Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 The Year in Sleep Top 5

All week long the Sleep Education Blog has been counting down the top stories of 2010. This year viral video content was king, with an unlikely - and unconscious - Englishman taking the spotlight.

5. Tart Cherry Juice Won’t Cure Insomnia (July 14)
A widely reported pilot study involving tart cherries was the subject of controversy within the sleep community last summer. Most headlines claimed tart cherry juice could outright cure insomnia, but in reality the beverage isn’t a magic bullet for sleep. If you read the full study you’ll find that you may see slight improvements, similar to valerian or melatonin supplements.

4. Fatal Familial Insomnia: A Genetic Death Sentence (April 28)
A National Geographic special put the world’s rarest sleep disorder in the spotlight last spring. Fatal Familial Insomnia is a prion disease caused by a genetic mutation carried by only about 40 families in the world. At advanced stages of the disease, the boundary blurs between sleep and wakefulness. A person can live for months or years in this stage before dying of the rare disease.

3. The Real Freddy Kreuger, “Nightmare on Elm Street” and Sudden Unexplained Deaths (April 30)
You may not believe it but “A Nightmare on Elm Street” was inspired by a real-life story ripped from the headlines. Director Wes Craven dreamed up Freddy Kreuger after reading about a group of Cambodian refugees who all refused to sleep after sharing terrifying nightmares of a single boogeyman. Each refugee ended up dying in their sleep a short time later. On a side note, this blog post inspired some unusual comments from horror movie fans.

2. Tips for Sweet Slumber in the Summer (May 24)
After no-show last year, summer weather returned in 2010. Sleep problems associated with longer days and hot weather also made a comeback. This guide on how to better your sleep in the summer months proved to be a hit, and hopefully helped some people get better sleep along the way.

1. Sleep Talking Man is the Talk of the Internet (January 16)
This series of viral videos became an internet sensation early in 2010, even ending up on The Today Show. With quotes like "You can't be a pirate if you don't have a beard. I said so. MY boat, MY rules," its clear why the videos were a hit. Though like anything of this nature it could be a hoax.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 The Year in Sleep #6-10

The year 2010 brought plenty of memorable moments in pop culture. Two films about sleep & dreaming opened #1 at the box office. A former Oprah medical expert saw his daytime television hit renewed for a second season, after drawing an audience with relatable advice on everyday health issues such as sleep and sleep hygiene. Entries 6-10 in the top 25 stories in sleep mainly relate to sleep in the media and in popular entertainment:

10. Energy Pods Let Google Employees Snooze in Style (June 25)
Few companies can match Google when it comes to employee perks. The tech giant allows workers to sneak in a quick nap in one of their futuristic sleep pods. The energy pod features a large visor with a built-in music player and alarm clock.

9. The Facts on Lavender Soap for Restless Leg Syndrome (July 12)
Talk show host Dr. Oz recommended an unusual remedy for restless leg syndrome – placing a bar of lavender soap beneath the bed sheets. His advice may be off base. So far there is no peer-reviewed evidence supporting the use of lavender soap to alleviate restless leg syndrome.

8. “Ambien Zombies”, Sleepwalking Fears and Facts (April 20)
An uncommon but well-publicized side effect of the sleeping pill Ambien continued to gain notoriety in 2010. Don’t let the headlines fool you. Millions of people regularly take Ambien without ever experiencing bizarre sleepwalking episodes. Always take the drug as directed and never combine it with alcohol.

7. Fighting Freddy Krueger, “Nightmare on Elm Street” and Nightmare Disorder (May 2)
2010’s “Nightmare on Elm Street” reboot brought renewed interest in understanding the nature of nightmares. Like the movie, some people have nightmares every night, and may avoid going to sleep as a result. Nightmare disorder is rare and tends to run in families, and can be treated through cognitive-behavioral therapy.

6. Dr. Oz Wrong on Melatonin Supplements (July 23)
“Melatonin is the most misused sleeping aid in America,” Dr. Oz rightly declared in July. Then he continued to preach how well melatonin works. However, the scientific evidence is mixed. It can help reset your circadian rhythms, but may have little effect on insomnia.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 The Year in Sleep: #11-15

The top 25 stories in sleep continues with a series of articles on noteworthy research published in 2010:

15. Study Finds Video Games Cause Only Mild Effect on Sleep (April 15)
The adrenaline-fueled firefights in the Call of Duty game series have about the same effect on teenagers’ ability to fall asleep as glacially-paced nature documentaries, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found. Parents still may want to encourage their teenage children to put down the controller at a decent hour.

14. How Much Sleep Do I Need? (January 30)
One sleep size doesn’t fit all, the Sleep Education Blog reported last January, but there are a few clues to your sleep needs. If you struggle to remain alert and attentive during the day or need alcohol, caffeine or other drugs to fall asleep and wake up, you may need more sleep.

13. Ear Tubes, Snoring & Sleep Apnea in Children (March 31)
Sleep-disordered breathing is common in children who had ear tubes inserted, an Israeli study reported. Ear tubes are usually inserted to help relieve fluid buildup behind a child’s eardrum, so that the ears can function normally. The authors of the study reported that sleep-disordered breathing shares common mechanisms with ear tube dysfunction.

12. Teen Depression & Suicide: Sleep, Early Bedtimes Protect Adolescents (January 4)
Adolescents who prioritize sleep tend to be happier and less likely to have suicidal thoughts than their sleep-deprived peers, a study published on New Year’s Day 2010 found. Inadequate sleep is a risk factor for depression, for both males and females. Girls are twice as likely to have a major depressive episode by age 15 while boys are more likely to commit suicide.

11. Stanford NCAA Football Players Sleep Longer, Perform Better (June 8)
The Stanford Cardinal is heading to the Orange Bowl January 3rd thanks to a training regimen that emphasizes sleep. A study displayed at SLEEP 2010 shows that the team ran faster and had quicker response times when they slept an additional two hours of sleep per night. Sleep seems to be on its way to replacing early-morning 2-a-day practices in team sports – even pro basketball is starting to take notice.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010 The Year in Sleep: #16-20

All week the Sleep Education Blog is revisiting the most popular stories published in the past year. The countdown to the top stories in sleep of 2010 continues:

20. Have Sleep Apnea? See a Sleep Dentist (May 13)
Oral appliances continue to gain mainstream attention as more sleep apnea patients seek treatment from dental sleep specialists. In May, an Atlanta news outlet introduced countless television viewers to the growing treatment.

19. Early Bedtime Benefits: Young Children Who Sleep More Score Higher in School (June 7)
Academic success begins with an early bedtime, according to a study based on data from the U.S. Department of Education and the National Center for Education Statistics. American children with regular, early bedtimes scored higher on language, reading and math assessments. The findings premiered in San Antonio during the first day of SLEEP 2010, the largest annual gathering of sleep professions.

18. Green Light Also Alters Sleep (May 13)
Turning off the television well before bedtime is central to healthy sleep hygiene because the light from the screen can keep you from feeling sleepy. A study published in May shows that green light prevents melatonin secretion, just like blue light. That means that sunglasses and screen filters designed for nighttime viewing may not work as advertised.

17. Running on Empty: Marathon Runner Tera Moody’s Struggle With Insomnia (May 3)
This past Spring, the New York Times ran a series of articles called “All Nighters” about sleep, sleep disorders and shift work. Among the articles was a guest editorial about insomnia by the well-known marathon runner Tera Moody. As it turns out, the world-class athlete has struggled with sleep maintenance insomnia for years, and uses the time awake to train on the treadmill.

16. Dr. Oz: Snoring Solutions for Women (April 6)
Dr. Oz’s syndicated talk show became a daytime TV hit in 2010 with segments about all kinds of common health issues. Sleep became a recurring theme for Dr. Oz, with literally dozens of segments about snoring, insomnia, sleep disorders and sleep hygiene. In April, he offered some unusual advice to a woman in the audience with snoring problems.

