-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, Dec. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Dogs have been known to
assist their human companions in surprising ways, and now a new
case study suggests they can even help patients with severe sleep
problems stay awake during the day.
The report, published online Dec. 13 in the
BMJ, describes the case of a 35-year-old Belgian woman with
severe excessive daytime sleepiness who slept up to 16 hours a day
and fell asleep up to six times during the day.
This problem caused considerable difficulties in her social life
and limited her use of public transit, as she usually fell asleep
within a few minutes of sitting down.
The woman would often wake up at the end of the transit line and
have to fight sleepiness on the way back. She sometimes forgot
where she'd started her trip, according to Dr. Olivier Le Bon, head
of the psychiatry department at Tivoli Hospital of the Universite
Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium, and a colleague.
Medication provided only limited help, so the woman was put in
touch with a charity that provides trained dogs for people with
vision or hearing impairments. The woman's dog was first trained to
wake her in the morning at the sound of an alarm clock, even if
this sometimes required 30 minutes of what the researchers called
The dog then learned to wake the woman at the sound of a
cellphone ringing. Eventually, the dog learned to wake the woman at
every subway, tram or bus station as needed, the authors explained
in a journal news release.
The dog has enabled the women to travel around the city
efficiently and to have a social life, they pointed out.
This type of intervention "could benefit other patients with
similarly extreme and treatment-resistant daytime sleepiness," the
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more
and sleep disorders.
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