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Could Holiday Meals be Alleviating your Sleep Problems?

Author: Nick Ryan

With the holiday season upon us, chances are you have already begun to make plans to spend extra time with family, exchange gifts, or take some time off from work. Though different, all of these activities tend to have one thing in common: food. You might be tempted to write these meals off as an unnecessary splurge and something that you’ll regret in the coming weeks, but could these holiday feasts actually be helping your sleep?

An article published in the scientific journal ‘Nutritional Neuroscience’ seems to point towards the answer being yes. Researchers Craig Hudson, et al. published their findings over the amino acid tryptophan, which can be found in many of the common foods that we consume (this is the infamous compound responsible for making you tired after eating turkey). After completing a study over tryptophan’s effects on insomnia, the researchers concluded that “protein rich in tryptophan can relieve insomnia provided it is combined with a high glycemic index carbohydrate.” (Hudson).

In laymen’s terms, this means that if you are an individual who suffers from insomnia, eating foods high in tryptophan (such as poultry or other common foods) in conjunction with a carbohydrate, may actually help to relieve you of your sleep problems. The researchers even went as far as stating that “Protein source tryptophan is comparable to pharmaceutical grade tryptophan for the treatment of insomnia” (Hudson).

This is a very interesting study, and I would highly recommend reading the full publication, found here:

-Nick Ryan


Craig Hudson, Susan Patricia Hudson, Tracy Hecht & Joan MacKenzie (2005) Protein source tryptophan versus pharmaceutical grade tryptophan as an efficacious treatment for chronic insomnia, Nutritional Neuroscience, 8:2, 121-127, DOI: 10.1080/10284150500069561


Okay, guys – we have to address the elephant in the room. Corona… virus. COVID-19, more commonly known as the Coronavirus, has literally taken the world by storm. From China, Japan and North Korea, to Egypt, throughout Europe, and now here in the good old US of A, we are faced with this disease.

Here is what we know about the virus:

It is originally discovered in the 1960’s in chickens, so it is not something that was recently discovered. This “flare up” popped up in China late last year carried by, you guessed it, chickens. All birds are subject to carrying this disease, but it has mostly been found in chickens. It should be noted that this virus can spread to other mammals as well, meaning your household pets.

Transmission of the disease is what has people in a frenzy. It can be spread through respiratory droplets like coughing or sneezing. If there was ever a time to practice sanitation, it’s now (although, this is something that should be done all the time, not just when there is an international crisis!!)

If you happen to suffer from year-round allergies, like me, you may get dirty looks from your coworkers – they’re just worried that you’re sick, don’t take it personally. Let them know it’s nothing out the norm, just allergies and be sure to either thoroughly wash your hands (this means 30-45 seconds at the bare minimum) or utilize your hand sanitizer.

It seems that older adults are the ones who are being diagnosed with the virus. There is not a whole lot of information regarding pregnant women and younger children, however extreme caution should be taken regarding this particular demographic.

Let’s be real, y’all, ain’t nobody got time for this coronavirus nonsense. PLEASE WASH YA HANDS! Please be sure to educate your children on the importance of proper sanitation protocol. Please be aware of the people surrounding you.

Narcolepsy vs. Sleep Apnea

When I first started working at Monitor Medical and learning all about sleep apnea, one of my initial thoughts was ‘what the difference between this and narcolepsy, they sound pretty similar.’ The simple answer, which I now know, is that a person who suffers from sleep apnea can stop breathing throughout the night which will more than likely lead to daytime sleepiness and other symptoms compared to that of someone who says that they are sleeping well and just falls asleep anywhere at any time (I guess it’s not really all that simple after all!). Now while that sounds like two different things, you’d be surprise to learn just how similar these two sleep disorders are.

Beginning with signs and symptoms – both disorders include symptoms of excessive daytime sleepiness. Although, I think those who suffer from narcolepsy worry about this symptom much more than those who have sleep apnea due to the fact that they can literally fall asleep anywhere, at any time. Narcolepsy does not discriminate when it comes to when it hits, it doesn’t care if you are in the car on the way to work, or in a very important meeting; when it hits, it hits and there is pretty much nothing you can do about it.
Another thing that both disorders have in common is sleep paralysis. You know that feeling when you’re tucked away in bed comfortably, and then all of sudden it feels as though someone has pulled the rug out from under you and you’re falling? You wake up right after and sort of move around, right, and then you’re no longer falling? Can you imagine not being able to move? Imagine being frozen in that moment. You’re not able to bring yourself out of that moment. Can you imagine how scary that is? Sleep paralysis doesn’t last for more than a few minutes, but those few minutes can seem like a lifetime when you’re not able to do anything about.

I think the scariest part of narcolepsy is the sudden loss of muscle tone. Scientifically known as cataplexy, this can take the form of slurred speech to weakened muscles. Like sleep paralysis, the lose of muscle tone only lasts a few minutes. Not all individuals who suffer from narcolepsy experience the loss of muscle tone; these ‘episodes’ can also be as rare to occur one to two times a year or be a daily occurrence.
There are a few more symptoms that are more directly related to narcolepsy, however I feel as though we have discussed the most serious ones. Now, it is important to note that patients can suffer from one or both of these sleep disorders at the same time, but having one does not necessarily mean you will have the other. It’s not something that goes hand-in-hand. Being that we are in the business of sleep, it’s good to be aware of the different disorders that are similar to sleep apnea and how they are different.

