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Weekend Sleeping-In Related To Lower Body Weight

Sleeping-in on weekends linked to lower body weight
Published June 17, 2017 2:35pm
(Reuters Health) — Catching up on lost sleep over weekends may help people keep their weight down, according to a study in South Korea.

Not getting enough sleep can disrupt hormones and metabolism and is known to increase the risk of obesity, researchers write in the journal Sleep.

“Short sleep, usually causing sleep debt, is common and inevitable in many cases, and is a risk factor for obesity, hypertension, coronary heart disease, as well as mortality,” lead author Dr. Chang-Ho Yun of the Seoul National University Budang Hospital told Reuters Health by email.

Sleeping in may be better than napping, as the sleep may be deeper and follows the body’s sleep-wake rhythms more closely, Yun said.

To determine how weekend sleep is related to body weight, the researchers used data from a nationwide survey of more than 2,000 people who ranged in age from 19 to 82 years old.

In face-to-face interviews, researchers asked participants about their height and weight, weekday and weekend sleep habits, mood and medical conditions.

The study team used this information to determine body mass index (BMI), a measure of weight relative to height, and whether participants engaged in catch-up sleep on weekends.

Weekend catch-up sleep was defined as sleeping more hours on weekend nights compared to weekday nights.

On average, the participants slept 7.3 hours per night and had BMIs of 23, which falls in the healthy range.

About 43 percent of people slept longer on weekends by nearly two hours than they did on weekdays.

People who slept-in on weekends tended to sleep shorter hours during weekdays, but slept more hours overall across the week.

The researchers’ analysis found that those who slept-in on weekends had average BMIs of 22.8 while those who didn’t engage in catch-up sleep averaged 23.1, which was a small but statistically meaningful difference.

In addition, the more catch up sleep a person got, the lower their BMI tended to be, with each additional hour linked to a 0.12 decrease in BMI.

“Short sleepers tend to eat more meals per day, snack more, engage in more screen time and may be less likely to move due to increased sensations of fatigue when not rested,” said Jean-Philippe Chaput of the University of Ottawa in Canada, who wasn’t involved in the study.

Chaput noted that getting 30 minutes of heart-pumping exercise per day can help improve sleep.

“Sleep experts say that if people need an alarm clock to wake up it is a sign that they don’t sleep enough,” Chaput said by email.

“The more good behaviors we can have every day (and sustain for the rest of our lives) the better it is for the prevention of chronic diseases and optimizing health. Sleep should be one of these priorities,” he said.

“If you cannot sleep sufficiently on workdays because of work or social obligations, try to sleep as much as possible on the weekend. It might alleviate the risk for obesity.”

“Weekend sleep extension could be a quick fix to compensate sleep loss over the week but is not an ultimate solution for chronic sleep loss,” Yun cautioned.

“If average sleep duration over the week is far below the optimal amount even with weekend sleep extension, the benefits would likely dissipate,” Yun said. — Reuters

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Paul Hirschberger’s Good Night Naturals Dedicated to Natural Bedding Products and Buyer Beware of Conventional Manufacturers and ‘Poison’ Mattresses

Published in The Huffington Post

With a new season beckoning, it’s time to think about upgrading your bedding and mattress to something more comfortable, restful and healthy. But natural and organic bedding expert Paul Hirschberger, who’s been in the “eco” and natural products business for over 25 years while advising and serving customers, warns “buyer beware.” Especially if you’re searching for a safe and healthy mattress.

Why? Because what you hear, see and ultimately buy may not be what you and your family really want.

Good Night Naturals store in Los Angeles — offering a great solution for more restful, healthy and happy sleep.
Natural and organic bedding expert Paul Hirschberger warns “buyer beware” especially if you’re searching for a safe and healthy mattress.

Hirschberger is co-founder of Good Night Naturals, a successful and trusted Los Angeles-based, natural and organic bedding company. And, because Good Night Naturals is dedicated to us getting better sleep through natural bedding products, he advises bedding customers to be aware of several things.

  • Conventional mattress manufacturers may be competent enough making a mattress that provides adequate physical comfort (like support) however, what you don’t see can cause great harm to your health.
  • Because the majority of commercial bedding makers’ rely on synthetic materials, your family’s health is at risk — e.g. a king sized conventional mattress can contain up to 13 pounds of harmful chemical fire retardants.
  • Hirschberger is concerned with the proliferation of toxins used in conventional mattresses and bedding, calling them “poison mattresses.”
  • Moreover, manufacturers may be misleading about meeting organic guidelines because even if they do use smaller amounts of synthetics, they still emit toxic gasses that you inhale throughout the night.

Would you want your loved ones to be breathing in such dangerous toxins? Of course, not. So, for sure, buyer beware, don’t let anyone pull the “wool” over your eyes.

Good Night Naturals uses Pure Wool in the manufacture of its brand of comforters, pillows, mattress pads, mattresses and futons.
Pure Wool refers to wool that is from sheep raised under strict conditions and is not cleaned or treated with harsh chemicals or processes.

Speaking of wool, this wonderful completely natural fiber along with pure 100% natural latex and organic cotton, are key materials incorporated in many of Good Night Naturals’ bedding products. One of wool’s most-remarkable qualities is its ability to maintain comfortable body temperature. For example, wool bedding works like a personal heating-and-cooling system — in winter, wool creates warmth without overheating, and conversely, in summer, wool actually keeps you cooler because of its natural moisture-wicking properties.

Some other great qualities of wool include: it’s all natural, biodegradable and renewable; it’s naturally elastic, breathable, both warm and cool, and both static and odor resistant; and, wool’s inherent chemical structure makes this natural material flame resistant, and so it’s a highly trusted natural fiber in public areas such as hotels, aircraft, hospitals and theatres.

How do you like them apples?!

Always concerned about educating customers so that their experience is positive and uplifting, Hirschberger says about Good Night Naturals’ use of wonderful wool:

We use Pure Wool in the manufacture of our brand of comforters, pillows, mattress pads, mattresses and futons. Pure Wool has several purposes like allowing us to build a mattress and not use any harmful chemical fire retardants. Another proactive part of our mattress is that because it wicks away moisture, this ability to control body humidity is vital to a great night’s sleep. The drier you stay, the less you toss and turn allowing the body to rest deeply.

What’s not to like about that? But wait there’s more.

  • Pure Wool refers to wool that is from sheep raised under strict conditions and is not cleaned or treated with harsh chemicals or processes.
  • Pure Wool is resistant to mold and mildew, which can trigger allergic reactions.
  • Other types of bedding, such as down, feathers, or synthetic materials are more of a haven for dust mites which are a leading trigger for asthma attacks.
  • People who suffer from fibromyalgia, arthritis, and rheumatism find that pure wool mattress toppers help provide softer cushioning for their body parts.

So how does wondrous wool work? For over 12,000 years, wool has been used by humans to make life more comfortable for us, as Hirschberger explains:

Wool fibers create a sort of pocket of air, a dry layer of air right next to your skin, which holds in heat during chilly nights, while cooling your body as seasonal temperatures rise. Carbonization is used in the production of most wool products today. But our special Pure Wool is washed simply, in large washing machines with soap and very hot water, assuring you that you’re not getting anything other than wool in it’s purest form. Throughout the packing, cleaning and carding process, care is taken to eliminate chemical processes and maintain uniform quality. Additionally, buying products made with Pure Wool encourages sheep ranchers and the wool industry to raise and maintain their flocks naturally and without chemicals. For example, this program calls for absolutely no chemicals, pesticides or artificial materials in the sheep’s environment. Even the grasses on which the sheep are grazed are carefully selected. In the shearing process, ranchers use a clean room and a surface free of dirt, dust and pests. All of this hopefully encourages a more eco-friendly wool industry.

