The average person feels a little jagged around the edges as a result of a sleepless night or even a night when the quality of sleep was less than optimal. However, a recent study conducted by the Neuroimaging Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley has revealed that “people who are highly anxious may actually be more vulnerable” to serious anxiety issues in the aftermath of a sleepless night.
The University of California, Berkeley study scanned the brains of 18 adults (who were all in good health) on two different occasions. One was after an ordinary night’s worth of sleep and the other after a night where they were deprived of sleep. During each session, subjects were exposed to a period of prolonged anticipation of a potentially negative experience. Those who experienced sleep deprivation the night before had reactions that were significantly stronger than those who had enjoyed a more restful sleep on the previous evening. In some cases, primarily for those predisposed to anxiety, the reaction was amplified by as much as 60 percent.
Which Comes First, Anxiety or Sleep Issues?
Once upon a time it was well understood that chronic anxiety can do a real number on your ability to sleep. For a long time, it was believed that sleep problems were simply side effects of anxiety disorder. However, new research indicates that sleep deprivation can actually be the cause of an anxiety disorder. Research also indicates that patients suffering from almost any psychiatric disorder also suffer from some form of sleep disorder. People who suffer from chronic insomnia are at a much greater risk of developing some type of anxiety disorder.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also referred to as the “winter blues” in its milder form, impacts roughly half a million individuals each winter, according to Mental Health America. This disorder makes its presence during the months of September through April, but peaks during the winter months of December, January, and February.
Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
One of the hallmark signs of seasonal affective disorder is winter sleep disturbances. Among feedback from nearly 300 SAD patients, complaints of excessive oversleeping, termed hypersomnia, were made by 80 percent of the respondents, according to a study by researchers at Brigham’s and Women’s Hospital.
Aside from winter sleep hypersomnia, other symptoms of SAD include:
- excessive morning grogginess (difficulty waking up)
- difficulty staying awake
- carbohydrates cravings
- lack of energy and feeling of lethargy and fatigue
- withdrawal from family, friends, and social activities
- decreased sex drive
- weight gain
- difficulty concentrating on tasks
- not completing tasks
- feeling depressed
For one Pittsburgh surburbia teen, Sleeping Beauty isn’t just Walt Disney movie or fairy tale book. For Nicole Delien, Kleine-Levin Syndrome (KLS), sometimes referred to as Sleeping Beauty Syndrome, is more like a nightmare of wondering when the next sleep episode is going to strike and worrying about how much of her life she’ll miss out on the next time it does.
According to a recent interview on CBS, Nicole’s longest sleeping episode lasted from Thanksgiving into January, 64 days to be exact. The only time she would waken during these sleep cycles was in a sort of sleep-like state to eat and then she would return to sleep.
What is Sleeping Beauty Syndrome?
KLS is an extremely rare neurological condition that only affects about 1,000 people around the world according to this Huffington Post article. It’s a severe form of primary hypersomnia that happens to be an extremely difficult condition for physicians to diagnose. Part of the difficulty is that it is such a rare condition. For Nicole, the diagnosis took nearly 25 months to complete. Before the final diagnosis was made, doctors considered everything from a severe virus to epilepsy, and even questioned whether or not she was simply faking an illness in order to gain attention.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, somniloquy, also known as sleep talking is a condition that impacts half of all young children and nearly five percent of all adults. While it can be somewhat alarming and completely frustrating at times, there are also nuggets of humor to be found in the sleep talking process. The main thing to remember is that sleep talking alone is rarely cause for alarm and is more common than most people realize.
What is Sleep Talking?
The problem is that it can be different among different people. There is no static rule for what it sounds or looks like. It can be loud and alarming. The words can sound harsh and angry. Or it can be soft and melodic in a sort of sing-song voice. It can be complete sentences that are perfectly understandable, one word statements, or even total gibberish. It can sometimes be very graphic and adult in nature. At times, the talk can be downright humorous, as captured by a loving wife of her “Sleep Talkin’ Man” husband.
