Saturday, February 28, 2009

Begin to Spring Forward Before the March 8 Change to Daylight Saving Time

Are you planning ahead for the change to daylight saving time on Sunday, March 8? You should.

Sleep experts advise you to go to bed 15 or 20 minutes earlier each night before the time change. This will give your body time to adjust.

You may be thinking, “It’s only an hour. What’s the big deal?”

Well, the one-hour time change may affect you more than you realize. Consider these research findings:

New England Journal of Medicine: Heart attacks are significantly increased for the first three weekdays after the transition to daylight saving time in the spring. The authors suggest that the best explanation for this risk is that the time change causes sleep deprivation.

BMC Physiology: The transition in and out of daylight saving time disrupts sleep and enhances restlessness. Springing forward by an hour is more disruptive for people who are “evening types” or “night owls.” These people have a hard time falling asleep when they go to bed early. So they may be unable to compensate for the time change. As a result they may go to bed even later than normal. This can deprive them of much-needed sleep.

Current Biology: The timing of sleep on free days naturally follows the seasonal progression of dawn under standard time. The human circadian system does not adjust to daylight saving time.

Neuroscience Letters: The transition to daylight saving time reduces both sleep efficiency and sleep duration. Sleep efficiency is the percentage of time in bed that you spend sleeping.

So maybe you should ease into daylight saving time this year. Learn more from the AASM about Planning Ahead for Daylight Saving Time.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Sarah Connor is Right: A Sleep Study Can Help You Terminate Your Sleep Problem

Sarah Connor has the right idea. If she is going to save the world, she has to get some sleep first. If only she could get rid of these pesky nightmares.

So in tonight’s episode of the
Terminator TV series she checks into a sleep clinic for a sleep study. Of course, things don’t quite go as expected. Or as the show’s promo says, “Suspicious things begin happening.”

You can check out the episode “Some Must Watch While Some Must Sleep” at 8 p.m. EST on FOX.

For your own
sleep problems, you can check in at one of nearly 1,700 AASM-accredited sleep centers across the country. It sounds like Sarah should have made sure that her sleep center was accredited before she spent the night.

AASM accreditation is the “gold standard” for the profession. It shows that a sleep center or lab maintains the highest standards in all it does.

It also ensures that you receive expert care. AASM-accredited sleep centers are required to have a board-certified sleep specialist as the medical director.

A sleep study gathers the information that will help your doctor solve the riddle of your sleep problem. This provides the foundation for an effective
treatment plan.

Treating a sleep disorder promotes your health and well-being. In the long run it also can save you money.

Want to learn more? Find out how A Sleep Study May be Your Best Investment for Long-Term Health.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Losing Weight: Which Diet is Best?

If you are obese, weight loss is one strategy to reduce the severity of obstructive sleep apnea. It is unlikely to cure sleep apnea, but it can help. And losing weight can produce many other benefits for your health and well-being.

But where do you begin? There are so many types of diets. Each one has its supporters. And it’s easy to be lured in by an advertisement – many of which make
false claims.

Should you focus on a high-protein diet? High fat, low carb? High carb, low fat? How do you know?

A new,
long-term study provides some helpful insight. It involved 811 adults. They had an average age of 51 and an average body mass index (BMI) of 33.

Each person was assigned to one of four types of diets. The diets allowed differing portions of fat, protein and carbs. All of the diets had the same goals for reducing calories. The diets also were heart healthy: low in saturated fat and cholesterol, high in fiber.

Each diet plan included group counseling sessions two to three times per month. Individual sessions were held every two months. The common goal for activity was to get 90 minutes of moderate exercise per week.

Which diet was the winner? It was a tie. The amount of weight loss after two years was similar for all four diets. On each diet plan, participants lost an average of eight to 10 pounds. They also reduced their waistlines by one to three inches. Most of the weight loss - an average of 13 pounds - occurred in the first six months.

Maintaining the weight loss was harder. The majority of people slowly regained some weight after 12 months. About 23 percent of people continued to lose weight from six months to two years.

Eighty percent of people completed the two-year study. For each diet about 31 to 37 percent of people lost at least 5 percent of their body weight. Fourteen to 15 percent lost at least 10 percent of their body weight.

Dramatic weight loss was rare. Only two to four percent of people in each diet group lost 44 pounds or more.

Attendance at counseling sessions was related to weight loss. People who attended two-thirds of the sessions lost almost 20 pounds over two years.

So which should it be - high protein? High carbs? The results suggest that any type of heart-healthy, low-calorie diet can be effective. For long-term success the authors recommend choosing a diet that fits your personal preferences.

Weight loss is not a quick fix. So it is important to continue
CPAP therapy for sleep apnea while on any diet program.

Get tips for setting goals for weight loss and choosing a weight-loss program from the Federal Trade Commission.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

President’s Address: Economy is the “Source of Sleepless Nights”

Last night President Obama gave his first address to a joint session of Congress. As expected, it was dominated by talk of the economy.

Early in his remarks the president noted one side effect of the struggling economy: It’s keeping us awake at night.

“You don’t need to hear another list of statistics to know that our economy is in crisis, because you live it every day. It’s the worry you wake up with and the source of sleepless nights.”

