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

October 31, 2016

101 sleep hacks that have worked for you

Filed under: Blog — Mark Russell-Pavier @ 6:03 am

Lately, the folks over at ABC Health and Wellbeing have been focused on sleep.  They recently asked their readers questions about their shut-eye in order to take a national sleep snapshot. More than 20,000 people answered the call, giving a clearer picture of what’s happening under the covers in Australian households.

The data collected gave an insight into what’s keeping people awake at night, what helps them sleep and how much sleep people think they are getting. Furthermore, readers shared thousands of tips on how to get to sleep – and stay that way. There were so many good ideas and tips that ABC have compiled the top 101 sleep hacks.

Daytime activities to help you get some zzzs

1. Keep busy during the day.

2. Don’t take work home with you.

3. Walk around the block after dinner.

4. Cut back on caffeine, even if you desperately love coffee.

5. Pay attention to your diet.

6. Swim during the day.

7. Cut back your alcohol consumption, and don’t drink too late in the evening.

8. Don’t drink caffeine after midday.

9. Talk through any problems with a partner or friend earlier in the day.

10. Do a Sudoku puzzle before bed.

11. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Even on weekends, as much as you want to sleep in.

12. Don’t listen to the experts — have a glass of red wine with dinner.

13. See a psychologist if you have insomnia.

14. Regular exercise. You always sleep better on the days you exercise.

Bedtime routines matter

15. Have a chamomile tea.

16. Have a cup warm milk and honey before bed.

17. Don’t eat right before bed.

18. Don’t go to bed angry.

19. Listen to audiobooks narrated by David Attenborough.

20. Enjoy a mug of warm Milo.

21. Moisturise your hands and feet.

22. Drink apple cider vinegar (two tea spoons 20 minutes before bed).

23. A warm shower or bath leading up to bed. It helps wash the day away and makes you feel relaxed.

24. Avoid overeating in the evening. You may enjoy the food, but it will keep you awake — especially if you get indigestion.

25. Make sure everything is ready for the next morning.

26. Have a regular bedtime routine that sets your brain to sleep mode.

27. Eat peanut butter on toast.

Switch off…

The dark side of blue light

  • Light from screens shining into your eyes sends signals to your brain that interfere with the production of melatonin, a chemical needed for sleep.
  • Although all wavelengths of light have this effect, blue light is particularly problematic. Blue light is so good at helping us feel awake, it’s used in places like factories to help night workers stay alert.
  • Repeated use of a bright screen in the evening over five nights can delay the body clock by 1.5 hours, the Sleep Health Foundation says. This means you want to go to bed later and sleep in longer, which is a problem when work or study schedules call for an early start.

28. Turn your screens off at least an hour before bed.

29. Use a blue light filter app on your smartphone.

30. Remove as much technology from the bedroom as you can — especially from your bedside table.

31. Get over social media FOMO and switch your phone off.

… and relax

32. Get ear plugs if you live in an apartment building, or sleep with a snoring partner.

33. Try the 4-7-8 breathing technique (breathe in for a count of four, hold for seven and breathe out over a count of eight).

34. Meditate to relieve stress and clear the mind of anxiety.

35. Write in a journal to quieten your mind and get thoughts out of your head.

36. Listen to the sounds of nature. There are apps which play raindrops, crashing waves or rainforest sounds. Or you can leave the fan on for white noise.

