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.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Percy Harvin Sidelined Again with Migraines

After a 0-2 start to the season, things are looking bleaker by the day for the Minnesota Vikings. 40-year-old Quarterback Brett Favre is showing his age, and his primary target Sidney Rice won’t catch a pass until at least November.

The latest let-down involves the feel-good story of the NFL’s season opener. NBC’s Andrea Kremer reported mid-game that Percy Harvin found the cure for debilitating migraines. The athletic wide-receiver had sleep apnea and didn’t know it.

Harvin was diagnosed after collapsing on the field during practice last month. Numerous reports claimed CPAP treatment would solve the chronic migraines that plagued him since childhood. Harvin would be a whole new player capable of living up to his sky-high potential.

Then the news broke Wednesday that the 2008 first-round pick and future franchise wide receiver did not participate in team practice because of migraines.

Harvin’s health issues are huge blow for the Vikings, who have scored only 19 points over the first two regular season games.

Currently, it’s not entirely clear why the migraines have returned. There are two likely possibilities:

a) Harvin didn’t sleep with CPAP previous to practice

b) Something other than sleep apnea is causing the migraines

It’s disappointing that Harvin is having migraines again, but the sleep apnea diagnosis is a huge step forward for his health. After all, treatment can save his life.

Harvin’s doctors are more than likely re-evaluating his health. The Sleep Education Blog will continue to follow any developments. Look for breaking updates on Twitter:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Childhood Money Troubles Lead to Insomnia Later

Times of financial uncertainty are understandably cause for insomnia. Worry about how to pay the mortgage and put food on the table kept many women awake in bed during the height of the recession in late 2008.

In 20 years, many of their children will struggle to sleep, regardless of their financial state. Growing up in a family with financial difficulties raises the risk of insomnia later in life, a new study found.

The findings published in the September issue of the journal Sleep Medicine shows how difficult economic times can affect us our entire lives.

The study surveyed 8960 government employees in Helsinki, Finland about their economic circumstances and quality of sleep. The economic portion of the survey addressed childhood and current economic difficulties, education, occupation, household income and years lived in current home. Responders who complained of difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep or getting unrestful sleep had insomnia in the study.

Statistical analysis shows both men and women who had childhood economic difficulties had more frequent complaints of insomnia than their peers. Oddly, current economic conditions affected the sleep of women but not men.

Insomnia stemming from past economic problems affects the rich and the poor. The authors report the findings were the same regardless of level of education, tax bracket, age, marital status.

The study doesn’t provide an explanation for the phenomenon because statistical analysis can’t demonstrate causality.

You can’t control the past or the forces influencing the world economy, but you can control your insomnia. Learn how you can improve your sleep hygiene at Sleepeducation or see a sleep specialist at an AASM Accredited sleep center for cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Most Americans Sleep with Cell Phones

Most American adults spend every waking moment connected…. and every nonwakeful moment it turns out. A Pew survey shows two-thirds of Americans sleep with their cell phones in their bed or on a nightstand.

The set-up leads to a lot of late-night texting, talking or web surfing if it’s a smartphone. It’s bad sleep hygiene that could be promoting insomnia.

A now infamous report the Sleep Education Blog covered on in spring shows the bright screen from the Apple iPad makes sleep more difficult. Many outlets at the time claimed the device caused insomnia, a claim that is untrue.

Research shows the bright blue and green light emitted from the screen of modern electronic devices, whether it’s a cell phone or a television, can alter the natural human circadian process by preventing the body from secreting melatonin.

Then there is the issue of text messages. Teens are notorious for staying up late in their bedroom texting with their friends. The behavior may carry on to adulthood for some people. The Pew study shows heavy and medium texters are more likely to sleep with their phone. Readers can draw their own conclusions on what this group is doing from bed.

There are of course valid excuses to keep your cell phone in the bedroom, such as being an on-call worker. Cell phones also make good alarm clocks. Make sure to turn off the sound for email alerts if you’re using a smartphone, or risk plenty of unwelcome awakenings.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Small Study Shows Soy May Help Postmenopausal Insomnia

Tofu may have little flavor, yet it can help older women better enjoy a good meal or dinner a conversation. Difficulty sleeping is nearly inevitable for most women post-menopause, and the fatigue it causes makes life less enjoyable.

