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TSGQ registered nurse and polysomnographic technician Travis Bell joined 612 ABC radio presenter Kelly Higgins-Devine to discuss sleep disorders on 2nd February 2015.

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Scientists have found that that activation of cholinergic neurons - those that release the neurotransmitter acetylcholine -- in two brain stem structures can induce REM sleep in an animal model. Better understanding of mechanisms that control different sleep states is essential to improved treatment of sleep disorders.

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Going to bed early could help individuals avoid repetitive negative thinking, according to a recent study. According to the authors, repetitive negative thinking is "defined as an abstract, perseverative, negative focus on one's problems and experiences that is difficult to control."

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In a recent US study results indicated that poor sleep may be an early warning sign for addictive and “regretful” behaviour; such as alcohol problems, illicit drug abuse and sexual behaviour. US researchers reviewed the sleep patterns of 6500 adolescents in combination with drug and alcohol habits, between 1994 and 2002.

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Scientists at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) have discovered a link between sleep loss and cell injury. Results of a new study find sleep deprivation causes the damage to cells, especially in the liver, lung, and small intestine. Recovery sleep following deprivation heals the damage.

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New research confirms that sleep disturbances are linked to pain and depression, but not disability, among patients with osteoarthritis (OA).  Results from a new study found that poor sleep increases depression and disability, but does not worsen pain over time.

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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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