A substitute for coffee?

July 27, 2012

On WorldMag Community today, someone asked about help for insomnia. I rather facetiously suggested having a baby, as I found that after Zach was born I was so sleep-deprived that I never had trouble falling asleep anymore. I was so prone to nodding off, I had to start drinking coffee to keep from falling asleep while I was driving.

Today I was experiencing the usual mid-afternoon slump (made worse by not having gotten a full night’s sleep the last few days – I no longer have a baby to cure my insomnia). I IM’d a co-worker who agreed that it would be great to have a comfy couch to curl up on for a nap. In lieu of that, I got a cup of coffee. She got an apple.

An apple? Since when does that combat sleepiness? She sent me a link to a blog post explaining it. Unfortunately I had no apples handy to test it out. After I finished my coffee, I had a mug of cranberry apple herb tea, but my co-worker agreed that it probably didn’t have enough apple in it to perk me up.

I admit I’m still somewhat skeptical. The idea certainly shows up in a lot of places on the internet, but then, that’s the internet for you. I read one article that claims “According to the MythBusters Web site, a healthy alternative to drinking coffee is eating a full apple every morning.”

I give a certain amount of credence to the MythBusters because they show how they go about testing each hypothesis. But I couldn’t find anything about this topic under the Food section of their Myth Results. The only thing I could find on the Mythbusters website about apples vs caffeine was in a forum where people suggest myths to be busted.

I’m inclined to agree with the person who commented “I think that if Apples were a stimulant on the order of coffee someone would have noticed a couple of centuries ago.” But I hope Adam, Jamie, and crew will consider taking on this myth.

I don’t see apples featured in the MythBusters Fall 2012 preview. But then, trying to stay awake isn’t nearly as dramatic as blowing things up. So maybe at some point I’ll get to see them tackle apples vs caffeine. If I can stay awake long enough to watch the show…


Breathing through a mask

February 20, 2011

Last night I had my not-so-eagerly anticipated second sleep study, in which I had to use a CPAP machine and decide which style of mask I preferred. For the first sleep study, I found it uncomfortable enough having so many wires attached to me that I was afraid to move around very much. Add to that a mask over my face, connected to a machine on a table by a flexible hose – how was I ever going to get to sleep?

A few years ago my husband had persuaded me to try his CPAP machine, as he suspected I also had sleep apnea, but I found I simply could not sleep with that thing over my face. I told myself I could breathe just fine, but there was something about having my mouth and nose covered that made me very nervous. The longer I lay there trying to relax, the more wide awake and irrationally frightened I felt, until finally I pulled it off. I might not sleep deeply, due to the apnea, but at least with my face open to the air I could get to sleep.

I’ve never had a problem with claustrophobia, so my reaction surprised me. When I went on a business trip to St. Louis some fifteen years ago, I went up to the top of the Gateway Arch, and you sit in a pod that people have compared to a large clothes dryer. It didn’t faze me in the least. Nor did I have any trouble being inside an MRI machine (though, to my disappointment, the MRI didn’t show why my knee bothered me the way it did).

When I read Amanda Ripley’s The Unthinkable recently, I found another explanation for my problem with the mask on my face. In her chapter about panic, she recounts the drowning death of a scuba diver who pulled out his air regulator and refused to put it back in. The conscious mind knows that this thing in the mouth is the source of life-giving air. But the instinct of a land-dwelling creature is to leave the mouth clear in order to breathe. In a panic, instinct takes over.

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Wired for sleep

December 4, 2010

The sleep technician told me that by the time she was done hooking me up for the sleep study, I would look like a suicide bomber. Do I? (I imagine they avoid putting wires on their faces; it would call way too much attention to them.)

She took the picture for me on my cell phone, and it didn’t come out very clearly, but you can see the multitude of wires that she had connected to my head, chest, and legs. You don’t actually wear that box during the night, but it has to be portable like that (it’s hanging on a loop around my neck) so that you can get up during the night to go to the bathroom, as I had to.

Not surprisingly, it took a while to get to sleep, between being in an unfamiliar bed and having all that stuff connected to me. (At one point I did manage to dislodge the wire under my nose that was supposed to monitor if I stopped breathing.) But by morning I was surprisingly comfortable and felt reasonably well-rested.