100% Natural Latex — Latex is a natural material created following a variety of manufacturing processes

And this focus on eco-friendly products and strategies extends to Good Night Naturals’ use of 100% Natural Latex in its own mattresses as opposed to most other mattresses which are made with polyurethane or “memory foam” cushioning which is chock full of harmful chemicals. Hirschberger suggests that 100% Natural Latex is a terrific alternative if you suffer from backaches, pressure points, allergies, and have concerns about Electro Magnetic Fields (EMF) or if you live in an area where mold, mildew or dust mites are problems.

Hirschberger adds:

Because we spend more time in the bedroom than anywhere else, it’s vital that you and your family have the healthiest sleep environment. At Good Night Naturals you’ll find many well-designed and health-conscious mattresses, and related bedding that is crafted with care to provide you and your family with the safest and healthiest sleep environment…anywhere!

Hirschberger says if you have concerns or questions, check out Good Night Naturals’ very helpful and informative website, call him on the phone or just come visit their storefront. Ask away and find the best solution for more restful, healthy and happy sleep.

Ashley Jude Collie Journalist/Author/Scriptwriter/Blogger

Ashley Jude Collie recommends you check out Good Night Naturals’ website, and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Should You Throw Away Your Pillow

Should You Throw Away Your Pillows?

How long have you been sleeping on your pillow? If you can’t remember, it’s probably been too long… the average person keeps their pillow for more than three years, and more than half only replace their pillow and bedding when they notice it starts wearing out.

But should you replace your pillow much sooner? The Sleep to Live Institute in America recommends replacing your pillow every six months, which might be a bit aggressive (and the Institute has ties to the industry).

A more reasonable approach may be to use the folding test: fold your pillow in half, and if it stays folded instead of springing back into shape, it’s time to find a new one. If you prefer to use length of time as a gauge, the Sleep Council in the UK recommends replacing pillows every two years.

Neck Problems and Dust Mites: Risks of Keeping Your Pillow Too Long

To avoid neck pain, your pillow should, ideally, fill the gap between your head and shoulders when you lie down.  If you keep your pillow too long, it will flatten out, leaving your head and neck without adequate support night after night, and this could lead to pain and restless nights.

The other significant issue with keeping a pillow too long is a dust-mite infestation. Dust mites are microscopic bugs that feed on dead skin cells and thrive in warm, humid environments… like your pillow. Dust mites don’t bite and they don’t spread diseases, but they are the most common allergen found in household dust.

It’s estimated that about 10 percent of Americans are allergic to dust mites (or, more specifically, to their fecal pellets and body fragments). In those allergic, dust mites can trigger allergic symptoms and high levels of exposure have been linked to the development of asthma in children.

Down Pillows and Comforters are known to attract the most dust mites, and they are difficult to clean properly in order to remove them. However, any pillow can become a dust-mite reservoir and, in fact, after one year of use, 10 percent to 15 percent of your pillow’s weight may be made up of dust-mite waste…

If you find that your allergy symptoms are worse in the morning, it could very well be due to high levels of dust mites in your pillow and bedding. Washing your pillow once a week in hot water (130-140 degrees F) will kill dust mites (and so will freezing it overnight), so it’s a good idea to use these preventive strategies if you have a dust-mite allergy.

You’ll need to wash (or freeze) the whole pillow (not just the pillow case). You can also encase your pillows in a dust-proof cover, or choose a high-quality wool pillow, which will be hypoallergenic and will repel dust mites naturally. Wool pillows are naturally fire resistant and are free from dangerous flame retardants.

Your Pillow Might Contain a Million Fungal Spores

What else might be lurking in your pillow? Fungal spores, including Aspergillus fumigatus, which can cause Aspergillosis, an infection that begins in your lungs and may spread to other parts of your body, such as your brain.

When researchers tested samples of pillows, which had been used anywhere from 1.5 to 20 years, they found several thousand spores of fungus per gram of pillow, which means any one pillow could contain more than 1 million spores.

Up to 16 different species of fungus, from varieties found in bread to varieties common in showers, were detected in the individual samples. Pillows made from synthetic materials tended to have higher levels, which is another reason why pillows made from natural wool are preferable.

According to one of the study’s researchers, since you spend so much time in close proximity to your pillow, fungal contamination could have health implications:

“We know that pillows are inhabited by the house dust mite which eats fungi, and one theory is that the fungi are in turn using the house dust mites’ feces as a major source of nitrogen and nutrition (along with human skin scales). There could therefore be a ‘miniature ecosystem’ at work inside our pillows.

…Since patients spend a third of their life sleeping and breathing close to a potentially large and varied source of fungi, these findings certainly have important implications for patients with respiratory disease – especially asthma and sinusitis.”

Your Pillow Could Be a Key Source of Exposure to Flame-Retardant Chemicals

The risks of exposure to dust mites and fungal spores pale in comparison to those of flame-retardant chemicals that are added to some sleeping pillows. Using an x-ray analyzer that can detect bromine levels in household items, researchers were able to estimate how much of one type of flame retardant chemical– polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) – they may contain.

Sleeping pillows topped the list (followed closely by vehicle sleep cushions). PBDEs resemble the molecular structure of PCBs, which have been linked to cancer, reproductive problems, and impaired fetal brain development.

Like PCBs, even though certain PBDEs have been banned in some U.S. states and the European Union, they persist in the environment and accumulate in your body – and often exist in products imported from other countries.

Higher exposures to PBDEs have been linked to decreased fertility, 8 which could be in part because the chemicals may mimic and therefore disrupt your thyroid hormones. Research has suggested PBDEs can lead to decreases in TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone), which is typically a sign that your thyroid is being disrupted and you are developing hyperthyroidism.

This can have significant ramifications both for you and your unborn child if you’re pregnant. As for cancer, one type of PBDE (decaBDE) is classified as a possible human carcinogen by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), while the others remain largely untested.

A study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley also revealed that both in utero and childhood PBDE exposures were associated with neurodevelopmental delays, including decreased attention, fine motor coordination, and cognition in school-age children.1

During the pillow study, researchers found that bromine levels in sleeping pillows were significantly associated with PBDE levels in study participants’ blood. Certain types of pillows were worse than others, with polyurethane foam pillows topping the list of worst offenders by a large margin:

  • Polyurethane foam pillows (3,646 parts per million)
  • Polyester fiber pillows (107 parts per million)
  • Feather pillows (6 parts per million)

Exposing yourself to flame-retardant chemicals while you sleep is a completely unnecessary risk, since natural pillows are available that contain no such chemicals. High-quality wool pillows (and bedding and mattresses) are naturally flame resistant, which is why no flame retardants like PBDEs are used.

Is Your Pillow Right for Your Sleep Position?

More than 90 percent of Americans say that having a comfortable pillow is important to getting a good night’s sleep, but what constitutes “comfortable”? You probably have a preference for a firm or fluffy pillow, and you might even stack up two or more. If you wake up pain-free and feeling well rested, your pillow situation is probably fine… but if, on the other hand, you’re waking up with back and neck pain, or struggling with snoring or acid reflux, adjusting your sleep position, including your pillow, may help.

It’s generally accepted that the best sleep position is on your back. When you sleep on your back your head, neck, and spine maintain a neutral position, and acid reflux symptoms are minimized (because your face is not pushed up against a pillow, back sleeping may also be best for preventing facial wrinkles). When sleeping on your back, no pillow is actually best for your spine, but a fluffy pillow that keeps your head supported while still being relatively thin will also work. If you use a thick pillow you’ll lose out on some of the benefit of back sleeping, as this will push your head and neck forward, impacting your breathing.

