Monday, October 8, 2012

Binge eating causes sleep issues during, after pregnancy

Binge eating or consuming unusually large amounts of food, before or during pregnancy, can cause sleep problems during pregnancy. Those sleep problems can also last as long as 18 months after childbirth.
Scientists found that women with binge eating disorder symptoms before and during pregnancy had more sleep problems than a group of women with no reported symptoms. They also had increased sleep dissatisfaction 18 months after childbirth.

Participants with binge eating disorder symptoms before and during pregnancy, pre-pregnancy symptoms that went away during pregnancy, or pregnant women who binge eat for emotional reasons, were 26 percent more likely, to report sleeping problems than participants with no reported eating disorder symptoms.

All women, regardless of eating disorder status, reported more sleep problems during the first 18 weeks of pregnancy. This is because women experience changes in their sleep patterns by their 11-12th week of pregnancy. As a result, they get more hours of sleep, but less deep sleep, and more waking up during the night. In addition to hormonal changes and the physical discomfort, conditions like sleep-disordered breathing and restless leg syndrome sometimes appear during pregnancy.

The authors of the study, published in the journal SLEEP recommend comprehensive mental health screening during pregnancy. To their knowledge, their study is the only one to examine sleep and binge eating symptoms during pregnancy.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Melatonin improves sleep during hypertension treatment

Melatonin supplements may improve sleep in hypertension patients who are on beta-blockers.
Scientists found that three weeks of melatonin use significantly improved their sleep quality and helped them stay asleep compared with a placebo.

Patients taking melatonin increased total sleep time by 37 minutes. They also spent less time awake in bed, and fell asleep quicker. The authors of the study, published in the journal SLEEP observed that the melatonin improved sleep tolerence without the common side effects of drug tolerance or rebound insomnia.

Beta-blockers are drugs that affect the body’s response to certain nerve impulses and are sometimes used in hypertension patients. These medications suppress endogenous nighttime melatonin secretion, which may explain a reported side effect of insomnia.

Melatonin is effective in resetting the body's circadian rhythms, and is used frequently for jet lag. Findings are mixed on whether melatonin helps improve sleep in otherwise healthy patients with insomnia.

If you have insomnia and are not on a beta-blocker, there are other ways you can tackle your insomnia. These include cognitive behavioral therapy and medications. The AASM advises you to talk to your doctor before taking melatonin or any medication. Your doctor may refer you a sleep medicine physician at an AASM-accredited sleep disorders center. Visit to find an AASM-accredited sleep center near you.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Review: Sleepwalk With Me

Don't mistake "Sleepwalk With Me" as a story about a man coming to terms with the rare and intriguing REM sleep behavior disorder. Mike Birbiglia's semi-autobiographical new film is a highly personal and often understated account of a struggling comedian in a troubled relationship. The sleep disorder gets little screen time, but those moments are memorable and pivotal to the story.

Birbiglia, a comedian and regular on the popular radio show This American Life, co-wrote, co-directed and stars as his thinly veiled doppelganger Matt Pandamiglio. Matt is a thirty-something who is facing not-so-subtle pressure from his long-time girlfriend and family to get married. He adores his girlfriend, who is played by Lauren Ambrose, but he just can't bring himself to marry her. On top of that, his aspirations to become a stand-up comedian are going nowhere. He spends his evenings bartending at a comedy club, where he occasionally gets to perform.

Matt's anxieties begin to bubble over into strange and vivid dreams, which he acts out in his bedroom. His father is quick to notice that he may have REM Sleep Behavior Disorder, a rare and dangerous parasomnia that gets worse over time.

Instead of seeing a doctor, Matt gets swept away by an opportunity to jump-start his comedy career. While he's on the road, the sleep disorder causes a near-fatal accident, which happened to Birbiglia in real life. A dream about a missile attack caused him to jump out of a second story window of a La Quinta Inn.

"Sleepwalk With Me" succeeds as a small independent release and as an introduction to a very serious sleep disorder. The movie tastefully mixes Birbiglia's joke-laced narrative driven approach to stand-up comedy with the modest, thoughtful storytelling of This American Life. This is no surprise: the film was produced and co-written by Ira Glass, the host and creator of This American Life.

The film provides a fairly realistic view of REM sleep behavior disorder, and the dream sequences involving the disorder are especially imaginative (see below). Also novel is the method in which the film explains REM sleep behavior disorder to the audience. Without spoiling anything, it involves a cameo by Dr. William Dement, the real-life father of sleep medicine. For this reason alone, "Sleepwalk With Me" is worth viewing for anyone with an interest in sleep medicine.

As bizarre as it sounds, REM sleep behavior disorder is a real sleep disorder recognized by the International Classification of Sleep Disorders - Second Edition. People with REM sleep behavior disorder often flail, shout, punch, kick or leap as they act out their vivid dreams. The sleep disorder gets worse over time when left untreated, and injury is likely. In extreme cases, the dreamer may injure or kill themselves or a partner.

