Things you need to knowSleep: A Disguised Scientific Wonder

Sleep: A Disguised Scientific Wonder

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As bizarre as it may sound, our sleep holds the secret to almost all of our problems. Yes, the power nap that you take during noon or the inevitable power nap that you’re forced to take during the boring classes are all hidden gems.

But how? How can something as usual as sleeping hold such immense power? What else can we draw from the mere act of lying on the bed? Well, that’s the discussion of the day – ADVANCED SLEEP STUDIES.

Wherein, we’ll try to find answers to all those question marks in your head. From the basics of what advanced sleep studies are to the advanced mechanisms that play a role in them.

1. What are Advanced Sleep Studies?

sleeping lady
By Anna Nekrashevich/Pexels Copyright@2023

Coming first in the line is the very basic topic where we explain what sleep studies mean. Polysomnography (PSG) which goes by the nickname of “sleep studies” is a series of tests and measurements that are used to evaluate a person’s sleep patterns and thus, diagnose various sleep disorders as well.

The doctor or practitioner uses various medical parameters to determine the results. Generally, physiological monitoring is conducted to gain insights into the quality, architecture, and disturbances in the sleep-wake cycle.

As you might have already guessed, these studies, or rather research I would say, are carried out in specialized sleep centers or laboratories.

No Tom, Dick, or Harry is allowed to monitor your sleeping – trained sleep technologists and sleep specialists administer and interpret the tests. The collected data helps healthcare professionals diagnose and treat sleep disorders more effectively.

Patients spend a night or more at the sleep center, where sensors and electrodes are attached non-invasively to record data.

As a result of the data analysis and interpretation of the recorded data, sleep technologists can provide accurate diagnoses and personalized treatment plans based on patterns of sleep and disturbances. But don’t worry, the sensors and electrodes can be removed with a simple “Goodnight!”

2. Ingredients For the Sleep Soup

ecg
Photo by Luan Rezende/Pexels Copyright@2023

The sleep game is a long process. It is much more than merely laying on the mattress with your eyes closed and dreaming of the unimaginable. It takes a lot more than that to cater to the medical field. Here are the main components of such advanced sleep studies:

2.1. Electroencephalography (EEG):

Measures and records the electrical activity of the brain during sleep. With this medicine, we can classify different stages of sleep. Yes, you read it right; there are almost 5 stages in a regular non-medicated sleep process.

Electroencephalography can even distinguish between rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep.

2.2. Electrooculography (EOG):

As the name suggests, this method has something to do with the eyes. It is assigned the task of monitoring eye movements and recording them throughout the volunteer’s sleep.

Why do we need to monitor whether someone’s eyeballs are moving or not? We do so as it plays a pivotal role in distinguishing REM sleep, characterized by rapid eye movements, from NREM sleep.

2.3. Electrocardiography (ECG or EKG):

In almost all of the hospital movie scenes, we see a beep-beep machine that is none other than an ECG machine that beeps and beeps throughout the movie.

To measure the rate and rhythm of the heart during sleep, green ups and downs are used. It is these small markers that are helpful to doctors in the early detection of any sleep-related issues that may be caused by a cardiac condition.

2.4. Respiratory Monitoring:

After the heart beats and the signal receiving; the second most important factor to be kept in mind is the respiratory levels. It includes various measures to assess airflow, chest and abdominal movements and especially oxygen levels.

We especially emphasize measuring oxygen saturation (SpO2) as it is relevant in detecting sleep-related breathing disorders. Overall, respiratory monitoring helps diagnose several respiratory-related sleep disorders like sleep apnea.

2.5. Audio-visual Monitoring:

In some cases, though not common these days due to privacy issues, audio, and video recordings may be utilized to observe sleep behaviours such as sleepwalking or periodic limbic movements.

Another user-friendly methodology put to use is Actigraphy. In actigraphy, the patient is made to wear a wrist device that records movements and assesses sleep patterns over a longer period.

The most notable benefit is that the technology works even better in the home environment. So you are freed from the labs and the hospital stinks.

3. Why are Advanced Sleep Studies Important?

Imagine sleeping on your bed with wires around your wrist and monitors all around you. Not at all a pleasant sight. Then why do we conduct such experiments?

