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Blog Feature

By: Tamara Sellman, RPSGT, CCSH on December 17th, 2019

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This Week in Sleep Medicine: December 17, 2019

Sleep Technologist Advice

While You Were Sleeping: What Sleep Technologists Need to Know This Week

sleeping black pug puppy


🌟 Note: While You Were Sleeping will take a brief holiday hiatus,
returning on Tuesday, January 7, 2020. Have a wonderful holiday season! 🌟

Your media watchdog for headlines and trends
relevant to sleep technology and patient education.


Vanda Pharmaceuticals President Gets Award for Work To Prevent Dog Testing
December 13, 2019

From the article: “Vanda is currently suing the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for not allowing its drug to be studied in long-term clinical trials without a dog study. …'There is no evidence that long-term studies on dogs add any predictive value to human safety,' [Vanda Pharmaceuticals president and CEO Mihael Polymeropoulos MD] says in a release. 'The FDA is ignoring a large body of published scientific evidence that concludes these dog studies are uninformative. It is time to demand that the pharmaceutical industry and government regulators abandon unscientific, low-resolution animal testing and adopt modern, human-based scientific methods to advance human drug safety.'

Takeaway: While sleep science historically owes a debt of gratitude to all the puppies with narcolepsy which previously helped early sleep medicine researchers to better understand central disorders of hypersomnia, times have changed and the industry wants to see the FDA change its protocols accordingly. What do you think?


Sleep Study in Antarctica Explores Role of Cultural Differences
December 1, 2019

From the article: “The harsh conditions and remoteness of the white continent make it one of the best space analogs on Earth, and its extreme seasonal changes make it an ideal setting to study sleep behavior in the absence of regular light patterns. The sun never sets from late October to mid-February, while there is no sunlight at all during the Antarctic winter from late April to mid-August.

Takeaway: If I were a circadian rhythm researcher, I'd want to study sleep in the South Pole! 


Rutgers Expert Discusses How to Maintain Quality Sleep During the Holiday Travel Season
December 13, 2019

From the press release: “Professor Helmut Zarbl, director at the Rutgers Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute (EOHSI), and an expert on circadian rhythm disruption and sleep cycles, shares tips on how to minimize jet lag and sleep disruptions during the holidays.

Takeaway: Don't forget that, if you're a "nightwalker," and you plan to travel during the holidays, your circadian rhythms are going to be a bit messy, which can affect your mood, immune system, and ability to drive, and more. Be safe and sane out there!


Nurses Sleep Less Before a Scheduled Shift, Hindering Patient Care and Safety
December 10, 2019

From the press release: “'Research on chronic partial sleep deprivation in healthy adults shows that after several days of not getting enough sleep, more than one day of recovery sleep—or more than 10 hours in bed—may be needed to return to baseline functioning. But considering a nurse’s schedule, which often involves consecutive 12-hour shifts and may only offer one or two days off between shifts, the risk of complete recovery, or catching up, is low,' noted [study lead author Amy Witkoski Stimpfel, PhD, RN, assistant professor at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing].

Takeaway: Sleep technologists working nights, take heed. These problems among nurses aren't exclusive to them. Nobody is superhuman. Get your ZZZ.


Sleep and Genes
December 10, 2019

From the article: “Having spent those decades railing against people who bragged about skimping on sleep, [Dr. William] Dement is now being vindicated by a host of new, rapidly evolving technologies. Millions of people wear sleep trackers whose data is processed by machine learning. Millions of sequenced genomes give insights into how humans are programmed to sleep. Scientists better understand sleep’s complex relationship with physical and mental health.

Takeaway: It's interesting how some people won't listen to their doctors about these issues, but they'll trust and respond to data from a wearable device…


Melatonin: Magic Potion or Unregulated Danger?
December 5, 2019

From the article: “'The most magical sleep supportive potion I'm aware of is melatonin,' says Rubin Naiman, PhD, sleep specialist, psychologist, and clinical assistant professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Although major sleep societies don't recommend it for the treatment of insomnia, Naiman compares melatonin to Nyx, the Greek mythological goddess of the night who mothered Hypnos, the god of sleep—calling it 'Nyx in a bottle.'

Takeaway: Until there's more financial incentive to dig deeper into melatonin research, it's probably not going to happen any time soon.


We Beat Sleep Apnea. It Should Be Easier for You to Do It, Too.
December 9, 2019

From the column: “After the results came back confirming sleep apnea, we both had to have another appointment with a sleep specialist. That took more time and another co-payment, though its only purpose seemed to be to get a prescription for therapy. After that, we had to deal with a sleep center or respiratory device supplier for another appointment for equipment training and distribution. …All of this wasn’t cheap, neither for equipment nor for the time missed from work for the appointments. We’re lucky that we could do all this, but for many it is a barrier to care. …Insurance companies don’t make things easy, either. Each device can easily run $1,000; insurers don’t want to pay for equipment that isn’t used. To justify the expense, insurance companies usually monitor the machines’ use to make sure they’re being employed. While we enjoyed the app that told us how compliant we were being, others have found themselves being refused coverage by their insurance because the app reported they failed to use the machine enough.

Takeaway: It's always a good idea to understand the process of diagnosis and treatment for OSA from the perspective of patients, if only to remind ourselves of the obstacles they face before, during, and after their sleep studies.


We need physicians who advocate for patients’ best interests
December 16, 2019

From the commentary: “Patients deserve providers who advocate for their best interests.
After all, health care providers’ primary commitment is to patient care. The patient-centered mantra of 'first, do no harm,' has been a unifying medical principle for centuries. Medical students are sworn into the profession by pronouncing this patient-centered oath. But current medical practices actively cause harm.

Takeaway: It's impossible to avoid political discussions in 2020's momentous election cycle, with healthcare being a frontrunning debate topic fueled by concerns about socioeconomic disparity. But it's also morally concerning when doctors are told to "stay in your lane" when so many political concerns (such as gun control, vaccination laws, drug pricing, affordable healthcare) are top of mind among citizens, who tend to blame their doctors, and not lawmakers, when problems arise that are a result of these larger issues.   

BIO:  AAST blog columnist Tamara Sellman RPSGT, CCSH curates the sleep health information clearinghouse, SleepyHeadCENTRAL, where she follows sleep health news headlines daily. She is also an independent sleep health journalist, writes sleep-related columns for two chronic illness patient advocacy publishers, and contributes as a freelance writer to AAST’s magazine, A2Zzz. She can be reached at sleepyheadcentral@gmail.com.