Helene A. Emsellem, MD, FAASM
Medical Director

John R. Ruddy, MD
Linda C. Croom, ANPC
Annemarie Zabbara, PA-C
Sandy Evanson, PA-C







Snooze or Lose in the News

Click on the links below to check out the latest buzz about Snooze or Lose!

FIVE SIGNS YOU HAVE PARASOMNIA. Walking, Talking, Eating can Happen When People Think They're Fast Asleep.

Ellen Vincenti went through a two-and-a-half day stretch she wil never forget. She spent that time stuck in aremote swamp in the woods about 15 miles from her home in Tuftonboro, New Hampshire.

"I managed to get up on a tiny piece of land, but the water was waist-deep around me," said Vincenti.

What was worse was the fact that she has no idea how she got there.
Click here to read the full article from the Los Angeles Times

LATER SCHOOL START TIMES: FROM ZZZZs TO As. A growing body of evidence demonstrates that growing bodies benefit from more sleep.

As summer winds down, another new school year brings fresh notebooks, sharp pencils and — for many kids — a new cycle of sleep deprivation. With classes that start as early as 7 a.m. and buses that pull up long before sunrise, some 80% of American kids in grades 6 through 12 are falling short of sleep recommendations during the school year, according to research by the National Sleep Foundation, a sleep advocacy group.
Click here to read the full article from the Los Angeles Times

An author chases sleep

The effects of lack of sleep go beyond an occasional yawn at work. A recent study found persistent insomnia can shorten your life. Author and insomniac Patricia Morrisroe found some answers and a lot of mystery surrounding sleep.
Click here to listen to the full broadcast

Adolescent Sleep, School Start Times, and Teen Motor Vehicle Crashes

There is considerable evidence that a majority of adolescents do not get enough sleep for optimal functioning during the day. It is also clear that driving while drowsy is a seri­ous traffic safety problem, especially among young drivers. Both social and biologic pressures appear to cause a shift in sleep patterns during the transition to adolescence, with the re­sult that adolescents stay up progressively later as they progress through high school. Therefore, early school start times for adolescents decrease their sleep, which increases their daytime sleepiness, 8 which may, in turn, increase their odds of crashing their vehicles while driving.
Click here to read the full article from Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine

A Breath of Fresh Sleep

Sleeping used to be one of my favorite activities-- until I got lousy at it. I started having trouble with it last year when I found myself feeling more tired when I woke up than when I went to sleep. I practically fell asleep at my desk. (Okay, I did fall asleep on my keyboard.) My once respectable memory took a precipitous decline into the "I can't remember my own telephone number" range. And then there was a problem, for my husband and anyone within a three-room radius, of the snoring.
Click here to read the full article from Washington Post

Fairfax Plan Would Delay High School Start at No

Fairfax County school transportation planners have developed a no-cost proposal to deliver students to high school later in the morning, boosting the case for a change in schedule sought by parents who argue that the 7:20 a.m. opening bell deprives teenagers of sleep they need to be healthy and successful. The latest proposal, released Friday, marks an about-face for school officials, who have assumed that altering the schedule for one of the nation's largest bus fleets -- delivering 127,000 eligible riders to nearly 200 schools -- would carry a hefty price. Estimates in the past decade have ranged from $4 million to more than $40 million. "Now money is off the table," said Dick Reed, a parent who chaired a transportation task force last school year. "Now the [school] board can debate the merits of later start times, and those benefits will be clear."
Click here to read the full article from Washington Post

Experts Say Teens Losing Sleep Over Technology

"The light exposure when you're on the computer late at night, when you should be exposed to dark and you brain responds to those cues, can make it more difficult to fall asleep at an appropriate time," said Dr. Emsellem.

Experts are also concerned about the bad habits being formed, like using media as a sleep-aid for babies and toddlers. They are also looking at whether the light from the TV or computer screen is delaying the onset or if they stay up late watching, playing, or texting, when they should be sleeping.
Click here to read the full article on
Click here to watch the video on

Reworking the Rest Formula for Safer Skies

One of Charles Lindbergh's challenges in flying the Spirit of St. Louis across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927 was keeping his eyes open for 33.5 hours. "My mind clicks on and off," Lindbergh wrote in his detailed account of the first solo transatlantic flight. "I try letting one eyelid close at a time when I prop the other open with my will. But the effort's too much. Sleep is winning. My whole body argues dully that nothing, nothing life can attain is quite so desirable as sleep."
Read the full column on the Washington Post

