Lack of Sleep is Possible Culprit in Another Fatal Truck Crash

A Wal-Mart stores truck driver is facing criminal charges, with a criminal complaint alleging that the driver suffered from lack of sleep and had not slept in 24 hours. According to several other media outlets, the New Jersey Turnpike crash critically injured actor and comedian Tracy Morgan, and killed another man.

WSJ reporter Yoni Bashan writes that Kevin Roeper from Jonesboro, Ga, has been charged with one count of committing vehicular homicide by operating a vehicle recklessly, and one count of recklessly causing serious bodily injury. Trucking industry protocols for employee rest are again being scrutinized with Wal-Mart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan telling the WSJ: “It is our belief that Mr. Roper was operating within the federal hours of service regulations.” Last July, federal rule changes took effect, mandating that drivers work a maximum weekly average of 70 hours in a period of about two weeks,” writes Bashan.” The previous maximum average was 82 hours over the same period.

The new rules also require truck drivers to take at least one 30-minute break during their first eight hours of driving.”

The National Transportation Safety Board said Monday it was investigating the accident as part of its broader probe into the industry. Keith Holloway, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, said that Wal-Mart’s company’s driver protocols would be scrutinized.

Sleep Deprivation and False Memories Linked

False Memories

Researchers at the University of California and Michigan State University found that sleep deprivation may actually create false memories. Physical disorders have long been linked to poor sleep, and the study titled “Sleep Deprivation and False Memories” published in Psychological Science builds on previous work that found a poor/false memory connection to sleep.

Previous studies on sleep deprivation have shown an association with various types of impaired cognitive functions and memory distortion regarding remembering things like lists of words. This study, however, showed memory distortion regarding real life events that involve people.

The experiment set up in the study was to test participants on their ability to recall information from crime photos. First, the subjects read narratives of eyewitness statements that were given in regard to a crime. The eyewitness statements provided different data compared to the information in the crime photos, which were subsequently shown to the participants in the study.

For example, a narrative might say that the thief put the stolen wallet in the pocket of his pants, but the photo would show the wallet was actually put in his jacket. The job of the subject was to accurately describe what was in the crime photo. One group of subjects was allowed to sleep during the night and another group of subjects had to stay up all night without sleeping. Also, subjects performed the memory task before sleeping for the night.

Previously, the researchers found that sleeping less than five hours at night was associated with false memory formation. The recently reported study was an extension of this previous study. In the recent study, the subjects that stayed up all night were significantly more likely to indicate that the details in the narratives were the same as in the crime photos, which was incorrect, rather than correctly indicating that the narrative contained information that was different from that in the photos.

It’s Time to Pay Attention to Sleep, the New Health Frontier

Your doctor could soon be prescribing crucial shuteye as treatment for everything from obesity to ADHD to mental health as experts say carving out time for sleep is just as important as diet and exercise

sleepSleep specialists and sleep lab directors can now say, “I told you so,” thanks to an April 2014 Time Magazine feature that boldly declares sleep as nothing less than the “New Health Frontier.” The 1,300-plus word article in the venerable news magazine quotes prominent sleep physicians who readily declare sleep as one of the three pillars of good health, right next to diet and exercise.

Time reporter Alexandra Sifferlin writes that, “Researchers have known for some time that sleep is critical for weight maintenance and hormone balance. And too little sleep is linked to everything from diabetes to heart disease to depression. Recently, the research on sleep has been overwhelming, with mounting evidence that it plays a role in nearly every aspect of health.”

“It’s common knowledge that sleep is needed for day to day function,” says Dr. David Rapoport, director of the Sleep Medicine Program at NYU School of Medicine in the Time article. “What isn’t common knowledge is that it really matters—it’s not just cosmetic.”

Sifferlin points out that while diet and exercise have been a part of public health messaging for decades, doctors and health advocates are now beginning to argue that getting quality sleep may be just as important for overall health. “Sleep is probably easier to change than diet or exercise,” says Dr. Michael Grandner, a sleep researcher at the University of Pennsylvania in the article. “It may also give you more of an immediate reward if it helps you get through your day.”

Undiagnosed Sleep Apnea Can Be A Real Killer

NYC Train Driver Had Severe Sleep Apnea

Train Derailment in NYC Caused By Sleep Apnea?

The driver of a train that derailed late last year in New York City, killing four passengers, reportedly suffered from “severe sleep apnea.” William Rockefeller, the engineer at the controls of the Metro-North commuter train that derailed in the Bronx, had the sleep disorder at the time of the accident, and it had not previously been diagnosed.

In a development that could have wide-ranging implications for those who treat sleep disorders and/or sell sleep-related equipment, it is now confirmed by what those in the industry already knew, namely that sleep apnea can “cause drowsiness.”

