Learn about respiratory and sleep

Do you have insomnia?

The Bellberry Human Research Ethics Committee has reviewed and approved this study (Protocol number 2016-02-104) in accordance with the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007) incorporating all updates. Australia and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry number 12614001293651.

The Bellberry Human Research Ethics Committee has reviewed and approved this study (Protocol number 2016-02-104) in accordance with the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007) incorporating all updates. Australia and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry number 12614001293651.

Do you want better sleep at night and better concentration during the day?

At the Woolcock we are trialling a combination of a behavioural intervention with a short script of a new medication that we hope will improve sleep and daytime performance.

If you would like to find out more about this study, please follow this link to register your interest. 

 

 

Blue Illusion Fashion Parade 2017

Thanks to model / supporter extraordinaire Mrs Lynette De Michiel, who championed the event on behalf of the Woolcock once more on Saturday, 25 February 2017 at Blue Illusion Miranda, we raised over $1100 on the day of the parade! 

Are you looking for ways to support the Woolcock? Ask for donations instead of gifts, hold a musical concert, bake cakes or put on a fashion parade. Talk to us for more information or ideas on 02 9114 0414.

Are you a smoker aged between 25 and 45 years? You may be eligible for our study

Early COPD in SMOKERS

Are you a smoker aged between 25 and 45 years?

Would you like to participate in a clinical trial to try and find out if it is possible to reduce the effects of smoking on your lungs?

We are enrolling volunteers now.

If you have been a smoker for 10 years or more, we are keen to study you!

If you are eligible to participate, you will be seen regularly by a study doctor and receive study-related testing and study medication at no cost.

For more information, please contact:

Name: Paola Urroz
Phone number: (02) 9114 0402
E-mail address: smokers@woolcock.org.au

Institutions: Woolcock Institute of Medical Research (Glebe), Royal North Shore Hospital, Concord Hospital & Campbelltown Hospital

This study has been approved by the Northern Sydney Local Health District Human Research Ethics Committee, reference HREC/15/HAWKE/489

Asthmatics Miss Out on Crucial Lung Tests: Report

Most Australians with asthma and other lung conditions are missing out on lung tests needed to properly diagnose their condition, a new report reveals.

Spirometry lung function tests are recommended to ensure the millions of Australians with breathing disorders are correctly diagnosed around the time they start medication. However, a report produced by the Australian Centre for Airways disease Monitoring (ACAM) at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research shows these tests are rarely performed.

We discovered that 82 per cent of people on medication to treat chronic airways disease, including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), did not have their lung function tested within 12 months before or after their initial prescription,” says Woolcock respiratory physician Professor Helen Reddel. “That is very concerning given research shows these tests are needed to ensure people are correctly diagnosed.

The report is a collaboration of ACAM and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare supporting the national monitoring of chronic respiratory conditions. It analyses data collected as part of the Sax Institute’s 45 and Up Study of more than 250,000 NSW residents.

The work investigates the use of spirometry, a type of lung function test that assesses how well the lungs are working, which is regarded an essential part of diagnosing and managing chronic airways disease.

As Professor Reddel explains, guidelines for asthma and COPD recommend that spirometry be performed to confirm the diagnosis before treatment is started, or soon after. “Unfortunately, in most cases this is not happening,” she says.

For asthma in particular, once the disease is diagnosed it’s recommended that lung function be measured again periodically, every 1–2 years for most patients. “But we found that lung function testing was performed for only about one-quarter of asthma patients in a three-year period, and 12 per cent had only one lung function test during that time,” the physician says. “There are serious concerns the lack of testing may be contributing to inaccurate diagnosis and inappropriate use of medicines.

Researchers believe the findings may reflect difficulties for the medical community in carrying out spirometry tests in primary care, including insufficient Medicare reimbursements, the need for careful staff training, and on-the-job time constraints.

