Archive for the 'Sleep' Category

Pleasant Music is Good for the Mind and Body

PianoListen to music you like for 15 to 20 minutes a day — and consider it a healthful a practice like regular exercise and a healthy diet, says Dr. Michael Miller from the Center for Preventive Cardiology, in an article by Health Day.

Involve your child in music on a daily basis, says the Nemours Foundation.  

A growing body of research is pointing to the healthful benefits of listening to pleasant music.  It has been found to help with such things as pain, stress, depression, intelligence, memory, and sleep to name a few.

One recent study found that soothing music was associated with a  reduction in heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure in patients with coronary heart disease. And another study found that music, like laughter, may benefit heart health. 

Music therapy is being used successfully with stroke patients. Finnish researchers recently found that listening to music for a few hours a day was associated with a stroke patient’s early recovery.

“Listening to music offers many benefits to children, research indicates. Musically inclined kids appear better at math and reading, have shown better focus, improved self-esteem and seem to play better with other children,” report experts in a recent article by Health Day. 

Much more research needs to be done, but the healthful benefits of music are surfacing in almost every area of our lives. 

Source: “Health Tip: Introduce Your Child to Music”, Health Day, March 1, 2010
Source: “Tune Up Your Health”, Health Day, January 29, 2010
Source: Michael Miller, M.D., professor, medicine, and director, Center for Preventive Cardiology, University of Maryland Medical Center, Baltimore
Source: Aniruddh Patel, Ph.D., Esther J. Burnham senior fellow, Neurosciences Institute, San Diego
Source: Robert Zatorre, Ph.D., Montreal Neurological Institute, and professor, department of neurology and neurosurgery, McGill University, Montreal
Source: Bradt J, et al “Music for stress and anxiety reduction in coronary heart disease patients” Cochrane Database of Syst Rev 2009; DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD006577.pub2

Caffeine: Too Much of a Good Thing?

CoffeeMost of us depend on caffeine to get us through the day, and we especially look forward to that first cup in the morning.  It helps us wake up, and gets us through a long hard day.  But unfortunately the bad side effects of caffeine can be unpleasant and sometimes even harmful. 

Excess caffeine can cause a fast heart rate, palpitations, tremors, restlessness, anxiety, depression,  difficulty sleeping, irritable bladder, excessive urination, stomach irritation, peptic ulcer, gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), nausea and vomiting.

Caffeine is notorious for interfering with much-needed sleep. Many people get in a viscious cycle of using caffeine to mask their sleep deprivation, but then the excess caffeine keeps them from falling asleep the following night. The best way to break this cycle is to avoid all caffeine eight to ten hours before your desired bedtime. Individual sensitivity to caffeine varies however.  People who are more sensitive to caffeine may need to avoid it 10 to 12 hours before bedtime, while others can drink it 4 hours before falling asleep.

Stretching exerciseSo how does one keep working for long hours, and stay awake and alert until it’s time to go to bed?   Exercise is a great way to wake up–it wakes up your body and your mind.  A brief 5-minute break of floor exercises, once every hour or so, can stretch stiff muscles and keep your mind alert and until it’s time to go to bed. 

Caffeine Content:

An eight ounce cup of drip-brewed coffee contains about 85 mg of caffeine, whereas eight ounces of black tea only has about 45 mg of caffeine and 12 ounces of Coke contains 35 mg of caffeine. Many of the so called Sports/Energy Drinks on the market are loading up on caffeine for that extra jolt and may contain over 150 mg of caffeine.

Caffeine is also present in chocolate and some over-the-counter pain relievers, cold medications, and diet pills. These products can contain as little as 16 milligrams or as much as 200 milligrams of caffeine. 

Caffeine and Alcohol Don’t Mix:

Contrary to the popular belief that coffee will sober you up after drinking too much alcohol, it can actually worsen the problem.  A recent study found that a high caffeine energy drink mixed with vodka actually reduced the participants’ perception of motor coordination compared with vodka alone.  This could obviously lead to disasterous consequences in a person who is drinking heavily away from home and has several cups of coffee to sober up before driving home.

Bad Dreams Help Us Deal with Unpleasant Emotions

A woman asleepBad dreams are extremely common. In fact, studies show that most of our dreams are not happy ones. Unpleasant dreams may be the brain’s way of helping us process our stressful thoughts and emotions, according to researchers from Yeshiva University in New York. 

Emotional regulation may be the primary function of REM sleep, the sleep stage during which most dreams occur. In a typical dream, bits of our memories “get thrown into a room together and jumbled around,” the researchers say.  This puts the memories in a new context and diffuses the fear attached to them.

