Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mysteries of Sleep: Brain Activity and Sleep's Restorative Effects

Lab rats may provide us with new clues on the mechanisms that make sleep restorative. A study published Wednesday in the Journal of Neuroscience, the authors say, is the first to precisely measure brain energy to learn more about the biological functions of sleep.

Researchers observed a dramatic energy surge in certain parts of rats’ brains when the animals first fell asleep. While the rats were in deep sleep levels of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a molecule sometimes referred to as the energy currency of life, increased in four key brain regions. Overall brain activity decreased. When researchers kept the rats awake there was no measurable energy surge.

The parts of the brain where this was observed are associated with wakefulness. One of the areas this was observed was the frontal cortex, a part of the brain associated with high-level thinking.

The authors of the study believe the flare-ups power the restorative processes only happens when during sleep. Daily waking functions may consume most of the brain’s energy, preventing restorative effects.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Perks and Perils of Split Sleep Schedules for Shift Workers

One of the most difficult aspects of shift work is figuring out when to sleep. You may get right to sleep after work but wake up earlier than intended, alert and unable to return to sleep. It may feel fine in the afternoon, but by the time the next shift starts exhaustion sets in.

Some shift workers adapt by splitting their sleep into two shorter periods each day. It works like this: sleep 4 to 5 hours in the morning, wake up in the early afternoon, and then take a long nap 2 to 3 hours before work.

Those with split sleep schedules say it allows for more flexibility to participate in daytime and early evening activities including parenting, socializing and running errands.

A limited body of research topic suggests a split sleep schedule is no different than sleeping exclusively during the daytime. Alertness levels are about the same in both conditions. It’s up to shift workers to decide what strategy is the best fit to get the maximum amount of sleep.

A 1998 study used computer modeling to test different sleep approaches for shift workers, including split sleep schedules. Results show a long late nap may increase alertness and minimize risk of injury or mistakes when the nap is taken around 1 a.m. The unfortunate reality is most overnight shift workers don’t have that luxury.

The authors determined the next best time for a nap is leading up to the start of work. This may help but it’s likely you will find yourself struggling to stay awake for most of your shift, especially between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.

The study included a model for sleeping exclusively during the daytime. The results were nearly identical; sleeping a full 7.5 consecutive hours in the daytime leads to the same overnight alertness levels, however reduced, as napping before work.

A NASA funded experiment by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School came up with the same conclusion. The study looked at whether astronauts and mission control personnel could perform sufficiently under nontraditional sleep schedules, including split sleep.

Researchers monitored 90 subjects in a controlled laboratory with no external time cues for 14 consecutive days. Participants were assigned to one of 18 strict sleep conditions that included a mix of split sleep schedules and full daytime sleep schedules. The control group slept at night for about eight hours. The participants were given a series of alertness tests every two hours they were awake.

There was no measurable difference between split sleep schedules and daytime sleep, as long as the total sleep length was sufficient. The authors concluded split schedules have no negative impact and may allow more lifestyle flexibility for civilian shift workers.

Both approaches have their downsides. Staying asleep through the afternoon may be a challenge, especially during the summertime. Taking a late nap may make it difficult to fall asleep after work. Insomnia is a common complaint for all types of shift workers.

There are several other things you can do to make the shift work experience more tolerable. When used properly caffeine can be a boon for shift workers. A recent study found drinking coffee at the beginning of the shift can cut down on workplace mistakes.

Bright light therapy can also help increase alertness. The Sleep Education blog recommends using a light box for 15 minute increments at your workstation during the first half of your shift. Be careful not use a light box towards the end of your shift. Exposure to bright light close to bedtime may make it difficult to sleep.

Some shift workers describe feeling a surge of energy towards the end of shifts, especially after dawn. It’s important to avoid sunlight before trying to sleep. We suggest wearing dark sunglasses on the commute home from work. Also try to make your bedroom as dark as possible, by using blackout curtains.

High temperatures and daytime noise are two other common environmental sleep disruptions for shift workers. The Sleep Education blog suggests running the air conditioning along with a loud fan or noise machine.

Slightly adjusting your sleep schedule on days off may also help your body recover from shift work related sleep deprivation.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Americans Replace Work with Sleep in Recession

Contrary to previous reports, we aren’t staying awake worrying about the recession. A new government survey shows the average American gained sleep since the housing bubble burst and unemployment rates inflated.

The Labor Department’s 2009 American Time Use Survey reports last year we spent 17 fewer minutes a day engaged in work compared to 2007. In turn, we’re sleeping an extra six minutes. Americans ages 15 and older slept an average of eight hours and 40 minutes a day.

The numbers may be discouraging on the economic front, but from a health standpoint we’re doing quite well. The AASM recommends 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night for adults.

Women seem to be getting the most rest. Survey statistics show they had eight hours and 43 minutes of sleep in 2009. Men slept for an average of eight hours and 37 minutes. We’re sleeping extra long on weekends – about 9 hours and 20 minutes a day.

Breaking down the Labor Department report further, it appears all age groups are getting more than enough sleep:

Sleep times decreased with age. This may be because adults have more responsibilities and a reduced “sleep need.” Sleep time sharply for adults ages 65 and older. This spike is contrary to research suggesting sleep disorders including insomnia are common among older adults.

Curiously, 99.8 percent of adult men reported sleeping. The other 0.2 percent is probably explained by the survey’s margin of error, which is not listed.

So what were we doing for the rest of the extra time spent not working? In typical American fashion we spent the time watching television.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Review: “Wide Awake: A Memoir of Insomnia”

In “Wide Awake: A Memoir of Insomnia” author Patricia Morrisroe provides an entertaining overview of the basics of sleep medicine and the lengths people go to find sleep.

Morrisroe has battled insomnia for most of her life. In the book she describes her frustrations of waking up most nights and never getting back to sleep, a problem that dates back to childhood.

The story is about the author as much as it is about sleep. Morrisroe’s writing style is straightforward and personal. It’s easy to identify with her as she desperately grasps for anything to help with her insomnia.

One warning to readers: “Wide Awake” does not make for good bedtime reading. The description inside the hardcover jacket advises, “Reading [“wide awake”] will promote wakefulness.” Readers with insomnia caused by bedtime anxiety should heed this warning. Reading the inner thoughts of a writer with insomnia may only perpetuate sleeplessness by suggestion.

Reading “Wide Awake” its clear Morrisroe is well-versed in the scientific background of sleep. She intelligently breaks down jargon-filled research articles found in academic journals to educate readers about various sleep disorders and treatments.

The early to middle parts of the book compellingly lay out just how ubiquitous sleep, or the lack of it, is in our technologically-driven 24-hour society. In many ways, we’re being kept from sleep; from our hospitals to the casino floors in Las Vegas bleary-eyed workers try to survive day-by-day.

The narrative takes some distracting detours in its later acts. It seems the whole purpose of Morrisroe’s adventure in arctic Sweden is to show readers “look at this exotic place where I couldn’t sleep.” The segment about the new-age dream retreat and costume ball seemed similarly off-track.

Morrisroe gives a somewhat controversial account of her experiences with sleep clinicians. Most disappointingly, she did not adhere to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, the AASM recommended treatment for primary insomnia. Based on her accounts, her therapist wasn’t the right fit. She describes an almost adversarial relationship filled with friction. In this case it’s best to switch therapists and find a mental health professional with a more compatible disposition.

