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Public Health, Research, Sleep

Why sleeping in on the weekends may not be beneficial to your health

Why sleeping in on the weekends may not be beneficial to your health

tired_072214Many of us, myself included, use the weekends to pay off the sleep debt we accrued during the work week. However, excessive sleeping can often leave us feeling more fatigued. A piece published today on Wired Science examines this phenomenon and discusses why clocking extra hours of shut-eye doesn’t necessarily benefit our health. Nick Stockton writes:

Oversleeping feels so much like a hangover that scientists call it sleep drunkenness. But, unlike the brute force neurological damage caused by alcohol, your misguided attempt to stock up on rest makes you feel sluggish by confusing the part of your brain that controls your body’s daily cycle.

Your internal rhythms are set by your circadian pacemaker, a group of cells clustered in the hypothalamus, a primitive little part of the brain that also controls hunger, thirst, and sweat. Primarily triggered by light signals from your eye, the pacemaker figures out when it’s morning and sends out chemical messages keeping the rest of the cells in your body on the same clock.

Scientists believe that the pacemaker evolved to tell the cells in our bodies how to regulate their energy on a daily basis. When you sleep too much, you’re throwing off that biological clock, and it starts telling the cells a different story than what they’re actually experiencing, inducing a sense of fatigue. You might be crawling out of bed at 11am, but your cells started using their energy cycle at seven. This is similar to how jet lag works.

The article goes on to explain that past research has shown that, “If you’re oversleeping on the regular, you could be putting yourself at risk for diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.”

Previously: The high price of interrupted sleep on your health, Examining how sleep quality and duration affect cognitive function as we age, What are the consequences of sleep deprivation? and BBC study: Oh, what a difference an hour of sleep makes
Photo by Stephen Poff

Parenting, Sleep, Women's Health

What other cultures can teach us about managing postpartum sleep deprivation

What other cultures can teach us about managing postpartum sleep deprivation

New_mom_072114Prior to becoming a mom, I felt fully confident that caring for a newborn would be less demanding than, or at least equal to, the physically grueling trainings from my college soccer days or my sleepless year of graduate school. But I soon learned that both of these experiences paled in comparison to the exhaustion I encountered after the arrival of my 8-pound-plus bundle of joy. So I was interested to read a recent Huffington Post blog entry from the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine examining how mothers in other countries cope with postpartum sleep deprivation.

In the entry, Mara Cvejic, MD, a neurologist at the University of Florida and former sleep medicine fellow at Stanford, notes that although sleep deprivation can profoundly affect cognitive function and mood, the brain of a postpartum mom is actually growing. She writes:

… despite all the formidable evidence of sleep deprivation in the everyday person, the scientific evidence of what happens to the postpartum brain is positively astounding — it thrives. A study published by the National Institutes of Health in 2010 actually shows that a mother’s brain grows from just 2-4 weeks to 3-4 months post delivery without any significant learning activities. The gray matter of the parietal lobe, pre-frontal cortex, hypothalamus, substantia nigra, and amygdala all form new connections and enlarge to a small degree. The imaging study confirms what animal studies have shown in the past — that these brain regions responsible for complex emotional judgment and decision-making actually bulk up with use. Rationale to the study shows that mothers who have positive interactions with their offspring — soothing, nurturing, feeding, and caring for them — are performing a mental exercise of sorts. Their learned coping skills in the face of novel child-rearing actually muscularize their brain.

She goes on to outline how new moms from Bulgaria to Sweden, and everywhere in between, turn to “hammocks, spa treatments, hired help, warm foods, arctic cradles, and cardboard” to cope with a lack of sleep. Personally, I’m in favor of Americans adopting this Malaysian tradition:

Food and warmth are also a focus of the Malaysian confinement of pantang. Steeped in the belief that the women’s life force is her fertile womb, she undergoes a 44-day period of internment to focus on relaxation, hot stone massage, lulur (full body exfoliation), herbal baths, and hot compresses. Typically a bidan, what can only be described as a live-in midwife and nanny combined, is hired to attend on the new mother. This is sometimes a family member, such as her mother or mother-in-law.

