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 sleeping

Risks Associated With Sleep Deprivation

If you are, or were, an avid watcher of the sitcom Seinfeld, you may recall an episode in which Jerry is tortured by the neon light from a chicken restaurant which shines into his apartment and disturbs his sleep. You may recall him sliding into his own apartment after a night spent at Kramer’s and announcing,”I’m on no sleep! No sleep!” He then proceeds to go into a mini-tirade about how everything is “creaking and cracking in there” and the red light is, “burning his brain.” He finishes when Elaine comments that he seems stressed by replying, “Oh, I’m stressed.”

We hear you, Jerry, sleep deprivation is no fun for any of us, and it can be dangerous and affect your mood, judgment, and health. If you’re pushing it to the limit when it comes to catching zz’s, here are risks that you may be exposing yourself to.

Short Term Affects Of Sleep Deprivation

  • Poor performance and decreased alertness. Every little bit matters, Studies show that reducing sleep by as little as 90 minutes per night can cause a loss of alertness of up to 32 percent.
  • Memory and cognitive impairment. Feeling out of it? Lack of sleep can lower the ability to process information and to think.
  • Relationship stress. One partner’s sleep problems often become the other partner’s sleep problems. Sleep disruption can lead to fights, irritability, and sometimes, separate bedrooms.
  • Lower quality of life. If you have trouble staying alert, you may find it difficult to enjoy movies, sports games and watching tv.
  • Job related injury. Sleepiness can double your risk of injuring yourself on the job, sometimes leading to more long-term consequences.
  • Injury while driving. According to the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration, driving while drowsy has been the cause for at least 100,000 automobile crashes, 71,000 injuries and 1,550 fatalities per year.

Long Term Effects
The short-term effects of sleeplessness can usually be reversed after treatment, however, there are some longer lasting effects which may be more difficult to deal with. These include psychiatric problems, stroke, obesity, ADD, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and obesity. Studies show the risk of mortality is higher for those who sleep less than 6-7 hours per night with one study finding that insomnia is a greater health risk than smoking. Lack of sleep is also an accurate predictor of institutionalization during old age, and triples the rate of mortality in elderly men.

Sleep Disorders
It is worthwhile to note that much of sleep deprivation is due to sleep disorders. According to the American Sleep Disorders Association, there are over 85 sleep disorder which affect more than 70 million of Americans with only 10% of them recognized by primary care physicians. Chronic snoring can often be a sign of sleep apnea, as well as heart and brain related diseases. Patients with sleep apnea have a 15 time greater risk of automobile accidents than those without the condition and have been known to be on a par with drunk drivers in terms of driving ability.

If you feel you suffer from a lack of sleep, we especially value your comments. Increased awareness is crucial to avoiding unnecessary suffering. If you feel you may have a sleep disorder, we urge you to contact a physician. Know that there is a wide range of treatments available.

Woman sleeping on her back

Back Sleeping for Your Health

How you sleep can make a huge different when it comes to how rested you actually feel when morning comes. Sadly, more and more studies have shown that you should avoid screen before bed, so the late night Instagram sessions and Netflix binge-watching are not going to help you get a good night’s sleep. In addition to eliminated light and distractions, your position also affects your quality of sleep, plus can have many other benefits! Sleeping on your back is by far the best position for sleeping through the night comfortably.

Benefits of Sleeping on Your Back

  1. It’s the best for your spine. Sleeping on your back allows your head, neck, spine, and hips to align in a neutral position. Many people will develop a forward head posture due to the amount of time spent on the computer, and looking down at a phone. Resetting at night with a neutral spine position can help correct this forward head posture, which can prevent the back pain that often comes with it. Just be careful not to use too many pillows that will wrench your head up, pulling your neck out of alignment.
  2. It takes the pressure off of your joints. Sleeping on your side can be touch on your knees and hips. Back sleeping will alleviate stress on your joints, and can prevent chronic pain.
  3. Can help prevent acid reflux. Because sleeping on your positions your stomach below your esophagus, acid is less likely to come up while you sleep. Sleeping on your side or on your stomach can be problematic for people who regularly suffer from heartburn.
  4. It’s better for your skin! This is an unexpected benefit, but a great one! Sleeping on your back can help prevent wrinkles, simply due to the fact that you are not pressing on your skin for extended periods of time. It also helps prevent breakouts and clogged pores that can be caused by the bacteria on your pillow case (ew).

If you read these benefits and now want to start sleeping on your back, great! Unfortunately, it’s not very easy to change the way you sleep. Here are a few suggestions to switch the back sleeping.

  1. If you are a side sleeper, using pillows to keep your head in place and cushion your arms and torso so you won’t roll over in your sleep will really help. Making sure your head feels supported is key. Your head flopping to the side while you sleep will totally defeat the purpose of back sleep as it will pull your neck out of alignment.
  2. Make sure your back is flat. Choosing a mattress that will fill the hollow of your lower back will make back sleep much for comfortable. You can also use a pillow if your mattress is not well suited for this.
  3. Keep trying! It’s really hard to break any habit. Trying to begin each night on your back, even if you can’t stay there, will help you gradually switch to a healthier sleeping position!