Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Alcohol is Not a Sleep Aid

One of the most important ways to get a good night’s sleep is establishing a healthy sleep routine. When I talk about a sleep routine, I not only encourage good sleep habits, but suggest making healthy lifestyle changes to promote high-quality and quantity of sleep. One healthy life style change is eliminating alcohol right before bedtime. Alcohol is not a sleep aid as it is disruptive and tricky when it comes to sleep. How many of you have a drink or two after a long day of work to help you relax enough to fall asleep easy? Do you wake up during the night after the alcohol wears off? Alcohol causes you to miss out on deep sleep and waking up during the night will affect how you perform the next day.

[caption id="attachment_1593" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Alcohol is Not a Sleep Aid"][/caption]

A sleep and alcohol study was done in Japan with 10 male university students. The students were in good health and divided into three groups. One group went to sleep without drinking any alcohol, the second group was given a small amount of alcohol and the third consumed alcohol for an hour and 40 minutes before bedtime. The groups were monitored for heart rate variability with a polysomnogram. A report of the findings showed that those who drank alcohol fell to sleep quickly but as the night wore on their sleep became shallow and disrupted, compared to those that did not drink. Alcohol increased their heart rate and the more they consumed the more their heart rate increased. The study concluded that the presence of alcohol acted as a stimulant increasing heart rate that kept them from getting their deep, restorative sleep.

Another larger report was recently published and the results supported the findings from this smaller study. In this report, researchers examined the effects of alcohol and sleep among 93 adults in their early to mid 20’s and took into consideration their gender and family history of alcoholism. These participants drank to the point of intoxication and then they were monitored on their quality, depth and duration of sleep. They found that while intoxicated they slept less than they did when they were sober, woke up more frequently during the night, felt sleepier the next day, slept better during the first half of the night and spent less time in REM sleep. Findings showed that differences came to gender, while family history of alcoholism made no difference. Women had more disruptive sleep than men and also showed being more sleep deprived the next day.

Normal sleep occurs in series of cycles, there is light sleep, REM or dream sleep and deep sleep. Each cycle is important to proper functioning during waking hours, especially REM and deep sleep. Alcohol disturbs the rhythms of these cycles, causing us to miss out on the benefits of these sleep cycles. The consequences for those who drink to fall asleep are exactly what they are trying to avoid. The second half of sleep is in the lighter cycle when those who drink usually wake up and have trouble returning to sleep. They wake up hung over and are prone to afternoon sleepiness. The older you get these affects linger days later and many have trouble falling asleep the next night without drinking, thus starting a vicious cycle. The longer the cycle continues the greater the dependence for alcohol is required to fall asleep.

If you suffer from sleep apnea alcohol can cause the muscles to relax more, which will make snoring more frequent. On the other hand, drinking a moderate amount of alcohol can cause the air passages to constrict, which can cause an episode of apnea even for those who don’t have symptoms. Drinking alcohol within 3 to 4 hours of bedtime can increase the effects of sleep apnea. For sleep apnea sufferers drinking alcohol can increase the likelihood of a heart attack, arrhythmia, stroke or sudden death. Consuming enough alcohol to fall asleep should not be taken lightly if you have sleep apnea.

Now if you are healthy this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have a glass of wine with dinner or a beer with your friends after work. But there are some tips that can help prevent alcohol from interfering with sleep. For every alcoholic drink, drink a glass of water. Stop drinking at least three hours before bedtime. Don’t use alcohol as a sleep aid. If you need to relax try other relaxation techniques that can promote healthy sleep.

Relaxation techniques can relieve stress and help you to fall asleep and stay asleep. Try reading, gentle yoga stretches or listening to soft music. Keep the lights low to promote the natural production of melatonin. Abdominal breathing which is deep and full can actually help part of the nervous system that controls relaxation. Breathe in through your nose and out of your mouth then make each exhale a little longer. Progressive muscle relaxation starts with your feet and gradually goes to the top of your head. Tense the muscles as tightly as you can, hold for a count of 10, then relax. Sometimes you can use breathing techniques with progressive muscle relaxation. When you tighten your muscles inhale and hold your breath for the count of 10 then exhale slowly as you relax your muscles.

Remember knowing how alcohol affects your body when you are sleeping is only a temporary effect and not a way to real rest. It is possible to drink your favorite drink in moderation and still protect the quality and quantity of your sleep. Salute!

The content provided in Alcohol is Not a Sleep Aid is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for you or your families sleep problems and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I Like Dreaming Lucid Dreaming

What is a lucid dream? A lucid dream is when the dreamer is aware that they are dreaming. A lucid dream can begin as a normal dream and then the dreamer can control how the dream ends. Have you ever changed how your dream was ending and decided to go back to another part of the dream and start over? This type of lucid dream is known as dream-initiated lucid dream or DILD. Another type of lucid dream is wake-initiated lucid dream (WILD) that occurs when the dreamer goes from a normal waking state directly into a dream state with no lapse in consciousness. Dreams are very important to sleep. According to an article published in the Nature Reviews Neuroscience, Dr. J. Allan Hobson, a psychiatrist and long time sleep researcher disputed the main function of the rapid-eye-movement sleep cycle (REM) where most dreaming occurs, is physiological.

[caption id="attachment_1588" align="alignright" width="275" caption="I like dreaming - lucid dreaming can make you mine"][/caption]

He states that the brain is foreseeing site, sounds and emotions of waking which explains why people forget their dreams. When a person runs, the body doesn’t remember every step, but it knows it has exercised. The same idea plays here as dreams are altering the mind for conscious awareness. Dreaming is a parallel state of consciousness that is continually operating but normally suppressed during waking hours. This might explain why we drift off during the day and daydream.

This new approach about dreaming is partial based on the findings about REM sleep. Research has found that REM is detectable in humans very early in life, in the third trimester for humans, well before a developed child has experienced dreaming. The fetus may be visualizing something long before their eyes ever open. Objects and emotions in their dreams appear later in life.