Research shows that the president may be right. There is a connection between financial struggles and sleep problems.

January we described how women who report financial strain have more sleep complaints. They also spend a greater percentage of time awake while in bed.

study shows that ongoing financial strain has a similar effect on the elderly. They also spend more time awake while in bed.

study of farmers shows that economic concerns also can be severe for people involved in seasonal work. Many of the farmers suffered from sleep deprivation during peak seasons. This sleep loss was linked to worries about cash flow.

new study shows that unemployment is another economic concern that can affect sleep. It found a strong independent association between sleep problems and unemployment.

In January the
U.S. unemployment rate rose to 7.6 percent. About 11.6 million people were without a job.

Worrying about the economy can cause
insomnia, which is the most common sleep complaint. About one-third of adults report having insomnia symptoms.

A stressful event such as a job loss or a pay cut can cause
adjustment insomnia. It often occurs along with anxiety, worry, sadness or depression. You also may be unable to stop thinking about the problem.

The good news is that adjustment insomnia tends to last for only a few days. Sometimes it may linger for a few weeks. Normal sleep returns when the stressful event has passed or you have adapted to it.

About 10 percent of adults have chronic insomnia that lasts for more than a month. It can affect how you function during the day.

Get help for chronic insomnia at an
AASM-accredited sleep center near you.

White House photo 2/24/09 by Pete Souza

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Losing Weight: Bariatric Surgery & Sleep Apnea

Is bariatric surgery a good treatment option for an obese person who has obstructive sleep apnea?

recent study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine provides caution. The study involved 24 men and women with sleep apnea.

Before surgery they had an average
body mass index (BMI) of 51. A BMI of 30 or higher is considered “obese.”

Their sleep apnea also was severe. They had an average apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) of 47.9.

This means that they stopped breathing about 48 times per hour of sleep. In general an AHI of more than 30 is considered “severe.”

Bariatric surgery did provide some benefits. But it wasn’t a cure.

One year after surgery the participants were still obese; but they had a much lower average BMI of 32.

Their average AHI also dropped to 24.5. But only one person no longer had sleep apnea.

The majority of the group still had moderate to severe sleep apnea. All but one of them also continued to
snore. They still needed to use CPAP therapy to restore normal breathing during sleep.

AASM recommends bariatric surgery as an optional treatment for severe obesity and sleep apnea. But it should only be used along with a first-line treatment such as CPAP.

NIDDK warns that complications can occur with bariatric surgery. These include blood clots and hernias.

There also is a 10 percent chance of unsatisfactory weight loss. Some people also regain much of the weight they lose after surgery.

Bariatric surgery also is costly. The NIDDK estimates that the price for surgery is about $20,000 to $25,000.

Medicare only covers bariatric surgery if you are “morbidly obese” with a BMI of at least 35. You also must have a serious health condition related to obesity. Sleep apnea is listed by Medicare as one of the obesity-related problems that is covered.

Contact an AASM –accredited sleep center to discuss all treatment options for sleep apnea.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sleep Apnea & Women: What are the Signs?

Male. Middle-aged. Obese. Snores loudly and frequently. Bedpartner notices pauses in breathing during sleep. That is the typical description of a person who has obstructive sleep apnea.

But don’t be mistaken:
Women have sleep apnea too.

Do women have different symptoms than men? A
new study takes a look. It compared 20 women with 71 men who were all admitted to a sleep clinic.

The average age, body mass index and blood pressure were similar between men and women. They also reported a similar level of
daytime sleepiness.

Snoring was the most common symptom in both men and women. It was reported by 95 percent of the men and 90 percent of the women.

Women were more likely than men to report
morning headaches. They were less likely to have dry mouth in the morning. Women also were more likely to have depression or hypothyroidism.

The results support a
previous study in the journal Sleep. That study also found that women with sleep apnea were more likely to complain about insomnia.

Sleep apnea is more common in
women who are menopausal or postmenopausal. Having a neck size of 16 inches or more also increases a woman’s risk for sleep apnea.

View a list of warning signs for sleep apnea. Find out if you are at risk for sleep apnea.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Table for One: Sleep Related Eating Disorder

You wake up in the morning and discover that your kitchen is a mess. Half-eaten food is scattered all over the place.

The kitchen was spotless when you went to bed. So what happened?

It may be a case of
sleep related eating disorder. SRED involves compulsive binge eating that occurs during the night.

Episodes often occur nightly. Some people with SRED even eat more than once per night.

The eating tends to occur when you are only partially awake. You may have no memory of the event in the morning.

SRED always occurs in an “out of control” manner. Food is prepared and consumed rapidly.

High-calorie foods are eaten the most. This can lead to excessive weight gain.

It is also common to eat strange foods or unusual combinations of food. For example you might eat a raw bacon, pickle and coffee grounds sandwich.

Careless food preparation can put you in danger. Fires can occur when you go back to bed with food cooking in the oven or on the stove.

Like other
eating disorders, SRED is much more common in women than in men. About 65 percent to 80 percent of people with SRED are women.

Episodes tend to begin before 30 years of age. SRED is often an ongoing and long-lasting problem.

