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Neil Evans via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Neil Evans via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Fluency in Sign Language May Sharpen Peripheral Vision

Neil Evans via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Neil Evans via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

A small new study found that people fluent in sign language had significantly better peripheral vision and reaction time than people who couldn’t sign. The research was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

Researchers in the UK recruited 17 people who had been deaf since birth, eight hearing people fluent in British Sign Language (BSL), and 18 hearing people who didn’t sign at all. They brought everyone in to the laboratory and sat them down in front of computers to test their visual acuity, range, and reaction time.

Participants who had been signing from a young age fared far better than the other participants on visual tasks. “Deaf people have exceptional visual abilities that hearing adults do not,” lead author Charlotte Codina of the University of Sheffield said in a statement. “We found that deaf adults have faster reaction times around the whole of the visual field, extending as far as 85 degrees peripherally near the edge of vision.”

These results were unsurprising to Codina and her colleagues. The idea of sensory compensation—experiencing improvement in one sense when another is limited—is, by now, quite well established.

Less expected was that while deaf participants’ scores were the most impressive, they were followed by another group: hearing people who worked as BSL interpreters. These results suggest that fluency in sign language requires or builds visual processing skills that non-signers don’t have, and that adulthood is not too late to learn and benefit from the language.

BSL is not the only form of sign language used in the UK, but it is the most common. It includes a finger-spelled English alphabet, but is otherwise quite different from spoken English.

This was a small study, conducted on small groups of adults in a small country, but the researchers believe their results can be validated in future studies.

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Stop Your Snoring and Track Your Sleep With a Wi-Fi Smart Pillow
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REM-Fit

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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iStock

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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