Children’s Media Use and Sleep Problems: Issues and Unanswered Questions

Among the many blessings parents seek to pass on to their children, a life of good sleep habits is an unglamorous but important one. Sleep is the subject of some confusion and considerable anxiety among parents of infants, but fades gradually to an afterthought among most parents of older children, who struggle to maintain busy schedules, enforce homework, and endorse healthy social lives. In the effort to balance these needs, children’s sleep often takes a back seat. Short-changing sleep has serious adverse consequences. American children get too little sleep, with major adverse implications for their cognitive ability, judgment, behavior and physical health.
Read the full article published by Kaiser Family Foundation

As Doctors Get a Life, Strains Slow

Louis Weinstein, chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, argues that the old OB-GYN model doesn't always benefit patients -- and that younger doctors' reluctance to be on call 24/7 may well be a good thing for both patient and practitioner. "I can promise you that I will be available for your delivery, but I have no idea how many hours I will have been up many c-sections I will have done" since awakening, Dr. Weinstein says, describing the traditional model. "Or I can assure you that one of my colleagues will be fresh, will be available and will be focusing just on you. Which would you prefer?" Obstetricians who work fixed hours at the hospital are often referred to as OB hospitalists. The term "hospitalist" was coined in the 1990s to describe a new type of doctor who focuses on patients who are in the hospital. Today, there are more than 20,000 hospitalists in the U.S., according to the Society of Hospital Medicine, and many work set hours for a fixed salary. Their pay is often 15% to 20% higher than what primary-care doctors make. The vast majority are generalists, but a growing number are trained in obstetrics and other fields.
Read more of the article from the Wall Street Journal Online

Changing School Start Times in Fairfax County

Select the links below to get the latest news coverage on school start times in Fairfax County
Fairfax May Push Back School Start Time (April 23, 2008 ABC 7 News)
School Start Times Debated (April 24, 2008 NBC 4 News)

Sleeping In: Sanity For High Schoolers

Anyone who has ever been a teenager knows well the horror of early awakenings during those heady years. For years, school administrators have known about research that bolsters the argument of teens who sleep till noon, yet most school systems insist that bus schedules and the convenience of parents and staff make it imperative to cling to school hours created when we were a nation of farmers and factory hands.

Now, after many months of rigorous study by a task force of parents, teachers, students and others, the Fairfax County school board is poised today to decide whether to overhaul school starting times and let teenagers sleep an hour or two later each morning. As someone who has never quite gotten past his teenage predilection for sleeping from 3 a.m. to 11 a.m., I can only stand and cheer at the mere possibility of such a reform.
Read more from Marc Fisher's Washington Post blog

Try Sleeping On It

Another large area of study is how cognitive faculties are affected by sleep-fragmentation that can occur with sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Many people with SDB/OSA experience sleep-arousals that may not necessarily result in waking. Thus a person may complain of a decline in cognitive function without realizing OSA may be the cause. A meta-analysis of people with SDB found detriments in not only memory tasks but also a number of other cognitive functions including attention and executive function.
Click here to read more from Clinical Compass regarding sleep, memory and learning.

“Messages to the Public”
The Role of Sleep in Memory and Learning Conference

  1. Adequate sleep will help you learn, retain and fully understand new material.
  2. Sleep apnea (and other sleep disorders) negatively impacts memory and learning—which may be particularly important for children.
  3. Different aspects of sleep (e.g., REM versus deep sleep) may be important for different types of memory (e.g., facts, playing a musical instrument).
  4. Memory difficulties associated with aging may be associated with poorer sleep.
  5. Changes in sleep and circadian regulation occurring in adolescence are inconsistent with optimal learning when morning school start times are too early (before 8:30 -9:00 AM).

For more information regarding the National Sleep Foundation, click here.
For the Sleep in America Poll Results from 2008 and previous years, click here.

