The Relationship Between Sweat and Sleep

Jan. 10, 2014

By Medical Discovery News

Sweat and sleep

If only getting to sleep were really as easy as counting sheep. Over half of Americans admit to struggling with insomnia a few nights a week. And the loss of sleep doesn’t just make a person tired, it can affect how long they live. People who an average of six or fewer hours of sleep each night had higher mortality rates than those who slept seven or more. New research has provided more insight into how people can overcome or prevent insomnia.

Problems falling asleep initially, waking up during the night and then having problems getting back to sleep, feeling tired upon waking in the morning, and waking up before the alarm all count as insomnia – it’s both the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. There are two different types: primary, a direct issue with sleep, and secondary, sleep issues caused by an underlying medical condition like depression, asthma, and overuse of alcohol. Insomnia can lead to other serious medical issues including memory problems, depression, heart disease, and car accidents. 

Common causes of insomnia include stress, emotional issues, physical discomfort, medications, disruptions in a person’s schedule, and environmental disturbances like light, noise, and temperature. Many suffering from insomnia rely on medications such as sleeping pills and sedatives, the most common being over-the-counter antihistamines. But these drugs can come with significant side effects, particularly for the elderly. Cognitive behavioral therapy, which changes ways of thinking to improve behavior, is recommended for insomnia.

Evidence shows the best ways to prevent insomnia are to maintain a regular schedule, avoid caffeine for the eight hours before bed, and especially get some exercise. While research has long shown the positive relationship between exercise and sleep, a recent study has led scientists at Northwestern University to conclude that sleep may influence exercise more than exercise influences sleep.    

This experiment involved a group of women diagnosed with insomnia, divided into two groups: an exercise and an inactive group. The exercise group performed 30 minutes of moderate exercise several times a week for 16 weeks while the other group was inactive. The results were encouraging, since those in the active group slept 45-60 minutes longer each night, woke less frequently, and felt more energized during the day. 

The surprise came when the scientists took a detailed look at the diaries the women kept of their exercise and sleep. The effect of exercise seemed to take longer than expected – a full four months. Also, most did not report sleeping better on the nights after they exercised, but that a good night’s sleep helped them exercise better the next day. 

People without sleep issues typically experience a more restful night’s sleep after exercising, so why is this not the case for people with insomnia? It may be that those with sleep disorders are different neurologically. They may have hyper-arousal of the stress system, which takes a prolonged regular exercise regime to overcome. Further research will be able to answer remaining questions about the timing or intensity of exercise, the effect of different types of exercise, and whether this is the case in men as well.

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Cat Allergy Vaccine

July 5, 2013

By Medical Discovery News

Cat lovers, or the friends, family, spouses, and roommates of one, with an allergy to the furry feline may soon find relief (not to mention an end to many arguments) through a vaccine that prevents cat allergies.

Microscopic pieces of shed, dry cat skin coated with a protein called Fel d1 are responsible for most cat allergies. This protein is secreted from various glands then ends up on the fur and onto furniture, clothing, and the air. It is the most potent allergen in cat dander to which 95 percent of people with cat allergies react. Cat allergies affect about 10 percent of the western world. An estimated 14 percent of children between the ages of six and 19 years old are allergic to cats.

The Fel d1 protein can cause a bad reaction in some humans. Normally, the body treats it as any other antigen or foreign substance. As it’s no threat, the body usually ignores or removes it. But for someone with a cat allergy, the immune system overreacts to Fel d1, making an antibody called immunoglobin E (IgE). The next time the person encounters the protein, the body releases the IgE antibodies much more quickly and in greater amounts. These antibodies then trigger a release of histamines, which relax capillaries and smooth muscles, affecting the soft tissue areas around the eyes, nose and throat. So allergy sufferers end up with watery eyes, runny noses, sneezing, and scratchy throats. Symptoms range from these mild reactions to asthma or even life-threatening anaphylactic shock.

When someone with cat allergies encounters one of the 93.6 million cats in the United States, they can treat the symptoms with antihistamines, decongestants, or prescription steroids. Some opt for immunotherapy or allergy shots to desensitize themselves to the cat allergens but that involves many shots over weeks, months, or even years. Hypoallergenic cats have been bred by a company called Allerca, but they are very expensive, ranging in price from $7,000 to $27,000.

Now cat allergy sufferers have another option. A vaccine has been developed by an Oxford-based company called Cicassia that consists of seven peptides, short pieces of the Fel d1 protein. These peptides will appease the cellular part of the immune response while not activating the part that leads to allergic reactions. The ToleroMune vaccine successfully passed both phase 1 and phase 2 clinical trials and is now in a phase 3 clinical trial. The vaccine was shown to significantly reduce nose- and eye-related symptoms in response to cat dander.

This gives hope to those who love someone with a cat but don’t love the cat allergy symptoms, and to cat owners who don’t want to choose between their furry friend and someone allergic to it.   

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