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In the News, Mental Health, Sleep, Stanford News

Good news: Many studies recommend downtime for increased productivity

Good news: Many studies recommend downtime for increased productivity

woman on beanbag chairIt’s fitting to be flagging a Scientific American article on the benefits of quality-of-life-enhancing practices such as time away from work, mindfulness meditation, and nature walks as I prepare to attend an intensive yoga-teacher training workshop called “Sensation: The Language of the Body.” (For the record, though, practicing authentic movement is more challenging for me than solving a calculus problem.) Okay, yogini, but how can rest from the daily grind affect, say, physicians?

From the piece:

In a 2002 study by Rebecca Smith-Coggins of Stanford University and her colleagues, 26 physicians and nurses working three consecutive 12-hour night shifts napped for 40 minutes at 3 A.M. while 23 of their colleagues worked continuously without sleeping. Although doctors and nurses that had napped scored lower than their peers on a memory test at 4 A.M., at 7:30 A.M. they outperformed the no-nap group on a test of attention, more efficiently inserted a catheter in a virtual simulation and were more alert during an interactive simulation of driving a car home.

The article reviews much research on a variety of topics and offers a good amount of context – including the siesta’s roots in the Roman Catholic Church – so fluff a bean bag chair, sign out of your work e-mail, and ease in to a good read.

Previously: Using mindfulness interventions to help reduce physician burnoutStudy finds less time worked not always linked to happiness, Ask Stanford Med: Answers to your questions about willpower and tools to reach our goals, Companies add nap rooms to perk up workers, boost productivity and Do siestas make you smarter?
Photo by Bekathwia

In the News, Research, Sleep, Sports, Stanford News

Expert argues that for athletes, “sleep could mean the difference between winning and losing”

Expert argues that for athletes, "sleep could mean the difference between winning and losing"

Boston CelticsGoodnight Butler Bulldogs, goodnight Boston Celtics. A recent article in the Boston Globe spotlights ways coaches of elite basketball teams are turning to scientific research on sleep to improve players’ performance on the court.

As outlined in the piece, Brad Stevens enlisted the help of Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory researcher Cheri Mah to help his Bulldogs play their best during a challenging travel schedule when he was their head coach. Charles Czeisler, MD, PhD, chief of the division of sleep medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and director of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School, has advised the Celtics on planning sleep for optimal results. And sleep influences more than stamina, coordination and muscular power: Czeisler points out that lack of sleep can lead to delayed reaction times, loss of control over emotions, and impaired consolidation of memories – all of which matter when playing ball.

From the article:

The optimal amount of sleep for an average person varies, but Mah and Czeisler each said it is around eight hours — though NBA players might need at least nine.

Many NBA players take pregame naps — Miami’s LeBron James and the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant swear by them — and Mah and Czeisler said that naps are a good power boost that can last for a few hours, but naps and caffeine can’t replace a night of proper sleep.

“It won’t turn a couch potato into an NBA player,” Czeisler said, “but if you’re looking for a potential advantage, sleep could mean the difference between winning and losing.”

Previously: Ask Stanford Med: Cheri Mah responds to questions on sleep and athletic performanceA slam dunk for sleep: Study shows benefits of slumber on athletic performance and Want to be like Mike? Take a nap on game day
Photo by ASSOCIATED PRESS

In the News, Public Health, Research, Sleep

BBC study: Oh, what a difference an hour of sleep makes

BBC study: Oh, what a difference an hour of sleep makes

snooze buttonWith two Nobel winners this week, our Stanford office is positively humming with excitement, activity and pride. There’s really only one thing that’s in short supply around here these days: Sleep. Okay, sleep and coffee. But, mostly sleep.

That’s why I feel compelled to write about this BBC study on the effects of one hour of sleep.

Now, you may have read that last sentence and thought to yourself, of course an extra hour of sleep is beneficial – it’s an extra hour of sleep! But does one hour of sleep have a measurable effect on how we feel and perform during the day? Or can I safely shave 60 minutes off my slumber in exchange for an extra cup of coffee and a few more layers of skillfully applied makeup?

To find out, Michael Mosley, MD, of the BBC contacted the University of Surrey Sleep Research Centre. Earlier this year, the centre published a study on the effects of sufficient versus insufficient sleep. But that research compared extreme, not one-hour, differences in sleep schedules. So, Mosley and the center’s researchers recruited seven volunteers to participate in a new, two-week sleep study that compared the effects of six-and-a-half versus seven-and-a-half hours of sleep.

Their findings are reported in the BBC story:

Computer tests revealed that most of them struggled with mental agility tasks when they had less sleep, but the most interesting results came from the blood tests that were run.

Dr Simon Archer and his team at Surrey University were particularly interested in looking at the genes that were switched on or off in our volunteers by changes in the amount that we had made them sleep.

“We found that overall there were around 500 genes that were affected,” Archer explained.