Side sleeping allows your spine to stay in a fairly neutral position while helping to reduce snoring issues, if present, in some people. If you sleep on your side, look for a firm pillow to fill the gap between your ear and outside shoulder. Some people also find that sleeping on their side with a pillow between their knees radically improves low back pain, as it tends to normalize the normal spinal curves. As for stomach sleeping, it’s generally regarded as the worst position of all because of the way it distorts the natural curve of your lower spine. If you choose to sleep on your stomach, look for a thin pillow (or skip the pillow entirely).

You may want to put a pillow under your stomach to help alleviate potential back pain from this sleeping in this position. Keep in mind that you needn’t have only one type of pillow. You might have a firm pillow to support your head while reading in bed and another that you prefer for sleep. The thickness and firmness of your pillow is up to your personal preference, but the material it’s made out of should be natural, not synthetic, to avoid exposure to flame-retardant chemicals.

Finally, you’ll want to be sure your pillow is washable to reduce dust mites and other organisms, like fungal spores. Natural pillows will be easily washable, but many synthetic foam pillows are not. In fact, the porous foam cells in foam pillows may hold onto water if you try to wash them, which could facilitate the growth of fungus. I personally would never sleep on anything other than a wool pillow for health reasons.

Find out more about natural material pillows click here!

article by Dr Mercola / August 28th, 2014

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Paul Hirschberger’s “Good Night Naturals” Natural Bedding Helps To Alleviate Sleep Loss Crisis





“Sleep is the best meditation” — Dalai Lama

“The lion and the calf shall lie down together
but the calf won’t get much sleep” — Woody Allen


Almost everyone’s got something to say about sleep. We get too little or too much, it’s often disturbed, and not restful enough. Even Huffington Post co-founder Arianna Huffington in her latest bestselling book, The Sleep Revolution, says we’re suffering from a sleep deprivation crisis which is having a major impact on our health, work performance, our relationships and additionally our own happiness. She calls for a sleep revolution.

Similarly, Paul Hirschberger, the co-founder of Good Night Naturals, a Los Angeles-based, natuarl bedding company that’s dedicated to us getting better sleep through natural bedding products, offers:

Sleep loss is taking a toll on our physical and emotional health. From the aspect of sleep environment, we are concerned with the proliferation of toxins used in conventional mattresses and bedding. We feel that the best mattress is one made with organic and natural materials. Then we focus on physical comfort, getting the body aligned on the mattress, taking pressure off the spine where it shouldn’t be, and allowing the body to truly come to rest.

Hirschberger has been interested in natural products since he and his wife, Elly, opened their first “eco” store, Earthsake, in the Bay Area in 1991, inspired by the 20th anniversary of Earth Day. He recalls, “We were wide-eyed and believed the time was right for non-toxic and efficient products that were finally becoming available — like compact fluorescent bulbs, water conservation, tools like low flush toilets, showerheads that cut water down.”

Earthsake was recognized as the first “eco” store in the world by media like NPR. By 2000, Paul and Elly had seven stores and a website, and attracted customers from all around the world, including Apple’s Steve Jobs and his wife Laurene. In the process, the Hirschbergers developed their “philosophy and direction of the company” and began to do more and more natural bedding products which they saw as a real opportunity.

After selling off their general “eco” business, they created Good Night Naturals in 2006 as an online venture, and then moved to LA in 2015 and opened up a new retail store on Third Street, focusing on mattresses, bedding and linen.




Because we spend more time in the bedroom than anywhere else, Hirschberger says it’s vital that we and our family have the healthiest sleep environment. With his growing understanding of our sleep environment, he found more and more information about how toxic conventional mattresses are. For example, Hirschberger suggests that a king sized conventional mattress can have up to 13 pounds of chemical fire retardants in it, chemicals known to harm people, further explaining:

Many traditional mattresses are less than healthy. We like to call them poison mattresses. So, the first thing we did when we designed our mattress, we opted to eliminate any chemicals. A great recipe is to use natural fibers like organic cotton and wool. You come into our store and check out the mattresses and you’ll see our knit organic cotton cover on the outside, then just below surface, a layer or two or three of wool, because eco-wool has several purposes like allowing us to build a mattress and eliminate chemical fire retardants. Another proactive part of our mattress is that it wicks away moisture, and this ability to control body humidity is tantamount to a great night’s sleep. The drier you stay, the less you toss and turn allowing the body to rest deeply. We also use PureGrow™ Wool in the manufacture of our brand of comforters, pillows, mattress pads, mattresses and futons.




Hirschberger, who has an alternate career as an award-winning documentary filmmaker including his latest, Touchdown Israel, has a laid back approach to making movies and also to his natural bedding store. He feels it’s instructive to build a foundation of knowledge for customers to “fully understand why we do what we do, why we use the materials we use, and why we build mattresses a particular way using 100% natural latex and organic cotton, and sell bedding that’s based around eco-wool.”

Then after discussing the issues of chemicals and toxins in conventional bedding, he says it’s important to realize that everyone’s body is different. Hirschberger adds:

Once you have that understanding of why we do what we do with the materials, you’re going to need to find a mattress you’re physically comfortable resting on. So we get you onto a mattress. We have about 10 sample mattresses in our store, to try out, to feel physically comfortable with and which also suits your pocketbook — so we offer a wide range of price points, and comfort levels, from soft to quite firm. Another thing while you’re checking out the mattresses, we support each individual in various ways, using traditional inner springs, pocket coil springs, and 100% natural latex which is increasingly popular.




In over 25 years in the “eco” natural products business, Hirschberger says the key to attracting and maintaining customers is excellent service and keeping them informed, adding, “We do our best to educate and illuminate the issues and facts which are necessary to their decision making process.”

So go take a lie-down on one of Good Night Naturals’ 100% natural mattresses, snuggle in and check out the difference. But as Woody Allen suggests, just don’t lie down with a lion.

Follow Good Night Naturals, and check them out on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

5 Surprising Ways Your Mattress Affects Your Sleep And Health

02/09/2014 10:42 am ET | Updated  Feb 11, 2014

You wouldn’t run a marathon or hike a mountain without the right gear. And yet, despite spending a third of our lives sleeping, many of us haven’t adequately prepared in the bedroom — when it comes to mattresses, that is.

Not that we don’t recognize the importance of a comfy mattress. In a 2011 poll, the National Sleep Foundation found that 92 percent of people say a comfortable mattress is important to a good night’s sleep.

You might be tempted to blame your budget for continuing to doze on a less-than-ideal mattress, but considering just a little bit more shut-eye can help you lose weight, improve your memory and live longer, can you really put a price tag on good sleep?

But the wrong mattress — or the mattress that’s simply too old — can be the cause of more than that crick in your neck or your low back pain. Here are five sneakier ways your mattress affects your sleep — and your health.

Buying A New Mattress Might Zap Your Stress
mattress stress
In a small 2009 study, 59 healthy men and women slept for 28 consecutive nights on their regular mattresses, then another 28 nights on new, medium-firm mattresses. They were asked to evaluate their stress levels based on factors like worrying, racing thoughts, nervousness, irritability, headaches, trembling and more. The new beds resulted in “a significant decrease in stress,” according to the study, possibly because of the related increase in sleep quality and decrease in pain associated with the firmer setup.

You May Be Allergic To Your Mattress
sheets laundry line
Well, to the dust mites calling it home, at least. The microscopic creatures feed on the dead skin cells you shed naturally, a whole host of which are found in and on your bed. As many as 20 million Americans are allergic to the buggers, according to WebMD, and they’re especially problematic for people with asthma, CNN reported.

Washing sheets and pillowcases frequently in hot water can help rid your linens of dust mites. And a slipcover labeled “allergy-proof” can help keep them from traveling from the mattress to your sheets and pillows going forward. If dust mites are a problem, clean the actual mattress with a vacuum, according to the Better Sleep Council.

