Category Archives: Sleep

Breaking Point Avoided with Caffeine Pick-Me-Up

The association between caffeine and a decrease in risk taking behaviour when one is suffering from sleep deprivation has been proven. The result of a new study shows that even when extreme sleep deprivation is occurring, the participants in the study who were given fixed rates of caffeine dosage showed no taking of risky behaviour.

The measure was made against (BART): Balloon Analog Risk Task a computerised method of measuring the taking of impulsive risks.

Excessive Deprivation

Taking the subjects of the study and giving some a placebo and some caffeine gum the researchers were able to demonstrate risk taking over time spent without sleep, right up to the excessive 75 hour period.

51-75 hours in

There was a measurable success demonstrated as the placebo fed subjects whilst unchanged against normal parameters of risk taking up until 51 hours without sleep, thereafter they showed significant increases in risky behaviour between 51 hours and 75 hours into the study. The caffeine fed group showed no change in risky behaviour leading up to the 51 hour point and the risky behaviour they demonstrated against the (BART) measure showed that they were considerably less risk to their actions right up to the 75 hour point.

Investigator Notes

Principal investigator Maj. William D. “Scott” Killgore, PhD, who is the research psychologist at the Harvard Medical School and Walter Reed Army Institute of Research said, “Sleep deprivation may not have a simple linear effect on risk taking; however, there may be a ‘breaking point’ during which a person may show a drastic release in their ability to control or inhibit behaviour.”

No Regard to Consequences

It is apparent to the Professor that caffeine manages to make a difference in people when used in the instance of extreme sleep deprivation, without caffeine he noted people become more impulsive, acting without regard to the consequences. He also noted however that, were they to take caffeine each night there was no increase. The amount of caffeine people needed to take to get that result would be 1-2 cups of coffee every two hours from after midnight, until the arrival of dawn.

Double Blind

The study had 25 participants all of whom were in a healthy state. They were aged 20-35 and made to go without sleep for a three day period. It was a double blind test where no one knew which individuals were in receipt of the placebo and the caffeine was given in chewing gum form. There was placebo gum too, and those 21 men and 4 women were given the gum between 1am and 7am on each of the sleep deprived days.

Cash In

Later in the morning they were asked to take part in behavioural tasks where risky behaviour could be accessed. The computer programme (BART) came into effect on their behaviour was based on the inflation of virtual balloons. Here the participants were asked to ‘cash in’ the balloons value whilst the bigger the balloon would become the more value it would be worth but the more likely it would be to pop.

Still Relevant

Whilst the author of the study is at pains to state how this is at the more extreme end of sleep deprivation a place where thankfully few people must dwell, the results are still relevant. He noted how a previous study found that when there was a chronic restriction of sleep to 3 hours per night running for a week, the sleep restricted individuals showed that there was the same increase in the taking of risks in the same balloon game.

He concludes that therefore it is possible that there is a similar ‘breaking point’ to these sleep deprived persons as those who spend 75 hour stint without sleep, although further research is needed to prove this.

Sleep Deprivation down to Genetic Vulnerability

Brain imaging software has now determined that individuals are prone to sleep deprivation based on their genetics. This explains why some are affected to a greater extent than others by the condition.

“The extent to which individuals are affected by sleep deprivation varies, with some crashing out and others holding up well after a night without sleep.”

This has been outlined by Michael Chee of Singapore institute University of Singapore Graduate Medical School. His statements have come in the wake of a study which involved taking brain images of individuals, and determining that of those who stayed awake all night the portion who is genetically resilient to sleep deprivation actually showed enhanced brain activity.

Reduced Brain Activity

The marker herein is that for the first time an adequate contrasting of research value, has been made against those genetically vulnerable to sleep deprivation, who in this case showed reduced brain activity.

Earlier Problems

Michael Chee MBBS bore no connection to the study itself however he is an expert in the field and welcomes the advancement in learning about the condition. One of the key problems with studying sleep deprivation to date has been the difficulty in determining which of the project subjects will be vulnerable until the completion of the study.

This was not the case however in this instance thanks to the new technology, ending a series of studies around the world which have brought inconclusive results. In this case the researchers conducting the study taking place in The University of Liege in Belgium knew the genetic vulnerability and selected participants based on this criteria.

It’s in Our Genes

It is the PERIOD3 gene which determines our vulnerability a predictor of how we will respond to sleep deprivation. Pierre Maguet MD who led the research found that people may carry the gene in two variants; long or short. The ones with the short (PER3) are resilient, whilst the carriers of long (PER3) are vulnerable. The short (PER3) possessors will fair out well when asked to perform cognitive tasks after a bout of sleep deprivation, whilst those with the long variant will fair out badly in these tasks.

The reasons why have been demonstrated by the new research. The imaging software was used on the subjects’ brains whilst they were asked to perform those cognitive skills tasks, ones that required memory and attention, in other words executive function tasks. The imaging was conducted on each participant on four occasions.

Extra Brain Function

They began with the night before a good nights’ sleep then the morning after, before moving onto taking images before, and after a sleepless night. It was found that opposed to both sets of subjects responding in the same way, one group the sleep deprivation resilient ones managed to access extra brain structures to help them in the tasks, in effect they actually showed an increased brain function after a sleepless night as the brain structures which would normally have been used in the performance of the task were also used.