“I was dazed, you know, looking straight ahead, almost like mesmerized,” Rockefeller reportedly told investigators. “I don’t know if anybody’s ever experienced like driving a long period of time in a car and staring at the tail lights in front of them, and you get almost like that hypnotic feeling staring straight ahead.”

“The disorder, characterized by shallow or interrupted breathing during sleep, often goes undiagnosed, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health,” wrote Jonathan Allen of Reuters. “Jeffrey Chartier, Rockefeller’s lawyer, also confirmed the diagnosis, saying Rockefeller cooperated with investigators and provided access to his medical records.”

Rockefeller’s last routine physical examination for Metro-North was in May 2011, and his last visit to his own doctor was in May 2013, the report said. “Before the accident, doctors had diagnosed Rockefeller as obese and having hypothyroidism, high cholesterol, low testosterone, vitamin D and B12 deficiencies, and mild high-frequency hearing loss,” wrote Allen.

The Link Between Type II Diabetes and Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Diabetes BlogSebastian Schmid, MD, Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Lubeck, Germany, led a comprehensive review of research related to sleep loss and its effect on metabolism. The investigation showed a “clear association between short sleep duration and an increased prevalence of the metabolic syndrome.”

Metabolic syndrome is an umbrella term for various risk factors that raise the risk for heart disease and other health problems. The article published in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology edition titled “The Metabolic Burden of Sleep Loss” points out that: “An increasing number of studies show an association between short sleep duration and sleep disturbances with Type II diabetes.”

Experimental studies point to mechanisms by which insufficient sleep adversely affects health. Changes in the activity of endocrine systems seem to be major mediators of the detrimental metabolic effects of insufficient sleep.

Although long-term interventional studies proving a cause and effect association are still scarce, sleep loss seems to be “an appealing target for the prevention, and probably treatment, of metabolic disease (i.e. Type II Diabetes).”

New Electronic Device Claims To Help Sleep

It should be no surprise that the “smart” revolution is hitting the world of sleep.

AuraAs reported by BBC News, a company called Withings is set to roll out the Aura “Smart Sleep” system.

One part of the device slides under the mattress to study the dozing owners while another screens their bedroom environment. It is the first of more than a dozen sleep-related gadgets set to be launched.

The Aura system consists of three parts:
1) a soft padded sensor that is slipped under the mattress which the firm says is able to record body movements, breathing cycles and heart rates;
2) a device that should be placed next to the bed that includes sensors to study noise levels, room temperature and light levels. In addition it contains a clock, a speaker that plays alarm sounds and a circular LED (light-emitting diode) lamp; and
3) A smartphone app that controls the system and provides feedback about the sleepers’ night.

The light changes color from blue to yellow and red during the course of the night on the basis of research that different light wavelengths can affect the secretion of hormones. The rival Philips’ Wake-up Light lacks the mattress sensor but can charge a smartphone.

Studies have suggested that blue light stimulates melanopsin – a pigment found in cells in the eye’s retina, which send nerve impulses to parts of the brain thought to make a person feel alert.”

Consistent Sleep Patterns Tied To Healthier Weight

A new study published online recently in the American Journal of Health Promotion suggests that keeping to a consistent sleep routine may help people maintain a healthier weight.

Researchers found that women whose sleep routines are more consistent have the least amount of body fat.
Researchers found that women whose sleep routines are more consistent have the least amount of body fat.

A new study published online recently in the American Journal of Health Promotion suggests that keeping to a consistent sleep routine may help people maintain a healthier weight.

Bruce Bailey, a professor in exercise science at Brigham Young University in Provo, UT, and colleagues found that women who woke at the same time and went to sleep at the same every day had lower body fat.

Prof. Bailey suggests going to bed late and sleeping in may do more harm than good:

“We have these internal clocks and throwing them off and not allowing them to get into a pattern does have an impact on our physiology.”

While previous studies have looked at sleep patterns and weight, this is the first study to look at the link between consistency of bed and wake time and body fat.

For their study, the researchers examined data on more than 300 young women aged between 17 and 26 attending two major Western US universities.

At the start of the study period, the women were assessed for body composition and were then given activity trackers to record their movements during the day and their sleep patterns at night for 7 consecutive days and nights.

The results showed that:

  • A consistent bed time, but particularly a consistent wake time, were linked to lower body fat.
  • Sleeping less than 6.5 or more than 8.5 hours a night was tied to higher body fat.
  • Sleeping between 8 and 8.5 hours a night was tied to the lowest levels of body fat.
  • Quality of sleep also appears to make a difference to body composition.
  • Participants whose wake and sleep time varied by more than 90 minutes had more body fat than those whose variations were limited to 60 minutes.

The researchers said they found wake time was particularly tied to body fat. The participants who consistently woke at the same time every day had the least body fat.

Prof. Bailey suggests consistent sleep patterns are probably closely tied to good sleep hygiene.

