Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 The Year in Sleep Top 5

All week long the Sleep Education Blog has been counting down the top stories of 2010. This year viral video content was king, with an unlikely - and unconscious - Englishman taking the spotlight.

5. Tart Cherry Juice Won’t Cure Insomnia (July 14)
A widely reported pilot study involving tart cherries was the subject of controversy within the sleep community last summer. Most headlines claimed tart cherry juice could outright cure insomnia, but in reality the beverage isn’t a magic bullet for sleep. If you read the full study you’ll find that you may see slight improvements, similar to valerian or melatonin supplements.

4. Fatal Familial Insomnia: A Genetic Death Sentence (April 28)
A National Geographic special put the world’s rarest sleep disorder in the spotlight last spring. Fatal Familial Insomnia is a prion disease caused by a genetic mutation carried by only about 40 families in the world. At advanced stages of the disease, the boundary blurs between sleep and wakefulness. A person can live for months or years in this stage before dying of the rare disease.

3. The Real Freddy Kreuger, “Nightmare on Elm Street” and Sudden Unexplained Deaths (April 30)
You may not believe it but “A Nightmare on Elm Street” was inspired by a real-life story ripped from the headlines. Director Wes Craven dreamed up Freddy Kreuger after reading about a group of Cambodian refugees who all refused to sleep after sharing terrifying nightmares of a single boogeyman. Each refugee ended up dying in their sleep a short time later. On a side note, this blog post inspired some unusual comments from horror movie fans.

2. Tips for Sweet Slumber in the Summer (May 24)
After no-show last year, summer weather returned in 2010. Sleep problems associated with longer days and hot weather also made a comeback. This guide on how to better your sleep in the summer months proved to be a hit, and hopefully helped some people get better sleep along the way.

1. Sleep Talking Man is the Talk of the Internet (January 16)
This series of viral videos became an internet sensation early in 2010, even ending up on The Today Show. With quotes like "You can't be a pirate if you don't have a beard. I said so. MY boat, MY rules," its clear why the videos were a hit. Though like anything of this nature it could be a hoax.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 The Year in Sleep #6-10

The year 2010 brought plenty of memorable moments in pop culture. Two films about sleep & dreaming opened #1 at the box office. A former Oprah medical expert saw his daytime television hit renewed for a second season, after drawing an audience with relatable advice on everyday health issues such as sleep and sleep hygiene. Entries 6-10 in the top 25 stories in sleep mainly relate to sleep in the media and in popular entertainment:

10. Energy Pods Let Google Employees Snooze in Style (June 25)
Few companies can match Google when it comes to employee perks. The tech giant allows workers to sneak in a quick nap in one of their futuristic sleep pods. The energy pod features a large visor with a built-in music player and alarm clock.

9. The Facts on Lavender Soap for Restless Leg Syndrome (July 12)
Talk show host Dr. Oz recommended an unusual remedy for restless leg syndrome – placing a bar of lavender soap beneath the bed sheets. His advice may be off base. So far there is no peer-reviewed evidence supporting the use of lavender soap to alleviate restless leg syndrome.

8. “Ambien Zombies”, Sleepwalking Fears and Facts (April 20)
An uncommon but well-publicized side effect of the sleeping pill Ambien continued to gain notoriety in 2010. Don’t let the headlines fool you. Millions of people regularly take Ambien without ever experiencing bizarre sleepwalking episodes. Always take the drug as directed and never combine it with alcohol.

7. Fighting Freddy Krueger, “Nightmare on Elm Street” and Nightmare Disorder (May 2)
2010’s “Nightmare on Elm Street” reboot brought renewed interest in understanding the nature of nightmares. Like the movie, some people have nightmares every night, and may avoid going to sleep as a result. Nightmare disorder is rare and tends to run in families, and can be treated through cognitive-behavioral therapy.

6. Dr. Oz Wrong on Melatonin Supplements (July 23)
“Melatonin is the most misused sleeping aid in America,” Dr. Oz rightly declared in July. Then he continued to preach how well melatonin works. However, the scientific evidence is mixed. It can help reset your circadian rhythms, but may have little effect on insomnia.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 The Year in Sleep: #11-15

The top 25 stories in sleep continues with a series of articles on noteworthy research published in 2010:

15. Study Finds Video Games Cause Only Mild Effect on Sleep (April 15)
The adrenaline-fueled firefights in the Call of Duty game series have about the same effect on teenagers’ ability to fall asleep as glacially-paced nature documentaries, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found. Parents still may want to encourage their teenage children to put down the controller at a decent hour.

14. How Much Sleep Do I Need? (January 30)
One sleep size doesn’t fit all, the Sleep Education Blog reported last January, but there are a few clues to your sleep needs. If you struggle to remain alert and attentive during the day or need alcohol, caffeine or other drugs to fall asleep and wake up, you may need more sleep.

