Posts Tagged ‘doctors

Have you see the happy hippo….? Things starting to get a little weird up-stairs, can’t seem to concentrate, so tired….

 This is notable apparent in soldiers in combat zones, medical residents and even new parents. Now there’s a neurological basis for this theory, accodting to new research from the Unvr. of Cali and Harvard Med school.

 In the first neural investigation into what happens to the emotional brain without sleep, results from a brain imaging study suggest that while a good nights’ rest can regulate your mood and help you cope with the next days emotional challenges, sleep deprivation does the opposite by excessively boosting the part of the brain most closely connected to depression, anxiety and other psychiatric disorders.

“It’s almost as though, without sleep, the brain had reverted back to more primitive patterns of activity, in that it was unable to put emotional experiences into context and produce controlled, appropriate responses,” said Matthew Walker, director of UC Berkeley’s Sleep and Neuro-imaging Lab.

“Emotionally, you’re not on a level playing field, ” Walker added.

  That’s because the amygdala (ouu say that 5 times fast, shoot try saying it once 😉 ) the region of the brain that alerts the body to protect itself in times of danger, goes into overdrive on no sleep, according to the study. This consequently shuts down the prefrontal cortex, which commands logical reasoning, and thus prevents the release of chemicals needed to calm down the fight-or-flight reflex.

  If, for example, the amygdala reacts strongly to a violent movie, the prefrontal cortex lets the brain know that the scene is make-believe and to settle down. But instead of connecting to the prefrontal cortex, the brain on no sleep connects to the locus coeruleus, the oldest part of the brain, which releases noradrenalin to ward off imminent threats to survival, posing a volatile mix, accoding to the study.

  The study’s findings lay the groundwork for further investigation into the relationship between sleep and psychiatric illnesses. Clinical evidence has shown that some form of sleep disruption is present in almost all psychiatric disorders.

“This is the first set of experiments that demonstrate that even healthy people’s brains mimic certain pathological psychiatric patterns when deprived of sleep, “Walker said. “Before, it was difficult to separate out the effect of sleep versus the disease itself. Now we’re closer to being able to look into wheather the person has a psychiatric disease or a sleep disorder.’

  Using functioning Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), Walker and his team found that the amygdala, which is also a key to processing emotions, became hyperactive in response to negative visual stimuli – mutilated bodies, children with tumors and otehr gory images- in study participants who stayed awake for 35 hours straight. Conversely, brain scans of those who got a full nights sleep in thier own beds showed normal activity in the amygdala.

“The emotional centers of the brain were over 60 percent more reactive under conditions of sleep deprivation that in subjects who had obtained a normal night of sleep.” Walker said, after conducting the study.

  The team studied 26 healthy participants aged 18 to 30, breaking them into two groups of equal numbers of males and females. The sleep-deprived group stayed awake during day 1, night 1 and day 2, while the sleep-control group stayed awake both days and slept normally during the night. During the fMRI brain scanning, which was performed at the end of day 2, each was shown 100 images that ranged from neutral to very negative. Using this emotional gradient, the researchers were able to compare the increase in brain response to the increasingly negative pictures.

  During Walker’s research, he was struck with the consistency of how graduate students in his studies would turn from affable, rational beings into what he called, “emotional JELL-O” after a night without sleep. He and his assistants searched for research that would explain the effect of sleep deprivation on the emotional brain and found none, although there is countless anecdotal evidence that lack of sleep causes emotional swings.


…Living for the instant brain fix.

Is it just us, or does it seem like everyone is either searching for that little something to get a competitive edge or simply struggling to keep up?

Americans are 24-7_365, I am guilty of swilling espresso as I  burn the candle at both ends to make sure my day is well productive. But that doesn’t disturb us nearly as much as the overwhelming amount of highly caffeinated “energy” products being marketed to help stimulate our competitive kids. Snackfood maker Mars has even released a new “Snickers Charged,” -so even candy can now give you an extra nudge.

The pharmaceutical industry is, of course, lurking right there with a whole slew of cognitive enhancers to push our bodies and brains to the max!

