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Thoracic Medicine

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Sleep Medicine

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Health professionals around the world are becoming alarmed by the rapid growth rate of the e-cigarette industry, with the product being so new to the market that research into their long term health effects does not exist. Talks held in Melbourne by government funded VicHealth highlighted concerns for the unregulated industry overseas targeting the younger population.

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On September 28th someone could die……….Who will be the victim in The Simpsons season 26 premiere “Clown in the Dumps”? Homer Simpson, who has a newly-diagnosed sleep disorder could be a likely candidate. With a portly build and a large neck circumference, television’s most famous cartoon dad has long fit the profile of a person at-risk for sleep apnoea.

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Lack of sleep, already considered a public health epidemic, can also lead to errors in memory.  A new study found that participants deprived of a night’s sleep were more likely to distort the details of a simulated burglary they were shown in a series of images. "People who repeatedly get low amounts of sleep every night could be more prone in the long run to develop these forms of memory distortion," one researcher said. "It's not just a full night of sleep deprivation that puts them at risk."

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Up to 70% of Parkinson’s disease (PD) patients experience sleep problems that negatively impact their quality of life. A new article discusses the underlying causes of sleep problems in PD and describes the most appropriate diagnostic tools and treatment options.

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People diagnosed with depression need to step out for a cigarette twice as often as smokers who are not dealing with a mood disorder. Those who have the hardest time shaking the habit may have more mental health issues than they are actually aware of, research suggests. While the number of Australians who smoke declines, about 40 per cent of depressed people are in need of a regular drag.

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Are you having trouble sleeping, snoring, waking tired or unrefreshed, and becoming excessively sleepy throughout the day? A home based sleep study may be an appropriate option for you. Medicare offers rebates for one (1) home based sleep study per year.

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Insomnia

Do you have trouble sleeping at night? Does this affect your daily life?

Insomnia affects many different people. Sometimes people experience insomnia due to work or relationship stress, a noisy neighbour or temporary pain. This is not something of concern, however when insomnia lasts beyond these temporary causes, it is time to investigate the problem a little further.

What is insomnia?

Do you have trouble sleeping at night? Does this affect your daily life?

Insomnia is the inability to initiate or maintain sleep and is the most commonly reported sleep disorder in the western world. Approximately one third of people will suffer from insomnia at one stage of their life.

The word insomnia is derived from the greek ‘in’ meaning absence and ‘somno’ meaning sleep.

People suffering from insomnia commonly report:

  • Trouble falling asleep, which is called Sleep Onset Insomnia, or
  • Trouble staying asleep, called Sleep Maintenance Insomnia

Causes of Insomnia

All of these factors below can have a negative impact on your sleep and be a cause for insomnia.

Psychological Causes

Anxiety

Feeling a heightened sense of worry, tension, fear, uncertainty, apprehension and helplessness.

Stress

How well you cope with any emotional, social, economic, physical or other factors.

Depression

Feelings of despair, sadness and discouragement.

Environmental or Temporary Causes

Adjustment Sleep Disorder

This is when reaction to a life change or stress is causing sleeplessness. It is commonly referred to as ‘tossing and turning’.

Other temporary factors:

  • Jet Lag
  • Shift work
  • Medication side-effects
  • Overuse of Caffeine or Alcohol
  • Excessive noise, extreme temperatures or a change in surroundings.

Remember… insomnia can be an indication of an undiagnosed medical or psychological condition. If insomnia persists for more than a few weeks, ask your GP for a referral for a diagnostic sleep study.

Physical Causes

Medical conditions

Conditions such as allergies, arthritis, asthma, heart disease, high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism, and Parkinson's disease can all affect your sleep quality.

Hormone Changes in Women

Premenstrual syndrome, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause can all be causes of insomnia.

Decreased Melatonin

Melatonin is the hormone that helps control your sleep and it decreases as a person ages. By age 60, the body produces minimal melatonin and therefore people experience poorer sleep as they age.

Pain

Pain and discomfort from an injury or illness can often interfere with sleep.

Genetics

It has been recorded that problems sleeping do tend to run in the family, however we still are yet to find out why.

Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders such as Obstructive Sleep Apnoea where you temporarily stop breathing during sleep or periodic arm and leg movements can often be the root of insomnia.

Treatments for Insomnia

Treatment for insomnia varies greatly as it needs to refer to the cause of insomnia. Insomnia can be classed as primary or secondary.

If insomnia is the root condition, it is called primary insomnia and there are various methods of treatment:

  • cognitive behavioral therapy
  • exercise plan
  • diet plan
  • behavioral modification
  • environmental modification
  • sleep restriction therapy

Insomnia caused by another unrelated condition is called secondary insomnia and can usually be managed by treating the other condition.

Long term medication is not recommended for the treatment of insomnia

Sleep Diaries

An easy and effective way for to identify problems with your sleep pattern is by keeping a sleep diary.

A sleep diary is filled out every night and every morning, and includes things such as your bed time, your rising time, meal times, snack times, exercise times, medications, nap periods and level of tiredness.

All these details are looked at closely by the sleep scientists and physicians to identify potential causes for your insomnia

Download your sleep diary.

Tips On How to Sleep Well...

There are some general guidelines that help promote good sleep.

  1. Go to bed only when you are sleepy.
  2. If you are unable to fall asleep after about 20 minute, get out of bed. Leave your bedroom and do something relaxing. Come back to bed only when you are sleepy.
  3. Only use your bed for sleep, sex and to recover from illness.
  4. Wake up at the same time every day, including weekends and holidays.
  5. If you have trouble sleeping at night, avoid napping during the daytime. If you need to take a nap, make it less than one hour and take it before 3pm.
  6. Begin rituals to help you relax before bedtime, such as taking a warm bath or reading for a few minutes.
  7. Exercise on a regular basis, but do it earlier in the day.
  8. Maintain a regular daily schedule to keep your brain’s internal clock running smoothly.
  9. Eat a light snack before bedtime, but avoid a big meal.
  10. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes late in the day.
  11. Set aside time during the day to get all of your worries out of your system.
  12. Avoid sleeping pills or use them cautiously under the supervision of a doctor.
  13. Never drink alcohol while taking sleeping pills or other medications.
  14. Talk to your doctor or a sleep specialist if you have an ongoing problem related to your sleep.
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