Thoracic and Sleep Group Queensland People caring for how you breathe and sleep

January 27, 2016

Arianna Huffington On Technology Addiction And The Sleep Revolution

Filed under: Blog — Mark Russell-Pavier @ 1:09 am

Sarah Lane interviews Arianna Huffington about her new book, The Sleep Revolution, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland 2016. This interview is part of TechCrunch Davos Live, a live interview series that includes firesides and panels featuring interviews with world leaders and global trendsetters.

Follow the link for the entire interview:


January 8, 2016

Drowsy driving can be the same as drink driving, ANU researcher says

Filed under: Blog — Mark Russell-Pavier @ 2:44 am

If you resort to blasting the radio or turning up the air conditioner to stay awake at the wheel, chances are you’re already driving dangerously.

Road safety expert from the Australian National University, Dr Vanessa Beanland, said research shows being awake for 17 hours causes the same driving impairment as having a blood alcohol content of .05.

The risk of someone having a car accident with that much alcohol in their system is double that of a 0 per cent reading, according to the Australian Federal Police.

Dr Beanland stressed that this means driving down the coast after a long day at work is equal to driving with an illegal level of intoxication.

She also found that having five hours sleep, as opposed to the recommended eight hours, affects vigilance.

“Which is really important for driving because you have to be vigilant for anything that changes on the road and anything unexpected that happens,” she said.

“It can have serious consequences.”

She said sleepy drivers find it harder to keep their cars within the lines, have slower reaction times and are less able to detect hazards.

Road crashes in Australia are estimated to cost $27 billion per year.

According to ANU researchers, drowsy driving is implicated in 15-30 per cent of all crashes. These are most likely to occur in the early afternoon or between midnight and 6am.

To reduce tiredness when driving, the ACT Government’s Road Rules Handbook recommends drivers to follow the well-known slogan ‘stop, revive survive’ and have a 15 minute break every two hours.

Other tips include sharing the driving, having light snacks rather than fatty foods and staying hydrated.

While following this advice is always important when behind the wheel, Dr Beanland said it is particularly critical this time of year.

“People are driving long distances that they might not usually do,” she said.

“Their sleep patterns might be altered, they might feel pressure to get to Christmas or the New Years party, and they might be pushing themselves.”



January 6, 2016

How the brain wakes you up

Filed under: Blog — Mark Russell-Pavier @ 6:32 am

Scientists from Bern have discovered a mechanism which is responsible for the rapid arousal from sleep and anaesthesia in the brain. The results of their study suggest new strategies for the medical treatment of sleep disorders and recovery of consciousness in vegetative states.

Chronic sleep perturbances affect 10-20% of the population of Switzerland and almost everyone experiences sleep problems at least once in a lifetime. Beside the quantity of sleep that is often affected in insomnia, clinical and experimental studies emphasize that the quality of sleep (e.g., depth of your sleep) is equally important for a good night’s sleep and a complete recovery of “body and mind” functions. “The consequences of sleep perturbations on life quality go far beyond daytime sleepiness and mood alteration. Cognitive impairment, hormonal imbalance and high susceptibility to cardiac or metabolic disorders are amongst some of the negative impacts frequently associated with subtle chronic sleep problems,” says Prof. Antoine Adamantidis from the Department of Clinical Research of the University of Bern and Department of Neurology at the Bern University Hospital.

The quantity and the quality of sleep are now considered as an early marker of many neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and schizophrenia. Unfortunately, pharmaceutical strategies combined with improved life hygiene have limited effect. “Personalized medicine” strategies for the treatment of either insufficient sleep quality or quantity are missing.

Therefore, intensive experimental research is conducted to understand how brain circuits control sleep-wake cycle and consciousness — an enigma in modern Neurosciences and an exciting key mystery to resolve. Together with fellow researcher Carolina Gutierrez Herrera and colleagues from Germany, Adamantidis made a dual discovery: his team identified a new circuit in the brain of mice whose activation causes rapid wakefulness while its inhibition deepens sleep. The study was published in the scientific journal “Nature Neuroscience.”

Mammalian sleep is classically divided in two phases, including non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep or “light” sleep, and REM (or paradoxical) sleep or “deep”/dreaming sleep. Key brain circuits for those two states have been identified. However, the precise underlying mechanisms — such as the onset, maintenance and termination of sleep and dreaming — remain unknown.

