Sunday, May 13, 2018

What You Need To Know About Acid Reflux Pillows

One of the most annoying symptoms of acid reflux disorders that quickly make you miserable is that you are too uncomfortable to sleep.  Not being able to get enough sleep throws the entire body off kilter and can make you more susceptible to new illnesses.  If you’ve already seen your doctor about your problem, he or she may recommend, among things, acid reflux pillows.  These have helped many sufferers of acid reflux, heartburn, and gastroesophogeal reflux disease (GERD) to get a decent night’s sleep.

Acid reflux pillows most often come in a ribbed wedge design, so yes, they can be funny looking.  This peculiar shape keeps your head and neck in place, so hopefully your stomach acid will stay in place, too.  Some acid reflux, GERD and heartburn sufferers have found that by raising their bodies in a comfortable, slight incline, they can get a much more comfortable night’s sleep.  However, you can often fall asleep sitting up, move around in the deep relaxation of sleep and lie flat, thus encouraging the stomach acid to creep back up your throat.  Acid reflux pillows hope to avoid that and keep you in a comfy position all night.  

You can use them alone or with other pillows as well.   Most acid reflux pillows are made of hypoallergenic foam and come with their own pillowcases.  They come in a variety of sizes and accessories.  Some even come with additional wedges to doubly assure that you stay in position.

Where Do I Get One?

Acid reflux pillows are easy to find.  There are many makers and types, so there isn’t just one source that makes them.  You can find them in pharmacies, health stores and even large chain department stores.  And, of course, there are scads of them online.  Although some are sold on online auctions, make sure they are new, so that they are sanitary.  They come in a variety of prices.  

You might want to try a small one to see if you like it, then get a more, or a larger one.  There are even those large enough for the entire body!  You need pillows anyway.  Why not try one that might help your acid reflux, too?  You’ll be multitasking as you sleep.

Do They Work?

Acid reflux pillows are only one weapon in the war against acid reflux.  They don’t cure acid reflux all by themselves.  You still have to take your medicines and follow your doctor’s advice.  For the first few nights you still might not sleep well because your body is just not used to the feel of these pillows yet.  Your body will usually adjust in less than one week.  Sweet dreams.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Naps Powerful Learning Aid for Pre-Schoolers, Says Study

Naps are good for what ails you -- especially if you are a 3-year-old and what ails you is having trouble learning, suggests a University of Arizona study which was published in the latest issue of Child Development. The study recommends that 3-year-olds need 10 hours of sleep every 24 hours.

Study Specifics

39 children were tested altogether. These were considered "normal" 3-year-olds in health and development. They were split into two groups -- habitual nappers (those who have at least 4 naps a week) and non-nappers (those who have three or fewer naps in a week.) A nap was considered to be 30 minutes long.

The kids were taught new verbs and either had a nap afterwards or did not. They were even taught verbs made of nonsense sounds like "blicking" and "rooping." (You mean they're not real words? Anyway --) the kids were tested on their new vocabulary skills 24 hours later. Habitual nappers (who had a nap averaging 1 hour) did much better than the non-nappers.

The Least You Need to Know

Like it or not, those damn kids of yours need naps. This is not the only study to suggest this. A similar study in 2013 at the University of Massachusetts Amhurst tested 40 kids, where some had naps averaging 77 minutes after a learning period and some kids did not have naps. The nappers had 10% better memory retention than the (presumably) cranky non-nappers.

Unfortunately, neither study does not go into how to get a 3-year-old to take a nap.

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, February 12, 2017

When It's Time To Give Up On a CPAP Machine

My Mom suffers from many chronic ailments, including severe sleep apnea. Inevitably, doctors perscibed her a CPAP machine. She tried it for 18 months. It had absolutely no positive effect -- in fact,  it had a lot of negative effects. Some (not all) of her doctors want her to try again. Here's how to tell if your CPAP machine is really a CRAP machine.

As always, do not use this blog post in the place of professional medical advice.

Keeps Taking Off Mask When Asleep

This was the big problem with Mom and her CPAP machine. Her subconscious was just not going to go along with it. It's hard to fix. I'd have to stay wake every time Mom slept or took a nap and stare at her to make sure she wouldn't take the mask off. Not. Gonna. Happen.

Machine or Mask Keeps You Awake

The purpose of a CPAP machine is to get you better sleep. If it's been months and you haven't had any decent sleep since before the machine arrived, no matter how many new masks you've tried, it's time to think about giving up.

