What is it wish to spend an evening during a sleep lab? How easy is it to sleep attached to numerous cables? And is there a link between the microbiome and sleep?
What happens during a sleep study?
Sleep is an important part of our daily routine and health. Lack of sleep is often detrimental to our well-being.
Insomnia may be the asleep condition that affects around one-third of the population of us, with 10–15 you look after people experiencing “severe and chronic insomnia.”
The National Sleep Foundation describe insomnia as a condition during which an individual experiences unsatisfactory sleep despite having the chance to sleep. In practical terms, this suggests trouble falling or staying asleep.
My mother has been living with insomnia for several years. Sleep may be a regular topic in our conversations.
In my role as Research Editor at Medical News Today, I encounter research studies into sleep regularly.
But, despite our insights into why sleep is vital, what causes insomnia isn’t entirely clear.
A few months ago, my mom took part in a study looking into a link between the microbiome and sleep. I used to be very keen to talk to both her and therefore the researcher leading the study afterward.
So, here is what happened when Mama Martin spent an evening during a sleep lab.
A night at the sleep center
I reach the Advanced Sleep Research Institute in Berlin, Germany, at 8.00 p.m. A medico is on duty. There are two people here today that she is taking care of. she is going to stay up all night to watch our progress.
The medico takes me to an area with one, hospital-style bed. there’s also a TV. once you dwell the bed, you’ll see the camera which will record your sleep.
Next, she attaches the electrodes.
She puts two on my legs and some others on my upper body, which is linked to the ECG. She then places more electrodes on my upper arms, hands, and tons on my head.
The student also attaches a mask to screen for apnea to my face. It’s hard, and therefore the indents will remain visible on my face for a short time after I take it off within the morning.
Finally, she attaches an oxygen monitor to my finger. it’s only taken about 5 minutes to urge me prepped, but I find it hard to imagine that I will be able to ever attend sleep like this.
As soon as my preparation is complete, I lie.
A few minutes later, the medical student’s voice comes on over the speaker. She asks if I can hear her. Then she asks me to try to to a vision test — look left, look right, open eyes, closed eyes.
Next, we do a breathing test. I inhale, exhale, through my nose, through my mouth, hold my breath. This way, she will make sure all the monitors are working correctly.
If I want to travel to the toilet, I want to call her so that she will detach me from cables. I do not drink much within the evening so that I won’t get to use the toilet within the night.
The lights explode at 10.00 p.m.
Once I nod off, the clock starts ticking down the 8 hours allotted sleep time.
The cables aren’t very comfortable, and that I notice them whenever I awaken. But, contrary to my expectations, I still manage to sleep fairly comfortably.
I have had trouble with my sleep since 2007. At the time, I had tons of stress at work, including some incidences of bullying. Then I lost my husband in 2010.
My insomnia has been an equivalent since the beginning. Most nights, I hear audiobooks once I awaken and can’t return to sleep.
I hear stories that I already know so that they aren’t too exciting and pick soothing stories.
During my night at the sleep center, I slept relatively well, but I assumed I had slept badly.
I was awake at around 4.00 a.m. I wasn’t allowed to concentrate on my audiobook that night, so I used a relaxation breathing technique. I assumed I used to be awake for an extended time then.
When I determine the results, I’m surprised. I was, in fact, not awake for long in the least. And there have been some unexpected revelations within the data.
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I didn’t know that I sleep on my front. I also apparently sleep tons on my right side, although I do know that I mostly nod off on my left side. I never knew that I move such a lot when I’m sleeping.
At the top of my 8 hours of sleep, the medico wakes me up. Then comes the rather lengthy job of washing the sticky residue leftover from the electrodes out of my hair. I used to be told before my visit to bring shampoo, but I wasn’t prepared for quite how long this can take.
After my night at the sleep center, I send off my sample for the microbiome analysis.
The results show a possible imbalance within the composition of my gut microbiome. Specifically, they indicate that I even have a better risk of the leaky gut syndrome and histamine intolerance.
How that links to my sleep isn’t clear at the instant.
Studying the microbiome and sleep
After chatting with my mom, I also trapped with Katharina Lederer, who may be a medical man in Berlin. This study is a component of her medical Ph.D. thesis.
Firstly, I asked Lederer if she had spent an evening during a sleep lab herself.
“Yes, I have, and my experience was surprisingly [good]. Most patients ask how they’re alleged to roll in the hay cables on their heads, legs, chest, and sensors on their fingers. But most of the people, as I did, nod off quite quickly.”
Lederer also explained that “most people are surprised how long they sleep.”
“Our perception of how long we sleep are often hours off our actual sleep time. Especially, people with insomnia feel that they sleep [for a way shorter time] than they mostly do thanks to the frequent sleep interruptions,” she told me.
Is there a link between the gut microbiome and sleep? Lederer thinks so.
“In my daily practice within the sleep laboratory, I encountered many patients who don’t just have trouble sleeping but also problems with their bowels, including pain, diarrhea, or constipation,” she explained.
“Both conditions have some common risk factors, like high-stress levels, insufficient movement during the day, and also nutrition.”
Lederer explained that research links our brains and our bowels via the gut-brain axis.
So, what’s happening during this sleep study?
“The initiative was to seek out out if people with insomnia suffer from more gastrointestinal problems than their healthy counterparts. This seems to be the case, but the numbers of the study are still too small to offer a statistical significance,” Lederer said.
“In a second step, we are examining the microbiota of a gaggle of patients with insomnia and comparing them to a healthy control group. Unfortunately, this is often still in process.”
But could changing an individual’s microbiome improve their sleep, or would changing their sleep affect their microbiome?
“There are a couple of studies already showing that sleep restriction can have an impact on the microbiota,” Lederer explained. “I suspect that there’s also influence the opposite way around, of the microbiota on our sleep, but this has only been shown in limited studies with mice yet.”
My final question to Lederer was whether participating during a sleep study changes people’s attitude toward their insomnia.
“I hope so,” was her reply. “You can’t fix any sleep problem during a day. Most patients suffer from sleep disorders for several, a few years before they are available to the sleep center.”
“The brain is so used, almost conditioned, to awaken within the middle of the night or to attach the bed with negative emotions that it takes a short time until sleep disorders are treated,” she continued.
This was certainly the case for my mom. She has, within the past, used an activity tracker to watch her sleep but wasn’t sure what proportion she could trust the results.
“Taking part during a sleep study has clarified on behalf of me that I sleep far more than I assumed,” she told me.
My mom and Lederer also discussed recommendations for sleep at the initial consultation.
These include no reading or employing a phone in bed, not exercising vigorously too on the brink of bedtime, not eating or drinking caffeinated drinks for several hours before getting to bed, not watching anything too exciting on TV, and getting up 8 hours after falling asleep.
Since her night at the sleep center, mom’s sleep hasn’t changed.
But she feels more confident within the amount of sleep her activity tracker shows her.
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