Many people can remember their dreams upon awakening and keep a dream journal or try to interpret their meaning. A recent study at the Carnegie Mellon University and Harvard found that people remember negative dreams more than positive dreams. Negative dreams cause a person to wake up during the night and find it harder to fall back to sleep without visualizing the nightmare when they close their eyes. I bet you have jolted yourself awake if you were dreaming of falling off a cliff, running from someone that was going to harm you or your house was on fire. When I was little I had a lot of fire dream that woke me up and sometimes I couldn’t go back to sleep until I thoroughly searched the house. One time I saw the pilot light on the furnace and woke my parents up to make sure that it was okay. Sometimes the best way to get a nightmare out of your head is to get up for 15-20 minutes and watch/read something funny before trying to fall asleep again.

Eventually I was able to control the ending of my fire dreams where I could fly over the fire. Flying in dreams is quite common for dreamers who achieve a state of lucid dreaming and even though I may have been flying to avoid something, the flying in and of itself is still an enjoyable dream activity.

[caption id="attachment_1589" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Flying Dreams mean Life is Good"][/caption]

Lucid dreams occur during the period between sleep and fully awake, but some experience lucid dreams while sleepwalking or having night terrors which represent muscle activity and NREM sleep. The sleep disorder narcolepsy shows that people are in a state of REM during daytime wakefulness. Lucid dreams have elements of both REM and of waking and researchers have also found that when you go to bed at night and at the point when you close you will experience a flash of your last dream. To remember a lucid dream will help you to fall asleep easier.

Dream recall or the ability to remember your dreams or even part of one is your first step towards lucid dreaming. Better recall increases the awareness of your dreams and one way to improve dream recall is to keep a dream journal. Keeping a record of your dreams upon wakening is better because as the day goes on you will forget details. When I get up, I take notes of important dream keywords that help me later remember my entire dream when posting it in my journal. I also draw parts of my dream if I can remember them. The best way to recollect your dream is before opening your eyes when you wake up and repeat the dream over and over in your head because the more you remember the more details you can recall. Other ways to improve recall your dream is to stay perfectly still in the morning or using autosuggestion before falling asleep. (Repeat: “I will remember my dreams” before fall asleep). Experienced people that can recall their dreams force themselves awake when they feel their lucid dream is coming to an end so they can record the dream while fresh in memory.

Wake-initiated lucid dreams or WILD happens when a sleeper enters REM directly from the waking state. The key to entering WILD is recognizing when you are in the stage between being awake and being asleep or the hypnagogic stage. If you are aware of this stage a person can enter their dream while lucid. People have a higher rate of success when they change from a monophasic sleep pattern to a biphasic sleep pattern. This means it is easier if you sleep for 3-7 hours or during a nap than sleeping for 8-9 hours straight. Techniques for inducing WILD is different for each individual, some use breathing methods, some chant to themselves while others concentrate on relaxing their body from head to toe. I tend to tell myself a story and when I can’t feel my body I know I am close to falling asleep. When you are in REM sleep your mind is very active but your body is near paralysis other than the muscles of the eye and the middle ear. This is why you do not act out your dreams during sleep. Experiencing sleep paralysis is a necessary part of WILD, in which dreamers essentially detach their "dream" body from the paralyzed one.

The content provided in I Like Dreaming Lucid Dreaming is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for you or your families sleep problems and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dream Journal January 31 1985

Do you ever dream that you have been locked out of your home or hotel room? Dreamt of wanting to play a drum while riding on an amusement ride? Have you dreamt of parts of another dream within your dream? In this dream journal I will be writing about dreams from my past and present and (try to) interpret them. Enjoy!

No.1 Dream Journal January 31, 1985

Dream Keywords:

Locked out of apartment/hotel, changing clothes, Cedar Point (amusement park), in a car, suntan, fell, at beach, drum, swim/levee


[caption id="attachment_1582" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Dream Journal Dream 1 - My hotel or apartment next to Matts"][/caption]

I was in a building and exiting glass doors when Matt Laser (high school friend) was entering. I wanted to get into my apartment or hotel room, but I was locked out. Next to me on the floor was a pair of earrings made out of yarn. One was pink, the other purple, so I put them on. In the meantime, an African American maid walked by. I asked if she could unlock my door. She said “In one minute" and if I wrote a note saying that it was ok she would opened the door. I must have because she unlocked the door.

I place the earrings on a dusty table in the living room. On the table was a pad of paper, a pen and my keys. The maid looked around and said “Someone that lived here before was rich and this place was really nice. Now it is ok.” The place had all my furniture in it and by the dining room table there were groups of candles on the floor. After she left I changed my clothes. I put on argyle socks and a white jumpsuit with a gray sweater. I said to myself “It’s ok to wear white today. It is the last day of December and I won’t be able to wear them after today. I was getting ready to go to Cedar Point. (amusement park in Sandusky, OH)

[caption id="attachment_1583" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Dream Journal Dream 1 - The levee as I remember it from a prior dream"][/caption]

Three people picked me up and I sat in the backseat of the car. Then I switched seats and sat in the front. The driver was a man. I put suntan lotion on my legs. They were really dark tan, so the suntan lotion made them smell good and shiny. The driver said he liked the smell, but to try the other suntan lotion, but I said “It doesn’t smell at all.” When we got to Cedar Point we went to the beach. When I opened the door I fell out as I asked someone to give me my drum in the backseat. Someone from the backseat handed me my drum and helped me up. I told the driver that I had swan to Cedar Point before and it wasn’t that hard holding your breath while swimming underground to get past the bay and into the lake. (This is the part where I had dreamt of a place that would hold water back until everyone could walk under the water around the peninsula to Cedar Point, like a levee. In that dream I was with a friend from high school, Mary Ann and her older brother)

The driver said he had also gone that way, but wondered why I wanted a drum. I said “there was a ride at Cedar Point that just goes around in circles and while I ride it, I wanted to play my drum.” The end.

