Teenagers and their Lack of Sleep

SBS Insight “Sleep” with Jenny Brockie, May 10, 2016

For followers of this blog there was nothing new in this program that we haven’t discussed earlier, but the information is worth repeating, and hearing from a different perspective, and from different experts.

I am very concerned about teenagers and children not getting the right amount of sleep.

It is this age when they set up patterns for life, either enjoying and appreciating good sleep, or treating it as something to do when you’re not doing something else.

There are many studies linking lack of sleep with mental health issues and anxiety problems.

To be perfectly frank, and many may not appreciate this, but looking at some of the faces in the audience on this show I can see definite signs of being zoned out, exhausted, vagueness etc.  Quite disturbing.

For those students that say they cope well at school on minimal sleep I wonder how much more intelligent they might be if they did sleep, what opportunities are being lost, and the not-so-long-term-affects of their sleep deprivation/sleep debt.

I have personally experienced many insomnia sufferers who just can’t be bothered doing anything about it.

Catch 22.

Lack of sleep definitely takes its toll on motivation, perception, alertness and engagement.

“Sleep is difficult to sell” … is what is being said, and I agree.

But there are much bigger problems down the track when the effects of lack of sleep manifest in car accidents, illnesses, inflammation, cancer (not mentioned on the show, search this site for Prof Charles Czeisler, Harvard Sleep Medicine – see the search bar on the home page), reduced grey matter in the brain, sluggish performance, bad memory, slow and poor healing, stunted growth, mental health problems, the list goes on.

Problems include, but are not limited to:

  • very poor medical treatments (including medications in 95.2 percent of the cases in Australia),
  • lack of talk therapies for people with mental health problems, and
  • lack of sleep education generally.

This hour long program is worth listening to from beginning to end.

 

 

 

 

Anti-depressants Make me Sad and Mad

Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America.

I didn’t know my life as a sleep researcher would change dramatically when I read Robert Whitaker’s book Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America.

I finished the book, in spite of putting it down a number of times because it was just too scary. Wanting to believe that what I was reading couldn’t possibly be true, I checked the guy’s credentials, checked his background and made futile attempts to prove the book a fraud. Was the author some radical, anti-drug evangelist, nut-job? Not being much of a fiction reader, it was the closest thing I’d come to a thriller … not in a good way.

Sadly.

Not knowing what to do, I put the book away and made a few references to it. My opinion is often ignored or questioned because I’m not a doctor/psychologist/psychiatrist – and here was a guy saying this stuff who was a journalist and researcher. Not a doctor either.

At least his research supported my ‘natural solutions to insomnia’ advocacy.

Mental Health. Overdiagnosed and Overmedicated.

In February 2015 I was invited by a friend to a lecture given by Professor Peter Gotzsche, co-founder of the Cochrane Collaborative.

So I went, not really knowing what to expect, but anyone who’s serious knows about Cochrane, right?

The presentation “Mental Health. Overdiagnosed and Overmedicated” highlighted the problems with medical practice in Australia (and elsewhere). What’s more, Robert Whitaker’s research was being quoted and ratified. (Ref 1 below.)

Mad.

Oh, so I haven’t been researching the wrong stuff? And there ARE real problems with how people are being treated with insomnia, mental health problems, anxiety, grief, etc.

I waited for the whole presentation to be posted up to YouTube expecting it to go viral, with policy change in Australia… but no!

Seems like no-one much cares about the REAL evidence-base after all.

Sadly.

Restoring Study 329.

Then came Restoring Study 329, published in the British Medical Journal September 2015. (Ref 2 below.)

This study looked again at the original evidence around the Paroxetine group of SSRIs and found quite different results from the original clinical studies that formed the basis for so-called-evidence-based mental health care.

That this class of drugs performed no better than placebo, but that the side effects were significantly increased, and understated in the original study.

The side effects include suicide and suicidal ideation.

What? Drugs that are being prescribed to students, children, friends? Kids who need help?

Madder.

Legal Class Action – Antidepressants in Australia

Following on from this latest evidence, a class action is now being planned in Australia.

If you wish to contact the legal firm involved with the case contact Drayton Sher Lawyers. (Ref 3 below.)

Perhaps there might eventually be some justice in this matter.

Many things can never be reversed.

We need real and immediate changes to the medical and psychological care of children and adults who are having mental health and sleep difficulties.

There are significant changes that need to be made.

Problems will not be solved simply with the mention of a class action.

There are many examples where medical guidelines do not follow the latest evidence base.

In fact, most people actually think that “evidence based” means that a drug or procedures is on the MBS, PBS, approved by the TGA, has been the subject of a successful clinical trial… etc, etc.

What is your definition of “evidence based”?

Many people think it’s OK because their doctor or psychiatrist gave it to them.