Monday, December 27, 2010

2010: The Year in Sleep Top 25

2010 was another eventful year in sleep and another successful year for the Sleep Education Blog. All year the blog has been reporting on wide range of sleep-related topics, from medical breakthroughs to viral video.

Over the next five days, the Sleep Education Blog will revisit the most popular of these stories. So without further delay, the Sleep Education Blog presents the first segment of 2010: the Year in Sleep:

25. Gaines Adams’ Death: Heart Problems & Sleep Apnea in the NFL (January 25)
The cardiac arrest death of Chicago Bears Defensive End Gaines Adams came as a shock to the football community. An autopsy shows the 26-year-old former top draft pick had an enlarged heart – and several sleep medicine experts suspect sleep apnea may have been an underlying cause.

24. FDA Approves Silenor for Insomnia (March 19)
A new sleeping pill hit the market in 2010 to compete with Ambien, Lunesta and Rozerem. The drug Silenor differs from the other drugs because it takes about 3.5 hours to reach its peak concentration in the blood. The delay makes the Silenor useful for short-term treatment of sleep maintenance insomnia, which occurs when you wake up early and struggle to return to sleep.

23. Sleep Friendly Software Makes Your Computer Screen Easy on the Eyes
The free program F.lux alters the appearance of your computer screen during the evening and nighttime. By reducing the amount of blue light the screen produces, the program claims to stop the melatonin suppression that can potentially lead to insomnia.

22. Insomnia Cookies For College Students
College students can order cookies and milk to get through sleepless nights. Only 30 percent of students sleep at least eight hours per night. Students’ reasons include insomnia, all-night study sessions and partying.

21. Hypersomnia: Common Features & Effective Treatments
A Mayo Clinic study found that 65 percent of hypersomnia patients were likely to be women. Research shows the symptoms tend to begin in the late teens, but typically aren’t diagnosed until the mid-30’s.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Beauty Sleep More Than a Myth

There’s some truth to a tired cliché. Catching up on your beauty sleep really can make you more attractive. Sleep deprived people tend to appear tired and less healthy, therefore less attractive, Swedish researchers discovered.

In the study, a group of participants randomly rated photos of 23 men and women based on their attractiveness. Each person was photographed twice: once after a normal night’s sleep and once after sleep deprivation.

The results were clear – the sleep-deprived looked a lot less attractive in the eyes of the raters. Ratings of perceived health, attractiveness and tiredness were lower for photos taken after a sleep-deprived night.

So next time you want to impress a date, give yourself an extra hour in bed the night before. Not only will you be physically more attractive, but you’ll be in a better mood – so might leave a lasting impression.

Plus your body will thank you, after all, people who prioritize sleep are happier and have fewer health issues overall.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Restless Legs in Pregnancy Predict Later RLS

A sleep disorder that may appear during pregnancy could be the sign of things to come later in life. Nearly a quarter of women who experience restless leg syndrome while pregnant may have chronic symptoms when they are older. Short-term symptoms may also reappear in future pregnancies.

People with restless leg syndrome have the strong urge to move their legs, paired with a sensation of burning, prickling, itching or tingling. These symptoms tend to flare up at night, making it difficult to sleep. Older adults tend to get restless leg syndrome, as the symptoms progress with age.

A recent study about restless leg syndrome involved about 200 women. Only 74 reported restless leg syndrome during pregnancy. Six and a half years later, the women responded to questions about later symptoms, pregnancies and other diseases.

Results show 18 of the 74 women who had restless leg syndrome during pregnancy saw the symptoms reappear. Compared to women who did not have the disorder during pregnancy, the group was four times more likely to have the condition again. About 60 percent of the women who had restless leg syndrome reported the symptoms again in future pregnancies.

The study appears to have one notable shortcoming due to the nature of restless leg syndrome. The condition is difficult to diagnose, so researchers had to rely on the patients self-diagnosis of the symptoms.

While you can take medication to reduce the symptoms of restless leg syndrome, changing your lifestyle may be just as effective. Start exercising and reduce your intake of caffeine, alcohol and tobacco to help restless legs syndrome. The AASM also reports activities like walking, soaking in a hot tub and massaging the legs may help when symptoms flare up.

Image by jamelah e.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Loud Snoring and Insomnia Symptoms May Lead to Metabolic Syndrome

The development of obesity-related risk factors starts with a series of common sleep problems, a new study reports. People who snore loudly or have two common insomnia symptoms – difficulty falling asleep and unrefreshing sleep - have an increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke. People with metabolic syndrome must have at least three out of the five following risk factors: excess abdominal fat, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar.

Findings show people who snore have double the risk of developing metabolic syndrome doubles. Specifically, loud snoring predicts the development of high blood sugar and low HDL cholesterol.

The risk also increases by 80 percent in adults who have difficulty falling asleep and by 70 percent for people who don’t feel refreshed after waking. However, neither risk was tied to a specific risk factor.

Two other common insomnia symptoms - difficulty staying asleep and frequent waking - did not predict the development of metabolic syndrome.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sleep Suffers in Wartime Deployment

Despite months or even years of preparation, many troops will struggle to sleep for some time after they arrive in Iraq or Afghanistan. Insomnia affects about 28 percent of deployed American troops, a study in the December issue of the journal SLEEP suggests.

The symptoms may not improve when the tour of duty is over. 21 percent of troops reported difficulty sleeping after returning home to the United States. Troops may have twice the risk of insomnia if they had poor health or mental health problems such as depression or posttraumatic stress disorder prior to deployment.

The study involved 41,225 troops from all service branches and components of the U.S. military, including active duty and Reserve/National Guide personnel. The participants completed a baseline survey with questions about sleep and overall health prior to deployment. About a quarter of the troops responded to a follow-up survey three years later, either in Iraq or Afghanistan, or after returning from either warzone.

Sleep duration was limited even for the troops who did not have insomnia. The average sleep time during wartime was 6.5 hours - slightly less than the recommended amount of sleep for adults. The AASM reports adults require 7 to 8 hours to be fully alert during the daytime.
Insomnia or not, lost sleep may have dire consequences. While military personnel are trained to function on little to no sleep, a single mistake may be fatal.

For us in the civilian world, the findings should come as no surprise. It’s hard to image trying to sleep to the sound of gunfire and explosions or even the prospect of an attack.

As a side note, the study also looked at mothers of young children and pregnant women who served in the military. On average, the women slept less than six hours. The authors speculate that the possibility of future deployment and separation from their families may multiply the normal stress of pregnancy and motherhood.
Photo courtesy United States Marine Corps

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Black Friday's Best Deal: Extra Sleep

It’s that magical time of year when millions of frenzied consumers chase one-time-only holiday bargains. The day after Thanksgiving, also known as Black Friday, is a holiday in itself. Smartphones, high-definition televisions and countless other items are available for less money… but there’s another type of price to pay.

Most of the best bargains are door-buster sales. You have to be among the first in the store for a shot at the low-priced prize, meaning you better be in line at midnight.

You might want to consider your sleep before you bundle up and line up outside Target or Best Buy. Holiday weekends like this are few and far between. The long weekend is the perfect time to make up for all the lost sleep and get your slumber schedule back on track.

If you still want to get that Christmas shopping done on the cheap, try shopping online instead. offers all kinds of Black Friday prices, and even price-matches some items.

Friday isn’t the only day you can score a great deal online. Best Buy, Macy’s and JCPenney all have “Black Thursday” specials on their website, beginning at midnight. Then there’s always also “Cyber Monday”, the Monday after Thanksgiving.