It also can occur as a side effect of using some medications. Many people with SRED also have had another type of

SRED can cause embarrassment and a sense of shame. But the good news is that it can be treated.

SRED tends to respond well to treatment with
medications. Contact an AASM-accredited sleep center for help with sleep related eating disorder.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Sleeping Scared: Nightmares & Children

As a parent it is natural to be concerned when your child has a nightmare. But should these disturbing dreams cause you to worry about your child?

In most cases nightmares are a normal and common part of a child’s development. They occur in equal rates among boys and girls.

Children tend to begin having nightmares between the ages of three and six. The frequency of these disturbing dreams usually peaks between the ages of six and 10. Most children then begin to have nightmares less often.

Some children may continue to have nightmares as teens and adults. For them it may be a lifelong problem.

nightmare disorder may develop if a child has frequent nightmares that wake him or her from sleep. This disorder can cause anxiety, sleep loss and daytime problems. It is one of the childhood parasomnias.

In some children nightmares may be a sign of
post-traumatic stress disorder. This problem occurs when the child experiences a traumatic or stressful event. In his or her dreams the child may re-enact the event.

Parents can provide comfort and reassurance to a child who has nightmares.
Cognitive behavioral therapy may help in the case of an ongoing problem.

Parents also can follow these tips to help a child who has nightmares:

  • Let your child sleep with a special blanket or stuffed animal for security.

  • Use a dim nightlight in your child’s room to help him or her feel safe.

  • Respond quickly to comfort your child when he or she wakes up from a nightmare.

  • Discuss nightmares openly with your child during the day.

  • Assure your child that it is normal for children and even adults to have nightmares.

  • Talk to your child’s doctor if recurring nightmares greatly disturb your child.

Are you unsure if your child is having nightmares or another type of parasomnia? Compare the common features of childhood parasomnias.

Get more tips for parents of a child who has a parasomnia.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Planes, Dreams & Relationships: When Dreaming is Believing

You’re sleeping during the night before a scheduled plane trip. Suddenly you wake up from a dream about a plane crash.

Do you still get on the plane the next day? Or do you change your travel plans because of the dream?

New research examines this and other questions about dreams. The results of six studies provide a look at how dreams affect our daily lives.

The plane crash study involved 182 commuters at a Boston train station. Results show that a dream of a plane crash is more likely to affect travel plans than a change in the U.S. government’s
national threat level.

What if a plane crash had actually occurred on their route the night before their trip? Both the plane crash and the dream would produce a similar level of anxiety.

Another one of the studies shows that dreams may affect how you respond to other people. What if you had a dream in which a friend protected you rather than betrayed you?

Would the dream affect your relationship with this person? People in the study reported that they would have greater affection for the friend because of the dream.

But dreams may only reinforce what we already believe. Study subjects were told that they’d had a dream about a person they know.

They considered a pleasant dream to be more important if the person was someone they liked. An unpleasant dream was more meaningful if they disliked the person.

“People attribute meaning to dreams when it corresponds with their pre-existing beliefs and desires,” lead author Carey Morewedge said in a
prepared statement.

One of the studies also examined how people from different cultures tend to interpret their dreams. It involved students from the U.S., India and South Korea.

The majority of students in each culture shared the same general belief about dreams. They believe that dreams reveal hidden truths about themselves and the world.

How important are dreams to you? Do your dreams have an effect on your daily life?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Acupuncture for Insomnia: Is There a Point?

Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine. It has been around for thousands of years. Can it be used to treat insomnia today?

new scientific review takes a look at the evidence. The authors looked at 30 studies.

What did they find? Acupuncture improved some aspects of sleep in 93 percent of the studies.

But the quality of the studies varied greatly. Only a few studies compared acupuncture with an unreal, “sham” control treatment. These studies produced mixed results.

Most of the studies relied on subjective sleep reports. Few studies recorded objective sleep data.

Acupuncture techniques also varied greatly. This makes it hard to compare the results.

The authors conclude that acupuncture has potential as an insomnia treatment. But there is only limited evidence to support its use.

2006 study reports that the use of alternative treatments for insomnia is widespread. It estimated that 1.6 million people in the U.S. use complimentary alternative medicine (CAM) to treat insomnia.

The study indicates that about 8.5 percent of these people use alternative medical systems. This includes acupuncture.

2007 survey also reports that 1.4 percent of adults used acupuncture in the past 12 months. Use of acupuncture increased from 2002 to 2007.

NCCAM reports that acupuncture is relatively safe. But the use of unsterile needles can cause an infection. An injury can occur if the treatment is provided improperly.

FDA requires that acupuncture needles be made of solid, stainless steel. They must be sterile and labeled for single use only.

Other proven treatments for insomnia are available. Both
cognitive behavioral therapy and medications are effective.

A board-certified sleep specialist can determine which treatment is best for you. Contact an
AASM-accredited sleep disorders center if you have an ongoing problem with insomnia.

Read an AASM review of common products used to treat insomnia.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Morning Headaches & Sleep Apnea

A new study takes a look at the link between morning headaches and obstructive sleep apnea.

The study involved 462 people with sleep apnea. A control group included 101 people without sleep apnea.

