Entries in Sleep Deprivation (11)


'In the Blink of an Eye': Dozing While Driving

By Ron Claiborne

(NEW YORK) -- First, a confession: I have driven when I was sleepy, really sleepy.

Now, your turn. Chances are you too have driven while drowsy. Sleep researchers at the Liberty Mutual Research Institute in Hopkinton, Mass., estimate that every day 250,000 Americans drive while sleep-deprived.

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration figures, more than 6,000 people are killed every year in vehicle accidents blamed on an exhausted driver behind the wheel. That's second only to drunk-driving fatal accidents and ahead of those attributed to driver distraction, which includes texting.

For someone operating a motor vehicle, sleep deprivation can be as dangerous as driving intoxicated.

Just one sleepless night or chronic sleep deprivation causes all kinds of problems, and not just while driving. A lack of adequate sleep affects a person's judgment, memory and emotional mood.

A recent study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association put the annual dollar figure for workplace accidents associated with sleep deprivation at $31 billion.

If you go onto YouTube you will find plenty of videos of workers snoozing on the job. They're usually played for laughs -- like the video of a New York City subway worker sound asleep while the people videotaping cackle hysterically. But being exhausted at work or while driving a car is no joke.

"Sleep is such a powerful drive," said Dr. Meir Kryger of the Yale Sleep Medicine Clinic in New Haven, Conn. "If you need it, the brain will say 'Sleep' and that can be an incredibly dangerous situation."

Experts say most people need seven to eight hours of sleep a night. If you're one of them and you aren't getting it, you could fall asleep at work -- maybe not that big of a deal if you have a desk job (aside from embarrassment if your colleagues catch you at it), but if you're operating heavy machinery or driving a 2,000-pound car at 60 miles an hour, you've got a problem.

In addition to the prospect of falling asleep, there's another, insidious phenomenon called micro-sleep that can happen when you're very tired.

Micro-sleep occurs when you nod off for a second or a few seconds, often without even being aware of it. In some instances, your eyes may even be open and you can perform a task as if on a kind of auto-pilot, but you're asleep.

"Micro-sleep is a brief transition from wakefulness to sleep and it can last up to maybe 20 or 30 seconds," said Dr. Charles Czeisler of the Liberty Mutual Research Institute. "You're awake and then suddenly you're asleep."

I wanted to learn more about the effects of sleep deprivation on driving and to experience for myself. So, an ABC News crew and I traveled to the institute's offices outside of Boston. Before we arrived, I stayed awake for 32 consecutive hours to mimic the effect of a sleepless night or chronic sleep deprivation.

At the lab, I was hooked up to a brain wave monitor and a device that tracks eye movement.

Then, I got behind the wheel of the researchers' minivan.

My assignment: to try to drive on their closed track for two hours while members of the research team rode inside the vehicle with me and studied my reactions.

As tired as I was, I still thought I would be OK. After all, I'd pulled many an all-nighter in college and many more in my years as a reporter.

But I hadn't driven 10 minutes before I felt myself fading.

The boredom of being on a closed track -- about 1/8 of a mile in length with two loops at each end -- exacerbated my fatigue. I could feel my eyelids drooping. My head started to slump. Soon, I found that I had been driving for brief stretches without any memory of it. Still, I pressed on.

About 20 minutes in, I suddenly awoke to find that I was off the track and driving on the grass next to it.

Shocked, I yanked the steering wheel and brought the vehicle back onto the road. I was scared and adrenaline was now pumping through me, bringing me to full wakefulness. It would not last long.

Soon, I was again feeling groggy and had increasing difficulty keeping the minivan in the middle of the paved road.

I was now going down a steep path toward unconsciousness but I struggled to continue. I was making the mistake many drivers make, convincing themselves they can go just a little further to their destination.

"We often delude ourselves into thinking that we decide whether or not we're going to go to sleep," Czeisler said. "'I'm just going to go another 10 miles. It's only half an hour to my house.' When you build up enough sleep pressure, you automatically make that transition to go to sleep. It can happen in the blink of an eye."

I drove an hour and then I just could not go on.

"In the words of [boxing great] Robert Duran, 'No mas,'" I said, pulling off the road and putting the transmission into park. "I'm done."

Back in the lab, Czeisler showed me just what had been going on in my brain while I'd been driving.

Pointing at the jagged lines on a chart propped on an easel, he said: "This is evidence that you're falling asleep."

