How You Put Yourself To Sleep

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?

MARS Bioimaging
The World's First Full-Color 3D X-Rays Have Arrived
MARS Bioimaging
MARS Bioimaging

The days of drab black-and-white, 2D X-rays may finally be over. Now, if you want to see what your broken ankle looks like in all its full-color, 3D glory, you can do so thanks to new body-scanning technology. The machine, spotted by BGR, comes courtesy of New Zealand-based manufacturer MARS Bioimaging.

It’s called the MARS large bore spectral scanner, and it uses spectral molecular imaging (SMI) to produce images that are fully colorized and in 3D. While visually appealing, the technology isn’t just about aesthetics—it could help doctors identify issues more accurately and provide better care.

Its pixel detectors, called “Medipix” chips, allow the machine to identify colors and distinguish between materials that look the same on regular CT scans, like calcium, iodine, and gold, Buzzfeed reports. Bone, fat, and water are also differentiated by color, and it can detect details as small as a strand of hair.

“It gives you a lot more information, and that’s very useful for medical imaging. It enables you to do a lot of diagnosis you can’t do otherwise,” Phil Butler, the founder/CEO of MARS Bioimaging and a physicist at the University of Canterbury, says in a video. “When you [have] a black-and-white camera photographing a tree with its leaves, you can’t tell whether the leaves are healthy or not. But if you’ve got a color camera, you can see whether they’re healthy leaves or diseased.”

The images are even more impressive in motion. This rotating image of an ankle shows "lipid-like" materials (like cartilage and skin) in beige, and soft tissue and muscle in red.

The technology took roughly a decade to develop. However, MARS is still working on scaling up production, so it may be some time before the machine is available commercially.

[h/t BGR]

More Studies See Links Between Alzheimer's and Herpes

Although it was discovered in 1906, Alzheimer’s disease didn’t receive significant research attention until the 1970s. In 1984, scientists identified the plaque-like buildup of amyloid beta proteins in brain tissue that causes nerve damage and can lead to symptoms like memory loss, personality changes, and physical debility.

Now, researchers are learning why amyloid beta tends to collect in brain tissue like barnacles on a ship. It might not be rallying expressly to cause damage, but to protect the brain from another invader: the herpes simplex virus.

As The Atlantic recently noted, a number of studies have strengthened the notion that amyloid beta activity is working in response to herpes, the virus that travels along nerve pathways and typically causes cold sores around the mouth (HSV-1) or genitals (HSV-2). In a study involving mice, those engineered to produce more amyloid beta were more resistant to the herpes virus than those who were not.

But when too much amyloid beta is produced to combat the virus, the proteins can affect the brain’s neurons. And while herpes tends to target specific pathways in the body that result in external sores, it’s possible that the virus might act differently in an older population that is susceptible to more widespread infection. Roughly half of adults under age 50 in the U.S. are infected with HSV-1 and 12 percent with HSV-2, which suggests that a large swath of the population could be vulnerable to Alzheimer's disease. Two other strains of the virus, HHV-6A and HHV-7, have also been found to be more common in the brains of deceased Alzheimer’s patients than in the general population.

More research will be needed to further understand the possible relationship between the two. If more findings support the theory, then it’s possible that antiviral drugs or vaccines targeting herpes might also reduce the chances of amyloid beta buildup.

[h/t Atlantic]


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