“Medium-Firm” Is A Subjective Label
There’s no standardized definition of what makes a mattress soft and what makes a mattress firm. “A 250-pound person may describe a mattress as soft while a 125-pound person may describe the same mattress as firm,” Robert Oexman, D.C., director of the Sleep to Live Institute, wrote in a 2012 HuffPost blog. Terms like “ultra-plush” sound appealing, but you’ll really only know what’s plush if you spend some time horizontal. There’s also little evidence to prove a firm or a soft mattress is better for your sleep — it just about all comes down to comfort. So make sure you spend at least 20 minutes “test-driving” a mattress before making a purchase.

Tossing And Turning Could Be A Sign It’s Time For A New One
tossing turning mattress
A hole with stuffing streaming out or a spring sticking into the small of your back are obvious signs it’s time to replace your mattress. But they’re not the only reasons to head to the store. If you’re simply not sleeping as well as you used to at home, it might be time to make an investment, especially if you find you sleep better away from home, USA Today reported.

Using Your Mattress As Your Home Office Can Keep You Up
technology bed
Experts agree that the bedroom should be reserved for sleep and sex — otherwise,your brain can start to expect to answer work emails when you hit the hay, making it increasingly difficult to fall asleep. Electronics definitely don’t belong with you on your mattress; the blue light they emit is particularly disruptive to the brain’s natural bedtime mechanism and can you up longer.

9 Things In Your Dorm That Are Wrecking Your Sleep And what to do about them.

Sarah DiGiulio
Sleep Reporter, The Huffington Post

Your dorm room presents many obstacles to good sleep.
College dorm rooms bring on their own breed of sleep saboteurs — from the always-looming coursework to the impromptu Justin Bieber dance party happening down the hall.  But anyone who has pulled or attempted an all-nighter has felt the dismal effects of getting too little sleep.

Sleep debt (i.e., not getting enough of it) has short- and long-term consequences for your body, your health and how you function, says Jess Shatkin, professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine.

“Poor sleep affects everything from memory and neurological functioning to irritability, depression and anxiety,” he tells The Huffington Post. Recent studies have linked poor sleep to a wide range of health problems, from an inability to focus and pay attention to difficulty staying at a healthy weight. And even more research has shown when you don’t get enough sleep, you’re more likely to get sick, get emotional, have an accident and even look less attractive.

To help yourself get seven to nine hours of sleep a night (which is what the National Sleep Foundation recommends for anyone age 18 to 25), Shatkin and other experts say to watch out for these sleep wreckers:

1  Your cell phone
Sleep experts everywhere denounce using cell phones (or any screen for that matter) before sleeping because the light your devices project actually interferes with your body’s production of the hormone melatonin, i.e., the natural cue your body gets from darkness to go to sleep. But, Shatkin explains another reason having your cell phone in your room might be disrupting your sleep.

It’s completely normal for your body to wake up every one and a half to two hours during sleep for a couple of minutes and then fall back asleep, he says. “If we’re sleeping well, we probably don’t remember these awakenings.”

Typically you need to be awake about five or six minutes to be aware you are awake. But familiar stimuli (like your cell phone) can trigger you to start thinking about things you associate with those stimuli (work, classes, tests, deadlines!) and keep you awake. Getting your phone out of the room you sleep in is best, but if you’re living in cramped quarters (or a one-room dorm), sleep with your phone across the room and under a towel so you won’t see it, Shatkin suggests.

2  Your alarm clock
If you’re not using your phone as an alarm, good job! But if you’re using an alarm that has a digital face, you should be sure the light is amber-colored, not blue — because blue light is the type that can interfere with your ability to fall asleep.

3  Your TV
Your TV is just one more screen putting out sleep-wrecking blue light — the No. 1 reason you should leave it off before going to sleep and while you’re sleeping.

But if you’re someone who falls asleep with the television on “in the background,” listen up. Unlike soothing white noise from sound machines (or even the buzz of an air conditioner) that can help you tune out other noises distracting you from sleep, the sounds coming from your TV jump around in tone, pitch and volume and can potentially wake you up and interrupt sleep.

4  Your multipurpose bed
Your bed is not your living room — no matter how small your dorm is. And if you want to sleep well in your bed, save your bed for sleep (or sex), Shatkin says. Study in the library or at your desk and use common areas to hang out with your friends.

“You want to associate the bed with sleep,” Shatkin says. “Just like Pavlov’s dogs started drooling when they heard the bell, you want your head to drool for sleep when you see your bed.”

5  Your university-issued mattress
Regardless of whether it’s too soft, too hard or just too lumpy, your school-issued dorm mattress might literally be a pain in your neck.

“A poor quality mattress or any mattress that makes you feel uncomfortable in bed can be distracting and prevent someone from getting good quality sleep,” Shatkin says. Try adding a mattress pad or pillow top to make it more comfortable.

6  Your snooze button
Experts agree having a regular bedtime and wake time makes for the best sleep, but even if you end up joining your friends for that late night study session and end up hitting your sheets later than usual, getting out of bed on schedule the next morning will actually help keep you on a better sleep schedule overall, Shatkin says. “People make the mistake of staying in bed and whittling away their sleep cycle,” he adds.

He suggests getting up — and even if you do build up some sleep debt, you’ll sleep better the next night. And if you feel you can’t make it through the day, try a 20- to 30-minute nap before 4 p.m. to help yourself feel refreshed but not interfere with nighttime sleep.

7  Your roommate’s computer screen
You know computer, TV and cell phone screens are a no-no for good sleep, but that doesn’t mean your roommate is on your schedule. If a blue glow from your roommate’s laptop or TV (or ambient light from outside) is invading your sleep space, try sleeping with eyeshades.

“And not the free ones you get on long flights, which can lean against your eyes and might keep you awake,” Shatkin says. Look for the convex ones that allow you to blink underneath them.

8  Noise!
Eyecandy Images via Getty Images
Whether it’s your roommate clicking away on a laptop or the muffled gossip session out in the hallway, there’s no need to let others interfere with your sleep. Get a pair of earplugs or try using a noise machine to drown them out.

And if the problem is your roommate, there is no substitute for good communication. Try having a conversation about regular dark or sleepy hours for your room, Shatkin says.

9  Dust
And before you tackle anything else, clean! But if allergies, asthma and/or nasal congestion are still keeping you awake after running the vacuum and wiping down surfaces, invest in an air purifier. These devices contain filters that help reduce the pollutants, pollen and other airborne allergens that you end up breathing in (and might be disrupting your sleep).

Sarah DiGiulio is The Huffington Post’s sleep reporter. You can contact her at

The Air That Makes You Fat.

By David Robson
8 December 2015

Take a deep breath, and exhale. Depending on where you live, that life-giving lungful of air might just be pushing you towards diabetes and obesity.

Two people can eat the same foods, and do the same exercise, but one may put on more weight thanks to the air around their home.

The idea that “thin air” can make you fat sounds ludicrous, yet some extremely puzzling studies appear to be showing that it’s possible. Two people can eat the same foods, and do the same exercise, but over the course of a few years, one may put on more weight and develop a faulty metabolism – thanks to the atmosphere around their home.

Traffic fumes and cigarette smoke are the chief concerns, with their tiny, irritating particles that trigger widespread inflammation and disrupt the body’s ability to burn energy. While the short-term effects are minimal, over a lifetime it could be enough to contribute to serious disease – besides the respiratory illnesses more commonly associated with smog. “We are starting to understand that the uptake and circulation of air pollution in the body can affect more than just the lungs,” says Hong Chen, a researcher at Public Health Ontario and the Institute of Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Canada.
How strong is the evidence from these studies, and should you be concerned?

Without any other change in your lifestyle or diet, polluted air may be causing you to pile on the pounds.

Laboratory mice offered some of the earliest concrete clues that the effects of air pollution may penetrate far beyond the lungs. Their breeder at the Ohio State University, Qinghua Sun, had been interested in studying why city-dwellers seem to be at a particularly high risk of heart disease compared to country folk. Lifestyle, of course, could be one reason: in most major cities a fast food chain is rarely more than a block away, for instance, which might encourage unhealthy eating. Nevertheless, he wondered if another answer may be hanging, invisibly, in the air we breathe.

To find out more, he started to raise laboratory mice in the kinds of conditions you might find across various cities. Some breathed filtered, clean, air, while others were funnelled the kinds of fumes you might find next to a motorway or busy city centre. Along the way, his team weighed the mice and performed various tests to study how their metabolism was functioning.
After just 10 weeks, the effects were already visible. The mice exposed to the air pollution showed greater volumes of body fat, both around the belly and around the internal organs; at the microscopic level, the fat cells themselves were around 20% larger in the mice inhaling a fine mist of pollutants. What’s more, they seemed to have become less sensitive to insulin, the hormone that signals to cells to convert blood sugar into energy: the first step towards diabetes.

Tiny particles irritating the lungs may set off a cascade of reactions throughout the body, disrupting the hormones that control appetite (Credit: Science Photo Library)
The exact mechanism is still debated, but subsequent animal experiments suggest the air pollution triggers a cascade of reactions in the body. Small particles, less than 2.5 micrometres wide, are thought to be primarily to blame – the same minuscule motes of pollutant that give city air its gauzy haze. When we breathe in, the pollutants irritate the tiny, moist air sacs that normally allow the oxygen to pass into the blood stream. As a result, the lungs’ lining mounts a stress response, sending our nervous system into overdrive. This includes the release of hormones that reduce insulin’s potency and draws blood away from the insulin-sensitive muscle tissue, preventing the body from tightly controlling its blood sugar levels.

Pollution may trigger inflammation that interferes with the hormones and the brain processing that govern appetite
The tiny irritating particles may also unleash a flood of inflammatory molecules called “cytokines” to wash through the blood, a response that also triggers immune cells to invade otherwise healthy tissue. Not only does that too interfere with the tissue’s ability to respond to insulin; the subsequent inflammation may also interfere with the hormones and the brain processing that govern our appetite, says Michael Jerrett at the University of California, Berkeley.

All of which knocks the body’s energy balance off-kilter, leading to a constellation of metabolic disorders, including diabetes and obesity, and cardiovascular problems such as hypertension.

By disrupting insulin sensitivity, air pollution may contribute to diabetes and other serious (and life-shortening) cardiometabolic disorders.

Large studies from cities across the world suggest that humans might be suffering the same consequences. Chen, for instance, examined the medical records of 62,000 people in Ontario, Canada over a 14-year period. He found that the risk of developing diabetes rose by about 11% for every 10 micrograms of fine particles in a cubic metre of air – a troubling statistic, considering that the pollution in some Asian cities can reach at least 500 micrograms per cubic metre of air. Across the Atlantic, a Swiss study saw a similar signs of increased insulin resistance, hypertension, and waist-circumference in a sample of nearly 4,000 people living among dense pollution.

Children growing up in the polluted areas were twice as likely to be considered obese.

The scientists have been particularly concerned about the effects on young children, with some concern that a mother’s exposure to these pollutants may alter the baby’s metabolism so they are more prone to obesity. Consider the work of Andrew Rundle at Columbia University, who studied children growing up in the Bronx. During pregnancy, the children’s mothers had worn a small backpack that measured the air quality as they went about their daily business, and over the next seven years the children’s health was monitored at regular intervals. Controlling for other factors (such as wealth and diet), the children born in the most polluted areas were 2.3 times more likely to be considered obese, compared to those living in cleaner neighborhoods.

Jerrett, meanwhile, has found that the risk can come from inside as well as outside the home: parental smoking, he showed, also led to faster weight gain among Californian children and teens. “It interacts synergistically with the effect of the air pollution,” he says – in other words, the combined risk was far greater than the sum of individual risks.

Living in a highly polluted city doubled the chance that a child would grow up obese, according to one study.

Despite these troubling findings, we should be cautious about reading too much into them. “They only draw a link between exposure and outcome, but can’t prove that one factor causes another,” says Abby Fleisch at Harvard Medical School. Even so, her own findings would seem to agree with the general trend – she has shown that even in the first six months, babies of mothers living in polluted areas appear to put on weight more rapidly than those in cleaner areas – but she stresses that we still can’t be sure we haven’t neglected some other factor, besides pollution, that could explain the apparent link.

As the smog descended, signs of insulin resistance and hypertension peaked.

Fortunately, a few teams are already searching for the missing pieces to fill those gaps in our knowledge with more detailed studies. Robert Brook at the University of Michigan and colleagues in China, for instance, recently tested a small group of subjects in Beijing over a two-year period. They found that whenever the city’s infamous smog descended, giveaway signs of developing problems like insulin resistance and hypertension peaked – providing more concrete evidence that the air quality was indeed driving changes to the metabolism.

Cleaning up these exhaust fumes could save millions of people from a lifetime of illness. If the link is proven, how concerned should we be? The scientists stress that the individual, short-term risk to any one person is relatively small, and certainly shouldn’t be used as an excuse for obesity by itself, without considering other aspects of your lifestyle. But given the sheer number of people living in cities with high pollution, over the long term the total number of casualties could be enormous. “Everyone is affected by pollution to some degree,” says Brook. “It’s continuous, involuntary exposure, across billions of people – so the overall impact becomes much greater.”

The solutions are familiar, if difficult to implement: restrict traffic pollution by promoting electric and hybrid vehicles, for instance. Jerrett suggests streets could also be redesigned to reduce the exposure to pedestrians and cyclists. In the short term, he points out that air purifiers could be added to more homes, schools and offices to filter out some of the harmful particles.

Brook agrees that action needs to be taken internationally, both in the developing world and in cities like Paris and London that superficially, might seem to have their pollution under control. “In North America and Europe the pollution levels have been trending in right direction – but we shouldn’t rest on our laurels,” he says. “From the standpoint of improving health across the world, it should be one of our top 10 worries.”

David Robson is BBC Future’s feature writer. He is @d_a_robson on twitter.

20 Things You Didn’t Know About Wool

Wool It hates liquid, loves vapor and is fire-resistant.

By Margaret Shakespeare|Thursday, October 01, 2015

1. Many of us associate wool with sheep, but other mammals — including alpacas, camels and goats — also produce fibers that can be twisted into yarn and then textiles.

2. It’s possible humans started making wool after noticing that, as the fibrous hairs were scraped from the hide of an animal, they twisted together easily into lengths.

3. Wool fibers — made mostly of alpha-keratin, which is found in all mammalian hair as well as horns and claws — stick together easily. The cells of their outer layer, or cuticle, have evolved to overlap like tiny shingles, creating spots for one fiber to catch on another as they are twisted.

4. Clothing and other items made of wool have been found throughout much of the ancient world, from 3,400-year-old Egyptian yarn to fragmentary textiles unearthed in Siberian graves dating from the first century B.C.

5. The process of making wool fabric from fibers was rough going at first — literally. Wild and early domesticated sheep have a bristly overcoat called the kemp and a fine undercoat of wool called the fleece. Over time, animals were selected for more fleece, with finer fibers, and less kemp. The more than 200 domesticated sheep breeds today are mostly kemp-free.

6. Modern wool fibers range from a fine 16 microns in diameter, from merinos, to 40 microns.

7. That itch from your warm winter woolies? Most likely it’s sensitivity to thicker (and coarser) fiber diameter or fiber ends, not a wool allergy, which is practically unknown.