Make sleep a priority this year and you don’t necessarily have to miss out on the deals. You’ll be better rested for the always stressful holiday season.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Clock Gene Levels Linked to Insomnia and Depression

Scientists are learning why insomnia and depression are so closely interconnected. Sleep disturbances, especially early morning awakenings, are a common symptom of depression. An Ohio State University study suggests that these symptoms are related to an over-active body clock.

The so-called Clock gene helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythms. Molecular-level disturbances in the Clock gene may disrupt the 24-hour body clock, causing sleep problems.

The study compared the blood samples of people with a history of depression to those who had never been clinically depressed. The study included 60 participants; 25 spent at least five hours per week caring for a family member with dementia.

Blood analysis shows people with a history of depression had higher levels of the Clock gene. The relationship held true after statistical adjustments for age and lifestyle factors such as substance use, exercise, medical conditions and caregiving status.

Researchers also analyzed three other circadian genes, but found no statistically significant differences in gene levels between depressed and non-depressed subjects.

The authors of the study caution that the findings demonstrate there is a link, but causal direction remains unclear. In other words, further research is needed to determine whether depression causes the clock gene to be elevated, or vice versa.

Researchers explain their findings are simply a snapshot of how gene activity differs between people with and without depression.

Several other studies have attempted to explain the link between insomnia and depression.

A study published in the September 2010 issue of SLEEP suggests sleep deprivation causes depression in young adults. Every hour of sleep lost significantly raises the risk of emotional distress, a combination of high levels of depressive and anxious symptoms.

Another study presented at SLEEP 2010 in San Antonio reported similar findings, but for teenagers. Students who reported problems with daytime sleepiness were three times more likely to have depression compared to their peers.

In any case, the treatment options for depression and insomnia often overlap. While medication can help in the short term, cognitive-behavioral therapy is the best approach for lasting results. Conquering depression and insomnia takes a lot of work, but your health and happiness are worth the effort.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Nighttime Sleep Essential for Mental Development in Young Children

Good nighttime sleep at a very early age may help kick-start cognitive development and give kids a leg-up in school. The amount of nighttime sleep – not daytime naps – is the key component to advanced executive function in children, a study included in the November/December issue of Child Development reports.

Executive function is another name for a specific group of mental skill areas essential for success in the classroom. Skills include attentiveness, self-discipline, organization, memorization and the abilities to plan, think and work with others. Executive function develops rapidly across the first six years of life. Little is known about why some children are more successful at developing those skills than their peers.

The study followed 60 Canadian children between their 12 and 26 months of age. At the 12 and 18 month mark, each parent completed sleep diaries by recording when their child slept and for what length. Researchers tested the children’s executive function at 18 and 26 months of age.

Results show children who slept mostly at night did better at most executive function-related tests, especially the tasks involving impulse control. The number of times the children woke per night did not impact test results. The findings held true even after the authors adjusted for factors such as socio-economic class, parents’ education level and children’s general cognitive skills.

The authors of the study note that infant sleep later sets in motion the development of more advanced executive skills. This may help flesh out recent findings that linked earlier bedtimes to higher test scores in school-aged children.

The AASM recommends infants get a minimum of 14 hours of sleep per day for healthy development. Toddlers should sleep 12 to 14 hours per night. Start your child’s health habits out on the right foot and make their sleep a priority.

Photo by doriana_s

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

More Evening-Types Smoke, Have Harder Time Quitting

Morning types seem to have all of the advantages. They aren't only less depressed and more successful, as a previous studies reported – they tend to avoid a particularly bad habit that can destroy your health. More night owls tend to be smokers, and quitting can be more difficult for them, according to the results of a longitudinal study published in the journal Addiction.

The study’s authors say the findings don’t necessarily mean being a night person will put you at risk for tobacco use. There are several possible explanations why night owls are more likely to smoke.

One may be the type of activities night owls engage in. They may spend more time doing activities in environments that promote smoking, such as socializing at bars or restaurants.

Night owls may also have a tendency to be more sensation-seeking than larks. The brain’s systems that manage addiction and reward-seeking may relate to chronotype, the authors write.

The study compared more than 23,000 pairs of twins for 30 years. Participants were surveyed about their smoking habits once per decade. In their second interview, they answered questions about whether they were evening or morning types.

About thirty percent of the participants answered definitively that they were morning types. 1 in 10 said they are clearly night owls. The rest were somewhere in-between.

During the start of the study, 43 percent of the night owls smoked and 27 percent of morning types smoked. Smoking rates dropped to 35 percent and 21 percent about a decade later. Evening-types were 27 less likely to have quit smoking.

Learn more about evening and morning chronotypes.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sleep Loss Linked to Heart Disease and Stroke Risk

Researchers have discovered new clues to why chronic insomnia can cut short men’s lives. People who sleep poorly or are chronically sleep deprived have elevated inflammation caused by increased hormone production, a recent study reports. Inflamation is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

The study, presented at the American Heart Associate Scientific Sessions, involved 525 middle-aged people. Each subject reported the number of hours they slept per night before they were was screened for chronic sleep deprivation using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index survey.

After a screening for inflammatory hormones, researchers compared the level of inflammation and sleep quality. Participants who slept fewer than six hours per night and scored poorly on the sleep quality index had higher levels of inflammation. The results were adjusted for external risk factors such as smoking, blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

The results show there is a relationship between sleep deprivation and heart disease, but it’s not clear if it’s a causal relationship.

Previous studies show people who sleep at least seven hours per night live longer than their peers. People with abnormally short or long sleep durations have a high risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and stress.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Fight Sleep Apnea Well After the War is Over

As we honor the men and women who served their country this Veterans Day its important that we recognize a problem that plagues tens of thousands of vets.

U.S. Military medical experts report 1 in 5 veterans develop sleep apnea - that's four times the risk compared to the general population. More than 63,000 former troops receive treatment, and that number is bound to rise as baby boomers who served in the Vietnam War grow older.

There are a couple factors that explain why veterans have a much higher rate of sleep apnea. Wartime exposure to airborne toxins, smoke and dust can cause permanent respiratory damage, making breathing difficult. In addition, many injured or disabled troops may gain weight as they get older.

Many use their veterans benefits for treatment of sleep apnea. CPAP is the first-line treatment for obstructive sleep apnea (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). Learn more about CPAP on Sleepeducation's CPAP Central webpage.

Image courtesy the U.S. Army

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mike & Molly Mixed on CPAP, Sleep Apnea

Mike & Molly, a traditional CBS sitcom with three cameras and a laugh track, is the most controversial new show on television this fall. The show is about an obese Chicago couple in the early stages of their relationship.

Health pundits rail on Mike & Molly for promoting obesity and unhealthy life choices. Entertainment critics have a different but equally critical take on the show – some say the show uses endless fat jokes to mock obese people.

At this point in the show’s run it’s hard to say if either group is right, but there is one healthy choice Mike & Molly is promoting – the recognition and treatment of obstructive sleep apnea.

The latest episode, titled “Mike has Sleep Apnea,” introduced millions of prime-time viewers to CPAP, the front-line treatment for the sleep disorder. The episode is a step forward for sleep apnea awareness, but it doesn’t get everything right.

The episode is about the new couple’s difficulties sharing a bed for reasons including an obvious (and unfunny in this blogger’s opinion) fat joke and Mike’s treatment for sleep apnea.

The couple gets in bed and Mike matter-of-factly tells Molly he sleeps with a CPAP to stop from snoring. Then he tells her he doesn’t have to wear it that night. Both statements raise concerns.

After a few jokes about the appearance of Mike’s CPAP mask, Mike is fast asleep. Meantime, Molly can’t sleep because of the sound of air blowing from CPAP. She tries to move Mike, who starts snoring.

This is where the show gets things wrong. Loud snoring should not happen with CPAP unless the machine has a titration problem. An appointment with a sleep specialist can fix that easily.

