Can Exercise Help Improve Hypersomnia?

Hypersomnia: A condition causing excessive daytime drowsiness. Aerobic exercise: an activity requiring excessive daytime energy. The two would seem to be in direct contrast to one another, but could one be the cure for the other? While it may seem vigorous exercise would be the last thing on a drowsy person’s to do list, new studies show that exercise may be a way to alleviate the symptoms of hypersomnia in depressed individuals. Could there be a science behind this theory? Let’s take a look.

Symptoms of Hypersomnia
Individuals with hypersomnia are likely to doze off regularly and repeatedly during the day, often at inappropriate times, including during meals, at work, or in conversation. They may show difficulty waking from a long sleep and feel disoriented upon waking. Anxiety, decreased energy, slowness of thought and speech, memory lapses, loss of appetite, and increased irritation are also among the symptoms of the condition. In severe cases, patients may lose their ability to function in social, family, and occupational settings.

Demographics
Hypersomnia is a rather uncommon disorder affecting a very small percentage of the population. Only 5% or fewer adults complain about feeling excessively sleepy during the day, and of that 5% only 5-10% are diagnosed with hypersomnia. It generally appears in a patient between the ages of 15 and 30, and tends to happen gradually, sometimes taking years to develop fully.

woman exercising indoors

The Research
Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Center for Depression Research and Clinical Care are the group behind the findings about the positive effect of aerobic exercise upon the depressive condition. These researchers found that exercise lowered the levels of two biological markers for hypersomnia in blood samples, reducing the likelihood of excess sleepiness.

According to senior study author, Madukar Trivedi, MD, “Hypersomnia, as well as insomnia have been linked in the development, treatment, and recurrence of depression. Identifying these biomarkers, combined with new understanding of the important role of exercise in reducing hyperemia, have potential implications in the treatment of major depressive disorder.”

Previous research had found a negative loop in which sleep, depression, and inflammation interact, with detrimental results. The current findings suggest that exercise may be the key to resetting the loop. Researchers identified biomarkers based on the blood samples of 100 participants who were asked to perform two kinds of aerobic excersises. The subjects consisted of people ages 18 to 70 who all suffered from major depression disorder.

After a 12 week period,researchers had located reductions in tow biomarkers related to hypersomnia. Lead author Chad Rethorst, PhD says, “Identification of biomarkers that uniquely predict or correlate with improvement in hypersomnia and insomnia is an important step toward more effective treatment of MDD.

Do you suffer from hypersomnia or know someone who does? Let us know what you think of the new findings.

Woman can't sleep

Don't Let Stress Disrupt Your Sleep

Sleep and stress, they may just cancel each other out. How can we expect our nervous systems to shut down when we’re a bundle of nerves? We need sleep. It keeps us healthy, it keeps us sane, it keeps us focused, it keeps our weight down. By that logic, lack of sleep is going to turn us into sick, obese, insane people with attention deficits. That certainly is not going to relax you. So what do you do to keep stress from disrupting your sleep? Read on for a few ideas.

Stress and Sleep
Not only does stress prevent sleep, it decreases its quality. In fact, according to a “Stress in America” survey, 42 % of adults report a low or fair quality sleep when affected by stress. To make matters worth, stress may not only deprive you of a good night’s sleep, it may have a more lasting effect. Recent research published in the SLEEP journal reveals that individuals who suffer from chronic stress are more susceptible to insomnia, with each stressor increasing the risk of insomnia by 19 percent.

Woman clutching head

Stress and Your Brain
Not only does stress interfere with the quality of sleep and increase the risk of insomnia, it also places the nervous system in a physical state inconsistent with sleep. When you sleep, your body switches from the active sympathetic nervous system to the more relaxed parasympathetic nervous system. When the body experiences high stress levels, the parasympathetic nervous system fails to kick in, keeping your brain in a state of hyperactivity, according to David Spiegel MD.

As if it isn’t enough that stress causes lack of sleep, it turns out lack of sleep can cause more stress. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that nearly three quarters of adults credit sleep problems with a general increase of anxiety in their daily lives.

What Can You Do?
Wondering how you can prevent high stress from robbing you of precious sleep? Here are a few ideas:

Lavender
Studies show that lavender can be a very relaxing component of insomnia relief.

Woman doing yoga

Relaxation Techniques
There are a number of techniques that may be helpful in decreasing stress. Yoga poses, mediation, and progressive relaxation are all examples of methods of relaxation that may make sleep come more readily.

Stop Distracting Thoughts
Research shows that you can clear your mind of distressing thoughts by writing them down on a piece of paper and literally throwing the paper away. Skeptical? Worth a try!

Deep Breaths
The rhythm of inhalation and exhalation activates the body’s natural parasympathetic system. Try taking a few deep breaths in and out before hitting the sack.

See A Specialist
If all else fails, consider seeing a professional. He or she may be able to provide insights or recommend techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy to address sleeplessness.

How do you prevent stress from disrupting your nightly sleep? Let us know.

Woman with insomnia

Foods That Fight Insomnia

If you suffer from insomnia, you may look back nostalgically on Thanksgiving nights falling asleep in front of the TV with the taste of sweet potato casserole still lingering on your tongue. While it’s easy to understand how the concept of self-induced food coma may seem tempting to the sleep deprived, it may not be the best health option, and there is only so much leftover turkey one can take.