37. Stop worrying about things you can’t control.

38. Count sheep or something equally inane to divert your attention away from what’s keeping you awake.

39. Listen to guided sleep meditations.

40. Listen to podcasts — as long as they’re interesting and not too riveting.

41. Listen to a radio talk program on very low volume.

42. Wear an eye mask.

43. Prayer.

44. Avoid scary movies.

45. Sing to yourself.

46. Have a footbath with magnesium salts, bicarb soda or your favourite garden herbs.

47. Do stretches before bed.

48. Progressively relax every muscle in your body.

49. Diffuse oils.

50. Practice breathing exercises.

Get comfy

51. Wash your sheets and air your doona regularly.

52. Put lavender drops on your pillow.

53. Invest in a good pillow. It’s game-changer.

54. Keep your bedroom window open.

55. Get blackout curtains and remove all sources of light.

56. Keep your room temperature cool.

57. Dim the lights around your home.

58. Burn eucalyptus oil.

59. Keep your room free of clutter.

60. Use a silk pillowcase in summer.

61. Ditch the doona. Use layers.

62. Get a comfortable bed — you spend a third of your life in that thing.

63. Make sure your feet are warm.

64. Sleep naked.

Bedfellows can help or hinder

65. Have sex. Lots of sex.

66. Kick your husband out of bed.

67. Don’t let pets sleep in your bed.

68. Don’t be afraid to sleep in a separate room to your partner.

69. Cuddle your lover.

70. Don’t have pets or children. Always have sex.

When you lay down

71. Rest a warm heat pack across your eyes.

72. Read less interesting books.

73. Reflect on the good things you’ve done that day, and what work you are looking forward to doing the next day.

74. Go to the toilet right before getting into bed.

75. Stay still if you feel restless.

76. Count back from 100 in a foreign language. You’ll give up and fall asleep before 90.

77. Think about interesting scenarios that will never come to pass.

If you wake

78. Have pen and paper nearby to write things down, instead of worrying you’ll forget them by morning.

79. Avoid looking at the clock when you wake up in the night.

80. Imagine yourself in your favourite TV show.

81. Stop agonising over poor sleep.

Well… it might work

82. Take magnesium and melatonin tablets.

83. Get better neighbours. Seriously.

84. Nurture a clear conscience.

85. Don’t get old.

86. Masturbate.

87. Put ‘going to bed’ on your to do list.

88. Leave the children with their grandparents.

89. Don’t sign up for shift work.

90. Count your blessings.

91. Don’t have children unless you are willing to be sleep deprived for literally years.

92. Have an orgasm.

93. Retire!

94. Travel overseas! Sleep is better in the northern hemisphere.

95. Don’t go Scottish country dancing the hours leading up to bed.

96. Don’t fall in love with astronomy.
97. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

98. Practice self-acceptance.

99. Sleep in the foetal position.

100. Have regular holidays.

101. Follow your own advice.

Story source:

October 26, 2016

October 25, 2016

Does vitamin D prevent asthma attacks or improve control of asthma symptoms or both? Background

Filed under: Blog — Mark Russell-Pavier @ 6:43 am

A new Cochrane Review published in the Cochrane Library has found evidence from randomized trials that taking an oral vitamin D supplement in addition to standard asthma medication is likely to reduce severe asthma attacks.

Asthma is a common chronic disease, affecting about 300 million people worldwide. The symptoms of asthma include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath.

Low blood levels of vitamin D have been linked to increased risk of asthma attacks in children and adults with asthma. There has been a growing interest in the potential role of vitamin D in asthma management, because it might help to reduce upper respiratory infections (such as the common cold) that can lead to exacerbations of asthma. Several clinical trials have tested whether taking vitamin D as a supplement has an effect on asthma attacks, symptoms, and lung function in children and adults with asthma.

The team of Cochrane researchers found seven trials involving 435 children and two studies, involving 658 adults. The study participants were ethnically diverse, reflecting the broad range of global geographic settings, involving Canada, India, Japan, Poland, the UK, and the US. The majority of people recruited to the studies had mild to moderate asthma, and a minority had severe asthma. Most people continued to take their usual asthma medication while participating in the studies. The studies lasted for between six and 12 months.

The researchers found that giving an oral vitamin D supplement reduced the risk of severe asthma attacks requiring hospital admission or emergency department attendance from 6% to around 3%. They also found that vitamin D supplementation reduced the rate of asthma attacks needing treatment with steroid tablets. These results are based largely on trials in adults. They also found that vitamin D did not improve lung function or day-to-day asthma symptoms, and that it did not increase the risk of side effects at the doses that were tested.

The Cochrane Review’s lead author, Professor Adrian Martineau from the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research, Queen Mary University of London, said, “We found that taking a vitamin D supplement in addition to standard asthma treatment significantly reduced the risk of severe asthma attacks, without causing side effects.”