For that matter, technically Mike’s treatment isn’t just to prevent snoring, but the breathing pauses from sleep apnea. A person with the disorder may sound like they are choking or not breathing at all.

Additionally, Mike’s offer to skip CPAP for a night sets a bad example. For moderate to severe cases of sleep apnea, treatment is not optional. Sleep apnea can wreck your sleep in the short-term and devastate your health in the long-term when untreated.

Make no mistake about it, Mike & Molly’s take on sleep apnea is flawed, but it may inspire people to seek treatment. And for that reason, the show may not be as bad as its reputation suggests.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

AAA Study Finds 2 out of 5 Americans Drive Drowsy

New traffic safety statistics provide a wake-up call for America about the public safety threat that is drowsy driving.

About 1 in 6 fatal accidents involves a drowsy driver, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports. And there’s a 41 percent chance you’re part of the problem, study results show.

Approximately 2 out of every 5 drivers admit to drifting to sleep behind the wheel at some point in their lives. About 10 percent nodded off while driving within the past year. Alarmingly, half of the survey respondents the incident said it happened on a busy highway.

Drowsy driving is the cause of an estimated 4,400 deadly crashes per year, accounting for 17 percent of all fatal accidents on U.S. roadways. You may think most drowsy driving accidents happen in the pitch black and bleary-eyed overnight hours, but findings show the afternoon rush is actually slightly more risky.

Teens and young adults are most likely to cause drowsy driving accidents. The risk is 78 percent higher compared to middle-aged adults, and may be the symptom of a larger problem.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports teens need more sleep than adults, yet rarely achieve it on school nights. More than a quarter of teens are badly sleep deprived while only about 15 percent of teens sleep 8.5 hours on a given school night. In many cases accumulated sleep debt can be as great as five to 15 hours per week, the equivalent of total sleep deprivation.

In severe cases the effects of sleep deprivation are comparable to alcohol intoxication. Teens’ inexperience at the wheel worsens an already dangerous scenario.

Men cause more drowsy driving-related accidents compared to women. The study doesn’t provide a reason, but men are more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea, a breathing disorder that can wreck your sleep and make it difficult to stay awake and alert in the daytime.

Accidents most often occur within the first hour of driving. Most people don’t realize they may struggle to stay awake towards the beginning of a trip, the study found.

The AASM reports the following are signs you may be too drowsy to drive:

1. Yawning repeatedly
2. Inability to keep your eyes open.
3. You catch yourself “nodding off” and have trouble keeping your head up.
4. Trouble remembering driving the last few miles.
5. You end up too close to cars in front of you.
6. Missing road signs or driving past your turn.
7. Drifting into the other lane of traffic.
8. Drifting onto the “rumble strip” or onto the shoulder of the road.

If you find yourself doing any of the things listed above, pull over and take a nap. Drink a cup of coffee and wait a half hour for the caffeine to enter your bloodstream for the boost in alertness you need to finish the trip.

Always get a full night’s sleep before driving. If you can’t sleep, arrange for a ride from a friend.
Make the right choices before and after you get behind the wheel and avoid being one of the 41 percent of Americans who drive drowsy.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sleep: Nature’s Study Aid

Get some sleep instead of pulling an all-nighter to buy extra time to cram for a vocabulary exam. A new study found that sleeping after a study session dramatically helps with the recall of new words. This approach can help prospective students improve their performance on the make-or-break tests like the SAT, ACT or GRE.

Two groups of study participants learned a series of new words phonologically similar to familiar words. Both groups were tested after the initial study session. The session occurred in the evening for half of the subjects; the others studied in the morning.

Volunteers who studied in the evening slept before taking a follow-up test in the morning. The people who studied in the morning had to take the second test later in the evening, and were not permitted to sleep.

Results indicate the participants remembered more words when they slept before the follow-up exam. Brain activity data suggests sleep spindles during deep sleep helped the volunteers retain the new words.

In a statement to the media, one of the authors suggested sleep plays an important role in the reorganization of new memories.

Regular may notice studies these findings are in line with several recent studies involving sleep and memory. One noted study involved word association problems commonly found in the SAT. The research concluded that long naps with REM sleep led to higher test scores than short naps or waking rest periods.

Another article published in April reported that naps helped a group of study participants learn the correct path through a complex maze.

The message is clear: sleep on your academic success and shun the caffeine and cram sessions.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Resist Temptation and Use the Fall Back Hour for Sleep

Sunday at 2 a.m. marks the unofficial start of winter as daylight savings time ends and standard time returns. Until the second Sunday of March, sunset will comes an hour early everywhere but Hawaii, Arizona and parts of Indiana.

Few look forward to the shorter days, but the silver lining is the extra hour of personal time that comes with the switch. Instead of extending your evening activities go to bed and enjoy the extra hour of sleep.

Spurn sleep and lengthen your Saturday nightcap and you may be sorry when Monday comes around and you return to your responsibities.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports sleep debt can lead to decreased productivity and increased family stress. Fall back weekend is the perfect time to chip away at accumulated sleep debt.

Set your alarm before going to bed at a normal hour, and wake up at the same time as you normally would. If you can, take it easy on Sunday and get to bed at a normal hour to get the winter off on the right foot.

A few other tips for the time change:

Early morning sunrises will make a brief and welcome return. Before they go away again consider getting a light box to simulate sunrise for a more pleasant wake-up during dark winter mornings. It’s normal to have a difficult time waking up early feeling energized when and it might as well be midnight outside. Clinical sleep specialists often recommend light boxes for treatment of insomnia or shift work disorder.

Apple iPhone users may want to use an extra alarm. Last week, countless owners of the popular smart phone overslept by a full hour because the phone’s internal clock never turned back an hour for Europe’s daylight savings. In all likelihood, Steve Jobs and AT&T won’t let that happen twice. But better to be on the safe side. Same goes with any cell phones, computers or electronic devices with an automatic internal clock.

For more information about the switch from daylight savings time, read last years coverage on the Sleep Education Blog.

Photo by rappensuncle

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sleep Apnea Risks Common among Hospital Patients

A large number of hospital patients may have a high risk for obstructive sleep apnea, a new study suggests. A survey conducted at Loyola University Health System found that more than 80 percent of respondents experienced some of the common warning signs of sleep-disordered breathing.

The results of the study don’t necessarily mean all of these people have sleep apnea. The only way to diagnose sleep apnea is through an overnight sleep study, conducted by a sleep medicine specialist. Instead the study indicates that these people reported some of the following risk factors:

• Loud snoring and/or pauses in breathing
• Daytime Fatigue
• High blood pressure
• Obesity
• Thick neck circumference
• More than 50 years of age
• Male Gender

157 out of 195 patients indicated they had at least three of the risk factors. Only 41 were evaluated in an overnight sleep lab. Doctors discovered 31 had obstructive sleep apnea.

Although sleep apnea is one of the more common sleep disorders, the rate reported in the study is abnormally high. This may be due to old age, obesity or overall poor health of hospital patients.

Read more about Obstructive Sleep Apnea at

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Can You Overdose on Caffeine?

Caffeine is a unique substance. Unlike most other stimulants and commonly abused drugs you can’t seriously harm your health by overdoing it. At least, that’s the perception.

In November, something happened to a British man that even the most seasoned caffeine fiend would have trouble grasping. He died of a caffeine overdose.

A medical autopsy revealed the 23-year-old had the consumed the caffeine equivalent of 70 energy drinks when he died. Rather than drinking coffee, soda or energy drinks, he decided to swallow spoonfuls of caffeine powder he purchased on the internet.

Previous case studies show consumption of around 10,000 mgs of caffeine can cause cardiac arrest leading to death.