Results show that about 34 percent of the sleep apnea group reported having morning headaches. People with moderate to severe sleep apnea were more likely to wake with a headache.

Morning headaches also were more common in
women than in men. Only nine percent of the control group reported morning headaches.

People who reported morning headaches had much lower oxygen saturation levels during sleep. But the study was unable to determine a specific cause of the morning headaches.

The good news? Treating sleep apnea with
CPAP eliminated morning headaches in 90 percent of participants.

Other studies of sleep apnea and morning headaches have reported similar findings. But the exact nature of this relationship remains unclear.

Morning headaches can be considered a “
non-specific symptom” of sleep apnea. Waking with a headache is not a clear indication that you have sleep apnea.

But you should talk to your doctor if you have frequent morning headaches. This may be a cause for concern if you have other
warning signs of sleep apnea.

NINDS also reports that a sudden, severe headache can be a sign of a more serious medical problem. Visit your doctor if a headache occurs along with convulsions, fever, confusion, or pain in the eye or ear.

Are you at risk for sleep apnea? Complete this brief questionnaire to find out. Find help for sleep apnea at an AASM-accredited sleep disorders center near you.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Drowsy Racing: NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon Learns About Sleep Loss & Parenthood

Even a top NASCAR driver can suffer from drowsy driving. Especially when he’s a new parent.

Florida Today reports that sleep loss may help explain Jeff Gordon’s disappointing 2008 season. It seems that the four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion is still adjusting to fatherhood. His wife Ingrid gave birth to their daughter Ella Sofia on June 20, 2007.

“It's that I'm not sleeping,” Gordon recently told reporters. “I'm showing up to the race track trying to hold my eyes open because I'm sleep deprived because she was up crying at 3 in the morning. I'm trying to be a good husband, not necessarily just a good father, and play my role."

The 37-year-old Gordon already ranks as one of
the best NASCAR drivers in history. He is sixth on NASCAR’s all-time win list with 81 victories; “The King” Richard Petty is untouchable at the top with 200 wins. In the “modern era” of NASCAR racing, Gordon ranks second behind Darrel Waltrip’s 84 victories.

Yet in 2008 Gordon was winless for the first time
since 1993. On Sunday he started in third at the Daytona 500, race one of 36 in the 2009 Sprint Cup Series. He finished in 13th place.

Gordon’s problems are magnified because of his place in the public spotlight. But his sleep struggles are common for new parents.

According to AASM spokesperson Dr. Daniel Glaze, parents are at risk for losing hundreds of hours of sleep during their child’s first year of life. This sleep loss can have a severe effect on how you function during the day, even if you’re not a NASCAR driver.

“Sleep loss can affect job performance, impair cognitive performance, increase errors and slow reaction times,” said Glaze.

For Gordon, the race goes on. He’ll try to get some quality sleep before this Sunday’s
Auto Club 500 in Fontana, Calif.

Are you a parent who can relate to Gordon’s struggles? Did you find any good ways to get some sleep after your baby arrived?

The AASM offers
these tips to help new parents get a good night’s sleep.

Image courtesy of DuPont
Update 2/25/09: Gordon finished second in the Auto Club 500 behind Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth, crossing the finish line just 1.463 seconds after the winner.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Tension Headaches, Naps and Insomnia

Maybe it’s not such a good idea to take a nap when you have a headache.

A new study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine shows there may be a link between headaches, naps and insomnia.

The study involved 32 women who have tension headaches. Their average age was about 22 years. Ninety-four percent of the women reported that
stress was a trigger of their headaches.

Eighty-one percent of the women reported using sleep as a coping strategy for headaches. This made sleep the number one self-management strategy.

Sleep also was rated as the most effective intervention. Other common self-treatment methods were:

  • Medications
  • Relaxation
  • Distraction
  • Hot or cold compress

So is sleep the best treatment for tension headaches? Not exactly. Fifty-six percent of the women also reported that sleep problems are a trigger of their headaches.

“Insomnia is a common complaint among headache sufferers,” said principal investigator Jason C. Ong, PhD. “While napping may relieve pain, it may also result in poor sleep hygiene, thus triggering sleep disturbance or perpetuating an insomnia episode.”

So taking a nap may provide immediate headache relief. But the daytime sleep may cause you to be more alert that night.

This may lead to an episode of insomnia. Then the insomnia could trigger another tension headache the following day. To break this cycle, practice good
sleep hygiene and limit the use of naps as a headache treatment.

The NINDS recommends other treatment options. These include therapies that help you manage stress or relax your muscles. You may want to take a hot shower or apply moist heat to the back of the neck. A massage or gentle neck exercises also may be helpful.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sleep & Relationships: Practical Tips to Help a Sleep Stealer

Yesterday we looked at some signs that you or your bed partner may be a sleep stealer. Today let’s discuss three ways to put an end to sleep stealing.

First, seek medical help for an ongoing sleep disorder. Meet with a board-certified sleep specialist at an
AASM-accredited sleep center near you.

Many sleep disorders can be disruptive to your bed partner’s sleep. These include
snoring, obstructive sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome and grinding teeth – also called bruxism.

Or you may have one of the disturbing sleep disorders that are classified as a type of
parasomnia. If so, you can follow these ten tips for preventing parasomnias.