The results support findings from the recent Medicare Benefits Schedule Review, for which the Thoracic Medicine Clinical Committee noted underuse of lung function testing in primary care and recommended changes in order to increase its use for diagnosis and management of asthma and COPD.

The report, The use of lung function testing for the diagnosis and management of chronic airways disease: Demonstration data linkage project using the 45 and Up Study 2001–2014, can be found by clicking this link: http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=60129557382

Personalised Puffers: Asthma’s Exciting Future

Children with asthma could soon get personalized treatment that targets their specific type of wheeze, a world-leading respiratory expert says.

British paediatric allergy researcher Professor Adnan Custovic will deliver a lecture in Sydney on Friday on ground-breaking work that could see youngsters one day diagnosed with distinct types of asthma. Once specialists are able to diagnose sub-types of the common lung condition, work can get underway to personalise treatment for each patient, ensuring sufferers get the most effective therapy for their specific wheeze.

The Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in Sydney invited the distinguished researcher to Australia to present the Ann Woolcock Lecture in honour of the institute’s esteemed founder.

More than two million Australians have asthma, and rates are highest in children,”  says the Woolcock’s Executive Director Professor Carol Armour. “Doctors currently only have the ability to diagnose and treat asthma broadly, so to consider a future with targeted treatments is truly exciting.

Asthma is an umbrella term for a collection of distinct diseases in which the airways become narrow and inflamed. Researchers worldwide are working with reams of genetic and environmental data to discover specific asthma subtypes. Professor Custovic, Clinical Professor of Paediatric Allergy at Imperial College, London, will report on exciting developments in machine-learning techniques to advance the field. 

Professor Armour says if advancements keep up, one day soon our doctors will be able to identify true asthma endotypes at a population level. "This will ultimately lead to more precise prevention strategies, identification of novel therapeutic targets and the development of effective personalized therapies,” she says.

The Ann Woolcock Lecture series honours the contribution of Prof Woolcock to the research community. Invited researchers share their ideas with industry, policy makers, doctors, specialists and patients with a view to prompting new collaborations to improve respiratory health.

The lecture will be held on Friday, 28 October at 5.30pm, at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research headquarters in Glebe, Sydney.

RSVP to woolcock.admin@sydney.edu.au or phone 02 9114 0408.

SEMINAR: Find out how to help your sleepy teen

Do you have sleepy teenagers at your school or at home? Come along to oursleep education seminar here at the Woolcock Institute on 27 October 2016.

Optimal learning is impossible without adequate sleep. Adolescent sleep deprivation is increasingly common in our busy world, and carries many risks and consequences for teenagers. Sleep deprivation is related to poor academic outcomes, psychological problems, reduced school attendance, and increasing in risk taking behaviours. Parents and educationalists are therefore well placed to detect sleep deprivation, but implementing specific management strategies is difficult as teenagers are resistant to some components of sleep health treatments. This seminar outlines detailed treatment pathways to help students optimise their sleep.

Presented by Adolescent Sleep Physician, Dr Chris Seton and Adolescent Sleep Psychologist Dr Amanda Gamble from the Woolcock Institute. This seminar will teach you all you need to know about adolescent sleep, as well as showing you how to detect problems and implement practical assistance to your sleepy teenagers.

You can view our sleep education seminar brochure here. 

When: 27 October 2016. 

Where: Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, Level 5, Glebe Point Road, Glebe NSW 2037

For who: Parents, teachers, counsellors, psychologists and others involved in high school education

You can read more about teen's sleep here.  

How to alleviate the epidemic of sleep deprived students

What if there was a virus going around affecting 30% of primary school students and 70% teenagers? What if that virus had an adverse affect on physical development, emotional and mental health, behaviour, and learning and academic performance?

These effects are occurring now, not through a virus but an equally virulent epidemic that is sweeping through Australian schools. Sleep Deprivation. The good news is that, unlike many viruses, we know the simple cause and effects of sleep deprivation and can take action now to deliver a cure.

Why is sleep deprivation such an issue?