Altering sleep hygiene likely changes patterns of physical activity, which in turn alters hormones involved with digestion, with a knock-on effect on body fat.

Prof. Bailey’s recipe for improving sleep quality is to exercise, keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet, and only use your bed for sleeping in. He adds that:

“Sleep is often a casualty of trying to do more and be better and it is often sacrificed, especially by college students, who kind of wear it as a badge of honor.”

They found participants on a low-calorie diet lost the same amount of weight whether they slept an average of 8.5 hours or 5.5 hours each night. However, while they lost the same amount of weight, the composition was different.

Modern Gizmos Infringing on Good Sleep?

The bedroom is for sleeping not television watching.

Bed television

Most people have heard the sage advice to keep TVs out of the bedroom. Instead, the bedroom should be for sleeping and not watching television.

What about keeping the smart phone, tablet, or laptop away from the mattress? As it turns out, scientists at no less than Harvard Medical School have found that specific wavelengths of of light can suppress the slumber-inducing hormone melatonin in the brain.

“We have biologically shifted ourselves so we can’t fall asleep earlier,” said Charles A. Czeisler, a professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School in an article in The Denver Post. “The amazing thing is that we are still trying to get up with the chickens.”

According to the Post, the result is less sleep, and less time for the body to recover. In the U.S. alone, revenue from clinics treating sleep disorders expanded 12 percent annually from 2008 to 2011, reaching $6 billion, according to IBISWorld. Drowsy drivers cause 1,550 fatalities annually, the National Department of Transportation estimates, and insomnia-related accidents in the workplace cost $31.1 billion annually, a study last year found.

“Sleep is in a battle for our time with work life, social life and family life,” said David Hillman, a sleep specialist at the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth, Western Australia, and the chairman of the Sleep Health Foundation. “For a lot of us, it comes off a poor fourth in that battle.”

While the noisy ping of a nocturnal e-mail or text message can interrupt sleep, staring at the gadgets’ screen late at night may be more detrimental, according to researcher Czeisler, who is also head of sleep medicine at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. It comes down to the body’s circadian rhythm, which has been affected ever since the invention of the electric light.

Common Sleep Problem Linked With Memory Loss


The part of the brain that stores memory appears to shrink in people with sleep apnea, adding further evidence that the sleep and breathing disorder is a serious health threat.

brain_533The findings, from brain scan studies conducted by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, show for the first time that sleep apnea is associated with tissue loss in brain regions that store memory. And while the thinking and focus problems of sleep apnea patients often are attributed to sleep deprivation, the scans show something far more insidious is occurring.

“Our findings demonstrate that impaired breathing during sleep can lead to a serious brain injury that disrupts memory and thinking,” said principal investigator Ronald Harper, professor of neurobiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at U.C.L.A.

The researchers don’t know why the sleep disorder affects brain tissue but theorize that it’s related to repeated drops in oxygen. During an apnea episode, the brain’s blood vessels constrict, starving its tissue of oxygen and causing cells to die. The inflammatory process, also linked with heart disease and stroke, further damages the tissue.

The data show the importance of early diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea.

Restless Leg Syndrome and Sleep Apnea

Don't let restless leg syndrome affect your life. Help is available.

RLSDo people snicker when you tell them you have Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)? They wouldn’t if they knew the amount of sleep deprivation RLS can cause. The name Rest­less Leg Syndrome may be part of why people don’t take this condi­tion as seriously.

Restless Leg Syndrome causes an urge to move the legs and sometimes arms and it is accompanied by unpleasant sensations in the legs. It generally is worse at nighttime and is relieved by movement. In a large number of cases it can be accompanied by sleep deprivation or sleep apnea and then it is also called periodic limb movement disorder.

The cause is known on­ly in a minority of cases. About 40 percent seem to run in fami­lies and several genet­ic factors have been iden­tified. Iron deficiency sometimes is associat­ed with RLS and replacement of the iron can im­prove symptoms. Mod­erate exercise, leg mas­sage and heat (say, a warm bath before bed) are some non-drug ways of improving symptoms. Levodopa/carbidopa, a Parkinson’s drug, is an effective treatment; pramipexole (Mirapex) and ropinirole (Requip) also are effective for ma­ny people.

Some people with restless legs syndrome never seek medical attention because they worry that their symptoms are too difficult to describe or won’t be taken seriously. Some doctors wrongly attribute symptoms to nervousness, stress, insomnia or muscle cramps. But RLS has received more media attention and focus from the medical community in recent years, making more people aware of the condition.  An expert in the condition, usually a neurologist, is essential for severe cases. A specialist in diagnosing sleep apnea will be able to evaluate if the condition is causing sleep apnea and it may be necessary for the physicians to coordinate treatment.

You can learn more about Restless Leg Syndrome at the Mayo Clinic website: