Category Archives: Sleep

Good News Monday: Plastic Fantastic

beige algae on brown rock formation near body of water

Photo by Saad Bouzaid on Pexels.com

Two Dutch scientists have developed a bioplastic made from algae– vegetation that takes in carbon and releases oxygen through the same photosynthesis as other plants.

So far, they’ve been able to turn the dried material into something that 3D printers can use to create items such as bottles, tableware and trash cans!

 

 

 

 

Good News Monday: 11 Medical Breakthroughs

Look for these promising new initiatives to become more widely used in the next couple of years.

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1. Tecnic Symfony, a newly approved, first-in-class lens replacement for cataracts, can now provide an extended depth of focus.  We’ll no longer have to choose between optimal close-up or distance vision, and a tiny stent is now available to treat people with glaucoma.

 2. Drones are distributing medicine to isolated areas. In 2016, a start-up company used drones to deliver medicine to Rwanda. This practice has since become routine and it’s estimated that even more areas will benefit.

3. Gene editing is helping prevent disease. A new technique to “edit” embryos (CRISPR Technology) may help future generations avoid retinal degenerative disease and inherited  diseases such as cystic fibrosis and hemophilia.

4. ALS patients will soon be able to communicate with their thoughts. New technology may help decode the thoughts of people with functional brain activity who have a completely paralyzed body resulting from a stroke, traumatic injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

5. Diabetics can be helped by an artificial pancreas. Diabetes is caused when the pancreas produces insufficient insulin. In May 2017, it was reported that the first artificial pancreas systems (the Hybrid Close-Loop Insulin Delivery System) were beginning to be distributed, helping diabetics regulate their insulin levels.

6. Reduction of LDL cholesterol. When powerful cholesterol drugs — known as PCSK9 inhibitors — were approved by the FDA in 2015, experts hailed it as a huge breakthrough, but more studies were needed to see whether this would result in medications with fewer side effects than statins.

Since then, new studies have reported good news – earlier in 2017, a 20% reduction in LDL was reported in a study group of 25,982 patients. These new cholesterol meds should become increasingly available.

7. Enhanced post-surgery recovery. Traditional surgery protocol involves no eating or drinking beforehand, feeling nauseous or groggy afterwards, and being prescribed pain medication to help with recovery, which can lead to opioid dependence.

New research has been evaluating the Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) protocol, which recommends various methods including post-operative nutrition plans and alternatives to pain medication, to speed up the recovery process.

8. More targeted and precise breast cancer therapies. Treatments such as chemotherapy fight cancer cells but don’t always have the desired outcome. In the near future, according to Breastcancer.org, expect to see treatments for breast cancer that are designed to target specific cancer cell characteristics, such as the protein that allows cells to grow in a malignant way, .

9. Improved treatments for sleep apnea. Treatment for moderate to severe sleep apnea is often invasive and uncomfortable, involving the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine (CPAP). This machine blows air into your nose via a nose mask, keeping the airway open and unobstructed.

But a less invasive method was approved by the FDA in October, 2017. The Remede sleep system is an implanted device that treats central sleep apnea by activating a nerve that sends signals to the diaphragm to stimulate breathing.

Following successful trial studies, this may become the treatment of choice.

10. Next-generation vaccines. New techniques include freeze-drying, which allows vaccinations to be transported to remote areas. Companies are also investigating faster ways to manufacture vaccinations to make them more readily available.

11. The first human head transplant! Italian scientist Sergio Canavero and Chinese surgeon Xiaoping Ren are developing a plan to transplant a human head — and yes, it involves neck bolts and electricity! The goal is to help patients with spinal cord injuries and paralysis.

The surgeons have already performed the procedure on mice, rats and a dog, all of which survived surgery and even regained some motor function. Is that cool or what?!

Have a GOOD week! xx

Traveling With Others

Traveling with another person is the ultimate blind date. Do you like to do the same things? Are they overly assertive or passive compared to you? How would they handle a stressful situation?

With luck, you find a partner, spouse or friend whose rhythms match your own. But what about a trip with another couple, your extended family, or someone you don’t know well? That’s a real litmus test.

