Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sleep Apnea

Do you know someone who stops breathing several times an hour for the duration of several seconds to a minute or longer? If you do, you may know someone who suffers from sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which an individual either stops breathing many times during the night or has shallow breathing while he or she sleeps. Sometimes a person who has stopped breathing will give a noisy choking sound or snort when he or she resumes breathing again.

While individuals with sleep apnea may feel very tired during the day due to poor sleep quality, they often do not know they stop breathing during sleep. Rather, it is typically a family member, spouse, or partner who notices the shallow breathing or breathing pauses that occur during sleep.

Three types of sleep apnea exist:

Obstructive sleep apnea: Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when something either blocks the airway or the airway collapses during sleep, causing a person to stop breathing. This is the most common type of sleep apnea.

Central sleep apnea: Central sleep apnea occurs when a person's brain does not send the right signals or messages to the breathing muscles in the body. According to the National Institute of Health, snoring does not usually occur with central sleep apnea.

Mixed sleep apnea: In mixed sleep apnea, both obstructive and central sleep apnea are present and account for breathing difficulties during sleep.

If left untreated, sleep apnea may lead to any of the following, according to the National Institute of Health: irregular heartbeat, increases the risk for heart failure, increases the risk of suffering from diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, obesity, and/or stroke, and increases the likelihood of having a driving or work-related accident.

Fortunately, sleep apnea can be treated. I will discuss the treatment options for sleep apnea in my next post.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Narcolepsy Treatment

Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that is very disruptive to one's life. As was discussed in my last post, individuals with Narcolepsy suffer from excessive sleepiness throughout the day and an incredible urge to take brief naps, which may or may not be refreshing and relieve sleepiness for a period of time.

While there is currently no standard treatment for Narcolepsy, the symptoms of the disorder can be managed using a combination of techniques.

First, medication can be prescribed to help alleviate sleepiness during the daytime. Medications typically prescribed to manage Narcolepsy include stimulants, such as Ritalin and Provigil, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) anti-depressants, such as Paxil and Zoloft, and/or tricyclic antidepressants, such as Vivactiil.

Many individuals also develop depression as a result of the sleep attacks associated with Narcolepsy. It is normal for individuals who feel as if they have little or no control over their lives to develop depression.

In order to treat depression, individuals may seek counseling from a social worker, psychologist, or other licensed therapist and/or go to a support group. Anti-depressants may also be prescribed by a physician or psychiatrist in order to treat depression associated with Narcolepsy.

Finally, incorporating specific behavioral changes into one's day can help individuals who suffer with Narcolepsy manage symptoms. Obtaining and maintaining good sleep hygiene is an essential part of managing Narcolepsy. Please visit my post on sleep hygiene to learn what good sleep hygiene is.

Other behavioral practices that can help manage Narcolepsy effectively include taking a few short naps during the day spanning 10-15 minutes each, avoiding operating heavy machinery, driving, and other dangerous tasks whenever possible, exercising regularly, breaking up large and/or tedious tasks into smaller ones, and avoiding ingesting caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.

Additionally, alerting your family, friends, boss, and co-workers to your condition may be helpful to you, as these individuals can help you recall things that happen at work or home if you are unexpectedly hit with a sleep attack. Wearing a medical identification bracelet is also a good idea to alert medical professionals to your condition in any case that you are unable to tell them yourself.

Narcolepsy is a difficult sleeping disorder to handle, but there are treatment options available that may help you or someone you know who suffers from this condition. If you think you suffer from Narcolepsy, talk to your doctor about your symptoms.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Narcolepsy - Sleep Attacks

In high school, when I first became interested in psychology, I was taking a psychology class taught by my high school. I remember learning about the different sleeping disorders and the way I learned to remember what Narcolepsy was, was to think about my cat.

My cat, like most cats, would suddenly stop walking around, lay down on the floor, and begin sleeping. When my sister and I learned that this behavior is seen as Narcolepsy in humans, we started calling our kitty a "Narcoleptic cat."

Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder in which individuals who are affected by it have irresistible sleep attacks, typically between 1-6 times each day. These individuals feel sleepiness and an irresistible urge to go to sleep, which can be perpetuated in situations that do not require a lot of energy, such as listening to a lecture in class, sitting in a meeting at work, or reading the newspaper.

Most people with Narcolepsy say they feel refreshed after a sleep attack, but some continue to feel sleepy. Sleep attacks generally last from 10-20 minutes, but can last for longer periods of time.

In my next post, I'll talk about how Narcolepsy can be treated.

Here's to wishing you a good night's sleep!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Getting Sleep

I don't know about everyone else, but I've been feeling very stressed lately. I've been having more trouble sleeping, and thought I'd share a technique that tends to help me. I hope some of my ideas help you, too.

Writing in my journal really helps me get all of my worries down on paper and out of my head for a while. When I do this, I can sleep better because I've already organized my thoughts and feelings.

If I eat a small snack and have some milk, I tend to be able to get to sleep better as well.

What do you do to help you sleep? The comments section is open for anyone and everyone to comment!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Developing Good Sleep Hygiene to Improve Sleep

If you are struggling with sleep difficulties, before you consider taking prescription medication to aid in your sleep, you should ensure you have good sleep hygiene. Good sleep hygiene helps many people get to sleep and stay asleep through the night effectively.

First, set a regular sleeping schedule for yourself. Ensure that you fall asleep and get up at the same time everyday, no matter what. If you cannot fall asleep within a half an hour of laying down, get up and read a book or magazine for a half an hour and try to sleep again. Regardless of what time you actually end up falling asleep, you need to go to bed and get up at the same time every day.

You also need to avoid caffeine at least 4-6 hours before you go to bed. This may be challenging, but it is an important part of good sleep hygiene. If you drink coffee, soda, or tea, make sure it doesn't have caffeine 4-6 hours prior to bedtime.

Before you go to sleep, try to do something relaxing. Take a bubble bath, read a good book, listen to some soft music, or practice some relaxation techniques. Personally, I love to listen to Enya before I sleep. I find her music soothing and relaxing.

Another thing to remember is to avoid naps during the day if at all possible. You may be tired if you didn't get adequate sleep the night before, but napping during the day makes it more difficult to sleep at night. If you must nap, nap for 30-45 minutes at the most.

Your sleep environment also needs to be conducive to sleeping. You need to find a comfortable temperature for your room - not too hot or too cold, comfortable blankets and sheets, and comfortable sleeping clothes. Additionally, refrain from using your room as an office or workspace, as this often leads to sleeping difficulties.

Before you go to sleep, you may want to have a light snack and warm milk. Warm milk tends to help people sleep.

Try to let go of your worries, frustrations, and concerns before you sleep. Worry can keep you awake at night, preventing you from attaining adequate sleep.

Taking these steps will help you develop good sleep hygiene. Developing good sleep hygiene may help you more than you think. It's certainly worth developing good sleep hygiene before you consider taking medication to induce sleep.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Primary Hypersomnia

Primary Hypersomnia is the opposite of Primary Insomnia. Primary Hypersomnia is constituted by excessive sleep or sleepiness. Individuals with hypersomnia sleep for extended periods of time or sleep frequently during the day. These symptoms must occur over a month's period of time for a diagnosis to be made.

Additionally, the hypersomnia must not be better accounted for by another mental illness, medical condition, or substance abuse.

Some of the medications used to treat hypersomnia include tricyclic anti-depressants, manoamine oxidase inhibitors, levadopa, modafinil, amantadine, and pemoline.

Sleep hygiene may also be useful for treating hypersomnia, though its success rate is lower than that of medical treatment.

In my next post, I will discuss sleep hygiene practices that may help with both insomnia and hypersomnia.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Mind Exercise

Here's a little test to exercise your brain.

How many colors can YOU name in five minutes? I could name 37.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


We've all had them. Those nights where it's seemingly impossible to sleep. Or the nights we toss and turn and can't seem to get comfortable.