The need for medical help is most urgent if you suspect that you may have sleep apnea. It can increase your
risk for other health problems such as heart disease and stroke.

Loud and erratic snoring is a key
warning sign for sleep apnea. Another sign is when silent pauses during sleep are followed by gasping or choking sounds.

Second, you and your bed partner should both commit to “
sleep for seven” – to get at least seven hours of sleep every night. Then practice the healthy habits of good sleep hygiene.

Third, you can take some practical steps to prevent sleep stealing. We asked sleep specialist
Donna Arand, PhD, for some tips.

“Couples can purchase two twin mattresses and put them on a king frame and box spring so that body movements are not conducted to the sleeping partner,” she said. “It is also useful to have separate blankets or other top bed covers for each side of the bed to minimize disruption.”

Arand also recommends that couples keep the bedroom door ajar and use a dim night light in the bedroom or hallway. This will allow one of you to move quietly in and out of the room without disturbing the other. Arand also suggests using a “white noise” sound machine to drown out bothersome noises.

Have you found any useful ways to prevent sleep stealing?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Sleep & Relationships: Are You a Sleep Stealer in Bed?

For all of the procrastinating men out there, here’s a quick Valentine’s Day checklist. (You did know that today is Valentine’s Day, right?)

Chocolate. Flowers. More chocolate. Overly sentimental greeting card that somehow expresses “just how you feel.” Sleep.

Sleep? Sure – a good night’s sleep may be exactly what your valentine needs – especially if you’re a sleep stealer.

A sleep stealer? That’s right. Your
sleep habits or behaviors may cause your loved one to lose sleep at night. You may even cause her to have environmental sleep disorder.

2004 study in the journal Sleep examined how sleep affects a marriage. It found that an individual’s sleep problems can have a negative impact on his or her spouse’s health and well-being.

A sociologist has even described the “
Social Etiquette of Sleep.” He suggests that you can be an “inconsiderate or selfish” sleeper.

How do you know if you’re a sleep stealer? Here are seven signs. See if they describe you – or your bed partner. After all, both
men and women can be a sleep thief.

Signs that you may be a sleep stealer include:

  1. Snoring: You remain oblivious to the noise you’re making while you sleep. Your bed partner, on the other hand, is frustrated, annoyed and wide awake.
  2. Sleep talking: Your conversations, laughter and other noises may amuse your bed partner at first. But eventually he or she may start wishing you would just be quiet.
  3. Taking the covers: While you’re snug and cozy, your bed partner is left out in the cold.
  4. Using bedtime for relationship building: At the moment when your bed partner is about to fall asleep, you say, “Can we talk?”
  5. Being a night owl: While your bed partner is trying to fall sleep, you’re in bed watching TV, talking on the phone, doing paperwork or reading.
  6. Preferring to be warm: Even though a cool room promotes good sleep, you insist on keeping the thermostat turned up all night.
  7. Refusing to go to bed alone: When your bed partner tries to call it a night, you make him or her wait until you’re ready to go to bed.

So are you guilty of sleep stealing? Or are you in bed with a sleep thief? What other types of behavior do you think should qualify as sleep stealing?

Tomorrow we’ll look at some things you can do to help put an end to sleep stealing.

Friday, February 13, 2009

To Sleep or To Wake: A Drowsy Driving Dilemma

Today Boston Globe writer Geoff Edgers shares some interesting insights from his recent episode of drowsy driving.

It wasn’t quite a near-death experience. But it was enough to destroy his tire. And put a scare into the friend who was riding with him.

It also caused him to question his priorities. Where exactly is sleep supposed to fit in his busy schedule? It seems like the need for sleep is a frustrating nuisance that prevents him from getting more done.

One of Edgers’ main complaints is that he feels like he doesn’t have time to sleep. In a competitive workplace he can’t get by on talent alone. He has to put in more time than the next person.

On top of that there are other obligations that demand his time. Family. Hobbies. Other projects.

Is it worth it to cut back on something he values just so he can get more sleep? Is it true that getting more sleep will actually enable him to get more done?

Two sleep specialists provide their perspective on Edgers’ dilemma. Their consensus: Sleep is the solution, not the problem.

Not only is Edgers playing Russian roulette with his life by drowsy driving. But he’s also less efficient during the day because he’s sleep deprived.

He needs to practice self-control to get the seven to eight hours of sleep that he needs. A full night of sleep? In the end, Edgers wonders what that would feel like.

Can you relate to Edgers? How do you balance all of the demands on your time with your need for sleep? Is it simply a matter of self-control? When you have to make a choice, does sleep come out on the losing end?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sleep for a More Satisfying Life

Are you satisfied with your life? If not, how’s your sleep? A new study shows there may be a connection.

Life satisfaction and sleep quality are known to be important factors in your overall health and well-being. But how are they related?

Does poor sleep cause you to be less satisfied with your life? Or does low satisfaction with your life lead to sleep problems?

The researchers sought to find an answer. Their study involved 18,631 same-sex twins in Finland.

They measured life satisfaction, sleep quality and other factors. Then they did a follow-up six years later and recorded the same measures.