That area is known as the inferior frontal gyrus. The study backs up previous research that found that the variant of the long gene possessors actually performed better earlier in the day, than in the evening also.

How the Research will be Used

“Our study uncovers some of the networks underlying individual differences in sleep loss vulnerability and shows for the first time how genetic differences in brain activity associate with cognitive performance and fatigue,” said the author of the study Pierre Maquet, he went on to state just how important this research will be in configuring a way of exceeding the cognitive limitations presented by the condition. The research will be of particular benefit to those involved in all night work, the ‘at risk people in society where sleep deprivation is a constant in life such as all night health care staff, or commercial aircraft pilots.

Restless Night Utter Delight

It is little known that sleep deprivation can lead to a sense of intense euphoria. It is better known that it can leave us cranky, moody, and affecting our demeanour in a negative way. There is short term euphoria created too however, affecting us beyond how a lowered mood affects us. The short term euphoria created as a result of sleeplessness can potentially result in addictive behaviour, and it can result in us making poor judgments.

This is according to new research from scientists in The University of Berkeley.

Whilst these researchers found, that what is known as the circuitry of the brain which denotes the pleasures zones, are affected by this lack of restful input, those very same neural pathways are in line with our behaviour pathways.

Risky Business

As a result risky behaviour is increasingly becoming associated with sleep deprivation.  The link is in line with reward and motivation. “When functioning correctly, the brain finds the sweet spot on the mood spectrum. But the sleep-deprived brain will swing to both extremes.” That is according to Matthew Walker, the associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Berkeley who is also the lead author of the study.

The brains’ of healthy young adults have been studied by researchers from this institution in conjunction with researchers from Harvard University, their findings also determined that this short term euphoria can also lead to risky behaviour. According to Walker; people need to give themselves enough sleep.  From airline pilots to medical professionals many people need to make high stakes decisions.


He also outlines how it is concerning for him to see that certain medical professionals may be doing twenty hours straight in the job. This he admits will lead to the sense of euphoria, but it will also lead to the risky behaviour that we need to disassociate ourselves from.

The research that has been published outlines how our bodies alternate from one phase of sleep to the other. REM sleep, the study dictates is our space within sleep where dreams are fostered and how it is not a phase of sleep where the mind and body attain their greatest rest. The Non REM state, the restful state in tune with the mind and the muscles of the body relaxing, this is where the best rest is attained.

Pattern Found

The findings are backed up by previous studies which denoted how there is a pattern of sleep disruption for those with mood disorders. How the study began, is that scientists realised there was a puzzle to the fact that people with depression suffering the dilemma of a sleepless night emerge with an elevated and heightened mood after the ordeal.

The 27 young healthy minds that participated in the study were examined under ‘functional magnetic resonance,’ this is an imaging technique that highlights the areas of the brain that are in use at different times. The group was split into two, with one half receiving adequate rest, and the other half not being allowed sleep, i.e. they were instructed to pull an all-nighter.

Cuddly Animals

They were then given inputs denoting pleasant soothing scenes including images of cuddly creatures etc. On receiving the inputs they were asked to give a rating to the images as to whether they were promoting neutral or positive impressions within the participants. The sleep deprived group gave a more positive rating to the images than those who were well rested, with the results being realised right across the board.

The actual magnetic resonance that was imaged showed that the sleep deprived group showed their ‘mesolimbic’ pathway activity was very high. This circuit of the brain is fuelled by dopamine which is a positive feeling neurotransmitter. In being such a transmitter it drives positive emotions in us that motivate our sex drive, our addictions, and of course our decision making.

No Advantage

Walker was adamant to point out how, while there may appear to be an advantage in this feeling, this is not the case, overt optimism according to Walker can be detrimental to people and make them make impulsive decisions. In the past the research team had studied how the brains’ key planning and decision making regions are shut down as a result of sleep deprivation.

The two studies are connected by the findings, which show a disconnect in those pathways after a night without sleep, the dopamine connection is inherent in that the other region of the brain the frontal lobe is actually better connected to the dopamine neurotransmitter after a good night’s sleep.

Sleep Deprivation Useless

In conclusion Walker is insistent that sleep deprivation therapy is useless in the treatment of depression.

Don’t Lose Sleep Over Depression

According to the latest statistics insomnia is now estimated to affect as much as 10% of the population.

The figures showing that it is between the 8th and 10th percentile. The research also showing that it is amongst the middle age where the disturbances become more commonplace. There is more than a tenuous link between depression and insomnia. The disturbance to the sleeping pattern brings with it the feelings of anxiety that bring about the mental ailment. Work worries can bring it about, as can a whole host of other emotional dilemmas.

It is the worry about sleep that the research has determined is part of what brings about the lack of it. Whilst a good night’s sleep brings to the body the recuperation it needs, a cat nap during the day time can reassert the balance needed in our lives. Taking more than 1000 subjects and surveying their sleeping patterns, and habits it has been determined by sleep experts now armed with data that persons who garner sleep in increments throughout the day can still function at an optimum and negate the chance for depression to emerge from a lack of solid sleep during the night.

