Monday, November 21, 2011

How you sleep can impact your heart

A study in The Netherlands observed the relationship between sleep and heart disease among 20,432 men and women. Researchers found that short sleep contributes to cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease.

The research was conducted over a 12-year period. None of the Dutch participants had any heart disease when first examined. But during years of follow-ups, more than 2,600 cases of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease developed. The study was able to link these heart diseases to particular sleep habits.

Short sleepers had a 15 percent higher chance of cardiovascular disease. Short sleepers with sub-par sleep quality had an even higher chance, 63 percent. The chance for developing coronary heart disease was 23 percent higher in short sleepers. And for short sleepers with a poor quality of sleep, the chance of developing coronary heart disease was 79 percent higher.

Short sleep was defined as six hours of sleep or less. Long sleep was considered sleep for nine hours or more. There were no links seen between long sleep and cardiovascular disease or coronary heart disease.

The study was published in the November issue of the journal SLEEP. Read more about sleep and heart-related issues at the Sleep Education Blog.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Non-profit uses AASM books to educate Detroit children about sleep

A children’s book published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) is being used to educate at-risk children in Detroit. The non-profit organization Sweet Dreamzzz Inc. has ordered copies of I See the Animals Sleeping: A Bedtime Story to give to each Head Start library in their program.

In 2009, Sweet Dreamzzz partnered with the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research to develop the R.E.M. (Rest. Educate. Motivate.) Sleep Program. The program is interactive and involves hands-on activities, games and songs. The goal is to help the children get a good night’s sleep in preparation for classroom learning. Sleep can be a challenge for children in Detroit’s most impoverished communities. Many children in the city may not have a warm, comfortable place to sleep at night.

Sweet Dreamzzz reaches out to parents, teachers and students. Parents receive education and bedtime essentials through workshops. Teachers are trained and given lesson plans to use in the classroom. Now, teachers will have the added option of checking out I See the Animals Sleeping to help lessons about sleep.

I See the Animals Sleeping: A Bedtime Story can be purchased from Amazon or directly from the AASM. Also available from the AASM is The Animals Sleep: A Bedtime Book of Biomes. Learn more about these books and find other educational resources at

Monday, November 7, 2011

Poor sleep in pregnant mothers linked to preterm deliveries

A new study in the November issue of the journal SLEEP linked poor sleep in early and late pregnancy with an increased risk of preterm birth.

Researchers found that women who reported sleep disruptions during the first and third trimesters faced significant risks of delivering prematurely. Even after income levels and medical risks were factored in, the connection still remained. There was no association between quality of sleep in the second trimester and preterm births. Sleep appears to improve in the second trimester but there is no clear reason why.

The study’s authors suggested that inflammation may be the culprit. Growing evidence points to inflammation having a role in triggering the childbirth process early. Sleep disturbances are associated with exaggerated inflammatory responses. The authors also said a combination of sleep disruption and stress could lead to premature delivery.

The good news is that sleep disorders during pregnancy are easily diagnosed. An assessment of a woman’s sleep quality may help identify risk earlier, giving doctors time to step in. If sleep disruptions are occurring, they could be reduced through behavioral modification.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Loneliness Could Be Disrupting Your Sleep

How lonely you are may affect how well you sleep. A study in the November issue of the journal SLEEP looked at 95 adults living in rural South Dakota. The volunteers were asked about any loneliness, such as feeling left out or isolated from others. These same residents also had their sleep cycles measured. When researchers compared the two, they found that the lonelier a resident felt, the more they woke up during the night.

Why is this important? Data show that loneliness has a negative effect on health. Things like high blood pressure, depression and the risk for dying early have been linked to loneliness. Researchers wanted to see if one of the causes was a poor night’s sleep. Sleep is key in helping the body heal itself and stay healthy. Poor quality sleep has been associated with various negative effects on the body, including declines in physical and mental health.

The study results show that all the participants slept for the same amount of time every night. What differed was the quality of sleep. Those feeling lonely had sleep that was broken-up during the night. The greater their feelings of loneliness, the greater the disruption to their sleep.

The results of the South Dakota study are similar to a 2002 study comparing the loneliness of college students to their quality of sleep. The studies suggest that loneliness can disrupt the sleep of anyone, from college kids at a major university to adults living in a rural community. The challenge is finding a way to feel secure in your individual social group.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Implant shows promise treating sleep apnea

An intriguing new method for treating sleep apnea is showing promise in the lab. The November issue of SLEEP contains a new study about stimulating the muscles in the throat to keep the airway from closing. The muscle stimulator resembles a pacemaker and is implanted in the skin beneath the chest.

In Australia, the muscle stimulator was tested on 21 patients with sleep apnea. After six months, 19 of the patients showed significant improvements. They slept better and felt less tired in the morning. Unfortunately, the 20th patient needed the device removed due to an infection.

Another muscle stimulator device was tested last summer at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). As reported in July by the Sleep Education blog, the MUSC implantation was monitored as part of a trial by the Food and Drug Administration.

Continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP) is the first-line treatment for sleep apnea. 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.