8. Less lush pastures — such as in a drought — can produce finer fibers, with smaller diameters.

9. Wool has been a valuable commodity across cultures and centuries. When Richard I (the Lionhearted) was captured in 1192, Cistercian monks paid their part of the ransom to the Holy Roman emperor in 50,000 sacks of wool (a year’s clip).

Sheep, alpaca and some other animals have scalelike patterns on the outer layer of each hair (above) that allow the fibers to be twisted together to create yarn and, ultimately, textiles valued the world over for their unique properties.
Susumu Nishinaga/Science Source

10. Wool has stood in for even more precious fabrics: In 18th-century Norway, when the king forbade the wearing of silk by commoners, farmers opted for imported worsted wool fabric, which had a similar sheen.

11. Besides clothing, wool has quite a few industrial uses, from piano dampers to absorbent pads for those baaaaad oil spills.

12. Out on some Montana roadsides, woolen silt fences and erosion-control blankets are cropping up, according to Rob Ament of the Western Transportation Institute, which adapted the practice from New Zealand colleagues.

13. Wool has the right properties for the job because it’s a lightweight ground covering that allows seedlings to grow right through it.

14. Wool is also biodegradable. It breaks down slowly, fertilizing the plants with a generous nitrogen content of a whopping 17 percent compared with the 6 percent nitrogen in commercial turf products. And it is water-retentive.

15. In a seeming paradox, wool can absorb and repel water simultaneously.

16. The outer surface of wool fiber is made up of fatty acid proteins and does not absorb liquid. However, structural features in the fiber’s interior, called salt linkages, can sop up copious amounts of moisture in vapor form.

17. In short, wool hates liquid but loves vapor.

18. But wait, there’s more: With a high natural ignition point of about 1,382 degrees Fahrenheit, wool is fire-resistant. And unlike nylon and polyester, wool does not drip or melt when it does catch fire.

19. These qualities recently attracted the interest of the U.S. Army, which is researching wool’s potential in clothing designed to protect combat troops from explosive blasts.

20. We can thank wool for a different kind of explosion — one we actually want. Inside most baseballs, including those used in Major League Baseball, you’ll find layers of tightly wound wool yarn: Each ball contains about 370 yards of the wool windings, which provide resilience to withstand the crushing impact of a batter’s hit off high-velocity pitches.

Veterans are Fighting the War on Sleep

January 18, 2016

Andrew Petrulis is finally getting some rest.

For years, he didn’t want to fall asleep. He was out of the war but sleep put him back in it. His dreams replayed scenes from 11 years of active-duty service as a member of a US Air Force explosive ordnance disposal unit. Master Sgt. Petrulis defused roadside bombs and other improvised explosives with a robot, or sometimes his own hands, throughout Iraq, Afghanistan, and Southwest Asia between 2002 and 2013. He received the Bronze Star twice. He shot at people and got blown up. Bombs went off within feet of him. The explosions rattled his brain.

He relived these scenes, over and over, in nightmares.

After an honorable discharge, returning home, and joining the reserves in 2013, an MRI showed scar tissue on his brain. The VA diagnosed Petrulis with traumatic brain injury, severe post-traumatic stress disorder, tinnitus, Achilles and kneecap tendonitis, and depression. The VA rated his disabilities at a combined 140 percent, with PTSD, which his life now revolves around, accounting for 70 percent of that rating. But he was still functional in the sense that he could eat and go to the bathroom on his own. The VA ultimately declared him a 90 percent disabled veteran.

He was running on fumes, getting only two or three fitful hours of sleep each night. He had regular panic attacks. Weekly night terrors. Vivid nightmares every other day, or so. He locked himself in his house, alone. Sometimes he’d drink on the couch until he passed out. But mostly he was too afraid to close his eyes.

“It got really, really bad,” Petrulis, now 31, tells me. “I couldn’t do anything. So I’d just stay up.”

Things are different today. Three or four nights a week, after tucking himself in bed, Petrulis slides a prototype 17-pound weighted blanket over his sheets. The blanket is roughly 3 feet wide by 6 feet long, covered in penguin print, and looks a bit like 60 or so 4 x 4 inch bean bags handstitched together. The pockets are each stuffed with polypropylene pellets and a sort of memory foam material.

Petrulis is a big guy—6’2″, 250 pounds—but the blanket’s weight spreads evenly over him.

“I feel safer when it’s covering my entire body,” Petrulis explains. No one can bother him this way. “It sets my mind up for sleeping hard that night.”

Which he does.

What happens, exactly, while he’s under such pressure? It sounds almost too good to be true. Whatever it is, can heavy blankets help other veterans with combat-related sleep problems get some rest too? What about restless deployed troops? Can heavy blankets offer them relief?

The underlying idea is dead simple: create a cocooning embrace, like being swaddled. Petrulis compares it to a firm, comforting hug. According to Gaby Badre, a leading sleep researcher who’s studied weighted blanket therapy for treating insomnia in adults, there is good reason to believe this is because the deep pressure touch of a weighted material spread over part or all of the body dials down the fight-or-flight arousals of the sympathetic nervous system. (It’s generally accepted that a weighted blanket should be at least 10 percent the person’s body weight.) There is also speculation that lying under heavy constant pressure such as a weighted blanket feels good because it somehow lights up the brain’s reward center, probably triggering the release of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.

But that’s about the extent of our understanding of the science beneath weighted blankets. No one knows precisely what goes on in the brain and throughout the body under this kind of pressure; whether the mechanism is mere placebo, or if something else altogether makes lying under a weighted blanket feel so reassuring and safe that it could bring deep, restorative sleep to those who need it but can’t otherwise get it on their own.

It’s this mystery that still largely colors weighted blankets as non-evidence-based folk remedies to sleep disorders.

“It’s almost like I have feelings in the dream. I physically feel in the dreams”

They have shown promise as anti-anxiety and stress-relief aids in the very young and the very old. There is data and evidence to support claims that heavy blankets can help calm children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, and other sensory disorders, as well as elderly people with dementia, added Badre, who’s been studying sleep since the late 1980s and currently oversees sleep medicine clinics at The London Clinic, the Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology at the University of Gothenburg, and SDS Kliniken.

The between years, from roughly age 14 through 60, are murkier. There just isn’t sufficient data from clinical experience, at least not yet. There is hardly any supporting research, just anecdotal evidence, that shows the potential of weighted blankets having the same arousal-reducing effects as well as sleep-inducing ones in adult populations, including combat veterans like Petrulis.

No small number of Iraq and Afghanistan war vets have trouble sleeping. Among patients of the Veterans Health Administration, the healthcare arm of the Department of Veterans Affairs, in 2015, 1,262,393 veterans—over 20 percent—had a sleep disorder diagnosis in the past two years, according to a VA representative. Those million-plus diagnosed sleep disorder cases, to say nothing of undiagnosed cases, are all different; various external factors like back and other muscular, skeletal, and neurological issues, plus prescription drug histories, bring unique forces and circumstances to bear on combat-related sleep disturbances.

Petrulis is one veteran battling sleep after war. And one veteran reporting positive results, with no apparent side effects, from a non-evidence-based sleep aid is notable. But it’s not enough to convince the government to fund or conduct clinical research into that aid.

Neither the VA nor the Department of Defense are exploring weighted blanket therapy. Petrulis and Chelsea Benard, a licensed occupational therapist who introduced him to weighted blanket therapy in the fall of 2015, wonder why not. Petrulis and Benard, who handstitched the 17-pound blanket Petrulis currently uses, don’t think the blanket is a cure-all for his sleep problems, but rather a promising, albeit under-researched supplement to other evidence-based treatment options for sleep and anxiety issues.