Sleep, nutrition and exercise are core pillars of a healthy life, but sleep will impair function fastest if you don’t get enough:

  • Learning and academic performance: sleep helps concentration and motivation along with consolidation and strengthening of new information and memories.
  • Emotional and mental health: studies show children who are sleep deprived are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, negative body image and low self-esteem.
  • Behaviour and decision making: sleep deprivation affects decision making capacity, has a negative effect on behaviour and relationships, and increases risk of accidents. 
  • Body systems: sleep deprivation affects children’s physical growth, brain development, immune system and plays a key role in weight gain.

Why are our children not getting the sleep they need?

The majority of child and adolescent sleep problems fall into four categories, though for many people a combination are at play.

  • Insufficient sleep: This is the most common sleep problem influenced by lack of understanding of the importance of sleep and hours required for optimal functioning. This combined with a busy lifestyles and the drive to be socially connected means sleep becomes undervalued and a low priority. Together this means children are simply not getting enough sleep for optimal physical and mental health.
  • Psychological Insomnia: Is a common problem reported by adolescents. This includes difficulty initiating sleep, difficulty maintaining sleep, waking up too early and non-restorative sleep causing significant distress or impairment. The cause is often anxiety, depression or stress. Or it could be that they cannot switch off their brain from thinking and let go of the day.
  • Delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPS): Also known as “late body clock” or “night owl”. This can be generally defined when the teen‘s sleep is delayed by more than 2 hrs of the desired time. They have difficulties getting to sleep, being more awake late at night and sleepy in the morning. This creates difficulties getting up at the appropriate time in the morning and they may describe feeling permanently jetlagged. This body clock preference in adolescence is a mix of biological factors, further exacerbated by lack of parental monitoring, academic and social pressures and the use of electronic devices.
  • Snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): Loud and regular nightly snoring is often abnormal in otherwise healthy children. Sometimes it is a sign of a respiratory infection, a stuffy nose or allergy.  In more serious cases it can be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This is caused by an obstruction of airflow when breathing, causing a lack of adequate oxygen supply to the brain. In children this is most commonly due to enlarged tonsils and adenoids but may also be influenced by factors including obesity and small airways.

How much sleep do our children need?

Dr Chris Seton from the SleepShack says the best way to judge how much sleep a child needs is to assess whether it's “enough for them to wake spontaneously – meaning without an alarm clock - on most mornings and avoid tiredness during the day at least until the last hour before bedtime".

The National Sleep Foundation recommends:

  • Preschoolers (3-5 years old) : 10-13hrs
  • Primary School Aged Children (6-12years old) : 9-11 hrs
  • Teens (13-17 years old) : 8-10 hrs

How do we identify children who are sleep deprived?

  • Tired body language
  • Difficulties concentrating, poor short term memory, declining grades
  • Moody and stressed
  • Late for school
  • Younger children can exhibit symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), becoming excitable, hyperactive, disagreeable and engaging in extreme behaviours like tantrums or aggression

For others signs visit: Signs that children are tired

What can we do to raise awareness?  

The first step is to create an awareness of the current level of sleep deprivation among students and the effect this is having on all aspects of their lives. Here are some sleep tips: 


IMPORTANT: Seek advice from a health professional.

If you remain concerned that problems with sleep, however mild, are having an impact on you in terms of wellbeing, school, relationships or home life then seek advice and see below for options.


WOOLCOCK PAEDIATRIC SLEEP CLINIC

The Woolcock is home to Australia’s only specialist Paediatric and Adolescent Sleep Service which assesses and manages all sleep disorders in children and teenagers.

Good sleep is vital for healthy growth and development in infants and children. However 70 per cent of teenagers have insufficient sleep thanks to the pressure to keeps up with school, family and friends.

Children who develop sleep problems are prone to mood disorders, antisocial behaviour, growth delays and learning problems. 

Please read our brochure for more information. 