Adamantidis and Gutierrez Herrera identified a new neural circuit between two brain regions called hypothalamus and thalamus, which have been associated with EEG (electroencephalogram) rhythms during sleep. The activation of this circuit signals the termination of light sleep: using a recent technology called optogenetics, the researchers made neurons from the hypothalamus controllable with millisecond-timescale light pulses and showed that their transient activation during light sleep induced rapid awakenings, while their chronic activation maintains prolonged wakefulness. In contrast, optogenetic silencing of this circuit stabilizes light sleep and increases its intensity. In a translational analogy, hyperactivity of this circuit may cause insomnia, while its hypo-activity could be responsible for hypersomnia, making it a new therapeutical target for sleep disorders.

Interestingly, the arousal power of this circuit is so strong that its activation precipitates emergence from anaesthesia and the recovery of consciousness. “This is exciting discovery since therapeutical approaches to recover from a vegetative or minimally conscious state are quite limited,” says Adamantidis. Non-selective deep brain electrical stimulation has been used with some success, however the underlying brain mechanisms remain unclear. In this study, Adamantidis, Gutierrez Herrera and collaborators nailed down a selective brain circuit important for the recovery of consciousness.

The dual findings of the Bernese researchers shine light on the brain mechanism of arousal and opens new door for tailored medical treatment of sleep perturbances, and provide a roadmap for arousing patients from a vegetative or minimally conscious state. However, Adamantidis emphasizes that “even though we made an important step forward now, it will take some time before novel therapeutical strategies will be designed based on our results.”



The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of Bern.

Exercise May Postpone Right Heart Failure in Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension Patients

Filed under: Blog — Mark Russell-Pavier @ 6:19 am

Researchers in Brazil and the United Kingdom have identified another reason to get up and get moving. Reporting their findings in “Voluntary Exercise Delays Heart Failure Onset in Rats with Pulmonary Artery Hypertension,” which was published in American Journal of Physiology Heart and Circulatory Physiology, a team led by Dr. Antonio J. Natali at the Universidade Federal de Viçosa identified that overall heart health is enhanced by exercise and can delay the onset of right heart failure induced by pulmonary arterial hypertension.

“Increased physical activity is recommended for the general population and to patients of many diseases because of its health benefits but can be contraindicated if it is thought a risk for serious cardiovascular events,” stated Dr. Natali in the team’s article. “One such condition is pulmonary artery hypertension.” Since patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension have an impaired ability to increase the amount of blood reaching the lungs during exercise, rigorous physical activity has not been recommended as part of treatment guidelines.

However, the researchers were aware that an animal model of rats with stable pulmonary arterial hypertension seemed to benefit from forced treadmill running exercises, despite the fact that rats with severe pulmonary arterial hypertension had a decreased survival time. Since more than one form of exercise is acceptable for reaching a daily goal of activity, the researchers were interested in whether an alternative to treadmill running could benefit rats — and possibly humans — that have pulmonary arterial hypertension.

The exercise regimen of choice was simply free access to a running wheel that logged the distance run by rats on a daily basis. A sedentary group with no access to a running wheel was also used for comparing purposes. When the rats showed signs of right heart failure, the researchers investigated characteristics of the rats’ hearts.

All rats eventually developed right heart failure, no matter the exercise status. However, rats that were able to exercise had a significantly longer median time of survival, indicating that the time to right heart failure was prolonged by exercise. Exercising for a longer distance or time did not seem to correlate to survival time.

In terms of heart characteristics, the researchers found that the rats had an increase in heart weight relative to body weight. However, right heart hypertrophy was less severe in the exercise group than in the sedentary group. “Our observations suggest that appropriate exercise regimes may be useful in the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension,” stated the authors. Although these experiments were conducted in rats, the same may be true for humans, suggesting that voluntary exercise benefits heart health.




Lack of sleep may set the stage for Alzheimer’s disease

Filed under: Blog — Mark Russell-Pavier @ 1:39 am


There’s growing evidence that a lack of sleep can leave the brain vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease.

“Changes in sleep habits may actually be setting the stage” for dementia, says Jeffrey Iliff, a brain scientist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland.

The brain appears to clear out toxins linked to Alzheimer’s during sleep, Iliff explains. And, at least among research animals that don’t get enough solid shut-eye, those toxins can build up and damage the brain.