Mostly, I’ve had wonderful experiences. A trip to London with S forged a friendship that’s lasted for decades. DH and I took a European vacation early in our relationship and learned that we were able to cope when things didn’t go as planned. And our recent visit to Charleston was successful because my friend T and I talked frankly in advance about what we all wanted – or didn’t want – to do there.

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Other trips have been a challenge. Beware of these types of travelers!

The Sloppy Drunk. I’m all for having a good time. But when my ex-husband fell into the bushes after a booze cruise and had to be dragged out by a sailor I should have saluted that red flag and called off the wedding. Live and learn.

Druggie Howser. Similar to the Sloppy Drunk, Druggie will score whatever he can, wherever he travels. An ex-beau bought weed and hashish from a complete stranger when we were in Morocco in the 70’s… did ‘ya learn nothing from the movie Midnight Express??

Sir (or Lady) Bossypants has researched every heritage site, museum, etc. within an inch of its life and is a self-styled expert on all topics relating to the places they insist on dragging you to and Will. Not. Shut. Up. About.

The Slowpoke moves at a different – dare I say, glacial – pace. Unless you are a very patient person (unlike myself) this will drive you stark staring insane.

The Obsessive Planner follows a rigid schedule. By which I mean never, ever deviates from it. You’re enjoying chatting up the owner of a local art gallery? Too bad; gotta get to the next thing on the list. NOW.

Mr. Spontaneity, on the other hand, NEVER wants to plan ahead. You might arrive in another country without a hotel reservation, as happened to a friend of mine many years ago. In high season.

The Hysteric. S*** happens. Train schedules change. Planes get grounded. Connections get missed. Places are unexpectedly closed. You do not want to travel with someone who is totally unhinged by this. Trust me.

Morning vs Night. My father was a morning person. My mother stayed up until 2 AM and slept until noon. On family trips, we had to squeeze all activities between 1:00 and 8:00 PM. Know which one you – and your traveling companions – are, and plan accordingly.

The Cheapskate. Bargain-hunter in the extreme. Will only eat street food, go to a museum on the one free day, stay at a Motel 6, or take the bus even though you risk arriving at your destination after closing.

Hey Big Spender. There are two subcategories: Ms. Moneybags (who can afford it) and Mr. Moocher (money is no object because you’re footing the bill). Watch out for anyone who has no understanding of – or respect for – your finances.

Michelin Or Bust. Michelin-starred restaurants can be terrific — unless you have a sensitive stomach or wallet. Our last Michelin meal was so rich, both DH and I tossed our (artisanal) cookies within an hour of returning to our hotel room. Next time, we’ll suggest our friends dine alone, check out the simple place around the corner and meet up for an after-dinner coffee.

The Bottom Line: Pre-Planning

  • Discuss expectations and set ground rules in advance, even if it feels awkward. Especially if you’re traveling with another couple or someone you don’t know well.
  • Be honest about how you want to spend your time. Be open to compromise unless an activity will bore or annoy you. For example, don’t go shopping just because your friend loves it if you know you’ll hate every minute. A reluctant companion is no fun for either of you!
  • Benefit from others’ expertise. Some of our friends are serious foodies and love to research the newest or best-reviewed places in town. I’m happy to let them pick the restaurants since I don’t care all that much.
  • Eating out with others? Get separate checks. You won’t feel guilty if you have that extra drink or order something more expensive.
  • Travel with people who have similar resources. If you’re on a budget, make sure you don’t get sucked into spending outside your own comfort zone. On the other hand, if you always stay in a suite you may feel resentful if you get a standard room like theirs to be “polite”.

Enjoy traveling this big, wonderful world of ours!

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A Sleep Trick

I just read about a brilliant way to lull yourself to sleep — or back to sleep if, like me, you tend to wake up in the middle of the night.

  1. Think of a letter — either at random or start at the beginning of the alphabet.
  2. Visualize a word beginning with that letter, e.g. “apple” for A.  Don’t choose anything you’re phobic about, such as clowns, heights or spiders.
  3. Keep thinking of new words beginning with the same letter (“avocado”, “armadillo”…) and take time to picture each one.
  4. When you run out of images, move on to a new letter.
  5. Keep going until you nod off.

I tried this in the middle of the night and bored myself back to sleep in record time!

Have a great, sleep-filled weekend, and Happy Mother’s Day to all of you who are mothers, about-to-be mothers, or have ever had a mother.