Ending Spoiler Alert: Contrary to the books description, Morrisroe never finds the answer to her insomnia, but she does come close. Meditation techniques seem to temporarily work by reducing her sleep anxiety. But it’s an environmental factor that ultimately keeps her up at night. The book closes with her sitting on her porch at 4 a.m. staring at the full moon, unable to sleep but relaxed from meditation.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Energy Pods let Google Employees Snooze in Style

Here’s one big reason why Google is consistently near the top of every annual “Best Companies to Work For” list. Among the many well-documented perks of working for Google is the leeway to step away from the desk and take a nap. Google stands out from the other companies with nap rooms by offering a stylistically futuristic sleep pod right out of the show Caprica.

That oversized salon hair dryer you see above is a state-of-the-art Energy Pod made by Metronaps. The reclining bed underneath the big white visor looks a lot like a dental chair.

Features include a built-in music player that produces soothing sounds and an alarm that wakes users up with a gentle combination of lights and vibration.

The Metronaps Energy Pod retails for around $8,000 - no small price, but still less expensive than ludicrously priced European luxury beds.

Google’s solution to workplace fatigue appears to be a preferable alternative to lunchtime car naps or sneaky catnaps in the bathroom stalls. It’s good to see the world’s most influential tech firm notice the building scientific evidence of the performance benefits of napping. Now if only more companies would adopt this practice maybe we’ll all stop looking down on workplace naps... I’m looking at you Ken Griffey Jr.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Urban Air Pollution Spikes Sleep Disordered Breathing

Add sleep-disordered breathing to the list of health ailments associated with heavy air pollution. New findings may further fuel the green movement by providing another reason to curb emissions.

People living in highly-polluted urban areas get poorer quality sleep, which is often plagued by breathing problems. The effects only get worse during the sweltering summer heat, when ozone alerts are often issued.

Sleep disordered breathing and air pollution both increase the risk for cardiovascular disease.

The study published in the June issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine used data from the Sleep Heart Health Study (1995-1998), a project exploring the cardiovascular symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing.

The authors narrowed down the field of participants from around 6,000 to about 3,000 to include residents from seven places: Framingham, Mass., Minneapolis, Minn., New York, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Sacramento, Calif., and Tucson, Ariz.

Researchers cross-referenced the results from the Sleep Heart Health Study with pollution data from those cities during the period of the original study. The Sleep Heart Health Study looked at trends in sleep quality, blood oxygen levels and number of breathing pauses. It included controls for external risk factors, such as smoking.

Results show a spike in sleep-disordered breathing cases when the temperature increased, along with pollution levels.

The authors speculate sleep disordered breathing may be more prevalent in poor urban environments. These types of neighborhoods are often exposed to the brunt of automotive and industrial air pollution.

Residents of low-income areas are especially at risk for sleep-disordered breathing due to the lack of nutritious food options in low-income areas. Because grocery store chains stay clear of these “food deserts” residents opt for fast food or the junk food sold at liquor stores. The rate of obesity, a risk-factor for obstructive sleep apnea, is generally higher in these neighborhoods.

There are a few things you can do to counteract urban pollution and prevent breathing pauses. The Sleep Education blog recommends staying in an air conditioned area when an ozone alert is issued or the temperatures are high. Over the counter allergy medication may also reduce allergies from the pollution.

If this does not result in more restful sleep or your family or partner continues to notice pauses in breathing you may have obstructive sleep apnea. In this case we recommend you seek treatment at an AASM accredited sleep center.

Image by Ben Amstutz

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Body Clock Breakthrough Could Lead to Magic Jet Lag Pill

Jumping time zones won’t be so jarring if the findings from a new study pan out. Researchers have pinned down the hormone responsible for regulating circadian rhythms.

This breakthrough could lead to new treatments for jet lag. A hormone supplement in the form of a pill in theory could readjust the human body’s circadian rhythms.
A team of German researchers tested the treatment on lab mice.

The medication metyrapone was able to adjust hormone levels affecting their sleep-wake cycle.

Such a treatment could have a tremendous health benefit for frequent business travelers and rotating shift workers. It’s unknown whether a treatment to rapidly readjust the body clock would be more beneficial than the slower naturally occuring adjustments.

Circadian rhythm sleep disorders such as jet lag have been linked to increased health risks including breast cancer, heart disease and depression.

Planning ahead by slowly adjusting sleeping and waking hours before a trip may reduce the effects of jet lag. Rest periods, exercise and light therapy may also help.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Alcohol Use Risk Rises for Adolescents with Sleep Problems

Teens that develop sleep problems around the onset of puberty are more likely to use alcohol. A new study connects previous findings on adolescent sleep problems and alcohol use to puberty.

Some early-maturing adolescents develop “night owl” tendencies during the sleep pattern transition associated with the onset of puberty. Those individuals are most at-risk to develop sleep problems.

Separate research shows adolescents who hit puberty earlier than their peers are more likely to drink.

Survey data shows a clear link between those two groups. The early-maturing teens that get to sleep later were more likely to use alcohol.

The findings are in line with previous research on adults; Sleep problems can predict the onset of alcohol abuse.

The conclusion was based on questionnaires from a previous study involving Dutch school children. The authors narrowed down the field to only responses from adolescents ages 11 to 14. The findings were consistent across both genders and all education levels included in the study.

The findings will be featured in the September issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. The abstract is available online prior to publication.

Photo Courtesy Paul Hocksener

Fox News Report: Dentist Helps Florida Couple Stop Snoring

Word is getting out about oral appliances to treat obstructive sleep apnea. A Florida couple profiled by Fox News recently endorsed the latest technology in sleep dentistry.

The oral appliance shown in the video above work best as an alternative to CPAP therapy for mild to moderate forms of sleep apnea.

Find a dental sleep specialist near you.

For regularly updates about the latest in sleep dentistry follow the official blog of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Vuvuzelas keep English soccer team awake at World Cup

After more than a week, most World Cup viewers have complained that an ear-splitting noise is drowning out every broadcasted. The sound comes from fans blowing on vuvuzelas, a traditional South African horn that sounds like a swarm of angry killer bees.

After hearing vuvuzelas for 90-plus minutes on the field, players on the English squad were furious when that same noise later kept them from sleeping peacefully. Some patrons had vuvuzelas that were given away in a contest at the hotel bar and restaurant.

The hotel banned vuvuzelas after team coach Fabio Capello complained about the unmistakably irritating sound in the early morning hours.

Possible sleep disturbances could explain why England has dissapointed so far in South Africa. The high-ranked but notoriously underachieving squad has struggled in group play. Both matches, against the United States and Algeria, ended in a tie.

Earlier this month the Sleep Education blog reported environmental noise disturbances during sleep may harm waking performance. Participants in the study had slower reaction times in a series of tests after recorded traffic sounds played while they slept.

Image Courtesy Coca-Cola South Africa

Friday, June 18, 2010

Positional therapy harness helps reduce sleep apnea for some

A positional device that makes you sleep on your sides may be an effective alternative to CPAP in solving select sleep apnea cases. Study results from the June issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine show apneic episodes caused by sleeping on your back can be nearly eliminated by changing positions.

The Zzoma Positional Sleeper is a large harness designed to prevent people from sleeping on their backs. The contraption, seen below, resembles a large backwards fanny pack.

Positional therapy may help reduce sleep breathing pauses because the soft tissue in your throat is less likely to collapse and block the airway when you sleep on your side.

The study involved 40 patients with mild to moderation positional obstructive sleep apnea. Each spent a night in a sleep lab without treatment. The subjects later returned. Half used a Zzoma Positional Sleeper; others used CPAP.