As a society, we tend to reflexively deride and often morally condemn the instant fix (While at the same time scrambling for it). But what about drugs that can instantly improve your cognitive functioning? Not a good idea, right? They’re unfair- like steroids for the brain. Until you consider the pilot who’s flying your plane for the next 10 hours or the neurosurgeon operating on your mom. Maybe a hit of Provigil doesn’t sound like suck a bad idea.

There’s nothing earth-shattering or radical about the idea of “cognitive enhancers.” Caffeine and nicotine are two old-school boosters. Many studies have proven that both help maintain attention, highten alertness and, of course, keep people awake. Research has also shown that caffeine possesses cognition-enhancing properties that can enhance higher cognitive functions like short- and long-term memory and perceptual sensitivity.

But the java jolt isn’t enough for those seeking the new “smart drugs” or “nootropics,” many of which were orginally developed to treat neurological or mental disorders such as Parkinson’s disearse.

Two of the drugs which are now being used as cognitive enhancers, donepezil and tacrine were orginally approved in the United States for treatment of Alzheimers. A study published in the journal Neurology found that commerical pilots who took 5 milligrams of donepezil for one month performed better than pilots on a placebo when asked to fly a Cessna 172 on a flight simulator. There was a significant difference between the groups in the effectiveness with which they dealth with emergencies.

Then there’s Ritalin, the drug of choice on college campuses for sleep-deprived students struggling to pull all nighters, complete term papers, even boost concentration during exams.
Drugs like Ritalin and Adderall are commonly prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). At recommended doses, these medications can accelerate the centeral nervous system, heightening concentration and alertness.

But as a “smart drug,” Ritalin may not be quite so smart. Never mind the fact that sharing prescription medicine is a felony drug offense in most states- taking excessively high doses of Ritalin can increase the risk for neurological and heart-related symptoms.

The current superstar of prescription stimulants is Provigil (Modafinild), first approved as a treatment for narcolepsy. A secondary indication was to treat something called Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD), a sleep disorder that affects people who frequently work schedules that resist the bodys’ natural Circadian rhythm, such as night shifts or rotating shifts. We both know doctors who regularly use Provigil.

Provigil can keep a person awake and alert for 90 hours straight, with none of the jitteriness, impaired concentration, “rebound effect,” or risk of addiction associated with amphetamines or even coffee.

Not surprisingly, Provigil is reportedly popular with the U.S. Air Force, and has been used more than 150 times this year by bomber crews to ward off fatugue on missions of mare than 12 hours.

Provigil seems to safely bolster alertness for day at a time wiht few side effects, but its long-term effects have not been sufficiently studied to completely rule out all potential problems.

A couple of final points, I have talked to quite a few parents on this topic of cognitive enhancers, and the issue of “fairness” invariably comes up. For instance, do you want your kid taking the SATs and competing with a bunch of other kids who are tweaking on Provigil? Hopefully, we will have all instilled in them an awareness of the profound difference between the abilty to perform will on standardized tests and the capacity for intellectual discovery, innovation and creativity, and humane conduct.

  I took a sleeping pill the other night, as a last resort for caffeine-laced insomnia. It was like a 10-hour sleigh ride through an enchanted forest.

These pill may be addictive, the warning label said.

NO KIDDING, I thought! 🙂

  Sleep is by far the new sex, a lot of sleep experts are starting to say, it’s being advertised all over the place, sex sells is to sleep (aids) sell: Men think about it every seven seconds or so. Women romanticize it. Teenagers yearn for the weekends, when they might get a little of it- that goes for both sex & sleep!

  These days, sleep is just another basic need that Americans can’t seem to meet. And though the national sleep deficit is mostly a cultural issue, it’s easier to treat as a medical problem than as a symptom of life out of whack. People aren’t winding down, they’re going to be and their minds are still racing from the days dos’ and didn’t dos’.