You Can No Longer Afford It

There's no sense using a treatment that you cannot afford. I've been homeless and let me tell you -- it's damn hard to lug around a CPAP machine when you're getting chased by alcoholics with the DTs.

You Have Severe Incontinence Issues

This is another problem Mom had. By the time she unhooked herself from the CPAP machine, she'd soaked her undies, nightgown and sometimes the carpet. Mom has bad arthritis, knees and scoliosis. She has to use a walker in the house and so moves slowly. When she got back from the toilet and me cleaning her up, she was too upset to go back to sleep.

You Cannot Clean It Regularly

A CPAP machine needs to have the masks and hoses regularly taken off, cleaned and completely dried before being used again or dangerous mold and bacteria can grow in the warm, moist environment. Cleaning was not a problem for Mom since she had me do it, but it you have mobility issues and don't have a caretaker to clean for you then a CPAP machine may not be the best thing for you.

Image by JoJoJo04 from Wikimedia Commons

How the Common Bed Bug Proves that Evolution is True

We can learn a lot about evolution from the common bedbug. It has vestigial wings, developed a gene change in about 50 years and females adapted one organ to work for reproduction.

The common bed bug (Cimex lectularius) is not only creepy, but provides three lessons in why Charles Darwin was right.  Bed bugs can go through a couple of generations per year, so we are able to see them evolve in out lifetime.  And they aren’t through evolving yet.

These three lessons are in vestigial traits, genetic mutation and modification of an existing body part to do a function that it wasn’t originally intended for. 

Vestigial Wings

Place a bed bug under a microscope and you’ll see along their sides tiny pads that appear like a little like stunted mosquito wings.  Well, that’s because they are wings.  However, after millions of generations of not flying, the wings atrophied and eventually shrunk.  These pads are located exactly where wings would be in other insects such as mosquitoes.

According to Creationism, all species appeared in their current form less than 10,000 years ago.  Creationists tend to state that either vestigial organs do not exist or vestigial organs have functions yet undiscovered.  But Creationism cannot explain why bedbugs needed to lose their wings. 

But evolution can.  The common ancestor bed bugs, bat bugs and swallow bugs fed on cave-dwelling critters such as bats, according to Virginia Tech entomologist Dini M. Miller, PhD.  But when people started dwelling in caves, a new food source was ready to be exploited.  Flying takes up a lot of energy.  By hitching lifts on human goods, clothes and bodies, bed bugs could save energy.

Genetic Resistance to Pesticides

With the sequencing of the bed bug genome, scientists discovered just why bed bugs are resistant to so many pesticides -- they evolved genes to neutralize the pesticides.  Many pesticides like pyrethrins kill by harming nerve cells and paralyzing the insect.  Bed bugs are genetically different from bedbugs fifty years ago.

In an effort to find out why bed bugs are so hard to kill, researchers from Ohio State University located a colony of bed bugs known as the Harlan colony, after the US military’s entomologist that began the colony, Harold Harlan.  The Harlan breeding colony has never been exposed to insecticides.  The genes of these bedbugs were compared to bedbugs from a Columbus, Ohio apartment. 

And the genes were slightly different.  The Columbus bed bugs could produce vast amounts of enzymes which help to break down toxins and flush them from the body.  The Harlan bed bugs did produce this enzyme, but in much lower quantities.  As a result, they are much easier to kill than modern bedbugs.

Female Bed Bugs and Traumatic Insemination

Remember that creatures adapt in order to help the individual survive to pass along its genes and not necessarily adapts for the benefit of the entire species.  This can lead to survival struggles between members of the same species – and takes the battle of the sexes to a whole new level.

Female bed bugs lack sexual organs.  So how do they get pregnant?  The male bed bug wields a hypodermic-like Sexual intormittent organ that pierces the female and pumps sperm directly into a groove in her abdomen.  This process is called, appropriately enough, traumatic insemination.  Females can die from their wounds.

A lot more would die if the female bed bug had not evolved a pseudo-sexual organ called the spermalege.  Thought to be modified from part of the female’s immune system, a spermalege is merely spongy tissue filled with blood-like liquid called hemolymph.  The male bed bug’s organ can only penetrate through parts of a female’s abdomen – not the entire abdomen.

Over the millennia, these injection sites filled with large tissue in order to quickly eliminate any pathogens introduced from the puncture wound.  There is also a theory that the female bed bug’s immune system chooses which sperm lives and kills the rest.


