Sleep Apnea: Causes and Effects

If you are suffering from excessive drowsiness during the day, but you went to bed early and woke up late, there may be a hidden cause. Sleep apnea momentarily stops breathing, arousing a sleeper briefly many times throughout the night. While these moments of awakening may go unnoticed during the night, the resulting sleepy feeling during the day may indicate a problem.  According The American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA), sleep apnea effects more 18 million Americans and many of the sufferers remain undiagnosed.

Two Types

There are two types of sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea, the more common type, occurs when the soft palate in the throat prohibits air from passing normally.  Central sleep apnea is caused by the brain failing to signal the body to breathe. Central sleep apnea is rare, but serious.

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs for a number reasons. Muscles in the throat that are relaxed from alcohol use, sleep inducing drugs, and smoking can cause the airway to become obstructed. People over 40, men, and those who are overweight are also more likely to suffer from sleep apnea.

Indications and Side Effects

Mayo Clinic discuses some indications that you may have experienced sleep apnea during the night including; constantly feeling tired, loud snoring, waking with the feeling of a very dry mouth,  a morning headache, insomnia, and the physical experience of interrupted breathing during the night.  If you feel like any of these indications are regularly effecting your daily life you should seek help from a doctor. Sleep apnea can also have the serious side effect of increased blood pressure. People who suffer from sleep apnea may be more at risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Treatments

Treatments for sleep apnea depend on the determined cause. Some suffererssleep apnea may be able to make a lifestyle change such as quitting smoking, losing weight, or refraining from alcohol several hours before sleep. According to WebMD mild sufferers of sleep apnea may be fitted with a mouthpiece to be worn at night that holds the jaw so that the airway cannot be blocked. Mayo Clinic suggests the most common and usually most effective treatment is the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure or CPAP machine. This machine keeps the airway open by placing a mask over the nose that puts a small amount of pressure on the airway, preventing it from becoming blocked.

Sleeping Better

Sleep apnea may be interfering with your healthy night of sleep. If you suspect a problem, get help. There are many ways a professional can help you sleep well and feel better!

 

Photo “comfortable mask at cpap central” courtesy of Rachel Tayse

What is Satin?

Satin, rather than being a type of fiber, is a type of weave. It is the weave that creates the characteristic shiny look and the incredibly smooth feel of satin. Satin is typically woven from silk, polyester, or other synthetic material.

The Weave

To understand how satin works, it is important to know how materials are woven. WiseGeek.com describes two important terms, warp and weft.  satinThe warp strands run vertically and the weft strands run horizontally. There are many different ways to weave together the warp and weft strands to create different feels and appearances. In a regular weave, the warp and weft strands are woven singly, one over the top of each other. In a satin weave, at least four warp strands must be woven over the top of every weft strand. This is called “floating.” Floating the four strands gives the material a very smooth feel and one shiny side.  This smooth, silky feel, makes satin sheets perfect for hot summer nights,  making your bed a cool, and comfortable. This weave also makes satin sheets very durable.

 

Silk vs. Synthetic

Wikipedia explains that the most commonly known silk comes from the cocoons of the mulberry silkworm. Silk must be harvested and transformed into fibers in a process that is very involved. This is usually reflected in its price, silk being much more expensive than many other fibers.

Satin sheets made of silk are usually very expensive and also difficult to care for. As a natural fabric, silk is prone to shrinking and can be easily discolored. For this reason, they most often must be dry cleaned. According to Doityourself.com, polyester and other synthetic satin can usually be washed on the gentle cycle, with cold water in your washing machine. They can also be dried on low or no heat settings in your dryer.  This ease of care, and lower cost make polyester satin sheets more feasible for everyday use.

Luxury

Satin sheets or even a satin comforter can give your bedroom a luxurious look and feel. They can also give you a cool and comfortable night of sleep. With the availability of synthetic satin sheets, there are a number of affordable options, so you can enjoy luxury satin in your home.