A board certified sleep physician diagnoses REM sleep behavior disorder using an overnight sleep study. The disorder is treatable with medications such as Clonazepam combined with bedroom safety precautions. Birbiglia has stated before that he confines himself in a sleeping bag while wearing mittens, so he doesn’t injure himself as he sleeps. People with REM sleep behavior disorder should also move any objects away from the bed, and block any windows.

Sleepwalk With Me opens on August 24, and is showing in a limited run at these theaters.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Exercise may help alleviate daytime effects of sleep apnea

A daily trip to the gym can help dampen the daytime misery due to sleep apnea, new research shows. A study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that a 12-week exercise program helped improve daytime functioning in a small sample of adults with sleep apnea.

The study randomly assigned 43 sedentary and overweight adults with untreated sleep apnea to an aerobic and resistance training program or a low-intensity stretching routine. Subjects in the training group ran on a treadmill for about 40 minutes a day, four days a week. The group also lifted weights twice a week. The exercises were designed to work each major muscle group, and included shoulder and chest press, row, leg and bicep curls and abdominal crunches.

After 12 weeks, the group that participated in the exercise program reported improved daytime functioning. They were less sleepy, less depressed and in a better overall mood. The results are promising, but due to a relatively small sample size further research is needed on the benefits of exercise for patients with untreated sleep apnea.

Even if you don't have sleep apnea, regular exercise can boost your energy, reduce your stress and improve your mood. Exercise can also help slow or prevent health conditions such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Some research has also suggested that it can help you sleep better.

Image by SashaW

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The danger of Googling for health advice

We're trained as internet users to Google (or Bing) any question we need answered. Thanks to an ever-evolving algorithm, most of the time these search engines return useful websites and information. But don't use Dr. Google to find medical advice. Medical information offered up by search engines can be inaccurate or irrelevant, a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics suggests.

A group of pediatric researchers evaluated the quality of search results related to infant safety issues. Out of 1,300 results from 13 search phrases such as "infant sleep position" and "pacifier infant", only 43.5 percent provided relevant information.

One example the researchers cited was a website that sells infant sleep consulting services that suggested that children can sleep on their stomachs after they have the ability to roll onto their bellies. The American Academy of Pediatrics cautions against this, recommending only supervised, awake stomach time for children up to one-year-old.

Consider the source when you are looking up health information on the web. Credible organizations such as health care leaders, government organization and professional medical nonprofits are more likely to provide trustworthy information than .coms hawking health products or services. There's one source that's always reliable to answer health questions: a board-certified physician. Always consult your primary care physician, rather than self-diagnose, if you think you may have a medical problem based on the signs and symptoms you read about on the web. If you suspect you may have sleep apnea or another sleep disorder, see a board-certified sleep specialist.

Below are some of the more trustworthy patient information websites:

National Institutes of Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Mayo Clinic
Yoursleep from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Short sleep reduces effectiveness of vaccines

Sleep length may affect how your body responds to vaccines, increasing your risk for illness. A study published in the August issue of the journal SLEEP found that people who had insufficient sleep were far more likely to be unprotected by a vaccine.

The study involved a sample of 125 healthy people between the ages of 40 and 60. Each subject received a three-dose hepatitis B vaccine over a six month period. Researchers measured the antibody response levels before the second and third vaccination, and six months after the final injection. During that time span, each of the participants kept a sleep diary and many of wore electronic sleep monitors as they slept.

Participants who slept fewer than six hours per night were more 11.5 times more likely to be unprotected by the hepatitis B vaccine compared to people who slept more than seven hours. The researchers found that sleep length, but not sleep quality, affected response to the vaccine.

This study adds to a growing body of research that suggests that quality of sleep has a considerable impact on your immune system. Last month, researchers in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom found that healthy young men in severely sleep-deprived circumstances had compromised blood cell counts.

Insufficient sleep is also linked to obesity, diabetes and reduced workplace productivity. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that healthy adults get 7-8 hours of sleep per night.

Image by Sanofi Pasteur

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

SAFE-D: Teaching Sleep, Alertness and Fatigue Education to Drivers

In the middle of summer’s peak driving season, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) offers a free online presentation describing the signs, causes and effects of driver fatigue and some strategies to manage it.

SAFE-D: Sleep, Alertness and Fatigue Education for Drivers is available on Vimeo, which has been posted below. The presentation also is on YouTube (part 1, part 2) to share or embed.

SAFE-D: Sleep, Alertness and Fatigue Education for Drivers from AASMorg on Vimeo.

The 30-minute narrated slide presentation explores the causes of fatigue, which stretch beyond the simple lack of sleep. For example, people who work outside of a typical nine-to-five schedule or work unpredictable schedules are at a high risk for fatigue.

