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Does White Noise Help You Sleep? Science & Experts Weigh In

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white noise makers

I can’t remember the last time I slept without a fan. It’s a necessity. And no, it’s not because I’m a furnace in-between the sheets, causing my partner to kick me away subconsciously in the middle of the night (which happens). It’s not because I like the feeling of a gentle breeze tickling my face as I doze off. And it’s not even because I have some strange assumption that the circulation will keep my room from falling subject to two bodies’ morning breath stinking up the room. My fan is small, set to medium, and tucked in the corner of my room. It does not blow on me, and it does not provide me with a cooling effect. My fan is my white noise maker.

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Some of you may wonder why anyone would want noise when they are sleeping, especially when so many of us are awakened from our sweet slumber by noises foreign to the middle the night, when all things ought to be still. But I know I’m not the only one. I know plenty of people who actually have white noise makers, not even fans that double for the specific sound. I have one friend who has a noisemaker app on her phone, just in case she is in a place where there is no fan to help her out.

But if you ask me why I need the noise, I couldn’t really tell you. Am I scared of silence? I don’t think so. All I know is that I can’t fall asleep without it. So, what’s the deal?

Sleep Experts Weigh In

Sleep experts back mine and many others’ need for white noise as a means for sleeping, claiming that it is soothing. In fact, sleep expert David N. Neubauer, MD, who is an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, takes advantage of it himself. “I sleep with a bedside fan every night, no matter what the temperature. If the fan’s not on, I will definitely have difficulty falling asleep. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that white noise can be soothing because it blocks out sudden variations in sound—like a barking dog, or a car alarm—that can lighten our sleep or wake us. It also creates ventilation, and we know that people tend to sleep best in cooler temperatures — try keeping the room at a temp that you would describe as a little chilly when you’re not covered up. When I’m traveling, I often buy a small fan for the hotel room. It’s worth it to help block out unfamiliar noise and let me get the sleep I need.” But because there is a lack of data out there to support if these machines actually do help, is there actually a science behind why many of us swear by them?

Scientifically Speaking

Joseph Ojile, M.D., who is the medical director and chief executive officer of the Clayton Sleep Institute, attributes the need for white noise as a means to sleep for its ability to cancel out any other potential noise — essentially, it serves as an anti-noise mechanism. Think of all the other things you could be focusing on. Perhaps your partner fell asleep before you and is breathing deeply. The silence in the room makes it even more apparent, and it’s all you can focus on. Same goes for the steps of someone still awake walking around or outside your apartment building. Perhaps your cat is cleaning itself. These subtle noises overcome you, and keep you from drifting off into a deep sleep.

Similarly, Dr. Ralph Pascualy, who is the medical director of Northwest Hospital Sleep Center in Seattle, explains that random noises are to blame. He attributes this to our brains, which naturally desire sensory input, so when a sound occurs during your sleep, your brain can become activated, waking you from your slumber and making it harder to hit the hay once again. But the repetition of constant white noise “gives the brain a tonic signal that dampens its own internal systems.”

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But Which One Is Right For You?

I’m not all that advanced in the realm of white noise makers. I prefer to let my summer fan double as a device that cancels out other noises, but people have preferences, and luckily for them, manufacturers have, and continue to, oblige. Whether it’s the mimic of a fan you want minus the airflow, the sound of rain falling or a gentle breeze, there’s a little bit of something for everyone.

How Routine May Play A Part

As humans, we can’t help but view routine as a way of life. It gives us order and it gives us purpose, which is why it makes sense that, while we may assume we cannot go to sleep without our idea of a white noise maker, perhaps it’s more about following through with the routine we complete every night to hit that sweet spot on the pillow. “Your body likes to anticipate what’s going to happen,” explains  Christopher Winter, M.D., who is a fellow at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the medical director at the sleep center at Martha Jefferson Hospital. “So if you always end your day by taking a hot shower, dimming your lights, and then turning on your noise machine, every night that your body does those things in that order at that time, it tells your brain sleep is coming up.”

Is White Noise Harmful?

