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Ask Stanford Med, Autoimmune Disease

A closer look at the autoimmune disease vasculitis

When various forms of news media last week reported the cause of death of Harold Ramis, the writer/director/actor, as complications from the “rare autoimmune disorder vasculitis,” I can promise you there were many people who read that and said, “Huh?” for very personal reasons. These are people who, like me, knew that these reports weren’t quite right. Vasculitis is actually a family of at least 15 forms of this disease group and one not so rare when all those who have some form (perhaps as many as 3 million) are added together.

Research and clinical trials on vasculitis have been carried on in a handful of centers around the world. One long-time investigator in this area, also a teacher and clinician, is here at Stanford: Cornelia Weyand, MD, PhD, division chief of immunology and rheumatology. Wayand’s e-mail box was flooded last week, so we asked her to answer some basic questions here about the vasculitis family.

I understand the vasculitides are a family of diseases. Is there something all forms have in common?

A diagnosis of vasculitis means that there is inflammatory disease in the blood vessels.

All organ systems in the body have blood vessels. Therefore, all organ systems can be affected by vasculitis. Blood vessels provide oxygen and nutrients to the tissues. Inflamed blood vessels have a tendency to become blocked. In that case, the tissues do not get blood supply anymore, causing serious complications. In some cases, the inflamed blood vessel bursts, causing life-threatening bleeding. This complication is particularly serious if the body’s largest blood vessel, the aorta, is affected. A leak in the aorta is incompatible with life.

What insights into vasculitis have we gotten from research?

My research team has been involved in vasculitis research for the last decade. We have been trying to find answers to the questions most patients ask at one point in the course of their disease:

A. Why did I get this disease?

Vasculitis results from a faulty immune response. Cells of the immune system attack the blood vessel and cause tissue injury. The blood vessel responds to the attack by either closing up or by rupturing. We have been able to identify the immune cells that initiate and sustain vasculitis. Remarkably, cells that induce disease are identical to cells that protect the body. We have also learned that blood vessels have specialized sensor cells in them that keep a dialogue with the immune system and start the inflammation.

B. How can my disease be treated or prevented?

We cannot prevent vasculitis, but since the disease takes a course of flares and remission, we may be able to prevent the next disease flare.

Vasculitis is treated by suppressing the immune system. One of the most effective drugs is cortisone. Some patients need it in large doses and we are very cognizant of side effects.

We have devoted our research effort to develop new means of therapy. To accomplish that goal, we have developed a system in which we can induce vasculitis and then test new therapies. This system involves the transplantation of human blood vessels into mice. If such mice are supplied with immune cells from our patients, vasculitis develops in the engrafted blood vessel. We can treat that inflammation in the mice and can easily take a biopsy from the blood vessel to check what we have achieved and how therapy actually works.

C. How do you know whether my disease is active or not?

This is one of our greatest challenges as we take care of our patients. We cannot just go and take a tissue biopsy of our patients every time they come and see us. We have a research project in place which is aimed at developing biomarkers of vasculitis in a blood sample. We isolate out the immune cells of the patient and, by applying cutting edge technology, we assess these immune cells to get information how likely or unlikely these cells would cause inflammation.

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Ask Stanford Med, Health and Fitness

When it comes to holiday exercise, "something is better than nothing"

When it comes to holiday exercise, "something is better than nothing"

snowy run

Worried about maintaining your work-out routine during this busy holiday season? In a 2011 Scope Q&A, Joyce Hanna, associate director of Stanford’s Health Improvement Program, offered some tips on how to stay fit and active this time of year. When asked for suggestions on how to squeeze in a work-out amongst travel and festivities, she had this to say:

Chances are you’ll find that in spite of your good intentions there are times when you just won’t have time to do your planned exercise program. The most important thing to remember is that something is better than nothing. A study done at Stanford showed that breaking up a 30 minute exercise time into three shorter ten-minute segments produced significant health benefits.

I suggest to friends and family a “talk while we walk” date instead of a coffee or lunch date. Take advantage of the walking you’re doing while shopping. Walk briskly! Take the stairs, park far away, schedule meetings outside the office, walk down the hall to deliver a message instead of sending an e-mail, set a timer every 30 minutes to stand up and move. If you resist having an all-or-nothing attitude toward exercise, you’ll find that you can maintain your fitness level over the holidays.