Interpreting dream keywords:

Seeing Matt go through a doorway: Seeing other attempt to go through a doorway denotes unsuccessful attempt to get your affairs into paying condition. (At the time I was a single mother living in Schaumburg, IL and money was tight)

Locked out of a room signifies opportunities that are denied and not available to you or that you have missed out on.

Changing clothes represents the need for change and your need to fit into a new situation or role. You need to establish a new self-image. (I wanted to move back to Sandusky and six months later I did) Dreaming of white clothes means it is time to move on.

Wearing earrings suggests that you need to listen more carefully and pay attention to a message that someone is conveying to you.

Dusty table: To see dust in your dream suggests that certain aspects of yourself have been ignored or neglected.

Group of unlit candles in the dining room: To see an unlit candle denotes feelings of rejection or disappointments. You are not utilizing your fullest potential.

Cedar Point: To see or be in an amusement park in your dream indicates that you need to set some time for more relaxation and enjoyment in your life.

Getting out of the car looking at the beach: To dream that you are looking toward the beach suggests that you are returning to what is familiar to you. Alternatively, you may be adapting or accepting to the changes and circumstances in your life.

Backseat of the car: if you are sitting in the backseat of a car suggests that you are no longer in control of your life. You may be feeling overpowered, dominated and being told what to do. You need to start taking back control of your life. (Guess that’s why I moved up front)

Falling: To dream that you fall and are not frightened signifies that you will overcome your adversities with ease.

Suntan: To dream that you have a suntan signifies the shadow aspect of yourself and your primal instincts and natural senses. It is also indicative of hard work. You are owning up to your duties and responsibilities.

Drum: To see a drum foretells amiability of character and a great aversion to quarrels and dissensions.

Swim: If you are swimming underwater suggests that you are completely submerged in your own feelings. You are forcing yourself to deal with your unconscious emotions. Levee: Protection against trouble, challenges, or chaos. Something that separates or distances you from what's "out there" in your life

Dream symbol meanings are different for each person. It's important to consider:

• Personal meaning—What the dream symbol means to you, what it reminds you of, how it makes you feel.
• Context—How the dream symbol appears in the dream. For example, in a dream about a bee—what was the bee doing, how and where is it, and how did you feel about it?
• Look beyond the obvious—A dream is often about something other than its obvious meaning. Physical events in the dream commonly represent mental or emotional matters.
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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Lethargic Definition

A lethargic definition is described as feelings of tiredness, fatigue or lack of energy that can be accompanied by depression, decreased motivation or apathy. The meaning of lethargic is the same as somnolence which is defined as a state of near sleep, a strong desire to sleep or sleeping for longer periods (hypersomnia). Feeling tired and lethargic can be a normal reaction to; not getting enough sleep, overexertion, overworking, stress, lack of exercise and boredom. If lethargy is caused by a normal reaction it is usually resolved with decreased stress, a good diet and getting enough sleep.

[caption id="attachment_1576" align="alignright" width="288" caption="Lethargic Definition - Lethargic Depression"][/caption]

If you are constantly feeling lethargic that does not resolve with good sleep habits and good nutrition, it may be an indication there is an underlying physical or psychological condition. Common causes of lethargicness include allergies, asthma, anemia, anxiety, dementia, cancer and its treatments, chronic pain, heart disease, infection, eating disorders, grief, sleeping disorders, thyroid problems, medication side effects, alcohol and/or drug abuse and depression.

If you are tired all day the reason could be from lack of sleep or lethargic depression. When dopamine levels fall too low, the person suffers from lethargic depression and is unable to focus on anything. Low levels of norepinephrine may result in the person feeling dull and unmotivated. Norepinephrine, along with dopamine, has come to be recognized as playing a large role in attention and focus.

Lethargic symptoms that develop later in the day and are associated with sensitivity to cold, constipation, dry skin and weight gain could be the cause of an underactive thyroid gland. Heart and lung problems can be the source of a combination of shortness of breath and feelings of lethargy. Heart and lung problems include; asthma, cardiomyopathy, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) including emphysema and bronchitis, coronary artery disease, heart failure, heart valve disease and pneumonia.

Other diseases and disorders that cause people to become lethargic are; diabetes, infections, kidney disease, liver disease, malnutrition, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia and lupus.

Many define lethargic without a diagnosis as chronic fatigue syndrome. Chronic fatigue syndrome starts with flu-like symptoms that cannot be resolved with adequate rest. See more information regarding chronic fatigue syndrome: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Symptoms

Lethargy for the most part can be relieved with the help of a chronic fatigue syndrome diet. This diet is designed to slow down muscular atrophy so there is no wasting of muscles. It relieves fatigue, tiredness and weight gain that is associated with inactivity. If you are experiencing muscle weakness exercising regularly is not recommended. First treatment is directed to help a person control their weight and improve muscle functioning. Consuming a lot of liquids can help overcome sluggishness. A simple home-made remedy is a tea made with basil leaves or a glass of equal parts of grapefruit and lemon juice.

What is a lethargic diet? Eating a healthy balanced diet of fruits, vegetables and whole grains along with lots of protein to support and repair your muscles. Avoid white sugar, processed foods and foods high in fat and carbohydrates. Take a good multivitamin but take it close to bedtime and not in the morning as many multivitamins contain magnesium and calcium that are known to relax you.

Carbohydrates protect you from disease and also release substances that provide you with a sense of calm. Fruits, vegetable and grains contain carbohydrates so balancing these nutritious foods with proteins will not only provide you with energy they will bring good health and regulate your mood and behavior. Amino acids break down protein foods during digestion and enter into your bloodstream where they enter your brain network to manufacture neurotransmitters. High protein foods, including meats, poultry, fish and dairy products release energy-inducing amino acids called tyrosine. Remember dopamine and norepinephrine? Tyrosine increases the production of these mood-enhancing neurotransmitters that help you with mental energy and mental alertness.

