What is Pickwickian Syndrome?

Charles Dickens is best known for his characters Tiny Tim, Ebenezer Scrooge, the Artful Dodger, Nicholas Nickleby and David Copperfield. But perhaps his most influential character was Joe the “fat boy” in Dickens’s first novel The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club.

You say you’ve never heard of Joe or the novel? You’re not alone because it doesn’t get read every year at the holidays nor is it a regular part of school curriculum. However, the reason why Joe is an influential Dickens character is that the author’s description of his physical attributes prompted researchers to name a medical condition after him.

Take a Deep Breath

Dickens paints Joe the “fat boy” as a young man who is quite large and continually falls asleep regardless of where he is, what’s happening around him or even what he’s doing. It’s this combination of being severely overweight and having a propensity to doze off that led experts to identify the pickwickian syndrome, a variation of sleep apnea.

More commonly referred to today as obesity hypoventilation syndrome (OHS), the condition affects extremely obese individuals who exceed the medically recommended weight per height by 20 or more percent. Carrying that weight carries a lot of health complications, including heart disease, diabetes, and sleep apnea, which are interruptions in breathing while asleep. And when you do not sleep well night after night, the cumulative effects can further complicate your health.

OHS is more involved than just a few seconds of not breathing. Rather, one’s breathing becomes chronically compromised, with respiration falling below normal levels. In serious OHS cases, blood oxygen levels begin dropping and that can trigger the small vessels that feed oxygen into the lungs to constrict. This then increases pressure, which eventually can place stress on the heart.

Another consequence of chronically decreasing breathing ability is an gradual increase of carbon dioxide in the blood because your body is less capable of expelling it from the lungs efficiently.

CPAPOther OHS and sleep apnea side effects include:

• sleepwalking

• anxiety

• irritability

• lower sex drive

• memory loss

Feeling Better

Probably the most effective treatment for OHS is to lose weight so your body mass index (BMI) hits within the recommended ranges, and to manage that healthy weight for the long term. As the pounds drop off, your body should become more efficient at distributing oxygen and expelling carbon dioxide.

Or your physician may recommend you wear a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device while you sleep. This machine uses forced air to keep your airways open and prevent breathing interruptions.

In extreme cases, surgery may be prescribed. Children diagnosed with pediatric obesity hypoventilation syndrome may undergo adenotonsillectomy to remove tonsils and adenoids. Adults may be advised to pursue bariatric surgery to aid the weight-loss process.

Professional Guidance

Dickens may have created Joe the “fat boy” as an unexpected farce to keep readers interested, but there’s nothing farcical about breathing disorders induced by obesity. If you have concerns regarding your health, always consult your physician.

What’s a Latex Mattress?

When you hear the word “latex,” do you automatically think about things like gloves, shower curtains and rubber bands? Bet mattresses don’t pop to mind, after all, isn’t latex a rubbery substance? Yes it is, but mattress manufacturers have figured out a way to turn it into a comfortable sleep surface.

Read on to learn more about how latex mattresses differ from others and what to look for if you’re interested in buying one for yourself.

The Lowdown on Latex

First things first: There’s natural latex and synthetic latex. The natural is derived from the sap of rubber trees. This became such a valuable resource for the production of military equipment during World War II that its use in consumer products virtually disappeared during this period. To compensate, researchers developed a synthetic version out of petrochemicals. Both versions are used today to manufacture mattresses.

Latex mattressThere are two different manufacturing processes for a natural latex mattress. Both start with sap collection, which is normally still done by hand. It’s then passed through a filter to remove undesirable matter. From there, the sap, is poured into molds where it’s emulsified with water and air bubbles. Next, the mixture is heated and vulcanized, which is when it changes from a liquid to a solid, but retains some of its flexible nature.

The Dunlop manufacturing operation pretty much follows the above method, whereas the Talalay process adds a flash-freeze procedure between molding and heating to trap smaller air bubbles. The difference is that Talalay results in a softer feel. Some sleepers like that added comfort and others miss the stronger core of a Dunlop mattress. For a happy medium between the two, opt for a combination mattress: a Dunlop core for support and a Talalay top layer for a soft touch close to the body.

Latex Highlights

According to online retailers and reviewers, there are some significant differences between synthetic and natural latex. The higher the natural content in a mattress, the more hypo-allergenic, anti-bacterial and anti-dust mite characteristics it has. It’s also resistant to mold and mildew and has very little gas-off like other mattresses. This makes natural a great option for allergy sufferers.

In terms of sleep comfort, it comes down to personal preferences, but both synthetic and latex tend to offer a unique combination of firmness and elasticity compared with traditional spring construction. Because of its manufacturing process, the material is actually quite dense for good support, but its rubbery nature gives it a buoyancy people enjoy. Also the inherent elastic characteristic helps the mattress maintain its shape and form. It’s not memory foam, but it should not get packed down over time. Finally, it doesn’t sleep “hot,” meaning it helps keep occupants cool in summer and warm in winter.

