Friday, April 30, 2010

The real Freddy Krueger, “Nightmare on Elm Street” and sudden unexplained deaths

He visits us in our nightmares. The ghoul wearing a striped shirt and fedora slowly taps his razor-sharp finger knives as he approaches. Anyone who grew up in the 80’s knows his sneering burnt face. Freddy Krueger is a horror movie icon, representing everything we fear in our sleep.

Today a new generation meets the boogeyman for the first time. The remake of “Nightmare on Elm Street” is now open in theaters nationwide.

The movie is getting panned by most major critics. This blogger recommends instead checking out the 1984 original, or the self-aware follow-up "Wes Craven’s New Nightmare," where Freddy haunts the actors and crew behind the first film.

The franchise is about a child murderer who was burned alive by a mob of angry parents and returns to haunt their teenage children in their dreams.

Director Wes Craven reportedly came up with the premise after reading in the news about a group of young Cambodian refugees who, haunted by terrifying nightmares, refused to sleep. The group had escaped the countries genocidal Khmer Rouge regime, only to face those same fears in their dreams while safe in America. This is where it gets chilling -when they gave in and returned to sleep, they died.

Craven described his reaction to the article he read in the Los Angeles Times:

In the middle of the night they heard these horrendous screams and crashings and they ran in and he’s thrashing on the bed. They ran to him and by the time they got to him he was dead. They did an autopsy on him and there was nothing physically wrong with him. And I just thought: “My God.”

Researchers believe the deaths were caused by a mysterious disorder called sudden unexplained death nocturnal syndrome. Otherwise healthy men from Southeast Asian countries ages 20 to 45 years old suddenly die in their sleep.

Some in Thailand and the Philippines believe the incidents are supernatural. A spirit comes to kill them by sitting on their chests while they sleep. This belief is not unlike the “Nightmare on Elm Street” antagonist. To avoid the spectral threat, some Thai men would disguise themselves as women.

Though researchers have offered a variety of hypothesis over the last few decades, none have held up. Many have not been disproven either. Relatives of some of the victims describe hearing a sudden gasp for air, before they died.

In “Nightmare on Elm Street,” the victims tried to stay awake to avoid Freddy Krueger’s nightmare assaults. Coming up Sunday morning on the blog, find out what doctors say they should have done instead.

Image courtesy New Line Cinema

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Ambien excuse, Delta flight threat suspect took sleeping pills

A former Air Force intelligence specialist is in custody undergoing competency tests, after he told air marshals he was carrying explosives in his boots, backpack and laptop. The incident caused a Delta flight bound from Paris to Atlanta to make an emergency landing in Maine.

Court documents obtained by CNN claim the suspect Derek Stansberry told the air marshals that he had taken eight tablets of the sleeping drug Ambien along with some valium. When he was later interviewed by the FBI he changed his story. He claimed he took only one Ambien.

The commonly-used hypnotic continues to be the scapegoat for strange and even dangerous behavior. Chances are the media will speculate this week's Delta incident will be blamed on Ambien sleepwalking

Earlier this month, a Fox News affiliate asked the question “is ambien creating a nation of zombies.”

The AASM recognizes Ambien as a safe and effective short-term solution to insomnia, if used as prescribed. However, it appears the Air Force vet who made the threat misused the drug by taking eight pills and combining them with valium.

To learn more about the sleeping drug, and other treatments for insomnia go to the Ambien section of our blog.

"Snooze or Lose": Dr. Oz's sleep quiz

Television's Dr. Oz is back talking about sleep this week. This time the discussion came in the form of a contest named "Snooze or Lose." Two contestents tucked into beds on set were grilled on basic sleep questions. Watch the entire segment here:

As we always do with Dr. Oz., let’s take a look at the facts for each of the three “true or false” questions. Unlike one of the last times we blogged about his show, his advice is spot on.

“If you cut back on the sleep you need by just one hour, your body will adjust.” As Dr. Oz indicated, the statement is simply not true. The body will not adjust, and as the sleep debt racks up so will the negative effects of sleep deprivation. We recommend at least 7 hours of sleep per night.

Doctor Oz. is also correct in dismissing the statement “A handful of trail mix before bed will help you sleep better.” Its true protein can make it difficult to sleep. We don’t recommend eating before bed, but if you must eat, choose a light carbohydrate-based snack like cereal or granola.

The third statement , "Poor sleep can leads to diabetes" is accurate. Research shows the risk of getting type 2 diabetes goes up if you get less than seven hours per night. The chances rise significantly if you sleep for five hours or less. This is because poor sleep alters the way the body metabolizes the blood sugar glucose. People with type 2 diabetes have difficulty turning the glocuse into energy, due problems with insulin.

Another common factor between poor sleep and diabetes is obesity. Most people with diabetes are overweight. Sleep loss greatly increases your risk of obesity.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fatal familial insomnia: a genetic death sentence

There are genetic diseases and then there is fatal familial insomnia. It’s an excruciating death sentence with no cure and no treatments. Doctors can’t even temporarily relieve the suffering caused by months without sleep. For the unlucky few on this earth who inherit fatal familial insomnia conscience reality is no different than dreams and nightmares.

Little is known about fatal familial insomnia. The research is limited to its rare occurrences. Only about 40 families in the world are known to carry the genetic mutation linked to the disorder. For those families, their curse is a dark secret, a time bomb set to detonate sometime mid-life.

Fatal familial insomnia is a prion disease, the same classification as mad cow disease. The genetic mutations cause abnormal proteins to build up in the brain, destroying nerve cells and leaving sponge-like holes.