However, the occasional sleepless night doesn't constitute insomnia. Insomnia is a consistent problem. Insomnia is defined by having trouble falling asleep or maintaining sleep for the duration of at least one month. According the the DSM-IV-TR an individual can only be diagnosed with insomnia when mental illness, substance abuse, and medical conditions are ruled out as the cause of the sleeping problems.

Insomnia interferes with an individual's social, occupational, academic, and/or personal life.

While some individuals need prescription sleeping aids to manage insomnia, others are able to manage it naturally. Please see the post below for some natural ways to battle insomnia.

How to battle insomnia naturally

Practically everyone suffers an occasional sleepless night. When this happens, there are some things you can do to help you fall asleep more effectively.

In my article I talk about how you can naturally fall asleep, with home remedies or with certain herbs.

To learn how you can naturally battle insomnia, please visit my article.

Here to good sleep!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Stages of Sleep

Before I discuss specific sleeping disorders and problems in this blog, I feel it is important to understand the stages of sleep.

There are five stages of sleep: stage 1, stage 2, stage 3, stage 4, and REM (rapid eye movement), which is probably what most individuals are most familiar with. During the time you sleep, your body cycles through each of the stages several times.

Stage 1: In stage 1 sleep, an individual begins to lose conscious awareness. Some people may experience certain types of hallucinations in this stage of sleep, which are known as hypnagogic hallucinations.

Stage 2: In stage 2 sleep, conscious awareness is lost.

Stage 3: Stage 3 sleep constitutes the beginning of deep sleep. It is in this stage that sleepwalking, bed wetting, and night terrors occur.

Stage 4: Stage 4 sleep is a continuation of stage 3 sleep. Stage 4 sleep is also deep sleep.

It appears that muscle and bone are built, the immune system is strengthened, and tissue is regenerated during deep sleep.

REM: In individuals who do not suffer from sleeping disorders, breathing and heart rate increase in speed and eyes move around rapidly (hence the term Rapid Eye Movement for this stage of sleep). Most of a person's memorable dreams occur in REM sleep.

Infants and children may spend up to 50% of their sleeping time in REM while adults may only spend 20% of their sleep time in REM.

As you sleep the time you spend in REM sleep increases. For instance, the first time you go into REM sleep, it only typically lasts for 10 minutes. But you may spend up to one hour in REM sleep in the last sleep cycle of the night.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Sleep IQ

National Sleep Awareness Week was March 3-9 this year, and while we are at the close of the week, I've decided I am going to do my next series on healthy sleep, sleep cycles, and sleep disorders.

To start, discover how much you already know about sleep with this Sleep IQ test!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A Diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease May Produce Feelings of Relief for Patients and Caregivers

A new study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society shows that telling patients and caregivers about a diagnosis of Alzheimer's early on does not cause increased depressed mood, as doctors had previously thought.

The current study was conducted at Washington University's School of Medicine. Participants for the study were recruited when potential patients called to make an appointment with the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center.

A total of 90 patients and their caregivers participated in the study. Before each patient underwent an evaluation at the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, they were asked questions about their mood, expectations for their evaluation, and their family history.

Participants and caregivers were also called two days after their appointment at the Center and were asked questions about their mood and their diagnosis.

Sixty-nine percent of participants were given a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. The researchers found that both the patients and caregivers levels of depression did not increase significantly, while their levels of anxiety decreased dramatically.

The authors of this study assert that both patients and caregivers feel a sense of relief when they receive a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. They hypothesize this is the case because when a diagnosis of Alzheimer's is made early, patients can take an active part in planning their future treatment. An early diagnosis of Alzheimer's also allows physicians to prescribe their patients medication that can delay Alzheimer's symptoms. Delaying symptoms may also delay the need for patients to be placed into a nursing home.

The authors also suggest caregivers feel relief when they get the diagnosis of Alzheimer's because they can prepare for the future as well.

