Sleep

Articles

The State of the Art in Sleep and Aging (Guest Bryce Mander, Ph.D. – UC Berkeley)

Do we really need less sleep when we get older?

We know that as people age, they tend to get less sleep. But older people also seem to suffer less when subjected to sleep deprivation, compared to younger adults. This has led some to conclude that older people get less sleep simply because they do not need as much.

However, recent brain studies have revealed that the aging brain changes in ways that makes sleep less restorative. This suggests that the real reason why older adults get less sleep than their younger counterparts is because they are less capable of generating the sleep that they really need.

In this episode of humanOS Radio, I talk with Bryce Mander, a postdoctoral fellow in the Matthew Walker Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab at UC Berkeley. Bryce and colleagues recently wrote a review that explores how sleep changes as we grow older, and the potential long-term implications of these alterations. Perhaps most alarming, research has shown that a lack of deep sleep is associated with higher levels of amyloid beta, which are the toxic misfolded proteins that accumulate in the brains of those afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.

This raises a number of interesting questions. If we could test for sleep disruption, could we determine who is susceptible to developing Alzheimer’s disease soon enough to intervene? And could we find ways to enhance slow wave oscillations as people grow older, so that we can enjoy high-quality restorative sleep our whole lives? Listen here to learn more!


Does Dim Light at Night Make You Fat?

Before electricity, humans got all of their light via exposure to the sun, fire, and the moon and stars. This meant that nights were spent in relative darkness. Today, our environment is quite different. Our homes can now be brightly illuminated all the time, regardless of season or time of day. Also, our cities have bright LED street lamps that create “light pollution” filling outdoor city environments with much more light than is natural.

On the latest episode of humanOS Radio, I talk to Dr. Laura Fonken who is postdoctoral fellow in Steven Maier’s lab in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado. Before joining the Maier lab, she and a group at Ohio State performed a fascinating experiment with rodents, in which they compared body weight gain in animals who only ate at night versus animals who only ate during the day. The results were startling – and had interesting potential implications for our own health.

Check out our interview here to learn more!


Deeper Sleep and Faster Sleep Onset with Virtual Reality and Neurostimulation?

Modern technology is messing with our sleep. But what if someone could develop a device that actually helped us fall asleep faster?

In the latest episode of humanOS radio, I talk with Kelly Roman. Kelly is a co-owner of Fisher Wallace Laboratories, a progressive medical device company that aspires to treat insomnia and depression in novel ways.

Fisher Wallace is introducing a neurostimulation product called Kortex to the market. This device non-invasively delivers a low dose of electrical stimulation, combined with a virtual reality headset that delivers relaxing VR content to the user.

And unlike reading on your phone, Kortex might actually *help* you to get to sleep faster, and experience deeper and more restorative sleep. Kortex stimulates the brain to produce serotonin and melatonin, while lowering cortisol – thus helping people manage stress and sleep without prescription drugs.

To learn more about this intriguing product, and the research leading up to it, please check out my interview with Kelly here.


Which Parts of a Meal Can Make You Sleepy? (Keith Murphy Interview)

Everyone knows what it’s like to feel sleepy after a big meal. Think of what happens after Thanksgiving dinner, or after getting a huge lunch at an Indian buffet. If you’re like me, you’re ready to crash.

But why does this happen? Is it the tryptophan in the turkey? Is it from too many carbs? What you eat, how much you eat, and when you eat it all play a role. Consequently, there has been some doubt as to whether the “food coma” is even a real thing.

But recently, some clever researchers identified a good model organism for studying this phenomenon – the fruit fly. And through studying the behavior of Drosophila, we now better understand what causes a food coma, and perhaps why it occurs.

In the latest episode of humanOS Radio, I interview Keith Murphy of the Scripps Research Institute. He and his colleagues have been researching the so-called food coma, and have found some substantive evidence for this phenomenon. Listen here to find out more about his study – and some reasons why the food coma might be happening.


New Discovery Could Mean Better, Next-Generation Sleep Drugs

Why is it that when you’re binge watching your favorite new series on Netflix, you can stay up for hours past your normal bedtime – even if you were tired before you started watching? On the other hand, if you weren’t being entertained or captivated by a game or puzzle, you’d be much more likely to be lulled to sleep at that time. Indeed, sleep and goal-directed behaviors are mutually exclusive: you can’t do both at the same time. While this relationship is intuitively clear, for the first time, scientists at Stanford have clarified the circuitry between the brain’s reward and arousal systems. In the latest episode of humanOS Radio, I speak with Luis de Lecea, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine. Recently, he and his colleagues published a study in the prestigious journal Nature demonstrating that dopamine neuron activity (in the ventral tegmental area of the brain) is necessary in order to be awake. Furthermore, when they inhibited these neurons, there were able to promote what seemed like natural, healthy sleep.