It’s a progressive disease. At first the symptoms resemble insomnia. Then it causes profuse sweating, accelerated breathing and heart rate and fever. Soon the sleep cycle breaks down, and the boundaries blur between wakefulness, REM sleep, and short-wave sleep. Death occurs after eight to 72 months, either due to a secondary infection or coma.

The disease can be traced back to 18th century Venice to a wealthy and respected doctor, educated by the disciples of Galileo, known as Subject Zero. In his book ‘The Family That Couldn’t Sleep’, Author D.T. Max wrote the doctor found he could stay up all night playing cards or studying medicine. He started sweating more and more, his servants would bring him fresh shirts every day. Months later, he was dead.

His children shared the curse. For each of them, it started with the typical symptoms of insomnia: trouble getting to sleep, and waking up early. That never stopped. Then there were cognitive problems not unlike dementia. By the ninth month of not sleeping, they were dead.

For centuries, this mysterious pattern would repeat itself. Once a prosperous family, Subject Zero’s descendents fell on hard times, poorer and unable to marry because the community learned word of the strange deaths.

Some migrated to other parts of Italy and Europe. Others went to America.

Scientific researchers discovered fatal familial insomnia in the 1980’s, when a descendent of the family named Silvano checked into the sleep clinic at Italy’s Bologna University.

Silvano, once an energetic playboy in his early 50’s, who never had any problem sleeping, suddenly took on the appearance of a sickly old man. His motor skills were staggered and his brain function was unusual. Silvano was neither asleep nor awake.

National Geographic obtained video from the clinic:

Silvano offered his brain to researchers after he slipped into a coma and died. Most of what we know today about fatal familial insomnia is because of Silvano’s offer.

Learn more about fatal familial insomnia on

Monday, April 26, 2010

iPad insomnia: Amazon Kindle better for your sleep than Apple tablet

With a nearly limitless library of books available for instant download, the Apple iPad is a tempting purchase for literature lovers.

There’s just one small deal-breaker: it’s bad for bedtime reading.

The device’s bright, colorful screen can get in the way of bedtime habits and encourage insomnia.

Over the weekend Frisca Yan-Go, director of the AASM certified UCLA Sleep Disorders Center, told the Los Angeles Times books won’t mess with your sleep cycle like the iPad.

“Light-emitting devices, including cell phones and yep, the iPad, tell the brain to stay alert. Because users hold those devices so close to their face, staring directly into the light, the effect is amplified compared with, say, a TV across the room or a bedside lamp, said Frisca Yan-Go, director of the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center in Santa Monica.”

So using the iPad as an eReader isn’t much different than using a laptop or watching TV in bed, both habits we recommend against.

eReaders like the Amazon Kindle, appear to be a better alternative because they don’t give off light. The gadgets e-paper, a Sony developed technology that imitates the printed page.

AASM member and UCLA Neurology Clinic Director Alon Avidan also cautioned against using electronic gadgets before bed in an email to the Los Angeles Times. He did say however, that the Kindle is better for your sleep.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sleep problems often persist after shift work, not permanent

There’s some hope for folks ready to give up the struggle with the overnight shift: insomnia and other sleep problems often associated with those difficult hours may be difficult to shake when it’s over, but it’s not permanent.

Research also shows more years of shift work does not lead to worse sleep problems.

These findings were part of a 10 year longitudinal study in the April issue of Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Researchers followed workers in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s over various lengths of time.

Former shift workers had more sleep-related problems than those still on the graveyard shift or people who worked normal hours. Researchers reason this group is “self-selected,” meaning they were predisposed to have sleep disorders, and their difficulties persisted after they left their jobs.

Those who were still in early in their professional lives had the most problems. They were most likely to leave their jobs.

Shift workers also had more problems sleeping than daytime workers, often waking up too early.

For more on the night shift, go here to find a sleep schedule that works, or go to to learn everything you need to know.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Inside-out eyelids and sleep apnea, investigating the link

The title and description might make your stomach churn. Floppy eyelid syndrome causes your upper eyelids to become rubbery and turn inside-out spontaneously while you sleep.

This strange sounding sleep disorder is often an indicator of sleep apnea.

In a study published in the April issue of Ophthalmology, researchers wanted to see how often patients with floppy eyelid syndrome had sleep apnea.

They compared 102 patients with floppy eyelid syndrome with a same-sized group of people without the disorder.

Researchers measured each subject for sleep apnea using the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. They also counted anyone who was already receiving treatments for sleep apnea, such as CPAP or oral appliance therapy.

About a third of floppy eyelid syndrome patients had sleep apnea.

Click here to view more stories about sleep apnea or visit to learn more about the disorder.
Image Courtesy Xava Du

Friday, April 23, 2010

Learning in your sleep, dreaming with a purpose

A new study is shedding light on one of sleeps biggest mysteries: why we dream. While it’s been known for some time that dreaming helps memory function, findings published Thursday in Current Biology indicate we continue to learn as we dream.

Subjects in the study spent an hour navigating navigated a complex 3D maze and then took a 90 minute break.

Half the volunteers napped during that period, while the others stayed awake.

When the break ended participants were asked to solve the same maze as quickly as possible.

Those who stayed awake the entire time had a drop in performance compared to previously. The nappers who did not dream only modestly improved.

The four people who reported dreaming about the maze turned in an impressive performance, completing it in half their previous time. Matched up against the group that didn’t nap, the dreamers’ scores were 10 times better.

Find out the details of their dream in this New York Times article.

CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains the physiological processes of learning while dreaming in the video below.