Previously: A full workout in just seven minutes? Science says so!, Boosting willpower and breaking bad habits, Stanford nutritionist offers tips for eating healthy during the holidays, How to stay fit and active this holiday season and What you can do in thirty minutes a day
Photo by michael_bielecki

Ask Stanford Med, Medical Education, Patient Care, Research, Stanford News, Technology

Clinical informatics gains recognition as new medical sub-specialty

Clinical informatics gains recognition as new medical sub-specialty

diversityClinical informatics, a field at the intersection of clinical medicine and information technology, has reached a new milestone: Physicians can now become board-certified in this medical sub-specialty. Christopher Longhurst, MD, who is the chief medical information officer at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford and the leader of a new Stanford clinical informatics fellowship training program for physicians, talked with Scope about where this field has been and where it’s going.

First off, what exactly is clinical informatics?

In clinical informatics, we leverage information technology to improve outcomes for patients. Research has been done in this area since 1960s and 70s, but what’s different now is the ubiquitous nature of computing devices. Everybody has access to information and communications technologies. The majority of U.S. hospitals are implementing an electronic health record.

And yet electronic health records are not something most front-line doctors are really excited about – they can be seen as disruptive to the patient-care process. I really think we have yet to deliver on the promise of electronic health records. There’s a tremendous opportunity to use data in those records to build a health care system that can make personalized care recommendations and automatically learn from patients.

How is clinical informatics changing the way that medical discoveries are made?

The idea when I was in grad school was that randomized trials were the gold standard for medical evidence. But, increasingly, people are recognizing that this “level A” evidence is cost-prohibitive to generate. And the subjects are so narrowly selected that the results are not always generalizable. I know what medication to give a white male in his 50s because of high blood pressure, but what if I have a different kind of patient?

So a lot of people are advocating for a shift away from traditional trials, toward using enormous, anonymized data sets gleaned from existing electronic medical records. The idea is that you can make valid conclusions based on retrospective research if the data set is large enough.

That’s why we want to create a “patients like mine” button in every electronic health record that would essentially allow real-time comparative effectiveness studies. Then, if you’re treating a 40-year-old, half-Vietnamese, half-black woman for high blood pressure, you can instantly generate a similar cohort and see which medications have provided the best outcomes for those patients.

A “patients like mine” button would also help us start to understand what questions doctors ask. Today, we don’t always know what physicians’ information needs are. If we start to collect this meta-data, we can better focus randomized controlled trials so that they match doctors’ biggest questions.

How does Stanford lead the field?

Stanford is often considered the place where clinical informatics all started. The father of this field, Ted Shortliffe, MD, PhD, was a graduate student at Stanford when, in the 1970s, he wrote a software program called MYCIN to make decisions about prescribing antibiotics. MYCIN performed better at those decisions than your average internist. Shortliffe came back to Stanford in the early 80s and founded the division of medical informatics, now the Stanford Center for Biomedical Informatics Research, starting the Masters and PhD programs.

More recently, we have a really solid history of finding unique ways to use and study electronic medical records: For instance, we’ve provided automatic daily updates to parents whose infants are hospitalized in our neonatal intensive care unit, reduced unnecessary use of blood transfusions, assisted in selecting the appropriate IV fluid to give to kids and more, all under this one umbrella.

We have nine physicians who received the new board certification, placing us among the largest programs in the country.

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Ask Stanford Med, Complementary Medicine, Nutrition, Pain

Ask Stanford Med: Pain expert responds to questions on integrative medicine

Ask Stanford Med: Pain expert responds to questions on integrative medicine

rolfing2Sometimes the best medicine is staying healthy. As more Americans look for ways to improve their health, prevent disease and manage pain, the subject of complementary practices may enter more conversations between patients and physicians. So for this installment of Ask Stanford Med, we asked Emily Ratner, MD, clinical professor of anesthesiology, perioperative and pain medicine and co-director of medical acupuncture and the resident wellness program at Stanford, to respond to questions on integrative medicine. Her answers appear below.

As a reminder, these answers are meant to offer medical information, not medical advice. They’re not meant to replace the evaluation and determination of your doctor, who will address your specific medical needs and can make a diagnosis and provide appropriate care.

Mary says: Please speak about the efficacy of integrative medicine to alleviate multi-point pain from a variety of causes (ITP, OA, aging). A relative has doctor fatigue as well, and is not interested in anything else.