Click here to visit our Paediatric Sleep Clinic. 

BOOKING

To book an appointment at the Woolcock Paediatric Sleep Clinic please contact reception on:

T: (02) 9114 0000
E: reception@woolcock.org.au
F:  (02) 9114 0010


SEMINAR: TREATING SLEEP DEPRIVED ADOLESCENTS - FOR PARENTS AND EDUCATORS

Do you have sleepy teenagers at your school or at home? Come along to oursleep education seminar here at the Woolcock Institute on 27 October 2016.

Optimal learning is impossible without adequate sleep. Adolescent sleep deprivation is increasingly common in our busy world, and carries many risks and consequences for teenagers. Sleep deprivation is related to poor academic outcomes, psychological problems, reduced school attendance, and increasing in risk taking behaviours. Parents and educationalists are therefore well placed to detect sleep deprivation, but implementing specific management strategies is difficult as teenagers are resistant to some components of sleep health treatments. This seminar outlines detailed treatment pathways to help students optimise their sleep.

Presented by Adolescent Sleep Physician, Dr Chris Seton and Adolescent Sleep Psychologist Dr Amanda Gamble from the Woolcock Institute. This seminar will teach you all you need to know about adolescent sleep, as well as showing you how to detect problems and implement practical assistance to your sleepy teenagers.

You can view our sleep education seminar brochure here. 

When: 27 October 2016. 

Where: Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, Level 5, Glebe Point Road, Glebe NSW 2037

For who: Parents, teachers, counsellors, psychologists and others involved in high school education


THE SLEEP CONNECTION

"Sleep for Better Health, Resilience and Performance” is a school program for students, parents, teachers and wellbeing staff. 

For more information visit The Sleep Connection and Program Overview.

 


SLEEPSHACK

SleepShack is the clinically proven, online sleep program for pre-teens* (10-12 years) and teenagers (13-18 years). If you have any questions regarding the correct pathway simply email hello@sleepshack.com.au. For more information visit SleepShack


Teens Clueless About Screen Sleep Threat

Most Australian teenagers are sleep deprived and have no idea their late nights are taking a toll on their report card, a leading sleep educator says.

A sleep education program run in Australian schools has revealed that many students are failing to get their essential 8-10 hours sleep each night, largely due to the distraction of electronic devices like smartphones, tablets and computers.

“But even more concerning is that most of the students I’m talking to really don’t understand the effect that this lack of sleep is having on their mood, their mental health and their learning,” says Lisa Maltman, from the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in Sydney and Director of The Sleep Connection.

“That’s a worry given science now firmly shows that losing even half an hour's sleep affects a student’s grades alarmingly.”

The Woolcock, Australia’s leading sleep and respiratory health organisation, has teamed up with The Sleep Connection to launch a school-based education program to combat the problem of sleep deprivation in youngsters.

Run by Ms Maltman, the course is designed to empower participants with the knowledge, practical strategies and tools to make informed decisions about their sleep health.

Just two months in, the program is revealing the true extent of the sleep-deficient problem.

“What I’m discovering is that most teens intuitively understand that a lack of sleep makes them a bit grumpy and it’s harder for them to concentrate, but that’s where their knowledge ends,” she says.

“They are totally unaware how many hours of sleep they require to function at their best, and how vital that sleep is for their learning.”

Ms Maltman says it was of concern that most didn’t understand using electronic devices at bedtime was particularly detrimental.

“Recent research from Western Australia confirms teenagers with high social media use at bedtime suffer disturbed sleep, which in turn leads to feelings of sadness and declines in long-term wellbeing,” the educator says.

“That’s a message we need to get out there as soon as we can, especially as straw polls in the classroom suggest screens are the number one sleep thief.”

The Sleep Connection is a three-part education program run in primary and secondary schools across Australia aimed at educating students, teachers and parents. It is specifically targeted at creating awareness of sleep deprivation among students and the effect this is having on their lives.

