sleep | KUOW News and Information

sleep

Hey! Wake up! Need another cup of coffee?

Join the club. Apparently about a third of Americans are sleep-deprived. And their employers are probably paying for it, in the form of mistakes, productivity loss, accidents and increased health insurance costs.

There's lots of evidence that getting too little sleep is associated with overeating and an increased body weight.

The question is, why? Part of the answer seems to be that skimping on sleep can disrupt our circadian rhythms. Lack of sleep can also alter hunger and satiety hormones.

It's well-known that Americans are not getting enough sleep. But some parts of the United States do it better than others. If you bed down in Minnesota, South Dakota or Colorado, you're likely getting seven or more hours a night. But you're less in luck if you live in Hawaii, where only 56 percent of adults get enough rest.

Since 2003, strict rules have limited how long medical residents can work without a break. The rules are supposed to minimize the risk that these doctors-in-training will make mistakes that threaten patients' safety because of fatigue.

But are these rules really the best for new doctors and their patients? There's been intense debate over that and some say little data to resolve the question.

So a group of researchers decided to follow thousands of medical residents at dozens of hospitals around the country.

When it comes to sleep, fruit flies are a lot like people. They sleep at night, caffeine keeps them awake, and they even get insomnia.

Those similarities, along with scientists' detailed knowledge of the genes and brain structure of Drosophila melanogaster, have made the fruit fly extremely valuable to sleep researchers.

It's time for consumers to wake up to the risks of sleep disorders, scientists say.

Garfield High School
Flickr Photo/Don Brubeck (CC-BY-NC-ND)

A task force has overwhelmingly voted to flip the current bell schedule for Seattle Public Schools to fit with doctors' recommendations. 

But task force members acknowledged that changing the bell times could be hard on families that rely on teenagers working after-school jobs – and that some young students would be walking to school or waiting for the bus before the sun is up.  

A good night's sleep for a child typically means the same for a parent. But night terrors can make middle-of-the-night wakings more frequent and can leave parents feeling helpless.

A new device wants to fend off night terrors by rousing a child into a lighter sleep stage. The Lully Sleep Guardian is a Bluetooth-enabled pod that pairs with an iPhone app. To prevent a child from entering an "unhealthy state of sleep," when night terrors typically occur, the pod uses gentle, timed vibrations.

If you're reading this after a night of inadequate sleep, or disrupted sleep, you have company. The National Sleep Foundation reports that over half the people in their survey experienced at least one symptom of insomnia "at least a few nights per week" over a year's period.

"The lion and calf shall lie down together," Woody Allen once wrote, "but the calf won't get much sleep."

"It was a great time for storytellers," says Matthew Biggs, the central character in Kenneth Calhoun's haunting debut novel, Black Moon. The irony of his comment comes with a horrific aftertaste: The world is suffering from a sudden, unexplainable pandemic that's made everyone a perpetual insomniac. Biggs is one of the few who can still sleep. Humanity's state of chronic wakefulness has caused mass insanity — in the noonday sun, dreams overflow and chaos reigns.

Flickr Photo/Rico San (CC-BY-NC-ND)

It’s 6:35 a.m. on a recent school day: time for Wendy VanKoevering to do the rounds. Anyone who’s had to wake up a teenager in the morning knows it can be a struggle.

About one-third of American adults say they have problems falling asleep. And prescriptions for sleeping medications are on the rise, with about 4 percent of people using the drugs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But sleep specialists say people should exercise caution before deciding to take medication to help them sleep.

Cristina Sevin knows the drill. Her 15-year-old son Isaac's first alarm goes off at 6:05 a.m.

When he sleeps right through it, Mom starts the nudging. But she also has to wake up 16-year-old Lily. She flips on the bedroom lights. "Lily, you gotta get up!"

They have to be out the door before 6:35 a.m. in their Annapolis, Md., neighborhood in order to catch the bus for a 7:17 school start. "I wish I didn't have to be awake right now," says Lily.

The Conversation Goes Mental: Interviews On Psychology And Human Behavior

Aug 19, 2013

This hour on The Conversation we explore the strange and confusing behavior of humans. Why do we act the way we do? And can we change? Psychologists and science writers take us inside the brain to explain our peculiar actions. 

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