Because we can not just sleep over the knowledge that the sleep data has to provide to the science community. Listed below are some of the commonly derived benefits that we procure from such studies.

3.1 Accurate Diagnosis of Sleep Disorders:

machine
Photo by Mikhail Nilov/Pexels Copyright@2023

This one is a no-brainer. Sleep disorders, like any other health implication, have a significant impact on a person’s overall well-being.

That’s where advanced sleep studies are put to use. If we have precise knowledge about a person’s sleep patterns we might as well be able to diagnose various other sleep patterns which are, in most cases, related to the data.

It is used to diagnose diseases such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy, insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and others. Some of these mentioned diseases are difficult to detect even with new-age physical tests.

3.2 Understanding Sleep Architecture:

For an immaculate understanding of any scientific ideology, scientists try to draw out the framework structure of the mechanism. In this case, as well, knowing the exact process of sleeping is very crucial.

Advanced sleep studies help identify different sleep stages such as REM and NREM. Once we get hold of the sleep architecture we can broaden our scope of disease prediction to daytime sleepiness and other nonchalant disorders as well.

3.3 Assessment of Sleep Quality:

Sleep quality is just as important as the quantity of sleep. With modern sleep studies on our hands, we can evaluate the quality to great depth. By depth, we are referring to sleep fragmentation, arousal, and disturbances caused by both external and internal factors.

In the wake of a new era, we are more and more aware of the adverse effects that poor sleep can lead to. The inconvenience could range from minor mood fluctuations to serious impaired cognitive functioning and reduced immune function.

3.4 Monitoring Treatment Efficacy:

The safest and most sought-after technique for monitoring the treatment progress is to study their sleeping data. For individuals who are undergoing any sort of treatment, especially for sleep disorders, advanced sleep studies prove to be a boon.

One, they are non-invasive and painless; Two, they are very likely to show early signs in case of any complication. Sleeping parameters such as positive airway pressure(CPAP) for sleep apnea have played a pivotal role in the patient’s recovery.

3.5 Research and Advancements:

A better understanding of sleep physiology, circadian rhythms, and the impact sleep can have on our overall health is being gained through advanced sleep studies.

These studies contribute to the border field of sleep research. A study of this type is what contributes to advancements in sleep medicine as well as improvements in diagnostic procedures and treatment options.

3.6 Identification of Co-existing Conditions:

microscope
Photo by Chokniti Khongchum/Pexels Copyright@2023

The most common way in which any of us gets to know about a disease is certainly not because of the regular check-ups that we are advised to take.

It is much more probable that we get ourselves checked for some other issue and end up with a whole new disease. Advanced sleep studies have the answer to this problem as well.

A recent survey conducted on a group of 30 healthy-looking individuals concluded that – Sleep disorders often coexist with other medical conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, or mental health issues.

3.7 Enhancing Public Health:

Advanced sleep studies will benefit the whole community. How so? The flowchart is simple. One person participates in a sleep study or gets his/her sleeping issues tested.

Even if he/she is found to have no serious hazard, other people in the locality will opt for it under the influence. When looking at the bigger picture, we will end up with a much more healthy and medico-aware society.

4. What are the Different Types of Sleep Studies?

Though we can go on and on about this topic, we must just give you a brief understanding of the various kinds of sleep studies that are conducted and the purpose they fulfill.

4.1 Polysomnography (Psg)

Found in the Year: 1974

Purpose: Simultaneous monitoring and recording of multiple physiological parameters including brain activity (EEG), eye movement (EOG), muscle activity (EMG), and heart rate (ECG).

4.2 Multiple Sleep Latency Test (Mslt)

Found in the Year: 1977

Purpose: Measures daytime sleepiness and key role in diagnosing narcolepsy.

4.3 Maintenance of Wakefulness Test (Mwt)

Found in the Year: 1997

Purpose: Assess a person’s ability to stay awake during the day and this is a crucial test for professionals such as pilots and truck drivers.

4.4 Actigraphy

Found in the Year: 1970

Purpose: provides data on sleep-wake patterns over an extended period, unlike the other short-term or instantaneous tests.

4.5 Home Sleep Apnea Testing (Hsat)

Found in the Year: 1965

Purpose: Measures respiratory parameters (e.g. oxygen saturation, airflow) and allows individuals to undergo sleep testing in the comfort of their own homes.

