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.