 

Photo “Purple Satin Fabric” courtesy of Sherrie Thai

Now is the Time for Leafy Greens

Spring is the perfect time to either grow leafy greens or find them fresh in supermarkets and farmers markets. It is important for your health to take advantage of these delicious vegetables. Eating the proper amounts of vegetables have a variety of benefits for your health, but the often overlooked green, leafy vegetables have particular advantages.

Now is the time for Leafy GreensEating the right amount of fruits and vegetables can reduce your risk for diabetes, as well as cardiovascular disease. It can lower blood pressure and possibly even prevent cancer. According to a study done by the Harvard School of Public Health, people who are 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day had a 20 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.

Phytonutrients

The Colorado State University Extension discusses that leafy greens are particularly special because they contain phytonutrients along with Vitamin A, Vitamin C, beta-carotene, calcium, folate, and fiber.  Phytonutrients act as antioxidants which prevent both cancer and heart disease.

Diabetes

Vegetarian-nutrition.info points out that the high magnesium and low glycemic index found in greens helps prevent type 2 diabetes. The article states “An increase of 1 serving/day of green leafy vegetables was associated with a 9 percent lower risk of diabetes.”

Salads

Iceberg lettuce is one of the most common greens eaten in the United States. While it is a healthy way to curb an appetite, it does not contain the high levels of nutritious vitamins that darker green, leafy vegetables have. Spinach, mesclun, and romaine lettuce, are good alternatives to iceberg lettuce for salads.

Sautéed

Other leafy greens are a good source of nutrition and can be sautéed and served as a side dish. Swiss chard is a beautiful leafy green with bright red ribs and veins that is high in nutrients. Beet greens, turnip greens, and collard greens are other greens that are delicious cooked.

Cool Weather Crops

Most greens grow in cool weather and are readily available in the fall and spring. In mild climates they can be grown all winter long. When other fresh vegetables are hard to come by, greens are in their prime.

A healthy lifestyle that includes a diet high in fruits and vegetables, particularly greens, can lead to overall improved health. Feeling better can help you sleep better and conversely sleeping better can help you feel better. This cycle makes it important to eat well and rest well!

 

Photo “Swiss Chard Rainbow” courtesy of eflon.

3 Reasons Bamboo Sheets Are Great For Summer

Are you looking for the perfect hot weather sheets to keep you comfortable during summer nights? There are three reasons you should consider using bamboo sheets instead of traditional cotton blends.

Bamboo is also a sustainable material.

Bamboo is also a sustainable material.

1) Wicking

Bamboo fibers have natural properties that wick moisture away from your body. Bamboo sheets will help you feel dry when you sweat during the night. Wicking also reduces the humidity around your body. Water in the air conducts hot or cold quickly so that it is difficult to regulate your body temperature. By reducing the moisture in the air around your body you can stay cooler on a warm night. Moisture wicking also eliminates the discomfort of feeling damp.

2) Anti-Microbial

Bamboo fibers have natural bacteria fighting properties. Bacteria and germs just can’t hang around in these sheets.According to eHow, in 2003 the China Industrial Testing Center did a study that placed bacteria on bamboo sheets. In 24 hours the sheets were 99% bacteria free. This special quality means you don’t have to wash bamboo sheets as often as cotton sheets and you don’t have to use really hot water to get rid of any bacteria. This reduces the amount of wear and tear on the sheets so you can keep them longer.

3) Insulating

Bamboo sheets are great insulators. Hot or cold temperatures outside of the bed will move slowly between the fibers towards your body. With materials that are good insulators your body temperature is preserved so you can stay warm on a cold night and cool on a hot night.

In addition to these three very practical reasons for using bamboo in the summer, bamboo fabric is also very soft and smooth. Everyone wants soft and comfortable sheets for a good night’s rest no matter what the temperature.

Finding the right sheets so that you can sleep well can make a big difference in your overall health and well being. Sleeping well will reduce stress and improve productivity. Don’t let a hot summer leave you feeling worn out and stressed. Use bamboo sheets to feel comfortable even when temperatures soar. How do you keep your bedroom cool in the summer?