Students take part in a one-hour sleep health presentation before completing a two-week sleep diary followed by a practical workshop to reinforce and personalise the information. Parents and teachers are given a video introduction as well as smart tools to support teenagers throughout the course.

Participants learn not just why they need sleep, but how much they need, what happens during sleep and both the cause and effect of sleep deprivation.

“We aim to boost awareness of sleep deprivation as a real life health issue and empower students with knowledge and practical strategies to make getting a good night’s sleep easier,” Ms Maltman says.

The course also offers top sleep tips and advice on treatment options for those students who have serious sleep issues.

Dr Chris Seton, a paediatric sleep specialist who helped develop the Woolcock program, says a new body of research is emerging to reveal the true effect of sleep deprivation on young people.

“On top of mood and mental health, we now know sleep helps learning by boosting concentration, motivation and information consolidation,” Dr Seton says.

Conversely, sleep deprivation affects decision-making capacity, has a negative effect on behaviour and relationships, and increases risk of accidents, he says.

“As if that’s not enough, it can hurt children’s physical growth, brain development and immune system too, and it can also lead to weight gain. With so much at stake, this is something we really need to work on to get right.”

The Woolcock’s Sleep Connection partnership supports teen sleep education and awareness in schools, while its work with online teen sleep treatment program SleepShack (http://www.sleepshack.com.au/) ensures young people with sleep problems get the help they need. Those with hard-to-treat sleep issues are urged to seek specialist care from clinicians at The Woolcock Clinic.

A full overview of the program and its benefits is available at: http://thesleepconnection.com.au. Woolcock Paediatric Clinic: http://woolcock.org.au/paediatric-sleep-clinic/

Smart Sleep Habits

  • Create a regular sleep/wake routine
  • Improve your time management skills
  • Clear your mind by setting aside thinking and planning time prior to winding down
  • Have a one hour break between study and sleep
  • Have a one hour break between electronic devices and sleep
  • Keep your bedroom an electronics free zone
  • Keep your bedroom dark, quiet & the right temperature for sleeping
  • Expose yourself to bright light in the morning and dim light at night
  • Keep pen and paper beside your bed to write down anything that pops up in your mind that may concern you and keep you awake if you don’t write it down
  •  Choose healthy food and drink
  • Exercise daily, but not too close to bedtime
  • Have a relaxing pre bed wind down routine

Top Tips for Teenagers

  • Limit weekend sleep-ins
  • Avoid caffeine at least 6 hours before bed
  • Get rid of the snooze button: Although you may feel you get a few extra minutes, due to repeatedly waking you up in the wrong part of a new sleep new cycle this can make you wake up feeling groggier
  • Ensure bedroom is well ventilated and not too hot
  • Don’t lie in bed feeling stressed or frustrated: Try to do something to calm down and then give sleep another go

Watch the story here. 


WOOLCOCK PAEDIATRIC SLEEP CLINIC

The Woolcock is home to Australia’s only specialist Paediatric and Adolescent Sleep Service which assesses and manages all sleep disorders in children and teenagers.

Good sleep is vital for healthy growth and development in infants and children. However 70 per cent of teenagers have insufficient sleep thanks to the pressure to keeps up with school, family and friends.

Children who develop sleep problems are prone to mood disorders, antisocial behaviour, growth delays and learning problems. 

Please read our brochure for more information. 

Click here to visit our Paediatric Sleep Clinic. 

BOOKING

To book an appointment at the Woolcock Paediatric Sleep Clinic please contact reception on:

T: (02) 9114 0000
E: reception@woolcock.org.au
F:  (02) 9114 0010


SEMINAR: TREATING SLEEP DEPRIVED ADOLESCENTS - FOR PARENTS AND EDUCATORS

Do you have sleepy teenagers at your school or at home? Come along to our sleep education seminar here at the Woolcock Institute on 27 October 2016.