Now carbohydrates send insulin into the bloodstream to block the action of most amino acids except the amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan makes it way to the brain where it converts to the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin, when day turns to night, makes melatonin which creates a calming effect and improves sleep. MayoClinic.com recommends consuming high carbohydrate foods as a nightly snack to create calmness and overcome stress so you can fall asleep easy.

When overcoming lethargically feelings pay attention to how you react to particular foods. Protein foods for breakfast will start your day with energy, combining carbohydrates with proteins for lunch will help maintain your energy and release a sense of calm for any stressors that may arise during the day and a high carbohydrate dinner when you need to relax and get ready for a restful refreshing night’s sleep.

[caption id="attachment_1577" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Lethargic Definition - Lazy Butt?"][/caption]

Remember alcohol can dehydrate you and cause an electrolyte imbalance which only aggravates lethargic symptoms. If you are using alcohol to mask symptoms of a disorder or using it to get a good night sleep, because you are stressed or depressed, you might fall asleep easy but your sleep is likely to be disrupted as the alcohol wears off. If you need to de-stress try some simple yoga stretches or take a warm bath with lavender bath oil.

If you feel you are persistently lethargic, meaning you are tired every day for over two weeks and getting adequate rest doesn’t resolve your problem, you may have to be diagnosed by your doctor. These tests may include blood and urine tests, imaging tests and in some cases, referred to a specialist. The treatment and prognosis depends on the underlying cause. If it accompanies serious symptoms it may require an immediate evaluation. Seek medical care if you have chest pain, blurred vision, high fever, decreased urine output, sudden swelling, shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, altered consciousness, severe pain or think you might be in danger to yourself or others.

The content provided in Lethargic Definition is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for you or your families sleep problems and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Cannot Sleep Ears Popping and Ringing

Cannot sleep because your ears are popping and ringing? This could be a sign of tinnitus. WebMD.com defines tinnitus as a noise or ringing in the ears that is a symptom of an underlying condition, such as age-related hearing loss, ear injury or a circulatory system disorder. Tinnitus results in annoying sounds of hearing sounds including; ringing, buzzing, roaring, clicking, whistling and hissing when no external sounds are present. Also called phantom noises they vary in pitch and you may hear it in one or both ears. Tinnitus isn’t a sign of something serious, although, it may worsen with age and can be treated by identifying the underlying medical problem.

There are two kinds of tinnitus; subjective tinnitus are noises that only you can hear. This is the most common type of tinnitus. It can be caused by ear problems in your outer, middle or inner ear. It also can be caused by problems with the hearing (auditory) nerves or the part of your brain that interprets nerve signals as sound and objective tinnitus are sounds your doctor can hear when they do an examination. This rare type of tinnitus may be caused by a blood vessel problem, an inner ear bone condition or muscle contractions.


Conditions that cause tinnitus may be aged related which usually starts to happen between the ages of 55 and 65 when hearing loss or prebycusis begins. If you are subject to long-term loud noises day after day from heavy equipment, firearms, drills, chainsaws, etc you can cause permanent noise-related hearing loss. Short-term exposure from portable music devices or going to a loud concert usually goes away over time. Earwax that protects your ear canal can accumulate and become too hard causing hearing loss or irritation of the eardrum that can lead to tinnitus. Ear bone changes in your middle ears may affect your hearing. Stiffening of the ear bone or otosclerois causes abnormal bone growth and is usually hereditary.

Medical conditions and disorders that are less common to cause tinnitus are; Meniere’s disease that creates abnormal inner ear fluid pressure, stress and depression, TMJ disorders, head or neck injuries can affect inner ear hearing nerves or brain function linked to hearing and acoustic neuroma a benign tumor that develops on the cranial nerve that runs from your brain to your inner ear and controls balance and hearing. This is also known as vestibular schwannoma and usually causes tinnitus only in one ear. If you have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) loud noises are sensitive to you and it can cause tinnitus or aggravate it.

More about PTSD see: Sleepless in America Remembering 9/11

In rare cases tinnitus is caused by a blood vessel disorder. This type of tinnitus is called pulsatile tinnitus and can be caused by; neck and head tumors that press on blood vessels that go into the ear and atherosclerosis which is a buildup of cholesterol and other deposits causing major blood vessels close to the inner ear to lose some elasticity or the inability to flex or expand with each heartbeat. This causes blood flow to become more forceful and sometimes more turbulent, making it easier for your ear to detect the beats. You can generally hear this type of tinnitus in both ears. High blood pressure, turbulent blood flow from narrowing or kinking in the neck carotid artery or jugular vein and malformation of capillaries also called arteriovenous malformation can also bring about tinnitus. If you have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) loud noises are sensitive to you and it can trigger tinnitus or aggravate it.

There are a number of medications that can cause or worsen tinnitus and usually these unwanted noises disappear when you stop taking them. Some medications include; antibiotics, cancer medications, diuretics, quinine medications, chloroquine, and even aspirin if taken in high doses of 12 or more a day.

Tinnitus can affect your everyday life causing more stress, irritability, memory problems, lack of focus and depression, but it also affects your ability to sleep. A ScienceDaily.com article reported new findings, published online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that suggests several new approaches to treatment, including retraining the brain, and new avenues for developing drugs to suppress the ringing in the ear. Experiments in the past few years have shown that the ringing doesn't originate in the inner ear, though, but rather in regions of the brain -- including the auditory cortex -- that receives input from the ear. Results show that neurons that have lost sensory input from the ear become more excitable and fire spontaneously, primarily because these nerves have "homeostatic" mechanisms to keep their overall firing rate constant no matter what resulting in tinnitus. Those with tinnitus caused by hearing loss when treated so their brain cells get new input should reduce this spontaneous firing.

Scientists are searching for existing medicines or developing new drugs that inhibit the spontaneous firing. Experiments are under way showing that tinnitus is correlated with lower levels of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA. There are two drugs that increase levels of GABA that have proven to eliminate tinnitus in rats, but they have serious side effects and cannot be consumed by humans.