Drug combination could solve snoring, sleep apnea

Two pills might be all it takes to treat some cases of sleep apnea. A promising new study found the combination of pseudoephedrine and domperidone dramatically cut down on the loud snoring typically associated with the disorder.

Researchers tested the treatment on 23 patients who reported severe snoring and episodes of sleep apnea.

Both drugs are widely used to treat symptoms researchers assumed might contribute to sleep apnea. Domperidone, or Motilium, is used to treat acid reflux by helping clear the stomach of acids and other juices. Pseudoephedrine is an ingredient in cold medicines that reduces nasal congestion.

Researchers believed the combination would reduce inflammation in patients’ throats and stop nasal congestion from causing a vacuum effect that causes the tongue to obstruct breathing.

Participants completed the Epworth Sleepiness Scale and received a home oxygen monitoring test before and after receiving the therapy. All but one of the patients’ scores significantly dropped, meaning there was a measurable improvement in their sleep quality. The average decrease was 9.9 points. 17 subjects reported they no longer snored or had episodes of sleep apnea after taking the medication.

The findings are promising but further research is needed before the treatment becomes available. None of the patients received a clinical sleep study. The study instead relied on sleep questionnaires and oxygen testing. Researchers promise to follow up on the study in the future.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that causes your body to stop breathing during sleep. It happens when the tissue in the back of the throat collapses and blocks the airway, keeping air from getting into the lungs. Currently, there are no drugs treatments for sleep apnea.

Read the entire study in the most recent issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Projected first-round NFL draft pick has narcolepsy?

Pro football scouts are taking a hard look at outside linebacker Sergio Kindle in the hours leading up to tonight’s NFL draft. The impact pass rusher made a splash at University of Texas, recording 55 tackles including six sacks in 2009, but some teams may pass on Kindle because of his problems off the field. Some of those issues are due to his reported struggles with narcolepsy.

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Bob McGinn reports Kindle would fall asleep in team meetings, leaving his college coaches wondering what was wrong with him.

Several unnamed sources told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that Kindle is now taking medication to control his narcolepsy and attention deficit disorder.

His problems don’t stop there:

“In 2007, Kindle was arrested for drunken driving and suspended three games. His license was suspended, he attended mandatory Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and he performed 60 hours of community service.
Last June, Kindle suffered a concussion when the car he was driving in Austin, Texas, slammed into an apartment building. He didn't report the incident to police until the next morning.
At the combine, Kindle said the accident occurred because he was texting. Also at the combine, he told the Journal Sentinel that he no longer used alcohol.”

Some experts project Kindle to go as high as 12th overall tonight. The NFL draft airs tonight on ESPN.

People with narcolepsy tend to have excessive daytime sleepiness. Frequent naps are common. And sudden, irresistible “sleep attacks” may occur in unusual situations.

Learn more about narcolepsy. Read a narcolepsy case study on

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Blogging about obesity, apnea and your brain

America’s public health epidemic is getting more play in the New York Times. This time a blogger is making the case that obesity is bad for your brain.

The author references studies comparing brain scans of average and severely overweight people. Obese people, on average, tended to have smaller, more atrophied brains - a feature of dementia.

The blogger offers a list of suggested causes, included genetics and fat cell secretions that damages brain cells. Here at the Sleep Education blog we want to focus on an aspect the blogger only briefly mentioned: obesity, obstructive sleep apnea and brain function.

The disorder, most commonly affecting obese middle age men, has been linked to progressive brain damage. Men with untreated OSA have less brain gray matter, which may lead to cognition problems.

Stroke risk is also elevated. In a study published earlier this month, researchers found men with mild to severe forms of obstructive sleep apnea were nearly three times more at risk of having a stroke than their peers. For women, the risk for stroke only really increased during severe cases of sleep apnea.

Treatment options are available. The AASM recommends dietary weight loss combined with either CPAP or an oral appliance.

Find out if you have symptoms of sleep apnea and if you’re at risk.
Then go to to learn how CPAP therapy can save your life.

Get treatment at an AASM-accredited sleep center near you.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

“Ambien Zombies”, sleepwalking fears and facts

Last night, Fox News Boston aired the special report “Is Ambien creating a nation of zombies?” The segment called attention to dangerous or even deadly sleepwalking episodes linked to the prescription sleep drug Ambien.

While these incidents are a reminder that side effects can occur, millions of people regularly take Ambien and other prescription hypnotics without experiencing any problems.

You can minimize the risk if you take Ambien exactly as prescribed by your doctor, moments before bedtime. Never increase dosage or begin taking additional medications without consulting your doctor. And don’t use alcohol before or after taking Ambien. Allow for a full nights sleep when you take the drug.

The FDA warns in its Medication Guide for Ambien, “You may get up out of bed while not being fully awake and do an activity that you do not know you are doing. The next morning, you may not remember that you did anything during the night.”

The AASM recognizes Ambien as a safe short-term treatment for insomnia. For severe or chronic cases we recommend seeing a board-certified sleep specialist for further treatment options, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. To find a sleep specialist contact an AASM-accredited sleep center near you.

Find out more about Ambien and other sleep medications.

Or follow us on Twitter:

CPAP on Milwaukee morning show “The Morning Blend”

Doctors from AASM member center the Sleep Wellness Institute paid a recent visit to the set of WTMJ 4 Milwaukee’s “The Morning Blend” to show viewers the latest technology used to treat sleep apnea.

Host Molly Fay even wore a CPAP mask on air.