Integrative Medicine (IM) may be defined as the combination of conventional and nonconventional modalities chosen by a patient and physician in a patient-centered decision-making process in order to achieve the best outcome for an individual. Patients often seek nonconventional modalities when conventional medicine techniques are unable to achieve a particular goal, often pain relief or pain management. As a general rule, multi- and inter-disciplinary measures are often most helpful in relieving suffering from pain. These may include five general categories of nonconventional modalities, although there is overlap amongst the different types:

  • Mind-body medicine: meditation, hypnosis, biofeedback, guided imagery, yoga
  • Biologically based practices: uses substances found in nature – herbs, foods, vitamins, supplements
  • Manipulative/Body-based practices – massage, chiropractic/osteopathic manipulation
  • Whole medical systems: Traditional Chinese Medicine (includes acupuncture), Ayurveda, naturopathy
  • Energy Medicine – Reiki, Healing/Therapeutic touch, Qi Gong, acupuncture, yoga

Depending on patient preference, available resources in the community and other factors, a decision is made where to begin. I often recommend acupuncture as a place to start, closely followed by a mind-body medicine technique, as my experience is that stress plays a large role in either pain or the perception of pain. However, it largely depends on the individual’s needs and preferences.

Scope Editor asks: A recent study of herbal products found that most of those examined contained contaminants, substitutions and unlisted fillers among their ingredients. What are the implications of these findings, and how can consumers protect themselves when buying supplements?

This is a significant issue that highlights the need for increased supplement regulation, although the study to which you refer has been criticized for some of its conclusions. While FDA regulations for supplements are a bit stricter than for foods, the regulations are far less comprehensive than those for pharmaceutical agents.

That being said, product contamination with heavy metals, undisclosed pharmaceutical agents (especially in products from outside the U.S.), and inaccurate product ingredient amounts plague this field.

Until improved regulatory procedures are instituted, I suggest looking at a reputable database that independently tests these products, such as ConsumerLab.com. This and other independent organizations add their seal of approval to product labels that have tested either the products or the manufacturing practice involved in production of the substance. Look for the Consumer Lab seal or other seals: cGMP (current Good Manufacturing Practice), USP (United States Pharmacopeia), or NSF (another independent lab).

Some experts note that specific stores have strict quality control for their products – like Sam’s Club, Costco, Whole Foods – but I typically look up each individual product on a database (I use consumerlab.com) prior to recommending it.

Another option is to consult with a trained Integrative Medicine practitioner who has access to these databases and is knowledgeable about these products.

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Ask Stanford Med, Cardiovascular Medicine, Health Policy, In the News, Technology

Stanford expert weighs in on new guidelines for statin use

statinsAs you may have read, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology recently released a new set of guidelines for lowering cholesterol, along with an online risk-assessment calculator. But two independent reviewers found that the calculator’s design was flawed, overestimating many people’s risk for heart problems and potentially driving an over-prescription of statin drugs. (Their comments were posted today on The Lancet.) Controversy about the guidelines and online tool raised questions at the recent annual meeting of the American Heart Association and prompted a press briefing yesterday in which the two issuing organizations stood in support of the risk calculator.

Earlier this year, Mark Hlatky, MD, professor of health research policy and of cardiovascular medicine at Stanford, released a different sort of heart-related calculator, comparing five-year outcomes for two heart-disease interventions. I posed some questions to Hlatky about the the new online tool and guidelines; his answers appear below.

What are your thoughts on the design of the online risk calculator released with the new guidelines?

I’ve tested the spreadsheet in the guideline and agree that the risk estimates appear to be high. There are several possible reasons for this, but a key change is that the current version is to predict the risk of heart attack AND stroke, not just heart attack. So by design all the numbers are higher than prior calculators.

The other issue is that they have used different data than the prior “Framingham risk calculator” to produce these numbers, so there may be additional differences in the estimates from the ones everyone has been using.

New York Times piece includes comments from Johns Hopkins’ Michael Blaha, MD, who notes that the data sets used, from the 1990s, were too old to be accurate in determining how risk factors such as cholesterol level and blood pressure could lead to heart attacks and strokes in today’s population. Do you agree?

The overall risk of coronary disease in the population has been decreasing over time, so using older data to predict current risk might over-estimate the risk.  This is only a problem if the lower risk is due to factors OTHER than improvements in the traditional cardiac risk factors. For example, rates of smoking have gone down, so overall population risk is going down too. But that’s not necessarily a problem for the risk calculator because smoking is included in the calculator. But if all smokers have been smoking less, the risk attached to being a smoker today might be lower than the risk of being a smoker years ago.