Perfectly healthy people it has been seen can adapt well to this structured approach to sleep. Sleep experts have pointed to two important characteristics of sleep linked to depression from the research. Depression can emerge if there is little continuity of sleep, and if it takes too long in order to achieve the state of sleep. People who have depression it has been noted tend to show major differences to healthy persons with regard to these two fundamentals of sleep.

Whilst the national average is that 10% or so of people suffer from insomnia, the stats are far higher in depressed persons with those who suffer showing a sleep disturbance rate as high as 75%. It is the thinking before rest comes that is the major killer when it comes to finding the elusive sleep. The thoughts in the persons mind reflect over the bad, reliving moments, in particular moments where stress was apparent can lead to adrenaline being released and making sleep impossible, irritability and agitation play a major role in keeping a great many depressed people from achieving adequate sleep.

When the person with depression awakes during the night there is an inner torment which makes it difficult to return to the state of sleep also. Waking in the early morning is particularly common during depression, and there is a correlation with this and low body temperature, rising too early even in healthy persons can lead to the feeling of fatigue and with that the risk of depression.

Sleep specialists have noted from their research that both antidepressant medication use and the implementation of an ECT treatment programme can go some way to having positive effects on sleep.

Is Sleeping too much really bad for you ?

We’re constantly hearing how important it is to get enough sleep, not just for our physical health so that our body can rest and repair itself, but also for our mental health too. Not sleeping enough can trigger anxiety and depression as well as numerous other problems.

However, sleeping too much can be just as detrimental to our physical and mental health says a recent study.

According to Doctor Prakash Lulla, a general practitioner in Mumbai, India, sleeping more than 6 to 8 hours a day could shorten lifespan by as much as 17 percent. Now that is quite a significant figure by anyone’s standards.

Dr Lulla also says that sleeping too much can cause diabetes, high blood pressure, headaches, and heart disease and even lead to obesity.

“One of the most common effects of oversleeping is obesity” says Mumbai-based Psychologist, Dr Sunita Dube. “Tiredness, irritability and fatigue are other effects”, she adds.

So if you are getting too much sleep the key is to discover why you need to sleep too much and to deal with that.

According to Dr Dube sleeping too much can signify depression and as much as 15 percent of people who have been diagnosed with depression sleep too much. Other causes of sleeping too much include illness, poor diet, and lack of exercise.

Dr Lulla and Dr Dube say that if you are sleeping too much there are some things you can do to improve the quality of your sleep and help to prevent yourself from getting too much sleep.

  • Don’t eat in the previous three hours before going to bed
  • Avoid drinking tea or coffee before going to sleep
  • Shower in the evening
  • Exercise regularly
  • Listen to some relaxing music or indulge in some other relaxing activity to unwind before going to sleep
  • Set a time for waking up in the morning and get up then, the earlier the better they say. “Waking up at 6 in the morning will help you sleep better at night and make the most of your day” says Dr Lulla.
  • Get fresh air in your bedroom
  • Don’t sleep during the day although an afternoon nap of 45 minutes is fine
  • Clear your mind of worries. “Avoid negative thinking just before you sleep. Try calming techniques like meditation or Shavasana” recommends Dr Dube

If you are still sleeping too much or you know someone who is then it is advisable to visit a doctor for a check up.

Poor Sleep Can Lead To Reduced Quality Of Life And Depression.

A study published on 7th May 2010 in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society, showed that 65 percent of residents living in Assisted Living Facilities in Los Angeles had sleeping problems, and these sleeping problems were associated with a decline in quality of life and increased depression.

Assisted Living Facilities are increasingly used by older members of the population who are not able to live completely independently but are not at the stage where they require regular nursing care and assistance at home.

The type of assistance offered by assisted living facilities varies considerably but might typically includes meals which could be eaten together, help with housekeeping and some personal care assistance.

This recent study was carried out by The University of California and Great Los Angeles Healthcare System and was led by Dr Jennifer Martin of the University of California.

Dr Martin and her colleagues looked at the sleeping habits of 121 older Assisted Living Facilities residents in and around the Los Angeles area and found that the average number of sleeping hours these residents had a night was 6 with an additional one and half hours sleep throughout the day.

Of these 121 residents, almost three quarters of them had lived in an Assisted Living Facility for two years or less and 65 percent of them were suffering from sleep disturbance with the most common problems being waking up in the middle of the night or early in the morning and being unable to fall asleep within half an hour.

At the beginning of the study the researchers noted that poor sleep was associated with a reduced quality of life and needing more help on a daily basis along with an increase in the symptoms of depression.

When the researchers conducted further investigation three months and six months later, those who were identified as having sleeping problems from the outset needed even more help with daily activities, had a further increase in depression symptoms and a greater reduction in their quality of life.

“We cannot conclude that poor sleep truly causes these negative changes; however, future studies should evaluate ways to improve sleep in ALFs to see if sleeping better might improve quality of life, delay functional decline and reduce risk of depression” said Dr Martin in a news release.