Sleep Help Desk’s Top 10 Songs of 2014!

Well, Happy New Year to all!  I can’t believe how quickly these years are going now.

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It’s time once again to post my favorite songs from the past year.  The list is very simple this time, comprised simply of songs that I enjoyed the most. Reviewing my choices, several things occur to me regarding what drew me in musically in 2014.  First, I went for simplicity.  There’s nothing particularly elaborate or proggish in the songs I present below.  For me, 2014 was a year of change and complexity, full of new challenges and time-constraining obligations.  My children are growing up quickly; I’m taking business classes while expanding my clinical reach at work; numerous friends and loved ones have undergone tremendous life changes, and several have passed on.  From an emotional perspective, music was clearly more of a soother than a challenger for me in 2014.  Second, my sons’ musical tastes have influenced what I’ve been listening to more than I’ve allowed myself to admit; to be true to the spirit of the list, there is some modern pop here to reflect that evolving piece of my life.  Finally, 2014 was a year of looking back for me.  Returning home for my high school reunion was a particularly poignant highlight of the year.  No matter how hard I continue to push for the future, there is always a part of me that craves the ease and comfort of times and years now passed, so it is no surprise that nostalgia played a large role in my musical choices as well.

I hope you enjoy these selections.  I’m looking forward to see what 2015 brings me musically and otherwise!

10.  Lanterns — Birds of Tokyo.  I love the ambience within this song about youth and purposeful defiance.  No matter how many years I put behind me, I always remember the feeling in which “in darkness I leave for a place I’ve never seen; it’s been calling out to me; that is where I should be.”

9.  Had to Hear — Real Estate.  This is Nostalgia Central for me.  It’s refreshing to hear new music that so sonically derives from many of my own musical influences.  In Real Estate I hear whispers of many of the bands and artists I loved the most as a young man:  Trash Can Sinatras, the Posies, Elliott Smith, the Railway Children.  Close your eyes and let this song transport you to the late 80’s and early 90’s, when music and life were fresh and new.

8.  Make Me Wanna — Thomas Rhett.  Continuing the nostalgia theme, if this little nugget doesn’t embody the recent melding of country with mainstream music, I don’t know what does.  I mean, there’s disco and soul in there!  What??  It grooves, and it’s a blast.  That is all.  Enjoy.

7.  Something New — Axwell and Sebastian Ingrosso.  OK, this one is the influence of my boys, who are all into EDM.  I must admit I’ve fallen for this song, another anthem celebrating the new directions of the young.  I think all of us, regardless of age, can learn and relearn a lesson from the idea that we can–and maybe should–belong to something new.  It comforts me that my kids are moved by such proclamations of optimism and exhilaration.

6.  We are Tonight — Billy Currington.  This was my high school reunion celebration song.  Every word is a reflection of my Kansas teenage years–except perhaps for the fact that we spent more time in open fields than on riverbanks.  Even the geekiest of us felt like rock stars on Friday nights, and in our own ways, in our own cars, in our own circles, we ruled the world.

5.  Morning — Beck.  Sea Change was revelational to me when Beck released it in 2002, and I’ve waited a long time for a musical followup that captures the mournful melancholy of that album.  Morning Phase is that followup, and it got a great many listens from me in 2014.  It’s hard not to be moved by this beautiful song.

4.  Prince Johnny — St. Vincent.  Truthfully, I can’t quite put my finger on why I like this song so much.  Maybe it’s the haunting, Radiohead-meets-Buggles synth-organ thing in the background.  Or the strange, uninterpretable lyrics.  Or the stark, hypnotic electronic beat.  I dunno.  But I can tell you that Annie Clark is a force to be reckoned with, and a blast to watch live.

3.  Satellite — Randy Rogers Band.  I love the plaintive imagery of this ballad.  I connect quickly and easily with nocturnal theme, and not just because I practice sleep medicine:  night-time was my favorite time as a child, and I spent many nights outside, looking up at the sky after the sun went home and the shadows faded, thinking, gazing, wondering, dreaming.  Perhaps we all would be a little better off looking up more often, instead of staring down at our smartphones.

2.  Mission Statement — “Weird Al” Yankovic.  I know, right?  I never would have predicted that a Weird Al song would have made one of my year-end lists, but I have to let you in on a secret, which is that I’ve always thought Weird Al is a flippin’ genius, and nowhere is his genius more evident than on this awesome, amazing, and oh-so-true song.  I’m sure that taking M.B.A. classes has influenced my thinking here, but I think anyone in the business world can relate to how goofy and inane some of today’s “biz-speak” can be.  This song captures all of that silliness brilliantly, and somehow without nearly the amount of cynicism that would have been present had I been tasked to write a song about the same topic.  And all built on a platform of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young’s “Carry On,” no less!  The video is quite something to watch as well.  So go for it and click on this!  All you need to know about business is contained herein.