Image: “Bamboo Shining” by TheBusyBrain

Should you be counting sheep?

Can occupying your mind with sheep help you fall asleep?

Can occupying your mind with sheep help you fall asleep?

 

Have you ever laid in bed watching the minutes tick by, knowing the alarm is set for early in the morning and you just can’t drift off? Counting sheep is a timeless suggestion to help you fall asleep, but where does it come from and does it really help?

The History

Sheep counting may go back to very early shepherds. These shepherds would have needed to literally count their sheep to make sure they were all safe before they could go to sleep.

Why it Doesn’t Work

Sleep specialist Michael Decker PhD, says that counting actually activates parts of the brain that processes information. Putting this part of the brain to work may stimulate you rather than help you fall asleep.

Alternatives

Other studies suggest you should try a different method.  A study performed by Oxford researchers that found people who were told to visualize a relaxing scene such as a beach, waterfall or walk in the woods fell asleep on average twenty minutes faster than those who were given no instruction.

The idea is that you can occupy your mind with something relaxing so that you are not thinking about tasks, relationships or other worries that might cause stress instead of help you fall asleep. These relaxing scenes are enough to keep you busy without stimulating your brain.

Try Again

If you can’t fall asleep after thirty minutes, you should get up. Move to a different room and read or listen to relaxing music until you feel sleepy. Then return to bed and try again. Try not to read or do other activities in bed. Doing so can help train your body to stay awake in bed.

Worth a Try

While the research shows counting sheep may not be the best option for drifting off to sleep, it certainly doesn’t hurt to try. Picturing relaxing scenes or counting sheep will not have any of the side effects of sleeping pills or other medications.

If your insomnia is not severe or it is related to a short terms stress, feel free to try any at home tricks to help you drift off. However, if your sleeplessness is interfering with your day to day activities, counting sheep certainly won’t help. See a doctor so that you can get some rest and feel healthy again.

 

Image: Counting Sheep by Amen Clinic

Preparing a Nursery

There are so many exciting plans and preparations when welcoming a new baby into a home. One of the most fun projects can be decorating a nursery. With so many options available it can also be overwhelming. Here are a few tips and ideas to create a fun nursery you and your baby will love.

preparing a nurseryStyle and Colors

As you start out, you should choose a style you enjoy and that is comfortable for you. Your baby probably won’t have an opinion about the decor for a few more years. Choose colors and patterns that you like. Many colors beyond the traditional pastel pinks and blues are popular right now. Try combinations like grey and orange, neutral browns and greens, and bright orange and turquoise.

Lighting

Plan several options for lighting. There will be times you want the nursery to be bright and to encourage play. Other times you will want the nursery dim and quiet. Be sure to find soft lamps to accompany any overhead lighting.

Framed Art

Babies love to look at pictures; faces, bold shapes and patterns in contrasting colors are particularly stimulating. You can easily cut pictures out of old story books, use patterned scrapbook paper, or blow up pictures of family and frame them to hang on the nursery wall. Bulletin boards are also fun to hang up pictures of friends, family, special places, and cards.

Decals

Wall decals are particularly popular right now. They are an easy way to add a personal touch to a wall. They are also removable once your child becomes old enough to want something different.

Mobiles

Mobiles are also an attractive addition that can stimulate your baby in the crib or on the changing table. There are all kinds of do it yourself mobile ideas available, like using colorful pictures from magazines cut into shapes and strung on fishing line or colorful ribbon. BabyMobile.com offers some mobile safety tips to keep in mind as you craft your mobile.

Just Right for You

Ultimately, your baby’s nursery should be just right for you and your family. Make sure you have everything you need easily accessible, from diapers to bedtime stories. Invest in comfortable and safe furniture and decorations. Sleepless nights might be more bearable when you are cuddling your baby in a room you love.

Photo “Baby’s Nursery” courtesy of Caleb Zahnd

 

6 Ways to Save Energy in Your Bedroom

5 Ways to Save Energy in Your Bedroom

There are many ways that you can reduce your energy bill for your home. Here are six simple things you can do just in your bedroom to save a bit on energy costs.