  The National Sleep Foundation releases its annual poll March 28th that confirms what most people already know, if they could escape their groggy haze long enough to form a coherent thought: Nobody gets enough sleep. The reasons are familiar. People spend more hours working and driving, and they raise this children, manage their households and care for aging parents on the fly. They also stay plugged into the grind longer, tapping our e-mails untiljust before hitting the sheets, or they’re already in bed, with their laptop propped up in front of them.

Then they expect to screech to a halt and enter REM on demand.

“People feel the need to be very efficient in their sleep,” said Heather Hartley, a sociology professor, who studies the links between drug companies and society. “They budget a set amount of time and then get stressed out if they can’t go immediately to sleep. There’s no cushion. There’s where the vicious cycle begins.”

  There probably was never a golden age of sleep in this country, as if Americans were well-rested before globalization, the Internet and women’s liberation came along and ruined everything. We’ve always worked hard. Even our old colloquialisms for sleep, such as “hitting the hay” and “sawing logs,” are work-related.

  But the collective fatigue is growing. People sleep nearly an hour less each night than they did two generations ago, according to historic estimates of sleep patterns. High-school seniors are among the most sleep-deprived, getting about two hours less each weeknight than the nine hours they need.

  The sleep experts say relax, drink less coffee and booze, eat better, rest more & exercise. The drug companies say take this pill.

These days, a prescription is far easier to acquire than a healthy life.

  American’s filled an astounding 42 million prescriptions for sleeping pills last year, up 60 percent since 2000, according to the research company IMS Health. Drug companies spent $300 million marketing sleeping pills such as Lunesta and Ambien last year and grossed $2 billion is sales!\

Meanwhile, coffee consumption keep rising. There’s a Starbucks almost every 6 blocks in my city.

  “Somethings’ got to give, ” says  another psychology professor who has begun to study sleeplessness as a symptom of work stress. Personal coping strategies can only do so much, she added, when the economy and culture are rigged against a good nights’ sleep.

  I don’t intend to pop a sleeping pill more than once every few years, no matter how many Lunesta ads crowd my favorite television shows. The drug-induced slumber feels to little too much like getting hit in the head. So the little pill beckons, offering instant relief for your Chronic Sleep Disorder, you get on the sleigh and pull the fur robes snug around your hands, and glide through the forest toward the golden pot of coffee shimmering on the horizon.

  It’s not a good nights’ sleep, but it’s the next-best thing.

Sufferers unknowingly have sex in their sleep…

  Researchers are struggling to understand a rare medical condition where sufferers unknowingly demand, or actually have, sex while asleep…

  Looking into sexsomnia – making sexual advances towards another person while asleep – has been hampered as sufferers are so embarrassed by the problem they tend not to own up to it, while doctors do not ask about it.

  As of yet, there is no cure for the condition, which often leads to difficulties in relationships.

 “It really bothers me that I can’t control it,” one woman exclaimed. “It scares me because I don’t think it has anything to do with my partner. I don’t want this foolish condition to hurt us in the long run.”

  Most researchers view sexsomnia as a variant of sleepwalking, where sufferers are stuck between sleep and wakefullness, though sexsomniacs ten to stay in bed rather than get up and walk about…lol 😉

 While sleepwalking affects two to four percent of adults, sexsomnia is not thought to be as a common problem, but an Internet survey of sexsomniacs carried out in 2005 that dew 219 reliable respondents concluded it was more prevalent than medical case reports alone suggested.

“Most of the time sleep sex occurs between peope who are already partners,” stated sleep specialist Mark Pressman.

“Sometimes they hate it, Sometimes they tolerate it, and on rare occasions you have stories of people liking it better than waking sex.” Pressman added of the reactions of sexsomniacs’ partners.

  With no cure, addressing triggering factors – stress or sleep deprivation – can help, while Michael Mangan, a pschologist at Unvr. New Hamsphire, has set up a Web site,, to help sufferers.

  Meanwhile they are trying to devise a procedure for diagnosing sexsomnia in legal cases where sufferers have been accused of sexual assult, that’s just great, people are really going to be able to stat getting away with assults, because they will pull this card that they are a sexsomniac!


