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  • Sleep Doctor Identifies Failures in Sleep Medications

    When people are having a hard enough time falling asleep that they seek medical help, they are usually looking for an easy answer, and all too often that comes in the form of a pill. Joan Rossman is a classic example of the type – a psychotherapist, Rossman found herself unable to fall asleep, and when she did fall asleep easily she would wake up far earlier than she wanted to and find herself unable to fall back to sleep. “Whether I was preoccupied or excited, it played out in my sleep patterns. I would awaken just exhausted. I knew something was not right,” she said. Continue reading

  • National Healthy Sleep Awareness Project Yields Concerning Statistics

    In November of 2013, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine announced that it was partnering with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on a new project titled the National Healthy Sleep Awareness Project. The goal of the collaboration was to increase overall awareness of sleep illness, as well as to educate the public on the importance of getting enough sleep; the hope was that by spreading the word, measureable public behavior change could be achieved.

    When the project was first announced, Janet B. Croft, PhD and CDC senior chronic disease epidemiologist said, “Sleep and sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea and insomnia, are increasingly recognized as vital to a wide variety of public health and chronic disease concerns, including obesity, hypertension, and cancer. The CDC is collaborating with the AASM to improve the health of people through diagnosis and treatment of sleep illness.” The project was slated to last five years, and now that it has almost reached its first year of operation the group has made some important announcements. Perhaps most striking is the overall message that public health and safety are being threatened by the rising number of patients with obstructive sleep apnea, with the number of adult sufferers now estimated to be at least 25 million. The group has assembled a number of studies that show exactly how damaging the condition, which has been shown to increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2-diabetes and stroke, can be. Continue reading

  • The Most Common Sleep Problems Faced by Insomniacs

    With sleep deprivation and sleep disorders gaining in attention and awareness in the United States, there is no question that solutions are highly desired. Thirty percent of Americans report some kind of sleep disruption, and though there are plenty of people who suffer from eating disorders, there is a good chance that sleep is the one natural process that people struggle with the most. There are a number of reasons for this, including the low priority that we place on sleep, our busy social lives, demanding work lives, and the high number of high-tech distractions that pull even the most tired of us into a few more minutes on our electronic devices. Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that as a society our circadian rhythms are off kilter and we’re having a more and more difficult time getting the sleep that we need.  Continue reading

  • Full Moon, Half Sleep

    This summer was hailed for the high number of super moons that were viewed from Earth – these coincidences of the Earth being close to the Moon in its elliptical orbit and the occurrence of a full moon have been beautiful to behold. But a recent study conducted at the University of Toronto point to the notion that they may have wreaked havoc on people’s sleep.  The study points to a full moon having a negative impact on the human ability to fall asleep, as well as on the quantity of deep sleep that they are able to get. People don’t sleep as well or as long when the moon is full.

    Specifically, on nights in which there is a full moon, people take almost twice as long to actually fall asleep as they do on nights without a full moon, with some taking as long as a full hour. The study followed over 300 middle-aged men and women and their sleeping habits and monitored the length of time that they slept, as well as how long it took them to fall asleep. On average it took women 52 minutes to fall asleep as compared to 25 to 30 minutes on other nights, and men took 60 minutes as compared to an average of 30.  The University of Toronto study follows another that was conducted in 2006 by scientists from the University of Berne in Switzerland, which showed that sleep quantity was shortened by a full moon.  Neither study offered any kind of definitive theory as to why the full moon had such an impact, though the Toronto researchers posited that the brain might be affected by the moon’s gravitational pull, as well as of solar radiation.

    The wrote that “It cannot be excluded that the change in the electromagnetic radiation, or the gravitational ‘pull off’ of the moon, during this phase, may influence the release of neurohormones. Several observations suggest the lunar tidal force affects certain biochemical processes. The solar radiation reflected by the full moon and the lunar tidal force might modify brain activity.”

    In contrast to the University of Toronto scientists’ theory, Professor Jim Horne, who was previously head of the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University, offers a different possibility. “At least some of our early human ancestors lived by estuaries, where life was very dependent on the tides in terms of seafood. A full moon means particularly high ‘spring’ tides and with the extra moonlight as well it would be worthwhile sacrificing some sleep at night for more food.”

    Whether one chooses to believe in the pull of the moon or the simple need to fend off hunger, there is no doubt that the full moon has a variety of impacts on humans.

    Other scientific studies that have pursued the impact of the full moon have shown that it is linked to higher levels of anxiety and depression, as well as physical symptoms including gout and bladder problems.

  • The Learning Process and Sleep

    Though sleep scientists have long ago disproved the notion that we can learn in our sleep, that by no means that the learning process comes to a stop. Though the idea of setting ourselves to listen to a book on audiotape as we sleep will not mean that we have consumed, understood and learned the content, a recent study has shown that simple learning or classification tasks can continue even once we are asleep.

    The study was a project led by Sid Kouider of Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Cambridge. What they found is that simple, automated tasks such as classifying words into different categories can continue even after the subject has fallen asleep. What this means, according to the conclusions published in the journal Current Biology is that there are certain areas of the human brain that will continue to function and behave in the same way regardless of whether we are awake or asleep. This may lead to new understanding of the way that the brain works, as well as new possibilities for enhancing learning. Continue reading

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