Most people think that sleepiness and drowsiness are due only to lack of sleep, but there are other factors that affect your levels of alertness throughout the day, SAFE-D warns. These include staying awake for 16 hours or more, sleeping less than seven or eight hours a night, having interrupted sleep or suffering from an untreated sleep disorder such as obstructive sleep apnea. Fatigue and exhaustion can impair your performance even if you do not feel sleepy. As you become more fatigued, it becomes more difficult to pay attention and react quickly while driving.

According to a recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, an estimated 16.5 percent of all fatal motor vehicle crashes in the United States from 1999 to 2008 involved a fatigued driver.

And studies have shown that the effects of sleep loss are similar to having a blood-alcohol content over the legal driving limit.

The AASM recommends these strategies for managing fatigue:
  • Develop a healthy lifestyle by getting regular exercise, avoiding nicotine and eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Practice good sleep hygiene by following a regular sleep schedule and creating a comfortable sleep environment. Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and comfortably cool or warm. Limit food/liquid and alcohol intake, as well as electronic device usage before bedtime.
  • For greatest effectiveness, use caffeine as-needed instead of daily, and use it in moderation.
  • On longer road trips, use “activity breaks” to improve alertness. Pull over in a safe location and take 15 to 20 minutes to walk around and stretch.
Do not rely on turning the radio volume up, opening a window or chewing gum to try to stay alert, the SAFE-D presentation cautions. The only way to reverse fatigue and sleepiness is to get more sleep. And using illegal drugs or abusing prescription medication in order to fall asleep or stay awake is dangerous for your safety and health.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The effects of sleep deprivation vs. sleep restriction

What are the effects of severe sleep deprivation and insufficient sleep on middle-age men? A study in the July issue of the journal SLEEP looked at 18 healthy French men ages 46 to 55.  Sleep deprivation and restriction immediately affected their performance and vigilance, but they adapted after three days. And it only took one good night’s sleep for them to recover.

To study the consequences of sleep deprivation and restriction, the men slept normally for the first night. But on the next night they either had no sleep or slept only four hours during the next five nights. The ability to perform a task and continue to perform that task were measured.

Sleepiness was determined in the men immediately following the four hours of sleep. The amount of time it took to fall asleep was as short for men deprived of a night’s sleep as it was for the men sleeping only four hours. Falling asleep in a short time is considered a sign of a sleep disorder. Reaction times decreased after the second day of a four-hour sleep and reached the same levels as men completely deprived of sleep. But the four-hour sleep times also appeared to have little effect after three nights. In the end, alertness and performance for all men was restored after an eight-hour recovery night of sleep.

Read more about sleep needs for men, women, children and older adults.  For sleep disorders of any kind, locate an AASM-accredited sleep center near you for assistance.

Monday, July 9, 2012

When napping is good for older folks

Napping can be good for seniors – as long as they don’t sleep too much. A new study in the July issue of the journal SLEEP studied the sleep habits of 1,166 Israeli seniors ages 75 to 94. The results favored older people who take daily naps to supplement short sleep periods during the night. Seniors who slept more than nine hours per night, however, had higher mortality rates, with or without a nap.

The study surveyed the Israeli seniors and followed up on their mortality rates 20 years later. Sleeping more than nine hours a night was significantly related to increased mortality in comparison with sleeping seven to nine hours. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends seven to nine hours of sleep each day for adults.

Researchers also found a protective effect of daily naps for folks over age 84 who slept fewer than seven hours each night. The study concluded that determining healthy sleep habits among seniors should include an entire 24-hour period. Basing them on nighttime sleep duration or daytime napping alone was inadequate.

Read more about sleep and growing older. If you’re having sleep troubles at any age, locate an AASM-accredited sleep center near you for assistance.

Image by zilverbat

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sleep loss triggers stress-like immune response

Extreme sleep loss causes an immune response in the body similar to stress, a new study reports. Researchers in the Netherlands and United Kingdom compared white blood cell counts of 15 healthy young men under normal and severely sleep-deprived circumstances. White blood cell numbers showed differences in numbers and patterns after the men were kept awake for 29 hours straight.

Researchers said more study is needed to determine whether this immune response contributes to the development of diseases associated with sleep loss. Sleep restriction has been linked with obesity, diabetes and hypertension. Other studies have shown that sleep helps sustain the functioning of the immune system. Chronic sleep loss also is a risk factor for immune system impairment. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends seven to nine hours of sleep for adults.

The study was published in the July issue of the journal SLEEP. If you’re having trouble sleeping, locate an AASM-accredited sleep center near you for assistance. You also can find more information on sleep disorders and other patient information at the Your Sleep website.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Obesity crisis examined in HBO documentary series "The Weight of the Nation"

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts that if nothing is done to reverse the nation's current obesity trends, 42 percent of Americans could be obese by 2030. With the obesity current rate at 36 percent, the nation would add 32 million obese people in less than two decades. Sleep apnea, heart disease, diabetes and countless other debilitating and chronic health problems linked to obesity would devastate the national health and cost the health care system an estimated $550 billion.