Optimal learning is impossible without adequate sleep. Adolescent sleep deprivation is increasingly common in our busy world, and carries many risks and consequences for teenagers. Sleep deprivation is related to poor academic outcomes, psychological problems, reduced school attendance, and increasing in risk taking behaviours. Parents and educationalists are therefore well placed to detect sleep deprivation, but implementing specific management strategies is difficult as teenagers are resistant to some components of sleep health treatments. This seminar outlines detailed treatment pathways to help students optimise their sleep.

Presented by Adolescent Sleep Physician, Dr Chris Seton and Adolescent Sleep Psychologist Dr Amanda Gamble from the Woolcock Institute. This seminar will teach you all you need to know about adolescent sleep, as well as showing you how to detect problems and implement practical assistance to your sleepy teenagers.

You can view our sleep education seminar brochure here. 

When: 27 October 2016. 

Where: Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, Level 5, Glebe Point Road, Glebe NSW 2037

For who: Parents, teachers, counsellors, psychologists and others involved in high school education

Lynette Schaverien's Story

On August 8, 2005, our father, John Sheaffer, died after a battle with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. That day marked the beginning of our search for a research institute trying to find a cure for that terrible disease and other lung diseases besides. Our search led us to the Woolcock Institute and my sisters and I named it as one of two causes to which mourners at Dad’s funeral might contribute in memory of him. Since 2005, my husband and I have been proud to be regular donors and are particularly delighted about the establishment of a lung cancer and lung diseases research centre within the Institute.

In July 1997, a CT scan of Dad’s lungs had showed two of the then three hallmarks of mesothelioma. The tumours themselves were not evident, as the respiratory physician explained to us then, but plaques were, and so was thickening of the walls. In 1950-51, Dad had worked at ICI as an engineer, supervising asbestos lagging of pipes. Although he was not continuously on the shop floor, he was certainly a constant presence. He had also been a heavy smoker, though he had given it up, cold turkey, in the late 1950s. As a small child, I remember his frustration and our worry at beginning our day, every morning with his terrible coughing. So, Dad spent more than half his life battling a mix of lung symptoms and diseases.

On discovering the news of his serious lung disease in 1997, Dad was characteristically philosophical. If it had taken so long to manifest itself, he reasoned, and if his lung function was still good, why worry? In the absence of a cure, he decided to try to forget about it, unless new symptoms appeared, requiring some action. He had lived a very full and happy life. He had escaped from Eastern Europe during WW2 as a 17-year-old, was able to settle in Sydney with his family and become an engineer, and had had a 46-year marriage to our much-loved mother, his soulmate. He had worked his way up over 27 years at Hanimex, an Australian photographic company, to become Director of Manufacturing (World Wide), leaving Hanimex in 1978 to spend the last seven years of his working life as a Commissioner on the Industries Assistance Commission and serving on the Immigration Review Tribunal as well. Though, sadly, our mother pre-deceased him by a decade, he was pursuing an active retirement, volunteering, travelling and playing bridge, as well as spending time with his three daughters, six grandchildren and many friends.

Though we noticed he was becoming frailer and he was troubled by a worsening cough, Dad did not complain and it was often a struggle to get him to a doctor. It was about two weeks before his death that things deteriorated significantly. He suffered a heart block and needed to have a pacemaker implanted. Unfortunately, he was one of many at that time whose pacemakers were not implanted successfully. He underwent three surgeries in order to implant it properly and, as a frail and elderly patient, his lungs deteriorated catastrophically and irreversibly as a result.

His very sudden deterioration and death were terrible to see. He had always been so capable, so independent, so generous, so wise and so funny – and we thought he had so many more years in which to see his grandchildren grow. It was not to be.

We wish the Woolcock Institute’s new lung cancer and lung diseases research centre well and will continue to donate to it in our father’s memory, in the sure knowledge that it will help to ensure that other good people are spared what he endured.

