1. Study suggests body clock disruptions occur years before memory loss in Alzheimer’s

    February 15, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Washington University in St. Louis press release:

    People with Alzheimer’s disease are known to have disturbances in their internal body clocks that affect the sleep/wake cycle and may increase risk of developing the disorder. Now, new research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis indicates that such circadian rhythm disruptions also occur much earlier in people whose memories are intact but whose brain scans show early, preclinical evidence of Alzheimer’s.

    The findings potentially could help doctors identify people at risk of Alzheimer’s earlier than currently is possible. That’s important because Alzheimer’s damage can take root in the brain 15 to 20 years before clinical symptoms appear.

    The research is published Jan. 29 in the journal JAMA Neurology.

    “It wasn’t that the people in the study were sleep-deprived,” said first author Erik S. Musiek, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of neurology. “But their sleep tended to be fragmented. Sleeping for eight hours at night is very different from getting eight hours of sleep in one-hour increments during daytime naps.”

    The researchers also conducted a separate study in mice, to be published Jan. 30 in The Journal of Experimental Medicine, showing that similar circadian disruptions accelerate the development of amyloid plaques in the brain, which are linked to Alzheimer’s.

    Previous studies at Washington University, conducted in people and in animals, have found that levels of amyloid fluctuate in predictable ways during the day and night. Amyloid levels decrease during sleep, and several studies have shown that levels increase when sleep is disrupted or when people don’t get enough deep sleep, according to research by senior author, Yo-El Ju, MD.

    “In this new study, we found that people with preclinical Alzheimer’s disease had more fragmentation in their circadian activity patterns, with more periods of inactivity or sleep during the day and more periods of activity at night,” said Ju, an assistant professor of neurology.

    The researchers tracked circadian rhythms in 189 cognitively normal, older adults with an average age of 66. Some had positron emission tomography (PET) scans to look for Alzheimer’s-related amyloid plaques in their brains. Others had their cerebrospinal fluid tested for Alzheimer’s-related proteins. And some had both scans and spinal fluid testing.

    Of the participants, 139 had no evidence of the amyloid protein that signifies preclinical Alzheimer’s. Most had normal sleep/wake cycles, although several had circadian disruptions that were linked to advanced age, sleep apnea or other causes.

    But among the other 50 subjects — who either had abnormal brain scans or abnormal cerebrospinal fluid — all experienced significant disruptions in their internal body clocks, determined by how much rest they got at night and how active they were during the day. Disruptions in the sleep/wake cycle remained even after the researchers statistically controlled for sleep apnea, age and other factors.

    The study subjects, from Washington University’s Knight Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, all wore devices similar to exercise trackers for one to two weeks. Each also completed a detailed sleep diary every morning.

    By tracking activity during the day and night, the researchers could tell how scattered rest and activity were throughout 24-hour periods. Subjects who experienced short spurts of activity and rest during the day and night were more likely to have evidence of amyloid buildup in their brains.

    These findings in people reinforce the mouse research from Musiek’s lab. In that study, working with first author Geraldine J. Kress, PhD, an assistant professor of neurology, Musiek studied circadian rhythm disruptions in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s. To disrupt the animals’ circadian rhythms, his team disabled genes that control the circadian clock.

    “Over two months, mice with disrupted circadian rhythms developed considerably more amyloid plaques than mice with normal rhythms,” Musiek said. “The mice also had changes in the normal, daily rhythms of amyloid protein in the brain. It’s the first data demonstrating that the disruption of circadian rhythms could be accelerating the deposition of plaques.”

    Both Musiek and Ju said it’s too early to answer the chicken-and-egg question of whether disrupted circadian rhythms put people at risk for Alzheimer’s disease or whether Alzheimer’s-related changes in the brain disrupt circadian rhythms.

    “At the very least, these disruptions in circadian rhythms may serve as a biomarker for preclinical disease,” said Ju. “We want to bring back these subjects in the future to learn more about whether their sleep and circadian rhythm problems lead to increased Alzheimer’s risk or whether the Alzheimer’s disease brain changes cause sleep/wake cycle and circadian problems.”

