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Can Sleep Help Prevent Cancer?

Researchers have found a link between sleep cycles and cancer rates. Virginia Tech biologists found that a protein responsible for the regulation of our circadian rhythm is also responsible for protecting our bodies from developing sporadic forms of cancers.

Specifically, researchers found that “unaltered, the human period 2 protein directly interacts with tumor suppressor proteins in cells to control cell division. When human period 2 protein is non-functional because it is either mutated or somehow modified, then, it is unable to do its job and prevent the cells from dividing at certain times of the day,” Gotoh said. “This is particularly a problem in cases where tumor suppressor genes are mutated as it happens in more than 80 percent of all cancer cases.”

Researchers are now able to work with patients to identify those at risk for developing cancers from the defective protein and the gene that produces it. The results from these studies will help develop new and more effective prevention strategies for the at risk populations, such as night shift workers, who are exposed to light at night on a regular basis.

In recent years researchers have gained great knowledge about the inner workings of the circadian clock, the internal clock that controls our sleep/wake cycles and a whole host of other bodily rhythms. These disruptions in the circadian clock have been linked to not only cancer, but also the development of cardiovascular and gastrointestinal diseases as well as metabolic disorders such as insulin resistance, type II diabetes, and obesity.


Blask, David. “Melatonin, Sleep Disturbance and Cancer Risk.” Sleep Medicine Reviews. Science Direct. Web. 25 Feb. 2015.

“Gotta Get That Rhythm: Researchers Find a Relationship between Sleep Cycle, Cancer Incidence.” Gotta Get That Rhythm: Researchers Find a Relationship between Sleep Cycle, Cancer Incidence. Virginia Tech, 3 Dec. 2014. Web. 25 Feb. 2015.

“The Circadian Factor Period 2 Modulates P53 Stability and Transcriptional Activity in Unstressed Cells.” Molecular Biology of the Cell. The American Society For Cell Biology, 31 July 2014. Web. 25 Feb. 2015.

REM Behavior Disorder – Do You Physically Act Out Your Dreams?

Have you ever physically acted out your dreams, injured yourself and/or your sleeping partner, leapt out of the bed, had frightening dreams, kicked, punched, or ran in your sleep? If any of these sounds familiar you could be suffering from REM Sleep Behavior Disorder (RBD). People with RBD attempt to act out their dreams, which often times are violent in nature.

We typically can’t act out our dreams. The majority of people dream around 4-6 times per night during the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep, the brain becomes as active during this stage as it is when you’re awake. Although the neurons in the brain during REM sleep are functioning as much as they do when you’re awake, REM sleep is also characterized by temporary muscle paralysis. Most people, even when they are having vivid, active dreams, their bodies are still. But, people with RBD are lacking this muscle paralysis, allowing them to act out the contents of their dreams.

RBD can begin by talking, twitching, and jerking while dreaming up to years before a person begins fully acting out their dreams. The risk of developing RBD increases with age and men are more likely to develop RBD than women. For about 55% of people the cause for RBD is unknown, and the other 45% is linked with alcohol or sedative-hypnotic withdrawal, antidepressants, or serotonin reuptake inhibitors. RBD also often precedes the development of some neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease and multisystem atrophy; however, not all people with RBD with develop a neurodegenerative disease. People with RBD should consult with a doctor about their problems and can begin medication if needed to treat RBD. Patients will also be encouraged to make their sleeping environment as safe as possible by removing all sharp and breakable objects and ensuring all windows and doors are locked.


Maas, Dr. James B., Megan L. Wherry, David J Axelrod, Barbara R. Hogan, and Jennifer A. Blumin. Power Sleep: The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance. New York : Villard, 1998.

“Causes & Diagnosis of REM Behavior Disorder.” National Sleep Foundation. Web. 8 Jan. 2015.

Boeve M.D., Bradley. “REM Sleep Behavior Disorder: Updated Review of the Core Features, the RBD-Neurodegenerative Disease Association, Evolving Concepts, Controversies, and Future Directions.” National Institutes of Health. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Jan. 2011. Web. 8 Jan. 2015.

“REM Sleep Behavior Disorder.” Diseases and Conditions-REM Sleep Behavior Disorder. Mayo Clinic, 11 July 2014. Web. 8 Jan. 2015.

The Need to Know About Bedwetting (Enuresis) and How To Stop It

Enuresis is a common problem that affects more than 5 million children in the United States alone. When a child empties their bladder at an inappropriate time and/or place it is called incontinence, but when incontinence happens during the night it is classified as enuresis. Enuresis can be embarrassing, stressful, and can even cause extreme anxiety in children, which can then cause tension within the family. While most children will outgrow enuresis, it’s still important to know the different causes and possible treatment options to discuss with your doctor.

