The Week in Sleep News: March 1, 2024

Service dogs may help children with Autism Spectrum Disorder sleep better and longer.


This week in sleep news…

Sleep brainwaves flush brain of waste

Scientists from Washington University School of Medicine seeking to learn more about how our brains process waste removal have found that neurons act as "master organizers" during sleep. The study, published in Nature, shares that neurons work together, synchronizing their activity to facilitate waste removal from the brain. By studying sleeping mice, the team found that neurons generate rhythmic waves by firing coordinated electrical signals. Silencing specific brain regions disrupted these waves, hindering the flow of cerebrospinal fluid and trapping waste. This coordinating activity removes debris from the brain by controlling the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (an ultrafiltrate of plasma contained in the brain that does things such as provide nourishment and waste removal).

This discovery was made by researchers studying the brains of sleeping mice who observed neurons driving the cleaning efforts by firing electrical signals in a coordinated fashion to generate rhythmic waves in the brain. Researchers then silenced specific brain regions so that neurons in there didn’t create rhythmic waves. Without these waves, fresh cerebrospinal fluid could not flow through the silenced brain regions and trapped waste wasn’t able to leave the brain.

While further studies are needed, this research indicates that improving the brain’s waste removal efficiency could lead to healthier brains even with less sleep, offering new avenues for treating sleep disorders and enhancing overall well-being.

Having a service dog may lead to sleep improvements in children with autism spectrum disorder

Service dogs have become an increasingly more recommended option for those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). While there has been medical support for the benefits service dogs can provide, there was a lack of credible research supporting the benefits. Looking to broaden the understanding of the benefits of service dogs for children with ASD, a group of scientists conducted a study on children with ASD and their caregivers. For this study, researchers recruited families that had a child between 5 and 18 years old with an autism diagnosis. The study group included 75 families in total, including 39 families whose dogs had been in their homes for at least six months before the study, and a control group of 36 families that engaged in usual care while on the wait-list for a service dog.

Researchers found an association between the presence of service dogs and improved sleep behaviors for their children, including positive sleep initiation, longer sleep, and reduced sleep anxiety and co-sleeping behaviors with caregivers. However, they found that there weren’t any other measurable benefits in other areas of child and caregiver well-being.

Relaxing words may help sleep

Hearing relaxing words while asleep may make you more relaxed according to new research published in the Journal of Sleep Research. Researchers looked at the interaction between the heart and the brain by studying cardiac activity through electrocardiograms. They found that when sleepers were read relaxing words, their heartbeat slowed down; however, when they were read neutral words, their heartbeat remained the same. These findings emphasize the interconnectedness of the brain and body, even in states where communication seems limited, such as during sleep.

In fun sleep news...

For all those who enjoy funky vacation rentals with unique personalities, you can now sleep a night in an Eggo House of Pancakes. Nestled in the heart of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, the house features a short stack-shaped bed and a fully stocked fridge. The rental, which sleeps up to eight people, is free, but only accepting bookings in March. While the first weekend is already fully booked, the rest of the available slots will open on Mondays at 11 a.m. CT on a rolling basis through March 18.

In sleep-centric social media news….

TikToker Alex shared her take on a fun new trend, sharing that her sign that she won the lottery would be purchasing an Alaskan king bed.