Creationists state that all species alive today were created in one week about 10,000 years ago.  However, the bed bug has gone through genetic changes in just 50 or 60 years.  Bed bugs also have useless wing pads and females have parts of their immune system to act as a sexual organ.  The Creator either has a perverse sense of humor or there was no creation in a week.  Creatures are never done adapting to survive and reproduce in ever changing circumstances.


“Why Evolution is True.” Jerry A. Coyne
Purdue University. “De-Bugging the Bed Bug: Sucking it Up in 2008.” Dini M. Miller. 2008.

National Public Radio.  “Bedbug Genome Reveals Pesticide Resistance.”  Jon Hamilton.  January 19, 2011.

“Costly traumatic insemination and a female counter-adaptation in bed bugs.” Edward H Morrow and Göran Arnqvist.  Proceedings of the Royal Society B:  Biological Science.  November 23, 2003. 270(1531): 2377–2381.

Self-Hypnosis: Now You Are Under Your Own Power

With self-hypnosis, you are giving yourself encouragement and support to do most anything, like get better sleep.  It can take a while to convince yourself that you can and will change, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t change right way.

Henry Ford once said, “If you think you can do a thing or you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”  This one sentence is the secret to learning self-hypnosis, also called “autosuggestion” or “positive reinforcement”.  Although you can certainly go to a certified hypnotherapist, you can also easily learn the same techniques that they employ.  The hard part is whether you can believe that you can change.

Who Needs Self-Hypnosis

If there’s something about you that you need to change, such as quitting smoking, losing weight, having more self-confidence, stop a stutter or sleep better, self-hypnosis can work for you.  You still have to actually do stuff in the real world, such as not smoke or stick to your diet, but many people have found help in doing this with self-hypnosis. 

You are giving yourself encouragement and support.  It can take a while to convince yourself that you can and will change, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t change right way.  Give yourself the same slack as if you were learning a new sport or skill. 

Step One: Relaxation

First off, you need some quiet time where you won’t be disturbed.  Start with fifteen minutes or a half hour.  You can sit up or lie down.  You are actually not going to sleep, just putting yourself in a very relaxed state.  You can use silence, a white noise generator or some soft music, whatever helps you relax and your body to get loose and floppy.  Just let it happen at it’s own pace.

Step Two:  Deepening the Relaxation

Yes, this gets you even more deeply relaxed and open to suggestions.  Some people count down twenty to one, some chant a favorite prayer or poem – silently.  There’s no need to do it out loud.  Doing it out loud might make you tense.

Step Three: Making the Suggestions

This step is pretty self-explanatory.  After you are really relaxed, just repeat quietly to yourself whatever you want to change.  “I am a successful writer,” for example, or “I can be happy without snacking!”  Something short and easily memorized is best.  There is no right or wrong way to know when you are relaxed enough to make the suggestion.  Just let your instinct guide you.  Remember, you are not taking a test on self-hypnosis.  You won’t fail.

Step Four:  Waking Up

Once your positive suggestion is made, you can wake up and rejoin the real world.  Just make another suggestion to wake up, feeling refreshed and full of energy.  You might want to do the opposite of your deepening technique.  If you counted down to deepen your relaxation, count up.  Or you can just say “The alarm is going off now.  Time to get up.”

Step Five:  Practice, Practice, Practice

As you practice, you will find it easier and may be able to take shorter sessions or longer ones.  If you keep falling asleep, perhaps you could just repeat the suggestion to yourself while you are fully awake, even writing the sentence down over and over again.  There is no one way of self-hypnosis technique that works for everyone.

Links to References

Image of Hypnosis statue from Wikimedia Commons

Friday, February 10, 2017

Alprazolam (Xanax®) Withdrawal Symptoms

Having trouble sleeping lately? Have you also stopped taking Xanax?

Alprazolam, sold in generic form but best known by the brand name (Xanax®) can be a powerful tool to help manage symptoms of anxiety disorders.  A patient may be prescribed alprazolam along with cognitive behavior therapy.  The medication can often help a patient calm down enough to fully absorb his or her therapy sessions.

But alprazolam is only prescribed short-term because of the risk of addiction.  This is a class of drug known as a benzodiazepine.  Over prolonged use, usually more than six months, the body becomes tolerant of benzodiazepines.  The body then needs to take more and more pills in order to get the same effect.  The person then becomes addicted.  Xanax® withdrawal symptoms can be painful.

No Cold Turkey

Never stop taking alprazolam suddenly.  Always tell your doctor or therapist that you want to go off alprazolam.  Benzodiazepines need to be tapered off slowly.  If you do not have a pill splitter, ask your pharmacist to split the pills, if necessary. 