Brazilian researchers believe estrogen-like compounds in soy beans called isoflavones help older women sleep. Women who took the compound slept better and had fewer cases of insomnia after four months compared to a placebo group. The substance also reduced hot flashes.

The study involved 38 women randomly assigned to isoflavone treatment or a placebo. The participants had all finished menopause and reported some degree of insomnia.

A sleep study showed average sleep efficiency increase from 78 percent to 84 percent after four months of treatment. The placebo group improved to 81 percent.

Self-reported cases of “moderate to intense” insomnia dropped from 90 percent to 37 percent for the soy group. In the control group the rate of insomnia dropped from 95 percent to 63 percent.
The reason why isoflavones help some old women sleep isn’t clear. Researchers say they can’t explain it without definitively knowing the source of the insomnia.

A 2008 study in the journal Sleep examined sleep during the menopausal transition. It found that hot flashes were an independent predictor of sleep quality.

Soy products are unlikely to be the so-called “magic bullet” for insomnia, but further research may show there are slight benefits. Cognitive-behavioral therapy remains the closest thing to a cure for sleeplessness.

Friday, September 17, 2010

FAA Proposal Targets Pilot Fatigue

In February 2009, the national discussion shifted when a red-eye flight suddenly came to a terrifying end. A regional commuter plane dropped from the sky onto a suburban Buffalo subdivision, claiming the lives of 50 people.

A year-long investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board revealed startled, confused pilots badly mishandled a cockpit warning and lost control of the plane. Neither had slept much before their shift.

Crash site of Colgan Air Flight 3407, (February 2009)

Transportation officials say one pilot napped in the airport while the other took a cross-country overnight flight in the hours before the take-off of Colgan Air Flight 3407.

Nearly two years after the nightmare crash, federal regulators are addressing dangerous pilot fatigue. The FAA is proposing new regulations that would greatly expand on current pilot fatigue rules.

The minimum rest period between flights would increase by an hour to nine hours, with at least eight designated hours for the pilot to sleep. Minimum consecutive hours off would increase by 25 percent, or 30 hours per week.

The proposal would also consolidate rest requirements, which differ for domestic, international and charter flights. Airlines would also have to take into consideration the time of day, time zone and whether the pilots have the ability to fall asleep.

The sweeping reforms may hit a roadblock however – two major pilots unions strongly oppose the plan. Representatives for the unions claim the regulations would have a negative impact on safety. Charter airlines also object to the changes.

Fifteen years ago the pilots and unions were able to block a similar proposal. Since that time, the National Transportation Safety Board reports more than 250 people have died in plane crashes linked to pilot fatigue.

Photo Courtesy Chuck Anderson

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sweating off Insomnia Works, New Study Contends

The benefit of exercise for insomnia continues to be a hotly debated topic in the sleep research community. Recently, several high-profile reports have come to conflicting conclusions on whether a workout routine can promote sleep.

The latest published study by Northwestern University researchers shifts the argument back in favor of exercise for insomnia. The article concludes that older adults can counteract the sleeplessness associated with aging by taking up an aerobic workout routine.

Many of the adults who started exercising during the study improved from poor sleepers to good sleepers. The group reported reduced depression and overall improved mood along with enhanced of sleep quality.

The study involved 23 mainly sedentary adults of average age of 55. The group was randomly assigned to either aerobic conditioning or a non-physical activity such as a cooking class or museum lecture. Only the exercise group saw improved sleep.

A June study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine came to a similar conclusion for slightly younger insomnia patients. A 50-minute jog on the treadmill 4-8 hours before bedtime helped middle-aged insomniacs sleep sooner. Moderate aerobic exercise was more effective in promoting sleep than high-intensity cardiac routines or resistance training. The authors believe the routine helps with bedtime anxiety.

Another study published in May claims the benefits are all mental. Swiss researchers found people who rated themselves as physically fit slept better, even if they were not necessarily in good physical shape.

Normal adults with no history of insomnia may not see any benefit at all, a 2003 study concluded. Wrist actigraphy demonstrated active young adults fell asleep only a minute and a half faster than their peers.

In some cases exercising can actually hurt sleep. Never exercise within a few hours of bedtime. Evening workouts run counter to the evening wind-down process and can actually make you wake up.
There’s one thing all sleep experts can agree on: exercise is important for your overall health. While insomnia may or may not improve, you’re reducing your risk of getting obstructive sleep apnea by controlling your weight and taking care of your body.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

TED Talks Sleep, Circadian Rhythms

The far-reaching, free exchange of ideas known as TED takes on sleep and circadian rhythms in the latest streaming TEDtalk.

