Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Sleep Education Blog has moved!

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine thanks all of the readers who have been following the Sleep Education Blog since its launch in January 2009. We hope that the blog has kept you informed with the latest news, updates and tips about sleep and sleep disorders.

We are excited to announce that the blog recently moved to the AASM’s website at www.sleepeducation.com.  On the website you will continue to find the same relevant and insightful content that you have come to expect from the blog.

Launched in 2005, www.sleepeducation.com has received a complete overhaul.  The new site includes online videos and full social media integration.  All content is dynamic and easy to share on Facebook, Twitter and other leading social networks.

The website has new bells and whistles.  But it still provides you with accurate information about sleep disorders from the leader in sleep medicine.   And you will continue to get the best and most relevant information about sleep from the integrated blog.  This includes the latest findings from sleep research and helpful tips to improve your sleep.

The website also features a directory of AASM-accredited member sleep centers.  Powered by Google Maps, the directory will help you find a trusted local sleep center.  Get the medical help you need for sleep apnea, insomnia or any other sleep illness.

We hope you will visit our new website today at www.sleepeducation.com!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Binge eating causes sleep issues during, after pregnancy

Binge eating or consuming unusually large amounts of food, before or during pregnancy, can cause sleep problems during pregnancy. Those sleep problems can also last as long as 18 months after childbirth.
Scientists found that women with binge eating disorder symptoms before and during pregnancy had more sleep problems than a group of women with no reported symptoms. They also had increased sleep dissatisfaction 18 months after childbirth.

Participants with binge eating disorder symptoms before and during pregnancy, pre-pregnancy symptoms that went away during pregnancy, or pregnant women who binge eat for emotional reasons, were 26 percent more likely, to report sleeping problems than participants with no reported eating disorder symptoms.

All women, regardless of eating disorder status, reported more sleep problems during the first 18 weeks of pregnancy. This is because women experience changes in their sleep patterns by their 11-12th week of pregnancy. As a result, they get more hours of sleep, but less deep sleep, and more waking up during the night. In addition to hormonal changes and the physical discomfort, conditions like sleep-disordered breathing and restless leg syndrome sometimes appear during pregnancy.

The authors of the study, published in the journal SLEEP recommend comprehensive mental health screening during pregnancy. To their knowledge, their study is the only one to examine sleep and binge eating symptoms during pregnancy.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Melatonin improves sleep during hypertension treatment

Melatonin supplements may improve sleep in hypertension patients who are on beta-blockers.
Scientists found that three weeks of melatonin use significantly improved their sleep quality and helped them stay asleep compared with a placebo.

Patients taking melatonin increased total sleep time by 37 minutes. They also spent less time awake in bed, and fell asleep quicker. The authors of the study, published in the journal SLEEP observed that the melatonin improved sleep tolerence without the common side effects of drug tolerance or rebound insomnia.

Beta-blockers are drugs that affect the body’s response to certain nerve impulses and are sometimes used in hypertension patients. These medications suppress endogenous nighttime melatonin secretion, which may explain a reported side effect of insomnia.

Melatonin is effective in resetting the body's circadian rhythms, and is used frequently for jet lag. Findings are mixed on whether melatonin helps improve sleep in otherwise healthy patients with insomnia.

If you have insomnia and are not on a beta-blocker, there are other ways you can tackle your insomnia. These include cognitive behavioral therapy and medications. The AASM advises you to talk to your doctor before taking melatonin or any medication. Your doctor may refer you a sleep medicine physician at an AASM-accredited sleep disorders center. Visit www.sleepcenters.org to find an AASM-accredited sleep center near you.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Review: Sleepwalk With Me

Don't mistake "Sleepwalk With Me" as a story about a man coming to terms with the rare and intriguing REM sleep behavior disorder. Mike Birbiglia's semi-autobiographical new film is a highly personal and often understated account of a struggling comedian in a troubled relationship. The sleep disorder gets little screen time, but those moments are memorable and pivotal to the story.

Birbiglia, a comedian and regular on the popular radio show This American Life, co-wrote, co-directed and stars as his thinly veiled doppelganger Matt Pandamiglio. Matt is a thirty-something who is facing not-so-subtle pressure from his long-time girlfriend and family to get married. He adores his girlfriend, who is played by Lauren Ambrose, but he just can't bring himself to marry her. On top of that, his aspirations to become a stand-up comedian are going nowhere. He spends his evenings bartending at a comedy club, where he occasionally gets to perform.

Matt's anxieties begin to bubble over into strange and vivid dreams, which he acts out in his bedroom. His father is quick to notice that he may have REM Sleep Behavior Disorder, a rare and dangerous parasomnia that gets worse over time.

Instead of seeing a doctor, Matt gets swept away by an opportunity to jump-start his comedy career. While he's on the road, the sleep disorder causes a near-fatal accident, which happened to Birbiglia in real life. A dream about a missile attack caused him to jump out of a second story window of a La Quinta Inn.

"Sleepwalk With Me" succeeds as a small independent release and as an introduction to a very serious sleep disorder. The movie tastefully mixes Birbiglia's joke-laced narrative driven approach to stand-up comedy with the modest, thoughtful storytelling of This American Life. This is no surprise: the film was produced and co-written by Ira Glass, the host and creator of This American Life.

The film provides a fairly realistic view of REM sleep behavior disorder, and the dream sequences involving the disorder are especially imaginative (see below). Also novel is the method in which the film explains REM sleep behavior disorder to the audience. Without spoiling anything, it involves a cameo by Dr. William Dement, the real-life father of sleep medicine. For this reason alone, "Sleepwalk With Me" is worth viewing for anyone with an interest in sleep medicine.

As bizarre as it sounds, REM sleep behavior disorder is a real sleep disorder recognized by the International Classification of Sleep Disorders - Second Edition. People with REM sleep behavior disorder often flail, shout, punch, kick or leap as they act out their vivid dreams. The sleep disorder gets worse over time when left untreated, and injury is likely. In extreme cases, the dreamer may injure or kill themselves or a partner.

A board certified sleep physician diagnoses REM sleep behavior disorder using an overnight sleep study. The disorder is treatable with medications such as Clonazepam combined with bedroom safety precautions. Birbiglia has stated before that he confines himself in a sleeping bag while wearing mittens, so he doesn’t injure himself as he sleeps. People with REM sleep behavior disorder should also move any objects away from the bed, and block any windows.

Sleepwalk With Me opens on August 24, and is showing in a limited run at these theaters.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Exercise may help alleviate daytime effects of sleep apnea

A daily trip to the gym can help dampen the daytime misery due to sleep apnea, new research shows. A study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that a 12-week exercise program helped improve daytime functioning in a small sample of adults with sleep apnea.

The study randomly assigned 43 sedentary and overweight adults with untreated sleep apnea to an aerobic and resistance training program or a low-intensity stretching routine. Subjects in the training group ran on a treadmill for about 40 minutes a day, four days a week. The group also lifted weights twice a week. The exercises were designed to work each major muscle group, and included shoulder and chest press, row, leg and bicep curls and abdominal crunches.

After 12 weeks, the group that participated in the exercise program reported improved daytime functioning. They were less sleepy, less depressed and in a better overall mood. The results are promising, but due to a relatively small sample size further research is needed on the benefits of exercise for patients with untreated sleep apnea.

Even if you don't have sleep apnea, regular exercise can boost your energy, reduce your stress and improve your mood. Exercise can also help slow or prevent health conditions such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Some research has also suggested that it can help you sleep better.

Image by SashaW