Category Archives: Sleep Hygiene

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.”

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.”

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.