He showed how my brain waves revealed the onset of sleep again and again. Then he ran a finger along the lines corresponding to my eyes blinking more and more slowly -- another tell-tale sign of the fatigue that had been washing over me.

I asked about the episode when I had run off the road.

"Yes," he said. "We could see it coming in your brain wave recoding."

He said I was asleep five or six seconds. But what truly shocked me was when he told me that I'd micro-slept a total of 22 times. I had only remembered dosing off twice.

I was lucky. I had been in a highly-controlled situation with safety precautions while driving just 15 to 30 miles an hour.

Every day, thousands of sleep-deprived Americans go whizzing along at speeds of up to 70 miles an hour. Many of them are aware they're exhausted but they are convinced -- as I was -- that they can outrace their own fatique.

Too often, it's a race they lose.

Yes, coffee and other forms of caffeine can stave off sleep, but only for a while. The only real solution: Pull over where it is safe and take a nap.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Provigil: Sleep Deprivation Drug the Secret to Success?

JB Reed/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- They are all around us, a secret society of the successful. They say what gives them an advantage, though, isn't just purposefulness or perseverance but a little secret weapon -- a pill called Provigil.

There is the lobbyist, who wakes up at 5 a.m. to complete two full workouts before heading to work.

"I could not do this without Provigil. You know, it just wouldn't be the same," she told ABC News, asking that ABC News not identify her. "It's amazing. ...I just don't get...why more people don't know about it."

John Withers, a computer programmer, can write code for 12 hours at a time.

"It helps you focus up for exceptionally long periods of time," he said.

And then there is the brain researcher who can find connections no one else is seeing. She also asked that ABC News not name her.

"It's just a clear day," she said. "The fog isn't there."

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Provigil is approved only for narcolepsy, sleep apnea or for people who work irregular hours, but hidden among those who take it are pockets of healthy Americans taking it just to boost energy and enhance focus. It excites the mind so much that Provigil has been nicknamed "Viagra for the brain."

Prescription sales for this class of drugs has increased by 73 percent in four years, from $832,687,000 in 2007 to more than $1.4 million in 2011, according to IMS Health.

Online there are hundreds of sites campaigning for Provigil that explain how to get a doctor to write a prescription or how to get the drug without one.

Many Provigil users are secretive, but not Dave Asprey, a successful executive of a billion-dollar Internet security firm who often starts his day at 4:45 a.m. by popping a pill.

"[It] can be the difference between [me] just making it through the day to I had the best day of my life," Asprey told ABC News.

Asprey says he once flew 20 hours to Australia with almost no sleep, got off the plane, took Provigil and delivered a series of speeches that were so good they made the local papers.

As a kind of an experiment ABC News asked Asprey to stop taking the drug for three days. Off the drug, he said he felt off.

"I've noticed that my speech is very slightly altered," he said.

After three days, Asprey popped a Provigil and he says it took only 17 minutes for him to snap back. He said the world suddenly seemed brighter. Asprey compared it to the scene in The Wizard of Oz where everything goes from black and white to color.

ABC News had Asprey take some cognitive tests, and there was a pronounced improvement over the day before when he was not on Provigil.

So, should we all be on Provigil?

Doctors warn that you are really rolling the dice with this drug. There have been no long-term studies of Provigil and its effects on healthy brains have never been studied. Doctors also warn that possible side effects include sleep deprivation and potentially lethal rashes and worse.

Provigil is a wake-promoting agent, but doctors admit they don't really know how it works.

"Provigil is not a substitute for sleep. Sleep deprivation can cause and worsen heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure," said Dr. Joanne Getsy, chief of the Sleep Medicine Section at the Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia.

And there have been no studies proving that performance actually improves with Provigil. "Sleep deprivation can actually worsen performance," said Getsy.

"It's very tempting, but I think long-term it's a bad idea," said Dr. Martha Farah, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania. "We actually know very little about the long term effects."

Astonishingly, Asprey says even if it were to turn out that Provigil could shorten his life he wouldn't give it up and neither would the lobbyist or brain researcher who take it. They told ABC News they aren't worried and aren't about to stop using Provigil.

"I would like to really live during those years when I'm alive. I'd like to be fully alert, fully focused and fully present all the time" Asprey said. "Provigil helps me do that."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Sleep Problems Linked to Obesity, Diabetes

Comstock/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Lack of sleep puts people at greater risk of obesity and diabetes, a new study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine confirmed. Sporadic and irregular sleep may cause a decreased metabolic rate, which could contribute to weight gain and a myriad of long-term health problems.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found that disrupted sleep patterns raised blood sugar levels and slowed the body’s metabolic rate, or the rate at which the body burns calories while at rest.

While several studies have analyzed sleep patterns in humans through observational epidemiological studies, this is the first to examine sleep behaviors in a completely controlled laboratory environment by mimicking jet lag and typical shift work sleep hours over a significant period of time.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Many US Transportation Employees Dangerously Sleep-Deprived

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Many of America’s truck drivers, pilots, train conductions and other transportation employees are sleep-deprived, according to a recently released study from the National Sleep Foundation (NSF).

HealthDay reports that one in 10 American transportation workers feel so fatigued while working that they pose major safety risks to commuters.

Nearly 11 percent of nationwide transportation employees work while drowsy, compared to 7 percent of non-transportation workers, the poll found.

"It is exciting that we are finally able to see the statistics and hopefully do something to improve the situations for our transportation workers," sleep medicine expert Joyce Walsleben of the New York University School of Medicine in New York City said. Walsleben added that many transportation workers "are forced to work horrendous schedules, which puts us all in jeopardy. Too many societal tragedies have already occurred because of sleepiness."

The 2012 survey polled nearly 1,100 pilots, truck drivers, train engineers and conductors, and bus, taxi and limousine drivers (all over the age of 25), as well as non-transportation workers to compare differences.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Sleep Deprivation May Affect Police Performance, Safety

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Sleep deprivation may affect up to 4 in 10 police officers, leading to higher rates of safety violations, anger toward suspects, falling asleep while driving and other dangerous situations, new research suggests.

In a study published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston surveyed nearly 5,000 police officers in North America. They found that 40 percent of the cops studied had a sleep disorder, many undiagnosed and untreated. The disorders, added the researchers, had implications for the officers' health and performance, and subsequently for public safety.

"Excessive sleepiness" is "common in police officers," study authors noted. "This is despite police officers apparently recognizing the dangers associated with drowsy driving; in a survey of North American police officers, almost 90 percent regarded drowsy driving to be as dangerous as drunk driving."

Demanding schedules may be to blame.

"Many police officers are at an even greater risk of poor outcomes because they are often required to work overnight, on rotating shifts, or both," they wrote.

Police officers are far from alone in sleep troubles.  At least 40 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders each year; an additional 20 million experience occasional sleeping problems.  Undiagnosed and untreated sleep disorders interfere with personal health and lead to sleep deprivation, which leads to an increase in the risk of accidents and injuries.

After two years of monthly follow-ups, the study found that the officers also had a higher rate of reporting serious administrative errors, making safety violations attributed to fatigue, exhibiting anger toward suspects, falling asleep while driving or during meetings, and absenteeism.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Gadgets to Help You Get a Better Night's Sleep

GettyImages(WASHINGTON) -- More than one-third of Americans aren't getting enough sleep, and one-fifth of us may have major sleep disorders, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No matter what our fast-paced culture says, this is a serious health problem, and marketers are taking note.

The Basics:  Your body's natural sleep rhythms are related to the amount of light in the room. So make sure to turn out the lights, cover the windows, and even use an eye shade or sleep mask, if necessary. Also, don't drink anything for at least two hours before bedtime if you can help it. Those bathroom breaks can interrupt your deepest, most restful sleep. Having trouble with noise in your sleeping area? Try earplugs; the cheap silicone variety for swimmers are the best at blocking out noise and staying in your ears all night.

Light-Based Alarm Clock:  If you hate being jolted awake by a loud alarm, the Phillips Wake-up Light can help. Half an hour before your alarm goes off, a light turns on low and gradually gets brighter. The light stimuli transitions you from deep sleep to light sleep, making your wake-up less jarring.

Sheex:  Whether it's a hot flash or just irregular temperature regulation, for many, waking in the middle of the night is integrally tied to getting hot. Sheex are bed sheets made of the same performance fabric used in athletic clothing. They are intended to wick away moisture, breathe better than cotton, and help you stay cooler.

Smartphone sleep disruptions:  According to a Pew Research study, 65 percent of us sleep with our cellphones next to the bed, and that number goes up to 90 percent for people aged 18 to 29. It's true that phones make good alarm clocks, but they can wake you up when someone sends you a text, and they present a temptation to check your email and social networks. Engaging in work email or using Facebook can stimulate you just as you are falling asleep, and set your mind racing when you should be quieting it. If you must keep your cellphone or smartphone nearby, try leaving it where you can't reach it. That way you'll have to get up to turn off the alarm, anyway.

