The coronavirus pandemic has affected every facet of our lives, from how we work to where we spend our free time. Less often discussed is how COVID-19 has affected how we sleep, and the underlying phenomenon of “coronasomnia.”
Alaska is a land of extremes, especially when it comes to the unique patterns associated with the cycle of day and night. When summer fades to fall and fall fades to winter, the sunlight fades out as well. With these intriguing patterns of day and night come sleep challenges for those who reside in the state. As a sleep technologist, especially if you live and work in Alaska, it’s vital to understand the sleep challenges of those living in “The Last Frontier” and be equipped with a few tips and tricks to getting a full night of sleep — even when the sun is shining bright at 3 a.m.
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Sleep disorders, as well as sleep problems, are extremely common in individuals with Down syndrome (DS), with many issues presenting at birth and persisting throughout the life span. Ensuring that sleep assessment is included throughout the life continuum for patients with DS is quite important, as sleep issues may contribute to behavior and cognitive issues or good sleep may contribute to better functioning. Knowledge and appreciation about this condition, as well as treatment options related to sleep and associated disorders for the individual and families, are essential for the sleep health professional, as the sleep problems we face as a society are exacerbated in individuals with DS. Similar to the lack of sleep inquiry in the general population, it may be that much more needs to be done to address this significant issue in this population.
The way that patients present for evaluation, testing and follow up is not always straightforward, and this is particularly true in the presence of mental health disorders. An understanding of mental health disorders, which often overlap with sleep disorders, is important. Being equipped to discern the differences and similarities in sleep and mental health disorders when reviewing a patient’s symptoms and history can assist the sleep technologist and the clinical sleep health educator (CCSH) to differentiate these disorders. Module six of the AAST Enhanced CCSH Designated Education Program outlines the important role that clinical evaluation plays in managing these patients.
“What’s in your wallet?” This is a popular refrain from a television commercial touting the benefits of a credit card. It promises that the card holder is ready for all situations that require some access or assistance for a situation at hand. As certified clinical sleep health (CCSH) educators, we too must be able to reach into our “knowledge” wallet and use the right “knowledge card” to assist and work with our patients. The information in the “Incidence & Prevalence of Sleep Disorders” module of the AAST CCSH Designated Education Program Recorded Modules will assist you to acquire this knowledge base.
An essential element of the clinical sleep health educator (CCSH) role is an understanding of modes and rationale for sleep testing based on patient history and complaints. In addition, an understanding of the data derived from the various types of testing and the ability to evaluate that data is crucial. In module two of the AAST Enhanced CCSH Designated Education Program, Jon Atkinson, BS, RPSGT, CCSH, FAAST, discusses the rationale behind sleep testing, both in the laboratory and the home, and highlights the importance of a quality sleep history to ensure the appropriate level of testing and sleep environment is provided. Additionally, Atkinson gives an overview of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT) and the Maintenance of Wakefulness Test (MWT) indications, recommended protocols and scoring process for each test.
While working at the Madigan Army Medical Center in Washington state, Vincent Mysliwiec, MD, FAASM, and his colleagues started to notice a unique phenomenon. Soldiers coming into the sleep lab were experiencing disruptive nocturnal behaviors and nightmares following traumatic experiences associated with their deployment. These symptoms which occurred frequently at home, would at times occur in the sleep lab where the patients would have REM without atonia (RWA) during polysomnography. It was odd — unlike other instances of PTSD-induced nightmares he had seen — and it made Mysliwiec think there was something more there. “It was definitely something distinct,” Mysliwiec said. “Everyone always goes, ‘That’s just PTSD.’ Yes, those with PTSD very frequently have nightmares, but nowhere in the PTSD criteria do they have disruptive nocturnal behaviors or dream reenactment.” Mysliwiec and his colleagues called the phenomenon “Trauma Associated Sleep Disorder” and classified it as a potential parasomnia. Their first paper on it was published in October 2014 in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Since then, there are a growing number of clinicians and researchers finding evidence in their own labs that young soldiers, as well as veterans, might be experiencing something more intense than symptoms commonly associated with PTSD. Moreover, they believe further study of this proposed parasomnia could be a major preventative measure for long-term PTSD complications. “If you can actually say to a solider, veteran — or anyone suffering from traumatic exposure — that we have an established diagnostic criteria for the severe sleep disturbances you are experiencing, then you can begin to evaluate treatments for this disorder and prevent longterm adverse outcomes. We could potentially treat them for this potential parasomnia and improve their sleep and that of their bed partner.” he said. “It’s an important question — and we need researchers to develop the criteria.”
As a sleep professional, it's important that you educate your patients on parasomnias, such as a sleep-related eating disorder (SRED), since sleep disorders like these could negatively impact a patient’s health through weight gain and obesity. The journal Psychiatry provides these sleep-related eating disorder statistics:
This blog is based off of the AAST 2019 Annual Meeting Session "Parasomnias." For more information on this session and other session recordings click here. From nightmares to sleepwalking to REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD), parasomnias can occur in many forms without the patient even knowing they are experiencing an event. For sleep professionals, it is imperative they can educate patients with parasomnias as these sleep disorders can have lasting and physically damaging effects.
The neurocognitive disorder Alzheimer’s disease affects an estimated 5 million Americans. Its prevalence is expected to triple by 2060. People affected by Alzheimer’s disease have increasing problems with memory, judgement and doing daily tasks of living as the disease progresses. Various studies have indicated that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and that people with OSA have increased levels of certain biomarkers (e.g., amyloid beta protein) associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists have recently noted increased levels of biomarkers associated with Alzheimer’s disease in young children with OSA.