Tag Archives: sleep

The Elderly Are Forgetful Because They Don’t Sleep Well

A study from UC Berkeley shows that the quality of sleep in older people is a lot worse than in younger, healthy people and that this prevents memories from being moved from short-term to long-term memory. The study was done on 18 people in their 20s and 15 people in their 70s: scientists made them memorize some new words, then measured their sleep statistics, and finally quizzed them in the morning while getting an fMRI. The quality of sleep in the elderly was 75% that of younger people, and their recall was 55%. (The summary doesn’t say, but hopefully the scientists calculated their statistics properly, and didn’t just discover that old people forget and, independently, that they also don’t sleep well.) The decline in sleep quality is correlated to age-related deterioration in the frontal lobe, which normally generates slow brain waves during sleep.


If lack of quality sleep is the cause of memory loss, then the issue might apply also to younger people who are also forgetful — perhaps because they don’t sleep enough or have sleep apnea. As for older people, there are ways to improve quality of sleep: pills, electrical stimulation of the brain, or, best of all: blueberries, vitamins and exercise. Also, it’s worth mentioning that in 2011, scientists at Stanford figured out that a protein in the blood caused forgetfulness in older mice.

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From UC Berkeley, via Slashdot

How To Conquer The Snooze Button


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Via FAIL Blog

Take 30-Minute Power Naps To Feel Refreshed

If you avoid taking naps when you’re tired and instead go for a Red Bull or a 5-Hour Energy because naps make you groggy, it’s because you’re napping too long. The Asap SCIENCE video below explains that the sleep cycle is made up of four stages, the last one of which is REM sleep, in which we dream. The last two stages are also a deep sleep, during which your motor functions shut down, making you feel groggy when you wake up. So as long as you avoid going into the 3rd stage of sleep — which begins about 30 minutes after the first stage —  then you’ll get some of the benefits of sleep and wake up feeling refreshed.

If you have an iPhone, there’s a free app called Nap that’s great for quickly setting up power naps. It’s made by Wake N Shake, which may just be the best alarm clock app yet.

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From YouTube, via Laughing Squid

Slept Like A Baby



From My Dirty Glove and Man Eggs

Thin, Older, Sleep-Deprived People Get More Strokes

A large study (5666 people) of those aged 45 and up who were not already at risk for stroke showed that the thin people (BMI between 18.5 and 25) that got less than six hours of sleep per night had 4.5x more chances of getting stroke symptoms over the three year study. Sleep is obviously very important — you can go for a week without eating and be more or less ok, but you’ll go crazy after that long with no sleep, — so that’s not the interesting part. What the researchers also found was that the same correlation was not seen in fat people: their chances of stroke didn’t go up.

Late Night Pizza Stop, by Juli Crockett


What’s even more interesting is that a study last year showed that people who are sleep-deprived eat about 300 calories more per day, and most of that in junk food. If you do that a couple of times a week and don’t do anything to burn the extra calories, it adds up to about 9 extra pounds a year (600 calories/week * 52 weeks/year ÷ 3500 calories/lb), which will make you fat in a few years. Put the two studies together, and maybe the body is trying to make sleep deprived people gain weight so that they don’t get strokes.

The moral of the story: if you absolutely can’t get enough sleep, just let your body do its thing and make you fat. But really, you should be getting enough sleep, eating healthy and exercising.

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From MSNBC, via Slashdot

Sleepytime Limbo

I’m doing this right now.

From Shoebox Blog

Sleeping Pills Tied To Higher Risk Of Death

A new study in the British Medical Journal looked at the mortality rates associated with the use of “hypnotic drugs,” or sleeping pills. Older studies have looked at this before and found that people using sleeping pills were more likely to die, but had some shortcomings which this study corrected. The results:

  • Patients receiving prescriptions for zolpidem, temazepam and other hypnotics suffered over four times the mortality as the matched hypnotic-free control patients.

  • Even patients prescribed fewer than 18 hypnotic doses per year experienced increased mortality, with greater mortality associated with greater dosage prescribed.

  • Among patients prescribed hypnotics, cancer incidence was increased for several specific types of cancer, with an overall cancer increase of 35% among those prescribed high doses


The researchers adjusted the data to remove effects caused by age, gender, smoking, body mass index, ethnicity, marital status, alcohol use and prior cancer. However, without more effort, research like this finds correlation, not causation: it’s hard to tell whether the sleeping pills caused the higher risk of death, or whether the patients with sleep problems have a higher risk of death to begin with and would’ve ended up the same without the sleeping pill.