The doctor will have to review the report, but the technician said I would probably be diagnosed with sleep apnea. I remember waking up twice, but she said I woke up quite a few times. My oxygen saturation level, which is supposed to be at least 95%, dipped to 86% once, and more often to 90%. For a couple hours I had few “incidents” (I’m not sure exactly what defines an incident), but at other times I had one after another.

I didn’t read up about sleep studies ahead of time, since I wasn’t worried about what it would be like. But now that it’s done (for now – there will likely be a follow-up study using a CPAP machine), I find it very interesting to find out what all those wires were doing.

The electrodes on my head measured brain waves. Electrodes around my eyes recorded eye movements. Electrodes around my chin measured muscle tone. And the ones on my torso measured my heart rate. The straps around my chest and abdomen monitored muscle movement during breathing. The sensors on my legs detected leg movements.

The one that surprised me was the sensor on my finger. I had assumed it was measuring my pulse, but now I read that it is what measured my blood oxygen level. I had noticed the red light in the sensor, but I had thought of it as being similar to the indicator lights on my computer. Apparently, however, it is an infrared device, measuring the color of the blood through the fingernail (more blue = less oxygen).

But as interesting as it was, I’m looking forward to spending tonight in my own bed.

My kind of contest

October 22, 2010

I don’t know if you can tell it from my posts, but I’ve been tired a lot lately. When I try to think what to blog about, little comes to mind because I just can’t seem to come up with the energy or ambition to think a lot of deep thoughts, tackle challenging books, or even continue the online German lessons I was going to write about once I got further along (past the elementary stuff that’s mostly review from when I studied German a long time ago).

My husband thinks I have sleep apnea, and wants me to get a sleep study. (I have an appointment with the doctor on Tuesday.) I’ve had friends who were diagnosed with sleep apnea, and getting a CPAP machine dramatically increased their energy levels as they finally got a good night’s sleep. I’m not looking forward to the prospect of sleeping with a mask over my face (I never thought of myself as claustrophobic until I tried using my husband’s CPAP machine and mask, and couldn’t sleep at all because I was so desperate to rip that thing off my face). But it sure would be nice to have more energy.

In the meantime, though, I’d love to be able to participate in a contest like the one going on in Madrid right now. Concerned that the national tradition of taking a siesta at midday is disappearing, the National Association of Friends of the Siesta is sponsoring a siesta competition. In a busy shopping center, contestants take 20 minute naps on comfy blue sofas.

The intricate rules award points to contestants depending on how long they sleep during the 20-minute competition time, any unusual positions they sleep in, eye-catching pajamas they might be wearing, and yes, a lot of extra points for snoring.

I don’t know whether I could get to sleep quickly enough to win on points, but I’d be happy to get some eye-catching pajamas if it meant catching a quick snooze at lunchtime. I lie on my side to get to sleep, but inevitably wake later lying on my back with my arms crossed over my chest – like a corpse, my husband complains. Would that get me some points, do you think? He says I snore, too – though I doubt it’s a loud as he does sometimes.

I’ve wondered, sometimes, how much life in Spain has changed since I was there in the early 1980’s. I know the economy has become more modernized, which means in general higher productivity, more opportunities to trade with the rest of Europe, and presumably a higher standard of living. (An acquaintance there in 1983 was surprised when I spoke of the difficulty of making ends meet with my $3000 annual stipend as a part-time “intern” teacher the year before. He knew men raising a family on that much money.)

But that modernization also means more time pressure, and in many businesses an end to the two- or three-hour midday break that was the norm when I was there. We students got out of classes at 1 PM for lunch, and didn’t have to be back until 4 PM. When I had lived with a Spanish family in Valencia two years earlier, that meant I could go home for a hearty midday meal. In Madrid, renting a room in an apartment, it meant going to one of many inexpensive restaurants with friends from school.

What I couldn’t do much during the extended lunch break was run errands. Banks were closed. Offices were closed. Many stores were closed. I don’t know how many people actually took a nap then, but few places conducted business as usual during siesta time.

I’m a long way from Madrid now, though, and even if the pace of life is somewhat more relaxed in rural Iowa than back east where I lived until twelve years ago, no one I know is sponsoring a sleep contest nearby. If I hear of one, though, I’ll be glad to sign up.