To find out if you are at risk for sleep apnea answer these questions on our blog or take this test at

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

Monday, April 19, 2010

Like a dream, Rockies pitcher can’t sleep after no-hitter

On Saturday a revved-up Ubaldo Jimenez made baseball history, on Sunday he was too tired to remember it ever happened.

He slept only about two hours the night he threw the first no-hitter in Colorado Rockies history, during a 3-0 win over the Atlanta Braves.

Jimenez was so groggy the next morning he wasn’t sure if the no-hitter ever happened. He told the associated press, “It was like a wonderful dream I was having.”

After he couldn’t sleep, Jimenez said he got up and ran six miles at about 6:30 in the morning.

He promises he’ll be rested up for his next scheduled start on Thursday.

Study: sleep disturbance symptoms differ by race

New research shows the exact effects of sleep disturbances differ by race.

A study published this month in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine compared symptoms for white, black and Hispanic people.

Each participant filled out a survey about their symptoms, after scientists monitored their sleep.

Black participants who had insomnia symptoms, excessive daytime sleepiness or frequently snored reported poorer physical health compared to their white counterparts. Black people with insomnia also had more physical limitations than Hispanics, and worse mental health than whites.

Hispanics with those same sleep issues had more mental distress than white people.

Researchers found sleep disturbances were common for the overall population; 46 percent had at least mild sleep apnea, 34 percent reported frequent snoring, 30 percent had insomnia and 25 percent reported excessive daytime sleepiness.

Excessive snoring was most common among Hispanics, affecting 41 percent studied. Nearly a third of black people struggled with daytime sleepiness, the most in the study.

Due to limitations of the studies design, researchers could not examine what causes those differences. They speculate lifestyle, diet, sleep architecture and access to health care could be factors.

The 2010 Sleep in America Poll highlights sleep differences for each race. Blacks were most likely to be “short sleepers,” those surveyed averaged 6.2 hours of sleep on weekdays. Whites had the highest average of 6.9 hours.

According to CDC data, unemployed and low-income Americans have more trouble sleeping. High school dropouts are about twice more likely to have sleep disturbances than people with college degrees.

Learn more about sleep and race.
Image Courtesy John Steven Fernandez

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The world of overnight work

In many workplaces, the differences the day shift and the overnight shift are quite literally night and day. Life goes at a different pace.

The news industry is one of those cases. Although there is always the potential for hectic breaking news, third-shift journalists are sometimes able to dial back their usual frantic pace. Last week a staff photographer for the New York Times posted a gallery of pictures taken while she was on the clock overnights. The normally crowded streets of the big apple she depicts in her photos resemble colorful moonscapes.

Other careers, like law enforcement or emergency response, can actually pick up the pace in the early morning hours.

This American Life found an interesting case of this. In December, Ira Glass and his staff at Chicago Public Radio dedicated an entire show to the world that happens while most people are asleep.

In “Act One: Orange You Glad I Didn’t Say Banana?” A reporting team profiled a bustling overnight fruit and vegetable marketplace in the Bronx, and the traders’ everyday triumphs and frustrations.

Many of the people interviewed in the segment swore by the 3rd shift. For others it was a love-hate relationship. The reporter notes a lot of the workers at the marketplace were divorced. Most blamed the night shift for “getting in the way of life.”

A list of worst jobs for sleep

A sleep strategy for overnight workers

Friday, April 16, 2010

Radio DJ KeKe Luv achieves goal, nearly 8 days without sleep

No one will fault Idaho Kiss FM morning host KeKe Luv for sleeping in Saturday morning. It’s been more than a week since his last visit to dreamland.

KeKe Luv, whose real name is Steve Kicklighter topped his own record Friday afternoon by logging about 175 consecutive hours on air.

You won’t find him listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. The proper paperwork was never submitted to make his attempt official.

The stunt was part of his annual campaign to raise awareness for child abuse prevention. Last year he ran the equivalent of seven marathons in seven days. In 2008, he went seven days without sleeping.

Read KeKe Luv's blog

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Study finds video games cause only mild effect on sleep

Every school night, millions of teens armed with controllers and headsets clash on the virtual battlefield of “Call of Duty.” You would think these adrenaline-fueled gaming sessions would keep teen males wired all night. As it turns out, getting to sleep following an evening of gunfire, explosions and kill counts isn’t much different than it would be after watching nature documentaries.

A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine concluded video games only have a mild effect on the sleep of older teen males.

Researchers in Australia looked at how long it took a group of male teens to fall asleep after they played the best-selling Playstation 3 video game “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare,” in comparison to the Academy Award winning documentary “March of the Penguins.”

The difference was only 4.5 minutes.

A group of 18 teens, all about 16 years old, were subject to two 50-minute experimental sessions. Each time they under the covers in bed, in a dimmed room, with electrodes attached.

It took teens 7.5 minutes to fall asleep after playing the violent video game. When they watched “March of the Penguins” the average was three minutes. About a third of the boys fell asleep during the documentary. Seven teens say they felt less sleepy after they played “Call of Duty.” Two of the teens actually fell asleep faster.

Scientists measured only a small increase in the subjects’ alertness, but no differences in their arousal or quality of sleep.

The findings counter the popular, but mostly anecdotal, belief that it’s hard to sleep after playing video games at night.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean gaming has no effect on sleep. The slight difference in teens’ sleepiness might be enough to keep them playing longer. And many game sessions last a lot longer than an hour.

In extreme cases gaming benders have lasted for days. Just this week in South Korea, the Culture Ministry announced plans to stop minors from playing online games after midnight.