A new public health campaign promises to be the first shot in the national battle against obesity. Next week, HBO will premier "The Weight of the Nation", a four-hour, four-part documentary in conjunction with the CDC's conference of the same name. The campaign is a co-effort by HBO and the Institute of Medicine, with support from the CDC, the National Institutes of Health, Kaiser Permanente and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation.

The documentary, which will be available for free online, will educate Americans on the science of obesity, the consequences of being overweight and social and economic factors that contribute to obesity. The program also promises to present solutions for individual weight loss and healthier lifestyles.

View the trailer below:

In advance of the premier of the documentary, HBO has launched an educational website as a companion piece. The website, which is rather excellent, provides easy to disseminate information on obesity, including definitions, infographics and plans of action to lead a healthier lifestyle.

Parts 1 & 2 of the "Weight of the Nation" will air on Monday, May 14 at 7 p.m. CST. The second half of the series will air the same time on the following night, Tuesday, May 15. The entire series will be available on-demand on the network's HBO GO Platform and for free on starting on May 14.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Excessive sleepiness may be cause of learning, attention and school problems

Children with learning, attention and behavior problems may be suffering from sleepiness. Penn State researchers divided 508 children into two groups. One group had parents who reported their children experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness. Parents of the second group reported their children alert during the day. The sleepy kids were more likely to experience learning, attention/hyperactivity and conduct problems.

What surprised researchers was that the tired students got just as much sleep as the other children. Measurements in the lab confirmed it. The researchers suggested that the sleepiness was being caused by obesity or symptoms of inattention, depression or anxiety. Asthma and parents reporting that their children had trouble falling asleep also seemed to contribute to the sleepiness.

Researchers said parents and educators are good resources for determining if a child seems excessively sleepy in the daytime. Their complaints should be taken seriously by health professionals examining the children. Otherwise, the learning and behavior problems could have further consequences in the child’s life.

The study appeared in the May issue of the journal SLEEP. Read more about children’s sleep needs and ways to evaluate whether or not your child is sleepy. For professional assistance, contact an accredited sleep center in your area.

Image by Pondspider

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Longer sleep times counteract obesity related genes

Toss out another old wives’ tale. Sleeping too much does not make you fat. Quite the opposite, according to a new study examining sleep and body mass index (BMI) in twins. Researchers found that sleeping more than nine hours a night may actually suppress genetic influences on body weight.

The study looked at 1,088 pairs of twins in the Washington state area. Twins sleeping less than seven hours a night were associated with increased BMI and greater genetic influences on BMI. Other studies have shown that genetic influences on weight include things like glucose metabolism, energy use, fatty acid storage and satiety. This study determined that the heritability of BMI was twice as high for short sleepers than for twins sleeping longer than nine hours a night.

The results demonstrate a gene-environment interaction between sleep habits and BMI, researchers said. This suggests that shorter sleep provides a more permissive environment for the expression of obesity related genes. Or that extended sleep protects by suppressing the expression of obesity genes.

More research is needed, the study concluded, but these preliminary results suggest that behavioral weight loss measures would be most effective when genetic influences are weakened through sleep extension. The study appeared in the May issue of SLEEP.

Image Courtesy NewBirth35

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

RLS risk higher with history of obstructive lung disease, estrogen use

A history of obstructive lung disease nearly tripled the risk of restless leg syndrome in a recent study group. The risk of restless leg syndrome was 2½ times higher for patients using estrogen.

The study looked at 535 health records from Tucson. The records were part of another project looking at sleep disordered breathing and heart disease. But researchers also used the information to determine a 1.7 percent incidence of restless leg syndrome in these patients. And people with obstructive lung disease were 2.8 times more likely to develop restless leg syndrome.

The restless leg syndrome was associated with insomnia and increased sleepiness. The study appears in the April issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

Restless leg syndrome results in a strong urge to move the legs. It often comes with other uneasy feelings deep inside the legs. Lying or sitting still can be very hard. Learn more about restless leg syndrome or locate an accredited sleep center near you to assist with restless leg syndrome or other sleep disorders.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

RBD patients waiting years before seeing a physician

People with REM sleep behavior disorder wait an average of nearly nine years before getting diagnosed, a new study reported. REM sleep behavior disorder occurs when a sleeping person acts out vivid dreams. These dreams are often filled with action, and may even be violent.

A study out of Scotland looked at 30 REM sleep behavior disorder patients. The patients were asked why they took so long to see a physician. Most (59 percent) said they didn’t think the symptoms were serious enough. Nearly as many (56 percent) said their REM sleep behavior disorder was mild or infrequent. Other patients (47 percent) believed the symptoms would go away or they simply didn’t know enough about REM sleep behavior disorder to seek help.