What do you think are the implications of this controversy – for doctors, patients, and the medical research review process?

The controversy might confuse the public, so it’s a shame it couldn’t have been avoided. The review process appears to have been flawed, since this criticism was leveled earlier in the development of the guideline.

On a more substantive level, the risk level is now set so low (7.5 percent over 10 years) that many people in the population who have “optimal risk factor levels” (systolic blood pressure 110 or below, total cholesterol 170 or below, HDL cholesterol of 50 or above, no diabetes and non-smoker) would targeted for statin treatment simply on the basis of their age.  The calculator puts men age 63 and older with “optimal risk factor levels” at elevated risk, and all women age 71 and above with “optimal risk factor levels” at elevated risk. It’s a little hard for many to accept that everyone above a certain age should be on a statin, and there’s no direct evidence to back up this pretty sweeping recommendation.

Previously: Heart bypass or angioplasty? There’s an app for that, Exploring the cost-effectiveness of statin use among kidney patientsWider statin use may be cost-effective way to prevent heart attack, strokeNew test for heart disease associated with higher rates of procedures, increased spending and Stanford researcher cautions against widespread use of statins
Photo by AJC1

Ask Stanford Med, Complementary Medicine

Ask Stanford Med: Pain expert taking questions on integrative medicine

organic produce and Whole FoodsIntegrative medicine – the combination of traditional Western medicine with evidence-based, complementary approaches to health improvement, symptom management and disease prevention – encompasses many disciplines. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), one of the 27 members of the National Institutes of Health, oversees scientific research and informs decision-making in the area. NCCAM’s mission “to define, through rigorous scientific investigation, the usefulness and safety of complementary and alternative medicine interventions and their roles in improving health and health care” is upheld by a number of academic medical centers, including Stanford’s Center for Integrative Medicine.

If you’ve downed a spoonful of fish oil, taken vitamins or probiotics, visited a chiropractor, or engaged in deep breathing to manage pain, you’ve experienced a practice of integrative medicine. But for many, there’s a shroud of mystery around the subject, and while peer-reviewed research studies have been conducted on some aspects of the discipline, other practices require further study.

So for this edition of Ask Stanford Med, we’ve asked Emily Ratner, MD, a clinical professor of anesthesiology, perioperative and pain medicine and co-director of medical acupuncture and the resident wellness program at Stanford, to respond to your questions on integrative medicine.

Ratner’s research interests include the use of acupuncture to manage medical conditions and to address pain and side effects from surgery and cancer. She also studies physician and trainee burnout and resilience.

Questions can be submitted to Ratner by either sending a tweet that includes the hashtag #AskSUMed or posting your question in the comments section below. We’ll collect questions until Sunday, November 10 at 5 p.m.

When submitting questions, please abide by the following ground rules:

  • Stay on topic
  • Be respectful to the person answering your questions
  • Be respectful to one another in submitting questions
  • Do not monopolize the conversation or post the same question repeatedly
  • Kindly ignore disrespectful or off topic comments
  • Know that Twitter handles and/or names may be used in the responses
  • Ratner will respond to a selection of the questions submitted, but not all of them, in a future entry on Scope.

Finally – and you may have already guessed this – an answer to any question submitted as part of this feature is meant to offer medical information, not medical advice. These answers are not a basis for any action or inaction, and they’re also not meant to replace the evaluation and determination of your doctor, who will address your specific medical needs and can make a diagnosis and give you the appropriate care.

Previously: Director of Stanford Headache Clinic answers your questions on migraines and headache disordersStudy shows complementary medicine use high among children with chronic health conditions,Ask Stanford Med: David Spiegel answers your questions on holiday stress and depressionReport highlights how integrative medicine is used in the U.S. and Americans’ use of complementary medicine on the rise
Photo by ASSOCIATED PRESS

Ask Stanford Med, Fertility, Men's Health, Pregnancy, Stanford News, Women's Health

Ask Stanford Med: Expert in reproductive medicine responds to questions on infertility

Ask Stanford Med: Expert in reproductive medicine responds to questions on infertility

couple sitting2Infertility is a reality faced by 10 to 15 percent of U.S. couples. For some, the topic is emotionally charged. And while many may have questions related to reproductive endocrinology, research and treatment options may not be favorite table topics for a night out with friends. So for this edition of Ask Stanford Med, we’ve asked Valerie Baker, MD, the division chief of reproductive endocrinology and infertility and director of Stanford’s Program for Primary Ovarian Insufficiency, to respond to such questions about infertility. Her answers appear below.