    Reference: Kress, GJ, Liao F, Dimitry J, Cedeno MR, Fitzgerald GA, Holtzman DM, Musiek ES. Regulation of amyloid-beta dynamics and pathology by the circadian clock. The Journal of Experimental Medicine, Jan. 30, 2018.


  2. Study raises possibilities of links between ADHD and sleep disorders

    February 6, 2018 by Ashley

    From the UT Southwestern Medical Center press release:

    Amid a steady rise in the number of children diagnosed with ADHD, debate is brewing whether the condition may be a sleep disorder.

    At a recent Paris scientific conference, scientists in psychiatry discussed evidence supporting the theory that sleep and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are intertwined. However, some experts caution that more proof is needed to make the association and that many new cases involve children whose sleep disorders cause behaviors that mimic ADHD.

    “If adults don’t get enough sleep, they’ll appear sleepy,” says Dr. Syed Naqvi, a pediatric sleep expert at UT Southwestern’s Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute. “Children don’t do that. They show ADHD-like behavior instead — hyperactive or inattentive.”

    Dr. Naqvi says he sees plenty of ADHD-diagnosed children whose behavior only improves after better sleep quality and duration. Occasionally, he has found that ADHD medications are the root of the sleep issues.

    Dr. Preston Wiles, an ADHD expert with the O’Donnell Brain Institute, acknowledges that the increasing number of children taking these medications is “concerning.” He says the trend is fueled in large part by a lack of qualified clinicians who can accurately diagnose ADHD and understand child behavior.

    “Pills can be a poor substitute for taking the time to truly understand what is going on with behavior,” Dr. Wiles says.

    Dr. Naqvi offers a few tips to help parents determine whether sleep disturbances are affecting their child’s behavior:

    • Watch for signs of breathing issues, such as snoring or short intervals of halted breathing, and get an evaluation by a sleep expert.
    • Measure the duration of nighttime sleep the child is getting and monitor any sleepiness during the daytime.
    • Monitor school performance and seek help if it doesn’t improve after starting ADHD medications.

  3. Study suggests writing a ‘to-do’ list at bedtime may aid in falling asleep

    January 26, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Baylor University press release:

    Writing a “to-do” list at bedtime may aid in falling asleep, according to a Baylor University study. Research compared sleep patterns of participants who took five minutes to write down upcoming duties versus participants who chronicled completed activities.

    “We live in a 24/7 culture in which our to-do lists seem to be constantly growing and causing us to worry about unfinished tasks at bedtime,” said lead author Michael K. Scullin, Ph.D., director of Baylor’s Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory and assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience. “Most people just cycle through their to-do lists in their heads, and so we wanted to explore whether the act of writing them down could counteract nighttime difficulties with falling asleep.”

    Some 40 percent of American adults report difficulty falling asleep at least a few times each month, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

    The study of 57 university students, conducted in Baylor’s Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory, was published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Experimental Psychology.

    “There are two schools of thought about this,” Scullin said. “One is that writing about the future would lead to increased worry about unfinished tasks and delay sleep, while journaling about completed activities should not trigger worry.

    “The alternative hypothesis is that writing a to-do list will ‘offload’ those thoughts and reduce worry,” he said.

    While anecdotal evidence exists that writing a bedtime list can help one fall asleep, the Baylor study used overnight polysomnography, the “gold standard” of sleep measurement, Scullin said. With that method, researchers monitor electrical brain activity using electrodes.

    Participants stayed in the lab on a week night to avoid weekend effects on bedtime and because on a weekday night, they probably had unfinished tasks to do the next day, Scullin said. They were divided into two randomly selected groups and given five-minute writing assignments before retiring. One group was asked to write down everything they needed to remember to do the next day or over the next few days; the other to write about tasks completed during the previous few days.