What did they find? People who became dissatisfied with their life during the six years between study points were more likely to have had sleep problems. Fifty-nine percent of these newly dissatisfied people had reported at the beginning of the study that they sleep poorly.

The results also show that poor sleep predicted a consistent pattern of life dissatisfaction. But the reverse wasn’t true; life dissatisfaction did not consistently predict poor sleep.

Studying twins also provided a genetic look at the connection. The study shows that both sleep quality and life satisfaction have a strong genetic component; there was substantial heritability for both traits.

But the genetic influence is different; the genetic component shared by sleep quality and life satisfaction was relatively weak.

The study supports the idea that poor sleep may have direct effects on the brain, emotions and mood.

So how is the quality of your sleep? You can get a better idea by completing this brief sleep evaluation.

Get help for a sleep problem at an AASM-accredited sleep disorders center.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What Disease is the #1 Killer of Women?

Did you guess cancer? You’re close, but wrong. Diabetes? You’re getting colder. The answer: In the U.S. heart disease is the leading cause of death for women. Surprised?

Don’t feel bad if you got the answer wrong; you’re not alone. The
NHLBI reports that 35 percent of women are unaware that heart disease is the leading killer of women.

February is
American Heart Month. So now is the perfect time to think about your own heart health.

Using 2004 data the
CDC reports that 27.2 percent of deaths among women are due to heart disease. Cancer comes in second place at 22 percent. Stroke is third at 7.5 percent, and diabetes is seventh at 7.1 percent.

raw numbers are even more striking. In 2005 heart disease took the lives of 329,250 women – more women than men. Cancer deaths: 268,890 women – including 69,105 due to lung cancer and 41,116 due to breast cancer.

CDC also reports that heart disease affects large numbers of younger women: It is the third-leading cause of death for women between the ages of 25 and 44.

Risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and smoking. You also have a higher risk if you are
overweight or obese.

risk factor for heart disease that often is overlooked is obstructive sleep apnea. But sleep apnea and snoring are just for men, right? Wrong.

Sleep apnea is
common in women; but women are less likely than men to receive medical help for it.

Warning signs for sleep apnea include pauses in breathing, loud and erratic snoring, and gasping for breath during sleep. Women with sleep apnea also are likely to complain of restless sleep, daytime sleepiness, insomnia and even depression.

Are you at risk for sleep apnea? Complete this online questionnaire to find out.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Can a “Sleep Diet” Really Help You Lose Weight?

Research has linked your risk of obesity to how long you normally sleep. So can you lose weight by getting more sleep?

Seven women decided to take the challenge. Their story is told in
Glamour magazine and on the Today show.

They practiced a specially designed “Sleep Diet” for 10 weeks. They were told to refrain from making any other changes to their eating or exercise habits.

The results? Six of the seven women stuck to the sleep plan and lost weight; one woman was unable to follow the plan because of her work schedule. The women lost six to 15 pounds each.

Here’s the sleep plan they followed:

  1. Get at least 7.5 hours of sleep each night.
  2. Go to sleep and wake up at the same times every day. A one or two-hour change was allowed on weekends, as long as they still slept for at least 7.5 hours.
  3. No caffeine after 2:30 p.m. No alcohol within three hours of bedtime.
  4. Find your ideal sleep time. You may need more than 7.5 hours of sleep each night if you depend on an alarm to wake up in the morning. Go to bed about 15 minutes earlier each night until you are able to wake on your own, feeling fully rested.

That’s it. The women did face some challenges. For some it was hard to go to bed earlier than they had in the past.

But there were other benefits in addition to the weight loss. Some of the women reported having much more energy than before.

So what do you think? Is the “Sleep Diet” a good way to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight?

Which would be harder for you: giving up some foods to go on a diet or giving up some free time to get more sleep?

Learn more about healthy sleep habits. Read a list of sleep tips for women.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Co-sleeping, Bed Sharing & Infant Deaths

A new study reports that infant mortality rates attributable to accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed have quadrupled since 1984. The rates of these deaths increased from 2.8 to 12.5 deaths per 100,000 live births from 1984 to 2004.

Why the dramatic increase? The
Washington Post reports that it could be an issue of data shifting.

There are stricter guidelines for sudden, unexpected infant deaths. As a result these deaths are being classified more carefully. Some deaths once classified as
SIDS may now be classified as suffocation.

There also may be a link to a recent rise in co-sleeping and bed sharing.
Another article in the Washington Post reports that bed sharing in the U.S. doubled from 1993 to 2000.

In one Georgia county
three infants recently suffocated in bed. In each case reports indicate that a parent rolled onto the child while sleeping.

recent study found a bed-sharing rate in the U.S. of 42 percent when infants are 2 weeks old. The rate was 34 percent at 3 months of age and 27 percent at 12 months.

Bed-sharing rates are much higher in some other cultures. In
one study about 61 percent of Thai infants shared the bed with their parents.

A common reason for bed sharing is to make it easier to breastfeed. A
study found that bed-sharing infants breastfeed longer and more often.

But research also has linked co-sleeping to an increased risk of infant death. One
study found that the risk is highest with couch sharing. It also found a higher risk of death for bed-sharing infants who are less than 11 weeks old.

study in the journal Sleep analyzed the advice provided in 39 parenting books. Forty percent opposed co-sleeping; 28 percent endorsed it; 32 percent took no position.