The patient’s bed partner was an important influence. The decision to seek treatment for REM sleep behavior disorder was made jointly by patient and partner in 47 percent of the cases. The study appeared in the April issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

REM sleep behavior disorder episodes tend to get worse over time. Early episodes may involve mild activity. Later episodes can be more violent. At some point it is likely to result in an injury. Either the person dreaming or the bed partner may be hurt.

REM sleep behavior disorder can be confused with sleepwalking and sleep terrors. Learn more about REM sleep behavior disorder and other sleep disorders. For treatment, or if you need any help sleeping, locate an accredited sleep center near you.

Image courtesy Jeezny

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Getting spouses involved may improve CPAP compliance

Having a CPAP user’s spouse involved may improve adherence. A study in the April issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine followed 23 married men who were treated with continuous positive airway pressure. CPAP is the first-line treatment for sleep apnea. The men reported that when their spouse’s assisted them with CPAP, they were more likely to use the treatment.

Researchers looked at whether the spouses were encouraging or negative about their husband’s using CPAP, and whether they collaborated or were demanding. When spouses worked with their husbands, there was a moderate influence improving CPAP adherence. When spouses were negative or demanding, or even encouraging, there was no effect on CPAP compliance. The study suggested that physicians could improve CPAP compliance by teaching spouses how to become involved.

Visit the Your Sleep website to find out if you are at risk for sleep apnea and learn more about CPAP. For help with treating sleep apnea, locate an AASM-accredited sleep center near you.

Image courtesy Anthony Citrano

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Study shows high rate of truckers with undiagnosed sleep apnea

Truck drivers are not the best judges at diagnosing their own sleep apnea, a new study reports. Research showed that self-diagnosis and symptom reports fell far short of determining sleep apnea when compared to home testing. Only 4 percent of 517 commercial vehicle drivers in Australia reported an earlier diagnosis of sleep apnea. The study found another 41 percent when drivers were tested with home monitors.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) has been associated with a higher risk of motor vehicle crashes. In December, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced new rules for the maximum hours of work per shift and mandatory rest periods for truck drivers. The FMCSA reduced by 12 hours the maximum number of hours a truck driver. Truck drivers also were mandated a break of at least 30 minutes after every eight hours worked.

The truckers in the Australian study worked an average of 65 hours a week. When surveyed, 40 percent of the drivers said they had trouble staying awake while driving in the last month. Of the commercial operators diagnosed with sleep apnea, less than half used continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. CPAP is the first-line treatment for sleep apnea.

The study appears in the April edition of the journal SLEEP. Visit the Your Sleep website to find out if you are at risk for sleep apnea. Get help for sleep apnea at an AASM-accredited sleep center.

Image Courtesy KOMUnews

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sleep-disordered breathing linked with depression

Snorting, gasping or stopping breathing while asleep has been associated with nearly all depression symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) surveyed 9,714 Americans for a new study appearing in the April issue of SLEEP. The CDC determined that the likelihood of depression increased with the frequency of sleep-disordered breathing.

Symptoms reported included feelings of hopelessness and feeling like a failure. The association was made regardless of factors like weight, age, sex or race. The CDC study is the first nationally representative sampling to look at obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and depression. Similar links have been made in previous studies, but in samples that were much smaller and more specific.

The study’s authors suggested that physicians screen for depression in the presence of sleep-disordered breathing, or vice versa. The said such screenings could help reduce the high incidence and under-diagnosis of both of these disorders.

Read more blog posts about sleep and depression. Or learn more about insomnia, or take a short quiz to test how well you sleep.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Children’s books for sale in New York museum gift shop

Two children’s picture books published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) in 2011 are available at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. The Animals Sleep: A Bedtime Book of Biomes and I See the Animals Sleeping: A Bedtime Story emphasize the importance of sleep for both animals and children.

The books are written in rhyme and feature colorful illustrations. They explore the sleep habitats of various animals, from the familiar to the more exotic. In all cases, children are encouraged to get a good night sleep. The Children’s Museum of Manhattan is currently exhibiting “EatSleepPlay™: Building Health Every Day.”
The Animals Sleep: A Bedtime Book of Biomes can be purchased from Amazon or directly from the AASM. Also available from the AASM is I See the Animals Sleeping: A Bedtime Story. Learn more about these books and find other educational resources at

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Insomnia a risk for chronic obstructive pulmonary patients

Insomnia is highly prevalent in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a new study shows. A group of 72 military veterans in Tucson with COPD were studied for a week. Researchers determined that 27 percent of them had insomnia. Smokers and those experiencing sadness and/or anxiety had higher odds.

Patients with insomnia had a worse quality of life and a higher incidence of daytime sleepiness. They slept for less hours and less efficiently. COPD patients who used oxygen, however, had a lower risk for developing insomnia. The study was published in the March edition of the journal SLEEP.

Learn more about insomnia due to a medical condition or sleeping short of the average hours for an age group. Or read additional blog posts about insomnia.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Getting older means you sleep better, not worse, study shows

Older people often complain about sleeping poorly as a sign of aging. Turns out that sleep improves during an adult’s lifetime. A new study in the March edition of SLEEP analyzed 150,000 responses to questions about sleep issues. The adults with the least complaints about sleep disturbances and daytime tiredness were in their 80s. Sleep complaints in general declined over the years, with a slight uptick in middle age.

Researchers said the results challenge conventional beliefs. They said physicians tend to ignore sleep complaints among older adults as a normal part of aging. Granted, there are contributing factors like illness and depression that affect slumber. But those things aside, older folks should be feeling good about their sleep, the study said. If not, they need to talk to their doctor.

Read more blog posts about sleep issues with older adults. Or learn more about sleep and growing older.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Plan Ahead to Avoid Negative Effects of March 11 Change to Daylight Saving Time

Sleep experts advise you to plan ahead for the change to daylight saving time on Sunday, March 11, when most of the U.S. will “spring forward” by one hour at 2 a.m.

“You should plan your new sleep schedule to allow time for your body to adjust,” said American Academy of Sleep Medicine spokesperson Dr. Lawrence Epstein.

The AASM recommends that you go to bed 15 or 20 minutes earlier each night before the time change. This will help ease your body into the new schedule. On the night of the time change, set your clocks ahead one hour during the early part of the evening. Then go to sleep at your normal bedtime.

Changing other routines also may help your body clock adjust. For example you may want to eat dinner an hour earlier than normal.

According to the AASM, failing to make adjustments for the sudden time change can have a negative effect on your body. In addition to losing an hour of sleep, the timing of your body clock can be disrupted. This may cause you to feel more restless at night. These problems all can contribute to an increase in daytime sleepiness. The AASM advises you to take precautions if the time change makes you feel sleepy. Try to keep a light schedule of activities and avoid drowsy driving.

AASM spokesperson Dr. Ron Kramer says that the negative effects of the time change can persist for days.

“This problem, surprisingly, can last as long as one to two weeks in some people, especially in the ‘night-owl’ type of person,” said Kramer.

“Night owls” or “evening types” are people who have a natural tendency to stay up later at night. This puts them at risk for delayed sleep phase disorder, which occurs when their usual bedtime and wake time are much later than the social norms. Since night owls have a hard time falling asleep when they go to bed early, they may be unable to compensate for the time change. As a result they may go to bed even later than normal, depriving themselves of needed sleep.

A study published in the online journal BMC Physiology on Feb. 12, 2008, confirms that the transition into daylight saving time can enhance restlessness at night, especially in night owls. People who are “morning types” are more likely to be restless after the return to standard time. The U.S. returns to standard time on the first Sunday each November, which will be Nov. 4 in 2012.

Kramer advises you to seek help if you have an ongoing sleep problem or regularly struggle to stay awake during the day. Ignoring the problem could put your health at risk. Studies have linked sleep disorders to other health problems such as depression, obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

“Seeking medical advice for sleep problems with your primary physician should be your first step,” said Kramer. “Referral to a physician certified in sleep medicine or to an AASM-certified sleep laboratory may be necessary.”

Visit to find an AASM-accredited sleep center near you.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sleep walking for narcolepsy awareness

The Sleep Education blog invited Julie Flygare, author of the REM Runner blog, to blog about her experiences as a person with narcolepsy. Julie is an avid runner, and participated in the Boston Marathon to raise awareness and funds towards finding a cure for narcolepsy.

Of the 365 days in a year, we spend 122 of those days asleep, or trying to sleep.

Like it or not, we snooze for about eight hours a day; 10 days a month, four months a year, and 25 years over the course of our lives.

Sleep is the other one-third of life we rarely think about, instead sweeping it under the rug to move on to other more important things in the daylight.

Yet, when sleep slips away – all of life is affected.

Restful sleep slipped away from me at age 24, while I was in law school. Crucial daytime tasks like studying for exams and driving a car became extraordinarily difficult.

At first, excuses were easy to come by. I blamed myself. I blamed law school. I hadn’t had enough caffeine. I’d had too much caffeine. I blamed dark rooms, hot rooms, late nights, early mornings.

When I could no longer find excuses, I sought help. Turns out, an autoimmune disorder of the sleep/wake cycle called narcolepsy had robbed me of the promise of a good night’s sleep.

I was shocked to learn that an estimated 200,000 Americans live with narcolepsy and over 42 million Americans live with chronic sleep disorders.

Apparently, people are sleep walking all over America. I think it’s time we come together – to walk together and talk about sleep.

Please join me at the National Mall in Washington DC for “SLEEP WALK 2012” on Saturday March 10th, 2012 at 9am. This event, hosted by Wake Up Narcoelepsy, will celebrate National Sleep Awareness Week (March 4-11, 2012). March 10th is “Suddenly Sleepy” Saturday – a day dedicated to narcolepsy awareness.
Full details and registration at Over 70 people are registered at this point, coming from a dozen states, to sleep walk with us.