Past research has linked excessive video game playing to loss of sleep. College students addicted to video games sleep about one hour less than their peers.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Radio DJ skips sleep, targets world record

Things are about to get messy on the Idaho airwaves. Radio personality KeKe Luv is approaching his sixth consecutive day of broadcasting, and he hasn’t slept more than a couple minutes at a time.

If he can stay awake for two more days he’ll shatter the world record for longest consecutive broadcast. And he only gets three 15-minute breaks a day.

KeKe Luv, otherwise known as Steve Kicklighter, does some kind of stunt every year to raise awareness of child abuse prevention. Only two years ago he successfully stayed up for 7 days straight. But it’s that extra 24 hours that might just do him in.

Last time, his boss almost pulled him away from the broadcast booth towards the end of the radio marathon when he “wasn’t making a whole lot of sense.”

Remarkably, Kicklighter stays away from the coffee and soda. He wants to avoid crashing when the caffeine wears off.

You can watch a live webcam of his broadcast here.

New York Times blogger's battle with insomnia

In a New York Times blog entry titled “Requiem for a Nice Person” a broadcast writer vents about how a decade long fight with insomnia has made her constantly irritable and unsocial.

On her worst weeks, Lindsey Anderson only gets a total of about 12-15 hours of sleep.

Here’s how she describes those episodes:

“It’s like I am piggy-backing a dwarf around all day — a heavy dwarf. It also feels like I’m sick. Not stay in bed sick, but head achy, dry eyes, stiff and generally miserable. Some days I could literally “go toddler” — plop myself down wherever I am and cry my eyes out. I don’t want to do anything when I’m sleep deprived.”

Much of the entry is about her relationships with her friends and peers, and how she went from being “friendly” to “just nuts.” The blogger describes says she can be cynical, sarcastic and sometimes flat-out rude when she doesn’t sleep.

Past studies have shown extreme sleep deprivation worsens mood and the ability to perform tasks. Another more recent study theorizes why sleep deprivation impairs social ability.

If your insomnia is interfering with your ability to function during the day, has lasted at least three weeks, and is not improving you should seek treatment at an AASM-accredited sleep center near you.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Samsung 3D TV not for the sleep deprived

The future of home entertainment is apparently off-limits if you're behind on your sleep.

Electronics manufacturer Samsung posted a warning about its 3D TVs on its website:

"Pregnant women, the elderly, sufferers of serious medical conditions, those who are sleep deprived or under the influence of alcohol should avoid utilising the unit's 3D functionality."

"Viewing 3D television may also cause motion sickness, perceptual after effects, disorientation, eye strain and decreased postural stability. It is recommended that users take frequent breaks to lessen the potential of these effects. If your eyes show signs of fatigue or dryness or if you have any of the above symptoms, immediately discontinue use of this device and do not resume using it for at least thirty minutes after the symptoms have subsided."

"Watching TV while wearing 3D glasses for an extended period of time may cause a headache or fatigue. If you experience a headache, fatigue or dizziness, stop viewing TV and rest."

3D TVs hit the market only recently. It remains to be seen whether theres any real detrimental effects from watching while sleep deprived or if Samsung is just protecting itself legally.

Image by 잡다한것들

S. Korea wants gamers to sleep, introduces curfew

Anyone who plays video games knows it can be hard to put down the controller and get to bed. For children in South Korea logging off may no longer be a choice.

The nation’s Culture Ministry is stepping in with policies aimed at curbing addiction and ending all-night video game marathons.

Proposed is a nationwide curfew that would ban minors from playing online games from midnight until 8 a.m. The plan would also slow down internet connections during long gaming sessions.

The policies follow several well-publicized gaming-related deaths. In 2005, a 28-year-old man died of exhaustion after playing the popular computer game Starcraft for 50 hours straight. Earlier this year an infant starved to death while her parents were at an internet café raising a virtual child online.

Game companies play a central role in the South Korean government plan. Officials are asking the game makers to track underage players using their national identity numbers. The companies would notify parents if the child spent long lengths of time online.

Long video game sessions have been linked to sleep loss.

Image Courtesy Kim Pierro

Study: Sleep-starved nights may fuel binge eating

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found healthy young men tended to take in an extra Big Mac worth of calories after a sleep-deprived night.

It’s the latest study to link sleep to unhealthy eating patterns and obesity.

Researchers in France allowed a dozen study participants to eat whatever they wanted over two sleep-regulated 48-hour periods.

The first session, the group of men went to bed at midnight and woke up at 8 a.m. both days. The next time around, they were limited to only four hours of sleep on the second day.

On average, the participants consumed 22 percent more calories when they did not get a full night of sleep. The extra eating happened during breakfast and dinner.

The scientists who carried out the study told Reuters Health the findings make it clear that getting an adequate amount of sleep is essential for energy conservation and not just the recovery process.

There are various ways skimping on sleep is linked to bulging bellies. Another study found people tend to exercise less and are less active overall when they don’t sleep.

Short sleep may also cause you to hunger for high-calorie, high-carb foods.

Learn more about sleep and weight gain.

Image by Fatima Alameri

Monday, April 12, 2010

Help wanted: sleeping bag tester

Most companies discipline workers for nodding off while on the clock, in Great Britain there’s a job that actually encourages it.

The catch is the quality of sleep might not be so great. You’ll have to sleep outside under canvas.

The Telegraph reports retail chain Halfords is looking to hire someone to put sleeping bags and other camping gear to the test.

Pay isn’t too shabby either - about $15 an hour, with the promise of at least $900 per week.

No experience is needed, but applicants must "demonstrate an interest in camping and outdoors leisure activities."

