National Sleep Awareness Week 2022: Expert Tips For a Better Night’s Rest
Tired of counting sheep? In recognition of National Sleep Awareness Week, sleep health experts offer recommendations for improving your sleep quality, schedule, and more.
Over two decades ago, the National Sleep Foundation launched National Sleep Awareness Week, a weeklong celebration focused on sleep health, promoting favorable sleep routines, and emphasizing the connections between sleep habits and physical/mental wellbeing. In recognition of this year’s observance, we give you a roundup of sleep-related research breakthroughs and recommendations from Boston University faculty specializing in sleep medicine, sleep disorders, neurology, brain health, and more.
As headlines of COVID-19’s spread began to rise around the world in early 2020, so did search queries focused on one rather unusual question: Why am I having such weird dreams? Dr. Patrick McNamara, associate professor of neurology at the Boston University School of Medicine and the VA New England HealthCare System, has published over 30 scientific papers on dreams as well as several books exploring the meaning and functionality behind them. When it comes to people experiencing more vivid or unusual dreams during the pandemic, Dr. McNamara says stress and anxiety are two driving factors. “We are more prone to these kinds of dreams if we are already under stress, and many people are facing more stress during the pandemic due to factors like losing their jobs, worrying about the health of themselves and loved ones, relationship conflicts, and so on.” Learn more about the COVID-19 dreams phenomenon and Dr. McNamara’s tips for achieving a better night’s sleep.
Are you having trouble sleeping lately or have you routinely faced challenges with sleep? Dr. Sanford Auerbach is here to help. As a board certified sleep specialist and director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Boston Medical Center, Dr. Auerbach provides comprehensive recommendations and treatment strategies for patients experiencing a number of sleep-related problems including sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy, and more. In an effort to share his wealth of expertise with a broad audience, Dr. Auerbach took to Reddit to answer questions from the general public about his scholarship and recent research. Check out his Q&A to learn how diet can impact your sleep, why sleep patterns can change as we age, and simple ways to improve your bedtime routine.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a form of brain degeneration likely caused by repeated head traumas. Some of the most common symptoms associated with the disease include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, and impulse control problems. But researchers from BU’s CTE Center have discovered a lesser-known side effect linked to those with CTE: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder. Typically associated with Parkinson’s disease, the disorder disturbs sleep paralysis during REM sleep, and can cause you to physically act out vivid, often unpleasant dreams and experience violent arm and leg movements. “It’s a very rare disorder,” says Dr. Thor Stein, study co-author and associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at BU’s School of Medicine. “Dreams can have very high emotional content, and when a person wakes up thrashing about, they’re really disturbed.” Read more about the study’s implications and how the researchers explore the relationship between contact sports participation and brain health.
It may seem strange to liken your brain to a washing machine, but research from Dr. Laura Lewis, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at BU’s College of Engineering, indicates that the comparison isn’t that far off. In her study, Dr. Lewis discovered that while we sleep, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) washes through our brains in rhythmic waves. The research is the first-of-its-kind to reveal the brain’s CSF pulses during sleep, and sheds a light on how the motions are tied to brain activity and blood flow. “We’ve known for a while that there are these electrical waves of activity in the neurons,” explains Dr. Lewis. “But before now, we didn’t realize that there are actually waves in the CSF, too.” Learn how this research may lead to future insights about neurological and psychological disorders that are often associated with disrupted sleep patterns, including autism and Alzheimer’s disease.
While Dr. Naina Limbekar’s Sleep On It! podcast does provide in depth insights on dozing off, it certainly won’t put you to sleep. A board certified sleep neurologist and assistant professor of neurology at BU’s School of Medicine, Dr. Limbekar makes her sleep research exciting in episodes about the misconceptions around melatonin, the pros and cons of napping, why people snore, and much more. She has also brought her expertise to Reddit, where she hosted an Ask Me Anything (r/IAmA) activation on how to develop healthy sleep habits and breaking down the relationship between mental/physical health and sleep. Read through the top takeaways from the Q&A here.
For additional commentary by Boston University experts, follow us on Twitter at @BUexperts. Follow Dr. Auerbach on Twitter at @SanfordAuerbach, Dr. Lewis at @lauradata, and Dr. Limbekar at @limbekar_naina. For research updates from Boston University’s School of Medicine, CTE Center, College of Engineering, and Boston Medical Center, follow @BUMedicine, @bu_cte, @BUCollegeofENG, and @The_BMC. Follow the Sleep On It! podcast at @SleepOnItPod and listen to the latest episodes here.