Researchers observed 91 percent of the subjects had fewer than five episodes per hour while wearing a positional device. The results were only slightly better using CPAP; 97 percent of patients had fewer than five episodes per hour.

Nearly all patients were able to remain sleeping on their sides for the duration of the night. A polysomnogram measured improved quality of sleep for most subjects.

The device used in the study to treat positional sleep apnea is similar to a home remedy covered previously in the sleep education blog. By fastening a tennis ball to your back, you can prevent rolling onto your back.

Other variations of the technique have been used. These include a backpack with a foam ball inside, a triangular pillow, and a posture alarm.

The Sleep Education blog cautions positional therapy is only effective in select positional sleep apnea cases. CPAP therapy is the treatment of choice for mild to severe forms of sleep apnea. If you think may have obstructive sleep apnea you’re advised to seek treatment at an AASM accredited sleep center.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Improve your sex life with CPAP

The answer for some men’s sex woes may not be that oft-advertised little blue pill. A new study shows CPAP can dramatically improve sexual function for obstructive sleep apnea patients.

Patients with the most severe cases of sleep apnea reported the largest improvement in sexual relationship after three months of CPAP treatment. Those with fewer apneic episodes still saw a noticeable difference.

Past research shows loss of interest in sex is directly tied with the number of apneic events. Men with obstructive sleep apnea generally have poorer intimate and sexual relations. Its estimated 30 to 60 percent of men with sleep apnea have some degree of erectile dysfunction.

A group of 123 men from sleep disorder centers were screened for sleep disorders and sexual dysfunction before beginning CPAP therapy. The participants were primarily middle-aged obese white men with severe forms of sleep apnea.

Each completed the Multiple Sleep Latency Test, the Epworth Sleepiness Scale and the Intimate and Sexual Relationships subscale of the Functional Outcomes of Sleep Questionnaire.

Patients returned to the clinic and underwent the same tests three months after starting treatment.

CPAP therapy is the most common treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. An oral appliance is also effective for treating mild to moderate cases. The AASM recommends dietary weight loss for people are obese and have sleep apnea.

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

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

24 hour endurance races pits drivers against sleep deprivation

Few events in all of sports measure up to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in terms of pure difficulty. Drivers must battle their own circadian rhythms and maintain at speeds up to 210 miles per hour to finish the prestigious French endurance race held every year in June.

Manufacturers usually dominate the race coverage. Make no mistake the outcome is largely determined long before the race, during the car development phase. A car must have near flawless aerodynamics and incredible durability to compete.

Similar lofty expectations are asked of team members from the pit to the track. Each has to perform at a maximum level with an attention to detail even in the dark of the night.

Rules state that no driver is able to remain at the wheel for more than four consecutive hours. Each racer is allowed to drive a maximum of 14 hours.

Only a couple drivers have ever attempted the near-impossible task of completing the 24 hour race alone. After a well-publicized driver-fatigue related disaster in 1955, Le Mans began requiring multiple drivers per car.

Drivers usually take off about three hours at a time. Rarely do they get more than an hour or so of real rest. They usually say nighttime is the most difficult, due to the natural human circadian lull that occurs around 3 a.m.

The exhaustion tests teams to their limits emotionally. Friction becomes more common and shouting can happen amidst the crew.

The key is the weeks of preparation teams spend to preparing their bodies and minds for the 24 hour grind.

Driver Alexander Wurz told the New York Times he practiced driving until midnight the entire week before the race. Debriefing sessions typically lasted until 2 or 3 a.m.

With enough practice, the drivers and crew are able to minimize mistakes caused by sleep deprivation.

Drivers know every inch of the track, and can identify the less experienced cars that may cause problems.

Relief comes at the finish line, at least for the successful teams. “You can sleep afterwards if the race has been good,” said Wurz.
Image courtesy Audi USA

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Refresh narcolepsy research: Stanford lab needs your votes to win $250k Pepsi grant

The sleep research community is asking for your help to win funding for narcolepsy research. The Stanford University Center for Narcolepsy is eligible to win a $250,000 grant from the Pepsi Refresh Project, a monthly contest to fund causes that will make a positive impact. The vote is open to anyone, and it ends at the end of June.

Click here to vote for narcolespy research.

As of Tuesday, June 15th, Stanford’s entry “Fund Narcolepsy Participation in International Immunochip Project” ranked 44th. Only the top two finalists are awarded funding.

Below is The Stanford University Center for Narcolepsy pitch, as posted on the Pepsi Refresh Project website:

Participate in ImmunoChip project testing narcolepsy samples
Learn about the genes predisposing to narcolepsy
Raise narcolepsy visibilty to that of other autoimmune diseases
May lead to eventual therapeutic interventions to prevent narcolepsy
Narcolepsy may be a model for other disorders of the brain


Narcolepsy is common; it affects 1 in 2000 people, a frequency similar to to Type 1 Diabetes or Mutliple Sclerosis. With recent and exciting findings there is now no doubt that narcolepsy is caused by an autoimmune destruction of 70,000 brain cells producing hypocretin, a wake producing substance. Despite recent advances there is little funding of narcolepsy research; less than one thousandth the funding that goes to Type 1 Diabetes for example. This is unfortunate as narcolepsy may be the first example of a neuronal specific autoimmune disorder, and may be a model for other diseases such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or autism.

The goal of the ImmunoChip Project is to compare and contrast the genes involved in over 20 autoimmune diseases (about 50,000 samples). The funds from the Pepsi grant would allow for the Stanford CFN to include 4,200 narcolepsy samples in this important international collaboration increasing visibility


Moderate aerobic exercise can improve sleep quality for insomnia patients

A modest jog or a few dozen laps in the pool may help insomnia patients rediscover restful sleep. A new study published in the June issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine demonstrates how moderate-intensity cardio exercise can improve overall sleep quality.

Exercising 4-8 hours before bedtime helped primary insomnia patients get to sleep faster, wake up less often and increase total time asleep. The authors think the aerobic exercise helps reduce bedtime anxiety.

High intensity aerobic exercise and resistance training led to fewer improvements.

The findings were based on overnight sleep study results along with a daily sleep log.

The study featured a sample of 48 subjects assigned to a control group or one of the three exercise conditions. The participants, ages 30 to 55, all had chronic primary insomnia. Anyone with a medical or psychiatric condition was excluded. People who exercised regularly or worked abnormal shifts were also left out of the study.

The moderate-intensity aerobic exercise group ran at a medium pace on a treadmill for 50 minutes. The high-intensity group ran faster for three ten-minute sessions, each followed by ten minute rest periods. Both groups began with a three minute warm-up session.

Participants assigned to resistance training worked out for 50 minutes. They did nine exercises targeted at different muscle groups. Each involved three sets of 10 repetitions.

Past studies have suggested the insomnia-reducing effects are all mental. Sleep experts regularly recommend exercise to help reduce obstructive sleep apnea.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Live World Cup coverage causing U.S. viewers to lose sleep

Once every four years the beautiful game interferes with beauty sleep on a worldwide scale. Soccer fans far away from the World Cup host country have no choice but to set their alarm clocks early or stay up late to see their nation’s squad compete on the biggest stage in sports.

This year fans in Europe and Africa have the circadian advantage. The World Cup, broadcasted live from South Africa, will air during afternoons and evenings those surrounding time zones.

The broadcast times for the World Cup aren’t as friendly for fans in Asia or the Americas. Monday’s first match, between the Netherlands and Denmark, started at 4:30 a.m. for viewers in the Pacific time zone. Ouch.