In memory of John Lawrence Sheaffer (1923-2005)

Study Helps Coughing Smokers Sleep Easy

As seen on Channel 9 news:

Smokers with a hacking cough disease may soon sleep easier thanks to an innovative Sydney project investigating why they struggle to get their 40 winks.

Sleeping problems are rife among the 300,000 Australians living with the smoking disease chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.

Lung specialists at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in Sydney want to change that with an Australian-first study delving into the causes of night time disturbances that leave COPD sufferers feeling fatigued through the day.

“Unfortunately for people with COPD it is common to have a restless night’s sleep, wake up during the night with breathing problems and then spend the day in a fatigued fog,” explains Professor Greg King, Woolcock Respiratory Physician and one of the Principal Investigators in the CIRCOMED study.

CLICK TO PLAY. 

“What we want to know is whether these sleep troubles are caused by the COPD itself or by other problems, like a pre-existing sleep disorder or changes in lung function during sleep. By understanding the real cause, we can better target treatment and get these sufferers sleeping deeply again,” he says.

About 6000 Australians die each year from COPD, a respiratory illness that destroys the lungs and makes it difficult to breathe. The condition, most commonly triggered by smoking, is responsible for about 60,000 hospitalisations annually. 

COPD sufferers have airway narrowing, bronchitis and emphysema, and while the search continues to prevent the disease and slow its progression, there are treatment strategies available that alleviate symptoms, reduce complications and improve quality of life. The study will help improve all of these aspects of COPD by shedding light on how lung function and circadian rhythms affect sleep quality and symptoms.

The Woolcock team are recruiting 100 COPD patients to undergo lung assessments and spend a night in the institute’s purpose-built sleep lab where their sleep will be closely monitored.

“We expect to find a significant number of patients have a disturbed sleep, but more importantly, we hope to come away with a clearer idea of what’s causing it,” Professor King says.

“Ultimately we want to translate that into better treatments that will not only help with sleep but improve quality of life throughout the day too.”

Researchers hope to recruit 100 people with COPD who are smokers or ex-smokers with either cough, shortness of breath or wheeze, and who have COPD, which will be confirmed as part of the study.

All recruits get comprehensive lung function tests and a medical assessment by a respiratory specialist and overnight diagnostic sleep study. They’ll need to complete a self-measured lung function, activity and symptom diary daily at home. Expenses will be reimbursed.

To sign up to this study click here. 

COPD in Australia

  • COPD affects one in 13 Australians aged 40 and over. Rates are higher in men.
  • Sufferers struggle to breathe deeply and are afflicted with weak lungs and a persistent mucous-heavy cough.
  • Smoking is the primary cause but other triggers include tuberculosis, air pollution and occupational exposure in workplaces such as mines.
  • The condition costs Australia about $950m in direct health costs each year, accounting for 1.3 per cent of all healthcare expenditure.
  • COPD patients routinely experience night time waking, poor quality sleep, breathing problems on waking and fatigue during the day.
  • Woolcock researchers are monitoring the sleep of 100 COPD patients in the hope they can learn the underlying cause of sleep issues and better treat them to improve quality of life.

Apply for CAR Post-Doc Research Fellowships

The Centre for Air quality and health Research and evaluation (CAR; an NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence) is based at a network of Universities and research institutes in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Applications for a Postdoctoral fellowship are now open. Postdoctoral fellowships are for those interested in a career in air pollution research. 

Read More

Bed not the Enemy for Wheezy Asthmatics: Study

40-year old dogma that the bed is the most important site for exposures triggering asthma symptoms is probably wrong, new Australian research shows.

The results will be frustrating for the thousands of Australians who actively try to avoid allergens by sanitising their bedrooms and investing in low-allergy bedding and protector sheets.

“While such specialist bedding probably offers some protection, it’s elsewhere in the house, plus in offices and on public transport - that you really need to protect yourself,” says chief investigator Associate Professor Euan Tovey. “But, sadly, protecting yourself outside the bedroom poses all sorts of new challenges.”

