Friday, March 17, 2017

A Brief Introduction to Sleepwalking

A young boy sleepwalking on a roof.
Image credit: Shutterstock
Following along last week’s theme of sleep disorders, this week I want to talk about sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism. Even though somnambulism is mostly associated with children, readers should know that adults sleepwalk, too.

While researchers still aren’t sure exactly what causes somnambulism, a recent study points towards genetics as a possible culprit. The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, found that children who had one parent with a history of sleepwalking were three times more likely to have the disorder. Even more revealing is that children whose parents both had a history of sleepwalking were seven times more likely to have the disorder.

But whatever the cause, there are things you should know about the disorder that can make living with it that much easier. Namely, you should know that it can be incredibly dangerous and/or embarrassing, depending on the situation.

For example, young children often wander outside during this state. Older children and adults may attempt to cook in their sleep. In rare cases, some adults even get into their cars and drive.

On the more embarrassing side of things, some sleepwalkers may expose themselves or act out sexual activities. It’s also quite common for those afflicted with the disorder to mistakenly use the bathroom in the wrong place (ex: urinating into a trashcan).

But readers should also know that despite urban legend, waking up a sleepwalker will not kill them. However, those who do attempt to wake a sleepwalker should exercise caution. Upon waking, many sleepwalkers are highly confused and may become violent.

That’s why those who have the condition should take proper precautions to protect themselves. For example, setting an alarm or bell on the door can help wake the sleepwalker should he/she wander outside. Additionally, keeping locks on all windows and doors is an absolute must. Lastly, it’s always a good idea to store any and all sharp/dangerous objects in a safe place.

As always, I’m no expert in this field and I encourage you to visit the National Sleep Foundation's website for more information. I personally find the disorder quite fascinating and I’d love to hear about your experiences with it!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Everything You Need to Know About Sleep Apnea

A man sleeping with a breathing apparatus on.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Happy Friday, everyone! Today’s topic is sleep apnea.

The first thing I need you to know is that sleep apnea is a life-threatening medical condition. Yep, you heard me right. You can actually die from it.

I’m not telling you that to scare you; I’m telling you that so that you’ll take the condition seriously and seek medical help. If you think you might have sleep apnea, check to see if you have any of the following signs and symptoms:

·      Snoring
·      Choking or gasping for air
·      Daytime drowsiness
·      Waking up with a headache
·      Trouble concentrating
·      Mood swings
·      Frequently waking up at night
·      Dry mouth or sore throat upon waking

Please note that just because you may have one or two of the above symptoms doesn’t mean you have sleep apnea. For example, you may snore and you may also experience drowsiness during the day, but that can be related to a completely different condition. With that being said, these signs and symptoms should be treated as a general guideline and not a medical diagnosis. Please consult with a doctor if you suspect that you have this condition.

Now, should you choose to book an appointment with a doctor, you should know that he or she may recommend that you undergo a sleep study (also known as a polysomnogram). During this procedure, you will be hooked up to censors that monitor your heart rate, breathing, muscle movements, and brain waves. And don’t worry; you’re put into your private room with a bed. It’s a relaxing atmosphere that should curb any anxiety that you may have.

As far as treatments go, there are several different options available. The most common is called a continuous positive airway pressure device (CPAP). A CPAP is a mask that helps the body regulate breathing. Other options include dental devices that open the airways. There’s also a hypoglossal nerve stimulator that can help reposition the tongue and adjust breathing patterns.

If you want to learn more about this topic, I encourage you to visit the Sleep Foundation’s website at https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems/sleep-apnea-treatment. Remember, your health comes first and foremost, so please make it a priority to get this taken care of.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

5 Options for Getting Rid of Varicose/Spider Veins


A woman who has varicose veins on her legs.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Although similar, varicose veins and spider veins are slightly different. Varicose veins are often considered the more unsightly of the two only because they bulge. Spider veins, on the other hand, are smooth to the touch. They are red, purple, or bluish veins that branch out almost like a tree. Neither one of them are particularly attractive, which is why I wanted to offer some solutions for getting rid of them. 

But before I go through my list of treatment options, I wanted to talk a little bit about the cause of varicose/spider veins. Lack of blood circulation is mostly to blame. Malfunctioning valves cause blood to flow backwards into the vein, which results in vein enlargement and discoloration. Fortunately, there are solutions available.

1. Exercise

If you catch it early enough, you may be able to prevent these veins from forming by getting plenty of exercise. Cardio in particular helps improve blood flow circulation, which can help alleviate some of the aches and cramps that are associated with malfunctioning valves.

2. Sclerotherapy

This is only an option for spider veins and small varicose veins. The procedure involves injecting a small amount of sclerosing solution into the vein. This causes the lining of the vein to seal shut, which eradicates the vein.

3. Ambulatory Phlebectomy

The best part about ambulatory phlebectomy is that it is minimally invasive and doesn’t require any stitches. Doctors put patients undergo local anesthesia and remove the veins through tiny slit-like incisions.  

4. Endovenous laser treatment 

This is by far the quickest of all the treatment options as it can be performed in less than an hour. A laser is used to close the vein entirely. Don’t worry, this doesn't pose any health risks. Blood is simply rerouted through other, healthier veins. 

5. Compression therapy

In addition to exercise, using a pump or getting massages can help stimulate blood flow in the affected area. Although it is one of the cheaper solutions, it’s not the most effective.
I hope this helps any of you out there who are struggling with this issue. 

Trust me, I feel your pain! I have some spider veins forming in my legs. I’m writing this post because I’m looking into treatment options myself!


Friday, February 17, 2017

Signs That You May Have Body Dysmorphic Disorder


An animated woman standing in front of a mirror. Her reflection shows a much larger "fatter" version of herself.
Image credit: Shutterstock
Today, I want talk about Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).

BDD is a serious mental health condition that affects 1.7% to 2.4% of the population, or about 1 in 50 people. While many people associate the disorder with low self-esteem or insecurities related to one’s appearance, it’s actually a lot more serious than that. Allow me to explain.

While everyone has physical insecurities, most of us don’t allow that to interfere with our daily lives. For example, while we may find that our nose is a little crooked, we still go to work every morning, still pick up the kids from school, still attend social events, and still go shopping. That’s not the case for people with BDD.

In fact, one of the signs of BDD is frequently skipping school, work, social events, or other daily activities due to issues related to one’s appearance. In other words, BDD actually hinders a person’s ability to complete day-to-day responsibilities.

But that’s not the only sign. Due to obsessing over one’s perceived flaws, people with BDD often suffer from anxiety and/or depression. It’s not uncommon for the mental and emotional stress to become so overwhelming to where the affected person begins to contemplate suicide.

Other signs may include compulsively checking mirrors, or completely avoiding mirrors all together. People with BDD also tend to excessively groom themselves. And finally, those with BDD may take a keen interest in cosmetic surgery.

Treatment options for the disorder include cognitive behavioral therapy and anti-depressant medications. For those who aren’t able to afford these options, there are several informative and helpful books written on the subject matter. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America recommends the following publications:
  • Feeling Good About the Way You Look: A Program for Overcoming Body Dysmorphic Disorder, by Sabine Wilhelm, PhD (Guilford Press, 2006)
  • The Broken Mirror: Understanding and Treating Body Dysmorphic Disorder, by Katharine Phillips, MD (Oxford University Press, 2005)
  • Understanding Body Dysmorphic Disorder, by Katharine Phillips, MD (Oxford University Press, 2009) 
As always, I offer myself up as a resource if anyone needs someone to talk to. You can reach out to me via the comments below or on Twitter @SunshineNDaisy. Thanks for reading!


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