Tags: sleep apnea
Is a Lack of Sleep Hurting Your Health?
It has long been known that consistent sleeping patterns are an important component of overall health and well-being. Restorative rest helps rejuvenate the body's energy supplies and provides much-needed respite from the stress and strain of day-to-day life, and without it, the body's ability to be rebound may be negatively impacted.
However, recent research has indicated that the importance of sleep may go much deeper than mere rest. A number of studies have linked sleep deprivation to a staggering array of illnesses, diseases, and symptoms, underscoring the need for sleep as the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle. This week, we'll survey a few of the most notable recent findings that have bolstered the health-sleep connection.
Risky Behaviors Increase with Sleep Deprivation
Anecdotal reports have long indicated that a lack of sufficient sleep may impact people's behavior. However, the results of a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh makes an even stronger suggestion -- a lack of sleep may actually promote unhealthy behaviors and lifestyle choices, especially among young people.
According to the results of a survey that was administered to more than 1300 adolescents and young adults, average nightly sleep of less than eight hours was strongly linked to an array of risky and potentially dangerous behaviors.
The strongest connections were seen between sleep deprivation and underage use of cigarettes, alcohol, and illicit substances. However, other factors, such as academic performance and emotional stability, also appeared to be linked to a lack of sleep. The authors suggested that programs designed to prevent and treat substance abuse among adolescents and young adults focus on sleep interventions as a technique for treatment.
Researchers Uncover Link between Inadequate Sleep and Poor Heart Health
While scientists have long suspected that chronic sleep deprivation may negatively impact health, the findings of a recent study indicated that cardiovascular health -- a major predictor of mortality and morbidity -- may be directly linked to sleep patterns.
The study, which was conducted by researchers affiliated with the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Medicine, assessed the heart function of a group of 39 subjects whose sleep was restricted to mimic the impact of long-term sleep deprivation. During the study, the participants sleep was severely restricted by the researchers, who would awake the participants after an average night's sleep of only five hours.
After a week of sleep restriction, the study participants were subjected to a battery of health exams and diagnostic tests. The researchers noted many differences in laboratory test results after the sleep deprivation. Most significantly, a majority of the participants exhibited potentially dangerous fluctuations in cardiac function.
Although more research will be necessary to come to a clear-cut conclusion about the role of sleep in heart health, the scientists say that healthy sleep habits should be emphasized to all patients, particularly those who are already at high risk for cardiovascular disease and other heart disorders.
Sleep Deprivation, Disturbances Linked to Suicide among Elderly
Older men and women often experience a great deal of difficulty maintaining a healthy sleep schedule. Anxiety, illnesses, chronic pain, and a lack of schedule structure all contribute to sleep disorders in the elderly population, and researchers have long contended that the problem likely aggravated other health concerns for those in this age group.
However, the results of a recent study conducted by researchers at Florida State University indicated that the problems associated with sleep disruptions in the elderly may be significantly more serious than previously suspected. Most notably, it was found that sleep disturbances among older men and women were an accurate prediction of suicide risk.
The connection between sleep and suicide was found to be more statistically significant than any other variable, including depression and chronic illness. The authors emphasized the importance of intervention and prevention programs designed to enhance the quality and quantity of sleep-hours among the elderly, and they urged family members to seek professional assistance for elderly relatives' sleep disorders.
If you or a loved one is having difficulty establishing and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, talk to your doctor to help devise an intervention that will work for you. Depending on your unique health profile, your physician can discuss treatment options that will help you enjoy more consistent sleeping patterns. Don't forget to check back each week for more of the health science news you need to achieve optimal well-being.
Studies Probe Causes, Treatments of Snoring
Snoring is often regarded as an annoying but ultimately harmless -- and usually unavoidable -- problem. While anyone who has ever tried to get a good night's sleep while sharing a bed with a snorer can confirm that it is, in fact, an annoyance, recent studies have hinted that snoring may not be quite as harmless as once thought.
The most severe forms of snoring are caused by a sleeping disorder known as sleep apnea. This chronic health problem is very serious indeed, as it actually results in a cessation of the breath hundreds of times each night. Sleep apnea sufferers also typically do not get enough oxygen while sleeping, and often wake up feeling fatigued and not fully rested.
The widespread recognition of the potential seriousness of snoring has prompted a great deal of research activity in recent years. Scientists around the world have dedicated their effort to the goal of understanding more about this confounding night-time problem. This week, we'll take a look at some of the most recent research into the causes of -- and possible cures for -- snoring disorders.
Scientists Use Imaging Tools to Dig Deeper Into the Mystery of Snoring
In order to better understand the hows and the whys of chronic snoring, scientists in Slovenia recently undertook a large-scale study geared to help them get to the bottom of this age-old health problem. Using CT imaging technology, commonly known as "CAT scans," the researchers got a close-up look at the physiological mechanisms and functions that are at the root of this noisy symptom.
According to the findings of the study, there are a number of unique physiological structures that are often seen in people -- especially men -- who are identified as chronic snorers. Most significantly, the researchers found that chronic snorers are more likely to have thinner throat structures and elongated soft palates.
The preliminary results of the study indicate that it is the differences in soft palate structure that may be the primary cause of some types of snoring. The elongated soft palate seen in many chronic snorers can lead to obstruction of the air passages during sleep, which in turn causes the unpleasant noise that is commonly referred to as snoring. The researchers suggested that correction or treatment of this soft palate structure should be a focus of future snoring studies.
Simple Procedure Promises End to Chronic Snoring for Millions
Recent advances in the study of snoring have led researchers to several potential treatments for this chronic condition. Based on studies that have identified key structural differences found in the mouth and airways of many chronic snorers, several simple outpatient treatments have been devised that may put an end to this potentially dangerous health problem.
Researchers at the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Nedlands, Australia studied one such treatment method with promising results. The technique, known as radiofrequency tissue volume reduction, was first introduced in the late 1990s, but is now gaining international popularity.
In the procedure, a small lesion is created on the area of the uvula that is involved in snoring. During the body's natural healing process, the uvula stiffens and reduces in size. In the majority of typical snorers, the procedure significantly reduces the frequency and severity of snoring. However, the treatment is not effective for those with underlying sleep apnea.
Some Types of Snoring May Be Genetically Inherited
The old adage of "like father, like son" may also apply to the problem of snoring, according to the results of a recent study conducted by researchers at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
Although abnormalities in the throat and mouth have been identified as the cause of typical snoring, scientists have discovered that these traits may be passed between generations along with other genetic quirks. Children of parents who were identified as snorers were found to be more than 3 times more likely to snore themselves.
The study also uncovered a number of other clues that pointed to the genetic roots of snoring. For example, African-American children were the most likely to snore, and those with allergies were twice more likely to snore than non-allergy sufferers.
The research also identified links between childhood snoring and behavior disorders such as ADHD and ADD, although the scientists leading the study pointed out that further research would be needed to clarify this connection.
If snoring is a serious problem for you or a loved one, check with your doctor to discuss your treatment options. And don't forget to check back here each week for the health science news you need.
Note: This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical care.
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