He added, “This is an exciting result, but some caution is warranted. First, the findings relating to severe asthma attacks come from just three trials: most of the patients enrolled in these studies were adults with mild or moderate asthma. Further vitamin D trials in children and in adults with severe asthma are needed to find out whether these patient groups will also benefit. Second, it is not yet clear whether vitamin D supplements can reduce risk of severe asthma attacks in all patients, or whether this effect is just seen in those who have low vitamin D levels to start with. Further analyses to investigate these questions are on-going, and results should be available in the next few months.”

A time to sleep and a time to eat…

Filed under: Blog — Mark Russell-Pavier @ 5:26 am

Circadian rhythms are often referred to as our natural “body clocks”, and to an extent this is true. We all become tired, and this is usually at a similar time each day, similarly we often wake up in the morning from our sleep at a standard time if given the chance (i.e. without our pesky alarm clocks getting involved).  This natural, however we often ignore this drive to sleep because we are watching TV, playing a video game or surfing the net on our smart phones or tablets. The effect this has on us is not entirely well understood, and there is plenty of research going on right now. One interesting study looked at food intake over various time periods. The idea here is that if we are spending more time awake, then there is likely to be longer periods (between waking up and going to bed) that we are able to consume food.PrintProfessor Panda and his colleagues (Amandine Chaix, Amir Zarrinpar and Phuong Miu) at the Salk institute for biological studies use mice models to investigate if consuming food over longer time periods actually impacts on weight gain. These mice were genetically identical, and fed the same type and amount of foods i.e. their calorie intake was the same. What they found was that mice who only consumed food between 8-12 hrs (say between 7am to 7pm) gained less weight than those that were able to eat over a 15hr or more period. They also showed that the type of muscle the mice had is impacted too, with the restricted eating times having more lean muscle. They also found that if they allowed the time restricted mice to “binge” on the weekends, this didn’t seem to significantly impact on their weight gain. So it’s not all doom and gloom for the late night movie snacks, the occasional weekend binge is not going to be the end of the world, just don’t do it every week. The authors do suggest additional research avenues for investigation, but their findings are by themselves are still quite interesting. It seems that not only is sleep restriction from our lifestyles bad for us, the added late night snacking that comes along with it is bad for us too.

October 21, 2016

November 16, 2016 – World COPD Day Awareness Events

Filed under: Blog — Mark Russell-Pavier @ 1:12 am

Get involved in World COPD Day to raise awareness about the symptoms, risk factors and treatment for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). One in seven Australians 40 years or older has COPD and half of those who have progressed to a stage where they are experiencing symptoms will not know that they have it.

By helping Lung Foundation raise awareness you will help drive early detection of this disabling disease. Remember: breathlessness is not a normal part of ageing and shouldn’t be ignored.

Every World COPD Day event registered gets a FREE pack of promotional materials from Lung Foundation Australia. Website registrations open 1st September.

More information can be found at:

New Mandibular Advancement Splints (MAS) in Brisbane

Filed under: Blog — Mark Russell-Pavier @ 12:27 am

Mandibular advancement splints (MAS) are a form of treatment for OSA. These are primarily used to treat mild to moderate Obstructive Sleep Apnoea, or used by patients who just cannot tolerate CPAP at all. Essentially a MAS looks like a mouth guard that fits over your top and bottom teeth, and when worn they push the jaw forward. By doing this, they may help to stop or reduce the upper airway from closing. Some patients report that their snoring is also reduced by using a MAS.

Positives for MAS:

  • Small – easy to carry and does not need electricity
  • Less intrusive than CPAP
  • Less visible and audible to the bed partner
  • Used longer per night than CPAP (on average)


Negatives for MAS

  • Can cause jaw pain, and can change the shape of the jaw over time
  • May not be effective for all patients i.e. they may not work (CPAP generally always works)
  • Can only be adjusted until a point (your jaw can only move so far forward), and some cannot be adjusted at all
  • Hard to “try before you buy”, making the device is the expensive part (similar costs to CPAP for the better devices)


OventusOventus is a Brisbane based maker of a sleep disorder treatment: O2 Vent. They have recently been featured on TV, so you may have heard the name recently. This device is gaining a lot of interest worldwide, so much so that their initial share price of $0.50 has risen to $0.74. This is despite the company making a loss year on year, presumably shareholders feel it is only early days and things are about to upswing. Oventus make a MAS with a slight difference, it has a titanium tube that runs from the front of the device, down either side of the device and opens out at the back (which is behind the teeth), allowing wearers to breathe through their mouths, through the device. Oventus devices seemingly work as well as other MAS devices (although further clinical trials are under way).


