Sleep shapes a new Computer Game for Teenagers

Channel 4 Education and Chunk have co-operated to let teens turn their sleep patterns into a game with new app called ‘Zeds’.

Channel 4 Education and Chunk have co-operated to let teens turn their sleep patterns into a game with new app called ‘Zeds’.

Channel 4 Education and Games company Chunk have today launched a new app, which lets teenagers record their sleep patterns, which is then used to build a ‘track’ for a game.

Called Zeds, the tracks created by the apps reflect the pattern of the sleep, changing features as you move from light to deep, and aims to show teenagers the effects of poor quality of sleep.

When sleep has been really poor, the game will be much harder, while periods of deep sleep are calmer and populated with collectible ‘Z’s, giving temporary immunity and other bonuses – in the usual way of reward.

The owner and founder of Chunk, Donnie Kerrigan, said: “Channel 4’s brief was to present the facts about sleep to teenagers, an do it in a format that they’d engage with, to help them come to their own conclusions about their sleeping habits and how it affects them.

“Tracking their sleep, and then delivering the data as a game, is as direct, entertaining and memorable way of doing that as we can imagine. And, importantly, it’s a unique idea that will catch their interest in the first place.”

Chunk commissioned BAFTA award winning animation team, The Brothers McLeod, to bring the game characters and environments to life.

Faraz Osman, Editor of Dducation at Channel 4, said: “We wanted to encourage teenagers to both switch off from their gadgets, and help them understand the benefits of doing so. New research is revealing that sleep is a vital part of education and development and impacts on so many elements of life for teens, and yet is often overlooked, or felt to be unimportant. We wanted something that could alter that perception in an intelligent way.”

Available at the moment on iPhone and iPod Touch, the app is also supported by Professor Russell Foster, FRS; Professor of Circadian Neuroscience at Oxford University.

By John Redfern

Lack of sleep may disrupt genes

Getting too little sleep can play havoc with our health, say some experts, and the biggest cause of this disruption by far is snoring.

Sleeping for fewer than six hours for several nights in a row affects hundreds of genes in our bodies and it is these genes that are responsible for keeping us in good health, says a new study. Research led by the Surrey Sleep Research Centre has found that people who were subjected to sleep deprivation for a week underwent physical changes at a molecular level that could affect their wellbeing seriously if they continued for the long term

Sleep disorders are common in industrialised nations, with between 10% and 20% of the European and US population reporting frequent sleep disruption. Insufficient sleep and disruption to the sleep-wake cycle – which is known as the circadian rhythm – are known to have a damaging effect on health, but the reasons behind this remain largely unexplored.

Details of the Laboratory sleep tests

Although relatively small, this study could be of major importance and it involved a group of healthy adults -14 men and 12 women. All those taking part in the study were allowed to sleep under laboratory conditions for 5.7 hours one week and 8.5 hours another week.

After each of the two seven day periods, whole blood samples were collected from each individual and a specific analysis carried out. This involved the analysis of RNA – correctly called messenger RNA, and this plays a vital role in making proteins. These samples allowed the researchers to examine what is happening to the RNA in the blood, brain and liver.

Professor Derk-Jan Dijk and his colleagues at the Surrey Sleep centre found that volunteers who got less than six hours sleep each night over the course of a week experienced changes to as many as 711 RNA genes that are linked to inflammation, fighting disease and stress. These changes, just due to one week’s sleep deprivation, might have a major impact on obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and brain function if they continue in the long term. The data suggest several ways by which sleep restriction and disruption of the circadian rhythm may be linked to negative health outcomes and there is evidence that the circadian rhythm could be one general pathway by which sleep restriction leads to major health problems.

The findings appear in detail in the journal PNAS.

Obesity and diabetes

Commenting on the study, Professor Adrian Williams, who is Professor of Sleep Medicine at King’s College, London tells us that people should not be unduly concerned about how much sleep they are getting. “Individuals are individuals,” he says. “As a Society we often sleep an extra two hours at the weekend to make up for a lack of sleep during the week – in this 24/7 society – so probably we tend to sleep less than we need to, but it’s very individual – so people shouldn’t be unduly worried.”

However, Professor Williams says he believes that “sleep deprivation or sleep interruption is a drive to diabetes and obesity – and, of course, linked to these is high blood pressure and heart disease,” he says.

Restrict snoring goes a long way to solving this problem in men, women and even children.