  I don’t know about anyone else, but when I don’t get decent sleep at least for a few days, I am the WORST person to get along with. I complain about everything and everyone… Its as if the tiny problems often seem large, and large problems become utterly defeating.

In a study recently published in Current Biology, researchers kept volunteers awake for 35 hours, then showed them pictures designed to provoke an emotional response – and provoke they certainly did. Blood flow to the amygdale -an emotional processing part of the brain- increased by over 60 percent in sleep-deprived brains.

Researchers found that it is almost as though, without sleep, the brain reverts back to a more primitive pattern of activity, becoming unable to put emotional experiences into context and produced controlled, appropriate responses.

The findings may provide insight into psychiatric disorders, many of which are accompanied by sleep problems. Clinical evidence has shown that some form of sleep disruption is present in almost all psychiatric disorders.

In the UK, their researchers said it would be difficult to use it to unravel the relationship between mental health and sleep. Professor Jim Horne stated: “This is a complex area -the big difference is that people with mental illnesses might not be aware that they are over-reacting or behaving irrationally, whereas someone with sleep deprivation would be more aware of this overreaction.”

In addition, we all know that in illnesses such as depression, actually reducing the amount of sleep can be beneficial in moderation and a well-supervised environment.

Apparently, there have been a  lot of studies into the effects of sleep deprivation; this is the first to show what is happening in the brain response to such emotional stimuli…

…When I saw this, I thought what are we thinking! Really, snorting brain chemicals? They’re brain chemicals, they should be in our brains, not us snorting them up there! I hope that this never makes it to the market!…. What would you do? Would you snort a ‘brain chemical’ just to get some sleep or would you do the old fashion-ed tricks and get some rest?



In what sounds like a dream for millions of tired coffee drinkers, Darpa-funded scientists might have found a drug that will eliminate sleepiness.


  A nasal spray containing a naturally occurring brain hormone called orexin A, it reversed the effects of sleep deprivation in monkeys, allowing them to perform like well-rested monkeys on cognitive tests. The discovery’s first application will probably be in treatment of the severe sleep disorder narcolepsy.


  The treatment is “a totally new route for increasing arousal, and the new study shows it to be relatively benign,” states a profession of psychiatry at UCLA, “It reduces the sleepiness without causing edginess.”


  Orexin A is a promising candidate to become a “sleep replacement” drug. For decades, stimulants have been used to combat sleepiness, but they can be addictive and often have side effects, including raising blood pressure or causing mood swings. The military, for example, administers amphetamines to pilots flying long distances, and had funded research into new drugs like the stimulant modafinil and orexin A in an effort to help troops stay awake with fewest side effects.


  The monkeys were deprived of sleep for 30 -36 hours and then given either orexin A or a saline placebo before taking standard cognitive tests. The monkeys given orexin A in a nasal spray scored about the same as alert monkeys, while the saline-control group was severely impaired.


  The study, plublished in the edition of The Journal of Neuroscience, found orexin A not only restored monkey’s cognitive abilities but made their brains look “awake” in PET scans.


  Siegel said that orexin A is unique in that it only had an impact on sleepy monkeys, not alert ones, and that it is “specific in reversing the effects of sleepiness” without other impacts on the brain.


  Such a product could be widely desired by the more than 70 percent of Americans who the National Sleep Foundation estimates gets less than generally recommended eight hours of sleep per night.


   The research follows the discovery by Siegel that the absence of orexin A appears to cause narcolepsy. That finding pointed to a major role for the peptide’s absence in causing sleepiness. It stood to reason that it the deficit of orexin A makes people sleepy, adding it back into the brain would reduce the effects.


  “What we’ve been doing so far is increasing arousal without dealing with the underlying problem,” “If the underlying deficit is a loss of orexin, and it clearly is, then the best treatment would be orexin.”


  Dr. Michael Twery, at the National Center of Sleep Disorders Research, said that while research into drugs for sleepiness is “very interesting,” he cautioned that the long term consequences of not sleeping were not well-known.