Well until this “magic GABA pill” is developed German research has shown that behavioral training with music that is custom-tailored to the person with tinnitus may reverse faulty spontaneous firing. The researchers allowed patients to choose their favorite music, which was then “notched” — a one-octave frequency band, centered on the frequency of the ringing experienced by the subject, was filtered out. The subjects listened to the music on average about 12 hours a week.

After a year, the researchers report in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, those who listened to this custom-notched music reported a significant improvement in their tinnitus, as the ringing was not as loud compared with others who listened to music that was notched at frequencies not corresponding to their ringing frequency.

The researchers suggest that two things might be happening in the auditory cortex to bring about the improvement. The neurons in the cortex related to the ringing frequency are presumably not being stimulated, because those frequencies are absent from the music. At the same time, nearby neurons may have been actively suppressing the tinnitus-related neurons, through a process known as lateral inhibition.

Relief by playing background music to mask the tinnitus-so-called "white noise or water sounds has been used for years. Masking is the use of other sounds to "drown out" or "mask" the annoying noises associated with tinnitus. Fortunately, a simple test is available to obtain a preliminary idea of the value of masking for a particular individual.

The faucet test is when the individual stands near a sink and turns on the water full force. Many people with tinnitus do not hear the ringing in their ears when water is running. If the sound of the water running masks their tinnitus, it is possible that masking may relieve it enough for them to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. The person needs to record the sound of the water and play it when they want relief. If your tinnitus is a result of hearing loss and most of your noises are within a high-pitched tone. In order to mask your tinnitus it is necessary to use a high-pitched making noise.

Since tinnitus produces unpleasant annoying sounds masking sounds are typically soothing and help people sleep. Wearable masking units can be fitted as an in-the-ear unit. This type of unit makes it more comfortable while sleeping.

Other treatments that can help tinnitus sufferers get through their daily lives and sleep better at night are; relaxation methods, meditation, yoga, biofeedback training, hypnosis, acupuncture and/or electrical suppression techniques. Electrical suppression techniques is a procedure using electrical current that is delivered to the middle ear via special electrodes. More research is being done to determine the safety and effectiveness of this procedure for the treatment of tinnitus.

The content provided in Cannot Sleep Ears Popping and Ringing is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for you or your families sleep problems and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional.


Update for Tinnitus Treatment

As people are exposed to loud noises every day, findings have shown that this exposure causes magnesium to be expelled from the body. Supplementing your diet with a magnesium supplement can reduce noise induced ear damage and reduce the likelihood to trigger tinnitus. Magnesium protects the nerves in the inner ear as a powerful glutamate inhibitor. Glutamate is a neurotransmitter that is produced by sound waves on the hair cells of the inner ear. Unregulated production of glutamate at sound frequencies for which there is no external stimulation could be the cause of tinnitus. Free radicals are produced when there is a decrease blood supply that causes stress to nerve tissue of the inner ear. The accumulation of free radicals damages the inner ear and its tissues. This damage then causes a release and accumulation of glutamate which in high concentration is extremely destructive to the body. Glutamate inhibitors have a protective effect on the inner ear and are being tested for a treatment of tinnitus.

The protective effect of magnesium in preventing noise induced hearing loss has been considered to decrease intense noise exposure in the inner ear. Scientists at the University of Michigan Medical School suggest taking magnesium with vitamins A, C and E, known antioxidants, can reduce hearing loss and sensory cell death.

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sleepless in America Remembering 9/11

Today is the 10th anniversary when American Airlines flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City at 8:46 a.m. A moment of silence spread across America and around the world as we remember those that lost their lives. Obama read a psalm and family members began reading the victims names. It is an extremely emotional day and hard to believe 10 years have already passed, as for many, it feels like yesterday. We should not only remember those that have passed but those that have survived this violent disaster. Many disaster survivors who lost loved ones experience guilt, regret, profound sadness and/or helplessness. Their grief and sorrow can cause severe stress symptoms that lead to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders and depression.

[caption id="attachment_1564" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Remember 9/11 - The New 9/11 Memorial New York City"][/caption]

Survivors with PTSD often reexperience this terrifying moment with memories, nightmares and flashbacks. They sometimes dissociate themselves from the outside world, abuse drugs to avoid memories, suffer from panic attack, show periods of extreme rage, have trouble sleeping or are severely depressed. Besides those that have lost loved ones, those that felt their life was in danger, saw the destruction, were a part of the rescue mission, witnessed death and dismembered human bodies and those exposed to contamination, as a result of the buildings collapsing, can also be afflicted with this disorder. In addition to mental health problems they may be at risk to develop physical complications including cardiovascular disease, chronic pain, insomnia, autoimmune diseases ad musculoskeletal conditions.

How do survivors reduce their risk of PTSD and other psychological or physical disorders? They need to keep a journal of their symptoms including; nightmares, flashbacks, extreme emotions, trouble sleeping and or having trouble with family and/or work, drug or alcohol abuse and if they feel these symptoms are temporary or chronic. Keep a list of all prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications and herbal supplement/vitamins they may be taking. Discuss what type of treatment they feel they need. Some find that talking to a counselor is helpful or taking yoga or meditation classes, while others with physical or mental complications may need a professional health care specialist. Their journal, medication list and a physical exam will help their physician diagnosis and treat their condition(s).

[caption id="attachment_1565" align="alignright" width="221" caption="10,000 9/11 Witnesses Suffer from PTSD"][/caption]

Their doctor may treat their PTSD with prescription drugs, alternative therapy or a combination of both. Therapy may include group or single sessions with a psychiatrist using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that helps them recognize positive ways of thinking or cognitive patterns in negative or inaccurate situations. CBT often is used along with a behavioral therapy called exposure therapy. Exposure therapy is a technique that helps people safely face situations they find frightening and learn to cope with them. For example, some therapists have used virtual reality programs for those that have come back from Iraq with PTSD called “Virtual Iraq”. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of therapy used in correlation with exposure therapy where a series of guided eye movements help them process traumatic memories. CBT therapies help them gain control of the fear they endure from this violent disaster. Medication alone or with therapy are usually used when other problems are related to the event such as depression, insomnia, anxiety or alcohol/drug abuse. Another alternative approach that has been proven helpful is acupuncture. There is still research that needs to be done to fully understand how effective and safe acupuncture is as a treatment for PTSD, but talk to their doctor if you think they would be interested in this method to helping them overcome their disorder.

