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A new study suggest that the first gene known to control the internal clock of humans and other mammals works exactly in reverse of what was previously believed.
According to researchers at the University of Utah's Huntsman Cancer Institute, Salt Lake City, and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, the finding could mean a dramatic reversal in the way circadian rhythm disorders such as depression, insomnia, and chronic fatigue are treated.
Previously, it was believed the tau mutation caused a decrease in activity of the casein kinase 1 epsilon (CK1) gene, which in turn caused the body's circadian rhythm to speed up. But, in fact, researchers have now discovered the opposite is true, and it is an increase in activity of the CK1 gene that causes affected animals to have a shorter day.
Several pharmaceutical companies have been developing inhibitors of CK1 activity based on the hypothesis that CK1 loss of function speeds up the clock. But this new research means drug studies are going to have to be redesigned, say the experts.
Are you a "Healthy, Lively Lark?" Or are you part of a "Dragging Duo?"
The National Sleep Foundation has categorized our sleep habits into five "sleep personalities" based on the results received from a 2005 Sleep in America Poll. Two of the categories are positive and three are negative. Fifty-two percent of those polled fall into the three negative categories.
The categories are as follows. Which sleep personality do you have?
Healthy, Lively Larks: you are the model citizen of sleep. You almost always get the sleep you need and hardly ever feel fatigued. You are younger than the other groups, often married or partnered and work full time.
Sleep Savvy Seniors: you are the most mature of the five groups (your average age is 60). You get the most sleep of any group. You say you get a good night's sleep most nights, often take two or three naps during the week and hardly ever feel fatigued. You are most likely retired and two-thirds of you are female.
Dragging Duos: you are partnered and employed, work more than 40 hours a week and are often doing job-related work up to an hour before bedtime. You are an early riser. And more than one-third of you say that three days a week, you feel fatigued. Duos report that their partner has at least one symptom of insomnia. Sleep disorders have caused problems in your relationship and in your intimacy with one another.
Overworked, Overweight and Overcaffeinated: you are a night owl who is employed, you have the longest work week of all the groups and you are least likely to work regular day shifts. You sleep less than other groups but nap more with two-thirds taking two or more naps per week. You feel like you need fewer hours of sleep each night to function at your best compared to the other groups and you believe you get as much or more sleep than you need. Members of this group drink more caffeine than other groups. Seven in 10 frequently experience a symptom of insomnia. Your group has a higher representation of males, about one-half of the group isn't partnered and the same amount would be classified as "obese."
Sleepless and Missin' the Kissin': your group has the largest proportion of "owls" and people who think they have a sleep problem or a symptom of insomnia. You are the least likely to say you frequently get a good night's sleep. Nearly one-half of your group feels they are getting less sleep than they need, and the same number says they usually feel tired/fatigued. You are more likely than other groups to say you (or your partner's) sleep disorders have caused significant or moderate problems with your relationship, and two out of five people asked say their intimate relationships have been affected because of sleepiness. The majority of SAMTK's has been diagnosed with a medical condition and you are more likely than other groups to use sleep aids. One-half of this group is employed, and there is a high representation of females.
If you're unhappy with your sleep personality after reading this, experts say not to fret. You can certainly change it by changing your lifestyle choices. It may not be long before you, too, are a "Healthy, Lively Lark!"
Sleep-wake reversal occurs in people whose sleep patterns have been disrupted - they fall asleep at inappropriate times and then cannot sleep when they should.
The National Sleep Foundation offers the following tips on how to get a good night's sleep during Daylight Savings Time:
- Try to sleep more than usual a few nights prior to and immediately following the time change.
- Take a nap in the afternoon on Sunday if you need it, but not within a few hours of your regular bedtime. Napping too close to bedtime can disrupt nighttime sleep.
- Gradually advance your sleep schedule by going to sleep and waking up 15 to 20 minutes earlier each day for three to four consecutive days prior to the start of Daylight Savings Time.
- Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool.
- Establish a regular bedtime and wake time schedule.
- Try a relaxing routine, like soaking in hot water (a hot tub or bath) before bedtime.
- Exercise regularly. It is best to complete your workout at least a few hours before bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol close to bedtime, as they can disrupt sleep.
