Friday, December 20, 2019

How to Fall Asleep in 10, 60, or 120 Seconds

The fastest way to sleep?

Spending more time trying to fall asleep rather than actually sleeping? You’re not alone.

Just the act of trying too hard can cause (or continue) a cycle of anxious, nerve-wracking energy that keeps our minds awake.

And if your mind can’t sleep, it’s really difficult for your body to follow. But there are scientific tricks you can try to flip the switch and guide your body into a safe shutdown mode.

We cover some science-based tricks to help you fall asleep faster.

How to sleep in 10 seconds

It usually takes a magic spell to fall asleep this quickly and on cue, but just like spells, with practice you can eventually get to the sweet 10-second spot.

Note: The method below takes a full 120 seconds to finish, but the last 10 seconds is said to be truly all it takes to finally snooze.

The military method

The popular military method, which was first reported by Sharon Ackerman, comes from a book titled “Relax and Win: Championship Performance.”

According to Ackerman, the United States Navy Pre-Flight School created a routine to help pilots fall asleep in 2 minutes or less. It took pilots about 6 weeks of practice, but it worked — even after drinking coffee and with gunfire noises in the background.

This practice is said to even work for people who need to sleep sitting up!

The military method

  • Relax your entire face, including the muscles inside your mouth.
  • Drop your shoulders to release the tension and let your hands drop to the side of your body.
  • Exhale, relaxing your chest.
  • Relax your legs, thighs, and calves.
  • Clear your mind for 10 seconds by imagining a relaxing scene.
  • If this doesn’t work, try saying the words “don’t think” over and over for 10 seconds.
  • Within 10 seconds, you should fall asleep!

If this doesn’t work for you, you may need to work on the foundations of the military method: breathing and muscle relaxation, which have some scientific evidence that they work. Also, some conditions such as ADHD or anxiety may interfere with this method’s effectiveness.

Keep reading to learn about the techniques this military method is based on and how to practice them effectively.

How to sleep in 60 seconds

These two methods, which focus on your breathe or muscles, help you take your mind off topic and back to bed.

If you’re a beginner trying these hacks out, these methods may take up to 2 minutes to work.

4-7-8 breathing method

Mixing together the powers of meditation and visualization, this breathing method becomes more effective with practice. If you have a respiratory condition, such as asthma or COPD, consider checking with your doctor before beginning, as this could aggravate your symptoms.

To prepare, place the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth, behind your two front teeth. Keep your tongue there the whole time and purse your lips if you need to.

How to do one cycle of 4-7-8 breathing:

  • Let your lips part slightly and make a whooshing sound as you exhale through your mouth.
  • Then close your lips and inhale silently through your nose. Count to 4 in your head.
  • Then hold your breath for 7 seconds.
  • After, exhale (with a whoosh sound) for 8 seconds.
  • Avoid being too alert at the end of each cycle. Try to practice it mindlessly.
  • Complete this cycle for four full breaths. Let your body sleep if you feel relaxation coming on earlier than anticipated.

Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR)

Progressive muscle relaxation, also known as deep muscle relaxation, helps you unwind.

The premise is to tense — but not strain — your muscles and relax to release the tension. This movement promotes tranquility throughout your body. It’s a trick recommended to help with insomnia.

Before you start, try practicing the 4-7-8 method while imagining the tension leaving your body as you exhale.

Relaxation script

  • Raise your eyebrows as high as possible for 5 seconds. This will tighten your forehead muscles.
  • Relax your muscles immediately and feel the tension drop. Wait 10 seconds.
  • Smile widely to create tension in your cheeks. Hold for 5 seconds. Relax.
  • Pause 10 seconds.
  • Squint with your eyes shut. Hold 5 seconds. Relax.
  • Pause 10 seconds.
  • Tilt your head slightly back so you’re comfortably looking at the ceiling. Hold 5 seconds. Relax as your neck sinks back into the pillow.
  • Pause 10 seconds.
  • Keep moving down the rest of the body, from your triceps to chest, thighs to feet.
  • Let yourself fall asleep, even if you don’t finish tensing and relaxing the rest of your body.

As you do this, focus on how relaxed and heavy your body feels when it’s relaxed and in a comfortable state.

How to fall asleep in 120 seconds

If the previous methods still didn’t work, there might be an underlying blockage you need to get out. Try these techniques!

Tell yourself to stay awake

Also called paradoxical intention, telling yourself to stay awake may be a good way to fall asleep faster.

For people — especially those with insomnia — trying to sleep can increase performance anxiety.

Research has found that people who practiced paradoxical intention fell asleep faster than those who didn’t. If you often find yourself stressed out about trying to sleep, this method may be more effective than traditional, intentional breathing practices.

Visualize a calm place

If counting activates your mind too much, try engaging your imagination.

Some say that visualizing something can make it real, and it’s possible this works with sleep, too.