The authors indicate this is the first study that has examined both patient and caregiver feelings about a diagnosis of Alzheimer's shortly after they received it.

I think a major limitation to this study is that the researchers did not continue to follow-up with the patients and caregivers beyond the two-day period. It is unclear if there is merely a sense of relief immediately after the diagnosis is given or if this relief continues for weeks or months after the diagnosis. I think future research should examine patient and caregiver feelings weeks and months after they received a diagnosis of Alzheimer's in order to determine how long the sense of relief lasts.

If you would like to learn more about this study please visit:

If you would like to learn more about Alzheimer's disease, you may visit my article about the disease or the Alzheimer's Association.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Treatment of ADHD with Stimulants Not Indicative of Future Substance Abuse

A new study indicates that children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder treated with stimulant drugs are not at increased risk for substance abuse as adolescents or young adults.

Prior research on individuals treated with stimulants for ADHD has produced mixed results as to whether or not these individuals are at increased risk for future drug and/or alcohol abuse.

The most recent study, which is set for publication in the American Journal of Psychiatry included 100 male adolescents and young adults, 10 years after they were initially diagnosed as having ADHD.

The results of the study indicated that 73% of all participants had been treated with stimulant in the past for ADHD and 22% were currently being treated with stimulant drugs.

The results indicated that participants treated with stimulant drugs for ADHD were neither at increased or decreased risk for developing alcohol and/or drug use problems in the future.

The authors of this study assert this study is unique because it is the largest longitudinal study of its kind and takes into account the diagnosis of Conduct Disorder, which is associated with substance abuse.

Monday, March 3, 2008

FDA Approves New Anti-Depressant, Prestiq

On February 29th the Food and Drug Administration approved a new anti-depressant, Prestiq, made by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.

Prestiq is a serotonin-norepinepherine re-uptake inhibitor (SNRI). According to Wyeth, the new anti-depressant takes a different pathway in the brain than Effexor does (which is also manufactured by Wyeth).

The FDA required Wyeth to conduct clinical trials with the new drug before they approved it. Wyeth conducted four eight-week clinical, double-blind studies where some participants received Prestiq and others received a placebo. Prestiq was shown to effectively treat the symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder.

According to Wyeth, the most common side-effects of Prestiq in clinical trials were sleepiness, dizziness, hyperhidosis, insomnia, nausea, male sexual dysfunction disorders, anxiety, decreased appetite, constipation, and anxiety.

The FDA has approved Prestiq for the treatment of Major Depressive Disorder in adults only.

Prestiq will be available on the United States' market later this year.

For more information, you may visit Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.

Consequences of Verbal Abuse

Not only is verbal abuse hurtful at the time of abuse, it has lasting consequences as well.

Individuals who endure verbal abuse on a regular basis, such as from parents, close friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, fiances, and/or husbands/wives, suffer many psychological effects.

Those who endure verbal abuse may experience any number of the following side-effects of the abuse:

-Low self-esteem
-Low self-confidence
-Decreased enthusiasm
-Distrust in other relationships
-Doubting one's ability to communicate effectively
-Doubting one's own perceptions
-A feeling that he or she must be "on guard" all of the time
-The development of an internal "critical voice"
-A tendency to analyze/examine situations to try to figure out what he or she did "wrong"
-Wishing he or she wasn't the way he or she is
-Fear that one is crazy or going crazy
-Wanting to run away or escape
-Hesitancy in accepting one's own perceptions and/or coming to conclusions

When the victim of verbal abuse doubts himself or herself, his/her perceptions, thoughts, experiences, and feelings, the verbal abuser feels confident that he or she is successfully gaining control over the person he or she is abusing.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Verbal Abuse - Forgetting

Another type of verbal abuse is forgetting. While it is perfectly normal for everyone to forget things occasionally, a verbal abuser will "forget" things consistently.

Verbal abusers may "forget" incidents that were upsetting to his or her partner, arguments, and discussions. He or she may also "forget" important commitments, dates, and promises he or she made to his or her partner.