I encourage people with sleep disorders, sleep experts and sleep health enthusiasts from across the US to join us. Let’s take a few hours of the year to honor the other one-third of life – sleep.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sleep hygiene a major factor in sleep disorders in adults with HIV/AIDS

The majority of adults living with HIV/AIDS need targeted intervention to help them sleep. That’s the conclusion of a new study appearing in the February edition of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. The study looked at 290 adults, ages 22 to 77, living with HIV. Researchers determined that environmental and sleep hygiene factors played a large role in the sleep disorders.

Nearly half of the men and women studied (45 percent) slept less than six hours each night. Thirty-four percent reported difficulty falling asleep, and 56 percent slept in fragments. Twenty percent had both problems. Only 30 percent were good sleepers.

Studies show that fragmented sleep occurs during chronic health conditions, sometimes unrealized by patients. Researchers said people who sleep in fragments rarely complain of insomnia. They do complain of daytime sleepiness or fatigue. This can lead to difficulty concentrating, poor thinking skills, depression symptoms and a loss in productivity.

Environmental and sleep hygiene factors may be critical in developing an effective intervention. The authors of this study recommended tailoring interventions to the specific type of sleep problem. They said less important were medical histories and things like age, weight, sex and income.

Read more about healthy sleep hygiene and treatments for sleep disorders. Or check out additional posts about sleep hygiene on the Sleep Education Blog.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sleep enhances emotional memory, preserves emotional intensity

Sleeping on a negative thought helps preserve it, a recent study concluded. Participants were shown images. Some of the images were positive, others negative. Twelve hours later, those who’d been asleep had better recognition of the images. The negative images and the positive ones.

Emotional reaction to the negative images was greatly diminished over time when participants stayed awake. But for people who slept, the reaction to the negative images was just as strong as when they’d first viewed them. Researchers also linked a longer time spent in REM sleep with preserving emotional reactions to the images. The study was unable to connect REM sleep with recognizing the images.

The study was conducted by the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience and Behavior Program at the University of Massachusetts. It appeared in the January issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Dorms used in pioneering sleep studies recognized with commemorative plaque

Stanford University holds a special place in the sleep medicine community. Literally. A Stanford dorm named Jerry House was the location for ten years worth of summer sleep camps. It was at these camps that clinical protocols were written. Protocols still used today.

Stanford’s Jerry House was recently honored with a plaque commemorating these summer sleep camps. The dorm remains in use by students. On Jan. 28, a number of sleep pioneers, original volunteers and guests converged for the celebration. William Dement, MD, PhD, (pictured below next to the plaque) was in attendance. Dr. Dement is sometimes referred to as The Father of Sleep Medicine. He established the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Center in 1970.

Also on hand was Mary Carskadon, PhD. From 1976 to 1985, Dr. Carskadon focused the Jerry House sleep camps on daytime sleep function. Volunteers from the local community had their sleep and wake times manipulated. This was something groundbreaking. Up until that time, sleep studies were conducted at night. The result was important data on sleep restriction and sleep deprivation.

All of this is explained in the new plaque. “May All Who Live in This House Have Refreshing Sleep and Pleasant Dreams,” the commemorative plaque states. How did Jerry House get its name? Originally, the dorm was called Lambda Nu. The resident chef, Sandy, has been cooking there for 30-plus years. And her favorite musician is Jerry Garcia.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Chemo patients need more sleep, but quality doesn’t change

Women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer seem to require more sleep during treatments, a new study reports. However, the quality of their sleep stays the same during the procedures. Researchers said most women preparing to undergo chemotherapy already may be sleeping poorly.

The authors of the study observed 97 women with newly diagnosed stage I-III breast cancer. Sleep and fatigue were measured seven different times during three weeks of cycle 1 and cycle 4 chemotherapy. The patients slept longer in the night and napped more by day during the cancer treatment. Researchers suggested additional sleep is needed to cope with fatigue and other side effects of chemotherapy.

The women's quality of sleep did not change during chemo treatments. Researchers said it was likely that the women already experienced poor sleep before their diagnosis, and that the cancer could be causing sleep disturbances. The study appeared in the February edition of the journal SLEEP.

Read more about insomnia due to medical condition and about sleep disorders in women. More blogs about sleep issues particular to women also are available.

Image by Aglie

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sleepwalk with Me: Comedian's sleep disorder experience comes to film

Mike Birbiglia’s sleep disorder has been the basis for a book and one-man show. Now the comedian’s REM sleep behavior disorder is featured in film. Sleepwalk with Me made its premiere at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

The movie is presented in association with WBEZ Public Radio's This American Life. Birbiglia has appeared as a semi-regular contributor to This American Life. Its host, Ira Glass, is a producer for the movie.