The study, published today in the prestigious scientific journal PLOS ONE, documents how researchers, for the first time, measured dust mite exposure continuously throughout the day and night using an Australian-built prototype sampler. The clip-on device, the size of a small packet of cards, is the first ever to accurately measure the pattern of dust mite allergen exposure that people receive as they go through their day.

The researchers found on average only about 10 per cent of the total daily exposure occurred while sleeping in bed at night. Another 50 per cent occurred elsewhere in the house while 40 per cent occurred outside the home, on transport and in offices and other buildings. There were wide variations between people.

“These figures debunk the 40-year old belief that the bed is the main site of allergen exposure,” says Associate Professor Tovey.

House dust mites are the world’s most common allergy-causing protein, with up to 1.2 billion people displaying some allergy to mites. Exposure can cause symptoms such as sneezing, asthma symptoms, and red and watery eyes.

Research previously showed mites were common in bed dust, leading experts to believe beds were the site of the heaviest exposure. However, it was also recognised that the mite allergens could be found in clothing, furnishings, carpets as well as in public buildings, but scientists had not been able to determine to what extent these sites contributed to exposure. 

Associate Professor Tovey and colleagues at the institute's Allergen Group investigated further by enlisting 10 people who spent a total of 20 days continuously tracking their personal exposure using the novel device worn on their lapel. Particles were continuously collected around the edge of a small disk, the size of a 20 cent coin, which rotated once over a 12 or 24-hour period. Participants also wore a tiny camera which took photos every 15 seconds. The researchers measured exposure during separate activities by cutting the disk into an average of 20 tiny segments corresponding to the different activities observed in the pictures and then analysing each segment for allergen.

“We have long realised that most dust in houses and in clothing contains mite allergen,” says Associate Professor Tovey. “But what we had not sufficiently taken into account is that dust needs to be dispersed into the air by movement before it can be inhaled. Generally, you don’t move much in your sleep and so exposure in beds is much less than we thought. It was not until we actually measured airborne exposure though the day and night that the pattern of exposure became apparent,” he explains.  

The researchers cautioned that the small study was indicative only, and additional studies of larger and different populations were warranted.

The finding makes the issue of reducing exposure more complicated. “Our suspicion is that allergen on clothing plays a much bigger role than previously thought, and while you can frequently wash some of your own clothing to reduce allergen, you are not going to be washing suits and jumpers each week, nor can you do that to all the other people on a bus,” Associate Professor Tovey says.

The results also help explain why the majority of the studies using specialist bed encasings alone have not been clinically effective. “They did not sufficiently reduce total exposure,” he says. “It also means that whole-house approaches like air filtration, the better design of carpets and furnishings, and addressing other key exposure spots all needs to be re-examined in light of their contributions to exposure.”

The Woolcock hopes to see further development of its prototype device which could potentially be used to help researchers and patients measure the important times of exposure to all sort of allergens, air pollutants as well as airborne viruses in ways not currently possible.

The research paper, entitled Time-based measurement of personal mite allergen bioaerosol exposure over 24 hour periods, is published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE and can be found at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0153414

Asthma and House Dust Mites

  • Asthma is one of the most common chronic disorders, affecting one in ten Australians

  • Sufferers experience episodes of wheezing, breathlessness and chest tightness due to widespread narrowing of the airways

  • The causes are still not well understood, but triggers are known to include viral infections, exercise, and exposure to allergens and irritants

  • Mite allergens are the most common thing people are allergic to.

  • These microscopic mites feast on flakes of human skin and are found in beds, furnishings and clothing. Much of the exposure to mites occurs via their faeces which carry the potent allergens. Studies suggest as many as 1.2 billion people worldwide could have some form of chronic sensitisation to dust mites

  • Typical symptoms of house dust mite allergies include itchiness, sneezing, inflamed or infected eczema, red or watering eyes and a runny nose

This story was also published in Sydney Morning Herald - Read it here.