Monday, January 31, 2011

Say Farewell to Daytime Fatigue with Surgery for Sleep Apnea

Treatment for obstructive sleep apnea can greatly improve your quality of life, the Sleep Education Blog often reports. A new study from researchers at Henry Ford Hospital shows surgery, like CPAP, can make you feel less sleepy during the daytime.

The study examined the effectiveness of three surgical interventions for sleep disordered breathing – removing excess tissue in the back of the throat, removing the tonsils and using radiofrequency waves to destroy tissue at the base of the tongue.

A group of 40 patients with mild to severe obstructive sleep apnea participated in the study. Before surgery, the patients completed the Epworth Sleepiness Test, a questionnaire that measures daytime sleepiness during various activities. All of the patients had an Epworth Sleepiness Score (ESS) of 10 or higher, meaning they were very sleepy during the day.

After surgery was completed, the patients’ average ESS dropped to 5.5. Nearly all of the patients posted dramatic improvements. Only one patient had no change in score, while two had an increase. Researchers also noted the patients had half as many pauses in breathing while they slept.

Never leave obstructive sleep apnea untreated. It can ruin your quality of life and make you feel constantly tired. Untreated OSA can also lead to other serious health problems, like heart disease or stroke.

Surgery is only one of the effective treatment options for OSA. CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure, is the mainline treatment for the disorder, however severe. People with less severe OSA cases can also use an oral appliance to prevent the symptoms of OSA.

Photo by Julia Manzerova

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mike Birbiglia Sleeps with Downy in Macy’s Window

Comedian Mike Birbiglia is putting the freshness of Ultra Downy April Fresh to the test by living and sleeping for a week behind a Macy’s store window in New York City. Proctor & Gamble is using the event to pitch Downy as the latest sleep aid.

But will a week of “clean sheet freshness” help Mike sleep better?

It will be a tough test. Birbiglia is notorious for being a bad sleeper.

“I am the worst sleeper in America,” he declared during a press conference at Macy’s.

In his stand-up routines and in his book
Sleepwalk with Me, Birbiglia shares vivid details about his struggle with REM sleep behavior disorder.

People who have RBD act out action-packed dreams as they sleep. The dreamer may punch, kick, jump or get out of bed and run. All of this occurs while he or she is still asleep.

Although Downy is no cure for RBD, putting fresh, clean sheets on the bed can be one way to help create a relaxing sleep environment. But it might not be so relaxing when people on the New York City streets are watching you through a window.

Mike will find out. He moved into his Macy’s bedroom yesterday and spent the night. “This is so, so strange,” he Tweeted.

In the week ahead Birbiglia plans to host a Yoga instructor and other special guests in his store window bedroom. He also plans to learn more about mannequin culture. And he wants to know why P&G doesn’t offer a pizza-scented Downy.

Watch live streaming video of Mike in the Window from four different camera angles on Facebook.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Fatigue Formula May Prevent Future Air Traffic Tragedy

Shortly after 6 a.m. on August 27, 2006, 49 people were killed when a Delta Connection flight skidded off the end of a Fayette County, Kentucky runway on takeoff. The commuter plane was on the wrong runway – one too short for the plane.

Only one man was on watch in the control room when it happened. He failed to notice the plane until it was too late. He was wrapping up an overnight shift after logging only two or three hours of sleep the prior afternoon. He had 10 hours between shifts, but couldn’t sleep because of his sleep cycle. Prior to the deadly crash, the controller had worked two evening shifts, two daytime shifts and a full overnight shift.

A group of sleep researchers at Washington State University say the disaster could have been easily prevented. The researchers estimate the controller was only operating at 71 percent effectiveness because he was fatigued and fighting his circadian rhythms.

A more flexible, sleep-friendly schedule would have helped the controller work at maximum efficiency. AASM member Gregory Belenky suggests airports switch from rule-based staffing schedules to more flexible schedules. The shifts would be based on how much sleep people can actually attain, rather than hours set aside for sleep.

The concept is one step further than regulation the FAA proposed last year after the fatal 2009 commuter plane crash near Buffalo. Under the proposal, airlines would have to take into consideration the time of day, time zone and circadian rhythms when scheduling shifts. Pilots unions strongly opposed the changes, claiming the policy would have a negative impact on safety.
The blame in the 2006 crash can’t be completely pinned on the lone controller. The pilot and crew were also fatigued from shift work.

