Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sleep More, Stress Less to Achieve Your Weight Loss Goals

Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig should get with the program. Neither of the weight loss leaders integrates sleep education and sleep diaries. And the companies are making a big mistake, new research suggests. Popular approaches used by groups like Weight Watchers use a diary to keep track of food and exercise. Adding an extra column in the diary for hours slept would be a minor change that could make a significant impact.

A new study in the International Journal of Obesity found that adequate sleep increases your chances of success during weight loss efforts. People trying to lose at least 10 pounds more often reached their goal if they had six to eight hours of sleep per night. Stress reduction also helps with weight loss, the study reports.

A group of 500 study participants were instructed to lose 10 pounds over a six month period. All participants attended weekly weigh-in and educational meetings. Instructors at the meetings encouraged the participants to consume 500 fewer calories per day, adopt a healthy low-fat, low-sugar diet and exercise for at least 180 minutes a week. Participants were required to keep record of how long they slept, stress levels and mood. The class instructors encouraged participants to keep a food diary as well.

Nearly three-quarters of the people who slept more than six hours and kept a low-stress lifestyle were successful in losing 10 pounds or more and were twice as likely to meet their goals compared to those who get six or fewer hours of sleep.

Sleep loss tends to lead to weight gain or undermine dietary weight loss because it changes the body’s hormone levels. Lower leptin and higher ghrelin can lead to a slower metabolism but a bigger appetite for junk food.

Whether you are trying to lose weight or stay trim for swimsuit season, prioritizing sleep is always a good idea. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends adults get at least seven hours of sleep. Don’t underestimate the power of diet and exercise. Weight loss programs like Weight Watchers work for many people because they educate people to make the right choices and encourage them to hold themselves accountable for their health.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Planes Land in D.C. Airport While Traffic Controller Sleeps

Numerous attempts to contact air traffic control went unanswered during the final approach to Washington D.C.’s Ronald Reagan National Airport early Wednesday. Two planes had to rely on directions from a regional facility located about 40 miles away, while the nearby control tower remained mysteriously silent.

Only one person was scheduled for duty at the time and that air traffic controller was asleep, sources tell the Associated Press.

Authorities insist the risk Wednesday was minimal because pilots are trained to announce an emergency landing over a special broadcast channel in the event that no air traffic controllers are present. The pilots would not be able to see if there was equipment on the runway that could be a landing hazard.

Air traffic controllers like many professionals in the airline industry face grueling and irregular work schedules that puts them at risk. Shift work disorder is especially prevalent. People with shift work disorder may fight their own circadian rhythms on a daily basis. The body may signal its time to sleep mid-shift and by the time shift workers get home circadian rhythms can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.

The airline industry has had its share of problems possibly related to shift work disorder and other sleep problems. An NTSB investigation named impairment from fatigue and pilot inexperience as causes of the deadly crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 in February 2009. One pilot napped in the airport while the other took a cross-country red-eye prior to the flight.

Recent investigations found similar working conditions to be common in the industry. Pilots are required a rest period of only eight hours between shifts. The rest period can occur at any time, day or night, without considering whether the pilot has the ability to fall asleep.

Low wages among pilots who work for smaller carriers also pose a safety problem. Pilots may try to save money by sleeping at hostel-like “crash-pads” instead of hotels. With up to a dozen airline employees sleeping in bunks in the same room, “crash-pads” aren’t a good place to sleep.

Last fall, the Federal Aviation Authority proposed scheduling regulations intended to address pilot fatigue. Those changes were met with strong opposition.

It appears that regulators have turned their attention to air traffic controllers. Reagan airport has agreed to increase its overnight staffing, after a direct request from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

It will remain to be seen if the sleeping air traffic controller will lead to major industry changes.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Shift Work May Cause Swell in Sleep Apnea Symptoms

A new study provides further health concerns for the estimated 20 million Americans who sleep during the daytime because of their work schedule. The symptoms of untreated obstructive sleep apnea may be worse for shift workers, a new study reports.

The study compared a group of 31 shift workers to ten daytime workers. Members in both groups were previously diagnosed with sleep apnea and had similar ages, weights and sleep lengths.

