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Why does REM sleep go rogue? Here’s what the science says.

REM is when we should dream deeply, unmoving and unaware. But some of us move and make choices during REM. Learn why that happens. Plus, warnings for night owls!
A young Black woman inside a car rests with her eyes closed against the sun and her arms on the open door window frame, seen in the side mirror.

If you learn today that the band R.E.M.’s name stands for rapid eye movement—the dream state we’re gonna explore this week—you’re in good company. And sure, it may seem odd to dig into sleep news as Thursday’s summer solstice delivers the shortest night of the year. But who doesn’t covet sleep?!

So read on to learn why some of us think we rule over it, why others of us sorta don’t get it, and why a few of us act violently while we’re getting it.

Wishing you easeful zzz’s as you scroll into…

  • The Checkup: is it just us, or is it getting hot in here?
  • Short Nights: night owls + rough REM + breakthroughs
  • Healthcare: Supreme ruling + long Cvd + medical debt

The Checkup:

Shift it, night owls!

The arm of a white man with an owl tattoo leaning out from bed.

Researchers out of Stanford have found that no good sleep starts after 1 am.

Prior studies suggest that it can be dangerous to sleep against your chronotype—our natural inclination to sleep + wake around a particular time, influenced by our circadian rhythm. But in their preliminary study, the team found that when people of any chronotype went to bed after 1 am, they were more at risk for mental + behavioral health issues.

Not trusting their results, they repeated the study over and over only to arrive at the same conclusion—night owl sleep is not healthy sleep!

Unhealthy nighttime behaviors, social isolation and poor decision-making could contribute to the greater risk. And the mind after midnight theory suggests that late-night neurological and physiological changes can make us more impulsive, pessimistic and with impaired judgment.

Until we know more, night owls, beware: you’re up to 40% more likely to be diagnosed with a mental health disorder than owls who get to bed earlier.

Get tips on how to make the shift at Stanford Medicine.

Sleep no more?

Sleepy Blonde Woman Sitting In The Window Taking A Cup Of Coffee In The Morning

For decades, a certain kind of insomniac would go to a sleep clinic, get 20 electrodes taped to their head, lay down, and eight hours later report they’d barely nodded off—despite polysomnography tests marking they’d slept through the night. This scenario puzzled researchers until they recently upped the electrode number to 256.

Now, the tests revealed new insight.

During REM, we should be fully + physically immersed in our dreams and feel entirely asleep. But polysomnograph showed those with interrupted REM don’t get that release.

Instead, their fast brain wave activity continues, keeping them connected to active thought. That’s why study participants reported not sleeping: while they dreamt, they could intentionally put an item on their grocery or to-do list.

The disruption has problematic implications. During REM, our brain helps us process difficult experiences from our day. Those with interrupted REM lose out on that vital processing, which puts them at higher risk for PTSD + other mental health issues.

Scary-fascinating, huh? Read more at Scientific American.

Breaking bad, breakthroughs

A glowing orange tent in the forest at night.

We shouldn't be able to add yogurt to our grocery list during REM. Nor should we be able to get up + act out our dreams—for a long time, researchers assumed our brain practically paralyzes our body during this stage.

Then, in 1982, a man who had routinely acted out violent dreams was put in a sleep lab and helped researchers uncover an unexpected disorder. People with rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder (RBD) can run, drive, jump, punch and even choke someone while acting out a dream scenario.

Decades later, some medications can suppress dream-inspired physicality. But reporting RBD symptoms serves another purpose: it can signal that neurodegeneration might come later in life.

Our stalk-like brain stem controls our sleep-wake cycle. Cells in + around it start to die for those with Parkinson’s and dementia. Treatments for RBD might slow the onset of those conditions, so clinical trials are underway at medical centers across the US to identify them!

Learn more at CNN.

Healthcare 411

Supreme Court upholds access to mifepristone abortion pill in unanimous decision (The Hill). The Supreme Court ruled that access to mifepristone has not harmed anti-abortion doctors, so they don't have any legal basis to challenge it. The FDA has repeatedly found that mifepristone is a safe and effective alternative to surgical abortion. Currently approved up to 10 weeks of pregnancy, providers can prescribe abortion medications via telehealth and mail them across state lines.

They can prescribe birth control via telehealth, too. Start a $15 birth control consult.

What causes long COVID? Case builds for rogue antibodies (Nature). Several studies have suggested autoantibodies (antibodies that go rogue + attack the immune system) might be one cause of long Covid. A new study supports this theory, as antibodies from long Covid patients injected into mice caused increased pain + reduced mobility. Flagging government interest + policymaking might thwart further research, leaving the 10% to 30% of people who get long Covid after an infection indefinitely ill.

Biden administration announces a plan for removing medical debt from credit reports (NPR). Last year, major credit agencies started removing medical debt below $500 from credit scores. Now, the Biden Administration plans to have them remove all medical debt entirely, citing how medical debt does not signify an individual’s creditworthiness and how lower scores threaten access to housing, financial security and health. Many groups are also urging the government to bar tax-exempt hospitals from practices like refusing medical care for those with past-due bills or selling patient debt.

If you or someone you love is financially struggling + needs treatment for a common condition, Dr. B offers No-Cost Care.

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