In the video, environmental journalist Jessa Gamble shares some things she picked up while living in the 24-hour darkness of northern Canada in the wintertime.

Gamble praises the benefits of setting an early bedtime, and waking for a couple hours in the middle of the night, before sleeping until sunrise.

The speaker's approach to sleep isn't all that different from the split sleep schedules used by astronauts and shift workers. The concept is called biphasic sleep, and research shows it can be just as effective as normal nighttime sleep.

The key is allowing enough time to complete sleep cycles. It takes about 90 minutes to reach restorative REM sleep, so short naps won't cut it.

Some of the other concepts the speaker introduces are also grounded in sleep medicine. She mentions how people living in bunkers drift forward by small increments every day. Its true the brain relies on timing cues such as light or a wristwatch. The same phenomenon occurs every day in neon light-filled casinos.

Learn more about the natural body clock and alternative sleep schedules on the Sleep Education Blog.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sleep Disorder Shares Blame for Early Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes early in life is commonly associated with obesity, but in many cases there may be another factor at play. Obstructive sleep apnea, a common untreated sleeping disorder in teens, can contribute to the onset of diabetes.

A study in the September issue of SLEEP reports sleep apnea worsens insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes as well as metabolic syndrome.

The link between sleep apnea and insulin resistance wasn’t fully clear until now. The presence of obesity and the onset of puberty complicated the relationship.

The study involved a group of 98 obese children of both genders. About half of the participating children had signs of sleep apnea.

Children were recruited from two age groups: pre and post puberty.
Each child was screened for obstructive sleep apnea using an overnight sleep study, and assessed for insulin resistance.

Results show children who tested positive for sleep apnea had worse insulin resistance, thus were at higher risk for type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Sleep apnea isn’t the only sleep disorder that can lead to diabetes. A past study shows severe sleep loss from long-term insomnia can also worsen insulin resistance.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Many Non-Depressed Insomniacs Have Suicidal Desires

Insomniacs have no shortage of alone time. Countless overnight hours are spent pondering, obsessing and agonizing over the inability to sleep and the stressful things in your life. This endless introspection may give rise to momentary suicidal desires.

The two-way relationship between sleeplessness and mental health disturbances is well documented at this point. Insomnia is both a symptom and a risk-factor for depression. In fact the DSM-IV lists disturbed sleep patterns as one of the nine main criteria for the diagnosis of major depressive disorder.

You don’t have to be depressed have suicidal thoughts with insomnia, a new study published in Sleep Medicine reports. The article concludes insomnia can predict suicidal desires, with or without diagnosable depression.

The clinical study involved 60 middle-aged patients with depression and insomnia. The subjects were prescribed the anti-depressant Prozac along with the sleeping medication Lunesta or a placebo. Over the course of the 8-week study, the patients were repeatedly assessed for insomnia, suicide ideation and depression.

Statistical analysis shows, although depression severity was directly linked to intensity of suicidal thinking, a similar relationship also holds true for severity of insomnia. Insomnia patients who were no longer depressed still had suicidal thoughts.

These findings further flesh out a disturbing revelation reported this month in the journal SLEEP. Middle-aged men with long-term insomnia are likely to die over a 14 year period. The large-scale, long-term study did not investigate the exact causes of the deaths, but it’s not too much of a stretch that some were suicides.

Like pushing through depression, conquering long-term insomnia can take hard work and dedication. Leading a longer and happier life is clearly worth the effort of working with a clinical sleep specialist to change your nighttime routine and eliminate harmful beliefs that prevent sleep.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

My Child Snores, is it Sleep Apnea?

Snoring is especially prevalent in adults and a surprising number of their children also “saw logs.” reports between 10 and 20 percent of American children snore. Children in China have similar snoring rates, a study included in the September issue of the journal Chest reports.

A survey of more than 6,000 school-aged kids found approximately 1 in 10 Chinese children snore habitually. Results show kids who snore have a parent who snores. Male gender and obesity also promote snoring. Kids with allergies or a history of upper respiratory infections tend to snore loudly.

A history of loud snoring can be a red flag for childhood OSA. Obstructive sleep apnea is also a problem for about 2 percent of healthy young children. One way to tell if your child has OSA is to if the child also appears to be working hard to breathe while asleep.

