Entries in Insomnia (16)


Can’t Sleep? You May Be Afraid of the Dark

Erik Snyder/Photodisc(BOSTON) -- If you’ve been suffering from sleepless nights, you may have more than simple insomnia -- you may be afraid of the dark.

Results from a new study presented at the Associated Professional Sleep Societies annual meeting in Boston are the first to suggest that some adults can’t sleep because they fear darkness.

Researchers in Toronto studied nearly 100 college students who were either good sleepers or poor sleepers. They monitored small twitches in eye muscles during sleep while exposing the subjects to unexpected bursts of sound when the lights were either turned on or off, and what they found was startling.

Poor sleepers were more easily disturbed by the noises and their reactions were exaggerated by darkness.  And over time, while good sleepers became increasingly accustomed to the disturbances, poor sleepers became even more anxious and startled at these alleged bumps in the night.

While treating people with insomnia, Dr. Colleen Carney, principle investigator of the study and director of the Ryeson University sleep and depression laboratory, would continually hear how her patients could only fall asleep if they turned on the television or left the bathroom light on, mannerisms shared with children who are afraid of the dark.

Sure enough, when surveyed, a surprising 46 percent of poor sleepers admitted to harboring current fears of darkness, almost double that observed in good sleepers.

More than 50 percent of Americans report having experienced insomnia in the past year, and 19 percent have chronic sleeping problems.

The high incidence of insomnia among Americans has been attributed to risk factors such as high levels of stress, shift work, or mood disorders such as anxiety or depression.  This study, however, is among the first to suggest that an underlying fear of the dark could be a major contributor.

“Listening to unexpected noise is a useful way of assessing fear of the dark because we can’t inhibit our startle reflex,” Carney said.  “And these behaviors are typical of a phobia.”

Currently, the National Institute of Health recommends improved sleep hygiene and behavioral therapy as first-line treatments for insomnia.  A common recommendation for someone who hasn’t fallen asleep after 20 minutes is to do something else away from bed before reattempting sleep.  But for someone trying to get over a phobia of the dark, turning the light back on may have the unfortunate effect of making them feel even more awake.

The good news about this is that phobia treatment is one of the big success stories of non-drug therapy, and many frustrated poor sleepers may have finally found a new and easy answer to their problems.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Negative Family Relationships Could Be Affecting Your Sleep Patterns, Study Says

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Having trouble sleeping? A new study says sleepless nights could be attributed to social situations or family complications.

The study, led by Jennifer Ailshire, PhD, from the University of Southern California and Sarah A. Burgard, PhD, MD, from the University of Michigan, sought to determine what role social or family circumstances had on sleep cycles using the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States, according to Medical Daily.
Not too surprisingly, they discovered that those who were more in contact with family were reported to have more trouble sleeping, especially if they were have a negative altercation with said family member. Not getting the emotional support needed from family could also affect sleep patterns.
Corinne Reczek, PhD, from the University of Cincinnati, says that relationships with young children and spouses particularly mold sleep patterns because of the demands of those relationships, Medical Daily reports.
Healthy sleep patterns benefit the body. A lack of sleep could increase the risk of diabetes and obesity. Over 50 million Americans suffer from sleep problems, according to Medical Daily. Understanding the problems with your family could help reduce problems with sleeping.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New Rx Sleep Drug: Promising or Perilous?

iStockphotos/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Your eyes snap open, but the room is dark and the alarm clock reads 2 a.m.

It's a frustrating but all-too-familiar scenario for many. A new sleep aid called Intermezzo, available in pharmacies with a prescription starting on Thursday, aims to address this problem. The Food and Drug Administration approved Intermezzo in November, but some physicians have questioned its usefulness and safety.

Forty-two percent of Americans reported waking up in the middle of the night, according to the 2008 Sleep in America Poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, and 29 percent said they found it difficult to fall back to sleep. Known as middle-of-the-night insomnia, it is the most common form of insomnia, the survey reported. Other sleep aids on the market were designed to be taken before falling asleep, and work for eight hours, which is great if your problem is not being able to get to sleep but not so great if you wake up at, say, 3 a.m., and have only a few hours left of shut-eye.

Purdue Pharma, the company behind Intermezzo, said the new pill could be taken by those who wake up mid-sleep and may have only four hours or so left to doze. This makes it the only FDA-approved drug for middle-of-the night insomniacs. The drug contains zolpidem tartrate, the same active ingredient in the popular prescription sleep aid Ambien, but at a lower dose. It is also taken in a different way. Whereas Ambien is swallowed, Intermezzo is left to dissolve under the tongue, so it works more quickly.

But some doctors said Intermezzo's side effects may be considerable. Since the drug is in the same class as previous sleep aids, it carries with it all of the same potential side effects, including behavioral disturbances, sleep walking and possible worsening of depression or suicidal thoughts.

Worry that the drug could negatively affect a person's ability to drive in the a.m. held up FDA approval of Intermezzo for roughly two years. In highway driving studies conducted in 2010, those who had taken Intermezzo were found to be impaired for up to three hours. Driving was deemed safe at the four-hour mark, although there was still a small difference between drivers who'd taken the drug and those who had not.

"I would probably use this drug in patients who not only had four hours of sleep remaining but could also afford to wait an additional one to two hours before driving," said Dr. Stanley Wang, a cardiologist and director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Heart Hospital of Austin in Texas, in an email to ABC News.

Whether having Intermezzo on the market will lead to more consumption of prescription sleep drugs is a matter of debate. In 2010, medications containing zolpidem tartrate, the most common ingredient in sleeping aids, were collectively the 15th most-popular prescription drug in the country, with more than 38 million prescriptions dispensed, according to pharmaceutical data firm IMS Health.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Do Pricey Pillows, Mattresses Help You Sleep Better?

Erik Snyder/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Americans have no shortage of sleep problems and no shortage of sleep aids to help them get some shut-eye.

The solutions range from the simple and low cost -- eliminating caffeine, switching off smart phones and keeping rooms dark, for example -- to pricey -- expensive mattresses, pillows and bedding.

According to a story in The New York Times, even hotels are getting in on the sleep game, offering patrons glamorous, expensive solutions to their sleep problems.

But how likely is it that the most luxurious mattress or perfect pillows will help insomniacs put their sleep problems to rest?  Experts say it depends on a person’s specific sleeping problem.

Researchers have documented America’s sleep disturbances, the most common of which is insomnia, according to the National Sleep Foundation.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 10 to 15 percent of adults have chronic insomnia, which is insomnia that lasts for a month or more; 30 to 40 percent experience occasional sleeplessness.

But it’s hard to say whether or not those numbers are higher today than in decades past.

Philip Gehrman, clinical director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the University of Pennsylvania, said the field of sleep research is fairly young, and scientists don’t have much data from the past to know how well previous generations slept.  But he said an increase in rates of insomnia wouldn’t be all that surprising.

“Considering that one of the most common triggers is stress, it seems likely that we’re seeing more insomnia,” he said.  “Our lives certainly aren’t getting any calmer.”

And there’s no shortage of companies who want to help the sleep-deprived ease into comfortable sleep -- for a wide range of prices.  Tempur-pedic sells foam mattresses ranging in price from $1,100 to $6,500, while Swedish mattress maker Hastens sells a model priced at $60,000.

Michael Breus, a psychologist and sleep specialist in private practice, said he viewed pillows, sheets, mattresses and other bedding as tools that help enhance sleep performance, just as athletes perform better in specially designed shoes rather than in flip-flops.

“I think you do get what you pay for.  If you buy a $499 mattress and box springs, you can pretty much be sure it’s disposable,” said Breus, who also serves as a consultant for mattress companies and sells the Dr. Breus Bed with bedding manufacturer Comfort Solutions, which costs up to $3,000.

Gehrman, who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy for sleep troubles, said it certainly makes sense for an insomniac to make sure their bed isn’t what’s keeping them from a good night’s sleep.

“But it’s highly unlikely that changing your bedding will fix your chronic insomnia,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Sleepless Nights? Sleep Tips for a Better Night's Rest

BananaStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A small minority of people don't need the suggested eight hours of sleep each night.  These people can get by on less than five hours, scientists found.  But for the majority of you who need your eight hours of shut-eye, but find yourselves staring at the ceiling at night, Dr. Mallika Marshall shares tips on how to get better rest.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Restless Nights Linked to Signs of Alzheimer's, Study Finds

Erik Snyder/Photodisc(ST. LOUIS) -- Could disturbed sleep patterns be linked to early signs of Alzheimer's disease? Researchers think so.