When someone you love has PTSD it can not only affect them it can also affect you, the caregiver. The term “compassion fatigue” is used for those close to a person with PTSD and they show signs of helplessness and depression. Going through the trauma that lead your loved one to PTSD can be extremely painful for you and you may find yourself avoiding their attempts to talk about their experience or because you feel hopeless or guilty because you can’t heal them.

In order to take care of yourself and your loved one, it's critical that you make your own mental health a priority. Eat right, exercise and get plenty of sleep. However they choose to get support and help may also help prevent you from turning to unhealthy coping methods, such as alcohol use.

[caption id="attachment_1566" align="alignright" width="300" caption="9/11 Cartoonist Remembers"][/caption]

On this day many recollect the events like Bronx resident Miguel Flores, 37, who was among dozens of paramedic units who charged toward the burning towers. He arrived just as the South Tower crumbled and helped set up a triage unit to help separate the dead from the dying. He said he lost 13% of his lung capacity when a dust cloud enveloped the site. Ten years later, he has physically recovered, he said.

"It's a numbing feeling," he said. "Being back here, you start to relive that a little. We all have dealt with post-traumatic stress." So remember, if your loved one is suffering from PTSD their main concern should be their health and making them feel they are able to go on with their life.

More about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy see: Insomnia Meaning and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy CBT

The content provided in Sleepless in America Remembering 9/11 is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for you or your families sleep problems and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional.

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Tryptophan Rich Foods Induce Sleep Myth or Fact

What is tryptophan? Tryptophan is an essential amino acid in the human body. It functions as a biochemical precursor to sleep inducing compounds serotonin and melatonin. This tryptophan amino acid is not naturally produced in the body therefore It has to come from our diet. Eating foods high in tryptophan are known to promote calmness or feelings of lethargy. A tryptophan deficiency may lead to low levels of serotonin. Low serotonin levels are associated with depression, anxiety, irritability, impatience, impulsiveness, inability to concentrate, weight gain, overeating, carbohydrate cravings, poor dream recall, and insomnia. Vitamin B6 is necessary for the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin. Consequently, a dietary deficiency of vitamin B6 may result in low serotonin levels and/or impaired conversion of tryptophan. In addition, several dietary, lifestyle, and health factors reduce the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin, including cigarette smoking, high sugar intake, alcohol abuse, excessive consumption of protein, hypoglycemia and diabetes.

[caption id="attachment_1560" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Tryptophan Rich Foods that Induce Sleep"][/caption]

Eating carbohydrates that are included in tryptophan foods makes more calming amino acids in the brain. Since tryptophan is produced in the liver, carbohydrates help tryptophan enter the brain to manufacture serotonin and melatonin. Eating foods high in protein right before bed have the opposite effect , they actually can keep you awake. The best bed time snack would be one that has complex carbohydrates, a small amount of protein and some calcium, because calcium also helps the brain make melatonin. This is why a glass of warm milk is one of the top sleep inducing foods.

Tryptophan rich foods are:

• Dairy products: cottage cheese, cheese, milk
• Soy products: soy milk, tofu, soybean nuts
• Seafood
• Meats
• Poultry
• Whole grains
• Beans
• Rice
• Hummus
• Lentils
• Hazelnuts, Peanuts
• Eggs
• Sesame seeds, sunflower seeds

Is tryptophan myth or fact? When it comes to tryptophan in turkey, we all know that eating a Thanksgiving meals makes us sleepy and turkey does contain tryptophan, but the fact is you would have to eat 40 lbs of turkey to get enough tryptophan into your brain to make you sleepy. In actuality, other sources of tryptophan with the same amount are found in chicken and beef.. Furthermore, post-meal drowsiness on Thanksgiving may have more to do with what else is consumed along with the turkey and, in particular, carbohydrates. Therefore, this data suggest that "feast-induced drowsiness" - and, in particular, the common Christmas and Thanksgiving dinner drowsiness - may be the result of a heavy meal rich in carbohydrates, which in turn increases the production of sleep-promoting melatonin in the brain.

The content provided in Tryptophan Rich Foods Induce Sleep Myth or Fact is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for you or your families sleep problems and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional.

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Monday, September 5, 2011

Sleeping Beauty Real Story (KLS or Kleine-Levin Syndrome)

This is the sleeping beauty real story (KLS or Kleine-Levin Syndrome) also known as recurrent hypersomnia where a person sleeps for long periods of time which can be the result of many sleep disorders. In the fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty, a princess sleeps for 100 years under the curse of an evil witch and a handsome prince comes along to kiss her and breaks the spell. Often it starts with flu-like symptoms with a high fever and just like the fairy tale’s poisoned splinter the sleeping curse begins. This is what happened to a 17 year old from Worthing, England named Louisa Ball. She wouldn’t stop sleeping for 10 to 14 days, only awoken to eat and take bathroom breaks. She missed school, dance classes, birthdays and holidays. Kleine-Levin Syndrome is an incurable autoimmune disorder that disrupts the part of the brain that regulates appetite, sleep and libido. More often than not it afflicts males and usually begins with a virus during preteen and teenage years that trigger sleep and aggressiveness. According to experts, those suffering from KLS syndrome can grow out of it in 10 to 12 years.