Ten total first-round World Cup games are scheduled for the earliest start time:

South Korea-Greece
Algeria-Slovenia (the Americans' group)
New Zealand-Slovakia
Argentina-South Korea
Portugal-North Korea

There’s a better option than an alarm clock sitting in entertainment centers these days. The Sleep Education blogger prefers to use Tivo or a DVR box to automatically record games. The devices allow viewers to rewind and fast-forward live television, and skip past the excess pre-match presentations and lengthy commercial breaks.

The best option is to sleep through those early World Cup matches, and watch them at your own convenience.

At the very least you can sleep a couple dozen minutes extra and fast-forward past those distractions. In no time you will be caught up with the live broadcast.
Thankfully, the early morning matches will start to disappear as the World Cup progresses. The final rounds all have early afternoon start times for American viewers.

The Sleep Education blog recognizes the excitement the World Cup brings but cautions against cutting back on sleep for soccer-watching. Even losing an hour of sleep a night will yield negative effects, especially over a couple weeks. As sleep debt builds, so do the symptoms. reports common symptoms of chronic sleep deprivation include:

·Daytime sleepiness

·Irritability/ symptoms of depression

·Lack of motivation

·Shortened attention span

·Impaired judgment

See the entire FIFA World Cup schedule

Sunday, June 13, 2010

SLEEP 2010: Top 5 New Findings

The Sleep Education blog is counting down the top five studies of SLEEP 2010, the annual meeting of sleep professionals. Members of the research community and the media were introduced to hundreds of new abstracts at the convention center in San Antonio.

5. Morning type pitchers have the advantage in Major League Baseball
Players chronotypes and time of first pitch play a major role in performance when pitching. Morning larks’ sizable advantage in day games far exceeds the slight advantage night owls have in evening games.

4. Late-starting shifts harm sleep, limit productivity
Shifts that start in the late morning to early afternoon work best for employees. Start times between 8 p.m. and 12 a.m. may limit sleep and harm performance

3. Sleep helps legendary “Guitar Heroes” learn complex motor tasks
Overall performance in the video game “Guitar Hero” dramatically improves after a night of sleep. The results suggest a link between sleep and motor learning.

2. Regular bedtimes linked to better language, reading and math skills in preschool children
Young children who slept a recommended 11 hours per night scored higher on most developmental measures than their peers. Insufficient sleep may harm a childs development.

1. Sexsomnia: its more common than you think
Nearly eight percent of patients at sleep disorder clinics have sexsomnia, a parasomnia that occurs when a person unknowingly engages in sexual activity while asleep

Even though the landmark event of the year is behind us, the Sleep Education blog will continue to provide daily updates leading up to next year’s sleep meeting. Every day we will break down the latest studies and report the latest news about sleep and sleep disorders. Talk back to us on our comments section or our regularly updated twitter account,

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Paralyzed by happiness, strong emotions trigger real-life sleep disorder narcolepsy with cataplexy

Imagine living in fear of the one thing everyone wants - those moments of happiness. For the unlucky few cursed with a rare sleep disorder, one fleeting blissful thought is all it takes to launch a paralyzing attack.

At first the muscles start to full heavy, then the head begins to fall forward and the body falls to the ground. The victim remains lucid the entire time. Just one bad fall could result in serious injury or death.

The disorder is a form of narcolepsy. A unique symptom called cataplexy causes a sudden loss in muscle tone while awake. Episodes of cataplexy tend to be triggered by a strong emotions, usually happiness, laughter or surprise.

Only .02 percent of adults in the world have narcolepsy with cataplexy. The cause is still under debate. Some researchers believe the brain somehow confuses wakefulness with REM sleep. The signal that causes the body to go limp in REM sleep is sent while a person is fully awake.

Listeners of the radio show “This American Life” should be familiar with the disorder. A recent episode told the story of a man who has narcolepsy with cataplexy in a segment titled “I've Fallen in Love and I Can't Get Up.”

The subject of the story Matt can’t tell his wife he loves her without having an attack. He can’t see his grandchild, he can’t look at puppies, he can’t even think about a photograph he’s never actually seen.

When he communicates, he has to talk slowly and never get too excited or enthusiastic. In his own words, Matt has to act like a robot.

Narcolepsy with cataplexy has no cure, so patients have to change their behavior and avoid emotion-causing stimuli. Doctors often prescribe stimulants to treat the daytime sleepiness symptoms. Antidepressents combined with the drug GHB, or Xyrem, can reduce and delay, but not eliminate cataplexy.

In a BBC segment, a home video begins with another man with narcolepsy with cataplexy collapsed at the foot of a staircase. He complains of regularly feeling trapped in his body while police or emergency workers treat him thinking he’s unconscious from another accident.

Humans aren’t the only species who can have narcolepsy. Some dogs also collapse from cataplexy.

Read more about narcolepsy at

Friday, June 11, 2010

Non-stop lifestyle catches up with Diddy, now tortured by insomnia at 40

Sleep can elude even those who appear to have it all. Rapper Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs rules over a hip-hop empire valued in the hundreds of millions, throws lavish parties and has an entourage of dozens of people including his own personal barber.

The one thing missing from Diddy’s life is sleep.

"I was proud of working 18 hours a day and sleeping three hours a night," he told ABC’s “Nightline” Thursday. "It's something now that has turned into a problem for me: not being able to sleep.”

Diddy, now 40, once flaunted working like a “machine,” using the hours reserved for sleep to gain an edge on the competition.

He expected the same from his staff. His rule was “Sleep is forbidden.”

“My mind is always racing, and always going and always working, and it's a gift and a curse,” Diddy told Nightline. “When I was starting out it was something I embraced, and now it’s something that I hate, it tortures – it will torture you.”

He said he's tried everything in his fight with insomnia. He takes sleeping pills, but avoids regular use. He's also tried herbal options, like tea and lavender.

Diddy’s problems appear to be related to his lifestyle. People in isolated, demanding positions like record label executive are highly likely to develop insomnia. Racing thoughts in bed are a common complaint in these cases.

An inconsistent sleep schedule due to late night partying and jet setting also may be the culprit. Drinking alcohol during his many late-night parties may also harm his sleep quality.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is recommended for primary insomnia cases similar to Diddy’s. A sleep specialist would work with him to eliminate the negative racing thoughts that are keeping him awake, and help identify other insomnia promoters.

Learn more about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy at

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Student Sleeps Through Obama Keynote Speech

Normally the Sleepeducation blog avoids subjects related to politics, but this viral video from a Monday high school graduation ceremony in Kalamazoo, Mich. is too good to pass up.

A student seated behind President Barack Obama was caught on camera falling asleep during his keynote speech.

The video, above, comes courtesy of WOOD-TV8, who broadcasted the event live Monday.

The boy seated at the upper right hand corner of the screen began yawning, struggling to stay alert. Then he leans back, appearing to doze off, until he's awoken by the crowd's applause.

Moments later, he's hunched forward, fully asleep.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

SLEEP 2010 concludes in San Antonio

The final sessions of the SLEEP 2010 scientific program ended at 4:45 p.m. Central Time at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio.

The SLEEP 2011 25th Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies is scheduled for June 11 to 15, 2011, in Minneapolis.

Ability to sleep while caring for infant predicts relationship satisfaction

A couple who can sleep while caring for an infant is a couple that’s more likely to last. Results of a new study show first-time parents’ relationship satisfaction is related to the amount of sleep they get.

Investigators studied 22 couples 7 weeks after the birth of their first child.

Self-reported relationship satisfaction tended to be higher when parents slept longer, as measured by actigraphy. How well they thought they slept had less of an impact.