To put things in perspective, a Starbucks venti (large) brewed black coffee contains only 415 mgs of caffeine. You would have to drink 24 large-sized coffees to reach the 10,000 mgs of caffeine that can alone cause a deadly overdose.

Past cases of such extreme caffeine consumption have led to severe symptoms including seizures, dangerously low blood pressure, severely abnormal heart rhythm and circulatory failure.

More often, deaths related to caffeine overconsumption are due to the combination of another substance, most commonly alcohol. Increasingly popular energy drinks containing alcohol have been linked to several high profile incidents, including the October 2010 hospitalization of nine students at a party at Central Washington University.

Case studies show that alcohol mixed with energy drinks leads to higher rates of intoxication. Authors explain that caffeine may alter the perception of alcohol intoxication. In other words, you feel less drunk than you actually are because of the caffeine, so you may continue to drink more.

When taken in moderation without other substances, caffeine is safe and can help alertness and mood. Caffeine can make it difficult to fall asleep and can reduce the total sleep time and time in deep sleep. Avoid consuming caffeine in the afternoon or evening to avoid disruptive effects on your sleep.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sleep Deprivation Effects Worse for Extroverts

There’s a sharp downside to being an extrovert, new findings show. The effects of sleep deprivation are worse for the naturally outgoing than for socially-reluctant homebodies.

A study published in the November issue of the journal SLEEP brings to light how our social lives can affect how we function without sleep. Frequent interaction with others also makes sleep deprivation worse.

Each of the 48 participants, aged 18 to 39, took a personality type test prior to the start of the study. Test results determined that 23 were extroverts and 25 were introverts.

After a full night of sleep, participants were required to stay awake for a total of 36 hours. After a few hours of baseline testing, half of the participants spent 12 hours with their peers playing interactive games and puzzles, watching movies and having group discussions. The others completed similar activities while alone in their private rooms. Following social time, the participants spent 22 hours of designated sleep deprivation.

Throughout the study, each person was tested every hour for the effects of sleep deprivation. Testing alternated between a test for motors skills and reaction and a test for ability to stay awake.

Extroverts suffered more than anyone from the effects sleep deprivation during every hour of testing. Introverts had an easier time staying awake and had better reaction times. Extroverts who were denied social contact actually did better in the tests than those who were allowed to socialize.

Authors of the study believe high levels of social stimulation may increase the need for sleep because social interactions lead to rapid fatigue in brain regions that regulate attention and alertness.

Introverts may be genetically built to resist sleep deprivation because they have naturally higher levels of cortical arousal.

The findings may have implication for job that requires long periods of wakefulness, such as military personnel. The authors of the study suggest managers may want to consider social personality when scheduling lengthy team assignments or independent work.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Baby Keeping You from Sleep? Wait a Few Months

Parenting seems a lot less rewarded when you’re waking constantly to tend to a crying child. Consistent fatigue can suck the joy out of one of life’s most gratifying milestones. The good news is the end is in sight, and it’s a lot closer than you might think.

More than half of babies sleep through the night after about two or three months, researchers have discovered. A much smaller number of parents won’t be so lucky. Less than 15 percent of babies won’t stop waking or crying until after their first birthday.

The study looked at the sleep patterns of 75 healthy newborns over 12 months. During that timeframe, parents kept sleep diaries for their child and installed a camera where the baby slept to make time-lapse recordings. Researchers used the video to check the accuracy of the sleep logs.

The study reports the largest change in uninterrupted sleep came after the first month. The average child sleeps an extra three hours without waking. At three months, half of babies began sleeping from midnight to 5 a.m. One month later the same group slept from eight hours.

Parents also reported better rest after five months. Half of the new parents reported sleeping six hours or more.

A small number of the babies still regularly woke after their first birthday.

Parents may be able to help children who frequently wake late in their infancy. Make sure the baby’s sleep environment is comfortable, quiet and dark. Babies should be on a consistent sleep and feeding schedule.

Other factors, such as health problems can keep children awake. Consult a doctor if your child’s sleep doesn’t significantly increase after a year.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Dedication to CPAP Takes a Positive Personality

Do you view CPAP as the machine that can save your health or is it a consequence of your lifestyle choices? How you answer may predict whether you’ll stick with CPAP or become the 25-50 percent of obstructive sleep apnea patients who leave their condition untreated.

A study in the journal Sleep and Breathing examined what types of personalities adhere to CPAP, the front-line treatment for obstructive sleep apnea.

A positive outlook plays the biggest role, researchers discovered. The ideal patient is optimistic and responsive to the rewards from treatment, such as increased energy and improved mood.Pessimists and people with strong feelings of fear and anxiety will likely have a much more difficult time in the initial stages of CPAP therapy.

The study involved 31 men and 32 women previously diagnosed with sleep apnea. Their personalities were classified using a series of personality inventories completed at the beginning of the study.

Researchers referred to each of the patient’s medical records to look at CPAP adherence. The study defined adherence as using CPAP for at least 4 hours a night for about 5 nights per week.

By comparing personality types to medical records, researchers discovered positive or negative outlook predicted CPAP adherence 3 out of 4 times.

The findings are great news for the type of people who look at the bright side of things. There’s still hope even if you see the glass as half empty. It just might take some extra work.

Doctors are increasingly referring CPAP patients to behavioral sleep specialists who can help you improve your outlook and tackle the challenges of changing your lifestyle.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sleepy Gene Worsens Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Some people are naturally wired to be tired. About 25 percent of people carry a gene variant that makes them sleepier than their peers, researchers have discovered.

The breakthrough explains why you might feel exhausted for staying up a half hour past your normal bedtime while your coworker in the next cubical has no problem regularly burning the candle at both ends.

People with a gene variant called DQB1*0602 are generally more fatigued whether they are rested or not because their sleep is more fragmented, researchers discovered. They spend less time in deep sleep compared to their peers. When they are fully rested, people with the gene variant have less desire to sleep.

The gene variant is closely related to narcolepsy, yet experts say anywhere from 12 to 38 percent of carriers are healthy sleepers who don’t develop the sleep disorder. Some people without the gene variant also develop narcolepsy, although it’s not as common.

The study compared 92 healthy adults without the gene variant to 37 healthy adults with DQB1*0602. Each participant spent a week at a sleep laboratory. For the first two nights they were allowed full rest, with a ten hour scheduled sleep period.
Sleep restriction followed for five nights. Each subject was allowed only four hours in bed and spent the rest of the time reading, playing games or watching movies.

Throughout the study, researchers measured the participants’ sleep quality and tested their memory, attention and ability to stay awake. Each person also reported how sleepy they felt.

When they were allowed full rest, people with the gene variant spent 34 minutes in stage three sleep compared to 43 minutes for people without the trait. After five nights of sleep deprivation people with the variant spent 29 minutes in deep sleep compared to 35 minutes for the control group.

While people with the variant were sleepier and more fatigued, they performed similarly in memory attention and daytime sleep resistance tests.

The findings may lead to changes in the way we look at sleep deprivation. AASM Member and medical director of Minnesota Sleep Disorder Center Dr. Mark Mahowald suggests doing away with sweeping statements about sleep deprivation.

“The implication is that everyone is sleep-deprived and sleep-deprivation does the same thing to everyone, but the tolerance and range of sleep is so different for different people,” Dr. Mahowald told ABC News.

"Our society has equated sleepiness with defects of character, like laziness and depression, but really, some people are generally sleepier during the day. They're more prone to naps, and to sleeping in. We have to accept the fact that sleep duration is genetically determined and not a sign of defect."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Real or Hoax? Photographer Spends 40 Days Without Sleep

Tyler Shields did something this October that most medical experts would consider highly dangerous, irresponsible and most likely impossible. The 28-year-old Los Angeles photographer claims he went 40 days without a wink of sleep. Friends tasked with monitoring Shields insist he was awake the entire time, and never felt the urge to close his eyes and drift away.

