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  • 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

  • The Real Cost of Sleep Deprivation

    A recently conducted survey by a highly respected evidence-based organization has provided new insight into the degree that lack of sleep is affecting our work and the quality of our lives. The Virgin Pulse Institute has recently has recently released the results of a study that was conducted to provide them with a comprehensive view of what might be preventing their employees from getting the sleep that they need and what they and their employees could do to help solve the problem. Their conclusions – that employers who supported their employees’ efforts at improving sleep would be rewarded with increased productivity and make their workers feel more appreciated, was underscored by some of the shocking data that they collected. Continue reading

  • Sleep and its Role in Fighting Cancer

    The popular novel (and now movie) “the Fault in our Stars” makes use of the phrase “Sleep fights cancer” frequently as the young heroine and her boyfriend each fight for their lives against their own form of the disease.  Now researchers out of the University of Chicago have released the results of a laboratory animal study that not only confirms what the book says, but also goes a long way towards explaining why. The scientists subjected half of a group of lab mice afflicted with cancer to sleep deprivation and let the other half sleep naturally and uninterrupted, and found that those who had the interrupted sleep had their tumors grow twice as large. Continue reading

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