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Monthly Archives: August 2014

  • Miami Schools Consider Changing Teen School Schedules

    The city of Miami and the Miami-Dade public school system has been paying careful attention to the most recent data on the impact of sleep deprivation on high schoolers’ ability to learn, and as a result they may be changing their classroom hours. If they decide to pursue the course of action, the school district will become one of the pioneering few that have decided to allow science to trump tradition in determining when morning classes begin.

    The change may come as early as this September, and that’s not a moment too soon for students who are currently waking up as early as 5:00 a.m. in order to arrive at school on time for a 7:20 a.m. start.  The school district has only just begun investigating the possibility, and as a result rather than making a widely applied overhaul they may select just a few of their high schools to engage in a pilot program. The delay – or slow rollout – is not a result of anybody questioning the science behind the change … there is overwhelming evidence showing that the teen brain needs more sleep than the existing schedule allows for. The problem is with the impact that the change makes on a number of other areas of school life. Continue reading

  • Sleep Technology Continues to Appeal

    It was news when a sleep-tracking kit called Sense raised over $100,000 on Kickstarter within thirty days of being listed on the crowdfunding platform, but now that the product has been out there for a bit longer, it has reached the level of phenomena. Sense has raised over $1.3 million dollars in investments and preorders for its 22-year old inventor, and shows no signs of stopping. In fact, some say that it will reach over $4 million dollars in funding before it reaches the end of its run.

    The Sense is a sleep monitoring device that has the ability to provide its user with a score of their previous night’s sleep and to wake them up at the optimal point in their sleep cycle. It also distinguishes itself from other sleep monitoring devices that are currently on the market by the fact that it includes a particularly attractive orb that does its monitoring. The actual sensor is attached to the sleeper’s pillow, and the device is completed with a mobile phone app.  Though it isn’t due to be available until November of this year, those who are pre-ordering through Kickstarter are able to purchase it at a discounted price of just $129. Continue reading

  • Light Therapy for Sleep Disorders

    One of the most exciting and promising areas of sleep research has centered on the use of bright light in treating specific conditions. Light has been successfully used as therapy for patients suffering from a variety of circadian rhythm sleep disorders, as well as for depression. The theory behind why light has a positive impact on our ability to sleep and feel well rested relies upon the existence of 24-hour body clocks called circadian oscillators. These are genetic components that process through each day in much the same way that the inner workings of a clock do. They respond to bright light that strikes our eyes. Scientists have determined that these oscillators can be reset when exposed to bright light, so that through careful use of light exposure we can be programmed to awaken earlier or later. Continue reading

  • Home Sleep Studies Gaining Ground

    As awareness  of obstructive sleep apnea and other sleep disorders continues to grow, more and more physicians are referring their patients for sleep studies. This is a good thing, and has led to thousands of diagnoses being made that would otherwise have been missed, but it has also created a problem. There is an enormous backlog in availability of laboratory-administered studies. Further, insurance companies are beginning to balk at paying for the tests, which can be extremely expensive. As a result, more and more facilities are turning to home sleep studies. Though traditionalists are against this trend, and point to inaccuracies and lack of complete data obtained from these at-home versions of the test, proponents are indicating that there is a place for these at home tests and that they can prove to be extremely useful.

    Because the primary goal of sleep testing is to screen for obstructive sleep apnea, there are specific measurements that need to be taken. These include nasal and oral airflow and respiration. They also include sleep staging, and this requires the use of an electroencephalogram. The tests that are run in sleep labs are generally examined by either a neurologist or pulmonologist who has been specially trained to interpret the results, and who will make a diagnosis based on the data collected. Once obstructive sleep apnea is identified as being present, a second night of testing is usually done in order to determine the severity of the condition and determine the appropriate treatment.  Though the testing may be more accurate, there are certain problems. Patients find the environment disruptive and the testing intimidating. They complain that they are unable to sleep in the laboratory environment. There is also the problem of a backlog of patients waiting to be seen, leading to long waits for appointments. Home testing offers a solution to both of these problems, but there are also problems. Continue reading

  • New Study Links Nighttime Darkness to Success of Breast Cancer Therapy

    Sleep scientists and those trying to help insomnia sufferers to get a better night’s sleep have long sung the praises of creating the correct sleep environment, and sleeping in a totally darkened room are always part of the long list of sleep hygiene issues that can be controlled to great advantage. Another light-related issue has been the blue light that emanates from televisions, e-readers and tablets, as it has been proven that they reduce the production of melatonin and disrupt the sleep cycle.

    Now a study out of Tulane University School of Medicine is strengthening that argument, indicating that exposure to any kind of light at night actually shuts down nighttime production of melatonin and makes breast cancer therapies less effective. The group specifically looked at the impact that light has on the effectiveness of tamoxifen, a popular breast cancer drug, and found that it rendered the therapy of little use. Continue reading

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