I don’t like to use the word “addiction” so lightly, but, when I think about it, it is entirely difficult, if not impossible, for me to go to sleep without the calming sound of my fan. There’s not a sufficient amount of evidence that they are of any danger, however. In fact, studies have actually found the benefits of it. One study even concluded that wakefulness in intensive care units decreased when white noise was integrated with typical ICU noise.

So, it seems what it all comes down to is the notion that, as far as sleep goes, we become accustomed to what we consider general background sounds until some sound becomes worthy of stirring our brains. It’s about types of sounds as opposed to the volume of them, which explains why we can doze off in the middle of an action flick in the movie theater. And if white noise makers keep you snoozing, why mess with a good thing? Sleep is an important and necessary commodity, so do what works.

Image: Mind Body Green

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Awareness

Tips On Overcoming Sleep Problems During Pregnancy

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Getting a Good Night’s Sleep in the Third Trimester is a Challenge

As the body changes, a pregnant woman may suddenly find a handful of reasons she can’t get to sleep at night. Try these tips for an uninterrupted night’s sleep.

A common complaint among pregnant women, particularly those in their third trimester, is the inability to fall (and stay) asleep at night. Many factors are often to blame, making it difficult to know exactly how to address the issue. From growing size to frequent urination, there seems to be no break for a rest. But some very basic techniques can help pregnant women get the sleep they need.

Why Can’t I Sleep?

As the body changes throughout the first and second trimesters, some women may notice changes in their sleeping pattern. Most, however, aren’t too affected until they reach month seven or so. As the body rapidly adapts to the growing baby, some issues may arise:

Frequent urination can be a huge annoyance. As the kidneys do double-duty to filter the increased blood volume (about 40% more than normal), the body produces more urine. At the same time, the baby’s growth has increased pressure on the bladder, making the time between bathroom trips very short. Babies active at night may also increase the number of trips for some mothers.

A rapid heartbeat is needed to pump that extra blood throughout the body, but some women find it difficult to relax in these circumstances.

Shortness of breath, due to pressure on the lungs and the release of certain hormones, can make it a challenge to fall asleep at night. As the fetus grows, the diaphragm will compress more and more, increasing the pressure on the lungs.

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Aches and pains are quite common, since a pregnant woman’s center of balance shifts and places extra pressure on new areas. Leg cramps and lower back pain are a typical night-time complaint since the hormone relaxin is working to stretch out and loosen the ligaments to prepare for delivery. Injuries and strains become more likely later in pregnancy.

Digestive problems, like heartburn and constipation, abound as the process of digestion slows down. Food backs up in the digestive tract, taking longer to break down, and the result is mom’s discomfort.

Get Comfortable

Doctors recommend that pregnant women lay on their side at night to allow proper blood flow throughout the body. For stomach- and back-sleepers this might be difficult, but it’s important. Choosing a comfortable mattress and pillows is a must as they will help make a pregnant woman more comfortable at night. Use pillows under the belly, behind the back, and between the legs. Try experimenting with different pillows (body pillows, wedges, etc.) and different positions.

Get Prepared

When it’s almost time to get to sleep, start preparing the body for bedtime. Take a relaxing bath, have a glass of warm mylk, or a night-time massage. Putting the mind at ease can help make the transition to sleep easier. For some, foods high in carbohydrates, like a snack of bread or crackers, will help with sleep troubles. And to limit bathroom trips, be sure to avoid drinking fluids too close to bedtime!

Get Healthy

The right nutrition and exercise can go a long way, especially during pregnancy. Certain things should be avoided and added to optimize sleep:

Adding calcium to the diet will help to curb those painful leg cramps.

Protein-rich diets can ward off those unpleasant pregnancy nightmares.

Skipping caffeine, or limiting it as much as possible, can have a dramatic effect. Many pregnant women’s bodies cannot break down caffeine, so it remains in the system much longer than usual.

Avoid foods that trigger heartburn.

Get enough fibre to reduce constipation.

Try yoga for relaxation, walks to keep joints limber and moderate activity to help promote sleep. Adding exercise every day might be the key to getting to bed at night.

Paying attention to the body, staying relaxed, and getting the right nutrition is essential to quieting the mind and getting a good night’s sleep during pregnancy. Follow these tips and try to stay positive; only a few more months (or weeks) to go!