1.  Talladega — Eric Church.  I love Church, man.  He’s my man.  He tells it as he sees it, audaciously, truthfully, on his own time, from his soul.  This song is particularly rich in truth.  I haven’t yet been to Talladega, but when I hear this song and think back to my own life’s experiences, I suddenly become that college student “before the real world started,” in an old van, driving south with my best friends through Oklahoma and Texas to get to South Padre Island and its brown sand, dinosaur t-shirts, Burger King Whoppers, and fishbowls.  Like a storm, time rolls on, but I’m grateful for all the great memories I’ve built up so far, and I’m hopeful for more great ones to come.  Here’s to 2015.

 

As always, there are a lot of runners up that didn’t quite make the list.  Here are some of them:

All About That Bass — Kate Davis.  Yes, I have to admit, I have a soft spot for this Meghan Trainor song, but I LOVE Kate Davis’ swing version.  Seriously.  Give it a listen.

Yeah — Joe Nichols.

Tidal Wave — Interpol.

Cop Car — Keith Urban.  I know, I know, it’s such a goofy song.  I can’t help it.

I’m in a Hurry — Alabama and Florida Georgia Line.  I’m growing an aversion to bro-country, but this song is the truth.

Burnin’ It Down — Jason Aldean.  How graphically can you describe it without really describing it?

 

Diabetes and Sleep Apnea–Increasing Evidence of a Link

Here’s hoping you’ve recovered from Thursdays’ turkey debauchery!

 

November is National Diabetes Month, and as we wrap up the month I want to bring to your attention an article recently published in the Huffington Post regarding diabetes and obstructive sleep apnea.  Recent published literature demonstrates that up to 7 out of 10 diabetic people have sleep apnea.  Those are astounding numbers considering how many people are diabetic in the United States.

Rather than repeat the contents of the article (written by my academy’s president, Tim Morgenthaler), I’m providing the link to it here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/timothy-morgenthaler-md/type-2-diabetics-get-eval_b_6214504.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000030

There are many reasons to be concerned about this connection.  First, obstructive sleep apnea is still a very under-recognized, under-diagnosed problem.  Epidemiologic studies show that out of the millions of Americans with sleep apnea, only about 15% have been diagnosed!  Second, there is increasing evidence that sleep apnea affects metabolism and weight more deeply and in more ways than originally thought.  Finally, both sleep apnea and diabetes are risk factors for the development of heart disease, such as heart failure, early heart attack, atherosclerotic disease, and rhythm abnormalities.

Diagnosing and treating sleep apnea early have the potential of making the sleep apnea patient feel MUCH BETTER and more awake and alert during the day, but among the fringe benefits are that the SNORING STOPS and hopefully there may be a REDUCTION IN RISK for cardiac disease.  I can’t underscore enough how important it is to seek medical help if you’re chronically sleepy during the day, snoring substantially at night, and having breathing pauses or choking or gasping events during your sleep.

Some of my readers may know that I’m back in school, which is why I’ve not been writing as much recently.  However, winter break will soon be here, and I will write more on the topic of sleep deprivation in the near future.  I wish you and yours’ a most peaceful (and snore-free) holiday season!

R.I.P., Jack Bruce

The music world is reeling from the loss of one of its greatest frontiersmen, Jack Bruce, who lost his battle with liver disease yesterday.  He was 71.

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John Symon Asher Bruce was born in 1943 near Glasgow, Scotland.  He was an extraordinary bass guitar player–adept and gifted in the performance of both fretted and fretless basses–and a distinctive singer.  He was best known, of course, as bassist and lead singer for the seminal British rock trio Cream.  However, his musical interests were very eclectic, ranging from hard and progressive rock to jazz and blues.  He was a prolific live and studio artist, his musical output continuing until near the very end of his life.  His most recent recording, 2014’s Silver Rails, is a broad-based collection of thought-provoking songs full of hope and joy.  His influence on musicians–and particularly bassists–over the past fifty years cannot be overstated.  Undoubtedly, in the weeks to come scores of musicians Bruce impacted will pay homage to him and his legacy.

I had the privilege of meeting Jack Bruce at an awards show in London in 2008.  Though we had little time to speak at length, I found him to be warm and kindhearted.  I hope that he passed knowing that the world loved his soul and genre-bending musicality.  He clearly will be missed by many.

