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Since 2008, sleep medicine doctors have been reporting a new phenomenon in their practices.  For years, sleep talking and sleep walking have been well-known.  More recently, reports of eating and having sex while sleeping have also been documented.   Now, patients are reporting episodes of sending texts and even pictures during the night via their smartphones, with no recollection of the event the next morning.  An excellent article from our own intrepid reporter from the Lantern, Stephanie Kariuki, tells about some OSU students who have themselves experienced sending a text they do not remember. 

This makes me wonder about the invasion of this technology into our lives 24/7.  20 years ago, the only people carrying pagers 24 hours a day were those who might serve a critical need at any time, day or night.  Now, we nearly all have the capacity to be “available” even while asleep.  But think about the value of those communications.  Do you need to wake up at 3AM to read about your best friend’s neighbor’s break-up with their boyfriend?  Maybe your cousin had a bit too much to drink, and his friend texts you a picture of the less than pretty results? 

We know that the quality of your sleep is reduced when the sleep is interrupted.  Sleep experts suggest that you either turn off your phone or silence it for text messages during the night.  Not only will you avoid being awakened, but it could help prevent you from sending an embarrassing text in response. 

If you’re having trouble sleeping, come in and see us – we can help. 


Roger Miller, MD  (OSU Student Health Services)

OSU docs pioneer new treatment for sleep apnea!

The Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital

Monday’s Lantern had a story about a group of OSU researchers who were the first scientists in the United States to implant a nerve stimulator in the diaphragm of a person with central sleep apnea.  Go Bucks!!

Sleep apnea is a condition where the normally rhythmic breathing cycles are interrupted during sleep.  These non-breathing (apnea) episodes can have serious health consequences: increased risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, depression and stroke; poor school or work productivity; even increased risk for accidents due to daytime drowsiness. 

Symptoms of sleep apnea include excessive daytime fatigue or sleepiness, poor attention or concentration, non-refreshing sleep and headaches.  Sounds pretty familiar, right?  But before you rush into the Student Health to get your robo-respirator, note that this device is indicated for central sleep apnea (CSA), not obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).  What’s the difference?

Generally, central sleep apnea is limited to people with heart failure, stroke or brain injuries.  These conditions cause damage to the parts of the nervous system that signals your body to breathe.  This is a pretty rare condition, especially among college and graduate students. 

Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by blockage of the airways that prevents breathing, even though the brain’s breathing signals are working just fine.  It can be caused by anatomic problems like big tonsils, a short neck or small jaw, but far and away the biggest risk factor is obesity.  Our muscles relax during sleep and excess weight on the chest, abdomen and neck can cause the muscles to collapse and close off the airway.  Because of this, OSA causes severe SNORING, while CSA does not.

OSA used to be identified primarily in middle-aged, overweight men (like me), but unfortunately with the obesity epidemic in our country, the rates are increasing in younger adults and even children.  If you’re having any of the symptoms mentioned above, or your neighbors down the hall can hear you snore, you should see your health care provider. 

OSA is diagnosed by an overnight sleep study test called a polysomnogram.  It’s usually treated with a machine that delivers air at a high pressure through a mask to keep the airways open during sleep called CPAP.  Throat surgery or oral appliances to alleviate the obstructions are sometimes used as well.

But the absolute mainstay of treatment is weight loss.  So there’s another reason added to the very long list of reasons to watch your weight and get active.  LOSE WEIGHT = BETTER SLEEP = BETTER SCORE on your physics midterm??  Let’s hope!!

Roger Miller, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University

Do cell phones really cause brain cancer?


In honor of July being National Cell Phone Etiquette Awareness Month – and with San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors recently approving a law requiring cell phone retailers to post the amount of radiation emitted by each phone they sell – we thought it would be a good time to re-run one of our post’s from last year addressing the question of whether or not cell phones cause brain cancer.

Q: I heard that cell phones might cause brain cancer. Is that true?

A: Cell phones work by emitting radio frequency (RF) waves, a form of electromagnetic radiation between FM radio and microwaves. Unlike x-rays or ultraviolet (UV) light, this form of radiation is non-ionizing, meaning that it lacks the ability to damage DNA molecules.

But because cell phones are constantly used in such close proximity to our brains, many people are worried that they might be associated with an increased risk of brain tumors.  There have been around 30 research studies over the past decade that have looked at this issue and most have found that:

  • People with brain tumors do not report using cell phones any more than people who don’t have tumors
  • People who use cell phones more than other people do not have an increased risk of developing a brain tumor
  • In people who had brain tumors AND who used cell phones, there was no correlation between the side of the head that they held their cell phone next to and the side of the brain that the tumor was on

These studies, however, do have limitations. Cell phones have only been around for about 20 years, so the studies haven’t been able to follow people over a really long period of time.  Also, there haven’t been any good studies looking at the effect of cell phones on the developing brains of children. 

For now, it’s safe to say that there is no evidence that cell phones increase your chance of getting a brain tumor.  Further studies will surely be conducted in the coming years but at this point, you’re safe to use all the free night and weekend minutes that you want.

Adam Brandeberry, Med IV (OSU COM)

John A. Vaughn, MD (OSU SHS)

Can concussions cause long term problems or even kill you?

photo: insidesocal.com

Q: I’ve been hearing a lot about football players getting concussions lately. Is it true that concussions can cause lasting effects and even kill you?

Short A: Yep

Long A: “Concussion” is a traumatic brain injury which causes a temporary loss of neurologic function with or without loss of consciousness. These are common in contact sports like football and hockey, but also occur in soccer, skiing, baseball, and rugby. Signs and symptoms of concussion include: 

  • Confusion
  • Amnesia and disorientation
  • Visual disturbance
  • Dizziness and balance problems
  • Mood changes
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Fatigue
  • Headache

Some symptoms-headache and amnesia-occur within minutes of the injury and may continue for some time after. Other symptoms-anxiety, depression, confusion, sleep disturbance, even seizures-might not show up until days or weeks after the injury. You should be examined by a doctor if you sustain a head injury which results in a loss of consciousness and/or experience any of the above symptoms.

Most people with a single, mild concussion will recover fully without noticeable side effects. However, one concussion makes it easier to get a second, even with a less forceful injury. This is why doctors usually make your favorite star athletes sit out a few weeks after a head injury. The brain needs time to heal before it is put at risk. “Second impact syndrome,” a potentially fatal swelling of the brain, can occur if a second injury occurs too soon after the first.

It’s clear that severe traumatic brain injury can cause permanent neurologic deficits. Surprisingly, it appears that multiple small concussions can cause cumulative neurologic and cognitive deficits as well. There is an association with multiple “knock outs” and Alzheimer’s disease in boxers.

General treatments for concussion include rest and over-the-counter pain medication. Drink lots of water and abstain from alcohol. You should not return to contact sports until you are completely recovered, which is at least a week for a mild concussion. More severe concussions might mean sitting out a season, or even changing sports.

Of course, the best treatment is prevention. Wear a helmet. Protect your head. 

Adam Brandeberry, Med IV (Ohio State College of Medicine)

Victoria Rentel, MD (Ohio State Student Health Services)