@giasison asks: Can you name the 3 top causes of #infertility in your current practice?

Age-related decline in fertility (particularly decline in egg quantity and egg quality with age), sperm problems, and lack of ovulation.

Charmaine asks: Is it true that infertility could be a side effect of vaccination? Why?

No, vaccinations do not cause infertility.

Michelle asks: How have treatments for infertility evolved over the last 10 years? And what might treatments look like 10 years from now?

The biggest advance since the mid-90s has been our ability to help couples with extremely poor sperm quality to conceive. I hope that 10 years from now we will have treatments that help couples where a woman is suffering from premature loss of her egg supply to conceive with her own eggs. Right now, the main choice for women with extremely low egg supply and low egg quality is oocyte donation, where the egg comes from a donor.

Shabba92 asks: What are the most common treatments in your clinic? What percentage of patients wind up undergoing IVF?

The most common treatments are intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF). We also do ovulation induction for women who are not ovulating on their own and surgery if needed to correct certain problems. Many couples are able to conceive with simpler treatments and do not need IVF. Fewer than half need IVF.

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Ask Stanford Med, Fertility, Pregnancy, Stanford News, Women's Health

Five million babies and counting: Stanford expert offers conversation on reproductive medicine

Five million babies and counting: Stanford expert offers conversation on reproductive medicine

newbornEarlier this week, an international group announced that reproductive medicine techniques, such as in vitro fertilization, have led to the birth of 5 million babies since 1978. “This is a great medical success story,” a member of the International Committee for the Monitoring of Assisted Reproductive Technology said in a statement, pointing out that the number of these babies equals the population of the state of Colorado.

At Stanford, Valerie Baker, MD, heads up the academic division that focuses on reproductive medicine. From now until Monday evening, she’s taking questions on the topic, as well as on infertility in general. Readers can share what’s on their mind with her in the comments section of this blog entry or by sending a tweet that includes the hashtag #AskSUMed.

Previously: Ask Stanford Med: Expert in reproductive medicine taking questions on infertility, Oh, baby! Infertile woman gives birth through Stanford-developed technique, Stanford researchers work to increase the odds of in vitro fertilization success, Sex without babies, and vice versa: Stanford panel explores issues surrounding reproductive technologies and New test predicts the success of IVF treatment
Photo by Emery Co Photo

Ask Stanford Med, Fertility, Men's Health, Pregnancy, Stanford News, Women's Health

Ask Stanford Med: Expert in reproductive medicine taking questions on infertility

Ask Stanford Med: Expert in reproductive medicine taking questions on infertility

4223909842_e028c12f28An estimated 10 to 15 percent of couples in the United States are infertile. One or a number of factors may render a couple unable to conceive, including hormone imbalances or blockages of sperm movement in men, and ovulation problems arising from a variety of causes in women. Those who turn to fertility treatments, a recent study showed, can expect to pay more than $5,000 out of pocket on average, or upwards of $19,000 for in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Strides in research to overcome barriers to conception have included a recent Stanford-developed technique to promote egg growth in infertile women who have experienced early menopause. Senior author Aaron Hsueh, PhD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Stanford, collaborated with scientists here and at the St. Marianna University School of Medicine in Kawasaki, Japan on a procedure known as “in virto activation,” in which a portion of a woman’s ovary is removed, treated outside the body, and then returned near her fallopian tubes. Through this specialized structure, a participant in the study recently gave birth.

For this edition of Ask Stanford Med, we’ve asked Valerie Baker, MD, to respond to your questions about infertility. Baker, who offered insights on Hsueh’s study and its possible implications for patients in a video and article last month, is division chief of reproductive endocrinology and infertility and director of Stanford’s Program for Primary Ovarian Insufficiency. Her research and clinical interests include primary ovarian insufficiency, and assisted reproductive technology and hormone therapy for fertility and reproduction.

Questions can be submitted to Baker by either sending a tweet that includes the hashtag #AskSUMed or posting your question in the comments section below. We’ll collect questions until Monday, October 21 at 5 PM.