Caution when thinking about a MAS: Like many OSA treatments available, Mandibular Advancement Splints (MAS) may be marketed to you or people you know as being the perfect solution for sleep apnoea and that they will prevent all  snoring. While this may be true for some people, for others this is a source of false hope and is just not true.


Points to consider:

  • Quality of sleep therapies does vary (including different MAS products)
  • MAS devices generally have lower efficacy than CPAP, but are more tolerated and therefore may have similar effectiveness overall, so they may work for you – talk to your doctor
  • All sleep therapies should be conducted under the supervision of medical practitioner i.e. see your doctor, dont even think about it if a medical doctor is not involved (dentists are not medical doctors)
  • Titratable devices are preferable as these can be adjusted if required (improves efficacy)
  • The majority of reputable MAS devices are made to order – no efficacy trials are available prior to purchase
  • Costs are similar or even more than that of CPAP, like CPAP devices there may be rebates available from private health funds
  • Various private health funds may require patients to undergo a type 1 or 2 sleep study to be eligible to make a claim from their health insurance – only doctors can request these medicare billed studies
  • Not all “cures” for sleep disorders are as effective as they claim to be, be careful out there – talk to our doctor


Thirsty before sleep?

Filed under: Blog — Mark Russell-Pavier @ 12:04 am

Do you often find yourself feeling thirsty just before bedtime? Have a routine of sipping on a glass of water as you trotter off to bed to leave on the bedside table? Or are you the type of person, despite the urge, who refuses to drink anything before bed to avoid that annoying trip to the toilet during the night…..

I must admit, I have a habitual routine of taking at least 10 sips of water before bed, regardless of whether I’m thirsty or not.  But why do we feel this need for a drink despite sometimes not even being thirsty, or is it just a habit to have a glass of water beside the bed?

Well, believe it or not, scientists have just revealed that your brain’s biological clock stimulates thirst neurons to give you that thirsty urge before bedtime, regardless of any need for hydration. Think of it this way, your body is wired to make a pre-emptive strike to guard against dehydration while you’re sleeping.

The study published in the journal Nature found that when the scientists deprived mice of water in the two hour period prior to sleep it resulted in significant dehydration towards the end of the sleep cycle. It provides the first insight into how our body clock regulates a physiological function. Although the early stages of research are on rodents, the findings could point the way toward drugs that could help negate problems that people experience from shift work or jet lag, by better understanding how our ‘body clock’ executes a circadian rhythm.

So, what mechanism did the scientists find that sets this thirsty urge before bed into motion? And do we really have ‘thirst’ neurons?..

It’s actually well known that the brain harbors a hydration sensor with thirst neurons in that sensor organ. So the researchers wondered if the SCN, the brain region that regulates circadian cycles, ‘the biological clock’, could be communicating with these thirst neurons.

The team suspected that vasopressin, a neuropeptide produced by the SCN, might play a critical role. To confirm that, they used so-called “sniffer cells” designed to fluoresce in the presence of vasopressin. When they applied these cells to rodent brain tissue and then electrically stimulated the SCN, they saw a big increase in the output of the sniffer cells, indicating that vasopressin is being released in that area as a result of stimulating the clock.

To explore if vasopressin was stimulating thirst neurons, the researchers employed optogenetics, a cutting-edge technique that uses laser light to turn neurons on or off. Using genetically engineered mice whose vasopressin neurons contain a light activated molecule, the researchers were able to show that vasopressin does, indeed, turn on thirst neurons.

So, the research certainly points toward an explanation as to why we often experience thirst leading up to bed. Perhaps if you are the type of person to refuse yourself a drink before bed, maybe think twice and give in to the urge.


Reference and story source:

  1. Gizowski, C. Zaelzer, C. W. Bourque. Clock-driven vasopressin neurotransmission mediates anticipatory thirst prior to sleep. Nature, 2016; 537 (7622): 685 DOI: 10.1038/nature19756

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