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Often times when we can’t sleep or we feel tired throughout the day, there are common “quick fixes” which we use to help us fall asleep easier and give us an extra boost in the morning. However, some of these habits can often be detrimental to your sleep health, affecting you not just at night, but throughout the day as well.

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New research has found that the less we sleep in midlife, the faster our brains can decline and lead to cognitive impairment in old age.

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“What is happening in YOUR sleep?!? How can you really know? Ever thought of using a sleep app? There are some misunderstandings to what data is relevant when using sleep apps so understanding the limitations are IMPORTANT. "It is always recommended to follow up with a sleep study to be sure nothing is missed. “

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A diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) may raise the risk of osteoporosis, particularly among women or older individuals, according to a new study. OSA is a condition that causes brief interruptions in breathing during sleep. If left untreated, OSA can raise the risk for stroke, cardiovascular disease and heart attacks.  New research shows that OSA may also increase the risk of osteoporosis.

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Insomnia predisposes individuals to increased risk of stroke and this association is profound among young adults – up to eight times greater among insomniacs 18 to 34 years old.  The results of a recent study underscore the clinical importance of identifying and treating insomnia.

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Heavy drinking damages the body in many ways. In addition to liver failure, alcoholics are at a much greater risk of developing pneumonia and life threatening acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), for which there is no treatment. Researchers suspect that alcoholics are more susceptible to these lung diseases because the immune system in the lung is no longer strong enough to protect from infection and damage, but, it had been unclear why the immune system in the lung fails.

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National Institute of Health Sleep Disorders Research Plan, seeks to promote and protect sleep health

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The National Institute of Health (NIH) is the nation’s medical research agency is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and includes 27 institutes and centres.  It is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting clinical and basic medical research, investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases.  Recently the NIH has updated its plan for research into new approaches to the prevention and treatment of sleep disorders.  Over the next three to five years, the institute has recommended research initiatives to include looking at the connection between sleep and circadian systems, studying the influence of genetic and environmental factors that could influence a person’s sleep health, and conducting more comparative effectiveness trials to improve treatments for sleep and circadian disorders.

According to Shurin, acting director of the NHLBI, Sleep and circadian research have made huge strides during the last decade with unprecedented opportunities for improved understanding of the physiology of sleep and the impact of sleep disruption.  The institute is taking a step forward to continue further advancement in research, improve understanding of the mechanisms behind sleep and its disorders in order to more science forward and improve health and prevent disease.

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The plan expands upon previous and current research programs identified in the 1996 and 2003 plans.  In addition it:

  • Highlights opportunities to foster a continued dialogue with research communities, which will help promote innovative approaches to scientific investigations
  • Addresses training needs for investigators and encourages interdisciplinary collaboration to accelerate scientific discovery and bring therapies to the community more rapidly while improving strategies for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of sleep and circadian disorders such as insomnia, narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome and sleep apnoea.
  • Encourages a stronger emphasis on understanding the genetics behind sleep as well as other factors that contribute to sleep disorders and disturbances, such as lifestyle, age and gender differences.

Recent advances and findings, such as the connection between severe obstructive sleep apnoea and increased risk of stroke and elevated blood pressure, provide the foundation for new research and the development of improved treatments.  The plan provides an opportunity for future research to continue to define the role of sleep as a fundamental requirement of daily life and learn why a wide range of health, performance, and safety problems emerge when sleep and circadian rhythms are disrupted.

To view a complete copy of the 2011 NIH Sleep Disorders Research Plan visit: www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/prof/sleep/index.htm

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