Yo-El Ju, MD, of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and colleagues conducted a study in people who showed no cognitive abnormalities.  They found that lying awake regularly and waking up frequently were linked to marked levels of brain plaques that typically lead to Alzheimer's disease, according to MedPage Today.

Though the study's subjects were cognitively normal, the authors noted that Alzheimer's generally begins before symptoms appear and that evidence of the beta-amyloid plaques building up in the brains of patients can be detected long before these symptoms set in.

Ju said more research will be necessary to determine if changes in sleep patterns can be indicative of cognitive decline.  For now, researchers have not uncovered a causal relationship between sleepless nights and Alzheimer's disease.

The study's authors plan to present their findings at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in New Orleans in April, MedPage reports.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Colorado Mom Can't Remember Leaving Kids, Walking 12 Miles

Matthew Hatfield(DENVER) -- A Colorado mom who does not remember leaving her two young sons in a van and disappearing for hours is being examined Monday by doctors for clues into what happened.

Police arrested the 26-year-old woman for child abuse and are eager for answers; a handgun has gone missing from the woman's home.

Almost 12 hours after leaving her two sons, ages 2 and 4, in a van parked at a Thornton, Colo. gas station Saturday, Sarah Hatfield said she could not remember leaving her boys, nor could she explain how she arrived outside National Jewish Hospital in Denver around midnight that night.

"She called me and said, 'I don't know how I got here, but I'm here. Please come get me,'" Hatfield's husband Matthew told ABC News. "She was frantic and crying and sobbing and just confused. We just have no idea what happened." 

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Hatfield, who has a history of insomnia and debilitating migraines, was arrested and charged with two counts of misdemeanor child abuse. She is currently undergoing tests at a local hospital for a possible seizure disorder.

"There's no doubt that people can have a seizure and afterwards be confused, be lethargic and have an impairment of memory for what happened shortly before," said Dr. Orrin Devinsky, director of the NYU Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center. Devinsky, who has not examined Hatfield, said seizures can lead to a fugue state. "Most of the time it's brief. A fugue state lasting for hours would be very uncommon, but it certainly can occur."

Devinsky said insomnia and migraines are more common among people with seizure disorders, but they can signal other problems, too.

"It's possible is may have been a psychotic episode, unconsciously motivated, where there's a reaction to some stressor," said Devinsky. "It could also be a conscious thing -- life just got to be too much. And after realizing they shouldn't have done something, the person has to come up with a story."

At around 2:30 Saturday afternoon, Thornton police responded to a call from the gas station alerting them to an abandoned gold van in the parking lot. Inside police found the two boys, as well as Hatfield's wallet, cell phone and keys.

"We did an extensive search of the area and filed a missing persons report," said Thornton police spokesman Matt Barnes. Hatfield seemed disoriented when she was found 10 hours later after asking a security guard at National Jewish Hospital to use a phone to call home, according to police.

When police arrived at the hospital, "She advised she could not remember what had happened from the time she pulled into the gas station to the time she arrived at National Jewish," said Barnes. "She didn't suspect foul play or abduction, nor was she injured."

But she was sore, possibly from walking 12 miles down Interstate 25.

A handgun normally locked away in the Hatfield home is also missing, Matthew Hatfield said.

"I don't know when it went missing," he said of the gun, which was last seen around New Years. "It's possible that if we are dealing with a seizure disorder, it could have gone missing at any point."

Thornton Police are requesting a search warrant for the van hoping to recover the missing weapon.

Matthew Hatfield said his wife's behavior is out of character, adding she's never been in trouble before and doesn't do drugs.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Insomniacs Suffer Depression, Heart Woes After Years of Little Sleep

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(QUEBEC CITY, Canada) -- Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder, according to an article published Thursday in the journal Lancet.  But it often goes unrecognized and untreated.  Doctors say it's an alarming trend because of increasing evidence that untreated insomnia causes other health problems and can lead people to rely on sleep aids that don't work.

Almost everyone has trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or feeling well-rested after sleeping at some point.  But these occasional frustrations become insomnia when they happen for days or weeks at a time, according to the National Institutes of Health.  Insomnia that lasts for a month or more is chronic.

Studies have shown that 6 to 10 percent of adults meet the criteria for an insomnia disorder.  But many people deal with sleepless nights and exhausted days for years at a time.

Charles Morin, a professor of psychology at Université Laval in Quebec City, Canada, and an author of the Lancet editorial, said that is a concern because untreated insomnia can create bigger health problems for the sleepless.

