All articles in Sleep Basics


The Talk About Sleep advocacy mission is to increase sleep disorder awareness in both the public and medical professional communities. This will be achieved by coordinating efforts to “get the word” out through mass media vehicles. Advocacy Services is a highly focused group whose goal is to create global awareness of sleep disorders as a life issue. In general, the Talk About Sleep Advocate is a friend of sleep who disseminates information, motivates groups and influences individuals regarding a wide variety of sleep related issues with the goal of forwarding sleep awareness.

What Is Sleep Advocacy?

National Sleep Foundation/Centers for Disease Control Funding Request

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What is Sleep Advocacy?

Forty million Americans suffer with debilitating sleep disorders, and surveys show that an additional sixty million people experience sleep difficulties more than once per week. The cost to society is lost productivity, wasted medical resources, and a greatly reduced quality of life.

Even more distressing is the fragmented healthcare market which has had great difficulty in channeling resources back into the medical system to help identify and facilitate the management of the primary sleep problem. The paradigm needs to change. Sleep is not a cost center, but an unrecognized medical illness that, in the case of sleep apnea, will result in twice the consumption of medical resources when compared to a similar person without the sleep disorder.

The statistics are graphic. One hundred deaths per night are contributed to by sleep apnea alone. Three out of four people with Narcolepsy remain undiagnosed. The cost of sleep related traffic accidents exceed $64 billion per year.

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View a Sleep Study

From the Stanford University Sleep Disorders Clinic

Talk About Sleep, in conjunction with the Stanford University Sleep Disorders Clinic, is pleased to bring you a photo essay and personal tour to demystify the Sleep Study that your doctor has prescribed for you. To see a detailed view of any of the photos shown below, simply click on the photo.

The Polysomnogram (PSG)

A Sleep Study or Polysomnogram (PSG) is a multiple-component test, which electronically transmits and records specific physical activities while you sleep. The recordings become data, which will be “read” or analyzed by a qualified physician to determine whether or not you have a sleep disorder.

Throughout the tour, we will discuss the many components of a PSG and explain the 4 types of Polysomnographic Studies. They are:

  • Diagnostic Overnight PSG – General monitoring and evaluation.
  • Diagnostic Daytime Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT) – Used to diagnose Narcolepsy and measure the degree of daytime sleepiness.
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Your Polysomnogram

What Is A Polysomnogram?

Based on the outcome of your initial visit, you may require a polysomnogram. Other terms used for polysomnogram are PSG, sleep study, or sleep test. A night in the sleep center is necessary for evaluation of physical factors affecting sleep, commonly found in Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD), or Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).

The good news is that a polysomnogram is noninvasive, painless, and lasts no more than a couple of nights. Think of it this way – you’re on your way to a diagnosis and treatment for your sleep problems.

Every sleep center is slightly different – some are private, while others are part of a hospital. In any case, you will be assigned to a testing area, and a private bedroom and bathroom.

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101 Questions About Sleep and Dreams

One of the most well-known works about sleep is the booklet published by Elizabeth Mitler and Dr. Merrill Mitler. Done in a simple question and answer format, the booklet is entitled 101 Questions About Sleep And Dreams. Talk About Sleep is pleased to offer you the entire text of this material for your use and continuing self-education about sleep.


By William C. Dement, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Center
Stanford University

The five billion people living on earth go through the cycle of sleep and wakefulness at least once every 24 hours. Sadly, many, many of these people do not know the joy of being fully rested and alert after their sleep. The alternation of wakefulness and sleep is one of the most fundamental aspects of the human condition.

However, it is only recently, with the advent of highly technological societies, that poor sleep and substandard levels of wakefulness have been of real interest to humans.

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Think You Have A Sleep Problem?

New-Patient Toolkit

Here are our suggestions for your next steps. We call it our New-Patient Toolkit. Follow these links below, in the order listed, and we’ll walk you through the process of getting your sleep problem diagnosed and treated.

Completing the forms below before you visit your doctor might help the doctor with his diagnosis. These require Adobe Acrobat – you can download it for free here.

Need help finding a sleep doctor? We can help you Find a Sleep Center.

Your doctor may want you to have an overnight sleep study, or Polysomnogram, to help determine whether or not you have a sleep disorder and how severe it might be.

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Sleep Disorders and Cancer


This patient summary on sleep disorders is adapted from a summary written for health professionals by cancer experts. This and other credible information about cancer treatment, screening, prevention, supportive care, and ongoing clinical trials is available from the National Cancer Institute. Sleep disorders may be caused by tumor growth, cancer therapy, or other factors. This brief summary describes sleep disorders, their causes and treatment.

Overview of Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders occur in some people with cancer and may be caused by physical illness, pain, treatment drugs, being in the hospital, and emotional stress. Sleep has two phases: rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM (NREM). REM sleep, also known as “dream sleep,” is the phase of sleep in which the brain is active. NREM is the quiet or restful phase of sleep. The stages of sleep occur in a repeated pattern of NREM followed by REM. Each sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes and is repeated 4 to 6 times during a 7- to 8-hour sleep period.

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Effects of Anxiety on Sleep Are Different Than Depression

There is a robust research finding that proves significant disorganization of sleep architecture (meaning changes in the quantity and quality of sleep) in depressed patients.

Several abnormalities have been documented in depressed patients such as: decreased sleep continuity (fragmented sleep), diminished slow wave sleep (NREM) and alterations of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, including decreased REM latency (too early onset), and increased REM density.

In contrast to the attention focused on sleep in patients with affective disorders, relatively little research has focused on sleep disturbances in anxiety patients. Available findings did show significant sleep problems in various types of anxiety patients, such as in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), panic disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). In general, these studies revealed patterns of decreased sleep efficiency, disrupted course of sleep, and an overall lightening of sleep.

Sleep research with anxiety was performed mostly on patients who suffer not only with anxiety, but also with other psychiatric problems.

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Mesothelioma and Sleep Disorders

A diagnosis of cancer and learning to live with the disease is a huge burden for anyone. Furthermore, all types of cancer cause a long list of uncomfortable symptoms and demand the use of treatments that can also be quite debilitating.  It’s no wonder that cancer patients consistently report that they have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep through the night. As a matter of fact, the National Cancer Institute has compiled data which reports that nearly half of all cancer patients surveyed report sleep disturbances. A number of factors can make it almost impossible for mesothelioma sufferers and other cancer patients to get a good night’s rest.

  • Pain – Nearly all cancer patients report some sort of pain, worsening as the disease progresses. Pain is prompted not only by the disease but also by treatments like radiation and chemotherapy. In addition, those who become largely bedridden will experience the pain of bed sores and the aches of being largely immobile.
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Sleep Dictionary


The world of sleep and sleep disorders contains a great many words and terms that are not used in our daily lives. As you read through the material posted at the website, you may run across a sleep term which you don’t understand.

In many situations, there will be a highlighted word in that article that will link you directly to a definition, either in the article or here in this Sleep Dictionary. You may also hear or read other sleep terms. Hopefully, those terms will also be defined here in this dictionary, to help you understand their meaning.

If you can’t find a definition or explanation in this Sleep Dictionary, please send us a suggestion to add that term to our list. We want this list to include all of those sleep words and phrases that you want to know about.

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