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How You Put Yourself To Sleep

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I think we all have nights where sleep won't come -- despite flipping the pillow and persistent rolling over, it just doesn't happen. What do you do when this happens?

Personally, I've developed only one good way to get to sleep: audiobooks. Now, I love audiobooks during the daytime, but sometimes I'll buy a book that's super-boring. For example, take the audiobook of Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire -- immensely difficult to focus on during the day...but PERFECT for snooze inducement in the middle of the night! (If you don't believe me, check out the free preview of the 41-hour Volume 1, available on iTunes.)

The best part of the audiobook cure is that, even if you don't fall asleep, you might get some decent "reading" in. But aside from my own method, there are lots of great sleep aids suggested on the web. In fact, the Mental_Floss Blog has covered sleep medications, sleeping with pets, sleep disorders, why snooze buttons work for nine minutes, famous narcoleptics, and much more.

Blogger Mary Wheeler has suggested a series of cures for insomnia, including:

Sexing the alphabet: this involves going through the alphabet and assigning a gender to each letter. This was really interesting, yet sleep-inducing, to me the first 20 times I did it. [Note from Higgins: I think A is male and B is female. You?]

Sexing the numbers: Assigning a gender to each number. This is hard -- each number, for me, anyway, can easily be male or female.

Categorizing things by color: thinking of all the things I can that are one color or another. This is a lot like a kid's book, but is still harder than it sounds. I end up cheating and it will go like this: "trees, peas, pistacio ice cream, green tea, green book, green socks, green car ..."

Saying a fruit or vegetable for every letter of the alphabet. This has been my latest game and honestly, I don't think I've made it past "G" -- this is how well I've been sleeping lately!

So let's have it: what do you do to get to sleep?

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People With Limited Mobility Can Now Use Amazon Alexa to Control Exoskeletons
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Mario Tama, Getty Images

One of the challenges that comes with engineering exoskeletons that compensate for limited mobility is giving control to the people who wear them. Some systems use hand controls, while others can detect faint signals in the wearer’s muscles and respond accordingly. Now one exoskeleton startup is taking advantage of a technology that’s become mainstream in recent years: voice recognition.

As Engadget reports, Bionik Laboratories has integrated Amazon’s Alexa into its ARKE lower-body exoskeleton. The apparatus is designed for people with spinal chord damage or a history of stroke or traumatic brain injury that has hindered their movement below the waist. After strapping into the suit, wearers will now be able to use it just as they would a television set or stereo enabled with Alexa. Saying “Alexa, I’m ready to stand,” brings the joints to an upright position, and the command “Alexa, I’m ready to walk” prompts the legs to move forward. An Amazon Echo device must be within hearing range for the voice control to work, so in its current state the exoskeleton is only good for making short trips within the home.

Compatibility with Alexa isn’t the only modern feature Bionik worked into the design. The company also claims that ARKE is the first exoskeleton with integrated tablet control. That means if users wish to adjust their suit manually, they can do so by typing commands into a wireless touchpad. The tablet also records information that physical therapists can use to make more informed decisions when treating the patient.

Before the ARKE suit can be made available to consumers, it must first undergo clinical trials and receive approval from the FDA. If the tests go as planned Bionik hopes to have a commercial version of the product ready by 2019.

[h/t Engadget]

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German Doctors May Soon Prescribe Parasite Eggs
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iStock

People all over the world have started swallowing worms, and not because anybody dared them to do it. Now, according to Discover magazine, Germany may become one of the first countries to legalize this controversial treatment.

It’s called helminthic therapy: an intentional parasite infection that (theoretically) suppresses an overactive immune system.

For reasons scientists don’t fully understand, autoimmune and inflammatory conditions like asthma, lupus, and inflammatory bowel disease are on the rise. Yet despite their prevalence, treatment options for some of these conditions are slim. After years of illness, many people reach a point where they’re willing to try anything; one study estimates that more than 7000 people have purchased parasites online to try at home.

Trials of the treatment have had mixed results. Some studies found that helminthic therapy may help people with Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and multiple sclerosis. Its efficacy in other conditions, like allergies, is less clear.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has classified helminthic therapy as an Investigational New Drug (IND). This means it can only legally be used by researchers in clinical trials. But just across the border in Mexico, there are providers and clinics specializing in the parasite treatment. Thailand has legalized helminthic therapy, too. Elsewhere, would-be consumers are out of luck.

That may soon change, as Germany’s Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety is currently considering allowing the use of a parasite called Trichuris suis. If the certification is approved [PDF], a liquid containing the worm’s eggs will be certified as a food ingredient. This particular species ordinarily infects pigs, and is short-lived in humans, a fact that proponents say should reduce or eliminate the risk of side effects.

Even if the government says helminthic therapy is safe, experts recommend using it like any other drug—that is, with medical supervision.

“Self-medication with any type of worm is not recommended,” Helena Helmby of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told New Scientist, “and it is important to remember they’re not in any way completely harmless, and may cause quite severe side effects if not monitored very carefully by a doctor.”

[h/t Discover]

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