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Are Screens & Gadgets Stealing our Sleep?

More Screen Time = Less Sleep Time

It would probably be no surprise to anyone that we spend about half of our waking hours staring at a screen. Whether that’s a desktop or laptop computer screen, a cell phone or a tablet, we are completely engaged with our electronic devices for much of our waking hours. It is now believed that this much exposure to the artificial lighting of these screens can adversely affect our sleeping patterns.

As the use of these types of technologies increases, so does the amount of sleep disorders we experience. With so many of us watching TV in bed on our smartphones and checking messages or using our tablets right before bed, we are disrupting our body’s normal and natural sleep routine.

Good Night Tech, Good Night Moon

The lighting used to illuminate these devices may be tricking our bodies into thinking it’s daylight. The natural production of melatonin is affected by the amount of light outside. When the sun goes down our bodies start telling us that it is time to go to sleep. The use of gadgets with artificial lighting sources may be interfering with this natural process which makes it harder for us to fall asleep at night.

As great as technology is and with as many great benefits as the Internet delivers to us on a daily basis, there’s always a tradeoff. In this case, it may mean that checking your e-mail in bed will have you feeling groggy in the morning.

One solution is to rid your bedroom of tech devices, creating a sanctuary for sleep and signaling to your brain and body that your bed is a place meant for resting and sleeping, not tweeting and Instagraming.

Flu proof your Room

Sneezing in a white hankie. (Mcarlandmo, Wikimedia Commons).

Influenza, also known as the flu virus, can make you feel horrible for days on end. But by regularly disinfecting your bedroom, your odds of catching the flu can drop significantly. Following these simple tips can make a big difference when flu season rolls around:

Scrub All Surfaces

Because flu viruses can survive on hard surfaces for up to two days, it’s important to regularly wipe them down. Pay special attention to frequently touched surfaces like doorknobs, computer keyboards and screens, tables, chairs, your nightstand and your vanity. And definitely watch out for your desk – experts say that cleaning off a frequently used workspace like your desk can reduce your exposure to the flu by up to 50 percent.

Is Your Phone a Flu Magnet?

You might have never suspected your shiny new iPhone from doing wrong, but in fact, our cell phones can become major breeding grounds for all sorts of microbes. According to a <a href=http://techcrunch.com/2010/10/15/germs-iphone-phones-flu/>2010 Stanford University study,</a> telephones can harbor 18 times more germs than a toilet seat. So be sure to disinfect your phone regularly. If you’re technologically inclined, you can even buy a device that’ll gently clean off the sensitive tech parts with <a href=http://www.geeksugar.com/Clean-Your-Cellphone-UV-11478037>UV light.</a>

Sanitize Your Remote Control

Got a TV in your room? Unfortunately, your remote control is also germ hotspot. Because you and flip through channels on a daily basis, your remote control becomes a carrier of all sorts of tiny fauna. So, as with your phone, make sure to give it a hardy spritz of sanitizer on a regular basis.

Use a Humidifier

Using a humidifier on the air in your room can also ward away microbe invaders. Influenza’s ability to replicate is lessened when the humidity level in your room is higher.

Pay attention to both your wardrobe and your bedding. Note that just <a href=http://www.diylife.com/2010/11/25/flu-symptoms-proof-your-home/>one infected sheet</a> or piece of clothing is enough to spread the flu to an entire load of laundry. So to lessen the risk of catching something, turn your washing machine up to 150 degrees and don’t leave your wet laundry to dry on a clothing rack – dry everything in a dryer for 45 minutes minimum. These precautions, especially during flu season, can help keep your wardrobe and your bed virus-free.

Sleep Apnea: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Sleep apnea is a somewhat common condition in which normal breathing actually stops during sleep. These moments of apnea can happen many times while you’re asleep. My doctor informed me that the disruption in my breathing could be a sign of an issue regarding the signals in my brain. Just for a brief moment, the brain can literally ‘forget’ to tell the muscles to breathe.

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

Photo Courtesy of David Goehring

Photo Courtesy of David Goehring

In many cases, certain underlying health disorders are the culprit of sleep apnea like being overweight. That’s originally why I visited my doctor; but later discovered I had sleep apnea. From what I understand, this is quite common in obese people since excess weight can enlarge the tissues in and around a person’s airways. During an episode of sleep apnea, the brainstem doesn’t properly signal the muscles that tell you to breath. Because the brainstem is connected to the spinal cord, any medical disorders that affect the brainstem, heart, or spinal cord can lead to sleep apnea.

Here are some examples of conditions related to sleep apnea:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Encephalitis (brain inflammation)
  • Radiation treatments or surgery on the spine
  • Cervical spine arthritis
  • Parkinson’s disease (an age-associated deterioration of key nerve systems that impact muscle control, balance, and overall movement)
  • Congestive heart failure

Symptoms

The basic symptoms of sleep apnea include brief periods when your breathing stops during sleep. For some people, they show signs of extreme shallow breathing rather than actually stopping. The lack of air itself is what caused me to frequently wake up through the night. Obviously, this makes me very tired the next day. The sleep apnea episodes cause insomnia. Other symptoms include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Speech pattern changes
  • Changes in the voice
  • Overall weakness throughout the body

Diagnosis

My doctor ordered a polysomnography, which is a sleep study test that’s used to diagnose sleep apnea. During a polysomnography test, your breathing patterns, lung function, heart rate, brain activity, and oxygen levels are monitored.