BedPhones:  Many of us need white noise or music to block out ambient noise, but white noise machines are expensive and maybe your partner wants silence. Bedphones are earphones that lie flat on your ears and connect to a music player or your phone. They'll even reduce the volume over time to eventually leave you sleeping in silence.

Laptop-induced insomnia:  Even worse than keeping a smartphone nearby are those late-night computer sessions. Again, your circadian rhythms are based on light, and the blue light that's put out by computer screens makes your body think it's still daytime. That keeps it from producing melatonin -- the sleep-inducing antioxidant that the tart cherry juice contains.

The scientific method:  Finally, perhaps the most thorough way to fix your personal sleep problems: The Zeo Personal Sleep Coach. It's an alarm clock and wireless headband that monitors and records your sleep patterns. It tells you how much sleep you're getting, including deep, light and REM sleep. Then its online apps and email coaching help you analyze your lifestyle to find out what helps you sleep better, and what's keeping you up at night.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


A Snoozing VP and Sleeping Air Traffic Controllers: Are We Sleep Deprived?

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- On the same day that Vice President Joe Biden nodded off during President Obama's debt reduction speech, a snoozing Nevada air traffic controller forced an air ambulance pilot with an emergency patient aboard to land without the controller's guidance -- the fourth in a series of similar episodes that have grown so acute that even President Obama felt pressed to respond.

"The individuals who are falling asleep on the job, that's unacceptable," Obama told ABC News exclusive interview Friday.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced it would double-staff overnight shifts at 27 airports where controllers were working -- and apparently sleeping -- solo. The chief of the FAA's Air Traffic Organization has resigned, and the catnapping controllers -- including at least one who'd been on a fourth straight overnight shift -- have been suspended.

These recent involuntary siestas among holders of high-profile and high-stakes jobs suggest the nation might have a problem: At least a third of the U.S. population is sleep deprived, said Dr. David M. Rapoport, director of the New York University Sleep Disorders Center.

As a society, we remain largely in denial about the biological need for sleep, believing we're "supermen and superwomen, and that we can cheat on sleep and there's no price," Rapoport said.

But history has repeatedly proved us wrong.

The consequences of cutting sleep can be devastating. Expert reviews of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the Challenger space shuttle disaster have suggested that fatigue, possibly from sleep deprivation, were contributing circumstances. In those three events, people "were sleep-deprived and made the wrong decision," Rapoport said.

It's not that sleeping on the job is new. Throughout history, people have drifted off at inopportune times. But only since still cameras and video cameras became omnipresent recorders of private moments in public lives have we captured lapses of alertness that might have previously passed unnoticed.

Biden's lid-lowering turn during Obama's speech at George Washington University Wednesday afternoon wasn't the first instance of an Obama administration official getting caught catching zzzs. On Feb. 24, 2009, Larry Summers, head of the National Economic Council, fell asleep sitting a few feet from Obama at a White House meeting.

Rapoport said 80 percent of people who claim not to need much sleep "really require eight hours of sleep -- they either snatch it in other ways or they power through it." The inventor Thomas Edison claimed to sleep only three or four hours a night but napped frequently. Sleep needs may be genetically preprogrammed, but in the meantime "you have to play with what you're dealt."

Rapoport offers the following recommendations:

Know how much sleep you need. "The right amount is the amount that makes you feel good," he said.

Recognize the warning signs of sleep impairment. By the time you notice you've nodded off while driving "you've already done it between five and seven times," said Rapoport. "You've already escaped some pretty awful things." If you're impaired, "either don't drive that day, or think about what it is in your lifestyle that you can change."

Try to establish a regular routine.

Become aware of the warning signs of sleep-disrupting disorders. "The most common marker of those disorders is that you sleep what seems like a reasonable amount of time, and yet you're still sleepy," said Rapoport. Doctors only recently have begun recognizing the impact of sleep apnea, now thought to affect about 20 percent of the population, with similar consequences to sleep deprivation.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Can Too Little Sleep Leave You Laughing?

Erik Snyder/Photodisc(NEW YORK) -- It's easy to spot someone who has missed an entire night of sleep. Grumpy. Irritable. Focusing on the negative. Now scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Harvard Medical School suggest adding a new word to that list -- euphoric.

Researchers have found evidence that the human brain, deprived of sleep, swings both ways, focusing on positive, as well as negative, experiences. And, they add, that's not necessarily a good thing.