However, that is not to say there is not a link between eating and sleeping. There is scientific proof that certain foods are more conducive to sleep than others. But before you establish running credit at the deli counter, you may want to know your options.

Walnuts
No only do walnuts contain heart-healthy fats, they also have been found to contain melatonin, a bodily hormone that plays a role in regulating sleep cycle. Dr. Erin Palinski Wade, RD, CDE says, “Try snacking on a small handful about 20 minutes before bed to help you relax and reach a deeper state of restful sleep.”

Walnuts

Bananas
In addition to having high levels of serotonin and melatonin, bananas are also packed with magnesium. Magnesium promotes sleep by decreasing levels of cortisol in the body, a hormone know to interrupt sleep patterns. Although eating the fruit itself has its calming benefits, most of the sleep-inducing power is in the peel. The daring may consider sprinkling banana peels with cinnamon to make them more palatable.

Tart Cherry Juice
A study published in the journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology tracked the effectiveness of tart cherry juice, which contains melatonin, on older adult insomniacs. The participants who were given 8 oz of tart cherry juice twice a day slept an average of 87 minutes longer each night than those who received a placebo. Nutritionist Kayleen St. John, RD, explains, “Other study data has shown a significant elevation in melatonin in groups consuming cherry juice.”

Basil
Palinski Wade says, ” The plant contains sedative properties, which can help you fall and stay asleep. And as a bonus, it not only helps promote sleep, but is great for reducing indigestion,” a further sleep interrupter. She continues, “Research on this shows the sedative properties come mostly form the hydroalcoholic extract and essential oil of O. basilicum.” She points out that liquid basil extracts are available at the market and can “be used to flavor food, as a supplement, or as an essential oil.

Basil

Milk
It seems the common beliefs about the sleep-promoting abilities of milk are not without merit. “Milk may control melatonin production since it is a great source of calcium, ” Palinski-Wade explains. “Milk is also rich in the amino acid tryptophan, which has a calming effect on the body.”

Vitamin B6
According to Mary Hartley, RD, ” When we fall asleep, levels of serotonin rise and adrenaline levels fall. Serotonin, the relaxing hormone, is partly made from the amino acid, tryptophan, which is activated by Vitamin B6.” Fortunately, B6 can be found in a wide variety of foods, such as potatoes, fortified breakfast cereal, chicken, fish, peanut butter, fish, bananas, and several vegetables, so deficiencies are uncommon.

Do you go to the fridge when insomnia strikes? Tell us about it. And let us know how the cinnamon banana peels turned out!

Woman sleeping on desk

Causes of Daytime Fatigue

“Work hard – nap hard.” That’s Uncle Si from Duck Dynasty’s tag line, referring to the frequent naps he takes while he’s supposed to be working in the Duck Commander Warehouse, The condition, which he charmingly refers to as “redneckolepsy” or “the tendency to fall asleep while working” has often been a trope for television comedy. “MASH’s” Sgt. Rizzo was often seen under the carriage of a jeep, more likely sleeping than working and “Seinfeld’s.” George Costanza even had his desk tailored to provide ideal work time napping conditions.

However, for some of us daytime fatigue is not so easily solvable and even detrimental to our daily activities. If you’re plagued by daytime fatigue, here are some probable causes and possible solutions.

Hypersomnia
According to the National Sleep foundation, up to 40 % of the population have suffered symptoms of hypersomnia in their lives. Hypersomnia can be characterized by excessive sleepiness during the day or unusually long amounts of time spent sleeping. The condition often results in difficulty staying awake, and can lead to instances of falling asleep at work or while driving, Other symptoms include lack of energy and the inability to think clearly.

Causes of Daytime Sleepiness
Hypersomnia can be attributed to sleep disorders including narcolepsy, or daytime sleepiness, and sleep apnea, which is the interruption of breathing during periods of sleep. Other causes include sleep deprivation and obesity. Overweight individuals tend to suffer from the condition, as do those with head injuries and neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Use of prescription drugs, such as antihistamines and tranquilizers can induce daytime sleepiness and abuse of drugs and alcohol can also lead to hypersomnia. The condition can also be a result of genetics or depression.

Woman rubbing eyes

Diagnosis
If drowsiness is interfering with your daily activities, talk to a doctor. Expect to be asked about how much sleep you get per night, whether or not you wake up at night, whether you fall asleep during the day, and your personal sleeping habits. You may also be questioned about drug intake and emotional problems.

Medical testing for hypersomnia may include, blood test, CT scans, and sleep tests called polysomnolgraphies. EEGs may also be ordered to measure the electrical activity of your brain.

Treatment
The most common treatment for hypersomnia is prescription drugs. Your doctor may prescribe antidepressants, stimulants, or other medications. If sleep apnea is determined, your doctor may suggest a CPAP, which is a machine that delivers air flow to the nostrils while sleeping to keep airways open and involves wearing a mask over the nose during sleep. Doctors will also recommend avoiding medication that may cause drowsiness and may suggest the elimination of alcohol and caffeine.

If daytime sleepiness is affecting your ability to function, consult a doctor. There may be relief in sight. And, as always, keep us in the loop. We love to hear from you!