Beauty Round-Up

As a public service to those of you who don’t have the time, inclination, or mind-numbingly long plane flights to read magazines, here are seven items that caught my eye recently.

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  • A hot bath burns as many calories as a 30-minute walk. This one really resonates with my inner sloth.
  • Cure for cellulite? The BelleCore Body Buffer, $149, is said to reduce water retention while buffing the skin to release tension and stretch the tough tissue that holds fat cells in place, creating that dreaded dimpled effect. I’d try it myself except that 1) I’ve spent far too much money this month, and 2) my butt and thighs are already flawless. Yeah, right.
  • The Big Five ingredients we need to improve our skin:
    1. Vitamin C, the powerful antioxidant that supports healthy collagen and fights free radicals that break it down. Check the concentration; anything cheap probably has too little to be effective.
    2. Retinol, the “miracle” ingredient that fights acne, smooths and reduces wrinkles and works wonders on sun-damaged skin. Best used at night and be sure to use sunscreen daily.
    3. Hyaluronic Acid (HA), which acts like a sponge to pull moisture from the air into the skin. Caveat: In a really dry climate, it can work in reverse, so slather on a rich moisturizer on top to prevent water loss.
    4. Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) such as glycolic acid increase cell turnover and inhibit enzymes that destroy collagen and elastin to treat fine lines, dullness and blackheads. Without SkinMedica’s GlyPro line, I’d probably look about 80.
    5. It may seem counterintuitive but oils work on both oily and dry skin. On oily complexions, face oil can signal the skin to stop overproducing sebum. For dry skin, layer oil over your HA serum and massage it in. Look for one that’s cold pressed (like a good olive oil) because heat can destroy its active properties.
  • A cluttered environment decreases self-control, increasing the likelihood of impulsive spending, according to a study in the Journal of Consumer Research. I’m cleaning up my desk RIGHT THIS MINUTE.
  • More vitamin D correlates with longer telomeres, the protective DNA sequences at the end of chromosomes. Shortened/broken telomeres are linked to blotchy skin, grey or thinning hair, deep wrinkles and other age-related consequences. Salmon, anyone??
  • Layer skin care products in order of “heaviness”. After cleansing and drying your skin (to reduce potential irritation), pat on your serum and let it dry before you layer on anything else. Next, massage in your facial oil. Then apply a rich moisturizer to lock in hydration. Sunscreen is your final product during the day, of course.
  • Tips for growing stronger nails:
  1. File in one direction from the outside to the center on both sides, using a file with 240 to 600 grit. Never metal.
  2. Don’t peel off your gel manicure or chipped polish. But you already knew that.
  3. Dry nails are more likely to break. Rub lotion and cuticle oil in throughout the day to get blood flowing and help stimulate cell regeneration.
  4. An almond shape is the strongest.
  5. According to dermatologists, the only supplement proven to work is biotin (2.5 mg/day, but check with your own doctor). Some recommend MSM, a form of sulphur, to help bind keratin in hair and nails.
  6. It takes six months for a nail to regrow.

By the way, people who make their bed in the morning are 19% more likely to get a good night’s beauty sleep.

Stay gorgeous! xx

 

 

 

Scents and Sensibility

Smell is one of our most powerful senses. The scent of vanilla sparks feelings of comfort, associated since childhood with freshly baked cookies. That’s because your olfactory system is directly wired to the limbic center, the emotional “heartland” of the brain. A whiff of perfume may either remind you of something positive – say, April in Provence – or recall the unwanted memory of an ex or toxic co-worker who used to wear that brand.

As we get older, especially after age 70, our sense of smell tends to diminish. Some reasons are physiological but disease, smoking, and exposure to harmful particles in the air also play a role. Losing your sense of smell not only lessens pleasures such as eating, it can be dangerous — if, for example, you can’t smell smoke from a fire or a build-up of natural gas.clown-362155_640

By the way, “old people smell” is a real thing, and has nothing to do with cleanliness. That grassy or greasy odor, called nonenal, is a natural result of the aging process, resulting from deterioration of the skin’s antioxidant defenses. Both men and women begin producing nonenal around age 40 and hormonal changes such as menopause can make it worse. Since it isn’t water soluble, nonenal stays on the skin no matter how hard you scrub. The good news? You can reduce odor by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, getting plenty of rest, avoiding stress, not smoking, and drinking alcohol in moderation.

