A therapy for baby boomers to sleep on

Aug 15, 2008

If you're over 55 and have spent more than a few sleepless nights, you're not alone -- insomnia affects about half of all people over 55 -- but you may also be at increased risk for physical and mental ailments.

Many older adults don't get enough restorative sleep, leading to serious health concerns, including cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, memory problems and increased rates of depression. Unfortunately, current sleeping pills are associated with memory problems, a risk for falls, dependency, withdrawal symptoms and disturbed sleeping patterns.

Circadin, a new drug developed at Tel Aviv University by Prof. Nava Zisapel, a chemist and neurobiologist from TAU's George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, may help America's aging baby boomers get the much-needed sleep they need. Recent results from Prof. Zisapel's research with Circadin appear in the Journal of Sleep Research and are reviewed in Aging Health.

How the Body Tells Time

Prof. Zisapel's research centers on the hormone melatonin, which affects the way our biological functions differentiate between day and night. "As we age, the melatonin hormone signal weakens," says Prof. Zisapel. "As a result, our bodies and brains feel less difference between day and night."

Exacerbating the effect of low melatonin levels, aging people tend to sleep in a less organized fashion than younger people, Prof. Zisapel explains. "People are sleeping in front of the TV, or nodding off during conversations, and taking long afternoon naps. This leads to less sleep at night. In a way, their sleep habits become more like babies', and less like those of healthy adults who sleep in consolidated periods during the night."

Mimicking the profile of nighttime melatonin found in our bodies, Circadin replenishes the much-needed hormone, which declines steadily with age. Clinical trials in the United States and Europe found that Circadin improves sleep quality and morning alertness, and helps those 55 and over get a better night's sleep.

Her new drug therapy "improves sleep and daytime vigilance, helping to re-organize the circadian system, the body's internal clock," Prof. Zisapel says. Added benefits include more normalized blood pressure and blood sugar levels at night. The formulation also has a profound effect on the blind, whose biological clock is disturbed because they can't see light, a trigger for synchronizing with the external day/night cycle.

Advice for Sound Sleep Hygiene

Until Circadin is available in the United States, there are some simple steps seniors can take to get a good night's sleep, Prof. Zisapel says. Spending a couple of hours outdoors every day can help. Sipping lattes on a cafe patio (away from direct sunlight) can be pleasurable, and increases the exposure to natural light from the blue-green spectrum. Experiencing a full spectrum of light during the day could also be beneficial, as is routine exercise and avoiding daytime naps and sleeping in front of the TV.

Source: American Friends of Tel Aviv University

Explore further: Changing diagnosis codes will challenge emergency medicine

Related Stories

Finger gestures will tell your smartwatch what to do

39 minutes ago

Gesture control for smartwatches is the key mission for a startup called Deus Ex Technology. They have devised a module which can fit into a smartwatch band and behave as a gesture controller for your timepiece. ...

NSA winds down once-secret phone-records collection program

22 hours ago

The National Security Agency has begun winding down its collection and storage of American phone records after the Senate failed to agree on a path forward to change or extend the once-secret program ahead of its expiration ...

Recommended for you

Link between alcohol outlets and assaults

3 hours ago

A study exploring the established link between off-premise alcohol outlets and the rate of assaults and injuries in Australia has found that large bottleshops and liquor chains contribute most substantially ...

Mobilising against hypertension in South Africa

3 hours ago

Lifestyle-related disease is on the rise in South Africa, including high blood pressure. An ingenious partnership involving Oxford University is putting the nation's extensive mobile phone network to work ...

Making an impact on concussions

4 hours ago

The crash test dummy head is weighted and hauled with a pulley up the track. After a final check of the instruments and a quick countdown, the helmeted head plummets into an inevitable collision, moving at ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.