When submitting questions, please abide by the following ground rules:

  • Stay on topic
  • Be respectful to the person answering your questions
  • Be respectful to one another in submitting questions
  • Do not monopolize the conversation or post the same question repeatedly
  • Kindly ignore disrespectful or off topic comments
  • Know that Twitter handles and/or names may be used in the responses
  • Baker will respond to a selection of the questions submitted, but not all of them, in a future entry on Scope.

Finally – and you may have already guessed this – an answer to any question submitted as part of this feature is meant to offer medical information, not medical advice. These answers are not a basis for any action or inaction, and they’re also not meant to replace the evaluation and determination of your doctor, who will address your specific medical needs and can make a diagnosis and give you the appropriate care.

Previously: Researchers describe procedure that induces egg growth in infertile womenOh, baby! Infertile woman gives birth through Stanford-developed technique and Sex without babies, and vice versa: Stanford panel explores issues surrounding reproductive technologies
Photo by Dylan Luder

Ask Stanford Med, Sleep, Sports, Stanford News

Ask Stanford Med: Cheri Mah responds to questions on sleep and athletic performance

Ask Stanford Med: Cheri Mah responds to questions on sleep and athletic performance

US Open TennisWhether you’re a student-athlete superstar or the mayor of your local gym, chances are your performance on the field, court or treadmill could be influenced by the way you sleep. So for this installment of Ask Stanford Med, we’ve asked Cheri Mah, a researcher with the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory, to respond to questions on sleep and athletic performance. Below are her answers, along with some tips to help you get the most out of your nightly slumber. We hope this will help you consider which of your own sleep practices are working, and what you might want to reconsider.

Michelle asks: Can you give a summary of your  research to date showing that sleep might help athletes? And what kind of studies are you working on now?

For past few years, William Dement, MD, PhD, and I have been studying the impact of sleep extension on the athletic performance in elite athletes. My interest in specifically studying sleep duration and sleep quality in athletes stems from a study in 2002. By chance, several Stanford swimmers were in our study, and although we weren’t investigating athletic performance, they mentioned that they had set several personal records in their last swim meet!

Over subsequent years, we’ve examined the impact of sleep extension across many sports at Stanford including basketball, football, tennis, and swimming to compare similarities and differences across sports. Our findings from men’s basketball published in 2011 indicate that several weeks of sleep extension improves reaction time, mood, levels of daytime sleepiness, and specific indicators of athletic performance including free throws, 3 point field goals, and sprint time. These findings suggest that sleep duration is likely an important component of peak performance.

Additionally, our study suggests that significantly reducing an accumulated sleep debt from chronic sleep loss may require more than one night or weekend of recovery sleep. Although sleep is frequently overlooked and often the first to be sacrificed, sleep duration and sleep quality should be important daily considerations for athletes aiming to perform at their best.

Currently, we’re continuing our research on sleep extension and examining the impact on different aspects of performance in various sports. We’re  also investigating the habitual sleep habits and patterns of elite athletes. Since each sport has it’s own unique culture and training, we’re  interested in examining the similarities as well as differences across sports among the Stanford student-athlete population.

Emily asks: What sort of sleep-related work have you done with Stanford athletes over the years? What kind of feedback have you gotten from the students?

Aside from research,  I’ve worked over the years with various teams and athletes at Stanford to help improve and optimize their sleep and recovery.

For many athletes, it’s their first time diving deep into the impact of sleep on performance – they had never before focused on their sleep as an important component of their daily training beyond being told to “get a good night of sleep” before a game or competition. Many of the athletes I work with are surprised at the difference sleep can have on their training, performance, and even schoolwork! For many, it’s their first experience having a strategic approach to optimizing sleep and tracking their progress through a season. It’s often only in hindsight – after they’ve significantly reduced their sleep debt over several weeks – that many athletes realize they were operating at a sub-optimal level. Additionally, athletes often realize after extending their sleep that they need more hours of sleep than they previously thought to perform at their best. Some athletes have gone on to play at the professional level and have even been advocates of the importance of sleep on sports performance.

Several coaches have been quite interested in improving sleep and recovery in their team. They’re often aware that their athletes aren’t  properly rested and thus have been interested in both educating their athletes and implementing strategies to improve their team’s recovery. Some coaches have also consulted me on their travel schedules to minimize jet lag and optimize performance on the road.

Dr. Dement and I are also part of the Stanford Performance Enhancement Alliance, which serves Stanford athletes through a multidisciplinary approach to sports performance.

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