into your sleep routine.
  • Avoid caffeine drinks, alcohol, nicotine and recreational drugs. If you must smoke, don’t smoke later than 7PM.
  • Get into a regular exercise program, either at home or at a gym.
  • Avoid a heavy meal late at night. A light snack including some warm milk would be OK.
  • Do not use your bedroom as an office, reading place or media center. This would condition you to be awake.  Reserve your bedroom use only for intimacy and sleeping.
  • If you wake up at night and you are wide awake, leave the bedroom and sit in the living room doing something until you feel tired and then return to bed.
  • A self-hypnosis recording is a useful adjunct to a sleep routine. Listen to it when you go to bed to give you something to focus on (low volume) and you will find it easier to stop thinking.
Sleeping Habits

Sleeping Habits

Conclusion

We need to be aware how important a proper hormone balance is when it comes to a healthy sleep pattern. Thyroid hormones and sex hormones are easy to measure. Bioidentical hormone replacement is necessary, if one of the hormones is low. To check GH levels, the doctor orders an IGF-1 level and/or metabolites of GH in a 24-hour urine sample as explained above. Older people need to replace melatonin deficiency the way I summarized above. With these measures sleeping habits improve, and you will get your 7 to 8 hours of restoring sleep. Forget the notion of the past that older people would not need as much sleep. Especially for an aging individual it is important to have a good night’s sleep in order to feel well and energized every day.

References

Ref.1: Jean Gray, editor: “Therapeutic choices”, 5th edition, Chapter 8 by Jonathan A.E. Fleming, MB, FRCPC: Insomnia, © 2008, Canadian Pharmacists Association.