What if you teenager is not getting enough sleep? See: How Much Sleep Should a Teenager Get

[caption id="attachment_1556" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Sleeping beauty Syndrome Real Story"][/caption]

Whatever you want to label it, Sleeping beauty disease, recurrent hypersomnia or KLS, it is a neurological condition with recurring periods of excess amounts of sleep and behavioral changes. Hypersomnia symptoms include anxiety, increased irritation, decreased energy, restlessness, slow thinking or speech, loss of appetite, hallucinations and lack of concentration. Recurrent hypersomnia or KLS is very rare and even though your teen may sleep up to eighteen hours a day many still do not wake up feeling refreshed. Hypersomnia causes are relatively unknown but the onset of an episode is when they develop irritability, weariness, disorientation and even hallucinate. Once they are sleeping arousal is someone delicate as most show signs of aggression when they are not allowed to sleep and often remain in a delusional dream-like state.

Hypersomnia treatment begins with eliminating other sleep disorders and health conditions like; hypothyroidism or diabetes that could be the cause for excessive sleeping. MS, bipolar disorder and psychiatric disorders are other conditions that mistakenly diagnosed among KLS patients. Patients are often given stimulants like; amphetamine, methylphenidate and modafinil to treat drowsiness, however they do not improve their mental state. If the patient shows signs of bipolar disorder and KLS carbamazepine or lithium are useful for lessening episodes. KLS in teen girls with PMS can be managed with hormonal birth control methods.

The real sleeping beauty story can be tough and many sufferers experience depression because they can’t control their daily lives, maintain a job, go to school or miss out on their teenage years. In several cases KLS subsides by the time they are in their twenties. Patients researched found that 90% outgrow the condition or episodes occur less frequently and are generally mild.

The content provided in Sleeping Beauty Real Story (KLS or Kleine-Levin Syndrome) is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for you or your families sleep problems and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional.

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Sunday, September 4, 2011

How Much Sleep Should a Teenager Get

How much sleep should a teenager get? According to MayoClinic.com most teens need about 9 1/4 hours of sleep a night and sometimes more to maintain optimal daytime alertness for their busy schedules. Due to school, homework, extracurricular activities, part-time jobs and social demands very few teenagers actually get that much sleep. A publication in the Journal of School Health reported that 90% of teens get less than the recommended hours of sleep and 10% of those teens surveyed are sleeping less than six hours a night. Accumulating a sleep debt of five to 10 hours by the end of the school week can have serious consequences. A tired teen can find it difficult to learn as well as finding it hard to fight afternoon sleepiness. Lack of sleep can also contribute to moodiness and behavioral problems. By the time the weekend rolls around many teens are not their usual selves and tend to sleep in to make up for their sleep debt. What can parents do to help with their teenagers and sleep?

[caption id="attachment_1551" align="alignright" width="236" caption="How Much Sleep Should a Teenager Get? Experts say 9 1/4 hours of sleep each night."][/caption]

Parents can help their teenager get a better night’s sleep by overseeing their hectic schedule, incorporating a 20 minute power nap, adjusting lighting in their home and having them eliminate or limit caffeine in the afternoon. Sometimes biology is the blame for their sleep problem. As teens go through puberty, growth spurts require more sleep. Also melatonin in their brain is released later and later as they age. Melatonin is the chemical produced naturally by the body that makes you feel sleepy also controls their 24-hour internal clock or what is known as circadian rhythms, and in older teens and adults it is released later in the evening than compared to a 13 year old. Because they don’t feel sleepy until later in the evening they tend to stay up past their required bedtime. Early to rise school schedules contribute to them accruing a sleep debt.

See: How Many Hours of Sleep Do Teenagers Need for more information on the importance of sleep on teenagers and school schedules.

When your teenager tries to catch up on their sleep on the weekend by sleeping in it makes it hard for them to adjust to waking up early during the week let alone trying to get them in bed by 10pm on Sunday night. It is sometime better for them to arrange an activity on Saturday and Sunday mornings so they get up and get some morning light. Morning light, best between 6am and 10am, is known to keep your sleep/wake cycle regulated. Since light encourages wakefulness, darkness or low light promotes sleepiness. In the evening dim or turn off some lights in the house to minimize light exposure. This will help your teen produce melatonin faster and by incorporating a sleep routine that may include taking a warm shower or eliminating electronics an hour before bedtime will prepare his mind and body to relax and allow him to wind down enough to fall asleep easy. If they still can’t sleep because their mind is racing from daily activities suggest listening to a sleep hypnotic mp3 or soothing music.

To control sleep deprivation in teenagers it is equally important that your child understand what sleep problems can occur and how sleep benefits their health and well-being.

See: Symptoms of Insomnia in Teenagers for more information

Talk to them about how you can work together so they can get the sleep they need. Some sleeping tips for teenagers, first they can get extra sleep is scheduling time for them to take a short 20 minute power nap before 4pm that will refresh them and give them the energy they need to make it through extracurricular activities and homework. Secondly, is to discourage their caffeine intake in the afternoon and eliminating it all together after dinner. Caffeine can be found in coffee, tea, soda, cocoa, chocolate and many other sources, like aspirin. It is even in some prescription medications. Caffeine has a half-life in the body of about 3 hours. That means that if they consume a couple 12 oz cans of Mountain Dew that has 108 mg of caffeine at 3:00 PM, at 6:00 PM about 54 mg and at 9 PM about 27 mg of caffeine will still be in their system. They may be able to fall asleep, but their body probably will miss out on the benefits of deep sleep. That deficit adds up fast. The next day they feel the need for caffeine to them wake up. This cycle continues day after day. Because caffeine builds up in the body, if you teen drinks a lot of soda it will take about a week or two for them to get it totally out of their system.

