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Sleep Medicine

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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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A New Way of Looking at Sleep

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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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