The job does have one notable downside: you’ll probably have to endure the elements.
But at least you’d never have to make a mid-day Starbucks run, or attempt to gulp down another cup of that foul-tasting black coffee kept in the company break room.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Discovering Sleep in Space

Last week NASA launched space shuttle Discovery with a crew of seven astronauts. They headed to space April 5 on a 13-day mission to the International Space Station.

Last year the Sleep Education blog
reported that it can be a challenge to sleep in space. Now NPR’s Health Blog “Shots” reports that the challenge may be even greater for the crew on the current mission STS-131.

The astronauts had to synchronize their schedules with the crew on the space station. This requires them to work the “night shift” and sleep during the day.

To prepare they started changing their sleep schedules weeks ago. They also used bright lights in the crew quarters during the nights when they were awake.

The mission will provide scientists with more details about how astronauts sleep in space. The
research is being led by AASM member Dr. Charles Czeisler.

The experiment monitors their sleep-wake pattern using actigraphy. Test subjects wear a wrist
Actiwatch during the mission.

It records their activity and exposure to light. This information is compared with data collected before and after space flight.

Learn more about
space sleep from NASA. Read more about sleeping provisions for astronauts.

Image courtesy of NASA

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Bed Bugs Are Back in Business

Oregon’s Democrat-Herald reports that bed bugs are on the march. The blood-sucking bugs made a comeback a decade ago on the East Coast. Now they’ve made a home on the West Coast too.

Last year the Sleep Education blog
reported that bed bugs were making a comeback. Rep. G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina even sponsored the “Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite Act of 2009.”

Why don’t you wake up when a bed bug is biting you? National Geographic explains that the bugs inject you with an anesthetic to keep you from feeling the bite.

Once the bugs get in your home, it can be difficult and costly to get rid of them. Treatment by a professional exterminator may be required.

Treatment methods vary widely. But Discovery’s “
Verminators” showed that one way to get rid of them is to turn up the heat.

ThermaPure heat treatment raises the temperature above 115 degrees to eliminate an infestation.

Friday, April 9, 2010

CBS Doc Talks Sleep Deprivation & Naps

CBS news correspondent Dr. Jon Lapook recently visited with AASM member Dr. Neil Kavey. The two discussed the rampant problem of sleep deprivation.

“The problem is people think they can get away with being sleep deprived,” Kavey told Lapook. “So they’re willing to sacrifice sleep in the interest of finding time to do other things. But no one gets away with it.”

Kavey said that the symptoms of sleep deprivation can be subtle. It’s like going about your day “fighting through a cloud.”

“The real problem is we don’t recognize it,” he said. “We think we’re doing fine.”

Lapook agreed, saying that sleep deprivation is common among his patients.

“I think it’s probably the biggest unrecognized medical problem that I see,” he said.

Kavey added that you should make it a priority to get more sleep whenever you’re not getting enough.

“It’s really important to not feel lazy and get all the sleep you can,” he said. “So catch up whenever you can. Catch up on weekends, and catch up on naps when you can.”

Lapook ended the feature by stopping by
YeloSpa in midtown Manhattan to see if he could get a power nap. The day spa offers private YeloCab cabins that are a “refuge for sleep-deprived New Yorkers.”

Are you sleep deprived? Visit to read the Seven Signs You Need Sleep from the AASM. Learn more about sleep deprivation.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Sleep Apnea Increases Stroke Risk

A new study found that people with untreated obstructive sleep apnea had an increased risk of stroke. This effect was stronger in men than in women.

study involved 5,422 people who were 40 years of age and older. They had no history of stroke and had never been treated for sleep apnea. Each person’s sleep was monitored during a home sleep test sometime between 1995 and 1998.

Participants were followed for an average of almost nine years. During this study period 193 of them had a stroke.

Results show that the risk of stroke in men rose with the severity of sleep apnea. Men with moderate to severe sleep apnea were nearly three times more likely to have a stroke than men without sleep apnea or with mild sleep apnea.

"Our findings provide compelling evidence that obstructive sleep apnea is a risk factor for stroke, especially in men," lead author Dr. Susan Redline said in a
news release. "Overall, the increased risk of stroke in men with sleep apnea is comparable to adding 10 years to a man’s age. Importantly, we found that increased stroke risk in men occurs even with relatively mild levels of sleep apnea."

In women an increased risk of stroke was found only with more severe levels of OSA. The authors noted that men are more likely than women to develop sleep apnea at younger ages. So the more prominent stroke risk in men might be related to having untreated sleep apnea for longer periods of time.

A stroke is a “brain attack” that occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted. It can result from either a blood clot that blocks an artery or from a broken blood vessel. Stroke is the
third-leading cause of death in the U.S.

Last year a
study reported that the effects of a stroke may be more severe in people who have OSA. Another study suggested that blood flow impairments might explain the link between sleep apnea and stroke.

The good news is that sleep apnea can be treated.
CPAP therapy is the treatment of choice for all severity levels of OSA.

“The time is right for researchers to study whether treating sleep apnea could prevent or delay stroke in some individuals,” said Dr. Susan B. Shurin. She is the acting director of the
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The NHLBI funded the study.

Read more about obstructive sleep apnea and CPAP therapy. Get help for sleep apnea at an AASM-accredited sleep center near you.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Living a Nightmare: True Stories of REM Sleep Behavior Disorder

Alarming behavior during sleep is more than just a plot device for movies. It’s a nightly reality for people who suffer from REM sleep behavior disorder.

People with RBD act out vivid, action-packed dreams while remaining asleep. They may shout, punch, kick, run and even jump out a window.