I’ll leave you with a clip of Bruce on fretless bass during his 2005 reunion tour with Cream.  R.I.P., Jack Bruce.

Help Your Child Sleep Well While “Back to School”

All you parents know what’s right around the corner, if it hasn’t already happened: the start of the new school year! At least for us in the Pacific Northwest, school doesn’t start for another week, so we have one more glorious week of sun and freedom before the beginning of fall classes.  But for many of you elsewhere, school has already started in earnest.

 

One of the many concerns parents have as they transition back into the school year is how their children’s sleep habits will change. Many of us know the drill, from our children’s experiences or our own: all the staying up late on weekends, sleeping in ’til noon on Saturdays and Sundays, the Herculean effort necessary to get out of bed in the morning, especially on Mondays. Though this ritual is very common, particularly for teenagers, the stress and conflict arising from this chronic problem can wreck your family life, not to mention your grades.

This pattern, called delayed sleep phase, arises from the adolescent brain’s natural tendency to cycle its sleep-wake rhythms in a timing scheme that is longer than the 24-hour day. Many of us recall what it was like to be younger and wanting to stay up later and sleep in later if given the chance. The problem with this tendency is that children and teenagers usually engage in activities (i.e., school) that obligate them to entrain their sleep-wake behavior to the 24-hour clock. This conflicts with their biological inclination to go to bed later, resulting in sleep deprivation which makes it more difficult to awaken early in the morning and be awake and alert for classes. Friday night comes ’round, they stay up late, sleep in big-time on weekend days, and then find it impossible to fall asleep early Sunday night because their body clock’s sleep-wake phase has now been delayed from all the sleeping in, so all the sleep debt and sleep deprivation then roll into the new school week, perpetuating the cycle.

There is ongoing controversy about what can and should be done to improve this problem for young people and their families. Though some schools around the country have options of starting classes later in the day, many or most of us parents are obliged to ensure that our children are out of bed and ready for school at times earlier than what they, and their body clocks, “want.”

So what can be done? We can’t change our kids’ brains, though sometimes it’d be great if we could, right? Here are a few tips to help weary parents get their kids sleeping better as we kick off this new school year. As you will see below, these recommendations may be quick to read and absorb, but whether they are easy is another matter. The unfortunate reality is that making these sleep problems substantially better likely will be difficult, at least at first, requiring communication, motivation and insight from the child and patience and support from the parent.  Ready? Here goes.

1.  Minimize the “sleeping in” on non-school days by setting the alarm clock for reasonably similar times each day to the extent you can.  Kids hate this most of all.  Sleeping in dysregulates your body clock, causing nocturnal insomnia and daytime fatigue.  Sleep schedule dysregulation is why we have jet lag, for example.  If your child has to awaken for school at 6 a.m., say, but sleeps in ’til noon on weekends, and then tries to go to sleep early Sunday night, such abrupt changes in the brain would be the equivalent of flying from the west coast to the Bahamas, for example, and back, every week.  Regulating the wake-up time may well require a hard sell to the teenager; I’d rather the teen sleep in until 8 a.m. than until noon.  This lifestyle modification (and it’s a big one) gets substantially easier if done diligently for a couple weeks, but I won’t lie, it’ll be painful for all involved at first.  The child may need some, er, parental assistance in getting up on weekends.  A second alarm clock is also an option.  Put one alarm clock on the nightstand, and then put the second one further away, set for 2 minutes after the first clock, so that your teen will need to physically get out of bed to turn it off.  Make sure the second alarm clock is loud, and the more obnoxious the better.

2.  Don’t go to bed until substantially sleepy.  If the first step is done properly and done the same way every day, then this second step should fall naturally into place eventually, because the resulting sleep deprivation should make your teen become drowsy gradually earlier in the evening on weekends.  Force your child to go to bed too early, however, and residual insomnia results.  Taking advantage of children’s sleep needs allows them to fall asleep quickly and earlier (including on Sunday nights) and at the same time get proper amounts of sleep (which for children and teens can be 9-10 hours per night), both of which are important in physical and cognitive development and proper performance in school.

3.  Declare a curfew from light and technology.  Light exposure greatly impacts our levels of wakefulness and alertness; add to this the perceived need to always be constantly “plugged in” socially through mobile devices, and you have a recipe for “up all night.”  Shield your child’s bedroom from outside light and noise, such as with black thick curtains, particularly as these summer months continue to wane.  Start dimming your home’s ambient light several hours prior to the projected bedtime.  And, finally and importantly, I recommend laying off lit-screen gadgets (including iPads, laptops, and smart phones) 2-3 hours prior to the projected bedtime.

Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure this last recommendation is actually what kids hate the most.  But complete these 3 steps, and utilize them consistently, and chances are your child will sleep better.

Best of luck to students and parents alike this upcoming school year!

 

Sleeping Yankees Fan Brings Up Important Point About Sleepiness

Recently 26 year-old Andrew Rector filed a lawsuit against ESPN, Major League Baseball Advanced Media, and the New York Yankees, claiming defamation stemming from broadcasted video of him fast asleep in the stands during an April Yankees vs. Red Sox baseball game.

 

Here is the video in question:

According to the filed materials, Mr. Rector was subjected to an “unending verbal crusade against the napping plaintiff” and an “avalanche of disparaging words against” him subsequent to the game.

In reporting this story, this morning’s television news programs often asked a question not terribly different from that of the commentators:  “how can anyone sleep through something as exciting as a close Yankees / Red Sox game?”

I’m not writing today to provide legal commentary.  However, this incident does bring up an important issue regarding sleep and our collective perception of sleepiness.

There has long been a widely held belief that you naturally fall asleep simply because you’re bored or inactive.  The corollary concept is that if you fall asleep when you’re not supposed to or when other people usually don’t, such as while at work or at an exciting event, you must be lazy, unmotivated, or dumb.  Over the years I’ve seen many patients whose clinic evaluations were initiated by getting fired, suspended or reprimanded for having fallen asleep on the job or in meetings.

I submit that such notions are ill-conceived and unfair.  If you regularly have proper amounts of sleep and if you are free of medications, substances, or medical conditions causing sleepiness, then you really shouldn’t be struggling to stay awake all day long just because you’re physically or mentally inactive.  It’s more accurate to say that a person who is prone to excessive drowsiness (regardless of the reason) tends to fall asleep by accident if sedentary.  The question then shifts to:  why is that person prone to being drowsy in the first place?

I mean, who knows why Rector was snoozing during the ball game?  Maybe he usually gets up at 3 a.m. to get to work, so the game was past his usual bedtime.  Perhaps he holds down two jobs.  Maybe he spent the previous night caring for a sick child.  Perhaps he has an undiagnosed sleep disorder.  Is it really right to make a judgment of a person’s character or work ethic based on a tendency to fall asleep when others are awake?

How “normal” is it to sleep through something exciting or otherwise stimulating?  In my younger years (prior to practicing sleep medicine), and in the setting of chronic sleep deprivation, I routinely slept through fire alarms, tornadoes, tornado alarms, neighborhood car crashes, earthquakes, and parties next door.  I slept through important lectures, grand rounds, and meetings due to not getting enough sleep.  Your ability to stay awake and your ability to arouse from sleep in response to a stimulus depend on a number of factors, including your age, how much sleep you usually get, how regular your sleep schedules are, how much sleep you happened to get the previous night, and what stage of sleep you happen to be in when the stimulus occurs.

I’m not saying it’s OK to sleep through important events, of course.  Here are my main points today.  If you are finding yourself falling asleep in inappropriate times, places, and circumstances, and particularly if your professional and personal lives suffer as a result:

1.  Work to identify the reason(s) for the sleepiness.  Often an underlying cause may be obvious and right under your nose, like getting 5 hours of sleep each night.  We are creatures of habit, though, so lifestyle choices that lead to chronic sleep deprivation may not feel like problems if you’ve engaged in them for a long time.

2.  If there is a specific lifestyle choice that is causing your sleepiness, make a change, even if the change is uncomfortable or inconvenient.

3.  Strive to get proper amounts of sleep (which for most adults is 7.5 – 8 hours per night) on a regular basis to the extent possible.

4.  Should you remain prone to falling asleep despite proper amounts of sleep and after excluding other potential causes, discuss your sleepiness with your doctor; your drowsiness may suggest the presence of an undiagnosed sleep disorder.  You may want to consider an evaluation at an accredited sleep center.

Stay healthy and awake this summer, everyone!

Final thing:  shout-out to my friend Doug, man, you’re an inspiration.

Sleep Well This Summer!

 

Shortly I’ll be on a plane to Wichita, Kansas, for my high school reunion.  Every time I step foot on Kansas soil a flood of great memories returns:  Friday night football games, Knolla’s Pizza, midnight movies, parties, Bionic Burger, the River Festival, Galaga, and, especially around this time of year, the all-important beginning of summer.

 

Where I grew up, summer was all about crowded public swimming pools, Dairy Queen Hot Fudge Brownie Delights, baseball, mowing a huge yard all day every Saturday, hay fever, washing dishes at a restaurant by day, dragging Douglas by night, and listening to the Police and Marillion in my little green 2002.  It was also about hanging out with my friends, and to be perfectly honest I often didn’t sleep as much as I should have.  What did I know?  Sleep deprivation and sleeping in were pretty common during the sweltering, humid summer months of my teenage years.

