In 2020, the study of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was undoubtedly the most urgent priority. But there were also some major breakthroughs in other areas. We’d like to take a moment to recognize them.
1. This year, we learned that we had severely underestimated the human brain’s computing power. Researchers are coming to understand that even the dendritic arms of neurons seem capable of processing information, which means that every neuron might be more like a small computer by itself.
2. The new Information Theory of Individuality completely reimagines the way biologists have traditionally thought about individuality. Armed with information theory, the researchers found objective criteria for defining degrees of individuality in organisms.
3. Deprived of sleep, we and other animals die within weeks. More than a century of scrutiny failed to explain why lack of sleep is so deadly. This year, an answer was finally found — not inside the brain, as expected, but inside the gut.
Diabetologia (Sept 8, 2020) – Insomnia with objective short sleep duration has been associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes in observational studies [27, 28]. The present MR study found strong and suggestive evidence of a causal association of insomnia and short sleep duration, respectively, with increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
The present study verified several previously reported risk factors and identified novel potential risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Prevention strategies for type 2 diabetes should be considered from multiple perspectives on obesity, mental health, sleep quality, education level, birthweight and smoking.
Want to not only fall asleep quickly but also stay asleep longer? Sleep scientist Matt Walker explains how your room temperature, lighting and other easy-to-fix factors can set the stage for a better night’s rest.
Sleeping with Science, a TED series, uncovers the facts and secrets behind our nightly slumber. (Made possible with the support of Beautyrest)
Did you know you go on a journey every night after you close your eyes? Sleep scientist Matt Walker breaks down the difference between REM (Rapid-Eye Movement) and non-REM sleep, what occurs during each stage of sleep — and why it’s important to get enough of both. Sleeping with Science, a TED series, uncovers the facts and secrets behind our nightly slumber. (Made possible with the support of Beautyrest)
Caffeine wakes you up, and alcohol makes you nod off, right? It’s not that simple. Sleep scientist Matt Walker takes us into the eye-opening ways that these drinks affect the quantity and quality of our sleep. Sleeping with Science, a TED original series, uncovers the facts and secrets behind our nightly slumber. (Made possible with the support of Beautyrest)
You know you need to get enough sleep, but the question remains: How much is enough? Sleep scientist Matt Walker tells us the recommended amount for adults and explains why it’s necessary for your long-term health. Sleeping with Science, a TED original series, uncovers the facts and secrets behind our nightly slumber. (Made possible with the support of Beautyrest)
“Numerous studies have linked insufficient sleep with significant health consequences. Yet, many people ignore the signs of sleep problems or don’t allow enough time to get adequate sleep,” said lead researcher Eileen Leary. She is a senior manager of clinical research at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.
“REM sleep appears to be a reliable predictor of mortality and may have other predictive health values,” Leary said. “Strategies to preserve REM may influence clinical therapies and reduce mortality risk, particularly for adults with less than 15% of REM sleep.”
REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is when dreams occur and the body repairs itself from the ravages of the day. For every 5% reduction in REM sleep, mortality rates increase 13% to 17% among older and middle-aged adults, researchers report.
For the study, Leary and her colleagues included more than 2,600 men, average age 76, who were followed for a median of 12 years. They also collected data on nearly 1,400 men and women, average age 52, who were part of another study and were followed for a median of 21 years.
Poor REM sleep was tied to early death from any cause as well as death from cardiovascular and other diseases, the researchers found.
“The sleep environment is something that can easily be fixed,” Salas says. By giving a little thought to positioning your body and bed, you might find your slumber is even sweeter.
For young, healthy people, sleep position is less important, Salas says. “But as you get older and have more medical issues, sleep position can become positive or negative.”
Consider these factors before you switch off the light:
Back and neck pain: When it comes to alleviating pain, sleeping on your back is a mixed bag, Salas says. For people with neck pain, sleeping face up can sometimes make the pain worse. But many people find back sleep is helpful for alleviating low-back pain. If you have soreness in your spine, experiment with different positions and pillows to find what works for you.
Snoring and sleep apnea: Obstructive sleep apnea causes the airways to collapse during sleep, leading to pauses in breathing. It often goes hand-in-hand with snoring. Positioning yourself on your side or stomach can help the airways stay open to reduce snoring and alleviate mild apnea, Salas says.
Reflux and heartburn: If you suffer from heartburn, sleeping on your right side can make symptoms worse, Salas says. That’s true for people who have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and for people who have heartburn for other reasons, such as pregnant women. Flip to your left side to cool the burn.
Appearance: If you sleep on your side or stomach, you’ve probably noticed creases on your face when you wake up. “Over time, that can lead to breakouts or cause chronic changes to the skin,” Salas says. “If you’re concerned about wrinkles, it’s another reason to sleep on your back.”
His mission was to educate the world about the importance of sleep, which he believed was dangerously undervalued. His motto, “drowsiness is red alert,” is a message he tirelessly broadcast to his students, trainees, members of Congress and the world at large.
William Dement, MD, PhD, known as the father of sleep medicine, died June 17 after a two-year battle with cardiovascular disease. He was 91.
With a handful of other scientists, Dement, a longtime faculty member of the Stanford School of Medicine, created the fields of sleep research and sleep medicine, and his many books and lectures helped raise awareness of sleep disorders and the dangers of sleep deprivation.
Dement’s many other accomplishments and accolades range far and wide: Dement and Guilleminault were the founding editors of the journal Sleep, the first major international journal devoted to sleep, publishing the first issue in 1978. He was the author of books for lay readers, including The Promise of Sleep, Some Must Watch While Some Must Sleep and The Sleepwatchers.The 2012 comedy film Sleepwalk with Me featured The Promise of Sleep and Dement in a cameo.