First-time fathers were more satisfied than their partners estimated. Mothers also overrated their spouses sleep quality. Fathers tended to underestimate their wives subjective sleep quality.

Researchers measured the parents’ sleep efficiency and total sleep time for one week using wrist actigraphy. Parents also reported their perceived sleep and their partner’s sleep using a Palm Pilot. At the end of the period the couples rated their own and their partner’s relationship satisfaction.

The study’s lead author said although the findings don’t allow for causality, they suggest parents would greatly benefit from measures that target sleep during the postpartum period.

Parents typically have high levels of sleep disturbance and significant daytime functional impairments after childbirth.

The AASM encourages new parents to make sleep a top priority. A well rested couple can provide the best care for an infant child.
Image by Adwriter

When gray looks green: sleep and drifting color perception

Sleep researchers have observed a strange phenomenon that occurs the longer we stay awake. Over the course of the day the color gray starts to appear greenish. Sleep reverses the effect and the next morning gray looks like gray again.

It appears color perception drifts over the course of a day and is restored during sleep.

The study presented this morning at SLEEP 2010 is one of the first ever to investigate the effects of sleep on color perception.

A small number of participants viewed a variety of gray pictures with either slightly reddish or greenish hues. Before and after sleep, each judged whether the color was more red or green than plain gray.

Researchers noticed colorless items were classified as greenish, except after sleep. The effect was the same for both eyes.

Further testing found that overnight, full-field monocular stimulation with a flickering red “ganzfeld” did not negate the sleep-induced effect. The authors suggest the color perception resetting is an internal process largely unaffected by external visual stimulation.

Further research is needed to determine why color perception drifts and is restored by sleep.

Tired teenagers prone to depression

High school students who don’t get the recommended nine hours of sleep per night are three times as likely to have depression, according to a research abstract to be shown Wednesday at SLEEP 2010 in San Antonio.

The study found sleep deprivation is widespread among teens in the U.S. 52 percent of seniors at a public high school in New Jersey reported excessive daytime sleepiness.

Students averaged only 6.1 hours of sleep on school nights and 8.2 hours on weekends. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports students need more than nine hours of sleep to stay alert during the day.

More than 250 high school seniors participated in a cross-sectional survey. Excessive daytime sleepiness was defined as a score of 10 or higher on the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. Mood was evaluated with a validated depression scale.

A study published earlier this year in the journal SLEEP further supports these findings. The article reported adolescents who went to bed at midnight or later were 24 more likely to have depression compared to teens with parental set bedtimes earlier than 10 p.m.

Some experts advocate pushing forward school start times to give teens more time to sleep. The author of the study suggests public high schools should regularly screen for sleep deprivation and depression.

Teen auto accident rates higher when school starts earlier

Statistics from a new study show teenage drivers are more likely to get in an accident when classes start earlier. Crash rates are 41 percent higher for students who attend schools that begin around the crack of dawn.

The teen driver study presented Wednesday at SLEEP 2010 further fuels a movement to push forward school start times.

The data came from data from two adjacent communities with similar demographics provided by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. In Virginia Beach, school starts at 7:20 a.m. Classes start at 8:40 a.m. in neighboring Chesapeake.

Accidents reports show 65.4 out of every 1,000 teen drivers in Virginia Beach were in at least one crash. Less than 5 percent of Chesapeake teens were in automobile accidents.

The crashes happened more frequently in the afternoon than morning in both communities. The afternoon accident rate was about 3.5 percent in Virginia Beach (2 p.m. dismissal) and 2 percent in Chesapeake (4 p.m. dismissal).

Although the study does not prove cause and effect, lead author Robert Vorona believes earlier start times are restricting the time available for teens to sleep. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends teens get at least 9 hours of sleep per night. Chronic sleep restriction increases the risk of an auto accident, and can lead to mood disorders, academic difficulties and behavioral issues.
Image courtesy gillicious

Study: Morning type pitchers have the advantage in Major League Baseball

Logic would assume night owls in Major League Baseball have the upper hand over the morning larks as long as they’re not on the daytime heavy schedule of the Chicago Cubs.

Turns out this only partially true, in a league dominated by night games and red-eye charter flights statistics show “morning type” pitchers somehow are at an overall advantage. The statistical boost they get in day games far exceeds the slight advantage their counterparts get in night games.

A new study found a player’s chronotype and time of first pitch play a major role in performance. The will be abstract on display at SLEEP 2010 on Wednesday morning.

18 pitchers from the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants and Tampa Bay Rays were included in the study. Researchers analyzed each pitcher’s 2009 statistics. Combined, they played 728 early innings and 845 late innings that season.

Pitchers determined their chronotype through a modified version of the Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire.

Roughly half the players were morning types. That group had an ERA of 3.06 in day games. Pitchers who were evening types had a relatively higher ERA, at 3.49. All pitchers trended towards higher ERAs in late games. Evening types did have a slight advantage, at 4.07 versus 4.15 ERA.

The author of the study suggests the results could lead to a new way to classify players to optimize team performance in a given game. Baseball managers could consider player chronotypes before a pitching rotation or calling on a reliever out of the bullpen.

Final day of SLEEP 2010

The third and final day of the SLEEP 2010 scientific program is now underway. With the final plenary session wrapping up, there are still another four rounds of oral presentations, two more workshops and symposia sessions.

SLEEP 2010 will conclude this afternoon at 4:45 p.m. Central Time.
Look for more abstract analysis throughout the day on this blog. And follow our tweets from San Antonio at

Sleep helps legendary "Guitar Heroes" learn complex motor tasks

Sleep on it and you’ll be better equipped to tackle more complicated motor tasks, like the endless wailing, shredding guitars solos of “Through the Fire and Flames,” one of the most difficult songs on Guitar Hero.

Researchers used the popular video game, and the fake plastic guitars that come with it, to learn about sleep and complex motor learning. They found overall performance dramatically improved after a full nights sleep.

The findings will be dissected in an abstract presentation scheduled for later this morning.

Screenshot from one of the latest "Guitar Hero" games

A group of college students practiced one of two songs on the video game “Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock” until they became moderately proficient. Then they had to take a 12 hour break.

Half the students started in the evening, slept, and returned the next morning. The other half practiced in the morning and came back later in the day.

The average initial note accuracy was 61 percent. When they returned, players in the wake condition improved to 63 percent. Those in the sleep condition fared better, with an average accuracy of 68 percent, a sizable improvement by “Guitar Hero” standards.

The study’s principal investigator says the results indicate a significant link between sleep and motor learning. He says he plans to use the popular video game in future research.

Images Courtesy Activision

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Second day of SLEEP 2010 comes to a close

The final discussion group, clinical workshop and oral presentations for the second day of SLEEP 2010 are underway and will conclude at 4:45 p.m. Central Time.

Day three of the scientific program will begin with the final plenary session at 8 a.m. on Wednesday.

Dr. Susan Redline will be the featured speaker. Her presentation is titled "Childhood Antecedents for Chronic Health Conditions: The Role of Sleep Disorders." Dr. Redline is a professor of medicine, pediatrics, and epidemiology and biostatistics at Case WEstern Reserve University School of Medicine. Her research focuses on sleep disorders and age.

Two more invited lecturers are scheduled to speak in the afternoon. Dr. Ronald Harper's 1:30 p.m. presentation is "Brain Structure and Function in Sleep Pathophysiology." Dr. Jacque Montplaisir is also schedule to speak at that time. His presentation is titled "REM Sleep Behavior Disorder as a Neurodegenerative Disorder."