The recent Wasted program on Four Corners covered some of this story in relation to the Medical Benefits Scheme (MBS) and listed procedures.

A further study is needed into the discrepancies that exist in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). This, of course, should not be left to the media.

And a media study is not enough. We need a Royal Commission.

There are hundreds (even thousands) of medical professionals and academics leading medical research institutions, university departments, health providers, medical centres, clinics, community health organisations, etc who are obliged to review the latest evidence, and act in the best interest of patients.

This responsibility falls on federal and state health ministers who make the policy, the National Prescribing Service (NPS), the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), medical training organisations, doctors and psychiatrists, hospital administrators, and more.

Clinical governance is a medical obligation.

At all levels.

The class action in Australia is a move in the right direction.

Medical professionals will watch with interest the development of this case.

Or will they?

Our health system is so broken that individuals themselves need to take full control of their health outcomes, and get informed about the latest evidence.

Especially when it comes to SSRIs, sleeping pills, anti-depressants and drugs.

Sad and Mad.
—————————
References:
1. https://www.sleeplessnomore.com/sleep_disorders/psychological-problems-sleep_disorders/professor-peter-gotzsche-mental-health-overdiagnosed-and-overmedicated/
2. http://www.bmj.com/content/351/bmj.h4320
3. http://www.draytonsherlawyers.com.au/class-action-antidepressants/

Are You Losing Sleep Over the Higher School Certificate?

Secrets_to_Sleep

 

If you’re a parent of a higher school certificate student, or the student yourself, the looming exam dates from October 12 to November 4, 2015 are probably already causing some anxiety.

Years of study and hard work at school will soon come down to the wire, but many families don’t know the enormous academic benefits of your children getting sufficient and quality sleep. The H.S.C. falls at a very awkward age as many teenagers are experiencing delayed sleep phase syndrome, self esteem challenges, social and relationship pressures and social media stresses – on top of exam and career anxieties.

No single organ of the body is affected by lack of sleep more than the brain:  specifically what is known as the executive functioning of the brain:  the ability to focus, response initiation, attention span, problem solving, working memory, planning, strategic thinking, mental flexibility and task switching.

Surprisingly while we sleep our brain is getting a workout.  Spatial and declarative memories are integrated at different levels of sleep, as well as thought associations, complex learning and making sense of the day before.  While we sleep we are releasing hormones (peptides and growth hormones), breaking down fats, anabolic building of tissue, resting our brain, healing, boosting our immune system, recuperating and growing internal organs.  Importantly sleep reduces accidents and errors, risk-taking behaviour and substance abuse tendencies.

Improved motor skills will ensure they are quicker and more accurate on their keyboards, and might even catch and pass the football better.

Delayed sleep phase syndrome means teenagers are reluctant to go to sleep at a reasonable hour.  Some are still producing the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin during the next morning.  It is little wonder that they seem unmotivated and seeking out inappropriate energy drinks and stimulants such as junk food or nicotine.

Insomnia and sleep disorders are symptoms of an underlying problem.  If we ignore the early warning signals the ramifications can be serious – beyond poor exam results.

The George Institute on Global Health found that young healthy adults who get less than 5 hours sleep on average are 3 times more likely to develop mental health problems than those who slept 8-9 hours regularly.

Knowing how to reduce stress and anxiety as well as improve memory is a superior way to impress at the end of the year; and the rest of the family might survive better too.

Lack of sleep is affecting your exam results, the ability to memorize, focus and concentration times.  Sleep disorders are also associated with the mental health problems of anxiety and depression, and the inability to deal with stress.  Teenagers who sleep less are more likely to take risks, are more accident prone, make more errors and are more likely to use inappropriate coping mechanisms such as eating junk food and using stimulants such as nicotine.  The physical health problems include obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, inflammation, compromised immune function, even reduced grey matter in the brain and cancer.

BETTER RESULTS!  Imagine if you could …

  • Improve spatial and declarative/explicit memory, resulting in better ATAR scores;
  • Discover why sleeping better helps you study more effectively and for longer periods, due to improved attention span, ability to focus and concentration;
  • Reduce stress and anxiety and the need for junk food to keep you alert;
  • Elevate your mood and confidence levels.

Here is some of what will be exposed at Secrets to Sleep that you’re not hearing other places:

  • The ten insomnia types and how to recognise your underlying problems;
  • The little known, simple lifestyle and environment changes that can change your sleep habits forever;
  • Strategies to get the most out of your study time;
  • Natural sleep solutions, easy to implement;
  • How to perform better in exams;
  • The shortcomings and side effects of medications;

I will be presenting Secrets to Sleep at the Group Fitness Room, Ku-ring-gai Fitness and Aquatic Centre, Bicentennial Park, West Pymble on Sunday August 23, 2015, 1.45 pm to 3.45 pm.  Cost $ 30.00. Please book by registering below, or phone me on 0458 41 4441. Bookings are essential.  Book early to avoid disappointment as limited spaces are available.