A sleep diary, similar to a food diary, can help you keep track of when and how you are sleeping so you can pinpoint patterns and problems. Many sleep doctors recommend keeping one. Here are some guidelines for keeping your own sleep diary.
Here is what you should record in your sleep diary:
- The time you went to bed and woke up
- Your total sleep hours
- The overall quality of your sleep
- The times you were awake during the night and what you did (did you stay in bed, get up, get a glass of milk, meditate?)
- The amount of caffeine or alcohol you consumed and the times of consumption
- The types of food and drink and the times of consumption
- Your feelings (happiness, sadness, stress, anxiety)
- Drugs or medications taken and the amounts taken and times of consumption
A person with familial advanced sleep phase syndrome (FASPS) is normal and healthy but is an extreme morning lark.
These individuals have a short circadian period that leads them to wake up earlier each day. They ultimately reach an equilibrium where they're waking up so early and going to sleep early enough that they get a strong light impulse to reset their clock for the next day.
Experts say if you like to nap, be careful about how you do it because it can wreak havoc on your nighttime sleep by causing a sleep-wake change in your biological clock.
Remember that a long nap starts resetting your body clock and can make it more difficult to fall asleep that night. When napping, try to follow these rules to avoid this:
- Limit naps to 30 minutes or less and you will get the maximum benefit without wrecking your ability to sleep normally that night
- Take a nap sometime between 1 and 3 pm
- If you nap after 3 pm you increase the risk of disrupting your sleep that night
We all do it. We stay up late watching that ball game or movie, sacrificing the amount of sleep we get that night. Then we figure we'll sleep in over the weekend to "catch up." Or we'll take naps during the day when we can. What many may not know is that a sleep-wake change like this is very common but can actually lead to a sleeping disorder.
We all have a biological clock that governs our sleep/wake rhythms, which is how our body knows when it is time to sleep and when it is time to get up. Many things can affect this clock. The biggest factor is the time we get up each day. When we vary the time more than an hour or so we are asking our body to make a radical shift in this mechanism.
Sleep-wake reversal causes your circadian rhythm, or internal clock, to be off. Two common circadian rhythm disorders are seasonal affective disorder and depression.
Seasonal affective disorder (also called SAD) is a type of depression that follows the seasons. The most common type of SAD is called winter depression. It usually begins in late fall or early winter and goes away by summer. A less common type of SAD, known as summer depression, usually begins in the late spring or early summer. It goes away by winter. SAD may be related to changes in the amount of daylight during different times of the year. Insomnia and fatigue are symptoms of this disorder.
Depression is a mood disorder that is characterized by sadness, or having the blues. Nearly everyone feels sad or down from time to time. Sometimes, however, the sad feelings become intense, last for long periods, and keep a person from leading a normal life.
An inability to sleep, or insomnia, is one of the signs of depression. (a small percentage of depressed people, approximately 15 percent, oversleep, or sleep too much.) Lack of sleep alone cannot cause depression, but it does play a role. Lack of sleep caused by another medical illness or by personal problems can make depression worse. An inability to sleep that lasts over a long period of time is also an important clue that someone may be depressed.
Sleep wake reversal may occur in some teens and may cause problems with daily life. Sleep-wake reversal in kids can occur by:
- Mood disorders
- Substance abuse
Fortunately, as they mature, children usually get over common sleep problems as well as the more serious sleep disorders. However, parents with ongoing concerns should contact their pediatrician or directly seek consultation with a child and adolescent psychiatrist or sleep specialist.
Our body and minds seem to do best with a daily rhythm that stays pretty much the same. Whenever we change that rhythm, we need time to adjust to the new schedule. This is what is responsible for what has been pegged "Sunday Night Syndrome."
Sunday Night Syndrome refers to how many of us try to play "catch up" on sleep lost during the week on Saturday and Sunday mornings and then cannot sleep well on Sunday nights.
To combat this, it's a good idea to get up at the same time every day, even if you did not sleep well the night before or went to bed late. This is often hard for people to accept. It seems the opposite of what we want to do. But experts say it is beneficial in the long run.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|