13. Ear Tubes, Snoring & Sleep Apnea in Children (March 31)
Sleep-disordered breathing is common in children who had ear tubes inserted, an Israeli study reported. Ear tubes are usually inserted to help relieve fluid buildup behind a child’s eardrum, so that the ears can function normally. The authors of the study reported that sleep-disordered breathing shares common mechanisms with ear tube dysfunction.

12. Teen Depression & Suicide: Sleep, Early Bedtimes Protect Adolescents (January 4)
Adolescents who prioritize sleep tend to be happier and less likely to have suicidal thoughts than their sleep-deprived peers, a study published on New Year’s Day 2010 found. Inadequate sleep is a risk factor for depression, for both males and females. Girls are twice as likely to have a major depressive episode by age 15 while boys are more likely to commit suicide.

11. Stanford NCAA Football Players Sleep Longer, Perform Better (June 8)
The Stanford Cardinal is heading to the Orange Bowl January 3rd thanks to a training regimen that emphasizes sleep. A study displayed at SLEEP 2010 shows that the team ran faster and had quicker response times when they slept an additional two hours of sleep per night. Sleep seems to be on its way to replacing early-morning 2-a-day practices in team sports – even pro basketball is starting to take notice.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010 The Year in Sleep: #16-20

All week the Sleep Education Blog is revisiting the most popular stories published in the past year. The countdown to the top stories in sleep of 2010 continues:

20. Have Sleep Apnea? See a Sleep Dentist (May 13)
Oral appliances continue to gain mainstream attention as more sleep apnea patients seek treatment from dental sleep specialists. In May, an Atlanta news outlet introduced countless television viewers to the growing treatment.

19. Early Bedtime Benefits: Young Children Who Sleep More Score Higher in School (June 7)
Academic success begins with an early bedtime, according to a study based on data from the U.S. Department of Education and the National Center for Education Statistics. American children with regular, early bedtimes scored higher on language, reading and math assessments. The findings premiered in San Antonio during the first day of SLEEP 2010, the largest annual gathering of sleep professions.

18. Green Light Also Alters Sleep (May 13)
Turning off the television well before bedtime is central to healthy sleep hygiene because the light from the screen can keep you from feeling sleepy. A study published in May shows that green light prevents melatonin secretion, just like blue light. That means that sunglasses and screen filters designed for nighttime viewing may not work as advertised.

17. Running on Empty: Marathon Runner Tera Moody’s Struggle With Insomnia (May 3)
This past Spring, the New York Times ran a series of articles called “All Nighters” about sleep, sleep disorders and shift work. Among the articles was a guest editorial about insomnia by the well-known marathon runner Tera Moody. As it turns out, the world-class athlete has struggled with sleep maintenance insomnia for years, and uses the time awake to train on the treadmill.

16. Dr. Oz: Snoring Solutions for Women (April 6)
Dr. Oz’s syndicated talk show became a daytime TV hit in 2010 with segments about all kinds of common health issues. Sleep became a recurring theme for Dr. Oz, with literally dozens of segments about snoring, insomnia, sleep disorders and sleep hygiene. In April, he offered some unusual advice to a woman in the audience with snoring problems.

Monday, December 27, 2010

2010: The Year in Sleep Top 25

2010 was another eventful year in sleep and another successful year for the Sleep Education Blog. All year the blog has been reporting on wide range of sleep-related topics, from medical breakthroughs to viral video.

Over the next five days, the Sleep Education Blog will revisit the most popular of these stories. So without further delay, the Sleep Education Blog presents the first segment of 2010: the Year in Sleep:

25. Gaines Adams’ Death: Heart Problems & Sleep Apnea in the NFL (January 25)
The cardiac arrest death of Chicago Bears Defensive End Gaines Adams came as a shock to the football community. An autopsy shows the 26-year-old former top draft pick had an enlarged heart – and several sleep medicine experts suspect sleep apnea may have been an underlying cause.

24. FDA Approves Silenor for Insomnia (March 19)
A new sleeping pill hit the market in 2010 to compete with Ambien, Lunesta and Rozerem. The drug Silenor differs from the other drugs because it takes about 3.5 hours to reach its peak concentration in the blood. The delay makes the Silenor useful for short-term treatment of sleep maintenance insomnia, which occurs when you wake up early and struggle to return to sleep.

23. Sleep Friendly Software Makes Your Computer Screen Easy on the Eyes
The free program F.lux alters the appearance of your computer screen during the evening and nighttime. By reducing the amount of blue light the screen produces, the program claims to stop the melatonin suppression that can potentially lead to insomnia.

22. Insomnia Cookies For College Students
College students can order cookies and milk to get through sleepless nights. Only 30 percent of students sleep at least eight hours per night. Students’ reasons include insomnia, all-night study sessions and partying.