Professor Jim Horne from the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University tells us: “The potential perils of ‘sleep debt’ in today’s society and the need for ‘eight hours sleep a night’ are overplayed and can cause undue concern.”

He explains: “Although this important study seems to support this concern, the participants had their sleep suddenly restricted to an unusually low level, which must have been somewhat stressful.  “We must be careful not to generalise such findings to, say, habitual six-hour sleepers who are happy with their sleep.  Besides, sleep can adapt to some change, and should also be judged on its quality, not simply on its total amount.”

The key to healthy sleep is the quality and not the duration according to many of the leading experts so disruption should be avoided wherever necessary. If you snore, you should take steps now to resolve the problem, as the effects are serious and far-reaching as far as your health is concerned.
By John Redfern

Does snoring keep you awake all night?

Can you identify with the following scenario?

Every night the same ritual plays out in the bedroom. She goes to sleep before her husband does, and then she’s awakened by the sound of his snoring and often moves to another room. Multiply that scenario by a few million, and you’ll get a sense of what’s going on in couples’ bedrooms all over the country.

The NHS says almost half of people in the UK snore sometimes and around a quarter of us are regular snorers.

This cannot only have an impact on how well you sleep but can negatively affect relationships between bed partners.  Banishing your bed partner to another room, however, isn’t always a sound approach. A better solution would, of course, be to cure the snoring, because it can be a sign of more serious health problems that require treatment.

What causes snoring?

To no one’s surprise, the largest group of run-of-the-mill snorers is the middle-aged and older man, but snoring is more common than most people realise. 30% of adults over the age of 30 snore, and women make up one-third of those snorers. Benign snoring, as it’s called, is caused by “upper airway turbulence” that leads to vibrations of the soft palate and the uvula (that little flap that hangs down at the back of the throat).

When you think about it, the fact that snoring increases with age makes sense. As we age we lose muscle tone everywhere, including in our palates, which become flabby and thus more susceptible to vibration. Allergies or being overweight can also contribute to snoring. Drinking alcohol before bedtime, which relaxes the muscles in the airway, is another potential cause. Or you may simply have been born to snore due to having a larger tongue or palatte

When is snoring a serious sleep problem?

Snoring has been fodder for humourists for centuries. However, it’s really not that funny to be kept awake all night, and it’s even less amusing when the noise is a sign of a serious health problem, known as obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), is a disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops for brief periods during sleep because the throat muscles can’t keep the airway consistently open. This leads to fragmented sleep and lowers oxygen levels in the blood, which in turn puts people at risk for cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure and heart disease, not to mention daytime fatigue.

The NHS says OSA is a relatively common condition that affects men more than women. About 3.5% of men and 1.5% of women have OSA. The condition is most common in people aged 40 or over, but it can affect people of all ages, including children.

Since snorers rarely wake themselves, their bed partners play a critical role in making sure they get help. Therefore, leaving the room, or kicking your partner out of bed, is a bad idea, because then no one can monitor the nature of the snoring.

If a woman observes that her husband is snorting, gasping or puffing, or if his snoring isn’t steady but goes up and down in volume, he should be evaluated for sleep apnoea. Likewise, if your bed partner notices these symptoms in you, you should be evaluated. Most primary care physicians don’t routinely ask about sleep habits, so it’s important to bring the topic up yourself and get a referral to a sleep specialist, if necessary.

Is there a cure for snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea?

Fortunately, treatments exist to help snorers and those with obstructive sleep apnoea. You can use oral devices to help you solve the problem and the products made and designed here in Britain are ‘NHS Recommended’.

These appliances hold the tongue and jaw in such a way that the airway remains open and have been found to be quite effective for benign snorers, with success rates ranging up to 80%. They can also be effective for OSA, although at lower rates of success up to 50%. What’s key, say experts, is to have one that is custom fit but try the standard version first.


By John Redfern

Sleep Refreshes by 'Resetting' your brain cells

We all know that sleep is a necessary part of our existence but when people suggest that sleep ‘refreshes’ us, what exactly does this mean?

A new study by the team at the National Health and Development in Maryland USA suggests that during sleep neural signals travel in reverse, as the signals travel in reverse it acts as a form of ‘editing’.

These kinds of signals act as a way of refreshing the brain and a way for the brain to contemplate and store memories.

The over saturation of brain cells that occurs in times of sleep deprivation make it increasingly difficult to receive and process new information.

Sleep acts as a sort of tune-up for your brain, this is the reason that many of us are able to make better decisions after a sound night’s sleep.