Previously: The high price of interrupted sleep on your health, What are the consequences of sleep deprivation? and Study: Parents may not be as sleep-deprived as they think
Photo by sean dreilinger

Patient Care, Pediatrics, Research, Technology

How virtual visits can help children in the hospital reduce stress, speed up recovery

How virtual visits can help children in the hospital reduce stress, speed up recovery

Past research has shown that patients in the hospital experience less nerve-related pain and recover more quickly when they have visitors. Now findings recently published in Pediatrics show that virtual visits are equally beneficial.

In the study, researchers at the University of California, Davis Children’s Hospital analyzed the effectiveness of Family-Link, a program that provides webcams, laptops and Internet access to pediatric patients. Researchers assessed the anxiety levels of roughly 230 children who used the teleconferencing service and 135 who did not when they were admitted to the hospital and discharged using the Parent-Guardian Stress Survey. According to a Futurity post:

Overall, children who used Family-Link felt less stressed compared to those who did not use the program. The effect was even more pronounced for children who lived closer to the hospital and had shorter hospitalizations. This group experienced a 37 percent stress reduction when using Family-Link.

“This study shows that we have another tool to help children during their hospital stays,” says Yang. “The improvement in stress scores shows that Family-Link is really helping many children and might possibly be improving outcomes.”

Previously: Using the iPad to connect ill newborns, parents

Addiction, Emergency Medicine, Public Health, Research, Technology

Text messages after ER visit could reduce young adults’ binge drinking by more than 50 percent

Text messages after ER visit could reduce young adults' binge drinking by more than 50 percent

Bar_texting_0701414Researchers have demonstrated that text message programs can, among other things, help diabetes patients better manage their condition, assist smokers in kicking their nicotine habit, and encourage expecting mothers to get flu shots.

Now new findings published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine show that text messages can also be an effective tool for reducing binge drinking among young adults whose hazardous alcohol use has resulted in an emergency room visit. During a 12-week study, 765 patients who were treated in the emergency room and screened positive for a history of hazardous drinking were divided into three groups. The first group received text messages prompting them to respond to drinking-related queries and received text messages in return offering feedback aimed at either strengthening their low-risk drinking plan or promoting reflection on their drinking plan or decision not to set a low-risk goal. Another group received only text queries about their drinking, and the remaining individuals received no text messages.

A story published today on PsychCentral reports on the researchers’ results:

The group receiving both text message queries and feedback decreased their self-reported binge drinking days by 51 percent and decreased the number of self-reported drinks per day by 31 percent.

The groups that received only text messages or no text messages increased the number of binge drinking days.

“Illicit drugs and opiates grab all the headlines, but alcohol remains the fourth leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.,” said [Brian Suffoletto, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine].

“If we can intervene in a meaningful way in the health and habits of people when they are young, we could make a real dent in that tragic statistic. Alcohol may bring them to the ER, but we can do our part to keep them from becoming repeat visitors,” [he added].

Previously: CDC explores potential of using smartphones to collect public health data, Could better alcohol screening during doctor visits reduce underage drinking?, Personality-based approach can reduce teen drinking and The costs of college binge drinking
Photo by Anders Adermark

Big data, Media, Stanford News

Stanford’s Big Data in Biomedicine chronicled in tweets, photos and videos

Stanford's Big Data in Biomedicine chronicled in tweets, photos and videos

we_heart_big_data

At this year’s Big Data in Biomedicine conference, a crowd of close to 500 people gathered at Stanford to discuss how advances in computational processing power and interconnectedness are changing medical research and the practice of medicine. Another 1,000 virtual attendees joined in the discussion via the live webcast, and several hundred participated in the conversation on social media.

We’ve captured a selection of the tweets, photos, videos and blog posts about the conference on the School of Medicine’s Storify page. On the page, you’ll find an interview with Philip Bourne, PhD, associate director for data science at the National Institutes of Health, talking about on the importance of “data to the biomedicine enterprise,” news stories on how big data holds the potential to improve everything from drug development to personalized medicine, and official conference photos and twitpics from attendees. You’ll also find a conference group photo and recap of the event written by my colleague Bruce Goldman.