Those big puppy dog eyes are begging for a snuggle. It’s almost impossible to say no to your cozy little dog, all curled up next to you under the covers—almost as hard as it is to say no to your 5-year-old who’s scared in the middle of the night. And very few of us can deny a spouse who has just as much of a right to the master bed as you do. But sleeping companions can dramatically reduce the quality of your sleep in myriad ways. Each time they move, you’re disturbed. Every snuffle or snore, chortle or blanket snatch interrupts your precious sleep. If you happen to be a light sleeper or suffer from any form of insomnia, those disruptions can rob you of hours of sleep every night as you lay there staring at the ceiling, worrying about bills or work. Long-term, that can have serious implications for your health. So what do you do? How do you reclaim your bedroom sanctuary? Here are some ideas.
Shift work is a reality of our modern economy. Services don’t stop running when the sun goes down. Without night workers—nurses and doctors, toll booth workers, security guards, policemen and women, truck drivers, pilots, and more—our world would grind to a halt. One of my closest friends works nights at a home for children. Most of his time is spent reading, but when the kids wake up or there’s an emergency, he is the first person on the scene. Without him, those kids wouldn’t be safe. But he pays a high price. Like many late shift workers, he suffers from terrible sleep-wake disruption, and is always either strung out or exhausted. After years of this strange schedule, he suffers from a host of physical problems. He has high blood pressure, struggles with his weight, and was just diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. He also has a lot of trouble with his relationship.
When I was a kid, I read a book about African explorers. I was living in Africa at the time, so the story was especially alluring. Africa: home to heartbreakingly beautiful sunsets, the most delicious orange Fanta I’ve ever had, one of the best zip lines in the world, and the greatest number of diseases of any country on earth. The book was about these two men journeying alone into the jungles of what was, at the time, the nation of Zaire (today it is the Democratic People’s Republic of Congo). They had a compass, sleeping bags, enough fresh water for a week, and their wits. Of course, like many adventure stories, the two men didn’t have a peaceful time frolicking amongst the epiphytes. No, they met angry local people, had a run in with a cheetah, ran out of water, and had to build a shelter out of monkey bones. Then, one of them got bitten by a tsetse fly and fell into a strange dreamlike trance. The story was fiction but, as I would soon learn from my dad (a medical student at the time), sleeping sickness is very real, and very frightening. I spent the rest of our year in Kenya scouring my surroundings for tsetse flies so that I might escape the fantasy explorer’s dreaded fate.
I’ve written a lot about sleep apnea. It’s one of the most common sleep disorders, and one of the most dangerous. Just a quick recap: sleep apnea is a potentially fatal condition that causes pauses in breathing during sleep, sometimes hundreds of times throughout the night. These periods of oxygen deprivation can raise a person’s risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and obesity. The precipitous and repeated drops in blood oxygen are what damage the body’s delicate tissues. Sleep apnea also results in a diminished quality of sleep. Poor sleep is related to a whole host of conditions, from anxiety and depression, to poor intellectual performance, to collapsing relationships. One of the things that’s so upsetting about sleep apnea is that it can be successfully treated, eliminating all of these frightening side effects. And yet, few sufferers even know they are suffering. If you live alone or your partner is a heavy sleeper, you may have sleep apnea and be entirely unaware. Even more frightening: new research shows that women are at particularly high risk.
Kids these days! I never thought I’d say those words, but here I am worried about how much time kids spend on the computer and watching television. Screens have infiltrated our homes and they’re not going anywhere soon. They’ve become a ubiquitous part of our work lives, social lives, and home lives. And kids are not immune. An increasing number of children have televisions, computers, cell phones, and tablets in their bedrooms. I’ve written before about how light from phones, computers, and televisions can affect sleep. The blue light from theses devices simulates daylight, confusing the brain into thinking its time to wake up. This is bad news if it’s time to go to bed. New research shows this type of light has an even more deleterious effect on children.
My husband snores. It isn’t a cute little snuffle here and there or an occasional bad night. He snores like a buzz saw and it’s constant. It starts about five minutes after he falls asleep and, since he always falls asleep before I do, I’m left to lay there awake silently hating him. I stuff earplugs in my ears and crank up the white noise on my headphones but nothing works. I can still hear the roaring snores through noise cancellers and decibel deadeners, and it keeps me awake all night long. So, as a consequence, my husband and I sleep in separate rooms. In our case, it’s been fine. We’re still intimate and we still spend a lot of time together. It’s sad to say goodnight to him and know I won’t get to snuggle up. It’s lonely always sleeping by myself. But the snoring is just too intense for anything else to work.