Iliff and other scientists at OHSU are about to launch a study of people that should clarify the link between sleep problems and Alzheimer’s disease in humans.

It has been clear for decades that there is some sort of link. Sleep disorders are very common among people with Alzheimer’s disease.

For a long time, researchers thought this was simply because the disease was “taking out the centers of the brain that are responsible for regulating sleep,” Iliff says. But two recent discoveries have suggested the relationship may be more complicated.

The first finding emerged in 2009, when researchers at Washington University in St. Louis showed that the sticky amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer’s develop more quickly in the brains of sleep-deprived mice.

Then, in 2013, Iliff was a member of a team that discovered how a lack of sleep could be speeding the development of those Alzheimer’s plaques: A remarkable cleansing process takes place in the brain during deep sleep, at least in animals.

What happens, Iliff says, is “the fluid that’s normally on the outside of the brain, cerebrospinal fluid — it’s a clean, clear fluid — it actually begins to recirculate back into and through the brain along the outsides of blood vessels.”

This process, via what’s known as the glymphatic system, allows the brain to clear out toxins, including the toxins that form Alzheimer’s plaques, Iliff says.

“That suggests at least one possible way that disruption in sleep may predispose toward Alzheimer’s disease,” he says.

To know for sure, though, researchers will have to study this cleansing process in people, which won’t be easy.

Iliff studied the glymphatic system in living mice by looking through a window created in the skull. The system also involved a powerful laser and state-of-the-art microscope.

With people, “we have to find a way to see the same sort of function, but in a way that is going to be reasonably noninvasive and safe,” he says.

The solution may involve one of the world’s most powerful magnetic resonance imaging machines, which sits in a basement at OHSU. The MRI unit is so sensitive, it should be able to detect changes that indicate precisely when the glymphatic system gets switched on in a person’s brain, says Bill Rooney, who directs the university’s Advanced Imaging Research Center.


When humans enter deep sleep, and toxin removal begins, there should be a particular change in the signal coming from certain salt molecules. That would indicate that fluid has begun moving freely through the brain.

In young, healthy brains, the signal should be “robust,” Rooney says, indicating that the toxin removal system is working well. In the brains of older people, and those who are likely to develop Alzheimer’s, the signal should be weaker.

Rooney and Iliff have received funding from the Paul G. Allen Foundation to test their approach. They hope to begin scanning the brains of participants within a year.

One challenge, though, will be finding people able to fall asleep in the cramped and noisy tunnel of the magnetic resonance machine.

“It’s a tricky thing because it’s a small space,” Rooney says. “But we’ll make people as comfortable as possible, and we’ll just follow them as they go through these natural stages of sleep.”

If Rooney and Iliff are right, the experiment will greatly strengthen the argument that a lack of sleep can lead to Alzheimer’s disease. It might also provide a way to identify people whose health is at risk because they aren’t getting enough deep sleep, and it could pave the way to new treatments.

“It could be anything from having people exercise more regularly, or new drugs,” Rooney says. “A lot of the sleep aids don’t particularly focus on driving people to deep sleep stages.”



E-cigarette, marijuana use outpacing cigarette smoking among high school students

Filed under: Blog — Mark Russell-Pavier @ 1:25 am

E-cigarette, marijuana use outpacing cigarette smoking among high school students

The Wall Street Journal (12/16, A9, Mickle, Subscription Publication) reports that new results from the Monitoring the Future study showed that daily cigarette smoking among high school students has dropped more than 50% over the last five years. Notably, the results showed that e-cigarette and marijuana use are now outpacing cigarette smoking for the first time.

USA Today (12/16, Maycan) reports that cigarette smoking “among teens hit an all-time low, but their fascination with e-cigarettes remains strong.” In the last month, 16% of 10th graders “said they used an e-cigarette and 7% said they used a tobacco cigarette,” while 17% of seniors reported e-cigarette use and 14% reported smoking a cigarette.

The New York Times (12/16, Schwarz, Subscription Publication) reports that “many students appear to be transitioning to e-cigarettes, which are unregulated and can contain nicotine and other harmful products,” according to Dr. Nora D. Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which issued the report. In addition, for the first time, “the percentage of high school seniors who said they smoked marijuana daily (which remained steady at 6%) exceeded those who smoked traditional cigarettes daily (5.5%, a large drop from last year’s 6.7).”



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