Weighted Therapy

I have been doing a lot of research into different solutions to help my fall asleep fast and stay asleep longer. While I do enjoy the benefits of melatonin, I do not want to develop a dependency on it despite it being a safe over the counter drug. I have had a few acquaintances mentioned that they have a weighted blanket and has changed their sleeping game for the better, I thought it would be worth my time to look into how it can help me.

Insomnia: the inability to sleep. It is estimated that over 40 million people suffer from insomnia, ya girl being on of them. However, using a weighted blanket might be the answer. According to researchers, deep touch pressure stimulation (essentially, a gentle pressure –that provided by a weighted blanket) releases serotonin, the chemical that regulates sleep. The weighted blanket is supposed to help improve your quality of sleep as well – that’s a major plus, right?
Reducing anxiety and stress: It seems that deep touch pressure stimulation therapy is also good for helping to alleviate the stress and anxiety that you feel at times. The blanket acts as if there is actually someone around hugging you. I am a firm believer that hugs make the world go round, so I love a good hug. It really can make a difference in your mood when you are feeling like the world is collapsing. It seems that this therapy has proven to be effective for those who also suffer from ADHD. The pressure from the blanket is thought to help ADHD sufferers concentrate a little better on the task that they are preforming.
RLS and Fibromyalgia Pain: Doctors recommend compression socks for their patients who suffer from restless leg syndrome because the compression is supposed to lessen the frequency of the tingly feeling that RLS encompasses. However, their patient often complain about the uncomfortable feeling that they feel due to the compression socks. Please enter your weight blanket; it will provide the same effective as the compression socks, with maximum comfort. The constant pressure from the blanket provides relief without the constriction that you may feel from the socks. I know that RLS and Fibromyalgia are two completely different illnesses, but the weighted blankets provides the same benefits for those who suffer from either illnesses.
Now, my favorite benefit provided by the use of the weighted blanket is not human related at all – it’s a wonderful solutions for our favorite furry friends. I know that cats are particular when it comes to cuddling and other furry things, so this may not be a good idea for them, but if you know me, you know that I am partial to dogs, so this is truly who it is meant for. My furry friend is among the majority that do not take well to sirens (police or ambulances) or fireworks. While I enjoy every moment that I can spend cuddling with dog, I hate that he’s frightened by these things. The weighted blanket works for dogs as it does for humans; so just like us, when having a panic or stress attach, the weighted therapy makes things seem better, it provides a sense of calm and comfort to our fur babies.

Of course, there are numerous other benefits to using a weighted blanket. You can find more information here and even purchase one should you want to benefit from its use as well:

Getting Started

Many times we get patient’s calling in asking how they should proceed with getting a setup on a new machine. This will be their first machine, they’ve endured a sleep test, and now they have no idea how to proceed. Here at Monitor Medical it’s a fairly simple process. Here is a break down of how the process should go an ideal world:

Step One: Feeling sleepy? Your significant other complaining about your snoring? Falling asleep at your desk or behind the wheel? Consult your doctor!

Step Two: Your doctor will then send you to have a sleep study where you will discover that you stop breathing during the night, hence diagnosing you with sleep apnea.

Step Three: Your doctor sends your results and prescription to us so that we can get your setup with the machine.

Step Four: We verify your insurance and discuss your benefits with you. You come in, get educated on the machine, and then take it home.

Step Five: No more sleep apnea!

Unfortunately, we live in the real world and things aren’t always sunshine and rainbows; meaning, we experience a few (or a lot of) hiccups along the way. Now, the first few steps are the same; it’s step three and onward that can start to get tricky.

Depending on what insurance you have, there are certain things that are required. Most commercial insurances (basically, everything except Medicare) require a valid RX and sleep study in order to get setup. An office visit note discussing your sleep apnea is also required, typically something recent – around the same time your prescription was written. If we do not receive that information we have to go back and forth with the doctor’s office requesting the necessary paperwork.

If you’re a Medicare patient, the required paperwork is much more extensive. Putting it nicely, Medicare is ridiculously particular when it comes to verbiage on the required paperwork. If it does not specifically say ‘patient is benefiting from and should continue using machine’ they will deny the insurance claim and you will be stuck with an 800 (sometimes more!) dollar bill. I know I would hate for that to happen to me, so I would also hate for that to happen to you!

When someone from the company tells you that we are working on obtaining the paperwork required by your insurance, we really are doing our best to obtaining that as quickly as possible! I am not putting the blame on anyone, but it is all about communication – between us and your doctor’s office and between us and you, our patients.

As you can tell, getting setup up is not always a walk in the park, but we do our best to work as quickly as possible to get you setup with your new machine. Of course we know that you are needing this therapy to get a good nights sleep and live your best life, and we want nothing more than to help you do that.

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