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

June 30, 2016

Laboratory drug trials could lead to asthma treatment breakthrough

Filed under: Blog — Mark Russell-Pavier @ 5:03 am

A new drug with the potential to reverse or slow the development of asthma is being tested by researchers at The University of Queensland.

Developed by international pharmaceutical companyPfizer Inc., the drug is being trialled by UQ’s School of Biomedical Sciences.

Research team leader Associate Professor Simon Phipps said the drug targeted a protein called IL-33.

“The tests are based on our recent research, which discovered IL-33 plays a significant role in the development of asthma,” Associate Professor Phipps said.

“While IL-33 is well known for causing bronchial inflammation in asthmatics, our research demonstrated for the first time that it also weakens the ability of asthmatics to fend off respiratory viral infections, a common trigger of asthma attacks.

“We’re hopeful the new drug will be able to reverse or slow down the development of asthma by blocking the IL-33 protein.”

The mouse model research is published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the leading international journal for asthma and allergy research.

Lead authors of the study were research team members postdoctoral fellow Dr Jason Lynch and PhD student Miss Rhiannon Werder.

Dr Lynch said the research discovery stemmed from a preclinical model that he established to understand why co-exposure to respiratory viruses and allergens was a key driver of asthma development in early life.

“We found exposure to a respiratory virus, followed very closely by exposure to an allergen, induced the release of IL-33,” Dr Lynch said.

“The excess IL-33 protein was found not only to hinder recovery from the virus but also to promote the development of more severe and persistent symptoms of the disease.

“However if mice were exposed to an allergen at a time before contracting the virus it made no difference to their recovery process.”

Miss Werder is conducting laboratory tests of the new drug as part of her PhD research.

“Our aim is to eventually come up with better treatment therapies that will reverse or slow down the progression of asthma rather than just ease the symptoms,” Miss Werder said.

Original Story:

Caffeine loses it effect after three days of sleep restriction.

Filed under: Blog — Mark Russell-Pavier @ 4:13 am

Military research from the USA has shown that chronic sleep restriction causes caffeine to become less effective. The study included 48 healthy volunteers who had their sleep limited to 5hrs a night, you should typically get between 7-9hrs per night. All participants had their mental performance tested every hour during the day. One group took 200 milligrams of caffeine which is close to two strong coffees worth of caffeine, and the other group took a placebo that would do nothing. What they found was that during the first couple of days, the caffeine improved the first group’s performance. However after three days of sleep restriction, the performance advantage that the caffeine group had was lost. There was no longer any improvement in this group after taking caffeine. I certainly have had those days where the caffeine has barely done a thing, perhaps I have been sleep restricted and need to get a good night’s sleep more than I need another coffee!

Orexin receptor antagonists: A new class of sleeping pill

Filed under: Blog — Mark Russell-Pavier @ 4:09 am

What are orexins?

Orexins (also called hypocretins) are chemicals that are naturally produced by an area of the brain called the hypothalamus. Orexins are involved in wakefulness and arousal; we know this, in part, because some people with narcolepsy (a sleep disorder that causes chronic sleepiness and involuntarily sleep) have a loss of orexin-producing neurons in that area of the brain.

Scientists identified orexins in 1998, and since then there has been considerable research into their role in regulating arousal and sleep, as well as their potential as a target for the treatment of sleep disorders like insomnia. The sleep aid, Suvorexant (brand name Belsomra(R)), which targets orexins, is the first of its kind to be approved by the FDA.


How do orexin sleep aids work?

Sleep aids that target orexin action are known as “orexin receptor antagonists,” which means that they block the signalling of the chemical orexin in the brain. Since this chemical plays a role in keeping people awake and alert, a medication that blocks its action has the potential to promote sleep.


How are orexin sleep aids different from other sleep aids?

Orexin sleep aids affect a different chemical system in the brain than other current prescription and non-prescription sleep aids. Many of the commonly prescribed sleep aids cause sleepiness by enhancing GABA—a wide-reaching inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. Orexin sleep aids block the brain’s receptors for the chemical orexin. Since they target a more localized area of the brain, the hope is that they will cause fewer side effects.

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June 24, 2016

June 19, 2016

Research: Sleep-Deprived Leaders Are Less Inspiring

Filed under: Blog — Mark Russell-Pavier @ 11:54 pm

Leaders have demanding schedules, and often find themselves trading sleep for more work time – effectively trading away work quality to get more work quantity. Some of my recent research indicates that this idea of compromising quality applies to the concept of leadership as well, with important implications for the performance of your team.

In a previous HBR article, I highlighted how a leader’s poor sleep quality can increase the odds of being a jerk the next day, which in turn decreases team engagement. In this piece, I focus more on the positive side of leadership: charismatic leadership, in which leaders inspire followers, fostering an impression that the leader and the mission are extraordinary. Charismatic leadership is a powerful skill for any leader who wants to increase the performance of their teams.

There are two sides to the charismatic leadership coin: the leader and the follower. In my newest research(conducted with Cristiano L. Guarana, Shazia Nauman, and Dejun Tony Kong), I examine how sleep deprivation can undermine both sides of that coin. Our focus is on the role that emotions play in charismatic leadership.