Moe workshops, discussion groups and symposia are also on schedule.

This blog will be covering the newsworthy studies in Wednesday's oral presentations and abstract viewings.

All types of traffic noise likely to disturb sleep, harm morning work performance

Buyers beware: living in a home near the airport, a busy road or train tracks will likely translate to a lot of groggy mornings at the office. An abstract presented Tuesday at SLEEP 2010 in San Antonio exposes the tolls of sleeping in an environment with a lot of nighttime noise.

The study found subjects exposed to recorded traffic noise while sleeping reacted slower during a psychomotor vigilance task the next morning. Reaction times tended to slow when the researchers increased the frequency or volume of the noise.

The sound of passing trains most often caused subjects to wake, followed by auto traffic and airplane noise. Each type of noise caused about the same level of impairment the following morning. Combining the three kinds of noise did not lead to worse symptoms.

The lead author of the study said the risk of being awoken by nighttime noise is highest among those who are susceptible to sleep disturbances, including children, shift workers, the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions.

72 study subjects slept in a laboratory as recorded traffic noises from airplanes, cars and trains played for 11 consecutive nights. Sleeping participants heard 40 to 120 sounds in any combination or volume per night. After waking up the subjects completed a psychomotor vigilance task, memory search task and unstable tracking task to measure neurobehavioral performance.

Traffic noises are one of the many causes of the form of insomnia called “environmental sleep disorder.” A common solution is drowning out the traffic sounds with white noise, produced by a fan or sound machine.

Bears to hibernate through morning preseason practices

Add the Chicago Bears to the growing list of professional and college sports teams pushing forward practice start times.

The Chicago Tribune is reporting 10 out of 16 of the Bears’ training camp sessions will be held at 3 p.m. The team traditionally holds practice at noon.

This news comes the same day as a Stanford University study demonstrated the benefits extra sleep can have on athletic performance. Players from Stanford’s football team sprinted faster and had quicker response times after sleeping an extra two hours a day.

There’s no word on if the Bears made the move to allow players to sleep longer, or are just attempt to draw more fans to the team's open training camp sessions.

Large-scale study links abnormal sleep length to heart risk condition

When it comes to sleep, getting too much of a good thing may be a sign there's something wrong. Researchers in the U.K. have tied long sleep to metabolic syndrome, a condition that increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

The latest study to tie excessive sleep to adverse health effects was presented as a poster this morning at SLEEP 2010.

The large-scale study involved more than 29,000 people in Guangzhou, China aged 50 or older.

The findings indicated people who reported regularly sleeping more than eight hours were 15 percent more likely to have metabolic syndrome. The results were adjusted for potential confounding factors, like demography and lifestyle.

After making the same adjustments, links between short sleeper and metabolic syndrome disappeared.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute reports metabolic syndrome is a group of obesity-related risk factors that includes excess abdominal fat, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar. A person diagnosed with metabolic syndrome has at least three out of those five factors.

Photos from inside SLEEP 2010

We're nearing the end of day two of the SLEEP 2010 scientific program, and its been a memorable couple of days down in San Antonio. Sleep experts and enthusiasts who were unable to join us right outside the River Walk still have a window into the meeting's latest developments.

In addition to using the blog to bring analysis to the studies drawing a lot of interest, our team is using Twitter to report the latest developments as they happen.

We're also capturing photos of some of the highlights of SLEEP 2010. Below are just a few pictures we've taken so far:

Monday check-in at the convention center Lobby

AASM President Clete Kushida looks on at the plenary session

The SLEEP 2010 exhibition hall

Research abstracts on display for viewing

Most U.S. soldiers come home with sleep disturbance

The numbers are staggering for soldiers in the weeks after returning home from war. Researchers say 86 percent of them have some kind of sleep disturbance.

An abstract being presented at SLEEP 2010 shows the toll deployment takes American servicemen and women’s sleep.

Participants in the study were assessed the moment they stepped foot back on U.S. soil. The follow-up was 45 days later. Authors used a variety of tests to screen for sleep disturbances and physical and mental health problems.

Most of the soldiers in the study didn’t have post-traumatic stress or depression. Researchers found those with a history of sleep problems, physical illness or brain injury were more likely to report sleep disturbances.

Hear a presentation on this research Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. at SLEEP 2010. You can also read a summary included in this year’s abstract supplement available on the website of the journal SLEEP.

Highly variable sleep schedule increases risk for suicidal college students

A new study that’s the subject of a presentation at SLEEP 2010 is the first to show sleep schedules can predict an elevated suicide risk, independent of depression.

A sample of at-risk undergraduate students at the Florida State University had an average bedtime of 2:08 a.m. that varied by about three hours on any given night. They slept around 6.3 hours a night.

Sleep schedule variability was the only sleep measurement that predicted increases in suicidal risk when the students returned to the lab. Irregular sleep habits also predicted greater mood lability, which in turn predicts elevated suicidal symptoms.

The suicidal subjects visited a laboratory on campus three times during the duration of the study. The students underwent a series of tests at the start of the study, a week later and after three weeks.

Suicidal and depressive symptoms were assessed using the Beck Depression Inventory and the Beck Scale for Suicide. Sleep length and variability were obtained by wrist actigraphy. Mood lability was measured daily using scale mood ratings.

The lead author of the abstract, Rebecca Bernert, PhD, Fellow in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, suggests the findings could lead to new suicide intervention strategies.

“Compared to other suicide risk factors such as a past suicide attempt, disturbed sleep is modifiable, often visible and amenable to treatment,” she said. “In this way, the study of sleep may inform suicide risk assessment and represent a clinically unique opportunity for intervention.”

Learn more about this study during a presentation scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at SLEEP 2010.

Sleep apnea in kids predicts lower grades, behavioral problems

Obstructive sleep apnea is a not only a health risk for children, it’s a barrier to academic success. Schoolchildren with moderate to severe sleep-disordered breathing averaged a half a grade lower than their peers. Those same children are also prone to behavioral problems according to an abstract presented Tuesday at SLEEP 2010.

None of the children with OSA brought home report cards with an “A” average. 30 percent had a “C” average or lower. Roughly 15 percent of their peers who didn’t have OSA scored “A” averages. Only 15 percent posted average or below average grades.

The findings were regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status and sleep duration on school nights.

Testing suggests an association between OSA and inattention and poor study skills in real-world situations. There was no significant link to neurobehavioral functions such as intelligence, memory and problem solving.

163 overweight children participated in the study. That group was chosen because excessive weight is a risk factor for the disorder. OSA diagnoses were made based on report by parents and an overnight polysomnography.

Moderate to severe OSA was defined by an apnea-hypopnea index of more than five breathing pauses per hour of sleep. About half the children had OSA.

The children and their parents gave their grades to the researchers. Teachers and parents reported behavioral concerns. Office-based neuropsychological testing was used to assess children’s neurobehavioral functioning.

Nearly 1 in 5 Americans sleep-deprived, Europeans better rested

It’s no secret that many Americans regularly clutch a cup of hot coffee to get through another sleep-deprived day. Far fewer Europeans are downing espresso shots to fight daytime sleepiness according to a research abstract that was the subject of a presentation at SLEEP 2010 in San Antonio.

The study found 19.5 percent of adults in America have moderate to excessive sleepiness. A previous study by the same head researcher found excessive daytime sleepiness in five European countries was significantly less – only 15 percent.

11 percent of U.S. participants reported severe sleepiness. In this case there were far more women than men.