Birbiglia plays a New York stand-up comedian with girlfriend issues and a sleep disorder. Birbiglia’s real-life REM sleep behavior disorder causes his body to physically act out dreams. He limits the frequency of these episodes by taking clonazepam, a drug used to treat seizures by activating parts of the brain to produce a calming effect. He also sleeps in a makeshift cocoon – wearing a sleeping bag up to his neck and mittens so he can’t open it and get up.

Sleepwalk with Me also pays homage to sleep medicine. William C. Dement, MD, PhD, can be heard narrating his own audiobook as Birbiglia falls asleep while driving. Dement in 1975 launched the American Sleep Disorders Association, now known as the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. He also served as its president for the first 12 years.

No word if the film has found a distributor. But the book is available for purchase and segments with Birbiglia on NPR are available at This American Life and Fresh Air. More about Mike Birbiglia’s story can be found in the Sleep Education Blog. Or go to the AASM’s patient education website for additional information on parasomnias, like sleepwalking and REM sleep behavior disorder.

Image: Sleepwalk With Me Publicity Photo

Friday, January 20, 2012

Poor sleep linked to problems in young diabetics

A new study suggests that young diabetics may be struggling to get a good night’s sleep. As a result, they have worse control of their blood sugar, poorer school performance and behavioral problems.

The study tracked the sleep health of 50 Type 1 diabetics, ages 10 to 16. Researchers then compared the data with a similar control group. They found that the young diabetics spent more time sleeping in a lighter sleep than youth without diabetes. This lighter sleep was linked to compromised school performance and higher blood sugar levels.

Research shows that a good night’s sleep helps with glucose maintenance and insulin sensitivity. However, most of this research has been with adults. The new study concluded that sleep assessment should be routine in managing young people’s Type 1 diabetes. The study appears in the January issue of the journal SLEEP.

Read more about children’s sleep needs from the experts. Or find additional stories about children and sleep on the Sleep Education Blog.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sleep deprivation prompts quick improvements with chronic insomnia therapy

Sleep deprivation added to traditional therapy resulted in a superior treatment response for chronic insomnia, a new study shows.

Intensive Sleep Retraining (ISR) uses sleep deprivation over a 25-hour period to counteract insomnia. Sleep deprivation facilitates a series of quick sleep onsets, the study’s authors said. ISR has the potential to produce rapid improvements in sleep, daytime functioning and psychological variables.

The study looked at adding ISR to traditional therapy for chronic insomnia sufferers. The results showed rapid improvements in the time it took to fall asleep and in total sleep time. Other significant improvements were noted in sleep quality and daytime functioning. And 61 percent of patients participating in ISR-enhanced therapy reported “good sleeping” status. Researchers said treatment gains were largely maintained throughout the follow-up period to six months.

The study appears in the January issue of the journal SLEEP. Australian researchers treated 79 volunteers with chronic sleep-onset insomnia. The participants were randomly assigned treatments of either ISR, stimulus control therapy (SCT), ISR plus SCT, or a control group receiving sleep hygiene therapy. There were 20 participants in the group receiving ISR plus SCT.

Read more about insomnia and common sleep disorder treatments. Additional stories about insomnia and sleep deprivation can be found in the Sleep Education Blog.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Short sleep, mental health problems predict long-term insomnia

Mental health problems and getting less than six hours of sleep play key roles in the persistence of insomnia. A study in the January edition of SLEEP found these risk factors in people experiencing insomnia for at least 7½ years. Smoking, caffeine and alcohol consumption, and sleep apnea did not predict persistent insomnia.

The study looked at 1,395 random subjects who reported having insomnia 7½ years earlier. Researchers found that 44 percent of them still had insomnia. Nearly a third (30 percent) were sleeping poorly but 26 percent were sleeping normally again. Those who still had insomnia had strong links to mental health problems and short periods of sleep. Depression was the most common mental health problem reported.

Researchers concluded that addressing mental health issues should be a priority in cases of chronic insomnia. They also suggested that people sleeping less than six hours were strong candidates for chronic insomnia. The study was done by Pennsylvania State University, and the universities of Athens and Crete, both in Greece.

Read more about insomnia due to medical condition, alcohol or drugs or mental disorders.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Brain changes observed in sleep apnea sufferers

Researchers have observed changes to the brains of severe sleep apnea sufferers. A team in Australia used magnetic resonance (MR) spectroscopy to compare the brain tissue of sleep apnea patients to people without sleep disorders. They identified significant changes in the frontal lobe white matter and in the hippocampus. The changes to the frontal lobe were comparable to traumatic brain injury.

Patients were examined again after six months of continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP). Changes to the hippocampus were no longer significant. CPAP also improved performance on a range of brain function tests. The study appears in the January issue of the journal SLEEP. It is the largest study to-date for looking at brain tissue changes in sleep apnea sufferers.

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.