Daytime and nighttime polysomnograph results show that the shift workers had more frequent breathing pauses in breathing and higher oxygen desaturation levels. Both measures show that shift workers had more severe symptoms of sleep apnea.

The authors of the study caution that patients with untreated sleep apnea should avoid nighttime work. The Sleep Education Blog urges workers with sleep apnea to take that warning one step further and never let sleep apnea go untreated. Sleep apnea has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, dementia and other serious health problems.

Shift work also can also harm your health. Some workers may struggle with shift work disorder, which causes your internal body clock to go awry. Workers with shift work disorder may be severely tired but unable to sleep. Loss of sleep length and quality may affect job performance and put workers at risk for injury.

Read more about obstructive sleep apnea and shift work disorder.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Did Sleep Medicine Help Boost U.S. Life Expectancy?

Life expectancy hit an all-time high in 2009, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An American born in 2009 can now expect to live about 78 years and two months, a two month increase compared to 2008. Only 2.4 million Americans died in 2009, an all-time low and the 10th consecutive yearly decrease. As usual, women (80.6 years) had a longer life expectancy than men (75.7 years).

The CDC speculates that vaccinations, public health measures against smoking and better overall medical treatment for the life span improvements. Sleep medicine may be able to share some of the credit.

Deaths from heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes – three diseases commonly associated with sleep apnea - all decreased in 2009. This raises the question, is an increase in awareness and treatment of sleep apnea contributing to these rates and helping Americans live longer?

Research shows that people with untreated severe sleep apnea are more than twice as likely to die. Even moderate cases increase the overall risk of death by 17 percent.

Diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea may prevent countless deaths from heart disease. The pauses in breathing from untreated obstructive sleep apnea can put enormous strain on your heart. Heart disease risks associated with this include coronary heart disease, heart attack and congestive heart failure.

CPAP and other sleep apnea treatments may also slow the development of diabetes. Sleep disorders that disrupt sleep, including but not limited to sleep apnea increases the likelihood of getting diabetes.

Treatment can also limit sleep loss related to sleep apnea, which is a factor in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. CPAP also helps slow the cognitive decline of people with Alzheimer’s.

Think you might have sleep apnea? Find out by scheduling an overnight sleep study for diagnosis. it could save your life in the long run and help.

Note: The average life expectancy in the U.S. is still among the lowest of the developed western nations. The National Research Council reports that the heavy smoking in the past five decades has long figured for the slower growth in life expectancy. The national obesity epidemic is expected to offset the eventual gains from the recent reduction in smoking. Excess body weight a primary risk factor for heart disease and diabetes as well as sleep apnea.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Why Accidents Increase After Daylight Savings Switch

Was traffic noticeably slower on your morning commute these past couple of days? If so, blame daylight saving time. The “spring forward” is believed to cause a temporary spike in traffic incidents. A 1998 Canadian study found that auto accidents may increase as much as 17 percent immediately following the time change.

Media outlets tend to report a few theories on why accidents swell after the spring time change. Each seems reasonable at first glance:
  • Drivers acclimated to commuting after the sun is already out may find themselves blinded by the sunrise or driving in the dark.

  • More drowsy drivers are on the road after difficulty falling asleep at the regular time due to the spring forward.

  • Some people recklessly rushed to work after forgetting to reset their alarm clocks and accidently oversleeping.
The authors of the Canadian study argue drowsy driving – rather than the other two factors – is why the frequency of accidents escalates after the time change. The study found the only significant increase in accidents occurred during the afternoon commute. That finding appears to rule out an early sunrise or forgetfulness as the reason for an increase in accidents.

Last week, the Sleep Education Blog shared some tips to better brace for the time change but not everyone spends days preparing for the hour of lost sleep. The blog also reported that well-intentioned evening types may still struggle because falling asleep even slightly earlier than normal may be difficult. It may take weeks, but most of the people who fall under either category will eventually adjust and become safer drivers once again.

