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Australasian Sleep Conference Highlights

Australasian Sleep Conference Highlights

Tired Teens See the Light

Exposing sleepy teens to bright light in the morning can improve their sleep and help them feel more alert during the day, according to an Australian study to be presented in Auckland.

Researchers from Flinders University in Adelaide investigated an innovative way to cure teenagers of Delayed Sleep-Wake Phase Disorder, a common condition in which adolescents struggle to get to sleep, wake late and feel drowsy during the day.

They enlisted 60 adolescents and young adults with the condition. Half wore portable glasses that exposed them to doses of green bright light while the other half received red light. Some students also did mild morning exercise. Researchers analysed sleep timing, sleep quality and daytime functioning both pre- and post-treatment.

“After light therapy, adolescents were able to fall asleep and wake up earlier and they slept longer,” says lead researcher Cele Richardson. The treatment also reduced sleepiness, fatigue and depressive symptoms, she says. However, the colour of the light did not alter treatment outcomes and the mild morning exercise offered no additional benefits. It is possible that morning exercise of a higher intensity, or longer duration could help to improve teen’s sleeping patterns, and the research team are hoping to answer this question in another study underway.

“Given that these adolescents had experienced their sleep problem for approximately 3.5 years, it is exciting to discover that three weeks of light therapy can meaningfully improve their sleep and daytime functioning,” Miss Richardson says. That’s a result that many parents will be happy to hear.”

The research will be presented at Sleep DownUnder 2017, the annual conference of the Australasian Sleep Association, held October 26-28 at the SkyCity Auckland Convention Centre, New Zealand.


Sorry, Can’t Remember. I Snore

Severe snorers are less likely to remember the name of their primary school teacher or the first person they kissed, according to research showing OSA damages long term memory.

Researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne investigated how the common snoring condition obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) affects memory of events at different stages of life. The team enlisted 20 people with the condition and tested their recall of specific life events across the decades, from their first day of school, an experience as a teenager or young adult and a more recent event. The results, to be presented at an important sleep conference in Auckland, were compared to those of aged-matched controls who don’t have the sleep breathing condition.

“Our OSA participants had significantly poorer semantic recall from the early adult life stage and recent life stage compared to those who don’t have the condition,” says study leader Dr Melinda Jackson. “Interestingly, they had better episodic memory recall from recent life compared to controls, but not childhood or early adulthood.”

And those people who got the condition at a young age had the most difficulty accurately recalling the memories from early adulthood. Current severe OSA sufferers had most trouble recalling recent memories.

“These results suggest that OSA impairs the capacity to either encode or consolidate semantic autobiographical memories,” Dr Jackson says. “This is probably happening either because they’re not getting enough good quality sleep or the OSA episodes stop adequate oxygen flow to the brain.”

The findings show how important it is to get OSA diagnosed quickly and ensure patients stick with a treatment like CPAP that alleviates the snore, improves sleep and reduces symptoms.

The research will be presented at Sleep DownUnder 2017, the annual conference of the Australasian Sleep Association, held October 26-28 at the SkyCity Auckland Convention Centre, New Zealand.


Shining New Light on Depression, Sleep and Body Clock

Researchers have discovered why your sleep is disrupted when you're depressed.

Scientists at Monash University in Melbourne studied the sleep and daily rhythms of women with depression to better understand what happens to their body clock. They will share their findings at an important sleep conference to be held in Auckland.

“For most people, our body clock uses light and dark to determine day from night, and this helps us keep healthy daily rhythms,” lead researcher Elise McGlashan explains. “Melatonin, a hormone associated with sleep, naturally rises in the evening when we are in the dark, but levels are lowered when we expose ourselves to light at night.”

However, among women with depression involved in this study, melatonin levels were not as reduced as expected when volunteers were exposed to light. “This suggests that among people with depression the body clock isn’t responding to light in the normal way,” the researcher says. “Their body clock has difficulty determining day from night. As a result, they may have trouble both functioning during the day, and getting good quality sleep at night."

Results suggest that improving a person’s sensitivity to light could improve both their sleep and their mood. The researchers are currently looking into behavioural and pharmacological ways to improve light sensitivity, which may assist in recovery from depression.

The findings will be presented at Sleep DownUnder 2017, the annual conference of the Australasian Sleep Association, held October 26-28 at the SkyCity Auckland Convention Centre, New Zealand.


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