On the other hand, a nightmare may occur when that emotion-regulating process goes wrong.  With nightmares, the dreamer wakes up, disrupting normal emotion processing.  Waking up is a relief for the moment, but it interrupts the brain’s self-regulating process and may ultimately serve to “reinforce” the feeling that the threat was real, according to the researchers.

Most people have the occasional nightmare, particularly during stressful times.  But people who tend to have trouble with anxiety in response to stress are more prone to have recurrent nightmares. Also, some people who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder tend to have trouble with repeated nightmares.  Their terrifying and bizarre nightmares may lead to more distress in waking life, which may in turn spur more nightmares, the researchers point out.

The good news is that there is help for those who suffer from repeated nightmares.  It’s been found that while awake, the person can imagine the dream and then voluntarily change the context or the outcome.  In some studies, the person changes the scenario of a recent nightmare any way he or she wishes, writes down the improved version, then mentally rehearses it in a relaxed state.  This technique, called imagery-rehearsal therapy, has been proven to be highly effective.  

Source: Current Directions in Psychological Science, April 2009.
Source: “Imagery Rehearsal Can Control PTSD-Related Nightmares”, Psychiatric News September 21, 2001
 

 

The Truth About Coffee

Cup of coffeeMost of us truly love our coffee and especially look forward to that first cup in the morning.  It’s delicious, it helps you wake up, and quite honestly, most of us are addicted to this wonderful brew.  But are we going to regret this delicious indulgence some day? 

A number of researchers have recently investigated the health benefits of coffee and found that drinking regular coffee on a routine basis was associated with many important health benefits such as a decreased risk of stroke, diabetes and dementia.  Also, several studies have found that people who drink coffee on a regular basis are up to 80% less likely to develop Parkinson’s.  Other research shows that compared to not drinking coffee, at least two cups daily was linked to a 25% reduced risk of colon cancer, an 80% drop in liver cirrhosis risk, and nearly half the risk of gallstones.

Coffee has been found to be helpful in people who have asthma.  It also has been known to stop a headache,  improve mood, increase concentration and give you that extra energy needed to get through the day.  

Some of the health benefits of coffee are merely from the caffeine.  An eight ounce cup of drip-brewed coffee contains about 85 mg of caffeine, whereas eight ounces of black tea only has about 45 mg of caffeine and 12 ounces of Coke has 35 mg of caffeine. Many of the so called “Sports/Energy Drinks” on the market are loading up on caffeine for that extra jolt and may contain over 150 mg of caffeine.

Researchers believe that most of the health benefits from coffee probably originate from substances other than caffeine. Phenolic compounds in coffee have strong antioxidant properties, which may improve endothelial function.  Caffeinated coffee appears to have beneficial effects on glucose metabolism, inflammation, and endothelial function which would account for protection against diabetes and stroke.

Of course adding cream which is loaded with fat may counteract some of the health benefits of coffee, and pouring several spoons full of sugar into the cup adds another carbohydrate load that is not beneficial. 

While these studies are very good news for coffee drinkers, be aware that coffee can lead to a number of health problems. These can include fast heart rate, tremors, irritable bladder, excessive urination, stomach irritation, gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), nausea, vomiting, restlessness, anxiety, depression,  and difficulty sleeping.

Caffeine is notorious for interfering with much-needed sleep. Many people get in a viscious cycle of using caffeine to mask their sleep deprivation, but then the excess caffeine keeps them from falling asleep the following night. The best way to break this cycle is to avoid all caffeine eight to ten hours before your desired bedtime.  Drinking coffee later in the day is more likely to cause insomnia as well as stomach irritation and reflux for many people. 

Another drawback of coffee is that certain drugs can interact with caffeine. Pregnant women and people with coronary heart disease or peptic ulcers are often advised to restrict or avoid using caffeine altogether. 

Contrary to the popular belief that coffee will sober you up after drinking too much alcohol, it can actually worsen the problem.  A recent study found that a high caffeine energy drink mixed with vodka actually reduced the participants’ perception of motor coordination compared with vodka alone.  This could obviously lead to disasterous consequences in a person who is drinking heavily away from home and has several cups of coffee to sober up before driving home.

So, is coffee good for us?  It depends on who you are, how much you drink, and when you drink it.  It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about the amount of coffee you drink. 

Source: “High Coffee Consumption Linked to Lower Stroke Risk for Women”, MedPage Today, February 17, 2009
Source: Lopez-Garcia E, et al “Coffee consumption and risk of stroke in women” Circulation 2009; 119: 1116-1123.

Caffeinated Coffee May Be Linked with Lower Stroke Risk

CoffeeDrinking caffeinated coffee regularly may be linked with a lower stroke risk, according to Harvard and Madrid researchers. Women who drank two to three cups a day had a 19% reduction in the risk of all strokes but consumption of tea and caffeinated soft drinks was not significantly associated with a lowered stroke risk. The association was significant only in women who had never smoked or who had quit.