Common Causes
Doctors now believe that the majority of enuresis cases are caused by one, or a combination of the following four conditions.

  • Failure to arouse – this happens when a child does not wake up when their bladder is full or contracts spontaneously.
  • Increased production of urine while asleep – a child’s kidneys make more urine during the night than can be stored within the child’s bladder. This extra urine production is caused by a night-time lack of the hormone vasopressin, which tells the kidneys to decrease urine production.
  • Overactive bladder – the bladder tends to contract without being full leading to a smaller than normal capacity.
  • Social stress – moving to a new place, sleeping alone, starting school or changing to a new one, a family crisis, an accident or trauma can all cause enuresis in children who are genetically predisposed to the condition.

Uncommon Causes
While the following causes aren’t very common reasons for enuresis, they do serve as a reminder to get enuresis symptoms and issues checked by a doctor.

  • Urinary Tract Infections
  • Structural or Anatomical Issues
  • Neurological Issues
  • Kidney Disease
  • Hormonal Disorders such as Diabetes or Hypothalamus issues

Treatment Options

  • Stopping/limiting fluids before bedtime – typically one of the first things parents try, just make sure your child is drinking a few extra glasses of water in the morning and at lunch and then limit evening drinking intake to quench thirst only.
  • Dietary changes – enuresis can be caused by constipation, dietary changes or laxatives can eliminate constipation and in return the enuresis as well.
  • Scheduled night waking – while labor intensive and often not recommended, parents wake children 1-3 times during the night to take them to the bathroom.
  • Bladder training exercises – mainly used for adults who suffer with various forms of incontinence, typically not recommended for children.
  • Alternative therapies – acupuncture and hypnotherapy has had encouraging research and results, while homeopathy, herbal remedies, and chiropractic practices have all been tried, but have no proven effects or research to back them.
  • Enuresis alarms – often called wetting alarms are small electronic devices that use a small sensor that attaches to underwear or pajamas that then connects to an alarm clipped to the child’s clothing(wireless options are also available now). When the sensor becomes moist the alarm sounds in hopes of the child waking while the bladder is still full and making it to the bathroom. If it is used correctly the chance of success is approximately 75% after 1-2 months of continuous treatment. Wetting alarms cost around $60 to $120.
  • Desmopressin acetate (DDAVP) – humans naturally produce the hormone vasopressin that causes the body to reduce urine production. In many children with enuresis, this surge of vasopressin is absent, so the vasopressin hormone has been analyzed and synthesized as the drug desmospressin, and is available as a pill, nasal spray, or as an under the tongue option.
  • Medication – there are a few other medications on the market that could help with enuresis, but like any medicine they can come with side effects. The most common side effect for children is constipation, which, in itself, may cause the enuresis to reappear. Be sure to consult with your doctor about all treatment possibilities.


“Bedwetting (Nocturnal Enuresis) in Children.” Bedwetting (Nocturnal Enuresis) . Boston Children’s Hospital, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 30 Dec. 2014.

“Urology Care Foundation The Official Foundation of the American Urological Association.”Urology Care Foundation. 28 Mar. 2013. Web. 30 Dec. 2014.

“When Bed-Wetting Becomes A Problem.” Nation Kidney Foundation. Web. 30 Dec. 2014.

Exploding Head Syndrome – A Scary Sounding Sleep Disorder

Exploding Head Syndrome (EHS) may sound like something you would read straight out of a Sci-Fi novel, but in reality it is a surprisingly common sleep disorder. While EHS is a largely overlooked phenomenon in the medical field, it is estimated that about as many as one in ten people will be effected at some point during their life. People with EHS may only have one attack in their lifetime, while others can experience around seven attacks a night. Many only experience one attack, and some suffer from attacks over weeks or months, and a few will experience attacks daily for years.

Below is a list of common EHS symptoms, if you are experiencing any of these you should consult a doctor or sleep specialist.
• Noises are loud and jarring, resembling the popping sounds of firecrackers or gunshots, the slamming sound of a door closing violently, or the boom of an explosion.
• Sometimes the sounds of EHS are accompanied by flashes of light.
• These sounds may be perceived in one or both ears.
• EHS may also cause a mild headache and sensations of heat.
• J
erk or ‘jumping’ limbs at the same time.
• The disorder is known to be twice as common in women and typically affects ages 50 and older, though it has also been reported in children as young as ten.

The good news is that while EHS can be scary, it is generally harmless. It’s still unclear why EHS happens and what could be causing it. Dr. Sharpless says the most likely explanation for EHS is that there is some kind of temporary blip in the nerve cells of the brain during the switch from being awake to sleeping. When we sleep, our brains coordinate a switching off of various regions responsible for movement, vision, sound and so on. EHS could occur because of a delay in this shut-down process, resulting in a burst of activity, which could be perceived as loud noises and flashes of light. Other possibilities could stem from ear problems or rapid withdrawals from certain drugs such as benxodiazephines and certain types of anti-depressants.

There are drug treatments for EHS that may be effective, but are generally reserved for patients with frequent and prolonged symptoms.

Sorensen, Eric. “‘Exploding Head Syndrome’ a Real, Overlooked Sleep Disorder – WSU News.” WSU News. Washington State University, 6 May 2014. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. <;.

“Exploding Head Syndrome – Overview & Facts.” Exploding Head Syndrome. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. <;.

Sleep Studies

A wide range of tests are used during sleep studies, but here are a few of the most common sleep tests that you can expect.

  • Polysomnogram (PSG) is the most common test used to diagnose sleep disorders. A PSG is often recommended for patients who are suspected of having sleep apnea, narcolepsy, REM sleep behavior disorder, periodic limb movement disorder, unusual behaviors during sleep, and unexplained chronic insomnia. During a PSG you will have wired, sticky patches containing sensors called electrodes that are placed on your scalp, face, chest, limbs, and a finger; these sensors will record a patient’s brain waves, blood oxygen level, heart rate, breathing, as well as eye and leg movements while sleeping and will allow your doctor to give a diagnosis. A PSG can also be used to help adjust or create treatment plans for patients that have already been diagnosed with a sleep disorder.
  • Multiple Sleep Latency Tests (MSLT) show different stages of sleep and how long it takes you to fall asleep, you will be asked to relax and try to fall asleep in a dark, quiet room every two hours throughout the day. MSLT’s are usually performed the morning after a PSG and involves sensors placed on your scalp, face, and chin. These sensors will record brain activity and eye movements to help diagnose sleep disorders like narcolepsy, idiopathic hypersomina, and other sleep disorders that cause daytime tiredness.
  • Maintenance of Wakefulness Test (MWT) is typically performed the day after a PSG and takes most of the day. Like the previous sleep studies, the MWT uses sensors to measure when you’re awake and asleep. You will be asked to sit quietly and comfortably in a chair and look straight ahead, then all you have to do is try to stay awake for 40 minutes, then you will get a 2 hour break in between each MWT.
  • Home-Based Portable Monitor Test will require you to go to a sleep center where they will show you how to set up and use the equipment that you will be taking home, or in some cases you can have a technician come to your house to help prepare for the sleep study. You will take the equipment back to the sleep center when you finish and then should have the test results back from your doctor within a week or two.
  • Actigraphy is a small device that is typically worn like a wristwatch so you can go about your day normally; just make sure to remove it before swimming or bathing. The actigraphy measures your sleep/wake behavior over a 3-14 day period. Results from the actigraphy will give your doctor a better idea of your sleep habits, including daytime naps, bedtimes, hours of sleep, and even if the lights are on while you’re asleep.


“Polysomnography (sleep Study).” Why It’s Done. Mayo Clinic, 6 Dec. 2011. Web. 5 Nov. 2014. <;.

“UCLA Sleep Disorders Center.” Preparing for a Sleep Study. Web. 15 Oct. 2014. <;.

“What To Expect During a Sleep Study.” – NHLBI, NIH. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institue. Web. 15 Oct. 2014. <;.

Speaking and Snoozing Don’t Mix

Have you ever been awoken by your sleep partner muttering in their sleep? If so, they likely suffer from sleep talking.

Sleep talking, also known as somniloquy, is a sleep disorder characterized by frequent attempts at talking during sleep. This disorder can feature anything from slight mumbles to elaborate conversations. If you or a loved one suffer from this unique sleep disorder, it is important to understand how it may affect others and what you can do to combat its side-effects.

Just as there are variances in volume and complexity, there are also variances in frequency of sleep talking episodes and severity of sleep disruption. While sleep talking is oftentimes hereditary, episodes are often brought on from sleep disrupting behaviors such as alcohol consumption, fever, stress, depression and sleep deprivation. Most people will never realize that they suffer from episodes of sleep talking, but many others may be affected.

There is typically not a serious need to have sleep talking treated, however, it can be an indication of other serious sleep disorders that can be harmful down the road. The best way to lower the likelihood of a sleep talking episode is by avoiding activities that harm the sleep cycle such as alcohol consumption and sleep deprivation.

If you can’t seem to keep your thoughts to yourself while sleeping, be sure to ask your doctor if there may be more serious issues at hand.

“Sleep Talking.” – National Sleep Foundation. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <;.

Problems with Pets and Sleep

Who doesn’t love snuggling up to a fluffy dog or cat? While it is a well-known fact that owning pets can be beneficial to their owners’ health, sleeping with these furry friends can actually be quite harmful and make it difficult to get your best night’s sleep.

A recent APPA study found that more than half of dogs and cats sleep with their adult owners. That is a lot a pet hair getting caught in between the sheets.

Those with allergies to pet dander will find themselves much happier whenever they find an alternative spot for their furry friends to rest for the night. Most people will benefit from giving their sinuses a break from the strain of hair saturated air, but hypoallergenic pets can make this process less stressful.

Obviously, sleeping with pets increases the opportunity to have your sleep disturbed by an animal’s movement and natural disruptions in their own sleep cycles – after all, we can’t assume our sleep cycle is the same as our pet’s sleep cycle. Many animals experience a more active REM stage of sleep, which often times results in restless leg movements, growling or barking, and sudden waking. Some pets, especially dogs with a history of more aggressive behavior, may become more protective at night, especially when sleeping with their owner. Therefore, understanding your pets behaviors is an important factor when choosing whether or not you should be snuggling up with your pet pals.

Getting pets out of the bedroom once they have become accustomed to sleeping with you is a much more difficult problem than washing out pet hair. Most vets believe that pets should be kept out of the bedroom altogether if you don’t intend on them sleeping with you. Training dogs to stay off the bed is typically easier than with cats, but either animal can pose a challenge, especially when you are trying to get them to stay in the same room, but not on the actual bed.

Overall, it is important to understand both you and your pet’s sleep preferences and behaviors before making long-term decisions that can influence behavior and become habit.

What is a Sleep Center?

A sleep center, sometimes called a sleep clinic, is a facility used for diagnosing and treating sleep related disorders. These sleep centers conduct sleep studies, which aid your doctor in diagnosing any sleep disorder you may have.

They also measure how well you sleep and how your body responds to sleep disorders and problems, if you have any. These sleep studies are completely painless, although you may find it a little harder to fall asleep when sleeping in a new place or being hooked up to sensors. Sleep centers know this and most design their rooms to resemble hotel rooms for a more relaxing environment. You are encouraged to pack an overnight bag like you would for a hotel; you should bring comfortable pajamas, a change of clothes for in the morning, a toothbrush, and your favorite pillow if you have one. They will also adjust the thermostat to your liking, offer extra pillows and blankets, and supply reading materials and a TV to ensure that you’re comfortable throughout the entire process.

Sleep studies can help diagnose a wide range of sleep problems, such as sleep related seizures, breathing disorders, movement disorders, and sleep disorders that effect your daytime functioning, such as narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome, and sleep apnea. Sleep centers use an array of test for sleep studies, but the most common are Polysomnogram (PSG), multiple sleep latency test (MSLT), maintenance of wakefulness test (MWT), actigraphy, and home-based portable monitors. The majority of sleep studies are conducted in the sleep clinic over the course of an evening, however there are some that can be done during the day in the office. Some can even be conducted in the comfort of your own home.

These sleep studies allow your doctor to view your sleep patterns and sleep problems that you’re probably not even aware of since they are happening while you’re asleep. Results from the sleep study may include information on your sleep and wake times, sleep stages, breathing habits, movement during sleep, and your body’s vitals. Your doctor will take all this information along with your medical history to make a diagnosis and create a treatment plan specialized for you.


“UCLA Sleep Disorders Center.” Preparing for a Sleep Study. Web. 15 Oct. 2014. <;.

“What To Expect During a Sleep Study.” – NHLBI, NIH. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institue. Web. 15 Oct. 2014. <;.

Effects of Color on Sleep

In 1666, Sir Isaac Newton discovered that when pure white light travels though a prism, it will separate into visible colors. He also found that every color is made up of a single wavelength and cannot be separated any further into different colors. This discovery led to a better understanding of what color is, and many more experiments. Today, color is defined as the property possessed by an object of producing different sensations on the eye as a result of the way the object reflects or emits light.