[caption id="attachment_1552" align="alignright" width="160" caption="How Much Sleep Should a Teenager Get? Keep track of teens schedule with a fun calendar"][/caption]

Finally, help your teen trim down their busy schedule by limiting the number of activities they are involved in, but let them decide what needs to be eliminated. Do they need to take dance or music lessons the same time they are involved in school sports? Are they spending too much time socializing during the week and not doing their homework until almost bed time? Are they involved in an extracurricular activity just because their friends are in it and not because they enjoy it? Helping them to organize their schedule is important and they need to learn and adhere by it. Making a Teen Scene 2012 Magnetic Mount Wall Calendar is not only important to keep track of their schedule, it is important for the whole family. Mom and Dad also need to know when and where their children have to be especially if they are the ones driving them. And mom and dad can see if their teen needs to trim the schedule, if they feel their child is not getting the sleep they need. Besides most parents usually just want what seems best for their children. Even when intentions are good, teens can easily become overscheduled. The pressure to participate in a handful of activities all the time and to "keep up" can be physically and emotionally exhausting for parents and teens alike.

The content provided in How Much Sleep Should a Teenager Get is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for you or your families sleep problems and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional.

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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Insomnia Meaning and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy CBT

Insomnia meaning, according to WebMD, is a sleep disorder characterized by the difficulty falling asleep easy, staying asleep during the night, waking up too early in the morning and not feeling refreshed in the morning. There are two types of insomnia; primary insomnia is not caused by another health condition and secondary insomnia is having sleep problems due to other psychological or physical disorders such as asthma, depression, arthritis, cancer, alcohol abuse or chronic pain. Insomnia also varies in how long it lasts and how often it occurs. Acute insomnia can last from one night to a few weeks, while chronic insomnia lasts at least three nights or longer.

[caption id="attachment_1545" align="alignright" width="221" caption="Insomnia Meaning and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy CBT - Get up if you can't fall asleep after 20 minutes."][/caption]

Acute insomnia is caused by stress, illness, emotional or physical discomfort, environmental factors, medications and disruptive sleep patterns (jet lag or shift work). Chronic insomnia can happen when a person is depressed, anxious, in pain or suffering from chronic stress. Symptoms of insomnia include; afternoon sleepiness, fatigue, irritability, lack of focus and delayed physical reaction.

Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep to function well the next day. On average a woman age 30-60 sleeps only 6.9 hours a night during the work week. Women are more likely than men to have insomnia symptoms that interfere with their daily activities. More women suffer from pain caused by headaches, monthly menstrual cycle (PMS) and arthritis which interrupts their sleep. Women also experience a great deal of stress and sometime depression along with physical ailments.

If you are not getting the rest you need to function during the day a key to trying to treat your insomnia is first keeping a sleep journal to figure out what sleep habits are hindering your sleep. For example you may be drinking too much caffeine right before bedtime or taking a nap too late in the day. Other factors to include in your sleep journal are; time you go to bed, how long it takes you to fall asleep, if you wake up periodically during the night, what time you wake up and how many hours you slept. A sleep journal will also help your physician diagnosis your sleep disorder and determine what treatment is needed or recommend further testing at a sleep clinic.

Sleep studies have shown that sleep restriction is effective for treating insomnia. If you have an idea how long you sleep and the know the number of hours you need to function during the day, lying in bed tossing and turning only increases anxiety which in turn makes it harder for you to fall asleep. Restricting the amount of time in bed should sequentially allow you to get more deep sleep. Calculate the hours of actual sleep and divide it by seven to get your average sleep hours. Establishing a bedtime routine that starts at least 30 minutes before you retire will give your body and mine time to relax.

Good sleep habits won’t change your insomnia especially if it’s chronic but incorporating relaxation techniques can help those that are not sleeping due to anxiety and stress. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques have been known as highly effective treatment for insomnia.

What is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)? Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia is a program that helps you identify and replace thoughts and behaviors that cause or worsen your sleep problems with positive habits that promote deep refreshing sleep. Cognitive meaning: recognizing and changing beliefs that affect your sleep. Behavioral meaning: developing good sleeping habits and breaking bad habits that prohibit sleep. CBT for insomnia includes sleep education, cognitive control and psychotherapy, sleep restriction, remaining passively awake, stimulus control therapy, sleep hygiene, relaxation training, biofeedback and sleep diary.

[caption id="attachment_1546" align="alignright" width="385" caption="Insomnia Meaning and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy CBT - CBT Model"][/caption]

Sleep education helps you to understand the basics of sleep, the sleep cycles and how certain behaviors and external factors can influence your ability to sleep. Cognitive control and psychotherapy teaches you how to eliminate negative thoughts and worries that keep you awake as well as thoughts about how lack of sleep maybe causing you to become sick. Sleep restriction, as stated before, is limiting the time in bed so you are more likely to fall asleep easy and stay asleep. Remaining passively awake involves letting go of stress so you can fall asleep. Stimulus control therapy helps remove conditions like no electronics in the bedroom, using sleep aides to eliminate noise or light, getting up if you don’t fall asleep after 20 minutes to help you sleep better. Sleep hygiene consists of eliminating or limiting lifestyle habits that influence sleep such as; too much caffeine, spicy hot foods (heartburn), napping to late in the afternoon, alcohol and nicotine too close to bedtime and exercising too late in the day. Relaxation training calms the mind and body, techniques include; meditation, hypnosis, muscle relaxation, breathing exercises or yoga stretches. Biofeedback is a method that allows you to monitor your biological signs such as; heart rate and muscle tension. Sleep diary or journal details your sleep habits and the amount of time you sleep that can help a sleep specialist diagnosis and treat your insomnia.

Many times your doctor will recommend sleep medication for treating acute insomnia as these drugs have been approved and preferably recommended for short-term use when someone maybe highly stressed or grieving. If you have long-term or chronic insomnia CBT is a better treatment choice due to prescription or over-the-counter medication side effects or possible dependency. Unlike sleeping pills, CBT for insomnia addresses underlying causes rather than just treating the symptoms. Taking medication for a short period of time while adjusting to CBT treatments can smooth the progress of eliminating your insomnia. CBT requires practice and patients, but if you stick with it you are likely to see lasting results.

The content provided in Insomnia Meaning and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy CBT is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for you or your families sleep problems and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional.

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