If you have your doubts, you’re not alone.

“In all likelihood he has slept, even if he does not think he has,” AASM member Dr. Michael Breus told AOL News. “Many people have what we call ‘microsleeps’ where our brain will go into sleep for even a few seconds.”

Shields claims he’s different than most people. He keeps a busy 24-hour work and social schedule and only needs to sleep a couple nights per week.

It all sounds either an early case of the devastating and impossibly-rare fatal familial insomnia or, in all likelihood, a sham for publicity. After all, Shields makes a living by taking suggestive photos of Lindsay Lohan and other young actresses.

Hoax or not, going long periods without sleep is still extremely unhealthy, which is why the Guinness Book of World Records refuses to recognize records for sleep-deprivation. Extreme sleep deprivation can lead to psychiatric problems such as irritability, depression and even hallucinations. Physical problems can range from elevated blood pressure, to obesity, stroke and heart failure.

Shields says most of the first month was no problem. The symptoms began after day 25 when he began having a bad fever, which he initially fought by eating “like 50 popsicles.“ When the fever came back he sat in a bathtub filled with ice. Then he lost feeling in his legs and then his entire right side. Then the numbness went away and he had to pee every 10 minutes.

He went the entire time without caffeine or stimulants. And he kept productive, taking dozens of photos inspired by sleeplessness.

The photographer says it took more than eight hours to fall asleep after the 40th day was complete. After only six hours of sleep he woke up starving and ate a half loaf of bread sitting on the kitchen floor.

“My head felt like it was going to explode almost as if a tank was driving through a wall and the only think stopping it was my head,” Shields blogged. “I still feel a bit like a balloon floating in space my feet dont feel like they are on the ground”

If this sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is. The entire story must be a hoax. It has to be.

Photo by Tyler Shields

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sleepwalk with Me: Comedian Mike Birbiglia's Sleep Disorder Scare

Meet Mike Birbiglia. He claims he jumped out of a second-story hotel window to avoid a missile attack. Witnesses say a madman crashed through a window in the middle of the night and then stumbled badly injured into the hotel lobby.

Birbiglia was as surpised as the hotel guests when he woke up covered in gashes. The guided missile attack was a nightmare but his actions were anything but a dream. 33 stitches and an overnight sleep study later Birbiglia was diagnosed with REM sleep behavior disorder, a parasomnia that causes the body to physically act out dreams.

The series of encounters leading up to his diagnosis are the subject of a series of memoirs titled Sleepwalk with Me.

Birbiglia makes his living by standing in front of an audience recounting long, embarrassing stories about his life. His darkly humorous accounts of REM sleep behavior disorder have earned him a Nathan Lane produced one man show, several Comedy Central specials and a spot as a semi-regular contributor to NPR’s This American Life.

Along the way he’s become the unofficial face of REM behavior disorder. Fans have approached Birbiglia to tell him they’ve had similar sleepwalking experiences and won’t repeat his mistakes.

In an interview with Time Magazine, Birbiglia admitted he sleepwalked for years before he was diagnosed.

“I [often] remember thinking this, ‘This seems dangerous. Maybe I should see a doctor.” And then I would think, “Maybe I’ll [just] eat dinner.’ And I went with dinner for years.”

Birbiglia limits the frequency of these episodes by taking clonazepam, a drug used to treat seizures by activating parts of the brain to produce a calming effect. Because there is no cure, he sleeps in a makeshift cocoon. He wears a sleeping bag up to his neck with mittens so he can’t open it and get up.

Sleepwalk with Me is on bookshelves now. Look for the film version written and acted by Birbiglia coming soon.

Hear Mike Birbiglia's live full-length performance of how he leaped through a hotel window on This American Life or listen to a in-depth interview on NPR's Fresh Air.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Use CPAP, Limit Heart Failure Risk

It may not seem like it, but how you deal with sleep apnea is a life-or-death decision. CPAP therapy can help you avoid heart failure, and reduce your risk of death.

A study published in the October issue of Sleep and Breathing looked at how patients with heart problems and sleep apnea responded to CPAP treatment.

The study included 18 patients had suffered advanced heart failure at least three months before the start of the study. Eleven patients elected to use CPAP for at least four hours per night, 70 percent of nights. The remaining seven patients were part of the control group because they refused treatment after a two-week trial with CPAP.

During follow-up every two months, researchers compared death and hospitalizations from heart failure. The study lasted a year.

Overall heart function improved after 12 months for the CPAP patients. The authors of the study report treatment had a noticeable positive impact on exercise tolerance and quality of life after only six months.

Two of the eleven patients who used CPAP were hospitalized during that time, but neither died.

Among the control group, four of the seven patients were hospitalized and two died.
Though it can save lives, the reality is some people may never accept CPAP. The study demonstrates why you should never leave sleep apnea untreated.

If CPAP doesn’t work for you, consult a sleep specialist at an AASM-accredited sleep center, and ask about alternatives such as oral appliance therapy or surgery.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Acid Reflux, Heartburn and Your Sleep

There’s a reason why doctors say you should avoid eating spicy foods before bedtime. The pain and discomfort from indigestion can make getting to sleep a real challenge. People with acid reflux disease (GERD) may struggle with this problem on a daily basis.

Several study abstracts presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology explored how upper gastrointestinal problems such as acid reflux disease and indigestion affect sleep.

People with an upper GI condition are more than three times more likely to have a sleep disorder, researchers discovered. Women appear to have twice as many sleep problems as men.

The authors of the study determined mental and physical factors such as overall fitness were related to sleep disorders in patients with an upper GI condition, but not age or substance use. The principal investigator believes depression and anxiety are major contributing factors.

Two other studies looked at how treatments for nighttime heartburn impact sleep. One small pilot study addressed the problem of drowsy driving, a serious public health concern according to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

A small group of patients with sleeplessness from acid reflux disease practiced driving on a simulated roadway. When they were treated with the drug esomeprazole, otherwise known as Nexium, the drivers’ performances greatly improved. Daytime sleepiness ratings decreased by an average of two points on the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. Researchers intend to further explore these findings with larger, blinded control studies.

The final study presented compared the drug baclofen to a placebo. Acid reflux patients slept nearly an hour longer with far greater sleep efficiency after they took the drug. The average number of acid reflux events per night dropped from four to just over one per night. The drug is currently prescribed to treat central nervous disorders causing uncontrolled movement.

Upper gastrointestinal conditions affect 1 in 10 U.S. adults. Common symptoms include chronic pain, pressure and the feeling of fullness in the abdomen.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sleep Complaints Common for Arthritis Sufferers

More than 10 million Americans with arthritis have regular sleep disturbances. National survey data shows an especially high rate among arthritis patients – nearly 23 percent. Only about 16 percent of people without arthritis have sleep-related complaints.

The study published in the October issue of Arthritis Care & Research analyzed findings from the 2007 National Health Interview Survey. More than 23,134 American adults answered a variety of health-related questions. Topics ranged from diet and exercise, to substance use, sleep and chronic health problems.

Nearly 1 in 5 survey respondents said they had been diagnosed with arthritis. The study did not differentiate the two types of arthritis, inflammatory and non-inflammatory. Non-inflammatory arthritis is more common and is most often caused by aging and injury.

Patients with uncontrolled pain, depression and anxiety had the highest risk, the study found. Complaints included inability to fall asleep, interrupted sleep and daytime fatigue. The authors suggest pain and joint mobility limitations related to arthritis may predict sleep problems, rather than just a diagnosis.

Sleep disturbances are often neglected as symptoms of arthritis, the study concluded. The authors contend that doctors should ask arthritis patients about sleep problems, and provide treatment.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fibromyalgia Linked to Restless Leg Syndrome

Constantly exhausted but unable to sleep, the complaint is common among fibromyalgia patients. Until now doctors have had a difficult time treating sleep disruption from the chronic condition. Researchers have discovered restless leg syndrome is often the culprit, and medication for the sleep disorder may greatly improve patients’ quality of life.