Book your place here:




 

 

Professor Peter Gotzsche – Mental Health – Overdiagnosed and Overmedicated

Professor Peter Gotzsche, co-founder of the Cochrane Collaborative, came to Australia in February 2015.

Here is the full recording of one of his presentations while on his national tour.

If you or someone you know cannot sleep because of a mental health issue then I suggest you watch this video.

This is one of the most important lectures I have attended as a sleep researcher and educator.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Protected: Interview with Andrew Verity on Sleep

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Fatigue in the Workplace

Here is an interview I did with Business Essentials: Waking Up To Workplace Fatigue.

It covers how businesses are affected by fatigue and what you can do about it.

What issues do you have in your workplace that you think should be addressed around sleep and fatigue? Put your comments below:

Professor Peter Gotzsche speaking in Australia this month about Antidepressants

Here is very valuable information I’ve found about antidepressants and psychiatric drugs.

You’ll notice that he speaks about Robert Whitaker and the book Anatomy of an Epidemic – which I blogged about on the Sleep With The Experts website in May 2010. http://www.sleepwiththeexperts.com/robert-whitaker-interview-depression

To find Peter Gotzsche adding to and confirming the research done by Robert Whitaker is encouraging.

Anatomy of An Epidemic was so well researched and so well documented that it would be very difficult to refute.

A very similar opinion is being expressed by Professor Peter Gotzsche, co-founder of the Cochrane Collaboration.

I have to say that having a blog is a “developing” thing. If I trace back over the years I can see the changing emphasis of my opinion and research. On some earlier pages of the website you can see my interest in “natural and alternative” – but in the more recent years I’ve blogged about the evidence that supports the non-drug options. (I’m not supporting over-the-counter herbal remedies and the like, by the way.)

In the end common sense options look a lot better than drug options in the sleep and mental health areas – which, of course, are connected.

Common sense is the strongest solution.

And marketing common sense approaches is the hardest part. Like exercise, good nutrition, eliminating food additives and junk food, taking relaxing time every day, napping/meditating if you’re missing out on sleep, making appropriate life choices, etc.

Who has been convincing us that complicated is better?

We now know that just because there is a clinical trial to support something doesn’t mean that clinical trial is valid, or was ethically performed.

Loved where Professor Gotzsche said “most depressed patients recover by themselves”.

And antidepressants increase suicides for people up to 40 years old.

And finally, we need to conduct clinical trials for the good of the population’s health, not for the good of vested interests.

That will probably mean that Australia (and other countries) should set up a completely independent body to perform those trials, with incredibly strict rulings and checks.

Corrupted organizations have lost their right to be opinion makers, and to manufacture drugs that do not work – even harm.

Marketing to Doctors – John Oliver HBO

Now a regular on HBO, John Oliver is putting out some amazing satire/comedy in Last Week Tonight.

In this video and you’ll learn the truth about the murky side of the pharmaceutical industry.

We need some new health policies that recognize the problems in the health industry in Australia too.

I can’t talk for other illnesses and diseases, but the figures on prescribing for insomnia and sleep disorders are nothing short of alarming.

Here is what is ACTUALLY happening in Australia:

  • For new cases of insomnia being reported 81.7 percent were prescribed medications.
  • Generally 95.2 percent were prescribed medications.
  • Coupled with lower than normal rates of advice, higher prescribing rates (normally 54.5%), considerably lower referral rates and significantly lower pathology tests.

Source: BEACH (Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health) program between April 2006 and March 2008, J. Charles, C Harrison, H Britt. Australian GP Statistics & Classification Centre, University of Sydney, New South Wales.

This video is already going viral, and that’s great!

One of the best ways to get to sleep is to go back to basics. At least 40 minutes walk 4 times a week, cut out eating rubbish and processed foods, have time out every day at the end of the day, make sure you are drinking clean water every day, sleep cool, and make good life decisions that support your mentality.

No, it isn’t about the drugs! The National Prescribing Service recognizes that on their website.

In fact the Therapeutic Goods Administration in Australia (TGA) recently wanted to move all benzodiazepines from Schedule 4 to Schedule 8 – but that never got through the AMA, the RACP and whoever else.
Source: https://ama.com.au/ausmed/rescheduling-benzodiazepines. Accessed February 10, 2015.

By the way, lets have a website set up in Australia that declares payments to medical professionals and teaching hospitals like in the US https://openpaymentsdata.cms.gov/

We are subsidizing the current drugs through the PBS, do you think that is OK too? (All governments in Australia for decades.)