The study involved interviewing a representative cross-section of residents in Texas, New York and California. The 8,937 participants answered a phone survey on sleeping habits, health, sleep problems and mental disorders.

Nearly 18 percent said they fell asleep or were drowsy in situations requiring a high level of concentration, including work meetings and conversations.

The likelihood of daytime sleepiness tripled for people with obstructive sleep apnea. Survey respondents who slept six hours or less or were diagnosed with insomnia were 2.5 times as likely to report sleepiness. Night shift workers and people with major depressive disorder were nearly twice as likely to be drowsy.

Learn where in America people are getting the least sleep according to the CDC.

Stanford NCAA football players sleep longer, perform better

The Stanford Cardinal is learning sleep may be the key factor in gaining the upper hand in the increasingly competitive Pac-10 college football conference.

A group of football players at Stanford University ran faster and responded quicker when two more hours of sleep were added to their daily training regimen.

The findings are the latest to show sleep can help athletic performance. Lead author Cheri Mah turned her attention to football after demonstrating similar benefits for basketball, tennis, swimming and other sports.

The research abstract for “Sleep extension and athletic performance in collegiate football” is on display Tuesday at SLEEP 2010.

Seven team members who played various positions began the study by sleeping normal hours for the first couple weeks of the season. Then for seven to eight weeks, they slept in as long as possible.

The players’ times dropped significantly in the 40-yard-dash and the 20-yard-shuffle. Both drills are commonly used to evaluate football players at the college level and in the NFL Scouting Combine.

The researchers also monitored the players’ moods and daytime sleepiness. Both scores also improved along with the athletes’ vigor.

Mah advises athletes to extend sleep several weeks before competition, maintain a low sleep debt and keep a regular sleep schedule. Brief naps are also helpful, especially when drowsy.

Some NBA teams are beginning to recognize they can gain an advantage by accommodating for sleep. The 2010 Eastern Conference Champion Boston Celtics are among the teams that practice in the afternoon instead of the morning.

12-hour shifts take strong toll on nurses, raise mistake risk

Continuing on the theme this morning the negative effects irregular work schedules can have on employees, a new study seemingly condemns a common practice in the medical industry. The results could give hospitals incentive to change scheduling strategies to avoid potentially life-threatening mistakes.

The study found nurses who work 12-hour shifts rarely get restful sleep, and may struggle to keep an attentive eye on patients.

Half of nurses who took vigilance tests tended to have multiple lapses in alertness. The lapses were moderate for 39 percent and frequent for seven percent of nurses who worked lengthy shifts. Factors included sleep prior to shift, caffeine use and fatigue levels.

The amount of sleep nurses gets between 12-hour shifts is alarming. The average sleep time is only 5.5 hours. It gets worse for night-shift nurses, who slept a fragmented 5.2 hours a day.

“With long commutes and family responsibilities, nurses have very little opportunity to rest between shifts,” said Jeanne Geiger-Brown, PhD, principal investigator of the study.

Signs indicate the nurses may suffer from shift work disorder, a form of insomnia caused by work hours that are scheduled during the natural human sleep period.

The study involved 80 registered nurses who worked three consecutive 12-hour shifts. Lapses and median reaction times were measured with the five-minute Palm Psychomotor Vigilance Test.

The abstract associated with this research will be available for viewing Tuesday at SLEEP 2010, the 24th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, LLC.

Image by Christiana Care

Late-starting shifts harm sleep, limit productivity

The key to maximizing workplace productivity while minimizing fatigue may be a shift start time that allows workers to sleep right before reporting for duty.

New research suggests shifts that start in the late morning to early afternoon work best for employees. Start times between 8 p.m. and 12 a.m. may limit sleep and harm performance.

Sleep can be difficult to come by during the late night shifts because the timing conflicts with the body’s early evening circadian process.

According to the findings employers would benefit by rescheduling shift starting times to maximize employee alertness and sleep. Lead investigator Angela Bowen suggests a change in public policy may be necessary. Government regulations that limit the number of hours worked would also include provisions for shift start times.

“Shifts of equal duration differ in how fatiguing they are depending on the time of day when they are scheduled,” said Bowen. “The same limitation on the number of duty hours may be either overly restrictive if during the day or too liberal if during the night.”

The study used a mathematical formula based on a sleep regulation model that predicts the effects of sleep and wake times on sleep quality and waking fatigue. The researchers used the formula to see the effects of 24 start times, each varying by one-hour increments. The hypothetical work schedule lasted six days. Each shift was nine hours and started at the same time each day.

For those with no choice but to start their shifts during the undesirable late evening hours, the key is to find a sleep schedule that works. Past studies have suggested overnight workers go to sleep in the late morning hours immediately after work and wake up before the start of the early evening peak. On days off, it’s desirable to provide a compromise, by going to sleep at about 3 a.m.

Learn which professions are the worst for sleep.
Image by Shawn McClung

Day two of SLEEP 2010 underway

The second day of the SLEEP 2010 scientific program is underway at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio. Plenary speaker Dr. Daniel Buysse is approaching the end of his lecture "New Adventures in Sleep Quality."

Starting at 9 a.m., four more authors of abstracts will deliver oral presentations. Research abstracts will be presented as posters from 10:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. A variety of other sessions will also take place throughout the day including Symposia and Meet the Professors session.

View today’s session schedule.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Day one of SLEEP 2010 concludes

The final session of oral presentations in the first full day of the SLEEP 2010 scientific are underway and will conclude at 5:00 p.m. Central Time.

Tomorrow’s program will begin at 8:00 a.m. Tuesday with a lecture by Dr. Daniel Buysse titled “New Adventures in Sleep Quality.” Dr. Buysse is the program director of the Neuroscience Clinical and Translational Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. His primary focus is on insomnia and sleep in depression.

Two invited lecturers will also deliver speeches:

“Sleep and Brain Plasticity: Past, Present and Future” by Marcos Frank, PhD

“What it Comes to Sleep, Are Women Really so Different from Men?” by Kathryn Lee, PhD, RN

Hundreds of more abstracts will be on display Tuesday on topics such as sleep deprivation and psychiatric and behavioral disorders.

Complete coverage will continue right here on the Sleepeducation blog tomorrow morning.

Study: Sleep-disordered breathing swells in the summer months

Summertime may spell sleep complications for children with seasonal allergies. Some children develop temporary sleep-disordered breathing similar to sleep apnea about the time school gets out.

The results of a study (#0392) featured at SLEEP 2010, the 24th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC, may lead to new treatment strategies.

Sleep-disordered breathing in elementary school-aged children tended to continually increase from June to September before steeply dropping off in November.

Parents of 687 children in grades K-5 filled out questionnaires before each of their children underwent overnight sleep studies in a sleep laboratory in June. The authors continued to observe the children through November.

Children who had one to five breathing pauses per hour of sleep had mild sleep-disordered breathing. The frequency of these cases escalated each month. The authors included controls in the study for factors such as age, body mass index, gender and race.

It’s unclear which allergies may contribute to mild sleep-disordered breathing. Identifying and minimizing the allergic responses through medicine may alleviate the symptoms.

Past research suggests nasal problems such as chronic sinusitis and rhinitis are risk factors for mild sleep-disordered breathing.

CPAP shown to reverse brain tissue damage from sleep apnea

New research (#0329) indicates CPAP therapy can reverse the damage to adult brain tissue caused by obstructive sleep apnea. Grey matter volume in hippocampal and frontal structures significantly increased only three months after the start of CPAP.

With treatment, the cognitive impairment caused by obstructive sleep apnea is also reversible.