Feeling exhausted in the morning? You're not alone

Go to school, do homework, help the homeless, go to swim practice, eat, study, and do more homework. With a schedule like this, sleep does not rank high in a typical Whitman student's daily life. Teenagers need about nine hours of sleep each night to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Studies, however, show the standard teenager gets an average of only seven hours. To convey the importance of sleep and help students improve their sleep schedules, sleep doctor Helene Emsellem spoke to a full audience of Whitman and Pyle parents Feb. 5 in the Whitman media center, while her assistant spoke to students in the chorus room.
Read more from The Black and White Online

Creating a Sublime Sanctuary

Between work, making dinner, keeping up with the kids, getting ready for the next day and watching the nightly news, Americans often stay busy until the moment they hit the sheets, Emsellem says. Bedrooms are wired with computers, televisions, treadmills and cell phones, and sometimes sleeping is difficult to fit on the agenda. "We don't get any downtime until we go to sleep. We sacrifice transitional time, which we really need to clear our minds and level ourselves and prepare for sleep," Emsellem says. The bedroom should be an environment where all senses are soothed -- from a worried mind, a rumbling stomach, worn-out eyes or tired bones. Dimmed lights, a warm bath, stretching routines, an inspiring book or calming playlist on an MP3 player are all ways to help the body welcome sleep. "The first and most important thing is separating your day time from your night time," Emsellem says. Sorting out the daily "crud list" long before bedtime, and creating a room that's free of distractions is a gateway between a busy day and a good night's sleep. "You really want to take the irritants out of the bedroom, for sure," Emsellem says.
Read more from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Asleep at the Wheel: Waking Up To the Risks of Drowsy Driving

Some 60% of Americans say they have driven while drowsy, and 37% admit to nodding off at the wheel, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Lack of sleep is a factor in one-fifth of motor-vehicle accidents and near accidents, studies conducted for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found. It's also to blame in one-third of fatal truck accidents -- equivalent to alcohol and drugs combined.

ADHD, Adderall and Sleep

Dr. Emsellem explains: “Many teens regularly sleep for 10 to 12 hours on weekends as their bodies try to pay back the cumulative weekday sleep debt. If a teen needs a minimum of 8.5 hours of sleep per night but only gets 6.5 hrs, he/she may have accumulated a sleep debt of 10 hours by the end of an average school week. Even sleeping 12 hours per weekend night might only catch you up on 8 of those 10 hours. The cumulative sleep debt can become overwhelming and lead to the ‘crashes’ that your reader describes.”

Dr. Emsellem says that it is important to be aware of the symptomatic overlap between ADD/ADHD and sleep restriction. “Difficulty with attention, focus and concentration are key symptoms of both sleepiness and ADD/ADHD. The presence of sleep restriction will aggravate ADD/ADHD symptoms. If the worsened symptoms are managed with higher medication doses rather than with the much needed sleep then symptoms may snowball.”


Take a Pause: 3 ways to take a step back from the festivities and grab a moment for yourself!

A little snooze can be a refreshing break—except when it leaves you feeling more groggy than when you started. Set an alarm clock to wake you after 20 to 40 minutes—that way you’ll have just enough time to rest without entering deep sleep. And log your pillow time optimally between 2 and 5 p.m.—any later and you may jeopardize your nighttime sleeping, says Helene Emsellem, M.D., author of Snooze...or Lose! If you can’t fall asleep right away, don’t stress. Lying down and clearing your mind is a precursor to Stage 1 sleep, which is similar to meditation.

Read more from Hallmark Magazine

Sleep is Found to Help Moms Shed Baby Weight

Researchers presented a conundrum to new mothers, saying that women who want to lose the extra weight gained in pregnancy should try to get more sleep. They found that mothers who slept five hours or less a day when their babies were 6 months old were three times as likely as more rested mothers to have kept on the extra weight at one year. "We've known for some time that sleep deprivation is associated with weight gain and obesity, but this study shows that getting enough sleep -- even just two hours more -- may be as important as a healthy diet and exercise for new mothers to return to their pre-pregnancy weight," said Erica Gunderson of Kaiser Permanente.
From News Services Washington Post Online 20/Nov/2007

The Elderly Always Sleep Worse, and Other Myths of Aging

And for years, sleep scientists thought they knew what was going on: sleep starts to deteriorate in late middle age and steadily erodes from then on. It seemed so obvious that few thought to question the prevailing wisdom.Now, though, new research is leading many to change their minds. To researchers’ great surprise, it turns out that sleep does not change much from age 60 on. And poor sleep, it turns out, is not because of aging itself, but mostly because of illnesses or the medications used to treat them. “The more disorders older adults have, the worse they sleep,” said Sonia Ancoli-Israel, a professor of psychiatry and a sleep researcher at the University of California, San Diego. “If you look at older adults who are very healthy, they rarely have sleep problems.”
Read more from New York Times Online
PDF version




5454 Wisconsin Ave.,
Suite 1725
Chevy Chase, MD 20815

Phone: 301-654-1575
Fax: 301-654-5658