    Students were instructed they could go to bed at 10:30 p.m., and “we had them in a controlled environment,” Scullin said. “We absolutely restricted any technology, homework, etc. It was simply lights out after they got into bed.”

    Scullin noted that while the sample size was appropriate for an experimental, laboratory-based polysomnography study, a larger future study would be of value.

    “Measures of personality, anxiety and depression might moderate the effects of writing on falling asleep, and that could be explored in an investigation with a larger sample,” he said. “We recruited healthy young adults, and so we don’t know whether our findings would generalize to patients with insomnia, though some writing activities have previously been suggested to benefit such patients.”

    The research was partially funded by a National Institutes of Health grant and the Sleep Research Society Foundation.


  4. Study suggests too much business travel may increase risk of depression and sleep issues

    January 19, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health press release:

    People who travel for business two weeks or more a month report more symptoms of anxiety and depression and are more likely to smoke, be sedentary and report trouble sleeping than those who travel one to six nights a month, according to a latest study conducted by researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and City University of New York. Among those who consume alcohol, extensive business travel is associated with symptoms of alcohol dependence. Poor behavioral and mental health outcomes significantly increased as the number of nights away from home for business travel rose. This is one of the first studies to report the effects of business travel on non-infectious disease health risks. The results are published online in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

    The Global Business Travel Association Foundation estimates there were nearly 503 million person-business trips in 2016 in the U.S. compared to 488 million in the prior year. “Although business travel can be seen as a job benefit and can lead to occupational advancement, there is a growing literature showing that extensive business travel is associated with risk of chronic diseases associated with lifestyle factors,” said Andrew Rundle, DrPH, associate professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health. “The field of occupational travel medicine needs to expand beyond its current focus on infectious disease, cardiovascular disease risks, violence and injury to bring more focus to the behavioral and mental health consequences of business travel.”

    The study was based on the de-identified health records of 18,328 employees who underwent a health assessment in 2015 through their corporate wellness work benefits program provided by EHE International, Inc. The EHE International health exam measured depressive symptoms with the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), anxiety symptoms with the Generalized Anxiety Scale (GAD-7) and alcohol dependence with the CAGE scale.

    A score above 4 on the Generalized Anxiety Scale (GAD-7) was reported by 24 percent of employees, and 15 percent scored above a 4 on the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), indicating that mild or worse anxiety or depressive symptoms were common in this employee population. Among those who consume alcohol, a CAGE score of 2 or higher indicates the presence of alcohol dependence and was found in 6 percent of employees who drank. GAD-7 and PHQ-9 scores and CAGE scores of 2 or higher increased with increasing nights away from home for business travel. These data are consistent with analyses of medical claims data from World Bank employees which found that the largest increase in claims among their business travelers was for psychological disorders related to stress.

    Employers and employees should consider new approaches to improve employee health during business trips that go beyond the typical travel health practice of providing immunizations and medical evacuation services, according to Rundle, whose earlier research found that extensive business travel was associated with higher body mass index, obesity, and higher blood pressure.

    “At the individual-level, employees who travel extensively need to take responsibility for the decisions they make around diet, exercise, alcohol consumption, and sleep. However, to do this, employees will likely need support in the form of education, training, and a corporate culture that emphasizes healthy business travel. Employers should provide employees who travel for business with accommodations that have access to physical activity facilities and healthy food options.”


  5. People who sleep less than 8 hours a night more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety

    January 18, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Binghamton University press release:

    Sleeping less than the recommended eight hours a night is associated with intrusive, repetitive thoughts like those seen in anxiety or depression, according to new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.

    Binghamton University Professor of Psychology Meredith Coles and former graduate student Jacob Nota assessed the timing and duration of sleep in individuals with moderate to high levels of repetitive negative thoughts (e.g., worry and rumination). The research participants were exposed to different pictures intended to trigger an emotional response, and researchers tracked their attention through their eye movements. The researchers discovered that regular sleep disruptions are associated with difficulty in shifting one’s attention away from negative information. This may mean that inadequate sleep is part of what makes negative intrusive thoughts stick around and interfere with people’s lives .

