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Marijuana use while pregnant boosts risk of children’s sleep problems

Use marijuana while pregnant, and your child is more likely to suffer sleep problems as much as a decade later, according to a new University of Colorado Boulder study of nearly 12,000 youth.

Published in Sleep Health: The Journal of The National Sleep Foundation, the paper is the latest to link prenatal cannabis use to developmental problems in children and the first to suggest it may impact sleep cycles long-term.

It comes at a time when—while the number of pregnant women drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes has declined in the United States—It has risen to 7% of all pregnant women as legalization spreads and more dispensaries recommend it for morning sickness.

“As a society, it took us a while to understand that smoking and drinking alcohol are not advisable during pregnancy, but it is now seen as common sense,” said senior author John Hewitt, director of the Institute for Behavioral Genetics at CU Boulder. “Studies like this suggest that it is prudent to extend that common sense advice to cannabis, even if use is now legal.”

A landmark study

For the study, Hewitt and lead author Evan Winiger analyzed baseline data from the landmark Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development (ABCD) study, which is following 11,875 youth from age 9 or 10 into early adulthood.

As part of an exhaustive questionnaire upon intake, participants’ mothers were asked if they had ever used marijuana while pregnant and how frequently. (The study did not assess whether they used edibles or smoked pot). The mothers were also asked to fill out a survey regarding their child’s sleep patterns, assessing 26 different items ranging from how easily they fell asleep and how long they slept to whether they snored or woke up frequently in the night and how sleepy they were during the day.

About 700 moms reported using marijuana while pregnant. Of those, 184 used it daily and 262 used twice or more daily.

After controlling for a host of other factors, including the mother’s education, parent marital status and family income and race, a clear pattern emerged.

“Mothers who said they had used cannabis while pregnant were significantly more likely to report their children having clinical sleep problems,” said Winiger, a graduate student in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience.

Those who used marijuana frequently were more likely to report somnolence symptoms (symptoms of excess sleepiness) in their children, such as trouble waking in the morning and being excessively tired during the day.

The authors note that, while their sample size is large, the study has some limitations.

“We are asking mothers to remember if they smoked marijuana 10 years ago and to admit to a behavior that is frowned upon,” said Winiger, suggesting actual rates of prenatal use may have been higher.

While the study doesn’t prove that using cannabis while pregnant causes sleep problems, it builds on a small but growing body of evidence pointing to a link.

For instance, one small study found that children who had been exposed to marijuana in-utero woke up more in the night and had lower sleep quality at age 3. Another found that prenatal cannabis use impacted sleep in infancy.

And, in other previous work, Hewitt, Winiger and colleagues found that teenagers who frequently smoked marijuana were more likely to develop insomnia in adulthood.

The fetal brain on THC

Researchers aren’t sure exactly how cannabis exposure during vulnerable developmental times might shape future sleep. But studies in animals suggest that THC and other so-called cannabinoids, the active ingredients in pot, attach to CB1 receptors in the developing brain, influencing regions that regulate sleep. The ABCD study, which is taking frequent brain scans of participants as they age, should provide more answers, they said.

Meantime, mothers-to-be should be wary of dispensaries billing weed as an antidote for morning sickness. According to CU research, about 70% of Colorado dispensaries recommend it for that use. But mounting evidence points to potential harms, including low birth weight and later cognitive problems. With marijuana on the market today including far higher THC levels than it did a decade ago, it’s impacts on the fetal brain are likely more profound than they once were.

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Infant sleep problems can signal mental disorders in adolescents: study

Specific sleep problems among babies and very young children can be linked to mental disorders in adolescents, a new study has found.

A team at the University of Birmingham’s School of Psychology studied questionnaire data from the Children of the 90s, a UK-based longitudinal study which recruited pregnant mothers of 14,000 babies when it was set up almost three decades ago.

They found that young children who routinely woke up frequently during the night and experienced irregular sleep routines were associated with psychotic experiences as adolescents. They also found that children who slept for shorter periods at night and went to bed later, were more likely to be associated with borderline personality disorder (BPD) during their teenage years.

Lead researcher, Dr. Isabel Morales-Muñoz, explained: “We know from previous research that persistent nightmares in children have been associated with both psychosis and borderline personality disorder. But nightmares do not tell the whole story—we’ve found that, in fact, a number of behavioral sleep problems in childhood can point towards these problems in adolescence.”

The researchers examined questionnaire data from more than 7,000 participants reporting on psychotic symptoms in adolescence, and more than 6,000 reporting on BPD symptoms in adolescence. The data analyzed is from the Children of the 90s study (also known as the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) birth cohort) which was set up by the University of Bristol.

