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Sleep Medicine

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Office workers with more light exposure at work had longer sleep duration, better sleep quality, more physical activity and better quality of life compared to office workers with less light exposure in the workplace.

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Can you be sleep deprived without knowing it? Sleep is not always prioritised however the implications can be devastating. Even one night sleep deprived can be impacting your body on a variety of different levels; physically and psychologically. The only way to know if you are getting consolidated sleep is to monitor with specialised equipment what is happening when you are asleep.

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In what may be the largest study of sleep problems among individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS), researchers at UC Davis have found that widely undiagnosed sleep disorders may be at the root of the most common and disabling symptom of the disease: fatigue. Study paticipant reports of sleep disorder frequency, sleep patterns and complaints of excessive daytime sleepiness suggest that sleep problems may be a hidden epidemic in the MS population.

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A sleep-promoting circuit located deep in the primitive brainstem has revealed how we fall into deep sleep. Discovered by researchers at Harvard School of Medicine and the University of Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, this is only the second "sleep node" identified in the mammalian brain whose activity appears to be both necessary and sufficient to produce deep sleep.  Using designer genes, researchers were able to 'turn on' specific neurons in the brainstem that result in deep sleep.

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Insomnia can cause chronic inflammation, which can lead to weight gain, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and earlier death. This study finds that curing the insomnia reduces the inflammation and hopefully reduces disease. It also found the best way to cure lack of sleep is through the use of a common psychotherapy treatment - cognitive behavioural therapy.

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Getting enough sleep is important to people of any age, but it is especially so for teenagers, with insufficient sleep possibly being linked to obesity as an adult.

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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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