21. Hypersomnia: Common Features & Effective Treatments
A Mayo Clinic study found that 65 percent of hypersomnia patients were likely to be women. Research shows the symptoms tend to begin in the late teens, but typically aren’t diagnosed until the mid-30’s.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Beauty Sleep More Than a Myth

There’s some truth to a tired cliché. Catching up on your beauty sleep really can make you more attractive. Sleep deprived people tend to appear tired and less healthy, therefore less attractive, Swedish researchers discovered.

In the study, a group of participants randomly rated photos of 23 men and women based on their attractiveness. Each person was photographed twice: once after a normal night’s sleep and once after sleep deprivation.

The results were clear – the sleep-deprived looked a lot less attractive in the eyes of the raters. Ratings of perceived health, attractiveness and tiredness were lower for photos taken after a sleep-deprived night.

So next time you want to impress a date, give yourself an extra hour in bed the night before. Not only will you be physically more attractive, but you’ll be in a better mood – so might leave a lasting impression.

Plus your body will thank you, after all, people who prioritize sleep are happier and have fewer health issues overall.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Restless Legs in Pregnancy Predict Later RLS

A sleep disorder that may appear during pregnancy could be the sign of things to come later in life. Nearly a quarter of women who experience restless leg syndrome while pregnant may have chronic symptoms when they are older. Short-term symptoms may also reappear in future pregnancies.

People with restless leg syndrome have the strong urge to move their legs, paired with a sensation of burning, prickling, itching or tingling. These symptoms tend to flare up at night, making it difficult to sleep. Older adults tend to get restless leg syndrome, as the symptoms progress with age.

A recent study about restless leg syndrome involved about 200 women. Only 74 reported restless leg syndrome during pregnancy. Six and a half years later, the women responded to questions about later symptoms, pregnancies and other diseases.

Results show 18 of the 74 women who had restless leg syndrome during pregnancy saw the symptoms reappear. Compared to women who did not have the disorder during pregnancy, the group was four times more likely to have the condition again. About 60 percent of the women who had restless leg syndrome reported the symptoms again in future pregnancies.

The study appears to have one notable shortcoming due to the nature of restless leg syndrome. The condition is difficult to diagnose, so researchers had to rely on the patients self-diagnosis of the symptoms.

While you can take medication to reduce the symptoms of restless leg syndrome, changing your lifestyle may be just as effective. Start exercising and reduce your intake of caffeine, alcohol and tobacco to help restless legs syndrome. The AASM also reports activities like walking, soaking in a hot tub and massaging the legs may help when symptoms flare up.

Image by jamelah e.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Loud Snoring and Insomnia Symptoms May Lead to Metabolic Syndrome

The development of obesity-related risk factors starts with a series of common sleep problems, a new study reports. People who snore loudly or have two common insomnia symptoms – difficulty falling asleep and unrefreshing sleep - have an increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke. People with metabolic syndrome must have at least three out of the five following risk factors: excess abdominal fat, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar.

Findings show people who snore have double the risk of developing metabolic syndrome doubles. Specifically, loud snoring predicts the development of high blood sugar and low HDL cholesterol.

The risk also increases by 80 percent in adults who have difficulty falling asleep and by 70 percent for people who don’t feel refreshed after waking. However, neither risk was tied to a specific risk factor.

Two other common insomnia symptoms - difficulty staying asleep and frequent waking - did not predict the development of metabolic syndrome.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sleep Suffers in Wartime Deployment

Despite months or even years of preparation, many troops will struggle to sleep for some time after they arrive in Iraq or Afghanistan. Insomnia affects about 28 percent of deployed American troops, a study in the December issue of the journal SLEEP suggests.

The symptoms may not improve when the tour of duty is over. 21 percent of troops reported difficulty sleeping after returning home to the United States. Troops may have twice the risk of insomnia if they had poor health or mental health problems such as depression or posttraumatic stress disorder prior to deployment.

The study involved 41,225 troops from all service branches and components of the U.S. military, including active duty and Reserve/National Guide personnel. The participants completed a baseline survey with questions about sleep and overall health prior to deployment. About a quarter of the troops responded to a follow-up survey three years later, either in Iraq or Afghanistan, or after returning from either warzone.

Sleep duration was limited even for the troops who did not have insomnia. The average sleep time during wartime was 6.5 hours - slightly less than the recommended amount of sleep for adults. The AASM reports adults require 7 to 8 hours to be fully alert during the daytime.
Insomnia or not, lost sleep may have dire consequences. While military personnel are trained to function on little to no sleep, a single mistake may be fatal.

For us in the civilian world, the findings should come as no surprise. It’s hard to image trying to sleep to the sound of gunfire and explosions or even the prospect of an attack.

As a side note, the study also looked at mothers of young children and pregnant women who served in the military. On average, the women slept less than six hours. The authors speculate that the possibility of future deployment and separation from their families may multiply the normal stress of pregnancy and motherhood.
Photo courtesy United States Marine Corps