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Daymare? Nightmare? Sleep And How It Affects Shiftworkers

The 9 to 5 workday has become a thing of the past for most Americans. More than 25 million people in this country work either afternoon/ night shifts, split shifts, or as in the case of first responders, medical personnel and factory workers, revolving shifts which are almost never the same from week to week.  Needless to say, these kinds of working hours severely affect family and social time, and frustrate workers on a regular basis. More importantly, shift workers physical health and psychiatric wellbeing can suffer due to altered sleep cycles.

It is extremely difficult to get the sleep needed to perform at optimal levels on the job when your sleep cycle is constantly changed or interrupted. Shift workers number one complaint to management is chronic and unending tiredness/fatigue. If you are chronically tired on the job, it pretty well correlates that your ability to focus and attend to work is compromised, and the risk of having an on the job accident is greatly increased.

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OSA Health Risks – High Blood Pressure

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a common sleep disorder that involves significant pauses in breathing during sleep. If left untretaed, OSA can have a detrimental impact on your health and well-being.

OSA occures when your muscles relax during sleep. This causes soft tissue in the back of the throat to collapse and block the airway. Breathing pauses can last from 10 seconds to a minute or more. The pauses end when the body briefly wakes up to gasp for breath. This repetitive cycle of breathing pattern sometimes continues all night long. A person with sever OSA may have hundreds of breathing pauses per night.

These breathing pauses produce drastic changes in blood pressure and oxygen levels, while fragmenting sleep. Over time, untreated OSA puts a tremendous amount of stress on the body, increasing your risk for many other health problems.

In this blog I will speak of eight of these health risks starting with: HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE:

Studies have shown that Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) can cause high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.

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Potential Cure for Sleep Apnea – Sleep in Outer Space?

I recently heard a fascinating segment on NPR’s This American Life about what it’s like to sleep on the International Space Station.  IN 2011, NASA’s Dr. Cady Coleman lived aboard the ISS for more than five months.  Her description of sleeping with no gravity is truly fascinating.  For example, pillows don’t have meaning.  She’s asked what happens if you drool in your sleep.  After contemplating the nature of drooling, she concludes that it wouldn’t happen in zero gravity because the pooling of saliva wouldn’t happen, and drooling down your cheek is simply impossible.  It’s kind of like that scene with Sandra Bullock in the movie, Gravity, when she starts to cry and the tear floats off as a spherical blob.

This got me thinking about sleep apnea in outer space.  Obstructive Sleep Apnea is caused when the muscles of the upper airway relax during sleep and the soft tissue blocks the airway. 

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Is Watchful Waiting In the Best Interest of the Child?


Children with sleep apnea syndrome who have their tonsils and adenoids removed sleep better, are less restless and impulsive, and live a generally happier and better quality of life. A new study by  the National Institutes of Health concludes that children  trapped in the cycle of watchful waiting regarding tonsil and adenoid care (usually mandated by insurance companies) suffer unnecessarily from incorrect diagnosis of attention deficit disorders, anxiety disorders, and are medicated for multiple behavioral disorders, when in fact they have sleep disordered breathing often caused by enlarged tonsils and adenoids.  

“This study provides data that can help parents and providers make more informed decisions about treating children with this disorder, and it identifies additional areas of research, according to Susan Shurin, MD.

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Can Playing the Didgeridoo Help Alleviate Sleep Apnea?

The Didgeridoo is a wind instrument that is a hollow tube made out of anything from PVC pipe to eucalyptus wood (material used by the Aborigines in Australia from whom this instrument originates). To play it requires no particular knowledge of or ability to read music but does require learning how to make the resonant and comforting drone sound. Most people can get the initial sound fairly easily though production of the sound requires a certain amount of relaxation of the jaw and face.

Additionally, playing didgeridoo requires “circular breathing.” Circular breathing is a musical technique to keep the drone constant without the player having to stop to take a breath. (saxophonist Kenny G is famous for playing a sustained E-Flat for 45 minutes via circular breathing in 1997).  A side-effect of learning this technique is the strengthening of the muscles in the mouth and back of the throat, the section of the upper airway that often collapses for people with obstructive sleep apnea. 