In a 2002 study from the University of Oxford, researchers found that people who engaged in “imagery distraction” fell asleep faster than those who had general distraction or no instructions.

Image distraction

Instead of counting sheep, try to imagine a serene setting and all the feelings that go with it. For example, you can imagine a waterfall, the sounds of echoing, rushing water, and the scent of damp moss. The key is to let this image take up space in your brain to prevent yourself from “re-engaging with thoughts, worries, and concerns” pre-sleep.

Acupressure for sleep

There’s not enough research to confidently determine if acupressure truly works. However, the research that’s available is promising.

One method is to target areas you know and feel are particularly tense, such as the upper part of your nose bridge or your temples.

However, there are also specific points in acupressure that are reported to help with insomnia. Here are three you can do without sitting up:

1. Spirit gatee on Pinterest

The technique

  • Feel for the small, hollow space under your palm on your pinky side.
  • Gently apply pressure in a circular or up-and-down movement for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Press down the left side of the point (palm facing) with gentle pressure for a few seconds, and then hold the right side (back-of-hand facing).
  • Repeat on the same area of your other wrist.

2. Inner frontier gateShare on Pinterest

The technique

  • On one palm facing up, count three finger-widths down from your wrist crease.
  • With your thumb, apply a steady downward pressure between the two tendons.
  • You can massage in circular or up-and-down motion until you feel your muscles relax.

3. Wind poolShare on Pinterest

The technique

  • Interlock your fingers together (fingers out and palms touching) and open up your palms to create a cup shape with your hands.
  • Position your thumbs at the base of your skull, with thumbs touching where your neck and head connect.
  • Apply a deep and firm pressure, using circular or up-and-down movements to massage this area.
  • Breathe deeply and pay attention to how your body relaxes as you exhale.

Prepare yourself fully before tackling these techniques

If you’ve tried these methods and are still finding yourself unable to fall asleep in 2 minutes or less, see if there are other tips you can take to make your bedroom a more sleep-friendly place.

Have you tried…

  • hiding your clock
  • taking a warm shower before bed
  • opening the window to keep your room cool
  • wearing socks
  • a gentle 15-minute yoga routine
  • placing your phone far away from your bed
  • aromatherapy (lavender, chamomile, or clary sage)
  • eating earlier to avoid stomach digestion or stimulation before bed

If you find the atmosphere in your room to be damaging to your sleep, there are tools you can use to block out the noise. Literally.

Try investing in blackout curtains, white noise machines (or listening to music with an auto-stop timer), and ear plugs, all of which you can buy online.

On the other hand, sleep hygiene, or clean sleep, is real and effective.

Before you truly take on the military method or 4-7-8 breathing, see what you can optimize to your bedroom for soundless slumber.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

People with Peanut Allergies Could Get ‘Life Changing’ Benefit from New Antibody Injection

  • Researchers report that an antibody injection helped ease the reaction to peanut protein for 15 study participants with food allergies.
  • The researchers said all of the 15 participants were able to eat small amounts of peanuts 2 weeks after getting the immunotherapy treatment.
  • Experts say the new treatment would be “life changing” for people with food allergies if it’s proven safe and effective.

Immunotherapy could provide long-term protection against severe allergic reactions to peanuts, a new study suggests.

The small study reported that most people with severe peanut allergies were able to tolerate consumption of a nut’s worth of peanut protein 2 weeks after getting an antibody shot.

The research was published today in the journal JCI Insight.

The findings are preliminary and the study only involved 15 participants.

However, researchers from Stanford University reported that 73 percent of people with severe peanut allergies could eat a small amount of peanuts 2 weeks after getting the antibody treatment without ill effects.

By contrast, all members of a control group who received a placebo had an allergic reaction to eating the peanut protein.

Even 45 days after the shot, more than half of the treated patients could consume a nut-sized (375 milligram) serving of peanut protein without an allergic reaction while none of the control group could.

No participants experienced severe side effects.

“We were surprised how long the effects of the treatment lasted,” said Kari Nadeau, MD, PhD, senior study author and a professor of medicine and pediatrics at Stanford.

A potential life changer

Experts see some far-reaching changes to people’s lives with a treatment like the one used in the study.

“A vaccine that could limit or end allergic reactions to peanuts would be life changing for patients,” Kathleen Dass, MD, an allergist and immunologist in Oak Park, Michigan, told Healthline.

“A very promising feature of this is that, unlike with desensitization, patients do not have to have exposure to peanut until it is safe to do so…” she said. “If this vaccine was approved for patients, it would be a life saving treatment option that I would implement as soon as I could.”

Punita Ponda, MD, assistant chief of the department of allergy and immunology at Northwell Health in Great Neck, New York, said the findings of the new study are exciting.

“In the past, we just told people to avoid certain foods,” she told Healthline.

Ponda noted the small size of the study and the need for more research, but she added the placebo-controlled Stanford study was well designed with all participants confirmed to have food allergies through oral challenges.