“What’s neat is it’s a non-pharmacological approach that can be used as a complement tool to any other kind of treatment,” says Benard, who had the idea to try out weighted blankets with adult patients after she saw success using them on kids. “It’s not going to have any side effects.”

She and Petrulis genuinely believe the technique can help people like him who cope with combat-related PTSD or TBI, whose core symptoms include sleep disturbances. And he says he’s tried just about everything when it comes to sleep.

The VA initially prescribed him Ambien, which he tried once with no luck. The VA then upped the dosage, but still nothing; he’d sleep a few hours, then be up the rest of the night. They also put him on Valium for panic attacks, but that didn’t help either, even after an upped dosage. The VA currently has him on Prazosin, a blood pressure medication developed in the 1980s that’s been shown to stanch night terrors, and also has him on Klonopin, an anti-anxiety drug, for panic attacks. He says the Klonopin isn’t working, and is unsure whether or not Prazosin is helping. When he tries to power down at night, his brain is often going a million miles an hour.

Except while he’s under the weighted blanket. He says it’s the only thing that helps him sleep. Nothing else gets him in a place at the end of the day where he can calm down and drift off. To this day, he hasn’t had a nightmare with the blanket on.

But bad dreams still haunt him.

They come when he isn’t sleeping under the blanket, and they often begin at home in Higganum, Connecticut, with Petrulis surrounded by family and friends. Then he’s driving a Humvee around town. He turns a corner, and suddenly he’s in Baghdad or Kandahar or some other place where he’s fighting for his life.

He steps out of his vehicle and there’s a guy pointing a gun at him. Petrulis raises his M4 rifle, pulls the trigger. But it won’t fire. He keeps pulling the trigger and the guy either shoots Petrulis, or Petrulis dreams he shoots the guy.

That bad dream hasn’t come around in awhile. It’s a scene from January 2, 2006, the first time Petrulis was blown up. He was driving a Humvee through Kandahar when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device—a car bomb—detonated 10 feet from the armored vehicle. Everything went black. His gunner’s face was covered in third-degree burns. It was the first time Petrulis realized, “Hey, I’m not invincible.”

He has lived with that memory—that bad dream—for years, reliving it over and over again in his sleep.

His dreams have expanded with time. Most recently they’ve taken on an Inception-like, dream-within-a-dream quality. Petrulis will be disarming IEDs when suddenly he “wakes up.”

“Oh my god,” he thinks to himself. “It was just a dream. I’m glad I’m not at war.”

He’s fine. He’s in his bedroom. He gets up, walks outside, and guess what? There’s the war again. There’s nowhere for him to take cover. Enemy rounds are popping off over his head. He’s dodging RPG fire. He starts freaking out. Is this reality?

Then he wakes up again. This time he’s screaming. He really is awake.

“These dreams are so real,” he tells me, almost exasperated. “I can’t express how real they are, even when I wake up that second time. It’s almost like I have feelings in the dream. I physically feel in the dreams.”

These layered nightmares are so visceral he has panic attacks when he surfaces from them. He’ll be soaked in sweat, unable to get back to sleep. Why would he want to?

“If you can find science behind it, that’s one thing. But I would be very skeptical”

The psychologist he saw while on active duty recommended Petrulis keep a dream journal. So he writes down a lot of these nightmares. He’s found it helps his brain comprehend them.

Writing this raw material down is a key stage of image rehearsal therapy, an evidence-based treatment for nightmares, said Wendy Troxel, a clinical and health psychologist who does sleep research in both civilian and military concentrations. Image rehearsal therapy involves patients “rescripting” their dreams, and is one in a range of evidence-based treatment options for enduring psychic wounds of modern war like PTSD and insomnia. These options include medications like Prazosin, the anti-nightmare drug Petrulis currently takes; prolonged exposure therapy for PTSD; and cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia.

Troxel told me she’s never heard of weighted blankets. As the co-principal investigator of an exhaustive 2015 RAND report on military sleep, she would be cautious about discussing any potential remedy for sleep disorders or PTSD that isn’t evidence-based. Which a heavy blanket is not.

“If you can find science behind it, that’s one thing,” she wrote in an email. “But I would be very skeptical.”

A review of the literature brings up just one randomized controlled trial examining the efficaciousness of weighted blankets on any psychological health outcome, according to Dr. Daniel Evatt, chief of research production at the Department of Defense Deployment Health Clinical Center. The study, published in 2014 in the journal Pediatrics, found that autistic children and their parents preferred weighted blankets over regular ones (the blankets were “well tolerated”). But the findings also reported that the weighted blankets did not improve overall sleep time for the children any more than the traditional blankets.

In a written statement, Evatt said in light of that evidence, clinicians “might incorporate initial evidence that weighted blankets may be preferred and well tolerated and suggest that weighted blankets could be considered like any other bedding accessory and advise patients to use those bedding accessories that work for them.”

“On the other hand,” Evatt added, “clinicians should be cautious of alternative treatments such as weighted blankets that are advertised with unsupported claims and that could be sought out by some patients in lieu of treatments that have the support of a body of scientific evidence.”

Dr. Vincent Mysliwiec, the US Army Surgeon General’s sleep medicine consultant, is aware of heavy blankets used for sleep.

“From my understanding it’s kind of like a Beanie Baby,” says Mysliwiec, who authored a 2013 American Academy of Sleep Medicine study on active duty military personnel prone to sleep disorders and short sleep duration. “You’ve got this blanket with these tactile-like senses that you can, like, sense while you’re sleeping.”

Mysliwiec is not familiar, however, with any scientific or medical-based studies that have established weighted blankets as an efficacious sleep therapy for any patient population, not just military.

Kind of like a Beanie Baby. That’s about as good of an explanation as any.

Or, maybe, kind of like floating.

Gaby Badre doesn’t have problems sleeping, though he’s tried sleeping under a weighted blanket anyway. He’s also spent time soaking in a sensory deprivation tank, and thinks that somehow the two experiences can share a core operating principle.

“The floating situation is really interesting,” says Badre. “You’re floating. It’s the same thing if you’re under deep pressure that is evenly distributed, so that you don’t feel a change in stimulation. You don’t get more stimulated by moving in your bed.”

Badre is at the forefront of clinical weighted blanket therapy research in adult populations. He led a 2015 study on the positive effects of weighted blankets in adults aged 20 to 66 with intrinsic insomnia, or insomnia not secondary to medical or psychiatric disorders. The weighted blanket used in that study was a Swedish-designed product with adjustable metal chains (providing adequate pressure, depending on body weight).

The results were published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine & Disorders, and found that a weighted blanket might aid in decreasing insomnia and, as such, “may provide an innovative, non-pharmacological approach and complementary tool to improve sleep quality.”

Badre says there are two issues at play.

“We know that deep pressure with a consistent sensory input decreases the level of arousal,” he explains. “The other aspect is that tactile stimulation can decrease the activity of the sympathetic nervous system. We know that an increase in sympathetic activity will increase arousal.”

That might be the limit of our understanding of the science beneath weighted blankets, but for Badre it seems to be enough to justify using one.

“I think everything that can give you this cocooning and monotonous tactile stimulation can have a positive impact,” he tells me.

A positive impact is one thing. A body of evidence supporting that impact is another. Badre admits we simply need more clinical data before considering weighted blankets as anything other than an alternative approach to treating sleep disorders in adult populations. That includes active-duty military personnel and veterans.

Badre says he has worked with at least one former member of the US military—a Marine who’d act out his nightmares—and thinks weighted blankets can help those with sleep problems related to PTSD. There’s even a chance Badre could’ve been studying weighted blankets to treat such disorders in these types of patients by now, if only it were easier to convince the US military community to provide funding to rigorously research the technique. He would know.

