Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tonsillectomies help breathing problems in children

When tonsillectomies were first performed, they were mainly done as a way to combat recurrent sore throats. Yet, after a study was done in 1980, showing that only children with severe sore throats benefitted from the procedure, it was not performed as widely. However, tonsillectomies are now on the rise again.

According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2006 nearly 530,000 tonsillectomies were done on children 15 and younger.

This spike is believed to be because of chronic snoring, breathing issues, and sleep problems. The tonsils are clusters of tissues located on both sides in the back of the throat. They can become enlarged and obstruct the upper airway. Almost 2 percent of children have obstructive sleep apnea according the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).

Most children see their symptoms improve within 6 months after the surgery. Tonsils have been associated with respiratory illness, sinus infections, ear disease and sleep disorders. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that before getting the procedure, children should be submitted to a sleep study so that a proper diagnosis can be made.

To find out if you or your child has sleep apnea, visit an AASM accredited sleep center to have a sleep study done.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Interrupted Sleep Could Impair Forming Memories

Uninterrupted sleep is the key to getting the right amount of rest. It not only helps physically, but mentally. In a new study, researchers at Stanford University discovered that sleep interruptions impair the brain’s ability to form memories.
Scientists assumed that memory would become hindered because of a lack of sleep continuity. Memory problems can be seen in people who suffer from alcoholism or sleep apnea. Both of these problems can cause sleep discontinuity.
The problem researchers faced was finding a way to break sleep into shorter segments without affecting the intensity or duration of sleep. The solution: optogenetics. This is a new technique that can genetically engineer specific cells to be able to be controlled by visible light pulses. Researchers performed this method on the neurons of the brain that help it switch between sleep and wakeful states.
Using mice as test subjects, researchers found that by hitting the rodents’ brain cells with 10-second bursts of light; they could break up their sleep without affecting the intensity or duration of the sleep.
After the test was completed, the mice were then given two objects. One was familiar while the other object was new to the mice. After interrupted sleep, the mice took just as long to investigate the familiar object as the new one. The mice spent more time with the new object when their sleep was not interrupted.
After testing different variations of sleep interruption, the researchers concluded that if the mice were allowed 62-73% of the normal sleep duration, it would not affect memory. Study co-author H. Craig Heller, professor of biology at Stanford University, believes that the findings show that sleep continuity is critical for memory.
It remains unclear how much uninterrupted sleep is needed to prevent memory impairment in humans. The researchers did say however that the memory problems experienced by people with sleep disorders are most likely due to disruption of continuity in their sleep.

Photo by: Tim Snell

Monday, July 25, 2011

A New Experimental Alternative to the CPAP

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Treatment (CPAP) is the first-line treatment for sleep apnea. However, it does not work for all patients. The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) is testing an experimental alternative sleep apnea treatment that works by stimulating the muscles to keep the airway from closing.
The muscle stimulator resembles a pacemaker and is implanted beneath the skin in the chest. There are two leads extending from the stimulator. One goes to an electrode that is implanted on the nerve that leads to the tongue. A person’s breathing cycle stimulates the nerve.  The second lead goes to the chest muscles to detect breathing. When the person is ready for sleep, the stimulator can be turned on by a remote.
Dr. Gillespie, a sleep specialist, says that patients won’t feel the stimulation, but they may feel their tongue move forward. However, after a few days, it is not that noticeable.
The experimental surgery is being monitored as part of a trial by the Food and Drug Administration. It is only for those patients who have tried the CPAP treatment and it has not benefitted them.
To find out if you have sleep apnea, visit an AASM accredited sleep center to have a sleep study done.

Photo by: Robbie Kennedy

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Restless Legs Syndrome Could Be in Your Genes

Restless legs syndrome (RLS), according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, is a sleep related movement disorder that involves an irresistible urge to move the legs at night. It affects five percent to 10 percent of adults; in children the percentage is unknown.

A new study, published in PLoS Genetics, shows that RLS may be genetic. In the study, 922 people with the genes that are linked to RLS were compared to 1,526 healthy people. Seventy-six potential gene candidates were found. The genes were then replicated in 3,935 people with RLS and 5,754 healthy people.

By doing this the results were narrowed down to six genetic regions that are connected with an increased risk of RLS. There were four mutations. Two have already been reported on; however, two of them are new.

TOX3, one of the newly identified regions, is used by the brain to regulate activity. Earlier studies have shown that TOX3 protein protects brain cells from cell death. However, the connection between TOX3 and RLS is not clear.

Juliane Winklemann, a researcher at the Institute of Human Genetics in Munich, Germany, says that the findings of the study will help with creating new treatments for RLS. It will also provide more insight into the cause RLS.

Picture by spentYouth

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Practical Napper Book Review

The Practical Napper, by Jennifer Eyre White, is a humorous guide to the importance of taking naps. It is a quick, easy read that provides facts from research and sleep studies, as well as tips to getting the most out of your nap time. It also has quotes from many well known people.

The book gives a positive outlook on the act of napping, and relates well to the reader. It ranges from tips on how and when to nap to what napping can do for you in the long run. White also talks to parents with newborns and what they can do to get some sleep in their otherwise sleep deprived lives.

The Practical Napper has something for everyone. It grabs the attention of the reader with pictures and short, snappy writing. By using quotes, it shows that many people, even if they don’t know the medical facts, know the value of a nap. White includes this quote from Earnest Hemingway in which he says, “I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?” Overall, the book was fun, enjoyable and makes the case for taking naps even stronger!

In the vein of fun books, the AASM has just published two children’s picture books about sleeping. They are wonderful ways to introduce your child to the importance of sleep. For information on how to purchase them, click here.

Photo by Maria Pons

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fighting insomnia with your brain

About 16 percent of adults and up to 25 percent of children have chronic insomnia. Researchers are attempting to discover new ways to help those who have the disorder. Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center has conducted a study using Brainwave Optimization as a treatment.

Brainwave Optimization is a non-invasive technology that helps the brain to stabilize itself for top performance. Electrodes are attached to different points on the patient’s head and connected to a computer that picks up the brainwaves from different lobes. The technique breaks brain waves into different musical tones that the patient can hear. A higher frequency would be a higher pitch on a musical scale.

When you experience stress, your survival instincts kick in causing an imbalance of energy in your brain. When the balance isn’t restored, you may have anxiety or trouble sleeping. Brainwave Optimization encourages the brain to correct itself.

Lead researcher Charles Tegeler IV, MD, explained the process this way: “In effect, we are allowing the brain to look at itself in the mirror and see itself in an optimized, energized state. Those areas that are out of balance then begin to work towards a more functional state.”

A group of 20 people were involved in the study, all diagnosed with moderate to severe insomnia. One of the two randomized groups was given eight to 12 Brainwave Optimization sessions, while the other group acted as the control.Once the first set of data was collected, the group that previously acted as the control took part in the Brainwave Optimization sessions.

Researchers have previously looked into using music and biofeedback to relax the brain. In past studies involving music, a computer analyzes the brainwaves and then plays music specific to your unique brainwave pattern.

The techniques are similar to biofeedback, a method of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Biofeedback involves training yourself to recognize certain indicators that your body gives you, such as the levels of muscle tension and brainwaves. It uses a device shows those levels, so you can try to change them in a way that helps you to sleep.

Photo by jemsweb