When the volunteers cut back from seven-and-a-half to six-and-a-half hours’ sleep a night, genes that are associated with processes like inflammation, immune response and response to stress became more active. The team also saw increases in the activity of genes associated with diabetes and risk of cancer. The reverse happened when the volunteers added an hour of sleep.

In short, it seems there’s no cosmetic that can “make up” for an hour of lost sleep. As troubling as it is to think that there’s something my coffee cannot cure, it’s nice to know that an extra hour of sleep isn’t purely an indulgence.

Holly MacCormick is a writing intern in the medical school’s Office of Communication & Public Affairs. She is a graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology at University of California-Santa Cruz.

Previously: Study shows lack of sleep during adolescence may have “lasting consequences” on the brainStanford expert: Students shouldn’t sacrifice sleepStudy shows rotating night shift work may raise risk of Type 2 diabetesTips for fighting fatigue after a sleepless nightWhat are the consequences of sleep deprivation? and Exploring the effect of sleep loss on health
Photo by Jellaluna
Via The Guardian

Aging, Research, Sleep, Women's Health

Yoga may help relieve insomnia in menopausal women, study finds

Yoga may help relieve insomnia in menopausal women, study finds

tree_yogaOne of my favorite evening wind-down rituals is practicing what restorative yoga master teacher Judith Hanson Lasater calls “Instant Maui”: lying on your back with padding underneath your sacrum and elevating your legs bent at a 90-degree angle – lower legs resting on the seat of a chair or sofa – to induce the relaxation response.

So I was interested to read how yoga may provide benefit to a particular group of women: those who are menopausal and suffering from insomnia. In the MsFLASH (Menopause Strategies: Finding Lasting Answers for Symptoms and Health) Network randomized controlled trial, taking 90-minute weekly yoga classes and practicing at home for 12 weeks was linked to less insomnia among a group of 249 healthy, previously inactive menopausal women. Night sweats and hot flashes – two other common symptoms of menopause – were not found to be affected by the practice.

In the NIH-funded study, which appears online in the journal Menopause, participants were randomized to try yoga, aerobic exercise or neither, and given either an omega-3 fatty acid supplement or a placebo. As noted in a recent Group Health Research Institute release, the link between yoga and better sleep was the only statistically significant finding – but it could be an important one for insomnia sufferers.

“Hormone therapy is the only Food and Drug Administration-approved treatment for hot flashes and night sweats, and fewer women are opting for hormone therapy these days,” lead author Katherine Newton, PhD, commented.

Previously: Large federal analysis: Hormone therapy shouldn’t be used for chronic-disease preventionAnxiety, poor sleep, and time can affect accuracy of women’s self-reports of menopause symptoms and Acupuncture appears helpful at easing hot flashes
Photo by Oblong Land Conservancy

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.

Continue Reading »

Ask Stanford Med, Sleep, Sports, Stanford News

Last day to submit questions on sleep and athletic performance to Stanford expert

CARTERAs a reminder, today is the final day to submit questions for our Ask Stanford Med installment spotlighting sleep and athletic performance. Questions related to research on the subject and to sleep patterns or exercise habits can be submitted to Cheri Mah either by sending a tweet with the hashtag #AskSUMed or by posting a comment here. We’ll accept questions until 5 p.m. Pacific time.

In our earlier post, we included details on Mah’s research:

Sleep and sports are the focus of Mah’s work, dating back to a 2002 study during which collegiate swimmers reported they had beaten personal swim records after getting extra hours of sleep as part of their participation in the trial. A light bulb went off in Mah’s head, who decided then to investigate whether sleep extension could have an impact on physical performance. Since then she has researched the effects of sleep on numerous groups of athletes, including elite college-level basketball players (as detailed in a 2011 study), and she has two soon-to-be-published papers measuring the impact of sleep on Stanford football players and on NFL players. Over the last several years, Mah has also worked with many of the Stanford sports teams and coaches to integrate optimal sleep and travel scheduling into their seasons, and she consults on sleep issues with professional hockey, football and basketball teams.

Previously: Ask Stanford Med: Cheri Mah taking questions on sleep and athletic performanceStanford expert: Students shouldn’t sacrifice sleepA slam dunk for sleep: Study shows benefits of slumber on athletic performanceCould game time affect a baseball player’s at-bat success? and Want to be like Mike? Take a nap on game day
Photo by ASSOCIATED PRESS

Ask Stanford Med, Sleep, Sports, Stanford News

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

football kidIt’s football season and back-to-school time, which means evening routines in households across the country may be changing to accommodate homework, practice, dinner, and perhaps Monday Night Football-watching. For athletes of all ages and stripes, conversations may also be focused on optimizing performance and reducing the risk of injury, with such topics as conditioning technique and nutrition getting playing time in the discussions. But one thing that may not be getting enough attention is sleep, and its role in sports.