Once again, fatigue proves to be of serious concern to the public health. Shift work is necessary in our non-stop 24 hour society, but it doesn’t have to be harmful for workers and the public at-large. Employee wellness efforts and shift work awareness can go a long way.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Artificial Light at Night May Lower Sleep Quality, Raise Health Risks

Turn on the lights and turn off your health, a new study reports. Researchers claim exposure to bright room lighting at night can ruin your sleep and increase risk for high blood pressure and diabetes.

The findings show the lights can suppress melatonin levels. Melatonin is a hormone essential for the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle. Basically, without melatonin, you won’t feel as tired at bedtime.

The effect is similar to what happens if you watch television or stare at a computer screen before trying to sleep. Earlier this year the Sleep Education Blog warned readers about using an iPad to read books or surf the web before bed.

Another vital function of melatonin is to lower your blood pressure, body temperature and glucose levels. When melatonin is suppressed, the risk for conditions caused by high blood pressure and high glucose levels rises.

The study involved 116 young adults who were exposed to light for eight hours before bedtime for five days straight. Half of the participants were exposed to dim light as a control. The researchers took the subjects’ blood plasma to measure for melatonin levels.

The subjects who were exposed to bright light had shorter melatonin duration, due to suppression.

The study raises some questions about the type of environments where we spend our evening hours. The reality is that it may be difficult to avoid bright light entirely. Maybe it’s time to utilize the dimmer switch.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Did Sleep Deprivation Lead to Attack on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords?

Politicians and pundits continue to argue whether vitriolic partisan politics inspired the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Saturday. Another factor that may have pushed alleged gunman Jared Lee Loughner to go on a killing spree that left six dead and 14 injured remains left out of the discussion.

Bizarre online ramblings allegedly posted by Loughner reveal he may have had insomnia prior to the Arizona attack. He writes:

“All humans are in need of sleep.
Jared Loughner is a human.
Hence, Jared Loughner is in need of sleep.”

Other passages in the YouTube rant mention sleepwalking and so-called conscious dreaming about the government. It’s unclear whether his message is intended to be literal, symbolic or just the incoherent ramblings of someone with serious mental health problems. Former classmates indicate it may be the latter.

And it all could have started with insomnia. Young adults with long-term sleep deprivation have an increased risk for mental illness, a study published last year in the journal SLEEP reported. A history of depression, anxiety or general emotional distress further raises the risk.

So was the shooting a product of partisan speech with violent undertones? Was it long-term insomnia? Or was the alleged gunman simply seriously disturbed? Chances are we will find out more in the coming months.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

First-Time CPAP Users Feel Refreshed Instead of Fatigued

One small lifestyle change can give sleep apnea patients a whole new lease on life. After only a few weeks sleeping with a CPAP machine, the constant fatigue from the sleep disorder fades, making way for improved energy and mood.

A study published in the January issue of the journal SLEEP provides proof that CPAP can drastically improve your everyday life.

A group of 59 middle-aged adults diagnosed with sleep apnea were randomly assigned to CPAP therapy or a placebo. The participants were instructed to use the equipment each night for three weeks. The group answered a questionnaire about fatigue and other sleep apnea symptoms before and after the treatment period.

Results show the subjects who used CPAP no longer suffered from clinically significant levels of fatigue after treatment. Self-reported energy levels also increased for CPAP users, and daytime sleepiness dropped.

The group that received a sham treatment did not see any benefit.

CPAP has other long-term benefits. It can save your life by reducing heart attack and stroke risk associated with sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles relax during sleep, causing the soft tissue in the back of the throat to collapse and block the upper airway. The sleep disorder should never go untreated. If you think you may have sleep apnea, get checked out. Countless sleep centers across the U.S. offer overnight sleep studies for the diagnosis of sleep apnea.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Blogger Arianna Huffington: Sleep for Success

In a recent TEDtalk, Huffington Post co-founder Arianna Huffington stepped out from the political blogosphere to spread an idea that liberals and conservatives alike can use.

Her big idea is in her words "a very very small idea that will unlock billions of dormant big ideas." That big idea is sleep:

Most of the talk took an unusually jokey tone for TED, but there's some merit to Huffington's message. Sleep is one of the best ways to give your brain a boost.

Get 7-8 hours per night and you'll be more interesting, more attractive and make better decisions. Sleep deprivation is not a badge of honor. You'll never know what you are truly capable of unless you are caught up on sleep.