The authors noticed no further improvement in gray matter volume after one year of CPAP treatment.

17 patients with severe sleep apnea and a control group of 15 healthy subjects were given brain scans at the beginning of the study, and at the three month and one year following the onset of CPAP treatment. The brain scans were taken using 3 Tesla magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and a processing technique called “voxel-based morphometry” (VBM). VBM is often used to examine patterns of brain change in healthy aging or neurodegenerative disease and the related behavioral and cognitive effects.

The pauses in breathing caused by obstructive sleep apnea can produce abrupt reductions in blood oxygen saturation and reduce blood flow to the brain, damaging its gray matter. Gray matter refers to the color of the tissue on the cerebral cortex, where the brain does most of its information processing. Its appearance is due to a lack of myelin insulation.

The study was the subject of an oral presentation Monday afternoon at SLEEP 2010 in San Antonio.

Two U.S. military supported studies find bright lights can improve alertness, reduce post-traumatic stress

A series of brief flashes of bright light is all it takes to improve alertness at night, as reported in a research abstract (#0257) presented Monday at SLEEP 2010.

Test subjects were wakened two hours after their typical bedtimes, brought into a dark room and were exposed to a two-millisecond light pulse once a minute for an hour.

Researchers at Stanford University noted a significant improvement in self-rated alertness and reaction time, as measured by the auditory Psychomotor Vigilance Test.

The subjects also spent an hour in darkness at a different time and date showed no improvements.

“We found it shocking that light exposure as brief as a few milliseconds could engender changes in alertness and brain wave activity,” said lead researcher Jamie M. Zeitzer, PhD. “These results change the manner in which we think about the brain’s capacity to respond to light.”

These findings could lead to a breakthrough for shift workers and military personnel, who are often required to go days without sleeping during wartime deployment.

Another study (# 0706) on display offers new hope for troops returning from battle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Researchers found bright light therapy greatly reduced the sleep disturbances specific to PTSD. The treatment also produced a moderate improvement in other PTSD symptoms and depression.

16 soldiers participated in the study after returning home to the U.S. from Afghanistan or Iraq with combat-related PTSD.

Half of the troops received 30 minutes a day of 10,000 lux bright light therapy for one month. The other half received a sham treatment as a placebo.

At the onset and immediately following treatment the soldiers were given the clinician-administered PTSD scale. The troops also completed weekly depression and sleep quality assessments.

Bright light therapy typically involves exposure to up to 10,000 lux of light for scheduled periods of 20 minutes or more. The technique can decrease sleepiness and improve alertness by suppressing the production of melatonin, a hormone that tells your body when its time to sleep.
Images courtesy the U.S. Army

Early bedtime benefits: young children who sleep more score higher in school

Setting bedtime rules encourages the healthy development of preschool-aged children. In an abstract (#0040) being presented at SLEEP 2010 in San Antonio, children who had a regular bedtime scored higher on language, reading and math assessments.

Earlier bedtimes were linked to higher scores in most of the developmental measures.

Children who slept less than 11 hours per night, the AASM’s recommended minimum for preschoolers, scored lower on phonological awareness, literacy and early math skills. Insufficient sleep may hurt a child’s development and school achievement.

The findings were based on a sample of 8,000 children assessed in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study – Birth Cohort. The longitudinal study sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Center for Education Statistics followed children’s health, development, care and education from birth to the start of kindergarten.

In the government study parents reported usual bedtime and wake time. The children took a shortened set of items from standardized assessments to determine developmental outcomes.

The principal author of the study recommends parents help their preschooler get healthy sleep and encourage development by setting a regularly bedtime and establishing routines such as bedtime readings or stories.

Image by Sarah Gilbert

Study: insomnia linked to earlier death

Having any of the four types of chronic insomnia carries an increased risk of death, according to a new abstract (#0607) on display at SLEEP 2010.

The 20-year study followed tracked the health problems and sleeping habits more than 2,200 people. Each subject responded to two to three mailed surveys in 1989, 1994 and 2000. Using the social security death index, researchers found 128 study participants died prior to 2010.

Those who reported having insomnia in at least two surveys were three times more likely to have died than people who didn’t have insomnia. The risk of death only slightly differed for each of the four types of insomnia: waking up too early, getting back to sleep, getting to sleep and staying asleep.

The results were adjusted for body mass index, age, gender and other self-reported medical conditions.

Sleepwalking into adolescence: parasomnias tend to persist past childhood

Childhood parasomnias like sleepwalking or bedwetting don’t necessarily stop at adolescence. The remission rates for these pediatric problems are actually quite low heading into the teenage years.

The research abstract (#251), presented as a poster today at SLEEP 2010, compared parasomnias incidents rates for children ages 6 to 11 over the course of less than five years.

The children’s parents completed comprehensive sleep habits surveys at the beginning and end points of the study.

Results show the remission rate for children with sleepwalking was only 1.9 percent after five years. Remission rates remained low for bedwetting (5.2 percent), sleep terrors (4.8 percent) and sleep talking (3.5).

Sleep talking was the most common parasomnia for adolescents. 22.3 percent of parents reported their child talked in his or her sleep. 15.2 percent of those cases were new.

The incidence rate was 2.6 percent for new cases of sleep terrors, and less than one percent for both bedwetting and sleepwalking.

Learn more about sleepwalking. bedwetting and nightmares at

Sexsomnia: it’s more common than you think

The description is eye-opening, but even more shocking is how often sexsomnia occurs. New research suggests nearly eight percent of patients at sleep disorder clinics have Sexsomnia. The abstract (#252) will be displayed later this morning at SLEEP 2010.

The prevalence of sexsomnia for men, at 11 percent, was nearly three times higher in than for women.

The study is the first to examine the frequency of sexsomnia. The authors of the study stress the outcome only reflects patients at sleep clinics. They estimate the rate would be much lower among the general population.

Researchers reviewed a questionnaire filled out by 832 patients who were evaluated at sleep disorders clinics.

Only 4 patients complained of sexsomnia during a consultation with sleep specialists. However, 63 of the 832 reported the key symptoms of sexsomnia.

The parasomnia happens when a person unknowingly engages in sexual activity while asleep. According to the The International Classification of Sleep Disorder, Second Edition, published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine sexsomnia predominantly occurs during confusional arousals and sleepwalking episodes.

You can find the abstract in the SLEEP 2010 supplement, available for download as a pdf.

Blogger is back online, SLEEP 2010 updates to resume

Due to technical problems on our host site Blogger's end, we've been unable to update the Sleep Education blog as promised until now. We've been providing updates from SLEEP 2010 via Twitter and on Because Google has fixed the problem look for updates from now until Wednesday, the end of the annual meeting.

Plenary session to kick off SLEEP 2010 at 8 a.m.

SLEEP 2010 will begin in about three hours at 8 a.m. Central Time at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in downtown San Antonio. Look for live coverage all day right here at the Sleepeducation Blog.

Today's plenary session features a keynote address by Derk-Jan Dijk, PhD, a professor of sleep and physiology at the University of Surrey in Guildford, England and the director of the Surrey Sleep Research Centre. Dr. Dijk is an expert in human sleep and biological rhythms, circadian rhythm disorders and age-related changes in sleep timing, structure and performance. His address is titled “Sleep and Circadian Rhythms – Closer Together Again.”

After the Plenary Session wraps up at 10:15 a.m. the convention floor opens up for abstract viewing. We're providing full coverage of standout abstracts on display throughout the day on the Sleepeducation Blog. We're also on twitter providing up-to-the-minute coverage. Follow us at