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8 Tips for Finding the Best Sleep Position for Your Health

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Advice on sleep hygiene—habits we can adopt to help us get higher quality, more restful sleep—abounds. We’ve heard about the benefits of turning off our phones an hour before bed, avoiding caffeine in the evening, and keeping our bedroom dark and cool, but how do the positions in which we sleep affect our overall health?

As Nancy H. Rothstein, a sleep wellness consultant for The Sleep Ambassador explains, “the most appropriate sleep position varies from person to person and is dependent on comfort, health issues, and recommendations by health professionals.” Everything from snoring to acid reflux to pregnancy to back pain impacts which sleep position is best for your individual health. So when should you sleep on your back, stomach, left side, or right side? Here are some helpful tips for choosing the best sleeping position, based on your needs.

1. IF YOU HAVE BACK OR NECK PAIN, DON’T SLEEP IN THE FETAL POSITION.

The fetal position (scrunching your knees up to your chest and pulling your arms into a tiny ball) may feel safe, but it’s not the best position for your body. Tucking your chin and curling your body up into itself can strain your neck and head. According to Rothstein, sleeping in the fetal position can also compromise your circulation and restrict healthy, diaphragmatic breathing. To avoid overstretching your back and neck, try to straighten your legs and arms so you’re lying flat on your back instead.

2. IF ACID REFLUX KEEPS YOU AWAKE, SLEEP ON YOUR BACK.

To get a more restful night when you suffer from acid reflux, sleep on your back with your head elevated. Dr. Eric Olson, the co-director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Sleep Medicine, told Health that acid or food is less likely to come back up if your stomach is positioned below your esophagus. Besides helping to minimize acid reflux, sleeping on your back also puts less strain on your back and neck than other positions.

3. TRY TO AVOID SLEEPING ON YOUR STOMACH.

When you lie on your stomach with your head turned to one side, you could be straining your neck, spine, and lower back. If you're only able to doze off while positioned belly-down, consider using a thin pillow to minimize the angle that your neck is placed, and put a pillow under your pelvis to encourage your spine to stay in neutral alignment.

4. IF YOU SNORE, SLEEPING ON YOUR SIDE MAY HELP.

Because the position of your tongue can obstruct your airway, making it harder to breathe, sleeping on your back usually increases snoring. Rothstein warns, “If you snore regularly, it is critical to seek diagnosis for possible sleep apnea, a serious condition which when undiagnosed can lead to multiple health issues.” If your physician diagnoses you with sleep apnea, ask him or her what the best sleeping position is for you.

If you snore but don’t have sleep apnea, try sleeping on your side to keep your airway open. “And consider placing a pillow between your knees to alleviate pressure on your lower back,” says Rothstein.

5. SLEEPING ON YOUR BACK IS BEST FOR PREVENTING WRINKLES.

If you’re worried about premature facial wrinkles, try to sleep on your back rather than on your stomach or side. When you sleep on your back, your pillow doesn't rub against your face all night. “Sleep wrinkles are the lines that are formed when the face is compressed against a pillow night after night," Dr. Goesel Anson, a plastic surgeon, told Harper’s Bazaar. "[They] will eventually become permanent from constant compression and decreased skin elasticity with age.”

6. PREGNANT WOMEN SHOULD SLEEP ON THEIR LEFT SIDE.

There are pros and cons to sleeping on your left side versus your right side. If you’re on your left side all night, you can put strain on your liver and lungs, but being on your right side can make heartburn worse. Most experts agree that a pregnant woman should sleep on her left side rather than her stomach or back in order to take pressure off her uterus, stomach, and breasts, and to optimize blood flow.

7. AVOID THE STARFISH POSITION IF YOU WAKE UP WITH SHOULDER PAIN.

Although sleeping on your back with your arms above your head can feel good on your back, you could be hurting yourself by putting too much pressure on the nerves in your shoulders.

8. SLEEPING ON YOUR SIDE MAY PREVENT BACK PAIN, BUT IT CAN MAKE YOUR BREASTS SAG.

If you sleep on your side with your knees bent up slightly towards your chest (not a full fetal position), you minimize straining your back, neck, and spine. But, gravity causes your breasts to hang downward, which can stretch the ligaments over time. To combat sleep-related breast sag, either sleep on your back or, if you’re loyal to sleeping on your side, put a pillow under your breasts to support their weight.

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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Whether you want to change your legal name, adopt a new nickname, or simply reinvent your online persona, it's helpful to know the process of resetting your name on Facebook. The social media site isn't a fan of fake accounts, and as a result changing your name is a little more complicated than updating your profile picture or relationship status. Luckily, Daily Dot laid out the steps.

Start by going to the blue bar at the top of the page in desktop view and clicking the down arrow to the far right. From here, go to Settings. This should take you to the General Account Settings page. Find your name as it appears on your profile and click the Edit link to the right of it. Now, you can input your preferred first and last name, and if you’d like, your middle name.

The steps are similar in Facebook mobile. To find Settings, tap the More option in the bottom right corner. Go to Account Settings, then General, then hit your name to change it.

Whatever you type should adhere to Facebook's guidelines, which prohibit symbols, numbers, unusual capitalization, and honorifics like Mr., Ms., and Dr. Before landing on a name, make sure you’re ready to commit to it: Facebook won’t let you update it again for 60 days. If you aren’t happy with these restrictions, adding a secondary name or a name pronunciation might better suit your needs. You can do this by going to the Details About You heading under the About page of your profile.

[h/t Daily Dot]

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