5. What Are the Challenges?

Any reader who has been following me with my articles would be aware of how we always discuss the challenges faced by technology before talking about its prospects.

Anybody interested in a particular sector must be aware of the in-depth reality of the situation and not only the upper cream.

Category 

Issue 

COST- ACCESSIBILITY Advanced sleep studies, especially in sleep centers or laboratories can be expensive. The cost may limit access to these studies for individuals without adequate health insurance coverage or in regions with limited healthcare resources.
SLEEP ENVIRONMENT  Conducting sleep studies in a sleep center or laboratory can disrupt a person’s natural sleep environment. The unfamiliar surroundings, constant beeping, and potential discomfort may lead to what is known as the “First-Night Effect”. As you might have guessed, the quality of sleep would not be the same as the usual sleep.
LIMITED SAMPLE  Sleep studies often involve a relatively small sample due to the complexity and resource-intensive nature of the testing. This limitation can affect the generalizability of research findings and may not fully represent the diversity of sleep patterns and disorders in the population.
INTRUSIVENESS  Despite being non-invasive, the equipment used in advanced sleep studies can be cumbersome. This makes it challenging for some individuals to sleep naturally during the study.
SLEEP DISCREPANCY Sleep studies may not align with a person’s typical sleep schedule. For someone who works at night, shifts may have their sleep study scheduled during the day. This will lead to discrepancies in sleep patterns and not fully capture their sleep issues.
LIMITED SLEEP We all sleep differently. Some people may find it difficult to fall asleep in a laboratory and eventually produce a limited amount of recorded sleep time data for an accurate study.

6. Russian Sleep Experiment

For all the science enthusiasts and even those who are not, if you’ve reached this part of the article; you’ll thank yourself. In the following read, you will come across one of the most bizarre and ethically questionable sleep experiments to be conducted in the history of sleep experiments.

The Russian Sleep Experiment is more urban legend and horror fiction than a legitimate scientific study. It gained popularity as an internet creepy-pasta story. It is important to emphasize that the story is entirely fictional and has no basis in reality and it should not be mistaken for an actual scientific study as there is no on-record proof for the same.

6.1 Context

In the 1940s, during the early World War II, five political prisoners in Russia volunteered to participate in an experiment.

The goal of the project was to test the effects of an experimental gas-based stimulant that promised to eliminate the need for sleep. The prisoners were promised freedom if they endured the experiment for 30 days without sleep.

6.2 Procedure

The gas was administered through a sealed chamber wherein the prisoners were put. They were given all the freedom to eat, drink and dance but without a single nap for a month straight.

Initially, they exhibited signs of euphoria and hyperactivity but as days passed without sleep, their behavior became increasingly erratic and terrifying. They reported seeing disturbing hallucinations, becoming paranoid, and displaying violent tendencies toward each other.

6.3 End Result

As the experiment progressed, the prisoners’ physical and mental health deteriorated rapidly. They developed severe infections due to self-inflicted injuries and neglecting basic hygiene. The gas stimulant seemingly kept them awake even after their bodies should have succumbed to exhaustion.

Eventually, after 15 long treacherous days, the experimenters decided to call off the study as the prisoners’ health declined at an alarming rate. When they entered the chamber to remove the gas, they found a gruesome scene. A scene one could not forget for years.

The prisoners had brutally mutilated themselves. It was so horrific that some of the researchers puked at the very sight of it.

Some missing their flesh while some tearing out their organs and committing acts of extreme self-harm. One of the prisoners had even ripped open his abdomen and pulled out his intestines.

6.4 Aftermath

Even after the chamber was opened, the remaining prisoners begged the researchers to continue administering the gas. They showed no want for sleep or even a nap. They were completely averted to the idea of sleeping. But, the researchers refused and ended the experiment completely.

The story concludes with a chilling revelation that the gas was not a stimulant but instead a gas-based sedative designed to eliminate the need for sleep.

The drug had sent the prisoners into a state of extreme psychosis. And we all know how that ends – nightmarish days and even worse nights.

