November 29, 2012

Too Much REM Sleep? Is it Possible?

Filed under: rem sleep — Tags: , , — @ 8:55 am

Today, we look at if it’s possible to get too much REM sleep.

It is certainly possible to get too little. Some studies indicate that animals that do not get any REM sleep start to slowly die.

And figuring out if people can get too much REM sleep is complicated by how it is not entirely clear what REM sleep does.

REM sleep occurs most in children and least in the elderly. It declines steadily as people age. It never disappears totally, however. Most REM sleep episodes occur towards morning.

REM sleep may be important to store memories and discard unimportant ones. It likely helps brain development in the young. In adults, it may be linked to creativity and problem solving. The brain becomes active as it works out information. And it can do so without being interrupted by the conscious, waking mind. REM sleep, in short, probably helps the brain run more smoothly and more effectively.


Problems with Too Much REM Sleep

The main problem that too much REM sleep would cause in most people would be the possibility of waking up more often and ending up not as rested. Since REM sleep is quite similar in a lot of ways to waking brain activity, and can cause awakening by prompting the muscles to flex or jerk, excessive REM sleep can leave you feeling tired and depressed.

Some people have REM sleep disorders that cause them to move with their dreams. Usually the body is paralyzed so your muscles don’t actually thrash about as you dream about swimming. Or dancing. Or running. Or anything.

If this paralysis stops working properly, a person will actually move in sync with dream activities, possibly waking themselves, hurting themselves by hitting against walls or falling out of bed, or accidentally striking someone sleeping beside them. There is no cure for this kind of disorder. Most just have to wait for it to pass, and pad the area around their beds to prevent injury.


The Results of Too Much REM Sleep

Too much REM sleep might cause you to wake up several times a night, leading to disrupted rest and feelings of tiredness or lack of energy the next day.

If you get too much sleep, the first thing you’ll notice is that you’ll have a headache for much of the day. It’s especially bad in the morning after you get up. This is because the neurotransmitters in your brain are thrown out of balance by oversleeping.

Getting too much sleep in general is also linked to higher chances of heart attacks, diabetes, and obesity.

It’s not certain if sleeping too much causes these problems or if having an illness developing at a low level causes excessive sleep. If you find yourself sleeping more than normal, you might want to get a physical exam from a qualified physician.

November 19, 2012

The 8 Most Common Food Allergies

Common Food Allergy #8: Soy

Soy is most frequently a childhood allergy, but it can last into adulthood. In some cases, it will appear in adults, but this is rare.

People who are already allergic to environmental factors such as pollen and mold spores, or who have skin conditions like eczema, are most apt to have a soy allergy. Mouth itching and hives on the skin represent the maximum allergic reaction in most soy cases. However, dangerous anaphylaxis can occur in a few people.

As with most allergies, the best way to deal with this problem is to not eat products that contain soy.


Common Food Allergy #7: Certain Raw Fruits and Vegetables

Raw fruits and vegetables are frequent causers of food allergies, though the reaction is almost universally mild.

Usually, it does not go beyond mouth itching right after eating certain raw fruits or vegetables, and only happens when other allergies are present (for example, in hay fever season). Cooking the fruits or vegetables usually removes the effect.


Common Food Allergy #6: Sesame

Sesame seeds and sesame oils (which are used both foods and cosmetics) can cause skin irritation, an itchy or swollen mouth, asthma, a stuffy or runny nose, and sometimes potentially deadly anaphylaxis. Peanut and tree nut allergies are also likely in people who have a sesame allergy.


Common Food Allergy #5: Gluten

Gluten (wheat) holds a notable place among the most common food allergies. A bloated stomach, cramps, diarrhea, and general itching of the skin (sometimes with hives) are all symptomatic. Avoiding all baked goods made with wheat and sticking to those made with rice flour is the best alternative for eliminating gluten allergy’s impact on your life.


Common Food Allergy #4: Fish

Fish allergies tend to be severe and are triggered by any kind of fish once they appear.

They inflict a laundry list of symptoms, including:

  • stomach cramps,
  • swollen eyes,
  • itching skin,
  • dizziness,
  • diarrhea,
  • heartburn,
  • breathing difficulties,
  • flatulence,
  • and a stuffy nose.

The exact combination of symptoms can vary, and can turn dangerous (anaphylaxis). Fortunately, fish allergies usually subside after several years. Tuna and mackerel are less likely to trigger a food allergy.


Common Food Allergy #3: Tree Nuts

Tree nuts trigger an allergic reaction in relatively few people. But lethal reactions are much more common than with most food allergies.