A study published in the October issue of Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine reports restless leg syndrome is about 10 times more prevalent in people with fibromyalgia compared to normal, healthy populations.

About 2 percent of people in the United States have fibromyalgia, a condition that causes you to feel fatigued with pain in your muscles, ligaments and tendons and tenderness all over your body. The condition occurs mostly in women and the cause is unknown.

Medications and therapy can minimize the symptoms, but can’t cure fibromyalgia. Authors of the study report the antidepressants often prescribed for patients may be causing restless leg syndrome cases. This may explain the higher than normal rate of restless leg syndrome.

Treatment for restless leg syndrome may help fibromyalgia patients' fatigue. Restless leg syndrome is fully treatable with medications such as pramipexole or ropinirole. See your doctor for treatment if you think you may have restless leg syndrome.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Study Finds Long-term CPAP Causes Subtle Facial Changes

Canadian researchers have discovered a slight side-effect associated with the front-line treatment for sleep apnea. Long-term CPAP use can lead to nearly undetectable changes in facial structure. The changes won’t cause any health problems and the benefits of CPAP for sleep apnea outweigh any concerns, the researchers report.

Investigators at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver used X-rays to examine 46 Japanese patients with obstructive sleep apnea. The average patient had used CPAP for about three years. None said they noticed any facial changes.
The X-rays showed the patients upper and lower jaws were less prominent because of slight shifts in dental arches and incisor teeth. The change was so subtle it couldn’t cause any health concerns.

Extensive research shows CPAP can effectively treat obstructive sleep apnea and eliminate symptoms such as daytime fatigue, cognitive impairment, and erectile dysfunction. Some sleep apnea patients have a hard time getting used to wearing a CPAP mask each night, and may give up on therapy. Sleep apnea is a serious condition that should never be left untreated.

There are effective alternatives to CPAP. A special oral appliance that appears similar to a sports mouth guard helps with moderate sleep apnea. Surgical procedures can also open up the airways and eliminate sleep apnea. Weight loss and change in sleep position may reduce the symptoms of less serious sleep apnea cases. Be sure to consult a sleep specialist at an AASM accredited sleep center before taking action.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Workplace Disability & The Value of Sleep

The business cost of insomnia goes beyond loss of employee productivity. Workers with regular sleep disturbances go on disability more often and take longer to return to work.

A study published in the October, 2010 issue of the journal SLEEP investigated how insomnia impacts workplace health. Researchers found sleep disturbances predicted later workplace disability for mental disorders, physical illnesses and musculoskeletal disorders.

The study followed more than 56,000 active public employees in Finland for more than three years. Each of the government and public hospital employees was surveyed about sleep disturbances and preexisting health conditions at the start of the study. The authors used national records to identify which employees went on disability during the follow-up after three years.

Workers who had existing medical conditions, used prescribed pain killers or regularly performed manual labor were most likely to report severe sleep disturbance which occurred more 5-7 days per week.

Over the course of the study, 7 percent of the employees went on disability. About 1 in 3 never returned to work. Statistical analysis shows people who reported sleep disturbances had a higher likelihood of going on work disability and not returning to work. The results were adjusted for complicating factors such as shift work, depression and preexisting health problems.

Worker disability is only one of the business costs of sleep disturbances. Insomnia can also make you worse at your job.

Sometimes your job may be the source of the sleep problems. In 2009 the Sleep Education Blog reported on studies that tied high stress work and low social support at the workplace to long-term insomnia.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Inadequate Sleep Undermines Dietary Fat Loss

Dieting sometimes just doesn’t work out as hoped, despite your best intentions. Before you reexamine your exercise routine or diet, consider your sleeping habits.

A small study conducted at the University of Chicago suggests sleep is the third vital element in the battle to shed fat. Exercise and dietary efforts may be less effective without a regular 7-8 hours of shuteye.

Dieters in the study shed the same amount of weight with less sleep, however when they had adequate sleep they burned off more body fat. An abstract is available on the website of the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

A group of 10 overweight study participants with an average BMI of 27.4 adopted a diet with 90 percent of calories required to maintain weight without exercise. The volunteers dieted in two 14-day intervals. One involved sleep restriction with only 5.5 hours per night compared to 8.5 hours in the control portion of the study.

The subjects lost an average of 6.6 lbs during each 14-day dieting period. Half of the weight lost was body fat with adequate sleep. In the sleep restriction condition, the dieters lost only 1.3 lbs of fat and 5.3 lbs of lean body mass.

They also felt hungrier. The “hunger hormone” Ghrelin increased during sleep loss, causing a spike in appetites. Ghrelin also promotes the retention of fat, the study authors report.

"If your goal is to lose fat, skipping sleep is like poking sticks in your bicycle wheels," said Plamen Penev, MD, PhD, the study’s principal investigator. “One should not ignore the way they sleep when going on a diet.”

The authors intend to further investigate how sleep loss affects diet results. They plan on conducting similar, lengthier studies with larger samples of dieters.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Can Congressional Hearings Cure Insomnia?

When was the last time you watched CSPAN? Was it when congress debated about health care reform or political campaign contributions. Or was it when comedian Stephen Colbert lambasted congress or when a congressional panel questioned Major League Baseball's top stars about steroid use?

There's a reason why people tune in to see the unusual and entertaining but choose to read about important policy issues in the news later. Congressional procedure is about as entertaining as an early morning accounting seminar in college.

That said, its hard to blame a young boy for falling asleep during his grandfathers floor speech. The CSPAN video (seen below) has become a viral sensation.

The man speaking is U.S. Rep. Joe Poe, a Republican from Texas. In this blogger's opinion, the address about domestic violence was brief and not that boring by Washington's standards. Yet even a congressional aide couldn't keep the boy from drifting to sleep.

It's not just children who can't stay awake through the endless and sometimes pointless posturing. Even presidential candidates have been caught napping at the capitol.

Think you can stay awake through congressional hearings?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Irregular Sleep in Early Pregnancy Linked to Hypertension Later

Adopt healthy sleep habits early in pregnancy and your body will thank you later. Research shows too much or too little sleep during near the beginning of pregnancy can lead to hypertension and potentially serious complications during the third trimester.

Women who sleep about nine hours night have significantly lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure compared to pregnant women with unhealthy sleep habits, researchers at the University of Washington report.

Abnormal sleep duration is also associated with preeclampsia, a condition linked to pregnancy induced hypertension and excess protein in urine. Preeclampsia can lead to serious or fatal complications if left untreated.

The study published in the October 2010 issue of the journal SLEEP measured the blood pressure of more than 1,200 healthy, pregnant women immediately after childbirth. During early pregnancy, each answered the question, “since becoming pregnant, how many hours per night do you sleep?”

About 1 in 5 women said they slept nine hours per night - the normal sleep duration for pregnant women. More than half the women slept seven to eight hours per night. About 14 percent of women slept less than six hours, and around 10 percent of women slept 10 hours or more.

Short sleepers and long sleepers had an average systolic blood pressure of 118.05 mm Hg and 118.90 mm Hg, respectively. Healthy sleeping pregnant women had much lower average blood pressure, at 114 mm Hg. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute reports a systolic blood pressure reading of 140 mm Hg or more is considered high.

Short sleepers also had a 10 times higher preeclampsia rate. Overall, about 6.3 percent of study participants were diagnosed with preeclampsia or pregnancy induced-hypertension.

Sleep patterns tend to change throughout pregnancy due to shifting hormone levels. Pregnant women tend to sleep longer than normal adults.