Normal Withdrawal Symptoms

Alprazolam withdrawal symptoms differ from person to person.  Common mild but highly annoying withdrawal symptoms to plan ahead for include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

Unless a person is both vomiting and has diarrhea to the point where he or she risks becoming dehydrated, calling a doctor is usually not necessary.  These withdrawal symptoms can start a few hours after the last dose or even occur during a missed dose.  But always consult your doctor if you are worried about these symptoms.

Unusual Withdrawal Symptoms

Some strange but not dangerous symptoms have been reported by some patients, including this writer, as they went through Xanax® withdrawal.  These include:

Sweaty palms or breaking out into a mild sweat
Ringing of the ears or hearing strange noises that no one else can hear
Having a persistent strange taste in the mouth that can last for days

These symptoms should go away in a few days but always contact a medical professional if they either do not go away after a week or if you are very worried about them.

Dangerous Withdrawal Symptoms

These are the worst known alprazolam withdrawal symptoms.  Anyone going cold turkey from alprazolam risks experiencing these symptoms.  Anyone tapering off of any benzodiazepine should have a doctor’s office or trusted friend call the patient every couple of days to see if these symptoms crop up:

  • Seizures
  • Return of panic attacks
  • Hallucinations
  • Heart palpations or a hammering heart
  • Sudden or bizarre personality changes

Contact a doctor immediately.


“The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Controlling Anxiety.” Joni E. Johnston, Psy.D. Alpha Books; 2006.

EMedTV. “Xanax® Withdrawal Symptoms.”

National Anxiety Foundation. “For the Layperson: Dr. Steve’s Guide for Discontinuing Xanax® (Alprazolam.)” Stephen Cox, MD.

Dangers of Combining Prozac and Xanax

Please do not use this article as a substitute for a mental health professional’s diagnosis.

Prozac (fluoxetine) and Xanax (alprazolam) are two of the most prescribed drugs for mental disorders.  Prozac is often prescribed long-term (over six months) while Xanax is prescribed usually prescribed for short term use only due to its highly addictive nature.  Although many patients can take both Prozac and Xanax without problems, for some patients, this combination may worsen their depression or anxiety.

Usual Symptoms

Xanax helps slow down brain function.  There are many advantages to a slowing of brain function, particularly for patients suffering from debilitating panic attacks or flashbacks to traumatic events.  People experience significant physical pain from panic attacks and flashbacks, which only reinforces their fears and makes it hard to shake off the past.  When a patient can be freed from the physical symptoms, it helps them to take in good stimuli and help them with talk therapy. 

But when brain functions are slowed down, people tend to get sleepy.  Antidepressants are notorious for making people sleepy.  However, people on Prozac tend to lose this sleepy feeling after two to four weeks since their first dose.  But taking Xanax on top of Prozac may cause sleepiness or a feeling of all-encompassing fatigue.  Some people adjust and some people do not.

Unusual Symptoms

Medication Madness: The Role of Psychiatric Medications in Cases of Violence (Macmillan; 2009) chronicles many instances of patients reacting badly to a combination of Xanax and Prozac.  They became even more depressed, loss interest in anything, had suicidal thoughts and had more frequent panic attacks or bouts of crippling anxiety.  Some people even became violent or engaged in dangerous activity such as risky sex.

However, some of people of these lurid tales also took other medications such as sleeping pills or drank alcohol – a practice highly discouraged for anyone taking benzodiazepines.

One less dramatic unusual side effect from the mixing of the two drugs is bad constipation.  Constant constipation that lasts more than two weeks can also be a problem, particularly if the constipation also causes painful cramps.  Eventually, a patient will have to taper off of Xanax, but call a doctor to see if a reduction should start sooner than planned.

Proceed With Caution

Everyone reacts differently to prescription drugs – and a combination of prescription drugs.  No matter if a patient has taken Prozac for years without side effects, adding Xanax should be a matter of proceeding with caution.  Since a patient’s brain functions are slowed and they may be battling comorbidities such as migraines or epilepsy, the patient may become easily confused due to fatigue and physical pain.

When any patient is prescribed a new psychiatric medication, the patient needs supervision to be sure unusual symptoms do not develop.  This person needs to be a trusted friend or family member.  If the patient has none, then the doctor’s office should at least call every few days and schedule check up appointments one to four times a month.  Any missed appointments should be a red flag.


Breggin, Peter.  Medication Madness: The Role of Psychiatric Medications in Cases of Violence, Suicide and Crime.  Macmillan; 2009. “Xanax Information.” 2010.

Author’s personal experience

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