Quality of Sleep & The Impact on Our Brains

For both children and adults, health care professionals often emphasize the importance of getting enough sleep. While it is critical that we carve out enough time in our busy schedules for our bodies and minds to rest and recharge, the quality of our sleep is also at least equally important. Snoring can be a sign of significant sleep quality disruption and a symptom of Obstructive Sleep Apnea.  According to the National Healthy Sleep Awareness Project, sleep apnea affects at least 25 million adults in the U.S. Children, adolescents, and adults who suffer from sleep apnea often sleep for a satisfactory amount of time, but wake up feeling tired or experience significant sleepiness during the day.

In a recent article in the Journal of Sleep Research, Paul Macey and colleagues at UCLA published findings examining differences in neurotransmitter (brain chemical) concentrations between individuals with and without sleep apnea. Notably, Macey and colleagues observed sizable differences in 2 important neurotransmitters (lower GABA and higher glutamate) among those with sleep apnea. Interestingly, Macey and colleagues suggested that this pattern of differences may be linked to mood, and may explain why those with sleep apnea have increased rates of depression and anxiety.

In honoring National Sleep Awareness week (March 6-13), we can all take steps to ensure we are prioritizing our sleep, both in quantity and quality. Good sleep hygiene involves establishing a consistent sleep routine (i.e., going to bed and waking up at approximately the same time each day, limiting naps), maintaining a comfortable sleep environment (e.g., dark, cool, and quiet room), and limiting our screentime before bed. If you or your child is struggling with sleep, please contact us about our sleep-related services. We can work with you to assess for possible barriers in receiving adequate, good quality sleep, and develop a plan for improving your sleep hygiene, mood, and behavior.