Friday, November 2, 2018

Up All Night: How Your Mattress Can Affect Your Sleep... and Health

There’s no such thing as the perfect mattress. Nighttime comfort is an individual preference. It’s uncommon for two people who share the same bed to want the same things in their sleep zone. Comfort aside, there are plenty of ways a bad mattress is a universal health hazard. Keep reading for a few quick tips on how the eight hours you spend in bed at night can negatively impact your well-being 24/7.

Signs of a mattress gone bad

       Snoring. Some people just snore, but others develop this intrusive habit over time when sleeping on an unsupportive mattress. Sleep Number explains that even weight distribution can minimize the effects of snoring. In addition to lacking support, an old mattress is a haven for dust, which can linger in dry air and can amplify these midnight roars. A humidifier will keep the air moist, which can reduce snoring. Change the filter regularly to ensure your humidifier continues to operate properly, which will also lower pollutants in the air.

       Back pain. A low-quality or past-its-prime mattress can lead to back pain by changing your spinal alignment little by little each night. When your mattress wears out, it becomes a concave structure instead of the flat sleeping surface you need.

       Bed bugs. Bed bugs are tiny little bloodsuckers that like to hide in your mattress. An old mattress is the ideal habitat for these alarmingly tick-like creatures. They are difficult and expensive to get rid of; the most effective way to control an infestation is to simply buy a new mattress and box spring. One surefire sign of overnight bed bug contact is small bite marks on exposed skin that may be itchy and resemble a rash. MedicineNet Medical Author Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, explains that bites on the hands, neck, and face are common.

       Impaired memory. Poor sleep is undeniably linked to impaired memory, information retention, and overall cognition. Even if you think you’re sleeping through the night, failure to cycle through all stages of sleep can leave you struggling to remember even the most familiar and repetitive aspects of your day.

       Dust mites. Unlike bed bugs, dust mites don’t turn into tiny Draculas (Draculi?) at night, but they do feed on flaked-off flesh. No matter how clean your home is, you have dust mites. While these arachnids aren’t dangerous in a normal quantity, an old mattress can be home to them in numbers you don’t want to see. Too many, and they can become an allergy issue and trigger upper respiratory distress, especially in children and those with a sensitivity to airborne particles.

       Weight gain. Here’s a fun fact: poor sleep can contribute to weight gain. There are a number of reasons, including a change in your hormone production and craving more sugary foods. When the brain isn’t rested, it is more susceptible to impulse, meaning that midnight bowl of cereal you usually bypass makes more sense than an apple. Sleep specialist Dr. Michael Breus touches on more ways that sleep deprivation and weight gain are connected. When it’s time to invest in a new mattress, make sure to find one that suits your sleep preferences. If you share a bed, an adjustable mattress can help you and your partner settle in and wind down.

Buying a new mattress is one of the most effective ways to ensure a peaceful night’s sleep, but it’s not the only factor. Eat a balanced diet, get enough exercise, and pay attention to your health. 
Image by Pixabay

Guest author ~ Dylan Foster

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Ward Off the Winter Blues

The earth leans toward deep, dark space. Shadows lengthen, and the sun travels reluctantly across the sky, sinking into the horizon long before most people are ready to bid its rays goodbye.

Many people grumble at early darkness and shorter days. The American Family Physician website says that about four to six percent of people suffer from winter depression, and another 10 to 20 percent may have mild seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

What is SAD?

Seasonal affective disorder is caused by a sensitivity that results from a lack of sunlight. Shorter winter days disrupt your body’s clock and fool your brain into producing less serotonin. But SAD’s more than just a temporary funk. Its symptoms appear in late fall or early winter and, like clockwork, disappear during spring and summer’s sunny days.

While SAD’s exact cause remains unknown, doctors have identified certain factors that can bring it on. Reduced exposure to natural light can:
       Disrupt your body’s circadian rhythm, or internal clock.
       Cause a drop in serotonin, and reduced production can trigger depression.
       Unbalance your body’s level of melatonin, another neurotransmitter that directly influences sleep patterns and mood.

This disorder was first identified, in 1984, by Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D. His research also indicated that women between age 20 and 40 are twice as likely as men to receive a diagnosis possibly because estrogen and progesterone, more prevalent in women, may be connected to SAD. The Mayo Clinic has identified other risk factors that may predispose someone to SAD that include:
       Family history
       A diagnosis of major depression or bipolar disorder
       Living far from the equator

Don’t hibernate!

Bears escape the winter drear by hunkering down in their caves until spring warmth coaxes them into the sunlight. But bears were built to hibernate—humans weren’t!

Mental health professionals and other experts suggest these solutions for getting a mental health boost and beating the winter blues.

       Exercise. Take a walk outside in the sunlight and burn a few calories while you’re enjoying the sunshine. Exercising for just 10 minutes a day helps stave off SAD’s effects. Play basketball with friends at a community center or gym. Turn up the tunes and challenge your kids to a dance-off or host a nightly dance party to celebrate finishing the day’s homework.
       Listen to music. A University of Missouri research study concluded that listening to upbeat music helps to make you happy. Banish the ballads and update your playlist with some toe-tappin’ tunes because cheerful music will improve your mood.
       Volunteer. When depression turns your focus inward, it’s hard to escape that rut. Try turning your focus outward. If you’re not sure what organizations in your community need help, search for some at You can also offer to assist in your child’s classroom.
       Redecorate. Brighten your home with lighter paint on the walls. Hang mirrors to reflect the light. Rearrange your furniture so it’s facing the windows. Banish heavy curtains and opt for lighter, more translucent fabrics.
       Travel. Schedule a trip to a warm, sunny location. You’ll want to escape for at least a week to get the full benefit of sunshine therapy.
       Meditate. Meditation provides a wide variety of benefits, and practicing body mindfulness or yoga creates a sense of calm and works as a natural antidepressant.
       Socialize. Spend time with friends and loved ones to help keep your mood elevated. If you tend to hide during the winter, ask your friends to find you and drag you out into the world.
       Light therapy. If your SAD is more severe, your doctor may recommend using a light-therapy box for 30-45 minutes a day. These boxes emit artificial light that helps to compensate for a lack of natural light.

When the winter blues strikes, don’t hesitate to try different solutions to see what benefits you the most. Make time to take care of yourself by eating healthy meals (and a little chocolate!), reading a good book, spending time with friends, or doing whatever makes you happy.


Kimberly Hayes enjoys writing about health and wellness and created to help keep the public informed about the latest developments in popular health issues and concerns. In addition to studying to become a crisis intervention counselor, Kimberly is hard at work on her new book, which discusses the ins and outs of alternative addiction treatments.

Photo credit: Pexels