For those of you missed the event, and for those who want to participate again, our next Big Data in Biomedicine conference has been scheduled for May 20-22, 2015.

Previously: Videos of Big Data in Biomedicine keynotes and panel discussions now available online, Rising to the challenge of harnessing big data to benefit patients and Discussing access and transparency of big data in government
Photo by Saul Bromberger

In the News, Neuroscience, Research, Stanford News

A spotlight on Stanford scientists’ use of deep-brain stimulation to eavesdrop on problem neural circuits

A spotlight on Stanford scientists' use of deep-brain stimulation to eavesdrop on problem neural circuits

Earlier this week, KTVU-TV aired a segment highlighting Stanford scientists’ ongoing research using deep-brain stimulation to control Parkinson’s patients’ tremors and record brain activity. A patient interviewed for the piece said the treatment “made a huge difference in my life” and called it “revolutionary.” More from the piece:

The new stimulator nicknamed “brain radio” is developed by Medtronic and tested by [Stanford neurologist Helen Bronte-Stewart, MD, and colleagues.]

“We can for the first time record the neural activity in the brain directly from the deep brain stimulator in somebody’s chest,” she said.

Despite decades of research, doctors have only a sketchy ideas of how the brain works, but now using Medtronic’s device they are for the first time opening a window into the human brain.

“I would think there will be developments that we don’t really know about right now that will come from some of the things we find out as we do this research,” said Bronte-Stewart.

Previously: Stanford conducts first U.S. implantation of deep-brain-stimulation device that monitors, records brain activity

Parenting, Public Health, Research, Sleep

The high price of interrupted sleep on your health

The high price of interrupted sleep on your health

dad_baby_nap_time

As the mother of a 10-month-old, I’m constantly answering the question: Is your son sleeping through the night? And, much to my dismay, I have to repeatedly answer, “No.” So I was interested, and considerably alarmed, to read about new findings showing that interrupted sleep could be as harmful to your physical health as a lack of sleep.

A Time article published today describes the study and the Tel Aviv University researchers’ results:

Students slept a full eight-hours one night followed by a night of interrupted sleep in which they received four phone calls directing them to complete a brief computer exercise before returning to bed. The morning after both nights, the volunteers completed tasks to measure their attention span and emotional state — results proved that just one night of interrupted sleep had negative effects on mood, attention span and cognitive ability.

[Lead researcher Avi Sadeh, PhD,] believes that several nights of fragmented sleep could have long-term negative consequences equivalent to missing out on slumber altogether. “We know that these effects accumulate and therefore the functional price new parents — who awaken three to ten times a night for months on end — pay for common infant sleep disturbance is enormous,” he said in a statement.

In addition to parents with young children, the findings are applicable to people in certain age groups that experience fragmented sleep, as well those with jobs where frequent night wakings are common.

Previously: Stanford expert: Students shouldn’t sacrifice sleep, What are the consequences of sleep deprivation? and Study: Parents may not be as sleep-deprived as they think
Photo by Christina Spicuzza

Parenting, Pregnancy, Technology, Women's Health

First-time moms often seek information online prior to first prenatal visit

First-time moms often seek information online prior to first prenatal visit

pregnant_laptopWhen I was eight weeks pregnant with my first child, I walked into my obstetrician’s office for my initial prenatal visit. I vividly remember being exhausted and sucking on watermelon lollipops for the entire two-hour appointment in an effort to relieve my morning sickness. While in the office, a nurse handed me a thick folder stuffed with various pamphlets and fact sheets on everything from nutrition to genetic testing – but much of the information reviewed wasn’t new to me. I’d already logged plenty of hours online reading about such topics.

So I was interested to read today about findings of a Penn State study showing that many other first-time moms also turn to “Dr. Google,” as well as social media, to find answers during the early weeks of their pregnancy. Women also continued turning to the Internet for information after their doctor visit and found traditional literature lacking. From a release on the study, which appears in the Journal of Medical Internet Research:

Following the women’s first visit to the obstetrician, many of them still turned to the internet—using both search engines and social media—to find answers to their questions, because they felt the literature the doctor’s office gave them was insufficient.