    “We found that people in this study have some tendencies to have thoughts get stuck in their heads, and their elevated negative thinking makes it difficult for them to disengage with the negative stimuli that we exposed them to,” said Coles. “While other people may be able to receive negative information and move on, the participants had trouble ignoring it.”

    These negative thoughts are believed to leave people vulnerable to different types of psychological disorders, such as anxiety or depression, said Coles.

    “We realized over time that this might be important — this repetitive negative thinking is relevant to several different disorders like anxiety, depression and many other things,” said Coles. “This is novel in that we’re exploring the overlap between sleep disruptions and the way they affect these basic processes that help in ignoring those obsessive negative thoughts.”

    The researchers are further exploring this discovery, evaluating how the timing and duration of sleep may also contribute to the development or maintenance of psychological disorders. If their theories are correct, their research could potentially allow psychologists to treat anxiety and depression by shifting patients’ sleep cycles to a healthier time or making it more likely a patient will sleep when they get in bed.

    The paper, “Shorter sleep duration and longer sleep onset latency are related to difficulty disengaging attention from negative emotional images in individuals with elevated transdiagnostic repetitive negative thinking” was published in ScienceDirect.


  6. Seeing gene influencing performance of sleep-deprived people

    January 10, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Washington State University press release:

    Washington State University researchers have discovered a genetic variation that predicts how well people perform certain mental tasks when they are sleep deprived.

    Their research shows that individuals with a particular variation of the DRD2 gene are resilient to the effects of sleep deprivation when completing tasks that require cognitive flexibility, the ability to make appropriate decisions based on changing information.

    Sleep-deprived people with two other variations of the gene tend to perform much more poorly on the same kinds of tasks, the researchers found.

    The DRD2 dopamine receptor gene influences the processing of information in the striatum, a region of the brain that is known to be involved in cognitive flexibility.

    “Our work shows that there are people who are resilient to the effects of sleep deprivation when it comes to cognitive flexibility. Surprisingly these same people are just as affected as everyone else on other tasks that require different cognitive abilities, such as maintaining focus,” said Paul Whitney, a WSU professor of psychology and lead author of the study, which appeared in the journal Scientific Reports. “This confirms something we have long suspected, namely that the effects of sleep deprivation are not general in nature, but rather depend on the specific task and the genes of the person performing the task.”

    Why sleep loss affects us differently

    When deprived of sleep, some people respond better than others. Scientists have identified genes associated with this, but they have wondered why the effects of sleep loss tend to vary widely across both individuals and cognitive tasks. For example, after a day without sleep, some people might struggle with a reaction time test but perform well on decision-making tasks, or vice versa.

    In the current study, Whitney, along with colleagues John Hinson, WSU professor of psychology, and Hans Van Dongen, director of the WSU Sleep and Performance Research Center at WSU Spokane, compared how people with different variations of the DRD2 gene performed on tasks designed to test both their ability to anticipate events and their cognitive flexibility in response to changing circumstances.

    Forty-nine adults participated in the study at the WSU Spokane sleep laboratory. After a 10-hour rest period, 34 participants were randomly selected to go 38 hours without sleep while the other participants were allowed to sleep normally.

    Before and after the period of sleep deprivation, subjects were shown a series of letter pairings on a computer screen and told to click the left mouse button for a certain letter combination (e.g., an A followed by an X) and the right mouse button for all other letter pairs. After a while, both the sleep-deprived group and the rested group were able to identify the pattern and click correctly for various letter pairs.

    Then came the tricky part: in the middle of the task, researchers told the participants to now click the left mouse button for a different letter combination. The sudden switch confounded most of the sleep-deprived participants, but those who had a particular variation of the DRD2 gene handled the switch as well as they did when well-rested.

    “Our research shows this particular gene influences a person’s ability to mentally change direction when given new information,” Van Dongen said. “Some people are protected from the effects of sleep deprivation by this particular gene variation but, for most of us, sleep loss does something to the brain that simply prevents us from switching gears when circumstances change.”

    Training to cope with sleep loss

    Sleep deprivation’s effect on cognitive flexibility can have serious consequences, especially in high stakes, real-world situations like an emergency room or military operations where the ability to respond to changing circumstances is critical. For example, after a night without sleep, a surgeon might notice a spike in a patient’s vital signs midway through a procedure but be unable to use this information to decide on a better course of action.

    The WSU research team is currently applying what they learned from their study to develop new ways to help surgeons, police officers, soldiers and other individuals who regularly deal with the effects of sleep deprivation in critical, dynamic settings cope with the loss of cognitive flexibility.

    “Our long-term goal is to be able to train people so that no matter what their genetic composition is, they will be able to recognize and respond appropriately to changing scenarios, and be less vulnerable to sleep loss.” Whitney said. “Of course, the more obvious solution is to just get some sleep, but in a lot of real-world situations, we don’t have that luxury.”


  7. Study suggests offbeat brainwaves during sleep make older adults forget

    January 1, 2018 by Ashley

    From the University of California – Berkeley press release:

    Like swinging a tennis racket during a ball toss to serve an ace, slow and speedy brainwaves during deep sleep must sync up at exactly the right moment to hit the save button on new memories, according to new UC Berkeley research.

    While these brain rhythms, occurring hundreds of times a night, move in perfect lockstep in young adults, findings published in the journal Neuron show that, in old age, slow waves during non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep fail to make timely contact with speedy electrical bursts known as “spindles.”

    “The mistiming prevents older people from being able to effectively hit the save button on new memories, leading to overnight forgetting rather than remembering,” said study senior author Matthew Walker, a UC Berkeley professor of neuroscience and psychology and director of the campus’s Center for Human Sleep Science.

    “As the brain ages, it cannot precisely coordinate these two deep-sleep brain waves,” Walker added. “Like a tennis player who is off their game, they’re swiping and missing.”

    In tennis lingo, for example, the slow brainwaves or oscillations represent the ball toss while the spindles symbolize the swing of the racket as it aims to make contact with the ball and serve an ace.

    “Timing is everything. Only when the slow waves and spindles come together in a very narrow opportunity time window (approximately one-tenth of a second), can the brain effectively place new memories into its long-term storage,” said study lead author Randolph Helfrich, a postdoctoral fellow in neuroscience at UC Berkeley

    Moreover, researchers found that the aging brain’s failure to coordinate deep-sleep brainwaves is most likely due to degradation or atrophy of the medial frontal cortex, a key region of the brain’s frontal lobe that generates the deep, restorative slumber that we enjoy in our youth.

    “The worse the atrophy in this brain region of older adults, the more uncoordinated and poorly timed are their deep-sleep brainwaves,” Walker said. “But there is a silver lining: Sleep is now a new target for potential therapeutic intervention.”

    To amplify slow waves and get them into optimal sync with spindles, researchers plan to apply electrical brain stimulation to the frontal lobe in future experiments.

    “By electrically boosting these nighttime brainwaves, we hope to restore some degree of healthy deep sleep in the elderly and those with dementia, and in doing so, salvage aspects of their learning and memory,” Walker said.

    For the study, researchers compared the overnight memory of 20 healthy adults in their 20s to that of 32 healthy older adults, mostly in their 70s. Before going to bed for a full night’s sleep, participants learned and were then tested on 120 word sets.

    As they slept, researchers recorded their electrical brain-wave activity using scalp electroencephalography (EEG). The next morning, study participants were tested again on the word pairs, this time while undergoing functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans.

    The EEG results showed that in older people, the spindles consistently peaked early in the memory-consolidation cycle and missed syncing up with the slow waves.

    Moreover, brain imaging showed grey matter atrophy in the medial frontal cortex of older adults, which suggests that deterioration within the frontal lobe prevents deep slow waves from perfectly syncing up with spindles.