Previous research indicates that when leaders show their teams positive emotions, it increases the odds that those individuals will also experience positive emotions, which in turn leads them to attribute charisma to their leader. In other words, leaders who smile often tend to have happy and inspired teams.

There are two ways that leaders can display positive emotions; either through the expression of their naturally occurring positive moods, or through a process of managing their emotions to improve their own mood (often by thinking of something happy or distracting one’s self from whatever is making one unhappy). Both can potentially help a leader be more charismatic.

Unfortunately, sleep deprivation undermines both the experience of positive emotion as well as theregulation of emotion. As a result, sleep-deprived leaders are less likely to show positive emotion to their teams, and sleep-deprived team members will be less likely to experience positive emotion. Our hypotheses predicted that sleep deprivation of both leaders and team members can undermine attributions of leader charisma. In other words, sleep-deprived leaders are less inspiring, and sleep-deprived team members are harder to inspire.

My coauthors and I tested these hypotheses with a pair of laboratory experiments. Drawing from the idea of leader communication as a vector for charismatic leadership, in Study 1 (with 88 total participants), we assigned research participants to play the role of a study body leader giving a speech in a commencement ceremony. We gave students time to prepare their speeches, and then recorded them delivering the speech in the laboratory. Half of these students had a normal night of sleep before coming to the study (control condition). We partially sleep deprived the other half, such that they had about two hours less sleep than the participants in the control condition. We then had three evaluators rate the charisma displayed in the speech.

Consistent with our expectations, the sleep-deprived participants were lower in charisma than those in the control condition, and a failure in emotion regulation was a causal factor in the effect. In other words, sleep-deprived leaders are less effective at regulating their displays of positive emotion, and are therefore perceived as less charismatic.

In Study 2, we examined the flip side of the equation. Similar to Study 1, we had a control condition and a partially sleep-deprived condition (with 109 total participants). However, in Study 2, we put the students in the role of being a subordinate to the leader delivering a speech. We then had these participants watch some of the speeches from Study 1, and evaluate the charisma of the speaker. We found that sleep-deprived subordinates were lower in positive emotion, and because of this attributed less charisma to the leader giving the speech. In other words, sleep-deprived subordinates are grumpier and more difficult to inspire.

In sum, we found evidence that sleep-deprived leaders tend to be less charismatic (meaning they will have a harder time inspiring their teams), and sleep-deprived team members attribute less charisma to their leaders (meaning that they are more difficult to inspire).

This is important because many leaders are sleep deprived most of the time. Moreover, leaders often create sleep depriving conditions for the people they lead, such as requiring them to check their smartphones late at night. Thus, many leaders are sabotaging their own ability to effectively lead their teams. The bottom line is this: if you want to inspire, you and the people you lead all need to do your best to get a good night of sleep.

Christopher M. Barnes is an assistant professor of management at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business. He worked in the Fatigue Countermeasures branch of the Air Force Research Laboratory before pursuing his PhD in Organizational Behavior at Michigan State University.

Story Source:

Harvard Business Review

Did we used to have two sleeps rather than one? Should we again?

Filed under: Blog — Mark Russell-Pavier @ 11:14 pm

Around a third of the population have trouble sleeping, including difficulties maintaining sleep throughout the night. While night time awakenings are distressing for most sufferers, there is some evidence from our recent past that suggests this period of wakefulness occurring between two separate sleep periods was the norm.

Throughout history there have been numerous accounts of segmented sleep, from medical texts, to court records and diaries, and even in African and South American tribes, with a common reference to “first” and “second” sleep. In Charles Dickens’ Barnaby Rudge (1840), he writes

He knew this, even in the horror with which he started from his first sleep, and threw up the window to dispel it by the presence of some object, beyond the room, which had not been, as it were, the witness of his dream.

Anthropologists have found evidence that during preindustrial Europe, bi-modal sleeping was considered the norm. Sleep onset was determined not by a set bedtime, but by whether there were things to do. Historian A. Roger Ekirch’s book At day’s close: night in times pastdescribes how households at this time retired a couple of hours after dusk, woke a few hours later for one to two hours, and then had a second sleep until dawn.

During this waking period, people would relax, ponder their dreams or have sex. Some would engage in activities like sewing, chopping wood or reading, relying on the light of the moon or oil lamps.

Ekirch found references to the first and second sleep started to disappear during the late 17th century. This is thought to have started in the upper classes in Northern Europe and filtered down to the rest of Western society over the next 200 years.

Interestingly, the appearance of sleep maintenance insomnia in the literature in the late 19th century coincides with the period where accounts of split sleep start to disappear. Thus, modern society may place unnecessary pressure on individuals that they must obtain a night of continuous consolidated sleep every night, adding to the anxiety about sleep and perpetuating the problem.

Biological basis

Less dramatic forms of bi-phasic sleep are evident in today’s society, for example in cultures that take an afternoon siesta. Our body clock lends itself to such a schedule, having a reduction in alertness in the early afternoon (the so-called “post-lunch dip”).