From a practical perspective, just imagine the feeling you have when you work in to the early hours of the morning, your brain often feels bogged down with information, this is because your brain has been overloaded with information and needs rest to be able to process and store these memories. This is why it may feel as though information isn’t settling in, because your brain has already reached its metaphorical full capacity for the day.

The study contains a neurological explanation for the refreshing feeling we all have after a good night’s sleep. This is just one of many of the emerging studies that have appeared in recent weeks detailing the positive effects of a regular sleeping pattern, as well as the potential hazards associated with sleep deprivation.
By Richard Owen

Heavy Snoring & Sleep Apnea

There is a difference between regular, habitual snoring and sleep apnea. Not all snorers will suffer from sleep apena but it can be a symptom, particularly for the louder snorers among us.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep Apnea is a sleeping disorder characterized by abnormal pauses in breathing or a low intake of oxygen during sleep. Each pause is called an ‘apnea’ which can last anywhere from 10 seconds to a couple of minutes in severe cases.

The gaps in breathing can often occur dozens of times within an hour of sleep. The most common form of apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) which occurs because of a physical blockage in the throat or nasal passages. This makes snoring a common feature of sleep apnea, as the soft tissue in your throat causes a blockage that prevents oxygen passing freely.

Often the sufferer of the disorder is unaware of the disorder, so it’s often pointed out by a member of the family or sleeping partner.

So if you are heavy snorer it’s worth taking note, that this in turn could be a symptom of sleep apnea. The reason for concern is that sleep apnea is a potentially dangerous disorder causing high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems and even stroke.

If you have a reputation around your house as a noisy snorer it’s worth asking others to look out for the condition if you haven’t spotted it already, look out for pauses in breath intake followed by a gagging or choking sound, often the sleeper inadvertently wakes up without knowing what has transpired.

Treating the problem

The majority of moderate sleep apnea cases can be treated with a stop snoring device, by using one of these devices you can dramatically improve your sleep quality. However in severe cases we do recommend consulting a medical professional first, one of the most highly recommended methods is the continuous positive airway pressure machine (CPAP) which clears the patient’s airway during sleep by pushing pressurized air through the throat.

Sleep Apnea is a serious condition, that may require medical advice sooner rather than later.

Join our Partners Against Snoring group!

Are one of the many long suffering snoring partners looking to vent their frustrations?

SleepPro have set up a group for your convenience, let your feelings known if your partner is keeping you up at night (for the wrong reasons).

Let your feelings known, name and shame your partner or even post a video demonstrating just how horrible snoring can be.

We think that partners deserve a place to vent their frustration so we have set up a Google plus community for anyone looking to let their feelings known or looking to gain some of the best advice on how to stop snoring and how to improve your sleeping pattern.


All you have to do is sign up at share your information, share your thoughts and troubles, in turn we’ll share some of our most helpful tips to help cut out the snoring.
By Richard Owen

News From The Edinburgh Science Festival

NHS must wake up to ‘deadly’ sleep apnoea

Medical experts reporting today have made statements to The Scotsman and warn that the NHS is not investing enough in services to treat the many thousands that are affected by the condition.

More funding is needed to treat Scots with a serious sleep disorder which can put their lives – and the lives of others – at risk, experts say.

Sleep apnoea, which can cause people to stop breathing in their sleep and leaves them extremely tired during the day, is on the rise due to increasing levels of obesity. But experts speaking at the Edinburgh Science Festival today will warn that the NHS is not investing enough in services to treat the thousands affected by the condition.

They say it can lead to people suffering serious accidents at work or on the road due to extreme sleepiness during the day.

The event – called “The Perils of Sleep” – will discuss the science behind sleep and what can happen when things so wrong.

Speaking ahead of the debate Dr Renata Riha, from Edinburgh Royal Infirmary’s Department of Sleep Medicine, said obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), which affects between 2 and 4 per cent of middle-aged people in Scotland, was a major issue.

The condition is caused by the muscles and soft tissue found at the back of the throat collapsing inwards during sleep, thereby narrowing or blocking the airways and stopping sufferers from breathing normally. About 80 to 90 per cent of the 2,500 people seen at the clinic in Edinburgh each year have sleep apnoea, Dr Riha said.

Sleep apnoea brings real dangers – and not just to your health

“It causes excessive daytime sleepiness. It can present a risk in terms of sleepiness while driving and at work. It can impair memory, mood and concentration and put a strain on relationships,” she said. “There are a large number of people who are undiagnosed.”