Different patterns of co-sleeping were recommended in the books. Some promote co-sleeping only during the first weeks or months after birth; others recommend long-term co-sleeping in a “family bed.”

An American Academy of Pediatrics
policy statement recommends infant room sharing. It advises parents that infants should sleep in the parents’ bedroom and close to their bed. The baby can be brought into the bed for feeding or comforting.

But an infant should be placed on a separate sleep surface when the parent is ready to return to sleep. The sleep surface should be firm. Soft objects and loose bedding should be kept out of the crib, cradle or bassinette.

Infants always should be placed to sleep on their back.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Weight Loss & Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is common in people who are overweight or obese. So is weight loss an effective way to treat sleep apnea?

new study from Finland shows that people with mild sleep apnea may benefit from weight loss. Participants were put on a very low calorie diet. They also received supervised lifestyle modification.

The treatment led to an average weight loss of 10.7 kg, which is almost 24 pounds. It also led to a significant reduction in sleep apnea severity.

All common sleep apnea symptoms improved. The treatment benefits remained at the one-year follow up.

recommends dietary weight loss as one treatment strategy for people who are obese and have sleep apnea. But weight loss should be combined with another treatment such as CPAP or an oral appliance.

Why? There are three main reasons. First, weight loss takes time. Sleep apnea is a serious health problem that requires immediate treatment to normalize your breathing during sleep.

Second, weight loss is difficult to maintain. Often there is a trend toward regaining weight over time.

Finally, although it may reduce the severity of sleep apnea, weight loss rarely cures sleep apnea. Breathing pauses during sleep are still likely to occur.

Talk to your doctor before starting a diet or a weight-loss plan. Contact an AASM-accredited sleep center for help with sleep apnea.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Drowsy Driving & Rumble Strips

You’re sleepy, but you’re intent on making it to your destination on time. So you keep driving.

You fight to keep your eyes open. Suddenly you’re startled by a loud noise as your car begins to shake.

Your eyes pop open as you realize that your car was drifting off the road. You just encountered a
rumble strip.

first shoulder rumble strips appeared on New Jersey's Garden State Parkway in 1955. They are used to prevent run-off-road crashes.

Federal Highway Administration reports that this type of crash causes one-third of all traffic fatalities. The main cause? Drivers are too sleepy.

But are rumble strips an effective solution for
drowsy driving? A recent study examined how rumble strips affect sleepy drivers.

shift workers operated a driving simulator in the morning after a full night shift. Measures of sleepiness such as eye closure duration increased as they drove.

After hitting a rumble strip their alertness increased in most parameters. But the alerting effect was very brief. Signs of sleepiness returned after five minutes.

So a rumble strip may briefly wake you up. But it won’t keep you from drowsy driving.

What should you do if you feel drowsy when you’re behind the wheel? Let another passenger take over the driving duties.

Or pull off the road at a rest stop. Have a drink that contains caffeine and then take a brief nap. Put your alertness – and your safety – first.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Are the Bed Bugs Biting While You Sleep?

First, the basics. Yes, bed bugs are real. Yes, they can bite you while you sleep. And yes, it appears they are making a comeback.

This week the New Jersey Assembly passed a “
bed bug bill.” It requires landlords to promptly exterminate known bed-bug infestations.

It was believed that bed bugs had been eradicated from the U.S. Strong pesticides such as DDT seemed to wipe them out.

But recent reports indicate that the bed bugs are back. Not just in the
U.S., but also in Canada and England.

What happened?
DDT was banned in the U.S. in 1972. Common pesticides used today seem to be less effective against bed bugs.

Also more people today are traveling to other parts of the world where bed bugs may have been thriving. The
tiny bugs can easily hitch a ride on clothing or in a suitcase.

Bed bugs tend to appear more commonly in buildings where large numbers of people sleep. This includes four-star hotels as well as budget motels and youth hostels. It also includes apartments, college dorms and homeless shelters.

But bed bugs can reside in your home too. It’s not an issue of cleanliness. The bugs can hide in tiny crevices of the bed frame, headboard, mattress or other places in the room.

Bites from a bed bug can cause itching and discomfort. The good news is that the bugs don’t transmit disease.

The bad news is that it can be difficult and costly to get rid of them. Treatment by a professional exterminator may be required.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Avoid Putting an Infant to Sleep in a Car Seat

Car safety seats should never be used to put a baby to sleep. That’s the warning for parents after the recent death of an infant in Quebec.

The mother of the 2-month-old baby had put him to sleep in a car seat after he woke up crying early one morning. An hour later when she checked on him she realized that he had stopped breathing.

This issue
received attention in 2006. An article in the British Medical Journal reported on the similar death of nine infants.

The problem is that infants do not have well developed head control. The researchers found that a baby’s head may slump forward while sleeping in a car seat. As a result the baby’s jaw presses against his or her chest.

This position narrows the airway and makes it hard to breathe. The throat muscles also relax during sleep. This increases the risk of airway closure.
Research confirms that oxygen saturation can drop in both pre-term and full-term infants riding in car seats.

study in 2008 examined 17 deaths that occurred in a car seat or other type of sitting device. It found that the risk of death may be higher for infants less than 1 month of age.