To combat this problem, the study also controlled for known causes of death and the association between sleeping pill use and mortality remained significant. Or, in science speak: “neither the level of individual health nor the presence of particular categories of comorbidity explains the bulk of the hazard associated with the use of hypnotic medications.” However, they still can’t be sure that they didn’t leave something out, and an unknown factor is causing both the insomnia and higher mortality. Still, about 8% of Americans use sleeping pills, so caution is warranted. The paper closes with this — emphasis added:

The meagre benefits of hypnotics, as critically reviewed by groups without financial interest would not justify substantial risks. A consensus is developing that cognitive-behavioural therapy of chronic insomnia may be more successful than hypnotics. Against meagre benefits, it is prudent to weigh the evidence of mortality risks from the current study and 24 previous reports, in order to reconsider whether even short-term use of hypnotics, as given qualified approval in National Institute for Clinical Excellence guidance, is sufficiently safe.


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From The British Medical Journal, via Slashdot

How To Figure Out Your Bedtime

Not getting enough sleep is a pretty bad problem. Overall, it makes us die earlier, but the specifics of why are that it makes the body feel stressed, which in turn runs down the immune system and makes us fat from stress eating. Sleep is more important than food: you can go for weeks without food, but you’ll go crazy without sleep in a few days. And conversely, getting enough sleep will make your brain work better.

Well, just dandy. I’ll try to get more sleep. Except that’s much easier said than done, like “I’ll lose weight” or “I’ll be charming”. The goal is so lofty, that you need a plan, with specific steps that you follow somewhat religiously, or else failure is all but assured. Luckily for you, The Insomnia Blog came up with just such a plan:

  1. First, you need at least 7.5 hours of sleep per night. No, you are not a special robot that needs less. You can make-do with less, like anorexics can make do with less food, but you’ll die quicker.
  2. Figure out when you have to wake up most days. That is, figure out when you need to start working, subtract your commute time, your morning routi… you can just divine this on your own. And if you’re special, rich or a bum and don’t need to wake up at any particular time, then just make sure you sleep in long enough and stop reading this recipe.
  3. Subtract 8 hours from the wake-up time, and that’s your bedtime. Yes, you now have a bedtime, as if you were 12.
  4. Set an alarm for the bedtime. Respect it. When it goes off, turn off the TV or whatever you were doing, and go to bed.
  5. Hopefully you’ll fall asleep within a half hour, get 7.5 hours of sleep and wake up refreshed at the end of your fifth 90-minute REM cycle just before your alarm goes off.
  6. If you still didn’t wake up before your alarm, your bedtime is too late. Set it 15 minutes earlier the next night, and repeat until you get enough sleep and wake up on your own.

But if you can’t fall asleep, there are some increasingly expensive tricks you can try:

  • No caffeine a few hours before bedtime.
  • Dim the lights a couple of hours before bedtime, to trick your brain into thinking it’s night. Which it actually would be, if not for Edison and his damned practical light bulb.
  • Turn off screens sometime before bedtime. Same theory as above: TV makes all kinds of light and noise, and so do computers and TouchPads.
  • Drink warm milk before bed. Even though milk is disgusting, sometimes the cost is worth the benefit.
  • Make yourself cold. Your body makes you go to sleep in part by lowering your body temperature (which is why you need to sleep with a blanket, in the fetal position or both, but when you’re awake you don’t need either), so do what you can to help it out. The most important thing to keep cool is your head, both literally and figuratively. The easy solution is to not wear a sleeping cap, but also turn down the A/C, get a cooling pillow, take a cold shower, make a snow angel, etc.
  • When you’re in bed, start going over the events of the day in your head. It’s kind of like counting sheep, but not as annoying.

From The Insomnia Blog, via Lifehacker

Sleeping Less Makes You Eat More

From the Department of Things Your Mom, Doctor, and Everyone Else Told You That Turns Out To Be True: now they have even more ammo in their fight to convince you that getting a good night’s sleep is good for you. There’s a new study showing that the reason people gain more weight when they’re sleep-deprived — which has been known for a while — is because they eat more. In other words, they don’t gain it via osmosis or magic spells.

It turns out they eat about 300 extra calories (slightly more for women, slightly less for men), and most of that is from junk food like ice cream. Translation: they (definitely not you, though: you’re exceptional) feel like they’re entitled to a cup of ice cream that they normally wouldn’t eat.

What to tell that annoying fitness junkie friend when she points out this startling new finding: “Well of course they eat more! They need the extra energy since they’re awake doing things, instead of being asleep. What are they going to prove next? That bears that don’t hibernate, actually eat during the winter? Friggin’ scientists…”

Via Lifehacker and USA Today