Sleep behavior among participants was reported by parents when the children were 6, 18 and 30 months, and assessed again at 3.5, 4.8 and 5.8 years old.

The results, published in JAMA Psychiatry, show particular associations between infants at 18 months old who tended to wake more frequently at night and who had less regular sleep routines from 6 months old, with psychotic experiences in adolescence. This supports existing evidence that insomnia contributes to psychosis, but suggests that these difficulties may be already present years before psychotic experiences occur.

The team also found that children who had less sleep during the night and went to bed later at the age of three-and-a-half years were related to BPD symptoms. These results suggest a specific pathway from toddlers through to adolescents with BPD, which is separate from the pathway linked with psychosis.

Finally, the researchers investigated whether the links between infant sleep and mental disorders in teenagers could be mediated by symptoms of depression in children aged 10 years old. They found that depression mediated the links between childhood sleep problems and the onset of psychosis in adolescents, but this mediation was not observed in BPD, suggesting the existence of a direct association between sleep problems and BPD symptoms.

Professor Steven Marwaha, senior author on the study, added: “We know that adolescence is a key developmental period to study the onset of many mental disorders, including psychosis or BPD. This is because of particular brain and hormonal changes which occur at this stage. It’s crucial to identify risk factors that might increase the vulnerability of adolescents to the development of these disorders, identify those at high risk, and deliver effective interventions. This study helps us understand this process, and what the targets might be.

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Breathing exercises that will help get you to sleep faster

There’s nothing worse than lying in bed unable to get to sleep. So whenever there’s a technique that promises to help you get to sleep faster, we’re all ears, especially if it’s something as simple as changing the way we breathe. “We know that the body, mind, and breath are all connected,” Peggy Lundquist of Gen X Mindfulness tells The List. “Understanding this can be used to our advantage because if we can bring about change in one of those pieces, change will inevitably come to the other two.” 

Lundquist continued, “Often, we can’t get to sleep because our wandering, sometimes even hyper, mind keeps us awake, tossing and turning. But, if we change our breathing pattern in a deliberate way, we will encourage change in our overactive mind, as well.” Sophie Jaffe, a health and wellness expert, as well as founder and CEO of Philosophie, agrees: “Those few moments before you drift off to sleep can be deeply healing,” she tells The List, introducing us to two different breathing techniques: butterfly breath and the 4-7-8 breathing method. 

Breathing techniques can work to calm the mind

According to Jaffe, the butterfly breathe technique is super simple and works to calm the mind. “You sit in a comfortable seated position and cross your arms over your chest, then begin to pat your hands on your shoulders and inhale, then look to the left as you exhale,” she explains to The List. “Inhale back at the center and exhale to your right,” she continues, adding that you should continue to repeat as necessary. If you’re a more visual person, Jaffe shared this adorable video of her son Leo demonstrating the technique.

The 4-7-8 breathing method, on the other hand, requires you to follow a few more steps. To begin, breathe out making a “whoosh sound”, then “close your mouth and inhale through your nose, counting to 4,” instructs Jaffe. “Hold your breath for seven seconds then exhale completely out your mouth for a total of 8 counts,” she continues, pointing out that you need to make a “whoosh sound” again before repeat the process four times. While it may seem odd at first, the more you do it, the more you’ll relax into it. Sweet dreams!

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Sleeping in on weekends won’t erase your ‘sleep debt’

For those who try to catch up on lost sleep during the weekend, French researchers have some bad news: Once Saturday and Sunday have come and gone, many will find they’re still seriously short on sleep.

The finding centered on adults who regularly get only six hours of sleep or less on weekdays. That’s far less than the seven to eight hours per night that most people need, said study author Dr. Damien Leger. He is chief of the Hotel Dieu Center of Sleep and Vigilance at the Public Assistance Hospital of Paris.

Such “short sleepers” made up over one-third of more than 12,000 participants in the study. And nearly one-quarter said they had been racking up a very serious weekday “sleep debt.” That meant that on weekdays they logged at least 90 minutes less than the amount of sleep they really needed.

“[But] our survey shows that about 75% of people with sleep debt did not find their way to get more sleep on the weekend or by napping,” Leger added.

The reason is not complicated: In the end, “they probably did not take the time to do it. Or had poor conditions to sleep, [such as a] noisy environment, stress, or children at home. So, their sleep debt is not recovered,” he explained.

The French study participants were surveyed about their sleep routines over the phone as part of a recurring national health poll.

The average amount of daily weekday sleep was pegged at 6 hours and 42 minutes. On weekends that figure rose to 7 hours and 26 minutes. More than one-quarter of respondents (27%) said they took naps at least once during the week and about one-third said they did so on weekends.