Read more about Sleep & Pregnancy at
Photo by Bethykae

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Consumer Alert: Sleep Positioners for SIDS Caused Infant Suffocations

The Food and Drug Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission warn parents to stop using infant sleep positioners. The soft fabric devices claim to help babies safely sleep on their back, yet at least 12 children have rolled over and suffocated or became trapped between the positioner and the side of the crib. The federal agencies have received dozens of additional reports of children who were placed on a sleep positioner and were later found lying in potentially dangerous positions.

18 models of sleep positioners are FDA approved to prevent acid reflux symptoms or flat head syndrome. The products were marketed – and used by parents – to prevent sudden infant death syndrome, a use the FDA has never approved.

None of the products have been recalled, but an FDA spokesperson told the Associated Press to expect recalls in the future. The FDA has asked all sleep positioner manufacturers to stop selling the products and provide them with evidence that the benefits of the item outweigh the risks.

SIDS is the leading cause of death for children ages 1 month to 1-year-old. Parents can minimize SIDS risk by placing a baby to sleep on their back on a firm mattress or safety-approved crib. Keep any pillows, toys or soft items away from the sleep area and keep blankets away from a baby’s mouth and nose. Don’t let infants get too warm; the sleep environment should be around room temperature with not too many layers of clothing or blankets.

Photo courtesy the FDA

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Consider your Sleep Before Springing for Free “Holiday” Coffee or Beer

September 29th is a special day for savvy savers. The date is dedicated to two free beverage-based holidays you’ve probably never heard of until today.

National Coffee Day, presently the top trending topic on Google, is making mainstream headlines because everyone loves a good giveaway. Many Dunkin’ Donuts locations and regional coffee chains are offering free java to commemorate National Coffee Day.

Not to be overshadowed by the bitter beverage, Budweiser is promising free beer for National Happy Hour, starting September 29th. The catch is the brewer can’t say which bars are offering free beer due to some state and local liquor laws.

Did we mention both coffee and beer are terrible for your sleep? Caffeine use, especially at the wrong time of day, can cause insomnia. Some people - especially nurses as a recent survey reported - lean heavily on coffee to make up for lost sleep. That can turn into a vicious cycle that continually steals your sleep.

Alcohol is sneakier about stealing your sleep. Drinking can make you fall asleep faster, but you’ll wake up feeling unrested. Alcohol changes your sleep architecture so you spend more time in deep sleep at the expense of restful REM sleep.

If you must drink coffee, make sure it’s in the morning or early in your work shift. And don’t overdo it or you’ll feel some unpleasant side-effects.

To Budweiser’s benefit, happy hour is the best time to consume alcohol. Drink in moderation in the early evening so your body will process the alcohol before bedtime.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

NTSB: Tired Trucker Caused Crash that Killed 10

The National Transportation Safety Board promises to turn up the pressure on the trucking industry, following a year-long investigation that ruled driver fatigue as the cause of a devastating semi crash on an Oklahoma highway. 10 people died, and five more were injured when Donald L. Creed, then 76, rammed through a line of cars stopped in traffic 90 miles northeast of Tulsa. Creed was apparently unaware and never tried to brake or swerve to avoid the stopped cars.

Investigators believe Creed only slept five hours before starting his shift at 3 a.m. He had been driving for 10 hours when he caused the accident. The Associated Press reports Creed had recently returned from vacation and was still readjusting to shift work.

Creed also had mild sleep apnea, and it’s not clear if he was receiving treatment.
The NTSB recommends federal regulators take action in response to the accident report. Measures would include require fatigue risk management program that would make sure drivers sleep before beginning their shift. The program would include sleep apnea screenings for drivers.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is working on a similar model program that is expected to finish development in about two years. It would not be required under current regulations.

Other measures include requiring “black box” recorders for accident investigations and collision warning systems. The systems, currently available for $1,000 to $2,000, give visual and audio alerts when their truck is within 350 feet of colliding with another vehicle. The NTSB recommended the use of collision warning systems in 2001, but the devices were never required.

NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman said in the Tuesday hearing, "The time to act on all three of these safety fundamentals is now so that this kind of horrific tragedy will not occur again."

Accident investigators claim the systems could save an estimated 96 lives each year by preventing as many as 4,700 accidents.

The U. S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that drowsy driving is related to more than 1,500 deaths per year.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sleepless College Students Risk Academic Failure

The all-night cram sessions, after-hours parties and early morning tailgates that characterize the college experience leave little room for sleep. All the excitement and academic stress is putting college students at risk for sleep disorders.

A study in the Journal of American College Health reports more than a quarter of students could develop at least one sleep disorder due to their lifestyle. Students who burn the candle at both ends have a higher risk of failing out of school.

27 percent of the 1,845 students surveyed at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte reported irregular sleep patterns and symptoms of sleep deprivation. Many students said they shifted their sleep schedule on weekends to make up for the school week.

A high percentage of the sleepless students posted failing grades according to school records. At-risk students averaged a 2.65 Grade Point Average; normal sleepers had an average 2.82 GPA.

Physical and mental health problems are common in poor sleeping college students. Tension and stress are predictors of low sleep quality for students, a 2009 study shows. Only 30 percent of students in the 2009 study reported at least eight hours of sleep per night.

Sleep deprivation may be common in college, but it’s not difficult to make sleep a priority. Flexible scheduling allows students to develop a routine that suits their individual chronotypes. Night owls should stay away from early-morning classes and opt for evening offerings instead. Many schools are increasing the number of evening classes offered per semester. Some schools are evening scheduling classes that end after midnight.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Gluten Intolerance Tied to Sleep Disorders

Special diet or not, sleep suffers with celiac disease. The digestion condition triggered by gluten intolerance is linked to a higher rate of sleep disorders.

Intestinal damage from celiac disease prevents the body from absorbing key nutrients. Generally, people with celiac disease carefully manage their diets, avoiding foods like bread, pasta or any other foods containing wheat, barely or rye.

A gluten-free diet may minimize symptoms, but it won’t help improve sleep quality, a study in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics reports.

The study compared newly coeliacs, coeliacs on a gluten-free diet and healthy volunteers. Each completed assessments for sleep disorders, daytime fatigue, anxiety and depression.

Both celiac groups posted similar results, with higher than normal rates of depression, fatigue and anxiety and lower sleep quality.

A higher rate of depression or anxiety results in more cases of secondary insomnia. The relationship goes both ways; sleep disorders can also cause a decline in mental health.

More than two million people in the U.S. have celiac disease. Gluten-free diets are the only treatment for the disease.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Perceived Control is the Secret to CPAP

The answer to sleep apnea seems so simple on the surface. Get diagnosed and get set up with CPAP, the front-line treatment for the sleep disorder.

The reality is many people give up on CPAP before seeing improvements in health, oftentimes because of comfort issues. These patients are putting their health at risk before giving the treatment much of a chance.

So what’s the secret to CPAP adherence? A new study in Sleep & Breathing suggests you have to believe in yourself. Confidence that you have control over sleep apnea will lead to quicker improvements and a better likelihood of permanently adopting the treatment.

The study involved 31 sleep apnea patients who were unfamiliar with CPAP. Each subject answered questions about knowledge, expectations and belief that their health can improve, before starting CPAP.

The patients received daily screenings for fatigue, CPAP adherence and mood during the first 10 days of treatment.

Data analysis shows patients who entered treatment with the belief that they can control CPAP saw the greatest overall benefits, including next-day improvements in fatigue and mood. Those who started treatment with inflated expectations were less likely to stick to CPAP.

Patients with less severe cases of CPAP also showed better adherence and overall daily health improvements.

Some patients may never adhere to CPAP. Alternative treatments like surgery or oral appliance therapy may be the best solution for certain people.

Never leave sleep apnea untreated. Risks include headaches, hypertension, cognitive problems associated with brain damage and even death.