1) Close Your Blinds During the Summer

Keep all window coverings closed during the hottest parts of the day. Keeping out the light will help retain cooler temperatures. Likewise, in the winter, opening up the blinds on a sunny day can help warm the house. Thick window coverings will also insulate the house from either hot or cold temperatures.

2) Close Your Closet

You do not need to heat or cool your closet. Keeping the door shut to prevent your heating and cooling systems from working to regulate temperature in spaces that don’t need to maintain a comfortable environment. You will see the most significant difference when your closet is on an outside wall.

3) Don’t Block Vents

To help heating and cooling systems work more efficiently, move any furniture that may be blocking vents. Vents that allow the air to flow freely will be more effective at heating and cooling your home.

4) Use Your Fan

Ceiling fans use significantly less energy than a central heating or cooling system. Running your fan will allow you to turn up the temperature on your thermostat while still staying cool. Did you know you can also use fans during the winter? Most fans have a switch that changes the direction of the fan. Fans should run slowly and clockwise during the winter to keep warm air circulating.

5) Use Insulated Bedding

Bedding that acts as insulators such as wool or down will help you stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. These insulators trap the air around your body preventing hot air from seeping out in the summer and warm air from escaping during the winter. If you have bedding that keeps your body temperature comfortable, you can adjust the thermostat so that your heat and air don’t run as often during the night.

6) Unplug Electrical Devices

Do you have a computer, TV, stereo and other appliances plugged in in your bedroom? These devices use power even if they are not turned on. An easy way to address this problem is to place all of your devices on a power strip. Turn off the power strip when you leave the bedroom in the morning.

These simple tips can save you a few dollars on each energy bill, which can add up to a lot of savings in the long run. Make small changes one at a time to make a big difference.

Image: “Random: Power Supply” by semihundido

 

What Bedding Should You Have on Hand?

What Bedding Should You Have on HandHow much bedding you should keep in your linen closet can be a very subjective debate. A lot will depend on how many and what kind of beds you have, how often you like to change your sheets, as well as how drastic your seasonal weather changes are.

Changing Sheets

The general rule is that sheets should be changed about once a week. It is important to wash your sheets in warm water regularly to get rid of any bacteria or dust mites. You may want to do this more often if you suffer from allergies. If you want to be able to make your bed again quickly, before your sheets have made it all the way through the wash, you may want to have at least two sets of sheets per bed. That way you can make the bed with a new set and fold up the clean ones for the following week. You may want to change your pillowcases more often especially if you are allergic to dust-mites, so having a few extra oh hand for a quick replacement is very helpful.

Children’s beds and crib sheets may require more frequent washing. If you want to wait to do a full load of laundry before you wash them you may want to have three or four sets on hand.

Guests

Don’t forget about your guests. If you have an air mattress, sofa bed, or guest bed you want to have the appropriate bedding on hand for them. You don’t have to have a comforter if you don’t want to but a few extra blankets are nice. Guest beds generally require only one set of sheets because you are not likely to change them during their stay.

Seasonal Bedding

Next, you should consider changing your bedding material according to the season. Think about having a cool, light weight sheet set for the summer, and warm, cozy flannel sheets for the winter. An extra blanket might also be important to add to your bed for the winter months. If you live in an extremely cold climate, consider investing in an electric blanket or heated mattress pad.

Quality Sheets

Most likely, you will want to have between three and four sets of sheets per bed; two summer sets of sheets and two winter sets. Buying quality sheet sets will help your sheets last longer and be more comfortable. If you like to change your decor regularly, choose neutral colors like white or off white which will go with anything. Determine exactly what you want to have on hand and what will make your life easiest then invest in the right bedding for each season.

Photo “Bed Linen” courtesy of 3 Objectives Photography

 

How to Brighten Your Room

How to Brighten Your Room

Brighten up your dark room.

During winter cloudy days and long nights can make your home seem extra dark. As the longest nights of the year are upon us, lift your spirits a bit by using these tips to brighten your bedroom.