Treatment

The first step in treating sleep apnea is managing any underlying medical issues that may be causing it in the first place. The regulation of air pressure and oxygen supplementation during sleeping are both effective in treating people who deal with sleep apnea. Some of these treatments include:

ASV (Adaptive Servo-Ventilation)

ASV monitors your breathing patterns while you sleep. The innovative system ‘remembers’ your patterns. The system is pressurized and works to help normalize your breathing patterns in order to prevent any future episodes of sleep apnea.

BPAP (Bi-level Positive Air Pressure)

BPAP regulates the air pressure at a higher level once you inhale and back down to a lower level once you exhale.

CPAP (Continuous Positive Air Pressure)

CPAP provides a continuous source of pressure in the airways when sleeping. While sleeping at night, a mask is worn over your mouth and nose that delivers a continuous stream of pressurized air.

Outlook

For most people struggling with sleep apnea, they respond well to ongoing treatment. The benefits of sleep apnea treatment are varied based on the cause of the condition.

Pillow Options for People With Bad Backs or Necks

Neck and back pain are two of the most common ailments that people suffer from. These problems can be experienced by young and old people alike. Many of these instances of neck and back pain can be traced back to problems during sleep. When people sleep in awkward positions, it often contributes to these issues. My uncle was one of the people that woke up every morning with a stiff back and neck. He thought that he would just have to learn to live with the pain. However, I told him to test out some new pillows to see if that might solve the problem. To his surprise, a new pillow specifically designed to help the back and neck was exactly what he needed. Let’s take a look at some of the best examples of these pillows that are currently available:

Travelrest pillow

This pillow is ideal for people who do a lot of traveling and can never seem to have a restful sleep during their trip. This keeps your head from tilting over if you are trying to sleep in a sitting position. That type of tilting can put a lot of stress on your neck. It is easy to inflate to the desired amount of firmness or softness. It helps you to maintain good posture and avoid sudden jerky movements.

Talalay latex pillow

This is ideal for both side and back sleepers. Your neck and head will be kept cool by the ventilated foam. Because the pillow is four inches high, many people say it is a good pillow for someone with a large body who enjoys sleeping on their side.

Lumbar wedge pillow

This type of pillow is made by many manufacturers. As the name indicates, it is shaped like a wedge. This type of pillow can be used in two different ways. It can be used by people who need to sit at a desk all day at their job because it provides support to the lower back. There are also larger wedge pillows that can be used for sleeping. Their shape has been shown to reduce tossing and turning. It also enables people to get out of bed easier.

Cylinder pillows (also called a roll pillow)

This is another pillow that is produced by many companies, so a person will need to test out a few different ones to see which one they like best. You can find these pillows stuffed most frequently with either beans or foam. If a person uses them while sitting in a chair, they will provide support to the lumbar region of the back, where many people frequently experience pain. They can also be placed under your neck when you are sleeping to give your neck the amount of support it needs.

Selecting The Right Mattress For Your Body & Sleep Habits

Choosing the right mattress can make the difference between years of satisfactory sleep or endless nights trying to find a comfortable position. Your body type has a bearing on the type of mattress you should select for best support. Your personal sleep preferences should also be taken into account when selecting the right mattress for your need

Side, Stomach or Back Sleepers

Your sleep position is a significant factor in selecting a mattress. Ultimately, a good mattress should keep your spine in a straight alignment regardless of what position you take. However, many back sleepers find that a firm mattress offers the necessary support of the lower back. Side sleepers need a bit more “give” to allow them a comfortable position that still offers support. For these sleepers, a medium firmness is a good choice. If you sleep on your stomach, a soft mattress will make you fall into it face down too readily, causing a deep curve in the lower back and neck. Choose a medium firmness mattress to allow some support for both upper and lower body.

Broad Shoulders

Individuals who have broad shoulders and are side sleepers will probably prefer a mattress on the softer side. Too much pressure on the shoulders can be uncomfortable, so softer support can be a better choice. The right mattress can be especially important for those with shoulder problems. A firm mattress can allow too much pressure on the shoulder joint, leading to aches and pains upon waking in the morning.

Wide Hips

Similarly, those individuals with wide hips may find that a firm textured mattress places too much pressure on tender hipbones. Older people who are troubled by hip pain may find this particularly uncomfortable. Give considerable thought before committing to the purchase of a mattress. A store with a good return policy may be a good idea for people who may have difficulty finding the right firmness texture for their needs.

Weight Factors

Thin individuals can generally tolerate any thickness and firmness of mattress unless they have other health issues that may come into play. However, heavy individuals generally prefer firm mattresses that are over nine inches in thickness to avoid unnecessary pressure.

Mattress Accessories

Many consumers find that adding one of the mattress accessories that are available can help to make a mattress more comfortable for their particular body type. Padded mattress covers and mattress pads can additional softness when needed and can be removed when the sensitive body part improves. Buyers can choose from a wide variety of products that can help to raise the comfort level of their mattress for a better night’s sleep.