The “fall back” in November appears to have the opposite effect of the “spring forward”: a sudden temporary decrease in accidents, according to the study. However, that may be quickly negated by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which tends flare up with the fall time change. SAD may lead to increased daytime sleepiness, which potentially, could mean more drowsy drivers on the roadways during the winter months.

Do you find yourself nodding off at the wheel on a regular basis? You may have a sleep disorder that prevents you from getting regular restful sleep. Schedule an appointment with a clinical sleep specialist and find out if you have sleep apnea or seek treatment for insomnia.
Photo by Slinkydragon

Monday, March 14, 2011

Donate and Support Disaster Relief Efforts in Japan

Millions displaced by Friday’s devastating earthquake and tsunami face a fourth consecutive night without food, water, shelter or heat. Sleep Education and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine are urging a rapid response to help provide these survivors with the basic necessities.

In a special message today, AASM President Dr. Patrick J. Strollo expressed his sympathies to the victims in Japan and issued a call to action for the sleep medicine community. Help assist in aid efforts by making a contribution to a relief agency of your choice.

So how can you donate? CNN has provided a list of reputable aid organizations, along with directions on how to donate. The Better Business Bureau has some general suggestions on how to avoid fraudulent or poorly run charities.

Meanwhile, the AASM is continuing to reach out to its nearly eighty members who live in Japan learn how it can be of direct assistance.

Image by Google

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Find Sleep as You Spring Forward for Daylight Savings

Many people greet the onset of daylight savings with mixed feelings. The unofficial end to winter is a welcome sight, but springing forward and losing an hour of sleep can be difficult.

Plan ahead and ease into the time change starting tonight and you can minimize the sleep deprivation. Try to sleep 20 minutes earlier each night until the time change on Sunday, March 13. Do the rest of your daily routines a little earlier each day. Eat dinner 20 minutes early tonight.

Fail to plan ahead and the time change may disrupt your body clock. You may feel restless at bedtime Sunday night and start your work week fatigued.

Night owls may have the most trouble springing forward. Going to bed early can be difficult for evening types. Even 20 minutes earlier than normal might not be achievable. If possible, you may want to try to keep a light schedule of activities, especially for the first few days after the time change.

The good news is, even if your sleep schedule temporarily suffers, the winter blues will start to fade. Those affected by seasonal affective disorder may start to feel more energetic as the sunlight increases and the body’s timing may get back on track.

If your sleep problems don’t go away a few weeks after the time change – or if they’ve been around for months – you may want to seek professional help. A clinical sleep specialist can help you get past insomnia using cognitive behavioral therapy.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sleep in America 2011: Sleep & Technology

The powerful technology that keeps us connected, entertained and informed is deeply engrained in our lives and our culture. We carry around phones as powerful as personal computers, a movie about Facebook almost won the Oscars and every new Apple product announcement is celebrated like a national holiday. We can – and often do – spend the entire day in front of a screen, using a desktop computer at work all day, an iPhone on the commute or at the gym and a tablet or e-reader at home.

So maybe we’re overdoing it with all these gadgets. For all of the societal benefits, there are some drawbacks. We’re less active and we’re getting fatter. Our children face the threat of bullying online as well as the schoolyard. And our many devices are keeping us from getting enough sleep each night.

Sleep problems related to technology have been a recurring topic on Sleep Education Blog. This year, the annual Sleep in America Poll also focused on technology and sleep. The National Sleep Foundation released the results of its 2011 Sleep in America Poll earlier this week.

The findings are no surprise - Americans are using technology before bedtime and they’re not getting enough sleep. Out of the more than 1,500 people surveyed, 95 percent use some type of electronic device within an hour of going to bed at least a few times a week.

Results show 43 percent of Americans rarely sleep well on weeknights and 60 percent regularly have insomnia, snore or wake up un-refreshed in the morning. Nearly two-thirds admit to sleeping less than the recommended 7-8 hours per night. About 15 percent of adults and 7 percent of children are seriously sleep deprived – logging less than six hours of sleep during the week.

Technology use and sleepiness is generational, as the 2011 Sleep in America Poll demonstrates. Millennials are more connected than their parents. Older generations watch more television while younger generations prefer the interactivity of video games, computers or mobile devices.