An alternative to desensitization

Experts said the research demonstrates the potential for an alternative or adjunct to desensitization treatment, which is currently the only proven way to combat food allergies.

Desensitization involves giving people with allergies small amounts of their trigger foods, with amounts slowly increasing over a 6-month to 12-month course of treatment.

The lengthy treatment process must be done under medical supervision and allergic reactions can occur.

“What’s great about this treatment as an option for food allergies is that people did not have to eat the food to get desensitized,” Nadeau told Healthline.

“Although this is still in the experimental stages, we’re delivering on the hope of testing a drug that won’t be for one food allergy but for many, and for other allergic diseases, too.”

Nadeau and R. Sharon Chinthrajah, MD, a lead study author, treat allergy, asthma, and immunology patients at Stanford.

Food allergies, which can develop at any point in life, affect an estimated 32 million people in the United States.

After cow’s milk and eggs, peanut allergies are the third most common food allergy (and second most common among children). Peanut allergies affect about 1 in 50 children and 1 in 200 adults.

They’re also the most common food allergen to cause a fatal anaphylactic reaction.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Don’t Like Vegetables? It May Be Your Genes

  • Certain genes may mean that vegetables taste more bitter for some people.
  • The “taste gene” can affect how people perceive different flavors.
  • Taste bud sensitivity decreases as we age, so even your most disliked vegetables could become palatable later in life.

Why is it difficult for some people to eat vegetables?

Researchers at the University of Kentucky believe a certain gene makes compounds in some vegetables taste particularly bitter to some people, so they avoid nutritious, heart-healthy vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage.

Such individuals may also have a similar sensitivity to dark chocolate, coffee, and beer, according to Jennifer L. Smith, a licensed registered nurse and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Kentucky School of Medicine and one of the authors of the preliminary study.

The study, which will be presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in Philadelphia November 16–18, is based on some previous work that found that this genotype was associated with the types of vegetables eaten by college students.

The ‘taste gene’

Humans are born with two copies of a taste gene called TAS2R38. Those who inherit two copies of the variant called AVI are not sensitive to the bitterness of these chemicals. But those who inherit one copy of AVI and one copy of PAV are especially sensitive and find these foods particularly bitter, Smith said.

For this study, researchers investigated the possibility that this association existed in people with two or more cardiovascular disease risk factors. Over a 3-year period, they conducted a secondary analysis of data using a sample from a previous study that investigated gene interactions in people at risk for cardiovascular disease. They analyzed food frequency questionnaires from 175 people.

The average age of the respondents was 52. More than 70 percent of them were female. They found that people with the PAV form of the gene were more than 2 1/2 times as likely to rank in the bottom half of vegetables consumed.

This study could change how doctors approach people who are advised to change their diet in order to have a healthier cardiovascular system.

“This association could influence their ability to alter their diets to meet a heart-healthy eating pattern,” Smith said.

Still, Smith said more research needs to be done about the best way to encourage people to eat their vegetables.

“We hope to explore avenues that people with this gene can take to make food more palatable to them,” she said. “Down the road we hope we can use genetic information to figure out which vegetables people may be better able to accept and to find out which spices appeal to supertasters (those with heightened sensitivity to taste) so we can make it easier for them to eat more vegetables.”

Don’t always follow your gut

Tonia Reinhard, a senior lecturer at Wayne State University in Detroit and course director for clinical nutrition at the university’s school of medicine, said it’s intriguing that the University of Kentucky researchers identified genetic regions that relate to taste that can influence one’s food choices and potentially influence development of certain chronic diseases.

“Since fruits and vegetables contain numerous phytonutrients and essential nutrients that can reduce inflammation and oxidative damage — two key damaging processes linked to cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and other chronic diseases — anything that affects dietary intake of these foods can possibly influence disease development,” said Reinhard, a fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and past president of the Michigan Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

She added that people should remember that human taste perception is a complex process that is affected by numerous variables.

“It is useful for individuals to try to understand their own preferences and when unhealthful, use their cognitive function to override some of those,” she said.

Annie Mahon, a registered dietitian, nutritionist, and visiting lecturer in the department of kinesiology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, called the study of genes that influence taste preferences an active area of research. She echoed concerns about the health implications of forgoing cruciferous, heart-healthy vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower.

“These vegetables are good sources of fiber, folate, as well as vitamin C and K,” Mahon said. “These nutrients are important to maintain a healthy digestive and immune system, as well as heart health.”

She said options for individuals with this genotype could include cooking the vegetables.

“That may reduce the bitterness and therefore be found to have an acceptable taste,” she said. “Or individuals have to find other sources of those nutrients which should be fairly easy to do since there are lots of other options.”

Mahon said it is also important to remember that taste buds decrease in sensitivity as we get older.

“So just because you didn’t like a fruit or vegetable when you were young doesn’t mean you won’t like it as you get older,” she said.

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