Even then, only 18% of severely sleep-deprived men and women were able to bank enough sleep to make up for chronic weekday sleep deficiencies. Men fared particularly badly: just 15% managed to balance their sleep with a weekend catch-up.

It’s a serious problem, said Leger. And one that likely affects millions.

“About one-third of adults have a daily lack of sleep,” he noted. “And it is very common in Western countries,” especially in urban areas.

The main drivers? Leger pointed to night work, shift work, long commutes between the workplace and home, and excessive attachment to technology, such as smartphones.

The concern is that, over time, sleep debt can translate into a wide array of health issues, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, depression and accidental injury, Leger warned.

Adam Krause, a Ph.D. candidate in cognitive neuroscience with the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley, agreed that chronic sleep deprivation is a widespread public health issue.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates around 35% of Americans sleep less than seven hours per night. And the amount of sleep has steadily decreased over the past decades, though it may be leveling off currently,” Krause said.

“Sleep loss is a potent form of whole-body stress,” Krause added. “So, it impacts function at every level of the body, from DNA, to cells, to organs, to performance at work or exercise.”

But other than by simply getting enough regular sleep, he cautioned that it’s a problem with no simple remedy.

“Daytime naps are often a great solution for those who don’t get enough sleep at night. But for those with true insomnia, naps can often make matters worse by reducing the pressure to sleep at night,” Krause explained.

“In general, consistency is key,” he added. “I think of this like a healthy diet. It’s better to eat healthy for two days a week than not at all, but eating healthy two days a week does not reverse the damage caused by eating poorly for the remaining five days. The best sleep diet is one that is sufficient and consistent.”

That thought was seconded by Dr. Nathaniel Watson, a professor of neurology at the University of Washington Medicine Sleep Center in Seattle, and immediate past president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

“It is all about priorities. There are unlimited things to do with our time. We have to choose healthy sleep. It won’t just happen,” Watson said.

“Sleeping longer on weekends is a good start,” Watson added. “But typically just a day or two of sleep extension does not fully address chronic, habitual sleep deprivation.”

His prescription? “Going to bed when tired, and waking when rested, and doing this for two to three weeks, will pay off a sleep debt.”

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Couples sleep better – natural healing naturopathic specialist portal

Improved quality of sleep by co-Sleeping

When couples sleep together, increase the time of Rem sleep, and there is generally less disruption of sleep. One reason seems to be that couples synchronize their sleep.

In the case of a current investigation with the participation of the University of Kiel was found that common Sleep of pairs has a positive effect on the quality of sleep. The results were published in the English scientific journal “Frontiers in Psychiatry”.

What causes common sleep?


Many people around the world to share your bed with your Partner. This raises the question of how the co-Sleeping in a bed affects the sleep itself. To find out, the researchers examined twelve young, healthy, heterosexual couples who spent four days in a sleep laboratory.

Sleep parameters of the Participants were measured

The research group measure, with the help of the dual simultaneous polysomnography in the sleep parameters of the Participants – both in the presence and in the absence of the partner. By the polysomnography sleep was recorded on four levels, from the brain flows to the movements, the breathing, the muscle tension and the heart activity.

Questions about the relationship had to be answered


In addition, the Participants completed questionnaires, which relationship characteristics should be measured. Including, for example, the duration of the relationship, the degree of passionate love and relationship depth.

Increased movement of the limbs found

Interestingly, the research group found in pairs, sharing a bed, increased movement of the limbs during sleep. These movements are not, however, interfere with the sleep structure. In other words, the brain is not expressed: When couples sleep together in a bed, the body is somewhat restless, however.

REM sleep improved by co-Sleeping

The results of the study show that so-called REM-sleep (sleep with rapid eye movements) increases in the sleeping couples and less disturbed, compared to alone nights spent. This is quite relevant, because the REM sleep is associated with emotion regulation, memory consolidation, social interactions and creative problem solving, explains how the research group.

Sleep patterns of couples synchronize

The Team also found that couples synchronize their sleep patterns, if you sleep together in a bed. This synchronization is positively associated with relationship depth. With other words: The higher Participants rated the importance of their relationship for your life, the stronger the synchronization with the Partner.

Less emotional Stress by co-Sleeping

The co-Sleeping seems to be a positive Feedback loop to trigger in REM sleep and stabilizes is improved, which in turn improves the social interactions and the emotional Stress is reduced, the researchers say. Although these possible effects were not measured in the study, specifically, were this to be well-known effects of REM sleep.

Further research is needed

Although the results are promising, but many questions remain still open. In the future, the effect of the common sleep of pairs must be checked in a more diverse sample. Up to now, it seems that the co-Sleeping could be with a Partner in a bed is actually an extra boost in terms of mental health, memory, and creative problem-solving skills, conclude the researchers. (as)

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