  8. Study suggests amber-tinted glasses may provide relief for insomnia

    December 20, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Columbia University Medical Center press release:

    How do you unwind before bedtime? If your answer involves Facebook and Netflix, you are actively reducing your chance of a good night’s sleep. And you are not alone: 90 percent of Americans use light-emitting electronic devices, such as smartphones and laptops, in the hour before bed, despite the fact that such behavior is associated with symptoms of insomnia. The obvious solution is to ditch the technology, but people rarely heed this advice.

    Knowing that individuals with insomnia are also unlikely to change their ways, researchers from Columbia University Medical Center tested a method to reduce the adverse effects of evening ambient light exposure, while still allowing use of blue light-emitting devices. Their findings will be published in the January issue of Journal of Psychiatric Research.

    Smartphones, tablets and other light-emitting devices are lit by LEDs, which have a peak wavelength in the blue portion of the spectrum. Blue light at night suppresses melatonin and increases alertness; the use of amber-tinted lenses that block blue light mitigates these effects.

    The Columbia team, led by Ari Shechter, PhD, assistant professor of medical sciences, reasoned that selectively blocking blue light in the hours before bedtime would lead to improved sleep in individuals with insomnia.

    To test their theory, the researchers recruited 14 individuals with an insomnia diagnosis to take part in a small study. For seven consecutive nights, participants wore wrap-around frames with amber-tinted lenses that blocked blue light or with clear placebo lenses for two hours before bedtime. Four weeks later, participants repeated the protocol with the other set of glasses.

    The researchers found that participants got around 30 minutes extra sleep when they wore the amber lenses compared to the clear lenses. In self-reported sleep surveys, participants also reported greater duration, quality, and soundness of sleep, and an overall reduction in insomnia severity.

    These findings are consistent with prior studies showing a benefit of blue-light-blocking lenses in improving sleep, but should be replicated in larger controlled studies, Shechter said.

    “Now more than ever we are exposing ourselves to high amounts of blue light before bedtime, which may contribute to or exacerbate sleep problems,” Shechter said. “Amber lenses are affordable and they can easily be combined with other established cognitive and behavioral techniques for insomnia management.”

    Many smartphones screens can now be adjusted to emit amber instead of blue light, and Shechter said these settings should help to improve sleep. “I do recommend using the amber setting on smartphones at night, in addition to manually reducing the brightness levels. But blue light does not only come from our phones. It is emitted from televisions, computers, and importantly, from many light bulbs and other LED light sources that are increasingly used in our homes because they are energy-efficient and cost-effective,” he said.

    “The glasses approach allows us to filter out blue-wavelength light from all these sources, which might be particularly useful for individuals with sleep difficulties.”

    The use of amber lenses also appeared to reduce blood pressure in the study’s participants (these data are published in the September issue of Sleep Medicine). “Insomnia is often characterized by physiologic hyperarousal, which may account for the relationship between poor sleep and cardiovascular risk,” Dr Shechter explained. “Going forward, it will be interesting to examine whether this blue-light blocking approach can be useful for improving cardiovascular outcomes like hypertension in individuals with poor sleep.”


  9. Study suggests duration of sleep increases and sleeping difficulties decrease after retirement

    December 16, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Turku press release:

    When people retire from work life, they sleep approximately 20 minutes longer than before retirement. The quality of sleep also improves, as retired people experience less early morning awakenings or nonrestorative sleep, unlike in their last working years.

    Researchers at the University of Turku, Finland, discovered in collaboration with the Finnish Institution of Occupational Health, University of Helsinki, and University College London Medical School that self-reported duration of sleep increased approximately 20 minutes after retirement, and stayed on the achieved level for years after retirement.

    Duration of sleep increased especially for people who had had sleep difficulties or were heavy alcohol users prior to retirement. The duration of sleep increased the most for people who did not get enough sleep during their employment and they slept 45 minutes longer during their retirement.

