Sleep – The Third Pillar of Good Health

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 29, 2014

Charles Czeisler, PhD, MD, Professor of Sleep Medicine

Most of us understand that good nutrition and exercise are essential to good health; however, many of us overlook the importance of sleep. Dr. Charles Czeisler, Chief, Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, explains that sleep is essential to both our brains and our bodies.

During sleep, the brain is flushed of toxins and new learning experiences are integrated, says Dr. Czeisler. Inadequate sleep, he continues, can have wide-ranging effects on our physical health, including a dampening of the immune response, disruption of hormones that regulate weight, reduction in the effectiveness of insulin metabolism, and increased risk for calcification of the arteries. Dr. Czeisler also describes how artificial light exposure can lead to shortened sleep cycles or insomnia by disrupting our circadian rhythms.

Watch a video of Dr. Czeisler discussing the impact of sleep on health and innovative sleep research being conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

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Could Too Little or Too Much Sleep Affect Brain Health in Later Life?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 28, 2014

A recent Brigham and Women's Hospital study shows an association between extreme sleep durations and worse memory in later life.

In today’s fast-paced world, finding time to sleep can be challenging, but new research suggests it may be critically important for brain health as we age.

“Our findings suggest that getting an average amount of sleep, seven hours a day, may help maintain memory in later life, and that clinical interventions based on sleep therapy should be examined for the prevention of cognitive impairment,” says Dr. Elizabeth Devore, lead study author.

BWH researchers found that women who slept five or fewer hours, or nine or more hours per day, either in midlife or later life, had worse memory (equivalent to nearly two additional years of age) than those sleeping seven hours per day. Women whose sleep duration changed by more than two hours from midlife to later life had worse memory than women with no change in sleep duration.

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Is Insomnia a Hazard to Your Health?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital December 17, 2013

Insomnia symptoms may be linked to an increased risk of mortality in men.

Insomnia, the most common sleep disorder, affects up to one-third of the population in the United States. Recently published findings from researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) have found that insomnia symptoms, such as difficulty falling asleep and restless or non-restorative sleep, may be linked to an increased risk of mortality in men.

“Insomnia is a common health issue, particularly in older adults, but the link between this common sleep disorder and its impact on the risk of death has been unclear,” says Dr. Yanping Li, a research fellow in the Channing Division of Network Medicine at BWH and lead author of the paper.  “Our research shows that among men who experience specific symptoms of insomnia, there is a modest increased risk in death from cardiovascular-related issues.”

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Sleep Tips for Adjusting to Daylight Saving Time

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 8, 2013

Daylight Saving Time: You'll soon have an extra hour to play in the snow.

Americans will lose an hour of sleep at 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 10, 2013, when clocks are pushed forward for Daylight Saving Time (DST). The thought of losing an hour of sleep may seem frustrating, but with the right preparation, the shift can pass by smoothly.

We should be wary of how this shift in time can affect the body and mind in order to avoid the health consequences of not getting enough sleep.

To prepare for and cope with the time change, Dr. Douglas Kirsch, a physician in the Department of Neurology and Division of Sleep Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, offers these tips:

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Ringing out 2012 – Most Popular HealthHub Posts

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital January 1, 2013

The blog team at Brigham and Women’s Hospital would like to close out 2012 with a selection of our most popular posts.  We’d also love to read about your favorites in our comments section.

We wish you a safe and happy New Year and look forward to sharing more health stories with you in 2013.


1.  What’s in a Face?

After suffering a disfiguring injury, Dallas Wiens receives the gift of a new face – the first full face transplant in the U.S. – at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.  The life-giving surgery, performed by a team of more than 30 physicians, nurses, anesthesiologists, and residents , provides Wiens with the typical facial features and function of any other man.


2.  Prostate Cancer Screening – Should I or Shouldn’t I?

Dr. Anthony D’Amico, Professor and Chief of Genitourinary Radiation Oncology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Chief of the Prostate Cancer Radiation Oncology Service at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, discusses the benefits of prostate cancer screening, particularly for younger men.

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Sleep and Productivity: A Delicate Balance

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital August 9, 2012

Insufficient sleep, even if you don't feel tired, can impact your productivity.

Think that you can get more work done by skimping on shut eye? Not necessarily.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) researchers collected and analyzed data on visual search tasks from 12 participants over a one-month study that took place in the BWH Center for Clinical Investigation.  In the first week, all participants were scheduled to sleep 10-12 hours per night. For the following three weeks, the participants were scheduled to sleep the equivalent of 5.6 hours per night. They also had their sleep times scheduled on a 28-hour cycle, mirroring chronic jet lag.

Throughout the study, the participants took performance tests several times each day to test how quickly and accurately they could compare two pictures on a computer screen and detect a difference between them.  While the accuracy of the participants stayed fairly constant, they were slower to identify the relevant information as the weeks went on.

“We found that the longer the participants were awake, the more slowly they identified the difference between the two pictures in the test,” says Dr. Jeanne Duffy, a researcher in the BWH Division of Sleep Medicine and senior author of this study. “Additionally, during the biological night time (from about 12 a.m. to 6 a.m.), participants, who were unaware of the time throughout the study, performed tasks more slowly than they did during the daytime.”

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Is the Night Shift Bad for Your Health?

Posted by Blog Administrator April 23, 2012

Rotating shift workers may be at greater risk for obesity and diabetes.

Contributor: Dr. Orfeu M. Buxton is an associate neuroscientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH). He studies the health consequences of chronic sleep deficiency, especially cardiometabolic outcomes.

You’ve often been told about the importance of getting enough sleep. But how often have you been told about the importance of when to sleep?

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) Division of Sleep Medicine study showed that a combination of insufficient sleep and sleep patterns that disagree with our body’s biological clock (circadian rhythm) may lead to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes and obesity. This is unwelcome news for rotating shift workers, a group particularly prone to not getting enough sleep, and, out of necessity, to sleeping at abnormal times.

A circadian rhythm is a biological process that regulates and coordinates many of your body’s functions, including metabolism. It tells your body when you should sleep and when you should eat. So, what would happen if you defied your body’s instinctive cues?

To address this question, researchers studied the impact of a rotating shift worker’s sleep schedule in a tightly controlled lab environment. At first, participants were getting an optimal amount of sleep at the optimal time – about 10 continuous hours each day, with each session starting after sunset. Next, participants were only allowed to sleep 5.6 hours each day, with the sleep occurring at varying times of day and night – to mimic the circadian disruptions that are experienced by a rotating shift worker (or someone with recurrent jet lag).

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Wake up, America! – We’re Not Getting Enough Sleep

Posted by Blog Administrator April 17, 2012

Sleep and Safety

One in seven truckers report that they’ve almost had an accident due to sleepiness at the wheel.

Quite a few of us aren’t getting enough sleep, and the repercussions go well beyond having a grumpy day at work.

Studies have shown that not getting your recommended daily dose of shut-eye can increase your risk for a variety of significant health issues, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and death. And if these personal health risks aren’t enough to heighten your concern, consider recent studies showing that insufficient sleep also has an adverse impact on public safety.

A recent National Sleep Foundation survey of transportation professionals found that sleepiness had a serious impact on their job performance, with 20 percent of airline pilots reporting that they have made a serious job-related error due to inadequate sleep and 18 percent of train operators and 14 percent of truck drivers saying they have had a “near miss” because of drowsiness.

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