A New Product to Significantly Reduce Jet Lag – Interview with Stanford Professor, Jamie Zeitzer

In Professor Jamie Zietzer’s recent research on light and the timing of biological rhythms, he noticed something curious: brief flashes of light have a greater ability to adjust body clock timing than continuous light exposure.

For instance, let’s say you wanted to adjust your body clock to wake up earlier than you typically do in the coming days (a common scenario for those who travel across time zones). In order to make this adjustment, on the morning before you leave, you could wake up at 4:00am, turn on the room light and go back to sleep. This technique can adjust your clock by about 35 minutes, which means that if you typically awake at 7:30am, you could naturally wake up tomorrow around 6:55am (and the timing of all your other body processes would shift accordingly, too).

On the other hand, if you were to get 2 millisecond flash of light every 10 seconds starting at 4:00am (instead of laying in a room with the light on) – something Jamie’s research has demonstrated you can sleep through – you could advance your clock by about 120 minutes – over 3x more than continuous light.

What does this mean? Well, one thing it means is that it would be a heck of a lot easier to be up and ready before your typical natural wake time in those moments when you have an early start to your day (e.g., early plane flight). The ability to affect your body timing in this manner is more than a mere luxury; it’s also about personal safety and performance. None of us want to be on the road with sleepy drivers, and likewise, no one wants to have to perform at a time when you’re too sleepy to keep your eyes open. This is pretty exciting technology!


Research Reveals a Surprising Link Between Melatonin and Type 2 Diabetes

We typically associate the hormone melatonin with sleep. However, melatonin is actually involved in the timing and synchronization of a number of different physiological functions throughout the body. One of these functions is the regulation of blood sugar.

Recent research has found that a relatively large proportion of the human population is genetically predisposed to be more sensitive to the impact of this hormone on blood sugar control. This can lead to higher blood glucose levels, and ultimately greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Here’s how it works, and what you can do about it.


Brainy Beds? Professor David Samson on Sleeping Platforms, Sleep Quality, and Thinking Speed, plus News!

Did our brains evolve as they have due to how we slept? In part, likely yes. In this episode of the humanOS Radio podcast, I speak with Professor David Samson about his research looking at primate sleeping platforms and their potential role to increase the cognitive abilities of certain great apes beyond the capacities of other primates. How does this connection work? The primates who create more comfortable beds for themselves appear to achieve substantial amounts of deep and REM sleep over the night. This is turn may have lead to the expansion of cognitive abilities over time. Can you benefit from the information shared in this discussion to improve your own sleep?


Certain Dietary Fats Disrupt the Coordination of Metabolism, Others Don’t

When the system in our body that controls the timing of our physiology becomes uncoordinated or misaligned, bad things happen. This can happen in several ways.

The most well-understood way is due to big fluctuations in the timing light exposure from day to day. This is why Apple recently introduce night shift to help limit the impact cell phones can contribute to this issue. But big fluctuations in the timing of light exposure is not the only way to misalign our rhythms. The type and timing of dietary fat also impact’s this system.


How Sleep Is Critical for Learning and Remembering – Podcast with Professor Marcos Frank

We do not enter into the world with infinite knowledge of ourselves and our surroundings. We don’t have knowledge or skill to survive, to dance, or to do martial arts with grace and efficiency. We don’t know enough about ourselves or know how to interact best with different types of people we encounter. We don’t know how to accelerate our ability to get better at something. We are born, however, with the capacity to learn and to remember, and by virtue of this skill, we have an incredible potential to do great things.

Professor Marcos FrankToday, important stuff happened to you. Tonight, when you sleep, your brain will extend the process of turning that stimulation – the sites, sounds, thoughts, emotions, facts, etc. – into memories that you can access at a moments notice in the future. It’s amazing when you think about it: experiences, facts, skills, and even thought patterns become a part of who we are. How much do you know now that you didn’t know 1o to 15 years ago, or even last week, last month, or yesterday? The process of accumulating information, and accessing when needed, is so routine it’s easy to forget that something is going to make it possible. As it turns out, sleep plays a vital role in the formation of certain types of memories. In this interview, I speak with someone who has made, and continues to make, significant contributions to help the world better understand how all this magic works. My guest is Marcos Frank, Ph.D., who is the Interim Chair of the Department of Biomedical Sciences in the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine at Washington State University. I hope you enjoy this discussion as much as I did.