Paint

The winter is a great time to paint because all of your outside projects are on hold. It has been very trendy to paint entire rooms or accent walls in dark colors. While it looks very attractive, it may be making your space too dark and dreary. Consider painting your bedroom white. If you prefer to have color, choose a shade that is soft and bright. A fresh coat of paint can go a long way in changing the look and feel of your private space. It’s important to note that when painting during the winter months, be sure to ventilate the room by opening a window or door. The paint fumes are not only harmful to humans, but small pets as well.

Lighting

The lighting levels within a room have a huge effect on your mood. Choose a fun new chandelier or add sconce lighting beside your bed. Find something that will match your style and brighten your space. More bulbs in your room mean a sunnier feel. Be careful when buying your bulbs. Bulbs that are labeled outdoor light are a cold, bluish color. Choose a warm bulb for your bedroom for a homier feel.

Sheets

Add fresh,crisp white sheets to your bed. Having bright white sheets can help you feel clean and warm. Pair the sheets with adown comforter andbright duvet to keep you extra cozy on cold nights.

Fresh Flowers

Fresh flowers can add a springtime look and scent to your bedroom even in the middle of winter. Place a small bud vase on your nightstand or place a larger arrangement on your dresser or even on your bathroom. Living houseplants are a more long lasting way to bring the outdoors inside and brighten up your space.

Rugs

You may not want to invest the time or money into replacing your carpet. Adding a rug is a fast and easy alternative. Find a rug with a bright color or lively pattern to transform your room and refresh your floor.

Mirrors

TLC suggests adding mirrored surfaces or cut glass to reflect light around the room. A decorative mirror will help your space appear larger and brighter.

Small Touches

These are just a few things you can do to brighten up a dreary feeling room. You can go as far as remodeling with new paint and decor, or simply add a few flowers or plants. Even small touches can help dark days seem a little lighter.

How do you brighten your home in the winter?

Image: “Sunny Window” by ilovebutter

 

Is Your Alarm Clock Bad for Your Health?

Reduce chronic stress by getting rid of your loud alarm clock.

Reduce chronic stress by getting rid of your loud alarm clock.

You may find your alarm clock annoying as it beeps at you in the early hours of the morning, but did you know it can also be bad for your health?

Physical Effects

ABC News cites a study done by the National Institute of Health in Japan that found alarm clocks raise heart rate and blood pressure as well as increase adrenaline. The increase in adrenaline may help you get up and moving, but daily exposure to these alarm clock side effects can take its toll on your health.

Performance

In addition to the negative health effects, abrupt waking during a deep sleep cycle can also seriously impact your daily performance. Being woken up during deep sleep can affect your memory as well as your ability to think clearly. Alarm clocks have no regard for your natural sleep rhythms and can easily wake you during some of your most important sleep stages.

Alternatives to Abrupt Mornings

Unfortunately, for most of us, alarm clocks are a necessity. They help us get to work on time, make our planes, and get the kids to school. There are a few ways to reduce the negative impact of alarm clocks and still be on time:

  • Go to bed earlier. Getting more sleep will help you feel more rested and you are less likely to be awakened suddenly by your alarm clock.
  • Go to sleep and get up at the same time everyday. Getting your body used to a sleeping rhythm will eventually eliminate the need for an alarm clock.
  • Use natural light. Our bodies are designed to work with the natural rhythms of the sun rising and setting. Crack open your blinds to let some light in during the morning hours. You can also use artificial light, like a sunrise alarm clock, to help your body wake more gently.
  • If you need noise to wake up, find a sound that is gentler than a beep or a buzz. Use soft music or chimes instead.

Ease Into Your Morning

Avoid the risk of chronic stress caused by the very first thing you encounter everyday. Change a few habits so that you can wake up gradually instead of abruptly. Hopefully you will find that you are more calm and more productive throughout your day. Better productivity will ultimately lead to more time to sleep breaking the cycle of staying up too late and setting your alarm clock to wake you up when you are not rested.

Have you ever tried getting rid of your alarm clock?

Image “Comfyness” by Guilherme Tavares