Our brains react differently to each color as each produces a varying sensation. These sensations are how color can dramatically affect moods, feelings, and emotions. Color can be a very powerful tool used in influencing mood or physiological reactions, and has even been associated with increased blood pressure and metabolism. If color is powerful enough to influence mood or increase blood pressure, then how much is color affecting our sleep? While there hasn’t been much research done in this area, there are some studies that give us valuable insights. A recent study conducted by Travelodge gives good insight on how much color can affect our sleep. Travelodge looked through the keyhole of 2,000 homes to investigate the influence of bedroom color schemes against the quality and quantity of sleep they are getting every night. Some major findings from the study:

  • On average people sleeping in a blue room are getting seven hours and fifty two minutes sleeps per night.The color blue also helped to reduce blood pressure and heart rate, which are essential in achieving a good quality night’s sleep.
  • The second most favorable color scheme for inducing a good night’s sleep is yellow. People who sleep in a yellow bedroom are getting an average of seven hours and forty minutes of shut eye per night. Yellow stimulates the nervous system which aids relaxation, while also creating a warm and cozy atmosphere.
  • A green themed bedroom is the nation’s third most popular sleep inducing color – with sleepers getting on average seven hours and thirty six minutes of sleep. Green creates a restful, calming environment which helps relaxation which is essential in inducing sleep.
  • A silver bedroom/decor is the fourth most popular sleep inducing color scheme – with individuals getting on average seven hours and thirty three minutes sleep per night. The metallic color makes a bedroom feel luxurious and glow like moonlight – this can trick the eye into believing it is night time.
  • An orange bedroom is the fifth most popular sleep inducing color – with sleepers getting on average seven hours and twenty eight minutes of snooze time. Shades of orange add warmth to the room and help create a stable and reassuring atmosphere and can even help digestion too – especially if you have eaten a large or late evening meal.
  • In contrast, the study also revealed the least favored bedroom color schemes for obtaining a regular good quality night’s sleep are purple, brown and grey resulting in about seven hours of sleep a night, or less. Using these colors in your bedroom are also more likely to promote vivid dreams or even nightmares; resulting in fragmented sleep and you feeling tired the next day.

This study is a good example of how room color can influence your sleep, mood, and even sets the tone for your living environment. Therefore, it’s important to choose a bedroom color and decor that will help you relax and induce sleep.


Elliot, Andrew J., and Markus A. Maier. “Color and Psychological Functioning.” Current Directions in Psychological Science 16.5 (2007): 250-54. Web.

Travelodge. The Secret To A Good Night’s Slumber Is To Sleep In A Blue Bedroom.  [Press release] 17 May 2013. Web. 8 Oct. 2014.

Whitfield, T.W., & Wiltshire, T.J. (1990). Color psychology: A critical review. Genetic, Social & General Psychology Monographs, 116, 387–412.



Nightmares and Nightmare Disorder

Few things are quite as disturbing as waking up startled, not completely sure where you are or what is happening. If you are all too familiar with this feeling, you may be one of the adults who still experience nightmares on a regular basis.

Nightmares typically occur during REM sleep, or the deepest stage of sleep. This is the same stage in which dreams occur, but nightmares can be much more startling and even cause you to jolt awake.

While most people associate nightmares with small children crawling into their parents’ bed, “between 2% and 8% of the adult population is plagued by nightmares.” Having nightmares as an adult is a completely normal occurrence, but it is important to understand what may be contributing to these nighttime fits.

Just like dreams, nightmares can be affected by everything from the food you ate before bed, the person you met last week or the event you have coming up. More common causes of nightmares are changes in medications and sleep deprivation, both of which affect the chemical levels in the body. More importantly, adult nightmares can be a sign of more pressing sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, insomnia and depression. Some psychologists even believe that nightmares may be a way of working through traumatic issue that you are not able to handle in a conscious state.

Frequent nightmares become a disorder when they disturb everyday life. Nightmare Disorder is a sleep disorder characterised by the repeated occurrence of frightening dreams which precipitate awakenings from sleep; on awakening, the individual becomes fully alert and oriented and has detailed recall of the nightmare, which usually involves imminent danger or extreme embarrassment to the individual.”

As with most sleep disorders, frequent nightmares can be fixed by keeping a regular sleep cycle and bedtime routine. Regularity in this area can do wonders for all sleep issues. Figuring out what helps you sleep is important to getting the best night’s sleep and avoiding troublesome sleep disorders.

“Adult Nightmares: Causes and Treatments.” WebMD. WebMD. Web. 3 Sept. 2014. <;.

“Nightmares.” Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness Find a Therapist. Web. 3 Sept. 2014. <;.

“Nightmare Disorder.” 12 Aug. 2014. Web. 3 Sept. 2014. <;.