The dangerous sleep disorder can put dreamers and their bed partners at risk of injury. Yesterday The Chicago Tribune
shared some of their stories.

For 16 years Lawrence Neumann screamed, punched and kicked in his sleep before he was finally diagnosed with RBD. One time he even suffered a concussion when he dove out of bed head first.

Carl Pope’s wife described how she watched him kick the wall and fight off imaginary attackers. John Chadwick had to restrain himself in bed so that he wouldn’t injure his wife.

"I was living a nightmare," Chadwick told the Tribune.

AASM member Dr. Carlos Schenck described some of the people he has helped. Some men have jumped through windows while asleep. Others have knocked themselves unconscious while acting out violent and aggressive dreams.

Schenck was one of the authors who first
reported cases of RBD in the journal Sleep in 1986. He also is executive producer of the documentary “Sleep Runners.” It tells the true stories of people who suffer from RBD and other parasomnias.

Recently the AASM
published a best practice guide for the treatment of RBD. Injury prevention and treatment with medication can help subdue RBD.

Last year the Sleep Education blog
reported that RBD may intensity over time. The disorder is most common in men over the age of 50. But another study confirmed that it can occur in other people as well.

Contact an
AASM-accredited sleep center if you or someone you know acts out dreams during sleep. Read more about REM sleep behavior disorder.

Image by Balazs Sprenc

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Dr. Oz: Snoring Solutions for Women

Recently Dr. Oz responded to a question about excessive snoring that was posed by Joyce, a member of his audience.

But Joyce wasn’t concerned about her husband’s snoring. She is the one who snores.

“Why am I snoring so much,” Joyce asked. “What is the problem?”

Dr. Oz recommended weight loss as one way to reduce her snoring. He also said that avoiding alcohol can help.

But he surprised Joyce with his final advice. He suggested that she take singing lessons.

“You learn to control the muscles in the upper throat – the same muscles that collapse (and cause snoring),” he explained. “It’s like weightlifting your muscles.”

Last year the Sleep Education blog
reported that there are a variety of treatment options for snoring. But snoring is also a common sign of obstructive sleep apnea.

Most often this kind of snoring is loud and frequent. It tends to be followed by silent pauses in breathing. These pauses may end with a loud choking or snorting sound.

Joyce’s own description of her snoring suggests that she might have OSA.

“Snoring enough to disturb the entire family,” she said. “And if I even snore a little louder, I might disturb the entire neighborhood.”

Sleep apnea is a serious health problem that requires medical attention. CPAP and oral appliances are the two most common treatments. Another option is surgery, which is a common solution for children with sleep apnea.

You might be able to reduce the severity of sleep apnea by following Dr. Oz’s advice to strengthen the throat muscles. Studies suggest that it might help to
play a wind instrument or use tongue and throat exercises.

But these methods are unlikely to cure sleep apnea. You should contact an
AASM-accredited sleep center for help if you or a loved one snores loudly.

Read more about sleep apnea in women. Learn how women may be surprised by sleep apnea. Read about the signs of OSA in women.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Movie “In My Sleep” is a Sleepwalking Thriller

Coke’s recent “Sleepwalker” ad had a whimsical, humorous tone. In contrast, the new movie “In My Sleep” examines the darker side of sleepwalking.

The movie’s tagline is, “Sleepwalking can be deadly.” And the film is rated PG-13 for sexual content, violence and bloody images.

The plot was inspired by real sleepwalking stories, first-time director Allen Wolf said in a
press kit. He also wrote and produced the movie.

“I had read many stories about people who had done all kinds of horrifying things while they were sleepwalking,” Wolf said. “The idea that someone could do virtually anything while sleepwalking and have no conscious memory of it was fascinating to me.

“I thought that most of us could relate to feeling like a part of our lives is out of control. I wanted to take that to the next level – what if you lost control of yourself when you were sleeping? That idea drew me to the story.”

In terms of its medical accuracy, the movie appears to be a little loose with the details. The main character is diagnosed with “parasomnia, a rare sleep disorder.”

“Parasomnia” is actually a classification of a dozen specific sleep disorders. Some of them are rare, but others are quite common. All of them involve undesired behaviors during sleep.

Nightmare disorder. Sleepwalking. Sleep terrors. Confusional arousals. Sleep paralysis. Hallucinations. Sleep-related eating disorder. These are some examples of parasomnias.

But in general, the movie is right: Sleepwalking can be a dangerous problem. Some people with
REM sleep behavior disorder take sleepwalking to the extreme. They act out vivid, action-packed dreams while remaining asleep. They may shout, punch, kick, run and even jump out a window.

Other people may sleepwalk as a side effect of taking a sleeping pill. In 2007 the FDA
requested that a warning about the risk of “complex sleep-related behaviors” be added to the product labeling of all sedative hypnotics.

You can get help for a parasomnia at an
AASM-accredited sleep center near you. The AASM offers these Guidelines for Taking Sleep Medications.

Read more about parasomnias. The 2005 documentary “Sleep Runners” tells the true stories of people who suffer from parasomnias.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Canine Narcolepsy: Dogs Help Advance Research

Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that affects hundreds of thousands of people. And you may be surprised to know that dogs can have narcolepsy too.

“Nobody knows how frequent narcolepsy is in dogs,” AASM member
Dr. Emmanuel Mignot told Discovery’s “Is It Possible?” He is the director of the Center for Narcolepsy at the Stanford School of Medicine.

The first reports of narcolepsy in dogs were published
in 1973 and 1974. Over the following decades Stanford researchers were able to make important discoveries by studying canine narcolepsy.