  Both Twery and Siegel noted that it is unclear wheather or not treating the brain chemistry behind sleepiness would alleviate the other problems associated with sleep deprivation.


  “New research indicates that not getting enough sleep is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease and metabolic disorders.”


I guess these UK scientists should see that we Americans have this under control (snicker) with our self-medicating with caffeine. – ORGN. “we have to realize that we are already living in a society where we are already self-medicating with caffeine. Siegel said.


  He also stated that modafinil, which is marketed as Provigil by cephalon and alertec in Canada, has become widely used by healthy individuals for managing sleepiness.


  “We have these other precedents, and it’s not clear that you can’t use orexin A temporarily to reduce sleep,” Siegel said. “On the other hand, you’d have to be a fool to advocate taking this and reducing sleep as much as possible.”


    Sleep advocates probably won’t have to worry about orexin A reaching drugstore shelves for many years. Any commercial treatment using the substance would need approval from the Food and Drug Admin, which can take more than a decade.


Yummm…wait where did those pesky 10lbs come from again???

  Strange behavior by insomniacs taking prescription drugs, are on the rise. Ranging from binge eating to having sex all while asleep! These have raised safety questions about anti-insomnia medications such as Sanofi-Aventis’ Ambien.

  Researchers are studying cases where insomniacs taking Ambien got up in the middle of the night, binged uncontrollably, (either in food, or their partner) then remembered nothing of their actions the next day.

  I guess these sleep-induced side effects while on this medication have been around for years, but the incidence is rising because of an explosion in the drugs’ use is becoming and epidemic!

  Researchers haven’t found a cause for the sleep-related eating disorder, although patients with prior history of sleep-walking and women may even be at a higher risk.

  Doctors who are prescribing this medication should be engaging in discussions with their patients to describe and try to understand potential contributors to this behavior. The researchers identified 32 Ambien users who where experiencing sleep-related eating disorders with amnesia. Researches estimated that thousands of Ambien users in the U.S. experience sleep-related eating disorders while taking the drug.

   And they are wondering why the US is struggling with obesity, and why we are considered to be the “fattest” country! We don’t even know that we’re getting fat, just give us a pill, and a pill for that pill, and a pill for that side effect, ohhhh boy doesn’t the list ever end???

  A study even showed that patients who took other, older sleep medications didn’t experience the disorders. So why is Ambien still in the market?

  About 30 million people in the United States take sleep medications, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. By some counts that is a 50 percentile jump since the beginning of the decade. Ambien is boasting 12 BILLION nights of patient use!

  Some of the most serious side effects are short-term memory loss, and accidents involving patients who drive the next day, while still feeling drugged. (I love how we know all this information and yet ‘we’ continue to take/supply these yummie little pills)

  “Patients who have engaged in this unusual behavior at night – it’s relatively rare and bizarre,” said Donna Arand, president of the American Insomnia Association.

  “The daytime sleepiness – that drugged feeling that people may have – is probably the most worrisome because of the (vehicular) accidents that can occur.” (really…)

Memory Problems????

 Consumer group Public Citizen warned that Ambien should only be used on a limited basis because it causes temporary amnesia.

 Because the Food and Drug Admin’s reporting system is voluntary and anecdotal, “we don’t know how big of a problem it realty is… we have no way too accurately to assess the prevalence,” said the consultant of Public Citizen.

 Memory issues my be an infrequent side effect, but when it occurs it could be very costly! This certainly needs to be looked at in a more rigorous way. (Before you know it people who leave their kids in cars are going to say they were suffering from memory loss due to Ambien! GREAT!)

  This just in: * Doctors recommend against abruptly stopping the drug(s), which can cause withdrawal symptoms including seizures! * 😉

 “The risk has always been there; we are just seeing it more now because so many more people are using the drug(s),” said the program director at the sleep disorder unit at the National Institutes of Health.

  And yet we still love to eat em’ up, and then when things go wrong we want to start pointing fingers, instead of doing our own research and finding out exactly what we’re putting into our bodies!