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