Is that good use of our taxpayer money or not? We never hear about these expenditures.

What do YOU think about this?

Share this around, it’s important.

What has Sleep got to do with Fatigue?

You may not believe this, but I am continually being asked by people “What has sleep got to do with fatigue?”

And it made me have a little – or maybe a BIG – think!

How could this question even be asked? How insane is this?

So here’s the problem as I understand it.

There is so much legal exposure associated with “fatigue”, and perceived costs in avoiding fatigue, that everyone seems to be hell bent on locking up and restricting the meaning of fatigue – and it has resulting in industries, organizations, businesses – even the government – completely missing the point.

And legislating to institutionalize missing the point!

Readiband Technology

Fatigue Science, an organization in America and Canada, is linking fatigue and sleep with some impressive technology developed by the US military.

OK, this might sound like an ad for them, and I’m prepared to give them one!

Fatigue Science is promoting the use of the Readiband. The Readiband is a wrist band put around the wrist of people who are being studied – to track their sleep, alertness during working hours and a number of other variables that relate to sleep, fatigue and safety at work and outside of work.

For those of you who would like to know what sleep has got to do with fatigue, specifically in relation to shift work – have a look at the video below.

In this video you will see that for workers working the midnight till 9 am shift they are working for about 71 percent of the time with impaired functions – the equivalent of .08 alcohol level – or the same as being legally drunk.

This technology is used by the US military (of course), the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and elite sporting teams in both the USA and Canada.

And I’ve noticed a few forward thinking Australian organizations who are using this technology – Rio Tinto and Queensland Rail.

What Sort of Workers Work in the Dark, Dangerous Hours?

Let’s think of some of the people who work those shifts, and tell me if you like the idea any more. Emergency medical workers, nurses, doctors, ambulance drivers and workers, the police (armed?), security guards (armed?), and truck drivers.

Even the more benign cases of international trading and late night studying aren’t impressive, are they? Remembering one of the drugs of choice for money market and trading personnel is cocaine – let’s not pretend.

Preventing and Managing Fatigue in the Workplace.

Given the relationship between sleep and fatigue the only way to PREVENT fatigue in the workplace would be to ask a raft of questions to workers WHEN THEY ARRIVE AT WORK. Yes, that’s a radical idea. But not any more radical an idea than to say that fatigue at work only happens after a nominated and seemingly randomly chosen number of hours of work. And in certain conditions – e.g. working without a break, working in hot and dusty conditions, working underground, etc.

Does your workplace, for example, ever ask the following questions? Or do they have a fatigue policy which covers the following sorts of issues?

Let’s be contentious and ask these questions at 9 am on Monday morning – the start of most people’s working week:

1. Did you sleep for 7.5 hours or more last night? Did you get enough sleep on Saturday night too?
2. Do you generally sleep OK at night?
3. Did you take any mind altering substances on the weekend? If so, how long ago was that? And what were they?
4. Did you use drugs or alcohol to get to sleep last night?
5. If you used a sleeping tablet to go to sleep last night, what is that medications half life?
6. If your medications half life spreads into working hours, how confident do you feel that you can work safely and think alertly today?
7. Did you do any traveling across time zones in the last 24 hours? What was that?

I think you’ve got the drift.

Is this an invasion of privacy? Always?

Do you think this will never happen? What if this person is using heavy machinery? What if this worker is in the military? What if this person is dealing with explosives? What if this person is transporting a dangerous substance by truck on the road? What if this person is in charge of how the release of toxic substances is conducted and monitored?

We Need to Change Sleep and Fatigue Policy

Do you know of ONE organization that has policies that reflect any of this? I’m genuinely interested. If so, please put a comment on the bottom of this post.

Do you know of an organization that even mentions sleep in it’s fatigue policies?

So where is the cut-off point for tolerance of lack of sleep, or ineffective sleep?

It’s a hard question to answer.

Generally the rules tighten after disaster investigations. But we’ve already had big disasters related to fatigue such as Chernobyl, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Challenger, and Three Mile Island.

That clearly isn’t working.

What’s your threshold for when private lives become public responsibilities?

The Connection between Sleep and Happiness

In order to sleep properly we need to find peace in our lives.

We understand instinctively that if we are anxious, angry, stressed or emotional we have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep – and can even wake up too early in the morning.

Those who practice meditation know the benefits of calming the mind, being mindful of how we are reacting both inwardly and outwardly, and how a calm mind can elevate our lives in many ways.

Happiness has a strong connection to compassion – gentleness and kindness – and to calmness and emotional intelligence.

The good news is that happiness can be achieved through training your mind – using meditation, and also by compassionate actions.

If that sounds bizarre, then perhaps you would like to listen to Matthieu Ricard – reputably the happiest man in the world.