Younger generations are also sleepier, the poll reports. About 1 in 5 millenials rated themselves as sleepy using the Epworth Sleepiness Scale compared to only about 1 in 10 baby boomers and generation x’ers.

Sleep changes as you age. Teenagers and young adults may have difficulty falling asleep in the early evening because their circadian rhythms prefer the night. Early start times for school or work leave almost no time for natural night-types to sleep.

Older people have their own sleep problems. The National Institute on Aging reports that older adults may produce and secrete less of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin and as a result may get less sleep, sleep less deeply and wake up more throughout the night.

Every generation copes with sleeplessness in the same way, poll findings show. All age groups use caffeine and naps to fight fatigue. Many of the participants openly admitted that sleep deprivation affects their work, their sex lives and their ability to drive safely.

If you fit in these statistics, you might want to make some changes to your sleep hygiene. Schedule a nightly wind-down time away from the screen. Turn off your television or computer 30 minutes earlier each night and do some light chores, read a book or even a Kindle.

If a sleep disorder is keeping you from getting the rest your need, contact an AASM-accredited sleep center for help.

Friday, March 4, 2011

CDC: More than 1 in 3 Americans are Sleep-Deprived

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has shed light on some unsettling trends involving our sleep. More than 35 percent of Americans get less than seven hours of sleep per night – and 1 in 20 has fallen asleep at the wheel in the past month.

Drowsy driving is one of the most overlooked dangers on our roadways. It’s estimated that as many as 1,550 deaths and 40,000 personal-injury accidents are caused by drowsy drivers.

The CDC surveyed about 74,000 adults in 12 states about various topics related to sleep. The survey was a new module included in the CDC’s 2009 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).

Results show nearly half of the people surveyed snore and 38 percent unintentionally nodded off during the day at least once in the past month.

The AASM reports that adults need a minimum of seven hours of sleep per night. Even an hour less of sleep per night can lead to long-term health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and diabetes. It also can sap your energy, ruin your productivity and put you in a foul mood.

There’s a reason why Americans are constantly among the most sleep deprived in the world. Aside from the many worries that keep us awake at night, our society seems to reward those who stay up working or socializing rather than sleeping. Sleep deprivation isn’t a badge of honor; it’s a threat to your health.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

ADHD and Late Bedtimes Don't Mix for Schoolchildren

Late bedtimes and overall poor sleeping habits can easily transform an A into an F for school-aged children. Sleep is perhaps the most important factor in academic success and healthy cognitive development. Lack of sleep can be disastrous for children, especially if they have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

A study in the March issue of the journal SLEEP reports the consequences from poor sleep can magnify the academic disadvantage facing children with ADHD. After staying up late for nearly an extra hour, children with ADHD lost the ability to remain vigilant and attentive.

A group of 11 children with ADHD and 32 kids without the childhood disorder were asked to eliminate nearly an hour of sleep for six consecutive nights, following a baseline period. Researchers monitored the children’s sleep patterns using wrist actigraphy.

Before and after the period of sleep-deprivation, each child took a common neurobehavioral test used in the evaluation of ADHD called a Continuous Performance Test. The children were presented single letters on a computer screen at three different rates and had to press a button in response.

Results show that children with ADHD who lost an average of 55 minutes of sleep per night had more errors and a slower reaction time in the test compared to children without the disorder.

The National Institute of Mental Health reports that ADHD affects about 3-5% of school-aged children, and is more common in boys than girls. Children with ADHD may be impatient, have trouble focusing and quickly become bored. They may daydream, have trouble sitting still or talk nonstop. For a child to be clinically diagnosed with ADHD, these symptoms must be present for at least six months. Sometimes mood disorders such as depression or other learning disabilities are mistaken for ADHD.

Lack of sleep can also lead to symptoms similar to ADHD in children. They respond to sleep loss differently than adults. Sleep-deprived adults may feel lethargic and have trouble staying awake, while sleep-deprived children can be hyperactive.

The AASM recommends school-aged children get 9-10 hours of sleep per night. Very young children may need as much as 14 hours of sleep for healthy cognitive development.