One theme we are studying in the VITA (Health) area of research at The KAITEKI Institute (TKI) is the relationship between sleep and health, especially mental health. We have been collecting information on this theme by studying literature as well as using research companies, but as the field of sleep is so fast moving ? with regular progress in technology that in turn, constantly brings about new business developments ― we have been gathering the most up to date information by meeting directly with researchers and business people by attending academic conferences and conducting interviews. This article will introduce some of the latest topics in the field of sleep study that we have seen at recent conferences held in the US and Japan.
For the more business-minded participants, a major highlight of academic conferences is the corporate booth area, where one can talk to people and find out about the latest trends in the industry and what kind of businesses are popular. At sleep conferences this year, in both the US and Japan, booths for Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSAS) stood out very prominently. As is well known, OSAS is a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. In Japan, it is estimated that there are 2~3 million potential patients of this disorder. What is frightening about this disease, which patients are often unaware of themselves, is not only that it can cause accidents during the day due to day-time sleepiness, but that it increases the risk of lifestyle-related diseases such as cerebral stroke and diabetes.
“Sleep2014” The 28th
Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, LLC (APSS) held in June 2014 in Minneapolis. It was so hot, there are hardly any people outside of the conference venue.
The fact that there are so many people suffering from insomnia is a point that is often emphasized at sleep conferences. For instance, at a recent conference of The Japanese Society of Sleep Research, a researcher reported that in Japan, roughly 35% of people have some degree of insomnia symptoms, 10% suffer from insomnia to a degree that affects their daily living, 5% are prescribed sleeping pills, and many among this latter group are people of old age. Under these circumstances, one form of treatment that has recently been gaining attention is “cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia” (CBT-I). With this treatment, patients reporting to suffer from insomnia are given instructions to help change the way they perceive and behave to enable them to sleep better. For instance, subjective reports by elderly people suffering from insomnia often show that they get into bed early with the hopes of sleeping a lot, but they have trouble falling asleep and end up being awake until dawn, or can sleep only intermittently with frequent awakenings. One index used to evaluate sleep is “sleep efficiency,” which is the number of hours of actual sleep divided by the number of hours lying in bed. The cases of elderly patients described above can be said to show very poor sleep efficiency. Furthermore, while these patients claim to suffer from insomnia, many of them are actually frequently dozing unaware during the day; at night, thinking that they need to sleep, they go to bed early only to lie awake, hence falling into a vicious cycle. CBT-I instructs patients to hold off getting into bed until a certain hour, and to get up in the morning at a certain time, even though they may still be sleepy. It is a treatment that emphasizes the importance of daily patterns of living and how one spends their time awake for good quality sleep.
Corporate booth area, bustling with people
Exhibition of special beds at a corporate booth
The last topic to introduce here is an important study on the correlation between sleep and dementia. This is a study that was presented at the conference of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine by Professor Holtzman et al. of Washington University, who was awarded the 2014 Outstanding Scientific Achievement Award. They studied a group of middle to old-age subjects who do not show any decrease in cognitive functions for the relation between the aforementioned sleep efficiency and concentration of amyloid β in cerebrospinal fluid. Amyloid β is a substance that comprises “senile plaque,” one of the two main pathological changes in Alzheimer’s disease. Results of the study showed that the lower the rate of sleep efficiency is for a subject, the more abnormal the measurement of amyloid β concentration. Furthermore, it is known through past studies on patients of familial Alzheimer’s disease that the accumulation of amyloid β starts as much as 20 years before the onset of symptoms. From these findings, we can say that efficient sleep, a healthy active lifestyle, and a good diet, are important not only for your health today, but for your health 20 years in the future.
TKI is currently studying the effects that sleep has on health with the aim of discovering ways to utilize it for preventing disease and enhancing health. We hope our findings can contribute to people’s health today and in the future, and to the wellbeing of humanity as a whole.