To boost the conversation of sleep’s part in athletic performance, we’ve asked Cheri Mah, a researcher with the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory, to respond to your questions on the topic. Sleep and sports are the focus of Mah’s work, dating back to a 2002 study during which collegiate swimmers reported they had beaten personal swim records after getting extra hours of sleep as part of their participation in the trial. A light bulb went off in Mah’s head, who decided then to investigate whether sleep extension could have an impact on physical performance. Since then she has researched the effects of sleep on numerous groups of athletes, including elite college-level basketball players (as detailed in a 2011 study), and she has two soon-to-be-published papers measuring the impact of sleep on Stanford football players and on NFL players. Over the last several years, Mah has also worked with many of the Stanford sports teams and coaches to integrate optimal sleep and travel scheduling into their seasons, and she consults on sleep issues with professional hockey, football and basketball teams.

Questions can be submitted to Mah by either sending a tweet that includes the hashtag #AskSUMed or posting your question in the comments section below. We’ll collect questions until Tuesday, September 17 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
  • Mah 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: Stanford expert: Students shouldn’t sacrifice sleep, A slam dunk for sleep: Study shows benefits of slumber on athletic performance, Could game time affect a baseball player’s at-bat success? and Want to be like Mike? Take a nap on game day
Photo by Nick Weiler

Parenting, Public Health, Sleep, Stanford News

Stanford expert: Students shouldn’t sacrifice sleep

Stanford expert: Students shouldn't sacrifice sleep

4138097843_8152e69505I admit it. I’m absolutely horrible at getting to bed at a reasonable hour, and sleep is the first thing to go when my schedule gets busy. This is why today’s post on the Stanford Sleep Center’s blog on Huffington Post resonated with me. In the blog, Stanford sleep expert Rafael Pelayo, MD, discusses a common problem that affects many students (and adults) – finding time to get the appropriate amount of sleep.

About the common practice of teens sleeping in on weekends he writes:

[It] may be one of life’s small luxuries, and for many adults it is. However, when it comes to teenagers, sleeping in on weekends may be the first sign of an emerging sleep problem. Adolescents are typically very sleep deprived during the school week. Parents realize this and may even feel guilty about how over-worked their child is. Parents and teens may think that sleeping in on weekends is normal. It may be common, but it is not normal. Think about it, does your body need more calories on weekends than on weekdays? Why should you need more sleep on weekends? Nobody should ever wake up feeling tired. We do not leave fine restaurants feeling hungry, so why should we wake feeling tired?

He goes on to tell readers:

Making sleep a priority is a lifestyle choice that quickly pays off. Thousands of Stanford University students have learned the benefits of better sleep. Better sleep helps young people learn more efficiently and improves their mood and athletic performance. Sleeping well simply makes life more fun.

Holly MacCormick is a writing intern in the medical school’s Office of Communication & Public Affairs. She is a graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology at University of California-Santa Cruz.

Previously: Discussing the effects of long-term exercise for insomniacsWhat puts you to sleep? Experts weigh inTips for fighting fatigue after a sleepless nightStanford center launches Huffington Post blog on the “very mysterious process” of sleepWant to curb junk food cravings? Get more sleep and What are the consequences of sleep deprivation?
Photo by Jing Yang

In the News, Research, Sleep

Discussing the effects of long-term exercise for insomniacs

Discussing the effects of long-term exercise for insomniacs

In a KQED Forum segment this morning, Stanford sleep expert Rafael Pelayo, MD, discussed results of a new study showing that it takes up to four months for the effects of exercise to improve sleep in insomniacs.

Pelayo joined Northwestern University neurologist Kelly Glazer Baron, PhD, study lead author, in commenting on the research and taking questions from listeners. Glazer Baron told host Michael Krasny, “Based on these findings, I would say exercise is a reasonable treatment for insomnia, but don’t expect a quick fix.”

Previously: Stanford doc talks sleep (and fish) in new podcastCatching some Zzzs at the Stanford Sleep Medicine CenterMore sleeping tips from a Stanford expert and Ask Stanford Med: Rafael Pelayo answers questions on sleep research and offers tips for ‘springing forward’

In the News, Myths, Sleep

What puts you to sleep? Experts weigh in

What puts you to sleep? Experts weigh in

A Huffington Post piece today surveys a panel of experts on best practices for getting a good night’s rest. The researchers advise on what worked for them (“Do boring yet challenging math”) and which tips they’ve tried and found to be overrated (“memory-foam mattresses”).

Clete A. Kushida, MD, PhD, medical director of Stanford Sleep Medicine Center, is one of the experts interviewed in the piece, which is a quick and fun read.

Previously: Tips for fighting fatigue after a sleepless nightExploring the effect of sleep loss on healthMore sleeping tips from a Stanford expert and Study estimates Americans’ insomnia costs nation $63 billion annually

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