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Sleep Medicine

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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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A New Way of Looking at Sleep

candle-in-the-dark
Australia’s free-to-air channel SBSOne recently aired an interesting documentary based on the premise that we only need a few hours of sleep a night  (if that), to function normally.

Michael Mosley, the presenter and guinea-pig of the show undertakes a mission to sustained wakefulness as long as he can. A former doctor himself, Mosley finds that after 48 hours of wakefulness, the agony is unbearable and proceeds to recover with a long night’s sleep. This was followed with a successful second attempt, only this time, assisted by the stimulant prescription medication Modafinil.

The notion of the documentary stems from claims made by Tony Wright and Graham Gynn, arguing that a diet of raw fruit changes the biochemistry in the brain, increasing human potential – including the amount of time needed for sleeping.  This interesting theory has gained popularity with a handful of neuroscientists and psychologists, however there no  published peer reviewed research supporting this hypothesis .

Indeed there is well documented research proving the value of power-naps, with much research showing dramatic hormonal, physiological and cerebrovascular changes in the brain during wake-sleep transitions, suggesting that short sleep periods can in fact have significant beneficial effects for a short period of time.

Other research has proven that there are specific times during which mammals are most likely to fall asleep (that is, sleepability increases). Providing a person can sustain wakefulness through these times (3-5pm and 2-4am), that correlate with core body temperature oscillations, the following period will prove easier to maintain wakefulness. Combining this research one could assume power-napping during these times of low core body temperature could potentially allow someone to sustain wakefulness for a rather long period of time.

Saying this however, there are multiple studies that repeatedly show the detrimental impacts on cognition, memory, mood, immune health, physical health and mental health following sleep deprivation. As of yet Wright’s theory is just that, a theory, with no apparent research to back it.

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