Sleep Awareness Week Interview with Clifford Saper

Sleep Disorder

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Who wouldn’t enjoy an extra hour or two of sleep before climbing out of bed and getting ready for work? A good night’s rest, or lack thereof, not only contributes to the following day’s productivity levels and emotions, but also its long-term effects are linked to cognitive and cardiovascular health. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), one third of Americans get less than seven hours of sleep each night, and research points sleeping less than seven to eight hours each night to health risks such as stroke, obesity, cancer, and high blood pressure.

For National Sleep Awareness Week (April 23 – 29), we asked sleep expert Clifford B. Saper, M.D., Ph.D., to discuss the importance of sleep hygiene, sleep disorders, and current research at Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine, where he conducts his lab research and heads the neurology department. Saper is also a Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives member and past Dana Foundation grantee.

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Wake Up! The Science of Sleep

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Carlson/AAAS

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Carlson/AAAS

Why don’t people care more about sleep? We wake up early and go to bed late, and let our kids do the same, trying to put more “day” in our days, when it’s the nights that build our memories and heal our brains and the rest of our bodies.

The National Institute of Medicine has called sleep disorders and sleep deprivation “an unmet public health problem,” Michael Twery, director of National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, told an audience at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, DC, on Tuesday.

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Gene Helps to Influence Sleep Pattern and Time of Death

According to findings published in the November 2012 issue of Annals of Neurology, a new gene variant has been identified that predicts not only if you’re a morning or night person, but also what time of day you’re likely to die.

Harvard Medical School News reports:

“The internal ‘biological clock’ regulates many aspects of human biology and behavior, such as preferred sleep times, times of peak cognitive performance, and the timing of many physiological processes. It also influences the timing of acute medical events like stroke and heart attack,” says first author Andrew Lim, who conducted the work as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Neurology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Lim’s research, which stemmed from an earlier study on sleeping problems and aging led by Dana Alliance member Clifford Saper, M.D., Ph.D., and funded by the Dana Foundation, compared wake-sleep behavior of healthy 65 year olds to their genotypes.

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