The numbers seeking treatment are rising due to increased awareness of the condition and also rising levels of obesity, which can cause sleep apnoea.

Dr Riha said the condition could endanger patients’ lives, but also the lives of others.

“The number of people I see in clinic who have had near-miss accidents where they have fallen asleep, or have actually had a crash and that is the first time they come to see me. It is really serious,” she said.

Dr Riha added: “We see and treat a lot of bus drivers, train drivers, pilots – people who are in very important positions and responsible for the public getting them from A to B.”

But despite the serious consequences and the effectiveness of treatment using special machines to keep the airway open, Dr Riha said services had been underfunded in Scotland and around the UK.

Dr Riha said the Scottish Government and health boards needed to put more money into sleep medicine. “The entire operation is underfunded and poorly understood.

“Although we have been very fortunate recently to obtain some additional funding it probably still isn’t enough,” she said.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We are working with partners to ensure patients with sleep disorders are identified, assessed and appropriately referred for treatment and long-term management.”
By John Redfern

Unhealthy Britain – the NHS lags behind Europe

New research suggests the UK is lagging behind progress being made by similar countries on many indicators for ill health.

Health data over 20 years was compared with figures from 18 other countries in the research published in the Lancet. Although average life expectancy has risen by four years since 1990, it says the UK needs to increase its strategies for tackling preventable problems such as heart disease and stroke.

We are living longer but not in good health

UK Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said he has a plan to address the lag. The team of experts from the UK and the University of Washington in Seattle said the UK had a high burden of smoking-related illnesses, and greater priority should be given to reducing lung disease.

There must be extra focus on Smoking, Alzheimer’s Disease and Snoring.

There was also a large rise in the number of recorded deaths related to Alzheimer’s Disease. Snoring and sleep apnoea is also overlooked as a serious contributor to poor health as we age.

Many deaths happen because the NHS is not good enough at preventing people getting sick or because the treatment given does not rival that seen elsewhere in Europe, says Mr Hunt who is responsible for health policy in England.

He says up to 30,000 lives a year could be saved if England performed as well as its European neighbours.

Mr Hunt has announced plans to cut the death toll caused by the UK’s five avoidable big killers – cancer, heart, stroke, respiratory and liver disease.

The big five avoidable killers

  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Stroke
  • Lung disease
  • Liver disease

He wants more people to go for regular health checks to spot diseases earlier and he is calling for better joining up of NHS services so that patients don’t get lost in the system.

In the 20 years from 1990 to 2010 that The Lancet study examined, average life expectancy increased by 4.2 years in the UK to 79.9 years. But the premature death rate had hardly changed in the UK for both men and women aged 20-54.

Among the leading causes were heart disease, cancers and chronic lung disease.

These are linked to avoidable risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, snoring and obesity, which are still all too common in the UK, say Chris Murray, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington, USA, and colleagues who carried out the analysis of global data. But progress is being made on conditions like diabetes, where the UK appears to be ahead of many of its European neighbours and other high-income countries like the US and Canada.

Prof Murray says the UK also faces fresh challenges, like its growing burden of disability from alcohol use, the rapid growth of snoring and sleep apnoea due to lifestyle, and a 137% rise in deaths linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

He and his team also acknowledged that making firm conclusions based on data from different countries was inherently problematic – not all record the same information and each has its own unique issues and policies that made interpretation and comparison difficult.

Leading UK health risk factors

  • Tobacco smoke (including second-hand smoke)
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Too little exercise
  • Alcohol use
  • Poor diet

Many of these can be identified through heavy snoring and are closely related to these factors – something that can be easily taken in hand.

Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics suggested people in the UK were living in good health for longer.

But the UK still measures up poorly compared with other countries – it ranked 12 out of the 19 countries in the Lancet study.

Britons have 68.6 years of healthy life, whereas people in the top-ranked country, Spain, have 70.9 years of healthy life on average.

Public Health England, a new division of the Department of Health that will come into being in April 2013 along with the NHS organisational reforms, called the report a wake-up call.

How many healthy years will you live?