Sleep often suffers in the summertime.  So before I depart I will leave you with some quick, easy tips to make your sleep easier, better, and more enjoyable during these hot summer months.

1.  Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool.  Insulate your room and windows from noise and light to the extent that you can.  It’s a tough time for many of us financially, but if you are unable to sleep because the room is hot, use your air conditioning; sleeping well is worth the money spent on utilities.  If you can’t fix your hot, light, loud bedroom, try sleeping in the basement.

2.  Strive to keep your sleep schedules regular.  School’s out; loved ones are visiting; the neighborhood BBQ is in full swing; you’re off on a family vacation.  There is always the temptation to party late, sleep in, and not set your alarm clock during the summer.  Your body clock doesn’t care about any of that, however.  A common cause of insomnia and daytime sleepiness is dysregulation of sleep schedules.  Continue to awaken around the same time every morning (if you don’t have to awaken at any one specific time, you would do well to choose a preferred awakening time and stick with it), including on weekends and non-work days.

3.  Mind your late-night alcohol.  Alcohol has sedative effects for the first couple hours after you ingest it.  However, after several hours it tends to be a sleep disrupter.

4.  If you’re a night shift worker, get thick black curtains for your bedroom windows and wear dark sunglasses on your way home from work in the early morning.  Remember:  it’s light out early in the morning and late in the evening when it’s summertime, so your brain can be tricked into making you feel more awake and alert if there is bright light exposure around the time that you should be sleeping.

5.  Avoid late-night exercise.  The release of stimulatory hormones when you exercise hard can last for several hours, causing insomnia.  I recommend that you stop heavy aerobic activity 2-3 hours prior to your projected bedtime.

6.  Take care of yourself.  Don’t sacrifice your health for all that summertime fun.  Obviously, anything that causes physical discomfort can be a detriment to your sleep.  Avoid sunburns and dehydration.  Use nasal sprays or see your doctor for those seasonal allergies.  Minimize hangovers.  Don’t overextend yourself.  And, as I will probably see firsthand this weekend, it’s best to remember you’re not in your 20’s when you’re, uh, no longer in your 20’s, just ’cause it’s summer.

Utilize these simple suggestions and chances are you likely you’ll be able to avoid a . . .

Former NFL Star Aaron Taylor Discusses the Importance of Sleep Apnea Diagnosis and Treatment

I must admit that, two months following Super Bowl XLVIII, I’m still flying high from our Seattle Seahawks’ resounding victory.  The win has also served to take some of the sting out of my Kansas Jayhawks’ second-round loss in the NCAA national basketball tournament several weeks ago.

Well, back to sleep problems.  If you’re reading this you probably have heard of a common but under-recognized, under-diagnosed sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea.  This is a breathing problem during sleep, in which one’s upper airway episodically collapses or closes down while asleep.  A study recently published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine has demonstrated that sleep apnea is independently associated with an increased risk of cancer, stroke and death, and that apnea sufferers are 4 times more likely to die if the sleep apnea is left untreated longterm as compared to people who do not have the problem. (1)

My wonderful and patient readers have had to put up with my many posts regarding the importance of diagnosing and treating sleep apnea.  Now it’s time to hear from another authority on the subject:  Aaron Taylor, former NFL offensive guard (Packers and Chargers) and now a sports analyst for CBS College Sports.  Recently Taylor was interviewed and featured on CNN’s The Human Factor.  Here he is, talking about his own journey through the discovery and management of his sleep apnea.

http://www.aasmnet.org/articles.aspx?id=4703&utm_source=WeeklyUpdate&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=wu-4-18-14

All too frequently I hear from my patients about their longstanding symptoms of daytime fatigue and sleepiness, loud snoring, and gasping sensations out of sleep, and how something kept them from getting properly evaluated in a timely fashion:  lack of motivation or time, acclimatization to their symptoms, some misconception about the treatments.  However, for many sleep apnea sufferers, treatment can be a total life-changer, resulting in profound improvements in daytime energy levels and wakefulness, a resolution of snoring and breathing pauses during sleep, and, hopefully, reduced risks of developing medical problems in the future.  I appreciate Aaron Taylor’s advocacy in bringing sleep apnea awareness to the forefront.

 

Have a great weekend, everyone!

(1) http://www.aasmnet.org/jcsm/ViewAbstract.aspx?pid=29425&utm_source=WeeklyUpdate&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=wu-4-18-14