Persistent Insomnia Can Be Life Threatening

A new study out of the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Tucson, led by Dr. Sairam Parthasarathy and published in The American Journal of Medicine, indicates that persistent insomnia can result in higher inflammation and mortality rates. The subjects studied who had suffered persistent insomnia for eight or more years had a 58% higher risk for mortality than those who suffer intermittent insomnia, even after factors like age, sex, smoking, physical activity, and hypnotics were accounted for.  They also excluded sedative use or lack of opportunity for sleep (which is sleep deprivation rather than insomnia) as factors. This data comes from a longitudinal study that commenced in 1972 and lasted for 38 years.  The group conducted follow-up surveys and collected blood and serum samples from the 1,409 participants and tracked mortality data.  The study found that the higher mortality was most often the result of cardiovascular issues, and that those who suffered from persistent insomnia (about 10% of adults in the United States) have a higher level of C-reactive protein (CRP) in their serum, which is in and of itself a risk factor for mortality.  But even after the increased CRP level was taken out as a factor, those who suffered persistent insomnia still had a 36% higher risk for mortality. This study indicates that chronic insomnia can be quite detrimental to overall health and can significantly shorten lifespan.  If you have persistent problems falling asleep or staying asleep, seek treatment.  It could save your life. For more information about the effects of insomnia or our Department of Sleep Diagnostics, contact Aspire Hospital...

How Your Brain Really is on Drugs

If you are of a certain age, you may remember a public service campaign that depicted a raw egg with the caption “This is your brain” followed by an egg frying in a pan with the caption “This is your brain on drugs.” While this was a rather powerful image, it did not come close to illustrating the complexity of how psychoactive drugs and the process of addiction actually works. A psychoactive substance is any substance that has an effect on how your brain functions.  There are many types and levels of strength, but fall into one of these categories: stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, and opioids. Stimulants– The most common are caffeine, nicotine, cocaine, and amphetamines.  They are called stimulants because they “stimulate” the body by speeding up certain functions.  They increase blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rates, and the rate at which certain neurons fire and how much certain neurochemicals are released. Depressants– The most common of these is alcohol, but others include benzodiazepines (like Xanax) and barbiturates (like phenobarbital).  Contrary to what many think, these drugs are not called depressants because they make you feel depressed.  They are called this because they “depress” (slow down) the functioning of the central nervous system. Hallucinogens– These types of drugs (examples would be marijuana or LSD) cause a person to have an altered sense of reality and to sometimes see or hear things that are not there.  They act primarily on the neurochemicals serotonin and glutamate. Opioids– These, as you may have guessed, are those drugs that are either opiates (derived from the poppy plant) or other chemicals that have the...

How To Be A Good Visitor

Tips On How To Be A Good Visitor When someone we care about is in the hospital or is recovering at home, we often feel the need to reach out to them and visit them. This is a wonderful thing and should be done, but there are right and wrong ways to visit. Do not visit if you are feeling in any way sick or think you might be contagious.  The patient likely has a compromised immune system, so you could inadvertently make them sick with something else or sicker than they already are. Ask the patient if they are up to having visitors, and tell them to be honest.  They may feel too tired or weak to see anyone, in which case, it would be better to visit at a different time.  If they do feel as though they can handle a visit, don’t stay too long; they are trying to get better, and too long a visit could wear them out unnecessarily.  Try to limit your visit to under an hour. Make sure that your hands are clean before you touch anything.  Wash them with soap and warm water for about 20 seconds and then use hand sanitizer both before your visit and after you leave.  You don’t want to be a carrier for infections either in or out. Do not expect the patient to entertain you.  You are supposed to be helping to take care of the sick or recovering person, not the other way around. Keep your emotions in check.  While it can be difficult to see someone you love in a vulnerable state, the...

Layperson’s Guide to Scientific Studies

Have you ever seen a report about a new scientific study that really scared you, only to find out later that it wasn’t what you thought?  Often this happens as a result of misinterpreting words. Researchers and statisticians in scientific fields such as medicine and psychology use words and phrases that are common to other fields but may be used differently, which can cause some confusion if you are not familiar with how they use those terms. This is a brief guide to how some of those terms may mean something different than what you think they do: Phrases like “relationship between,” “link between,” “connection between,” “correlated,” “joined”—many people assume that this means there is a cause-and-effect relationship between the factors being discussed.  This is not necessarily the case.  What this often means is that these factors seem to happen together, but the type of relationship may not be known.  One may cause the other, there may be one or more other things that is causing both to happen, or it could be coincidence that they tend to happen together. Stating that something is “significant”— statistical significance is not the same as how we usually use the word “significant,” and often when these studies are being discussed, the type of significance they are referring to is statistical significance.  In medicine and psychology, the most common thresholds for statistical significance are 1% and 5% (described as p values; p>.01 or p>.05).  This means is that there is still a 1-5% chance that the results are due to coincidence and that there is no real relationship between the factors.  As you...