In 1999 Mignot and colleagues
determined that canine narcolepsy is caused by disruption of a hypocretin receptor gene. Hypocretin is a hormone that helps promote wakefulness. This led to their groundbreaking discovery that people with narcolepsy lack brain cells that make hypocretin.

More recently Mignot
found evidence that narcolepsy is an autoimmune disorder. And his research shows that bacterial infections such as strep throat may activate the immune system response that kills hypocretin cells.

People with
narcolepsy tend to have excessive daytime sleepiness. Frequent naps are common. And sudden, irresistible “sleep attacks” may occur in unusual situations.

Some people with narcolepsy also have “cataplexy.” This unique symptom involves a sudden loss of muscle tone while you are awake.

Your head may drop, or your knees may buckle. You may completely fall out on the floor. Episodes of cataplexy tend to be triggered by a strong emotion such as laughter or surprise.

Watch videos of dogs with narcolepsy and cataplexy on the Web site of the Stanford Center for Narcolepsy. Read more about narcolepsy.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Animals & Sleep: Clockless Reindeer and Falling Seals

Research continues to show how sleep differs among animals.

study published last month examined the daily, “circadian” rhythms of reindeer. Researchers from the U.K. and Norway found that its melatonin production is not controlled by a circadian clock.

“The molecular clockwork that normally drives cellular circadian rhythms is evidently weak or even absent in this species,” the authors concluded.

Melatonin is a hormone that is produced in the brain. It helps your body regulate the sleep/wake cycle.

An internal body clock helps control melatonin production. Natural daylight – and the lack of it at night – also helps drive this cycle.

But melatonin production in reindeer appears to be driven only by light and darkness. This has little effect on their sleep patterns,
reports LiveScience.

Reindeer sleep after they eat. As ruminant animals, they tend to eat eight to 10 times a day.

Another recent
study took a closer look at northern elephant seals. They never come out on land during long migrations of up to eight months at sea.

They almost constantly make repetitive, deep dives. And they rarely surface for more than a few minutes at a time. So when do they sleep?

A research team from Japan and the U.S. studied six juvenile seals. They measured body position and 3-D diving paths.

They found that the seals sank quickly to a depth that would be safer from predators. Then they rolled over and sank on their backs during slower “drift” dives. They wobbled in a way that resembled a falling leaf.

This drastically slowed their descent rate. As a result they had time to rest or process food.

The authors also suspect that the seals may sleep during the descent phase of these dives. A few seals that drifted in shallow areas even hit the seafloor without reacting,
reports Natural History.

Read more about
animals and sleep.

Image by Tristan Ferne

Friday, April 2, 2010

Daily Routines Help Older Adults Sleep Better

A new study shows that daily routines help reduce insomnia and improve sleep in older adults. The results were published yesterday in the journal Sleep.

The study involved 96 adults in two retirement communities in Israel. Their apartments were fully equipped as independent units. They had an average age of about 75 years.

Eighty-two percent lived alone, and 75 percent reported fair or good health. Sleep medication was used three times or more per week by 23 percent of participants.

Results show that older adults slept better when they had more stability in daily routines. They fell asleep faster and had improved sleep quality.

“We were surprised that our findings were so robust,” said lead author Anna Zisberg.

Examples of these daily routines include bathing, dressing and eating. The authors reported that stability in routines involves the timing, frequency and duration of the activities.

Mean self-reported total sleep time was six hours. On average it took participants 37.5 minutes to fall asleep. Worse sleep quality was associated with less lifestyle regularity.

The authors noted that the natural process of aging often affects sleep quality. They concluded that routine lifestyle rhythms may help adults maintain high-quality sleep as they get older.

Earlier this year a
study suggested that healthy older adults without sleep disorders may have a reduced "sleep need." But many older adults have insomnia due to a medical condition. And they may have insomnia as a side effect of a medication.

Read more about sleep and aging. Get help for an ongoing sleep problem at an AASM-accredited sleep center near you.
Image by TCDavis

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Pregnancy, Sleep & Postpartum Mood

A new study examined the relationship between disrupted sleep and postpartum mood in mothers. The results were published today in the journal Sleep.

The study from Australia involved 44 healthy women. They all had a low risk for postpartum depression. Their ages ranged from 18 to 41 years. Sleep was measured by actigraphy for seven days during the third trimester and seven days after giving birth.

Results show that sleep deteriorated after delivery. Total sleep time at night fell from 428 minutes in the third trimester to 373 minutes after delivery. Daily nap time increased from 32 minutes to 101 minutes.

Forty-six percent of women had some deterioration of mood after delivery. But the link between objective sleep measures and mood was weak. Variables related to the subjective perception of sleep were stronger predictors of postpartum mood.

“Subjective perception of sleep shared a much stronger relationship with mood,” said lead author Bei Bei. “Women who are concerned about their sleep and/or mood should speak to health care professionals about cognitive-behavioral therapy.”

Bei said that pregnancy is a joyous and exciting time. But it also exposes women to many stressors, including disturbed sleep.

The authors reported that new moms often have a mild mood disturbance a few days after delivery. This is called the “baby blues.”

It tends to involve mood swings and tearfulness. Other symptoms such as irritability, anxiety and headaches may occur. Postpartum blues may last about a week.

Some moms may experience postpartum depression. This involves more severe mood changes that can impair daily functioning. The Office on Women’s Health
reports that about 13 percent of pregnant women and new mothers have depression.

Last year a
study found a hormonal link between restless legs syndrome and pregnancy.

Read more about sleep and pregnancy on Get sleep tips for new parents from the AASM.