Rank Country HealthyYears LifeSpan
1 Spain 70.9 81.4
2 Italy 70.2 81.5
3 Australia 70.1 81.5
4 Sweden 69.6 81.4
5 Canada 69.6 80.6
6 France 69.5 80.9
7 Austria 69.1 80.6
8 Netherlands 69.1 80.6
9 Germany 69 80.2
10 Ireland 68.9 79.9
11 Greece 68.7 79.6
12 UK 68.6 79.9
13 Portugal 68.6 79.4
14 Belgium 68.5 79.5
15 Luxembourg 68.4 80.2
16 Norway 68 80.8
17 USA 67.9 78.2
18 Denmark 67.9 78.9
19 Finland 67.3 80.1

By John Redfern

Daylight Savings Time: A problem for our sleeping pattern?

With just one week left until daylight savings time many of us will lose out on an hour of sleep, many people will wake up this Sunday morning feeling unusually tired (even after Saturday night’s festivities).

Studies at the Alexius Sleep Centre insist that many of us lose out on as much as 40 minutes of sleep, this kind of fatigue can last for several days afterwards, particularly as many of us are heading in to on Monday morning.

Many of us will need to make up for this sleep debt by getting between an early night on Sunday, although the one hour time change may seem trivial, when it comes to your body clock it becomes much more significant.

Losing this hour isn’t the only problem that’s associated with Daylight Savings Time either, many of us will struggle to sleep with these longer days. Many people struggle to sleep with the sunshine streaming through the curtains early in the morning, even though many of us are looking forward to the summer it can be a difficult time for those of us who often suffer from sleep deprivation.

The fact is that no matter how cold and miserable winter is to the British public, it makes for much better sleeping conditions, research has illustrated that the perfect sleeping conditions usually consist of having a cold dark room.

A Positive Outlook:

What the summer time does mean for our sleeping pattern is that more of us have the opportunity to live a more active lifestyle, hopefully the warmer weather will allow many of us to get the appropriate amount of exercise, leading a more active lifestyle (think running, cycling etc) has a significant effect on our sleeping pattern and will make dropping off a much easier process.

Hopefully the change in temperature and the longer days will have a positive effect on our sleep cycles, rather than a negative one.
By Richard Owen

WINNING THE BATTLE OF BEDTIME – An important new TV Programme

Is your child sleep-deprived? Do they have problems getting to sleep? Does your toddler wake up often during the night? Is your teen addicted to the screen? Watch Channel 4 at 8 p.m. every Tuesday starting on 19th March for the next few weeks and find out the problems – and some of the solutions.

Professor Tanya Byron and the Bedtime Live team have the skills and experience to help get the nation’s kids and teens to bed.

Any you can contribute to the show if you are prepared to answer a few questions online. Here’s what Channel 4 say:

Are you the parent or carer of a child with sleeping problems?

We’d like to ask you some questions about the child who has the most trouble getting to sleep in your house.

The survey will take about 5 minutes to complete. We won’t ask you for personal details, but we may share overall findings from the survey anonymously on Bedtime Live.

Thanks very much for taking part and contributing to the TV show in this way.

Take the Sleep Survey

As any parents of a young child who is a problem sleeper will confirm, permanent tiredness and constant irritability can put a huge strain on your relationship. In fact, according to a survey, lack of sleep is a big factor in divorce and separation for a third of couples. Snoring causes the same problems as we all well know – either by you or your partner. Add sleepless children to the mix and it’s even more of a problem.

Ahead of a new series on the subject, a poll carried out for Channel 4 suggests the average parent surveyed got fewer than six hours of sleep a night. It also found that three in 10 couples that had split up said sleep deprivation since having their child was a factor in the breakup. Nearly 45% said they had dozed off in a place they shouldn’t have or was unsafe, with one in 20 admitting to falling asleep at the wheel of their car.

Children waking throughout the night, as well as the struggle to get children off to bed at a respectable hour, were equally important issues for parents. Nearly half of the 2,000 people questioned said getting their child to sleep at a consistent time was a nightly battle.

The key to establishing an age-appropriate bedtime was to look at what time children needed to get up and work backwards from that. If you refer to the NHS guidelines they state that youngsters aged between three and five need 11 hours of sleep, 10-year-olds need 10 hours, and 14-year-olds nine hours. Sleep needs remain just as vital for teenagers as for younger children, and scientists have been moving towards the view that they should start their day a little later than younger children to allow their brains to fully wake up. But social pressures and the lure of tablets, phones and Facebook keep many up way past their recommended bedtimes.

Tune in – it’s compulsive – and important. It may save your marriage in the same way as stopping snoring does. It’s all about a good night’s sleep.
By John Redfern