Other recent studies have also found that drinking coffee was associated with a decreased risk of diabetes as well as dementia.  

Researchers believe the health benefits from coffee probably originate from substances other than caffeine. Phenolic compounds in coffee have strong antioxidant properties, which may improve endothelial function.  Caffeinated coffee appears to have beneficial effects on glucose metabolism, inflammation, and endothelial function which would account for protection against diabetes and stroke.

While these studies are very good news for coffee drinkers, be aware that more research needs to be done.  Also keep in mind that some people should not drink coffee at all, and for others, drinking too much coffee can be problematic and lead to a number of health problems.  

Source: “High Coffee Consumption Linked to Lower Stroke Risk for Women”, MedPage Today, February 17, 2009
Source: Lopez-Garcia E, et al “Coffee consumption and risk of stroke in women” Circulation 2009; 119: 1116-1123.

Treatment for sleep apnea may improve mental function in Alzheimers

NightAlzheimer’s patients who also have obstructive sleep apnea may experience improved mental function from treatment with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), according to a recent study from University of California San Diego.

Previous studies have suggested that more severe dementia is associated with more severe obstructive sleep apnea. And in fact, Alzheimer’s patients have a high incidence of obstructive sleep apnea. Previous studies have found that approximately 70% to 80% of Alzheimer’s patients experience at least five episodes of apnea or hypopnea per hour and 40% to 50% have 20 or more episodes per hour.

Sleep apnea occurs when a person’s breathing repeatedly stops and starts for short periods of time during sleep. This abnormal breathing pattern only occurs during sleep, therefore, the person with the disorder may be the last to know he or she has a problem.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), is usually associated with loud snoring (though not everyone who snores has this disorder). Risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea include being male, overweight, and over the age of forty. This condition occurs two to three times more often in older adults and is twice as common in men as in women.  However, sleep apnea can affect anyone at any age, even children.

If you think you might have sleep apnea, ask your health care provider for help.

Read more about Obstructive Sleep Apnea from Bay Area Medical Information

via Ancoli-Israel S, et al “Cognitive effects of treating obstructive sleep apnea in Alzheimer’s disease: a randomized controlled study” J Am Geriatr Soc. 2008; 56: 2076-2081.

via MedPage Today, December 4, 2008

Nasal surgery to remove airway obstruction can improve sleep apnea in some patients

Woman sleepingIn patients who had nasal blockages, breathing problems during sleep improved significantly after nasal surgery. The patients experienced a marked decrease in snoring and daytime sleepiness as well as some improvement in their quality of life.

Surgery is always a last resort, however.  There are many simple changes that you should try first before resorting to surgery.  Read more:  

  • Sleep Apnea  from Bay Area Medical Information
  • Tips for Better Sleep  from Bay Area Medical Information
  • Complete this questionnaire and find out if you might have sleep apnea from Bay Area Medical Information.  Ask your doctor or health care provider about your symptoms, and take this completed questionnaire with you on that visit.
  • via Archives of Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery
    via MedPage Today, April 2008

New insight into obstructive sleep apnea

BurgersA diet loaded with cholesterol and fat appears to be an independent contributing link to disturbed sleep in those who have severe obstructive sleep apnea.  It has long been known that the sleep disorder has a strong association with obesity, particularly abdominal obesity, but diet in and of itself was an independent predictor of disturbed sleep even after controlling for body mass index, age, and daytime sleepiness in this recent Harvard study. 

It is unclear how dietary habits alone can affect obstructive sleep apnea, but if you’re having symptoms of sleep disordered breathing and your diet is loaded with fat, cutting down on cholesterol and fat in your diet may be the most important step you ever take to improving your health.  Relief of sleep disordered symptoms may be immediate, even before you lose inches around your waist. 

Read about Sleep Apnea  and Tips for Better Sleep  from Bay Area Medical Information
via MedPage Today, Oct. 15, 2008
via Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, Oct. 15, 2008 

A possible new treatment for sleep apnea

Delivering warm, humidified air through a nasal cannula can significantly reduce the symptoms of mild obstructive sleep apnea, Johns Hopkins researchers have discovered. The standard treatment for sleep apnea is to provide continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, through a mask worn during sleep. A recent pilot study suggests that warm, humidified air delivered through a nasal tube might also work and be easier to use.

The major issue with CPAP has been poor adherence because many patients do not wear the mask for more than several hours per night, or abandon therapy completely. This new treatment might eventually replace continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) to control apnea, researchers speculated.

via American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine July 2007