2 posts tagged “chronic illnesses”

Circadian rhythms and health: What’s the connection?

Posted November 20th, 2017 by

More than 3,600 PatientsLikeme members are living with insomnia, and 100+ report a circadian rhythm disorder. In October, three researchers won the Nobel Prize for their work examining the relationship between sleep, circadian rhythms and health. So with Daylight Saving Time just behind us, we’re bringing you more info about the “body clock” and how it can affect health.

Let’s back up — what ARE circadian rhythms?

  • Circadian rhythms are physical, mental, or behavioral changes that follow a daily cycle. They’re regulated by biological clocks, which exist in most tissues and organs in the cells.
  • A master clock coordinates all of the biological clocks and contributes to our sleep patterns (it also affects eating habits, body temperature, and other functions).
  • These internal “body clocks” are affected by environmental cues, like sunlight and temperature.

New research making headlines

The 2017 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to three Americans for their work on circadian rhythms. The Nobel committee said their research was pivotal, because “the misalignment between a person’s lifestyle and the rhythm dictated by an inner timekeeper — jet lag after a trans-Atlantic flight, for example — could affect well-being and over time could contribute to the risks for various diseases.”

What’s the relationship between sleep and circadian rhythms?

  • Circadian rhythms help determine our sleep patterns. The body’s master clock, or SCN, controls the production of melatonin, a hormone that makes you sleepy. It receives information about incoming light from the optic nerves. So when there is less light—like at night—the SCN tells the brain to make more melatonin so you get drowsy.
  • For most adults, the biggest dip in energy happens in the middle of the night (between 2:00am and 4:00am) and just after lunchtime (ever crave a post-lunch nap around 1:00pm to 3:00pm?).
  • When things disrupt your sleep habits, like jet lag, daylight savings time, or a late night, they also disrupt your circadian rhythms, which can leave you feeling more irritable and make it harder to concentrate.
  • People who work rotating or shift schedules (nurses, law enforcement, etc.) are most at risk for disrupted circadian rhythms. Having an irregular schedule can wreak havoc on circadian rhythms.
  • All caught up on sleep? You won’t feel the dips and rises of your circadian rhythms as strongly. When you’re sleep-deprived, you may notice bigger swings of sleepiness and alertness.

How can it impact health and chronic illness?

  • Circadian rhythms influence short term memory, creativity and learning performance, weight gain/loss and your immune system.
  • Lack of sleep affects levels of metabolic hormones that regulate satiety and hunger. When you’re sleep deprived, your body decreases production of leptin, the hormone that tells your brain you’re satisfied, and increases ghrelin, a hormone that triggers hunger.
  • Disrupted circadian rhythms and lack of sleep are associated with diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder and seasonal affective disorder — and can negatively affect many chronic illnesses, including Parkinson disease, Alzheimer’s, MS, gastrointestinal tract disorders and kidney disease.

Think your circadian rhythms might be out of whack?

  • Try minimizing your screen time with electronics that mimic daylight (laptops, TV’s, cell phones, portable game consoles, etc.). And if possible, try to maintain a regular schedule when it comes to sleep, wake and meal times.
  • If you’re having trouble sleeping, feeling tired often or noticing any other symptoms, talk to your doctor.

How are you sleeping? Join PatientsLikeMe to connect with and learn from nearly 3,600 members with insomnia and share how your condition affects your sleep and circadian rhythm in the forum.

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Harnessing New Media for Patient Advocacy (Part II)

Posted December 9th, 2009 by

A few weeks ago, I was invited to present on behalf of PatientsLikeMe at the Arthritis Foundation workshop held in Newport, RI.  The presentation was on how to “harness new media for patient advocacy” – the same as what I presented at a workshop for non-profits in northern New England in August.  This time the audience included non-profits in the southern half of New England.  Among those in attendance were representatives from organizations that mean a lot to us, and our patient communities, including regional branches of the American Parkinson’s Disease Association, CFIDS & FM Association, and the Epilepsy Foundation.

af-ri-kennedy-pejpg

One of the highlights for attendees was an impassioned keynote speech by Rep. Patrick Kennedy (pictured above with me and my wife Emma) who advocated the use of the web to support mass organization of patients with serious and chronic illnesses to accelerate research and improve standards of care. We couldn’t agree more.  It’s exciting and validating to know influential decision-makers are recognizing the potential of communities like PatientsLikeMe.

PatientsLikeMe member pwicks