What NOT to do? Overdoing perfume to compensate, especially if you can’t tell how much is too much!

Certain scents are known to improve your sleep, boost your mood, relieve stress and make you smarter.

LAVENDER: Cooperation and Relaxation. A bath or shower with lavender-scented gel can send you off to dreamland. A lavender room spray may “encourage” meetings to run more smoothly. (I’ve tried this, and it may be coincidence but it worked!)lavender-1117275_640

LEMON: Brain boosting. Got a big presentation? A UK study found that cognitive performance and mood improved when wearing participants rubbed lemon balm on the inside of their wrists.lemon-1117568_640

ORANGE: Stress, Anxiety, Digestion. Citrus aromas are often useful for curbing stress and anxiety, as well as helping with nausea and digestion. Massage therapists and acupuncturists at the Mayo Clinic augment therapies with mandarin essential oil. Could work for you, too!orange-15046_640

ROSE: Anxiety. From calming the nervous system to improving mental strength, inhaling a rose scent produces an anti-anxiety effect similar to diazepam.

rose-113735_640SANDALWOOD: De-Stressing. Recent studies have confirmed that this traditional meditative aid and natural sedative also reduces anxiety.

VANILLA: Mood Improvement. There’s a reason we find it so soothing. Scientists have found that this warm, sweet scent activates the limbic system in our brains, conjuring restful emotions and relieving stress and anxiety.

JASMINE: Sleep. This scent increases brain waves associated with deep sleep. That can mean a more restful night and greater alertness the following day.flower-363278_640

GRAPEFRUIT – The Multi-Tasker Studies have shown the women wearing a grapefruit scent were perceived to be much younger than their chronological age. Other evidence suggests that the aroma can help curb depression and enhance memory. And researchers at Osaka University in Japan found that sniffing grapefruit reduces food cravings and boosts metabolism. Maybe that’s why that “grapefruit diet” has been so popular!grapefruit-1647688_640

A few tips about candlescandle-1039538_640

Do you love scented candles, but hate the way they sink down in the middle or leave dark marks on your container or wall? There’s a simple explanation: If the wick gets too long, the flame produces black smoke and the glass your candle’s in can overheat.

Here’s how to get the most from your expensive candles:

  • BURN IT EVENLY: The first time you light your candle, let it burn for two hours to ensure that the top is entirely melted and then put it out. Any hardened wax around the sides will tunnel downwards the next time you light it.
  • TRIM THE WICK: Use a wick trimmer to keep the wick short – only a few millimeters in length.
  • CENTER THE WICK: When you put out the candle (and while the wax is still liquid) re-center the wick. This will prevent it from blackening the container the next time you light it.
  • FIX TUNNELING: If a tunnel begins to form, burn the candle for 30 minutes until the edges are soft, then put it out. Allow the wax to cool a bit; then gently push it down with your finger. Re-light and allow the candle to burn for one to two hours to level the wax.

9 Quick Sleep Tips

If you’re finding sleep a bit elusive these days, here are some tips I’ve collected this week.

In no particular order:

  1. Have a small amount of milk or plain yogurt before bedtime. The proteins are soothing and will keep you from waking up hungry.
  2. Turn the thermometer down to 66.2 degrees F, which is apparently the optimal sleep temperature.
  3. Read something relaxing for 30 minutes to calm your brain.
  4. Lower all lights as soon as the sun goes down to jumpstart the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone, as soon as possible.
  5. Do some yoga stretches and deep breathing – you can even do these in bed.
  6. Drink a cup of South African red rooibos tea before bedtime. Its medicinal properties are believed to improve restfulness.
  7. Sniff mint every two hours. Peppermint is said to be calming.
  8. Keep a sleep diary to note your natural patterns. It may be perfectly normal for you to take an hour break in the middle of the night as long as you fall asleep again, so don’t let it stress you out.
  9. Drink Montmorency tart cherry juice a couple of times a day. It’s packed with sleep-inducing melatonin as well as antioxidants. In a 2012 study, subjects who drank it for seven days had higher levels of melatonin as well as improved sleep.

Zzzzzz!