7. What Does the Future Hold?

sleep
Photo by Vlada Karpovich/Pexels Copyright@2023

7.1 Personalized Sleep Interventions:

With advances in data analytics and AI, sleep medicine is moving towards personalized interventions. Combining genetic information, lifestyle factors, and sleep study data could lead to tailored treatment plans for individuals with sleep disorders.

7.2 Circadian Rhythm Interventions:

Research into circadian rhythms and their impact on health is expected to continue. Innovative interventions like personalized light therapy and chronotherapy may emerge to optimize circadian alignment and sleep-wake cycle.

7.3 Brain-Computer Interfaces:

Emerging brain-computer interface technologies may enable direct and non-invasive monitoring of brain activity during sleep. Such interfaces could offer novel insights into sleep processes and sleep disorder pathophysiology.

7.4 Neuroimaging Brain Connectivity:

It is no surprise that advancements in neuroimaging techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging(fMRI) and electroencephalography will shed more light on the brain’s functioning.

At present, we are unaware of 98% of the human brain and it’s quite concerning given the heavy research going on in the field. But until then, we’ll just have to rely on counting sheep and drinking warm milk to get to our Zzzs!

7.5 Sleep and Aging Research:

The current wave of innovations helps us foresee how the role of sleeping in ageing will receive increasing attention as the world’s population ages.

You’ll be surprised to know that older adults need around 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, although they tend to go to bed and wake up earlier than when they were younger. Interesting, isn’t it?

7.6 Environmental Influences on Sleep:

Recently, there has been a growing interest in examining how environmental factors can influence sleep. Researchers are focusing on variables such as noise, air quality, and temperature as they appear to play a significant role in impacting sleep quality.

Gaining a better understanding of these factors could pave the way for improved sleep environments and more effective public health recommendations. Nonetheless, we must not overlook one of the most crucial environmental factors – the snoring of your roommate!

8. Conclusion…

In conclusion, advanced sleep studies have played a pivotal role in the field of sleep medicine, facilitating accurate diagnosis and treatment of various sleep disorders.

Through sophisticated techniques like polysomnography (PSG), actigraphy, and multiple sleep latency tests (MSLT), researchers and healthcare providers have gained valuable insights into sleep architecture, sleep quality, and disturbances in the wake-sleep cycle.

Despite their importance, advanced sleep studies do face challenges and limitations. Be it in terms of cost or accessibility. Such plague hinders their widespread implementation, calling for more cost-effective and convenient alternatives.

Additionally, the intrusiveness of monitoring equipment and disruption of natural sleep environments in sleep centers can impact study results and participants’ experiences.

Looking to the future, sleep studies are poised for exciting developments. Contactless sleep monitoring using radar technology and advancements in wearable sleep-tracking devices offer promising, non-invasive approaches to collecting sleep-related data.

Artificial intelligence, data analytics, and genetic research may lead to personalized sleep medicine.

Not only that, we may soon be introduced to tailor-made treatment planning and other technologies that presently look unconquerable. Telemedicine and remote monitoring are expected to be the new-age superheroes and increase access to sleep care, benefiting individuals in remote areas or with limited mobility.

In conclusion, advanced sleep studies are a critical component of modern healthcare, contributing to our understanding of sleep disorders and promoting sleep health for individuals and communities.

Author

  • Tanishq

    Tanishq was born and brought up in Bihar, India in 2005. Coming from a close-knit and supportive family, she has been very close to her roots and ethics. She completed her schooling at Notre Dame Academy, Patna and is currently looking forward to pursuing medicine as her major. Her profound interest in the culinary arts stems from her father's background as a chef. Talking about her academic achievements, Tanishq has secured various state level and national level honoraries. She also actively volunteers for NGOs like Team Everest. She is a writing enthusiast and has been writing blogs and articles for a while now.

Tanishq
Tanishq
Tanishq was born and brought up in Bihar, India in 2005. Coming from a close-knit and supportive family, she has been very close to her roots and ethics. She completed her schooling at Notre Dame Academy, Patna and is currently looking forward to pursuing medicine as her major. Her profound interest in the culinary arts stems from her father's background as a chef. Talking about her academic achievements, Tanishq has secured various state level and national level honoraries. She also actively volunteers for NGOs like Team Everest. She is a writing enthusiast and has been writing blogs and articles for a while now.

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