Walnuts, cashews, almonds, and Brazil nuts are some of the culprits here. This is different from a peanut allergy: peanuts are not nuts. An itching throat, sneezing, swollen skin, watering eyes, a runny nose, and rashes or hives are all the usual symptoms. This allergy, once it develops, is life-long. The best method of dealing with it is avoidance.


Common Food Allergy #2: Peanuts

Peanuts are used everywhere in the U.S. since they’re cheap and easy. Many people are allergic to them, however, and can get symptoms ranging from a few small hives to life-threatening anaphylaxis.

The best way to cope with a peanut allergy, which is second among most common food allergies, is by not eating them.


Common Food Allergy #1: Shellfish

Among the most common food allergies, shellfish holds first place by a large margin. Crabs, shrimp, lobsters, and octopus can also trigger a reaction in sensitive people.

This type of allergy is also the most persistent of adult food allergies. Four times out of five, a shellfish allergy never leaves once it has developed.

Nasal congestion is a major symptom, as are itchy hives.

There is a risk of anaphylaxis, however, which requires hospitalization in many cases, and can kill. Some people only have an allergy to specific shellfish species, while others are unable to eat any.

November 8, 2012

Can You Train Your Brain? Yes, and Here’s How.

Your brain is one of your most powerful assets. Yet, too few people make any effort to utilize it at its full extent. But, is it even possible?

Can you train your brain? Can you get smarter or be intellectually stronger, like training your body?

The fact that we can learn shows that it is definitely possible to train your brain and make it better. But, gaining new information is just one ‘exercise.’

For best results, use a whole-body plan to build up your mental muscle.

The human brain is very adaptable. Forging new connections, developing fresh mental skills, and disciplining your thoughts can be very rewarding. Treat this as a fun challenge and you will soon find yourself seeking new ways to develop your mental sharpness further.

It’s like exercise. The more you do it, the easier it gets. And it even can be enjoyable.

How do you get started training your brain? Start from several directions, but keep your goal firmly in mind.

The objective of training your brain is to achieve quicker, more acute perceptions and decision making abilities. If you train your mind generally to work on several levels, solve puzzles faster, and make better, more insightful choices, you will succeed better at the things you do, both at work and in most life circumstances.

Here are some brain-training exercises to get you started.


Train Your Brain Tip #1: Get regular Exercise

The mind-body connection works both ways.

Increased blood flow from exercise nourishes and oxygenates the brain, making it “run” better. This improves your memory, lets you put information together faster, and helps you learn. Plus, regular physical exercise is connected to preventing Alzheimer’s disease in later life.


Train Your Brain Tip #2: Get Enough Sleep

Sleep for the proper amount of time every day. Try to get a minimum of six hours sleep. Try not to habitually sleep more than 8 hours per day. Not getting enough sleep and being tired lowers your alertness and reasoning skills. But excessive sleep also disrupts your brain chemistry.


Train Your Brain Tip #3: Expand Your Mind

Cultivate interests and explore the world. Mental stimulation helps you think more clearly. Increasing your knowledge base gives you more perspective and wisdom overall.

Let one interest lead to another. The more you understand the world you live in, the more effective your decisions. This is a major strategy on how to train your brain.


Train Your Brain Tip #4: Stay Positive

Work at maintaining a positive outlook. Depressed, anxious, or generally negative and sour minds tend to be defeated before they even start.

Lack of mental energy and a ‘who cares’ attitude, born of cynicism and despair, causes people to make bad choices.

Work on having a zest for life. See difficulties as challenges to be solved rather than brick walls to stop you dead in your tracks. This seemingly insignificant change can energize your mind and unlock your hidden thinking potential.


Train Your Brain Tip #5: Learn a Language

Learning a new language is tough mental work. But, it’s worth it. It helps you think in brand new ways. Learning a new language literally makes you build your thoughts differently. And that gives you a broader viewpoint and could even lead to more empathy.

Just as with exercise, the harder you use your mind, the more it will develop. You don’t need to acquire instant fluency. The most important thing is to stay with the project and keep learning.


Train Your Brain Tip #6: Try a Completely New Hobby

Learning a completely new skill, unrelated to anything else you have ever done, forces you to think different. Try anything from art to playing a musical instrument to woodcarving to scientific rock climbing. All of it can hone your mind in new, unexpected ways.


You can train your brain to get stronger cognitive powers, keener and better decision making, and improved memory. But more than that, doing so can enrich your life all on its own.

If you are looking to train your brain, the means to do so are everywhere.

You’ve already started by reading this. Don’t lose your momentum! Take the initiative and make a brain-training change today.