According to their study, published in the current issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, sleep deprivation sensitizes the networks in the brain that have long been associated with rewards. And that, they suggest, could contribute to rash decisions and risky behavior.

"Our previous research showed that when you are sleep deprived your brain is excessively reactive to negative or unpleasant emotional experiences," psychologist Matthew Walker of UC Berkeley said. "But what we didn't know at the end of that study is what happens on the other side of the coin. What happens when you are sleep deprived and you see rewarding stimuli or experiences?”

Some who suffer from severe depression appear to get better if they are deprived of sleep, but the benefit is often short lived. Walker wondered if healthy adults would also look on the bright side of life if they missed an entire night of sleep. He noted that people who have partied or worked through the night are sometimes giddy and prone to giggling. Is it real, or are they just punch drunk?

To find out, he and his colleagues recruited 27 adults, age 18-30, and divided them into two groups. Some of the participants lived a normal couple of days, separated by a full night of sleep. The rest were confined to the sleep lab at Berkeley, where they ate a normal diet, but were kept awake for an entire night. They got no caffeine, no alcohol and not even a brief nap.

The experimenters monitored the participants throughout the period, ensuring that none of them fell asleep even for a few minutes. During the experiment each of the participants, both the sleepers and the none sleepers, were shown a series of 100 images and instructed to push a button indicating if each image was neutral or pleasant. And they did this while inside a brain scanner.The images were roughly half and half, with around 50 percent positive and the rest neutral. And that's exactly what the sleepers found. But the non-sleepers found far more of the images pleasurable than the sleepers, suggesting they wanted to look for positive experiences. And the brain scans revealed something that the experimenters found very interesting. Participants who had missed a night of sleep were dramatically affected by the images.

"The regions of the brain showed extensive reactivity to the emotionally positive pictures, and it was appearing in the classical reward centers of the brain largely regulated by the chemical dopamine, which is obviously associated with pleasure," Walker said. "It's as though the sleep-deprived brain swings equally in both emotional directions, the negative, and now the positive."

There was significantly less response in the brains of the sleepers.

"When functioning correctly, the brain finds the sweet spot on the mood spectrum," Walker said. "But the sleep-deprived brain will swing to both extremes, neither of which is optimal for making wise decisions."

Too little of it can make us cranky, difficult, and, it now seems, giddy.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Researchers Say Change in Voice Indicates Level of Fatigue

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(STATE COLLEGE, Pa.) -- You might think a cup of coffee or a quick walk before heading to your job will cover up your exhaustion from long working hours and little sleep.  That is, until your co-worker outs you by saying, "You sound tired."

Although it's a common phrase used to describe someone who might sound lethargic, many researchers say a closer look into how someone sounds can reveal how dangerous a sleep-deprived person might be.

Researchers at a Pennsylvania State University psychology lab are going beyond what the human ear can detect to measure how changes in speech could detect sleepiness.  They found everything from voice inflection to letter pronunciation can indicate how tired you are and whether you may be better off sitting out of work than trying to stay productive.

In one study at the lab, researchers compared the speech of a small group of normal students with groups that were sleep deprived for 36 hours and 48 hours.  They found the longer the students stayed awake, the more likely the analysis showed dramatic changes in energy, speech patterns and pronunciation.

"Police" sounded more like "Bolice."  Higher energy letters such as T, P and K sounded more like D, B and G, respectively.

Some of the changes researchers found may be unclear to the normal human ear, said Cynthia LaJambe, a visiting scientist and sleep researcher at Pennsylvania State University.

"We don't know if [sounding tired] means there's a handful of precise speech indicators of sleepiness, or whether [a person is finding] some general change in speech," said LaJambe.

The lab's analysis found that a sleep-deprived voice can suggest anything from fatigue to exhaustion that can result in dangerous behavior.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Occupational-Related Hearing Loss Tied to Sleep Loss

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BEERSHEBA, Israel) – People with occupational-related hearing loss have more trouble sleeping than those who have not been exposed to sustained levels of noise on the job, according to a study published in the journal Sleep.

Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev examined individuals from the same workplace, some with work-related hearing loss and some without. Among those with workplace-related hearing loss, 51 percent reported suffering from ringing in the ears known as tinnitus, which contributed to their lack of sleep.

"The homogeneous study population exposed to identical harmful noise at the same workplace allowed us to compare sleep quality between similar groups differing only by hearing status," said study researcher Tsafnat Test.

Test found that workers with hearing impairments were older and had been exposed to the environment longer. Sleep problems reported included difficulty falling asleep, trouble staying asleep and snoring.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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