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Lifestyle

10 Quick & Nourishing Smoothie Recipes That Taste Great

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Smoothies are a great way to pack a lot of nutrients into a filling, delicious meal any time of the day. In our fast-paced world, they help provide a great way to stay healthy on the go.

  • Reflect On:

    If you find combining sugars and fats bloat you, keep them separate. Sugar that comes from eating whole fruit is not the same as added sugar!

Have you ever compromised on a nourishing and filling breakfast because you are running late for work? Well, it has happened to all of us, especially women with kids.

And the good news is, smoothies! That’s right! Smoothies are nutrient-rich, delicious and can be made within minutes. You can replace it with your coffee on-the-go as it is much more healthy, filling, and tasty.

Here are 10 such smoothies prepared using a variety of fruits, veggies, and other ingredients. Some of the ingredients are rich in antioxidants, some are protein packed, and a few others are the best anti-inflammatory foods. So indulge in a smoothie marathon and try out one of the below smoothies each day; either as a fully-loaded breakfast or as a filling snack.

Breakfast Smoothie

This is a protein-rich breakfast which is clean and detox-friendly. It consists of,

  • 180ml of coconut milk
  • 1tsp cacao 1tsp coconut oil
  • 120 ml coconut water
  • 25 grams of oats
  • half a banana (either fresh or frozen)
  • 1tsp almond butter
  • 3 ice cubes

Blend everything together and you are ready to kick start your day on a super healthy note. It contains protein, fibre and all the essential nutrients required for a wholesome breakfast.

Peanut Butter Banana Apple Smoothie

Another protein packed smoothie that is just delicious! This recipe is as easy as it comes.

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  • Add two tablespoons of peanut butter
  • a banana
  • some sliced apples and
  • a few ice cubes

There you go! Banana will give you instant energy, protein from peanut butter, and loads of vitamins and minerals from apple. Nothing can get better than that!

Watermelon Basil Smoothie

Another simple and quick smoothie with just three ingredients. It is healthy, quick and delicious. This smoothie includes watermelon, basil and coconut water. It is super-hydrating and healthy. Watermelon is a rich source of antioxidants, vitamin C, and many other nutrients. It aids conditions such as inflammation, obesity, diabetes and heart diseases. Basil is an amazing source of vitamin K, magnesium, copper, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, and omega 3 fatty acids. What more do you need?

Cherry Vanilla Protein Smoothie

Cherries are the best summer fruit ever! Put one cup of cherries along with one cup coconut milk and one scoop of protein powder. It is naturally sweet, creamy and full of deliciousness. This will fulfil your daily dose of protein in a single gulp! Cherries are packed with antioxidants and cancer-preventing elements. Studies show that it also promotes sleep by increasing melatonin levels, relieve arthritis pain, reduce belly fat and is an excellent post-workout snack that can reduce muscle pain.

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

 This healthy and tasty smoothie has only three ingredients; Strawberry, banana and non-dairy milk or water. Just throw all the ingredients and then blend! It’s creamy, colourful, healthy and delicious! Strawberries are a rich source of vitamin C, folic acid, and dietary fibre good for skin health and can beat the top moisturizers in terms of the benefits offered. It will help to keep skin healthy and glowing and fights aging, acne, and wrinkles. The banana provides increased energy throughout the day. It can be consumed as a perfect healthy breakfast or as a snack.

Pineapple smoothie

With just two ingredients, it is possible to have a tropical beach experience at home. Don’t know how? This pineapple smoothie is just what everyone needs. Frozen or fresh pineapple and almond milk are the only ingredients in this. It is quick, easy and a perfect after workout drink. This combination can never go wrong. Pineapples improve bone strength, eyesight, delays muscle degeneration and aids in digestion. Having this smoothie first thing in the morning can help with smooth bowel movement.

Banana Blueberry Chocolate Smoothie

Who doesn’t love chocolates? This smoothie can fix the craving for chocolate and in a healthy way. Adding sugar and other sweeteners can ruin the whole purpose of having a healthy smoothie. Cocoa powder is a perfect substitute that can solve this issue. And blueberries offer a myriad of benefits such as regulate cholesterol and heart diseases. It has fibre, potassium, Vitamin C and other essential nutrients.