It’s unclear which branch of the military he and an American colleague were targeting. Badre says last fall they’d drawn up a weighted blanket research grant proposal, but that according to his colleague the military showed “no enthusiasm” before the idea was even formally presented. The researchers decided to not submit the proposal.

“We have been far too busy making weighted blankets to commission studies”

What might account for that lack of enthusiasm?

Troxel speculates it could be a matter of military funding. But it could also be that scant preliminary data on weighted blankets is not enough to support deeper investments from the government.

There does seem to be a lack of bandwidth, time, and money among the small handful of weighted blanket providers on the market to commission clinical research.

“We have been far too busy making weighted blankets to commission studies, but we would love to do so (or be part of one),” Donna Chambers, founder and CEO of Sensacalm, wrote me in an email. Sensacalm makes weighted blankets for people with autism, ADHD, Asperger’s, PTSD, sensory processing disorder, anxiety, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. Chambers added that Sensacalm has previously donated blankets to researchers studying them, but has yet to hear back any results.

The irony is that the VA, at least, does offer patients weighted blankets and vests. Just not for sleep disorders.

They can be ordered through the VA’s Rehabilitation & Prosthetic Services and are provided for orthopedic and neurologic balance disorders, such multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, ataxia, and stroke, according to a written statement from the VA. Patients must show documentation of medical necessity and how the blanket is an essential component of their treatment plans. This doesn’t extend to treating sensory processing disorders, post-traumatic stress, and anxiety, the statement adds.

“We don’t necessarily recommend compression blankets,” a VA spokesperson tells me.

That’s one way of putting it.

“We can’t necessarily prescribe this because it’s not a medical device,” says Mysliwiec, the US Army Surgeon General’s sleep medicine consultant.

That’s another way.

That doesn’t mean Mysliwiec thinks there’s nothing to lying under a weighted blanket, however. He thinks it can play a role in people getting better sleep. It’s OK to use one, Mysliwiec admits, so long as it doesn’t cause a person any side effects. Blankets are probably not fit for people with disruptive breathing disorders like sleep apnea, or who have underlying heart or lung conditions. In those cases Mysliwiec would not consider weighted blankets appropriate or exactly safe.

But for people like Petrulis, who does not report sleep breathing disorders or any underlying heart or lung conditions, for whom sleeping under a weighted blanket helps their sleep, Mysliwiec doesn’t think using one is a problem, and he sees no significant side effects either.

“A 17-pound blanket shouldn’t bother a normal adult,” he admits.

For their part, Petrulis and Benard are trying to get the word out and scale up production of her proprietary blanket model. Benard tells me she’s used weighted blankets with at least 200 adult patients over roughly the past five years; about 80 of them were veterans, and she says every one of them had symptoms of anxiety or disturbed sleep negatively impacting their quality of life. Others with PTSD, including rape victims, have also reached out to her, asking how they can get their hands on a blanket.

Benard has 10 blankets as of this writing. She was waiting on a bulk order, paid entirely out of pocket, of 1,000 pounds of the polypropylene pellets and memory foam-like material (she did not elaborate on either) to hopefully make a bunch more blankets. At the same time, she’s trying to figure out if bulk manufacturing would even make sense.

“I’m not sure we’ll be able to keep up with the demands,” Benard tells me. Her and a small group of volunteers still sew blankets by hand.

She does hope to launch a non-profit, called Snug as a Bugz, centered on her model of “battle blanket.” She has a natural spokesperson in Petrulis, who is currently helping her raise funds to get more material to make more blankets. Since launching a GoFundMe campaign on December 5, 2015, “over 400” people have contacted Benard in support of weighted blankets or requesting more information; they have all either been combat veterans or families or friends of veterans. All the money raised through the campaign would go toward making more blankets—Benard and Petrulis would take none of the cut. The pair hopes to get blankets in the hands of as many vets as possible, including at retreat centers like Virginia-based Boulder Crest, a privately-funded rural wellness retreat for combat vets and their families.

I asked Josh Goldberg, director of strategy at Boulder Crest, if the retreat would ever consider keeping a few weighted blankets onsite for guests with sleep disorders. “I would absolutely not rule it out,” said Goldberg. He was careful not to endorse weighted blankets outright, but did say Boulder Crest is “very open minded to the fact that a lot of things that are non-clinical in nature can be very, very effective at giving people the peace that they need to live the life they deserve to live in.”

It can be hard to sleep while at war. But adjusting to sleep long after battle can be a war unto itself

Lying under a heavy blanket has given Petrulis a little bit of that peace. He sleeps and feels a lot better than he did just a few years ago because of it. If the potential is there for something as dead-simple as weighted blankets to help other vets with sleep issues and perhaps even deployed troops with similar problems, Petrulis wants military brass to understand something.

“I want the military to really understand that this is something—and they really don’t know about it, or talk about it, and there’s no information on this—that will drastically help people even if you just have ‘em in your mental health units,” he says. “Or bring them into every EOD shop.” If someone’s having a bad flashback or is unable to sleep, just wrap them up. “It’s such an easy thing to do.”

He’s talking about people who are deployed, who are in war zones, not just vets at home. A reality of modern war is that a generation of tired troops are being raised up through the ranks, and that has a big impact on sleep and life during and after war.

The 2015 RAND military sleep study Troxel co-authored included 1,957 participants from across all four branches of the armed forces, and found a “high prevalence” of sleep issues like poor sleep quality, nightmares, insufficient sleep duration, and daytime sleepiness among those subjects. The participants were “older and all married,” Troxels points out. Their battle rhythms are in stark contrast—they’re just not as zipped up—compared to the twenty-something deployed men who Troxels says are the highest-risk demographic today for, say, slugging energy drinks. And then crashing.

“It’s concerning that we’re raising this population of service members who are using a variety of techniques to stay awake, which then further compromises sleep,” Troxel says. “It’s a vicious, perpetuating cycle of trying to stay awake and then not being able to fall asleep at night, which perpetuates not being able to sleep the subsequent night.”

“There’s something endemic to military culture that’s contributing to sleep problems,” she adds.

It can be hard to sleep while at war. But adjusting to sleep long after battle can be a war unto itself.

Petrulis misses the person he used to be, before the PTSD and sleepless nights. But he knows he will never be that person again.

“I feel like a person who pops 30 pills a day from 10 different doctors all trying to figure out what’s wrong with me and how to help me,” he says. “I used to care but now I don’t. I feel like a test subject that is fed pills until my brain is numb and I don’t have to think anymore.”

He has good and bad days.

Today, he is in the process of being medically retired from the reserves. He heads up a CrossFit gym, which recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. He brings the blanket to work sometimes, wrapping himself up there if he can’t concentrate. Or if he had a bad night sleeping. He seems somewhat relieved that sleeping with the blanket some nights is helping him sleep during nights when he doesn’t use it.

The night terrors are down to once every two weeks, but he’s still having issues allowing his body to rest. He does report sleeping soundly the three or four nights per week he currently sleeps under the blanket, accepting its weight.

He pulls it down toward his feet as these nights progress. Sometimes bad dreams happen after that, but never when the blanket is physically on top of him. When he wakes up it’s not on him at all. Eventually Petrulis hopes to wean himself off the blanket entirely.

“I want to try and be a normal human being again,” he says. There’s a hesitance in his voice, as if staring down a long struggle ahead. “I don’t want to go to sleep still.”

You’ll Sleep When You’re Dead is Motherboard’s exploration of the future of sleep. Read more stories.

TOPICS: Full Plastic Blanket, You’ll sleep when you’re dead, sleep, war, military, nightmares, night terrors, ptsd, TBI, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, depression, veterans, Andrew Petrulis, weighted blankets, heavy blankets, compression,

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