In a 2002
statement the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infant car seats should recline at a 45-degree angle. This will help prevent the baby from slumping forward.

Parents should try to avoid long rides with an infant in the car. During a car ride an adult should sit next to the baby to monitor his or her breathing.

Parents also should ensure that their child’s car safety seat is
installed correctly. The NHTSA reports that child safety seats reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71 percent for infants.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Bed Partners: Sleep Apnea, CPAP & Marriage

When obstructive sleep apnea invades the bedroom, no one sleeps well. A person who has severe sleep apnea may briefly wake up more than 30 times an hour. The loud snoring and gasping sounds also disturb the bed partner’s sleep.

The sleep problems can be a source of conflict in a marriage. Often the bed partner chooses to sleep in a separate room

The best treatment for sleep apnea is
CPAP therapy. A new study shows that CPAP also may be good for a marriage. Results show that marital conflict decreases after three months of CPAP use.

An earlier
study found that CPAP also improves the bed partner’s quality of life. Daytime sleepiness decreases. There are fewer role limitations due to physical problems. Social functioning and mental health improves.

A small
study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine in 2008 linked the marriage bed to CPAP. It found that wives may play an important role in their husband’s CPAP success.

Husbands were more likely to maintain regular CPAP use over five months when sharing the bed with their wife. These men used CPAP at least four hours per night 74 percent of the time.

In contrast, husbands used CPAP much less when their wife slept in a separate room. These men used CPAP at least four hours per night only 43 percent of the time.

Learn more about sleep apnea and bed partners

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Hormonal Link Between Restless Legs & Pregnancy

A new study in the journal Sleep links restless legs syndrome in pregnant women to the hormone estradiol.

Results show that in the last trimester, pregnant women with RLS have much higher levels of estradiol than healthy controls. Estradiol is an estrogenic steroid hormone.

RLS is more common in women than in men. Symptoms often appear for the first time during pregnancy. These symptoms tend to worsen during pregnancy. Then they may improve or even disappear after delivery. The risk of developing RLS increases gradually with each pregnancy.

RLS is a sleep-related movement disorder. It involves an almost irresistible urge to move the legs at night. This urge tends to occur along with unusual feelings or sensations deep in the legs. These uncomfortable sensations often are described as a burning, tingling, prickling or jittery feeling.

RLS can severely disturb a person’s ability to sleep. Eighty percent to 90 percent of people with RLS also have
periodic limb movements during sleep. These are involuntary jerking or twitching movements of the feet or legs.

Disturbed sleep is common during pregnancy. In addition to RLS, pregnant women may experience problems such as
snoring and leg cramps.

Learn more about sleep and pregnancy here.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Sleep Problems & Depression in Children

Sleep problems and depression often are linked together. But which one comes first? Do sleep problems cause depression? Or is it the other way around?

The relationship is a complex one. But a
new study in the journal Sleep shows that sleep problems in children may predict the future onset of depression.

The study involved 300 pairs of twins. They were evaluated for sleep problems and depression at 8 years of age and again when they were 10.

Results show that sleep problems at age 8 predict depression at age 10; but depression at age 8 did not predict sleep problems at age 10. There was a strong genetic link for the presence of sleep problems.

Parents completed a short version of the
Children’s Sleep Habits Questionnaire. It helps identify eight common sleep problems in children:

The AASM recommends that school-age children get about 10 to 11 hours of sleep each night. Getting help for sleep problems early on may prevent other problems from developing.

Contact an AASM-accredited sleep center if your child has an ongoing sleep problem. Learn more about sleep and children here.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

My Child Bangs His Head in Bed as He Sleeps

For a parent it is one of the most disturbing sleep disorders. You hear a strange sound coming from your young son’s bedroom at night. So you go in his room to see what’s wrong.

You find your son banging his head into the pillow or mattress. He repeats this action over and over again. Or he may be sitting up, banging the back of his head against the wall or the headboard.

The bizarre sight may send a shock of fear through your body. But what you’re seeing is common, and it is rarely harmful.

Head banging during sleep is an example of
sleep related rhythmic movement disorder. RMD is very common in healthy infants and children. It can occur in both boys and girls.

Another common form of RMD is body rocking. Your child may rock her entire body back and forth. She may be on her hands and knees or sitting up.

Head rolling is also common. While lying on his back, your child may roll his head back and forth.

Less common forms of RMD include body rolling, leg banging and leg rolling. All of these actions tend to be very rapid. An episode may last up to 15 minutes. During the motions your child may make rhythmic humming sounds.

The good news is that RMD tends to be harmless. It occurs as a young child’s brain and body continue to grow and develop.

RMD often begins when a child is about six months to nine months of age. It usually goes away by the second or third year of life.

Like many
parasomnias, RMD tends to disturb the parent more than the child. Normally the child will have no memory of the event in the morning.

Talk to your child’s doctor if you are concerned about RMD. Contact an AASM-accredited sleep center if RMD episodes injure your child or keep your child from sleeping well.

Edit: For more information on RMD, read Dr. Lisa Shives' article on