The ingredients are

  • 1 sliced banana
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • Water or crushed ice can be added.

Mint Chocolate Smoothie

This is a nutrient-packed smoothie with simple and easily available ingredients. Simply put 1 avocado, 1 banana, 1 scoop of green powder, one tablespoon vegan yogurt, two handfuls of spinach, some almond milk, few mint leaves and 1tsp cocoa powder. The greens offer plenty of vitamins and minerals along with the benefits of avocado. Mint acts as a palate cleanser and improves digestion and bowel movements. It also reduces the symptoms of inflammation, depression, asthma, respiratory diseases, promotes oral care, cures nausea and headache and even prevents cancer.

Post-Workout Smoothie

Tired of the same old peanut butter? Try this smoothie recipe with non-dairy milk, almond butter, bananas, one tablespoon of flaxseeds, natural oats, and honey. It is packed with protein, dietary fiber, omega 3 fatty acids and plenty of other nutrients. Needless to say, extremely delicious. Makes up for an excellent post-workout snack that promotes muscle strength, repair of damaged cells and provides energy.

Beetroot Cinnamon Smoothie

The ingredients are,

  • 1 small raw beetroot
  • 1 handful of almonds
  • 1 handful of baby spinach
  • ripe banana
  • ripe avocado
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

This smoothie can be customized by adding more fruits or greens. It is perfect for breakfast or as a snack option. Beetroot is a good source of iron, nitrates, magnesium and other antioxidants. It also improves skin health and glows, lower blood pressure and prevent dementia. This smoothie is an ideal option for a pre-workout meal.

So what are you waiting for? Try out these incredibly easy and healthy smoothies and pamper yourself with a great breakfast that nourishes your soul. It’s time for some self-love!

References

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266886.php
https://bellatory.com/skin/Top-5-Benefits-of-Strawberry-for-Skin
https://www.livescience.com/45487-pineapple-nutrition.html

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Consciousness

8 Comics Showing How Much Today’s Childhood Differs From Ours

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    The childhood experience today is inevitably affected by--and sometimes even centered on--technology.

  • Reflect On:

    What is technology giving to our children, and what is it taking away? Should we be more proactive about our children's exposure to technology?

When I was a child, there was no shortage of getting told by our parents and other adults about how much better we had things than they did when they were children.  Stories of having to walk for miles to go to school, sleeping in the same bed until they became an adult, having the same food all the time, and having only a few simple toys to last them several years were not uncommon at all. There was a definite sense that as society modernized, things were getting better for children.

And as children we certainly didn’t disagree — hearing our parents’ stories did indeed make us feel that we were better off than they were. We certainly would not be inclined to exchange our childhood for their more rugged, austere version. And yes, to some extent these stories gave us a bit more ‘appreciation’ for what we had, despite not showing enough of it to satisfy our parents.

How About Today?

Today, I’m not sure that familiar line of conversation that has spanned many generations is going on anymore between parents and children. As the father of a 4-year old, the most immediate difference I notice is that we seem to have less time for our children than our parents did, especially if both parents are working full-time, which is just about a requirement these days.

The other major difference is the level of technology children have access to. And in some ways, technology has come in and ‘filled the gap’ where a parent’s attention is absent. Now, undoubtedly, there are some benefits to technology for our children. But when we take time to reflect on it, we might recognize that we have come to a particular stage in the modernization of our society where most of us are not sure that ‘newer, bigger, faster, more convenient’ is necessarily better, especially with regards to the type of childhood that serves as a foundation for a happy and prosperous adult life.

Here are 8 pictures comparing childhoods then and now, where technology has become ubiquitous in the lives of our children. Do you think our children have it better than we did?

Are they having more fun?

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Are they being more creative?

Are they more ambitious?

Are they healthier?

Are they understanding consequences better?

Are they feeling things more deeply?

Are they experiencing more frustration?

Is their sense of wonder being cultivated more?

How Did You Score It?

How you answer these questions might give you some insight into how much you want your children’s early experiences to be influenced by technology. As everyone knows, childhood is the most formative time of a person’s life, which is why, as parents, some of the choices within our control that we make about our children’s exposure to technology might have a significant impact.

Drawings courtesy of Sergey Raskovalov.

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