"Sometimes insomnia is a symptom of something else, like depression or hypertension," Morin said.  "But it can also be a cause of the problem.  It can go in both directions."

People with insomnia were five times as likely to develop depression or anxiety and more than twice as likely to have congestive heart failure, according to a U.S. National Health Interview Survey in 2002.

Stopping insomnia in its early stages would be the key to preventing these health problems from developing. But psychologists say many people don't recognize insomnia as a health problem.

"Most people won't go to their physicians right away for insomnia. They go to the drug store instead," Morin said.

Pharmacy shelves are full of pills that people use to get some shut-eye: cold and allergy medicines (the drowsy kind); synthetic versions of the body's sleep hormone, melatonin; and even some anti-depressants.  The problem with these drugs is that there's little evidence that actually stop chronic insomnia. Prescription sleep aids, like Ambien or Lunesta, are effective but are not intended to treat years of sleeplessness.

"Generally, the way medications are recommended is for short-term use," said Philip Gehrman, clinical director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the University of Pennsylvania. "If you need to travel and you know you won't sleep well or you're going to have a stressful month at work, that's an appropriate use. That's short-term."

Gehrman said primary care doctors are often reluctant to prescribe sleep aids to their patients, leading many to simply not ask about their patients' sleep habits and problems at all.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Rebooting the Brain: New Progress in the Treatment of Insomnia

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- Sixty-two-year-old Deborah Hamilton has struggled with insomnia her entire life.

“I find that I can go to bed at night dog tired, just so ready to sleep, and three hours later, at two in the morning, I’m up.  My day has begun.  And I can’t do anything about it....It got to be a very frustrating cycle.  And I didn’t have any clue how to break it.”

For years Hamilton tried various methods and drugs, everything from counting sheep to prescription pills, all in the quest of a good night’s sleep. Nothing worked. Then she heard about James Findley, PhD, senior staff psychologist of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. She visited his clinic, and it proved to be a life-changing experience.

Using Findley’s program, Hamilton was able to modify her bedtime and daily behavior to create a healthier sleep environment.  Before seeing Dr. Finley,  "I thought that the best thing to do would be to try to stay in bed and stay flat and stay quiet,” Hamilton told ABC News.” So I’d read a book, I’d read magazines, I kept things by the nightstand, hoping that I would fall back to sleep.”

She has since learned better. Now, “the bed is only for sleeping.  Don’t have breakfast there.  Don’t read the newspaper there.  There are just a few things the bed’s allowed for. ”

These new rules, combined with therapy designed to address the underlying issues behind Hamilton’s insomnia, have allowed Hamilton to get the good night’s sleep that was eluding her. “When I go into bed and hit that pillow, I’m down, I’m gone.  It’s great,” she said

Dr. Finley is not the only scientist seeking to address the problem. In Australia, Dr. Leon Lack, professor of psychology at Flinders University, in Adelaide, is pursuing a more aggressive treatment.

According to Dr. Lack, “chronic insomniacs generally do not feel very sleepy. They feel exhausted, they feel fatigued, but not particularly sleepy.” He seeks to change that through a 24-hour sleep deprivation program in which participants are woken up after roughly five minutes of sleep, keeping them from entering a deep sleep state and building up sleep pressure.

The problem, as Dr. Lack sees it, is in the conditioning of the brain. He told ABC News, “When chronic insomniacs go to bed, they feel they have an alerting response which counteracts their normal biological sleepiness. What this new therapy does is reverse that inappropriate learning of the brain to become alerted and anxious.”

By severely depriving the participants of sleep overall but allowing them to go to sleep for brief intervals, he retrains the insomniacs’ brains to go to sleep right away when allowed to, an effect that seems to carry over in the long run. The participants in the study reported that the average time it took them to fall asleep at night decreased by a half, from one hour to half an hour.

Dr. Lack is optimistic, stating, “We think that the immediate benefits of the therapy are at least as good as the benefits that people tend to experience with hypnotic drugs.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


FDA Approves Insomnia Drug 

Erik Snyder/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Thanks to a new FDA approved drug, those who have trouble getting back to sleep may just be a pill away from a restful night.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the FDA has approved Intermezzo, an insomnia drug that helps treat those afflicted by interrupted sleep.

Intermezzo is a lower-dose formulation of zolpidem tartrate, and is made by California-based Transcept Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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