One of the main indicators of sleep apnea in teenagers or adults – daytime fatigue – is not always present for kids. Unlike older patients, children with OSA often do not wake up during breathing pauses leading to more normal sleeping patterns.

The primary treatment for children who snore or have OSA is different compared to adults. Children often have their tonsils and adenoids removed to increase the size of the airway. Most often children are able to breathe normally after this procedure.

When an adenotonsillectomy doesn’t solve sleep apnea many children choose child-sized CPAP masks to keep the airway open. Oral appliances and weight loss are two other options for children with sleep apnea.

If your child snores, find out if its sleep apnea by scheduling an appointment for an overnight sleep study at an AASM accredited sleep center.

Image by BostonTx

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Depression, Mental Distress May Start with Short Sleep

A variety of everyday problems can be maddeningly difficult on little sleep. Minor conflicts may cause a sleep-deprived person to feel frustration, anger or even sadness. Slight disruptions become emotional eruptions in the absence of restful sleep.

For teenagers and young adults who already grapple with heightened hormones, a string of sleepless nights can turn them into walking time-bombs. Mental illness is a real risk for many people less than 24 years of age who don’t get enough sleep, according to a new study in the September issue of the journal SLEEP.

The study reports that every hour of sleep loss significantly raises the risk of emotional distress, a combination of high levels of depressive and anxious symptoms. The risk is most relevant for people with pre-existing mental health issues or a history of depression.

Young adults who otherwise have no mental health history can develop mental distress by severely limiting sleep over a long period of time. The study found people with no psychological distress who slept five hours or less are three times more likely to be distressed a year later.

The study design involved 20,000 Australians aged 17 to 24. Each participant completed a sleep diary by listing the amount of hours slept per night over the course of a month. Subjects also answered the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10), a mental assessment that includes questions about feeling tired, nervous, hopeless, restless, depressed, sad and worthless.

A randomly selected group consisting of about 10 percent of the participants completed a follow-up survey about a year later. Approximately 1 in 5 young adults who responded slept fewer than seven hours per night. Less than two percent were extremely short sleepers with less than five hours per night.

Mental health and psychological stress is a serious concern for young adults of any nation. The U.S. government estimates nearly 1 in 5 people between the ages of 18 and 25 years of age experienced serious psychological distress in the past year.

There’s been much discussion this early September about the risks related to insomnia and short sleep duration. A widely-reported study linked long-term insomnia to death for middle age males. Another study published in the same journal focused on teenage sleep patterns and suggested a relationship between sleep length and obesity. It concluded teenagers who sleep less than eight hours a night usually have unhealthier diets, consisting of fatty foods and frequent snacks.

Teenagers and young adults need more sleep than their parents or older siblings yet many in the age group are inclined to stay up late due to natural night-owl tendencies. High levels of stress and numerous distractions such as cell phones and video games also keep young adults from getting to bed at a decent hour.

The good news is after high-school, many have a more flexible schedule that can suit their sleep needs. This is especially the case for college students, who can avoid early morning classes if they wish. There’s no mental harm in sleeping too much. The study reports participants who reported sleep durations of more than nine hours showed no heightened mental distress.

Image by Andi Jetaime

Friday, September 10, 2010

Vikings Receiver Harvin’s Health Woes Stem from Sleep Apnea

At 5’11’’, 184 lbs of solid muscle and the ability to complete the 40 yard dash in less than 4.4 seconds Percy Harvin, the explosive wide receiver for the Minnesota Vikings, doesn’t have the obvious warning signs of obstructive sleep apnea that NFL coaches and trainers can easily identify. Most players in the league who’ve been diagnosed with the sleep disorder have massive bodies with excess weight, like Mario Williams or Antwan Odom.

Entering his second season in the NFL, Percy Harvin’s was considered a talented player who may never reach his potential because of chronic health concerns caused by undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea. Debilitating migraines have plagued him for his entire life. This year the painful condition kept him from practicing with the team in the preseason, prompting concerns of an early end to his NFL career.

When he finally stepped on the practice field he collapsed in a matter of minutes. His heart stopped beating for ten seconds. Harvin told NBC’s Andrea Kremer that his migraine medication led to the collapse. Strangely, this scary episode may have been the luckiest thing that ever happened to him.

