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Why It’s Essential to Get Enough Sleep During Flu Season

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In a culture that prides itself on having an unhealthy relationship with work, getting enough sleep can get pushed way down to the bottom of our priority list. But the truth is that overdoing it makes us worse at our jobs—and can increase our odds of getting sick. A new paper published in the journal Sleep explains how fatigue can damage our immune systems.

Scientists recruited 11 pairs of adult identical twins. In each pair, one twin reported regularly sleeping well, while the other had trouble. All the participants were given wrist-mounted activity monitors, which they slipped on every night at bedtime for two weeks. The researchers also took blood samples from everyone on the last day of the study and sequenced their RNA, looking for differences in gene expression.

On average, the well-rested twins were getting about an hour more sleep per night than their unfortunate siblings. And that hour of sleep was clearly reflected in the poor sleepers’ genes. Their RNA showed decreased immune system activity in some areas and increased inflammation in others—making them more vulnerable to both disease-carrying germs and the illnesses and symptoms caused by inflammation. In short, the sleep deprived twins were far more likely to feel lousy.

Lead author Nathaniel Watson is co-director of the University of Washington Medicine Sleep Center. "The results are consistent with studies that show when sleep deprived people are given a vaccine, there is a lower antibody response,” he said in a statement, “and if you expose sleep deprived people to a rhinovirus they are more likely to get the virus. This study provides further evidence of sleep to overall health and well-being particularly to immune health.”

Alright, so we should be getting more and better sleep. But what does that look like? One recent article in the journal Sleep Health listed four criteria:

1. You take half an hour or less to fall asleep.
2. You wake up no more than once per night.
3. If you do wake up in the middle of the night, you fall back asleep within 20 minutes.
4. You’re asleep for at least 85 percent of the time you spend in bed.

If these statements seem absurd to you, it might be time to talk to your doctor.

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Stop Your Snoring and Track Your Sleep With a Wi-Fi Smart Pillow
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Everyone could use a better night's rest. The CDC says that only 66 percent of American adults get as much sleep as they should, so if you're spending plenty of time in bed but mostly tossing and turning (or trying to block out your partner's snores), it may be time to smarten up your sleep accessories. As TechCrunch reports, the ZEEQ Smart Pillow improves your sleeping schedule in a multitude of ways, whether you're looking to quiet your snores or need a soothing lullaby to rock you to sleep.

After a successful Kickstarter in 2016, the product is now on sale and ready to get you snoozing. If you're a snorer, the pillow has a microphone designed to listen to the sound of your snores and softly vibrate so that you shift positions to a quieter pose. Accelerometers in the pillow let the sleep tracker know how much you're moving around at night, allowing it to record your sleep stages. Then, you can hook the pillow up to your Amazon Echo or Google Home so that you can have your favorite smart assistant read out the pillow's analysis of your sleep quality and snoring levels the next morning.

The pillow is also equipped with eight different wireless speakers that turn it into an extra-personal musical experience. You can listen to soothing music while you fall asleep, either connecting the pillow to your Spotify or Apple Music account on your phone via Bluetooth or using the built-in relaxation programs. You can even use it to listen to podcasts without disturbing your partner. You can set a timer to turn the music off after a certain period so you don't wake up in the middle of the night still listening to Serial.

And when it's time to wake up, the pillow will analyze your movements to wake you during your lightest sleep stage, again keeping the noise of an alarm from disturbing your partner.

The downside? Suddenly your pillow is just another device with a battery that needs to charge. And forget about using it in a place without Wi-Fi.

The ZEEQ Smart Pillow currently costs $200.

[h/t TechCrunch]

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Want to Fall Asleep Faster? Add This Tweak To Your Bedtime Routine
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There are countless reasons people have trouble falling asleep. It could be physiological, as in the case of airway-obstructing sleep apnea, or it could be because you’ve had too much caffeine too late in the day. But some of us experience delayed slumber for a different reason: Our racing minds can’t quite shift into a lower gear. If you fall into this hyper-vigilant category, there’s a side effect-free way to try and resolve the problem.

In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, researchers found that subjects who were tasked with writing out a to-do list for the following day (or days) before bed were able to fall asleep more quickly than other subjects who wrote about only what they had done that day.

The test, performed at Baylor University, recruited 57 people between the ages of 18 and 30 and kept them overnight in a sleep lab. Those who wrote down their planned tasks could use bullet points or paragraphs and fell asleep an average of nine minutes faster than subjects who didn’t. The more specific the list, the faster they were able to crash.

Researchers believe that the act of writing down responsibilities might be one way the brain can let go of a person’s obligations. (Thinking of what you have to do won’t have quite the same effect.) It was a small study, but considering how non-invasive it is, it might be worth trying if you're experiencing a lot of tossing and turning.

[h/t Travel+Leisure]

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