In the early 1990s, psychiatrist Thomas Wehr conducted a laboratory experiment in which he exposed a group of people to a short photoperiod – that is, they were left in darkness for 14 hours every day instead of the typical eight hours – for a month.

It took some time for their sleep to regulate but by the fourth week a distinct two-phase sleep pattern emerged. They slept first for four hours, then woke for one to three hours before falling into a second four-hour sleep. This finding suggests bi-phasic sleep is a natural process with a biological basis.

Pros and cons

Today’s society often doesn’t allow for this type of flexibility, thus we have to conform to today’s sleep/wake schedules. It is generally thought a continuous seven to nine-hour unbroken sleep is probably best for feeling refreshed. Such a schedule may not suit our circadian rhythms however, as we desynchronise with the external 24-hour light/dark cycle.

To successfully maintain a split sleep schedule, you have to get the timing right – that is commencing sleep when there is a strong drive for sleep and during a low circadian point in order to fall asleep quickly and maintain sleep.

Some of the key advantages of a split sleep schedule include the flexibility it allows with work and family time (where this flexibility is afforded). Some individuals in modern society have adopted this type of schedule as it provides two periods of increased activity, creativity and alertness across the day, rather than having a long wake period where sleepiness builds up across the day and productivity wanes.

In support of this, there is growing evidence suggesting naps can have important benefits for memory and learning, increasing our alertness and improving mood states. Some believe sleep disorders, like sleep maintenance insomnia, are rooted in the body’s natural preference for split sleep. Therefore, split sleep schedules may be a more natural rhythm for some people.

Implications for shift work

Split sleep schedules have recently begun to emerge as a potential alternative to continuous night shift work. Working at night has the combined problems of prolonged wakefulness (often working eight to 12 hour shifts) and circadian misalignment (working at a time of night when you would normally be asleep). Shift workers frequently complain of fatigue and reduced productivity at work and they are at increased risk for chronic disease such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Some industries have employed schedules with shorter, but more frequent sleep opportunities on the premise that the drive for sleep will be less with reduced time. For example, six hours on/six hours off, four hours on/eight hours off, and eight hours on/eight hours off, limit time on shift and reduce extended periods of wakefulness. Split sleep/work schedules divide the day into multiple work/rest cycles so employees work multiple short shifts, broken up with short off-duty periods every 24 hours.

Split-shift schedules that maintain adequate sleep time per 24 hours may be beneficial for sleep, performance and safety. A number of recent studies have found split sleep provides comparable benefits for performance to one big sleep, if the total sleep time per 24 hours was maintained (at around seven to eight hours total sleep time per 24 hours).

However, as might be expected, performance and safety can still be impaired if wake up and start work times are in the early hours of the morning. And we don’t know if these schedules afford any benefits for health and reduce the risk for chronic disease.

While the challenges of night shift work cannot be eliminated, the advantage of some split shift schedules is that all workers get at least some opportunity to sleep at night and do not have to sustain alertness for longer than six to eight hours.

Although we aspire to have consolidated sleep, this may not suit everyone’s body clock or work schedule. It might in fact be a throwback to a bi-model sleep pattern from our pre-industrial ancestors and perhaps work well in a modern industrial setting.

Melinda Jackson, Senior Research Fellow in the School of Health and Biomedical Sciences, RMIT University and Siobhan Banks, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Sleep Research, University of South Australia.

This article was originally published by The Conversation. Read the original article.

Is Sleepwalking common in adults?

Filed under: Blog — Mark Russell-Pavier @ 10:40 pm

Sleepwalking is a sleep associated behaviour that some people may have experienced when they were younger, however, according to research may be more common in adults than previously thought. Sleepwalking, or somnambulism is a sleep behaviour disorder where people experience symptoms such as sitting up in bed, taking a walk around the bedroom or house, talking whilst still asleep, screaming (in conjunction with sleep terrors) and other complex behaviours. These episodes generally occur during deep sleep.  Sleepwalkers tend to have their eyes open which may give the appearance of being awake. When sleepwalking occurs, the person often has little to no memory of the event and you may even find it difficult to arouse them out of sleep during a sleepwalking episode.

What causes sleepwalking?

The onset of sleepwalking in adults may not always be determined as the sleep disorder is more common in children. There are triggers that could start sleepwalking in adults such as sleep deprivation, alcohol or certain medications. A study conducted by Stanford University found strong links to depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive e disorders in people that sleepwalk.  They also found that you are 10 times more likely to sleepwalk if you have a parent, brother or sister that sleepwalks.


There are no specific treatment recommendations for sleepwalking. One of the best methods to try and reduce the frequency of sleepwalking is to develop good sleep habits. These can include; regularly going to bed around the same time, avoiding eating right before bed, keep your room free of distractions such as a TV, laptop, IPAD etc. To prevent injury during a sleepwalking episode you may have to wake the person as opposed to the common misconception that it may be dangerous to wake them.  There have been successful cases of sleepwalking being treated by hypnosis, but it is highly recommended to discuss your symptoms with a doctor or sleep specialist.

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