Doctors at the hospital that day suspected he wasn’t getting enough oxygen when he slept. Four days later an overnight sleep study confirmed he had obstructive sleep apnea, which doctors believe triggered the migraines.

Harvin is now the proud user of CPAP, a machine that can save his career and his life. He even brings it on the road for away games.

After a long stretch of missed practices and preseason games Harvin saw regular action Thursday night in the NFL season opener against the New Orleans Saints. He only caught one pass for 12 yards in the 9-14 loss.

Despite a disappointing opening game, Harvin is past his migraines and back on track to become one of the league’s marquee receivers all thanks to one little machine he keeps at his bedside.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Study Links Sleeping Pills to Mortality

Sleeping pills lengthen your slumber and may shorten your life, a Canadian report claims. The 12-year study linked hypnotic class sleep drugs and anti-anxiety medications with long-term mortality.

Consumption of sleeping pills or anxiety relieving medications was associated with a 36 percent higher death risk, the study concluded. Respondents to a large Canadian National Survey who said they used the medications at least once a month had a mortality rate of 15.7 percent. Those who said did not use the medications had a rate of 10.5 percent. The results were controlled to person risk factors like tobacco use, depression and physical health.

The study offers no clear explanation of the findings. The results bare resemblance to a study published in the September issue of the journal SLEEP that investigated a possible link between insomnia and long-term death risk. It reported five times as many middle-aged male insomnia patients died over the 14-year study length compared with healthy subjects.

Could the elevated mortality rates associated with sleeping pills be due to long-term insomnia? It is not a stretch to conclude a many of the people who regularly use sleeping pills over an extended period of time also have long-term insomnia.

Dr. Geneviève Belleville, the lead author of the sleeping pill study, offers an alternate explanation. Dr. Belleville speculates the sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medications may cause accidents and promote suicides.

Sleeping pills and anxiolytics impact reaction time, alertness and coordination. Under these conditions, the risk of injury from a fall or an automotive accident increases.

A review shows sleeping drugs may increase the risk of suicide as many as seven times over. Central nervous system inhibitors found in the medications may alter a person’s judgment, making some people more likely to carry out suicidal ideations.

The AASM reports hypnotic class drugs are safe and effect short-term solutions to insomnia when used as directed. Go to bed immediately after taking sleep medications and avoid physical activity, driving, or operating heavy machinery. Never take more than the recommended dose, for risk of serious complications.

Dr. Belleville recommends insomnia patients consider the alternative of cognitive behavioral therapy, the most effective solution to long-term insomnia. The approach helps you change actions or thoughts that hurt your ability to sleep and promote a healthy pattern of sleep.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Strange Midnight Binges Haunt Sleep-Eaters

Most people scoff at the thought of eating a blend of raw bacon, egg shells and coffee grounds. People with sleep related eating disorder are no different, yet they consume such sickening concoctions without thinking twice. Or thinking at all, for that matter.

SRED involves unconscious compulsive binge-eating in the middle of the night. Sleep-walkers rapidly prepare and consume whatever they can find, whether it’s high-calorie junk food or an unusual mix of kitchen ingredients. An episode can last about ten minutes, and the sleep-eater won’t remember a thing.

43-year-old Anna Ryan once tried to eat a steel wool dish detergent pad. She’s among the estimated one million Americans with SRED.

Her story was featured on the ABC Nightline special “Secrets of the Mind” Tuesday evening. The series investigates rare conditions of the brain. Past programs have addressed topics such as narcoleptic attacks caused by strong emotions, aneurysms and pathological violence.

Ryan would go on diets but mysteriously gain weight, unaware she was consuming thousands of calories every night. She’s at-risk for weight-related conditions like heart disease, diabetes and obstructive sleep apnea.

SRED can also cause social embarrassment and physical danger. People can fall, start fires or even consume toxic chemicals while sleepwalking to the kitchen.

About 65 to 80 percent of people with SRED are women. The episodes usually begin sometime before the age of 30. Empty wrappers and missing food may serve as clues for SRED. A history of other parasomnias such as sleepwalking, sleep talking or REM sleep behavioral disorder is also a warning sign.

Ryan is on a medication to limit her midnight binges. Sleep Education reports SRED is treatable with a combination of medication and therapy.