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Top Three Tips to Vanquish Insomnia

Large pharmaceutical companies have poured untold millions into developing and marketing Insomnia drugs, and their drive to find the magic pill has largely paid off.

Big pharma R&D teams know what virtually everyone knows instinctively: good sleep is hard to come by, and insomnia can be a maddening affliction. For those who don’t want to ingest drugs (or pay for them), some simple, time-tested tips can boost the odds for sound sleep.

Number one on the list is exercise. Numerous studies confirm that consistent strenuous aerobic activity tires you out in a way that establishes restful sleep patterns that your body will replicate night after night.

Do not do the exercise—whether it be walking, jogging, or elliptical—shortly before going to bed. That will raise the heart rate and boost the stress hormones. Mid day or morning is best. Your body will remember, and your biological clock will fall into sync.

Number two on the anti-insomnia list is to pay attention to the bedroom environment.

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Welcome to the new Talk About Sleep blog! Our goal is to offer you a highly valuable place to hear from top sleep physicians, medical experts and other professionals alike to gain insights and perspectives — beyond the treatment protocols and industry data.  We hope you will find it to be a great place to learn, share, and engage with others!

Be sure to sign up for free membership so you’ll receive email alerts when new posts are added. You won’t want to miss reading about:

  • Experts views on timely topics
  • Summaries of new innovations in sleep therapy
  • Abstracts and opinions on recently published articles or trends
  • Commentary on diagnosis, treatment and disease management

We’re here to support you as you look to gain clarity and relevance from information across the sleep continuum and encourage you to join the conversation, share comments, pose questions or suggest topics to explore. Perhaps you’d even like to be a guest blogger!

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Best Practices for Successful Disease Management

John De Benedetti

President, Talk About Sleep

An Industry Perspective

Despite recent progress, sleep experts believe more awareness of sleep disorders is still greatly needed within the general population.  From a healthcare policy perspective, the biggest challenge is how to engage the over 30 million people in the US with untreated sleep apnea.

One important initiative involves the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, (AASM) who is working with Medicare to introduce sleep screening for all new Medicare enrollees.   The theory is that screening and treating people for sleep disorders will save the healthcare system major dollars by preventing more expensive medical procedures and even saving lives.  Sleep disorders are at the nexus of many other medical conditions.  Most people know about the stroke and cardiovascular risks associated with sleep apnea but reputable research now links poor sleep to metabolic changes which affect glucose levels, and therefore, diabetes.  There is even new research indicating that sleep disorders fuel tumor growth in cancer patients as a result of angiogenesis, or the growth of new blood vessels.

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Travel with CPAP – Staying Compliant While on the Road

By Daniel Levy, Grove Medical Equipment

Can I Use my CPAP on an airplane?

If you’re going to travelling by air for a long flight, you may have wondered if it is possible to use your CPAP device on the airplane.  After all, sleep apnea can occur any time we sleep (including naps) and not just when we are in the comfort of our bed at home.  While the thought of wearing your CPAP mask in public while sitting next to strangers might sound awful, chances are that they would actually prefer it compared to sitting near someone who is snoring, gasping and choking for an hour or more.

Can you use a CPAP on an airplane?  Theoretically, the answer is yes, but practically speaking, the answer is, “it depends.”  In order to use a CPAP during a flight, you must obtain permission to do so in advance.  Appealing to a flight attendant while the plane is in the air is not advisable. 

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Normal sleep

By Jerrold Kram, MD, FCCP

Medical Director, California Center For Sleep Disorders

Centuries ago there was a belief that going to sleep was like dying and waking up was coming back to life.  It was not until the 1800’s that scientists began to realize that in fact there was brain activity during sleep and not until the 1950’s the fact that there were different stages of sleep during the night was discovered.

We now understand that in fact humans experience 3 different states of existence, wakefulness, Non-REM sleep and REM sleep. Non-REM sleep has 3 different stages and occurs for about 75% of the night, the remainder REM or Rapid Eye Movement sleep is the state where most dreaming takes place. Yet despite our ability to measure these stages of sleep we actually do not know why we need to sleep and the exact purpose of each stage of sleep. We all know we can’t function without sleep but what exactly takes place during that 1/3 or our lives remains unknown.

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