    – A sufficient amount of sleep is very important for our health and functioning. Individuals have different needs of sleep, but it is recommended for people over the age of 65 to sleep for 7-8 hours a night. Retiring enables people to sleep longer, as work schedules no longer determine the times for sleeping and waking up, states Doctoral Candidate Saana Myllyntausta from the University of Turku, whose dissertation research is part of the study.

    During their last years of employment, different sleep difficulties were experienced by 30 percent of the people. After retiring, only 26 percent of the people were experiencing sleep difficulties. The researchers discovered that, of different kinds of sleep difficulties, people experienced a decrease especially in early morning awakenings and nonrestorative sleep, where a person experiences tiredness and fatigue after sleeping for a regular duration. Sleep difficulties decreased especially among people who experienced their work as stressful and their health as poor before retirement. Sleep difficulties decreased the most for people who experienced psychological distress before retirement.

    – For example, work-related stress is known to disturb sleep. One reason for the decrease in sleeping difficulties during retirement could be the removal of work-related stress, says Myllyntausta.

    The study followed approximately 5,800 people who participated in the Finnish Public Sector study by the Finnish Institution of Occupational Health and who retired on a statutory basis in 2000-2011. The participants estimated their sleep duration and the prevalence of different kinds of sleep difficulties in surveys before and after retiring. The research was funded by the Academy of Finland, Ministry of Education and Culture, and Juho Vainio Foundation.


  10. Study suggests restless sleep may be an early sign of Parkinson’s disease

    December 11, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Aarhus University press release:

    Researchers from Aarhus University have discovered that patients with the RBD sleep behaviour disorder lack dopamine and have a form of inflammation of the brain. This means that they are at risk of developing Parkinson’s disease or dementia when they grow older.

    Do you sleep restlessly and hit out and kick in your sleep? This could be a sign of a disorder associated with diseases of the brain. Researchers from Aarhus University have studied the condition of the dopamine producing nerve cells in the brain and cells that participate in the brain’s immune system in people suffering from the sleep disorder Rapid eye movement sleep behaviour disorder, RBD.

    The study shows that patients suffering from RBD have a risk of developing Parkinson’s disease or dementia in the future, because they already suffer from a lack of dopamine in the brain. Parkinson’s disease occurs precisely because the group of nerve cells in the brain that produce dopamine stop working.

    The RBD sleep disorder is characterised by disturbances in the part of sleep where dreams take place. Healthy people are relaxed and lie still during dream sleep, while people suffering from RBD live out their dreams so that while sleeping they can hit out, kick and shout.

    “These patients have an inflammation of the brain in the area where the dopamine-producing nerve cells are found,” says one of the researchers behind the study, Morten Gersel Stokholm from Aarhus University and the PET Centre at Aarhus University Hospital.

    The findings have just been published in the neurological journal The Lancet Neurology.

    This is completely new knowledge, as researchers have not previously demonstrated that there is a form of inflammation of the brain in patients who are at risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.

    “With this study, we have gained new knowledge about the disease processes in the brain in the early initial stages of the disease development. The idea is for this knowledge to be used to determine which patients with the sleep disorder will later develop Parkinson’s disease. At the same time, this is also knowledge that can help to develop drugs which can stop or slow the development of the diseases,” explains Morten Gersel Stokholm about the sleep disorder which most often affects persons aged 50-70, and more frequently men than women.

    Parkinson’s disease

    There are 7,300 Parkinson’s disease patients in Denmark. Symptoms are slow movements, often with shaking, together with muscular rigidity. Parkinson’s disease is a chronic condition that continues to worsen over time. The disease is somewhat more common in men than in women. Parkinson’s disease occurs because the brain lacks dopamine. It is primarily adults who are affected, and the first signs most often appear between the ages of 50-70.

    Background for the results:

    The study is a case-control study.

    The people behind the project are Medical Doctor and PhD student Morten Gersel Stokholm and Associate Professor, MD, Nicola Pavese in collaboration with medical doctors from the Department of Neurology and the Sleep Clinic, Aarhus University Hospital and medical doctors from the University Hospital Clinic de Barcelona.