If you think you have SRED seek treatment at an AASM-accredited sleep center immediately.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Long and Solid Nighttime Sleep Helps Solve Childhood Obesity

The battle against childhood obesity begins not in the school lunchroom but in the bedroom. When infants and toddlers lose sleep early in life they gain weight that can last a lifetime, a new University of Washington study reports. Regular, lengthy nighttime sleep encourages healthy development.

Young children are nearly twice as likely to become obese or overweight by the age of five when they sleep less than the recommended number of hours per night (see chart below). Daytime naps are no substitute to nighttime sleep in preventing obesity, the study shows.

The article was published in the September issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine and involved federal from more 2,000 children. Researchers looked at participating children’s reported weight and sleep duration over the course of their childhood.

The relationship between sleep and weight was strongest at a very early age. Children who become obese early on face an uphill battle that may last the rest of their lives.

The reason why children who fall behind on sleep gain weight still isn’t clear. Study limitations prevented researchers from investigating a cause.

In an interview with NPR’s Morning Edition, principal researcher Janice Bell offered some possible explanations. She believes overtired children are less active and may gain weight as a result.

Her other explanation is based on how loss of sleep can affect your appetite. As the Sleep Education Blog reported earlier this year, sleep can change the amount of hunger-regulating hormones the adult body produces. Bell suggests this may be true for children as well as adults.

Just as sleep loss can cause weight gain, obesity can lead to serious sleep problems. Childhood sleep apnea is twice as prevalent among obese children.

Make sleep a priority in your child’s life. Toddlers and preschoolers who meet their sleep needs get better grades in school and have fewer behavioral problems.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sleepy Teens Eat More Fatty Foods and Snacks

Poor sleep habits go hand-in-hand with unhealthy diets for teenagers. A new study shows teens that sleep less than eight hours on weeknights usually eat more fatty foods and snack more often than their well-rested peers.

The high-fat, snack filled diet is a recipe for obesity, especially as female teens as researchers discovered through data analysis.

Short sleep durations may cause a number of small adjustments in eating habits, altogether changing a teenager’s energy balance. Results show teens who slept less than eight hours consumed 2.2 percent more calories from fat and 3.0 percent fewer calories from carbohydrates.

Sleep-deprived teens were also more likely to grab a snack between meals. For each extra hour of sleep the change of consuming a high amount of calories in snacks decreased by 21 percent.

The study examined the diets of 240 teens in Cleveland, Ohio. Wrist actigraphy data indicated only 34 percent of the participating teens slept for more than eight hours per night. Researchers cross-referenced the hours each teen slept with nutrition data, collected in interviews.

The authors of the study say it’s not clear why the relationship between sleep length and eating habits is stronger for females. They speculate teenage girls are more likely to engage in emotional eating. Because the findings were based on correlation, researchers could not determine the cause of the relationship.

Females with poor sleep habits may unhealthy foods, but men potentially face far worse consequences. Men with long-term insomnia are more likely to die.

Learn more about teen sleep habits and what is keeping them awake at night.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Chronic Insomnia a Death Risk for Men

Consider seeking cognitive-behavioral therapy for long-term insomnia, especially if you are a male. New research shows men who consistently get less than six hours of sleep are four times more likely to die.

A long-term mortality study published in the September issue of the journal SLEEP demonstrates why identifying and treating insomnia early on should become a top health priority.

The study involved 741 men and 1,000 women with an average age of 50 years old. Researchers determined which subjects had insomnia using sleep diaries, physical exams and overnight sleep studies. About four percent of men had chronic insomnia and slept less than six hours per day.

After 14 years, more than half the male insomniacs had died. Only 9.1 percent of “good sleepers” were deceased. Death risk was even higher for men who had insomnia and diabetes or hypertension. The results were adjusted to account for risky conditions such as obesity, alcohol use and obstructive sleep apnea.

There was little difference in mortality rates for females with insomnia and "good sleepers." The authors of the study couldn’t determine why the relationship seemed to only affect men. One reason may be because they followed women for only 10 years, as opposed to 14 years.

Among all participants, one in five males died over the course of the study, while only 5 percent of women died.

Reduce your risk by aiming for the ideal amount of sleep for adults – 7 to 8 hours each night. Long-sleepers also have higher than average mortality rates, a recent study reports.

A number of other studies have also looked at the link between sleep duration and mortality. Previous findings show chronic insomnia increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and hypertension and is associated with neurocognitive deficits.

Learn more about cognitive-behavioral therapy, the leading treatment for long-term insomnia at

Image by babblingdweeb