Selection Criteria

So now that you know more about latex mattresses, and you’re convinced it’s the type you want, you’re ready to go shopping—but wait, there are a few more things to consider:

• Decide if you want all natural, all synthetic or a combination. Many think you’ll be better off going all natural. If it’s being sold as “blend” then it’s not all natural.

• The next decision is do you want a completely Dunlop mattress, Talalay mattress or combination? If you want the support of a Dunlop core and the comfort of a Talalay top, just make sure the combination model you choose doesn’t have a lot of “zones” or cut-up designs. The fewer of these the less shifting experienced over time. Instead, look for unglued, interchangeable layers that could possibly be customized to meet your specific needs.

• Whichever model you select, make sure it has a covering, preferably one that “breathes.” Although these have to have flame resistant by law, some retardants are chemical-heavy and don’t leave a lot of breathing space. A wool mattress cover is usually a good choice.

• Always, without a doubt, demand a comfort guarantee. Basically this is a grace period during which you can return the mattress for whatever reason. Ask for a minimum 60 days, but 90 is even better. Also, make sure you can receive a full refund if you change your mind and not just a store credit…and get it in writing.

The Stages of Sleep

Of all the phenomena that we experience on a daily basis, sleep is one of the least understood and most studied of all.  When you sleep, the body goes through a series of stages as it shuts down and enters a period of inactivity.  There are four primary stages of sleep, which we will discuss in detail below.  Knowing the stages of sleep will help you get a better sleep overall, and pave the way to you getting the most out of your day.

Need for sleep

Just why do we sleep anyway?  Scientists have been searching for an answer for some time, to no clear conclusion.  It’s no secret that we need it.  Prolonging the need for sleep a few hours in one night can have your body paying for it.  But why exactly do we?  There are a few different theories that scientists have put together.  One theory is that sleep is a survival mechanic that encourages us to becoming inactive at night, when survival is the most dangerous.  Another theory puts out that sleep gives the body a period of inactivity to conserve the energy that the body needs to survive.  Probably the most discussed and most likely theory is that the body uses sleep as a period to restore and rebuild.  In a sense it helps the body maintain itself through the daily grind of life.  This theory also hold the most weight, as you need less and less sleep the older you get.  Whatever the reason, we definitely need it.

Types of SleepSleep

There are two primary groups of sleep that all other stages of sleep are subgroups of.  They are NREM, or Non-rapid Eye Movement sleep, and REM, or Rapid Eye Movement sleep.  NREM sleep consists of the stages 1-4 of sleep, while REM follows the four stages.  Once REM sleep occurs, the entire cycle starts over again, beginning at stage 1 again.

Once your body begins to prepare itself for sleep, it begins producing what are called Beta Waves.  These brain waves relax the brain and begin slowing down bodily funtions.  Once the brain and body begin to slow down, the brain begins producing Alpha Waves, which are slower than Beta Waves.

Once your body begins producing Alpha waves, the brain moves into Stage 1 of sleep.  Stage 1 is an extremely light stage of sleep, and one can be woken easily.  Stage 1 is characterized by the production of Theta Waves.  As this stage is more of a transitional stage between wakefulness and sleep, most people won’t even perceive it as being asleep.  This stage typically lasts from five to ten minutes.  This is the best stage of sleep to wake up during.  Waking up during this stage of sleep will feel natural, and allow you get get up and go about your day easily.

Stage 2 lasts for around twenty minutes, and is characterized by the brain’s production of sleep spindles.  Sleep spindles are rapid, sudden, and rhythmic bursts of brain waves.  As these sleep spindles are created, the heart rate begins to slow and body temperature begins lowering.

Stage 3 is characterized by the production of delta waves.  Delta waves are the slowest of the brain waves produced during sleep.  During the stage the individual finally begins to reach a state of deep sleep.  Environmental stimuli will often fail to generate a response, and if the person is woken up, they will experience a state of discomfort and confusion.

The fourth and final stage of sleep is known as Stage 4.  During this stage, the body transitions into REM sleep.  During REM sleep, the muscles of the body become increasingly relaxed, while the brain becomes more active than ever.  This phenomenon is referred to as paradoxical sleep.  Because of the increased brain activity during this stage, dreaming usually occurs.  Because stage 4 is the heaviest stage of sleep, it is by far the worst stage to wake up during.  Waking up during stage 4 will result in heavy grogginess and a lack of energy.

After REM sleep occurs, the body reverts itself back to stage 1 and goes through the cycle again.  This process is known as the sleep cycle.  Throughout the night the body goes through periods of NREM and REM multiple times.  This is normal and is necessary for a healthy sleep.