Many of the participants found the pamphlets and flyers that their doctors gave them, as well as the once-popular book What to Expect When You’re Expecting, outdated and preferred receiving information in different formats.

They would rather watch videos and use social media and pregnancy-tracking apps and websites.

“This research is important because we don’t have a very good handle on what tools pregnant women are using and how they engage with technology,” says [Jennifer Kraschnewski, MD]. “We have found that there is a real disconnect between what we’re providing in the office and what the patient wants.”

Noting the prevalence of misinformation online, Kraschnewski added, “We need to find sound resources on the Internet or develop our own sources” [to refer patients to].

Previously: Text message reminders shown effective in boosting flu shot rates among pregnant women and Examining the effectiveness of text4baby service
Photo by Adam Selwood

Chronic Disease, Stanford News, Videos

Gracefully saying goodbye: Isabel Stenzel Byrnes shares lessons to help cope with losing loved ones

Gracefully saying goodbye: Isabel Stenzel Byrnes shares lessons to help cope with losing loved ones

Isabel Stenzel Byrnes and her identical twin sister Anabel were diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when they were only three days old. At the time, physicians told their parents it would be unlikely that they would survive to see their 10th birthday. Working together, the sisters completed rigorous daily respiratory and digestive treatment to maintain their health, and in their 20s, they received double lung transplants at Stanford Hospital & Clinics. The dynamic duo become forceful organ donor advocates and authored a memoir, titled The Power of Two, that inspired an award-winning documentary.

In this powerful and moving TEDxStanford talk, Byrnes shares her lifelong experience of practicing the art of saying goodbye. Over the past 30 years, she has said goodbye to 123 friends, including her sister, who died of cancer last October. To help others cope with loss, she discusses the lessons about bereavement that she’s learned along the way and outlines the choices we have in saying goodbye.

Previously: A spotlight on TEDxStanford’s “awe-inspiring” and “deeply moving” talks, Film about twin sisters’ double lung transplants and battle against cystic fibrosis available online, Meet the filmmakers behind “The Power of Two” and Living- and thriving- with cystic fibrosis

Cardiovascular Medicine, Genetics, Research, Stanford News

Stanford patient on having her genome sequenced: “This is the right thing to do for our family”

Stanford patient on having her genome sequenced: "This is the right thing to do for our family"

genomicsImagine you were diagnosed, seemingly out of the blue, with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition that is caused by mutations in genes involved in the heart’s muscle cells and is the most common cause of sudden death in young people. If given the chance, would you have your entire genome analyzed to understand more about your genetics and the condition? That’s the decision Julie Prillinger faced and, in the end, she embraced the opportunity to untangle the mystery of her DNA. “This is the right thing to do for our family – and our friends and family have been very supportive,” she said in a Stanford Medicine News story.

As described in the piece, Prillinger’s genome was among the first to be sequenced through a pilot program of the new Clinical Genomics Service at Stanford Hospital & Clinics. The pilot phase of the service is limited to specific patient groups, including: children with mystery diseases, patients with unexplained hereditary cancer risk, patients with inherited cardiovascular or neurological disease and those with severe, unexplained drug reactions. More details about the service from the article:

Stanford’s service will apply a highly integrated approach that includes professional genetic counseling, the most advanced genome sequencing technology available, and expert interpretation by molecular genetic pathologists and other physicians with expertise in this emerging and complex field.

The new service will be tied closely to other diagnostic genetic testing programs currently offered at the two hospitals. Those programs, which include molecular genetic pathology, cytogenetics and clinical biochemical genetics, have an outstanding record of compliance with the extensive regulatory requirements for diagnostic genetic testing.

In addition to providing Prillinger and her family with crucial information about their personal health, the results could reveal undiscovered information related to the condition encoded in the human genome, which may enable the expansion of current tests.

Previously: Using genetic testing to enhance students’ knowledge of personalized medicine, Ask Stanford Med: Genetics chair answers your questions on genomics and personalized medicine and Direct-to-consumer genetic testing: A commentary

Stanford Medicine Resources: