Best sleep gadgets

According to a recent study by the National Sleep Foundation, 45 percent of Americans are affected by poor or insufficient sleep. Needless to say, most of us could benefit from more quality winks.

These days, more people are paying attention to the potential benefits of smart sleep technology. BCC Research analyst Natana Raj told that Americans shelled out more than $43 billion on sleep aids and sleep tech in 2016, and that number is on the rise.

Going to the Mattresses

Matrix smart mattress

Any conversation about sleep should begin with the foundation of a good night’s rest: your mattress. These days, however, mattresses offer more than comfort and support; they can deliver data-driven insights about your sleep. Read More “Best sleep gadgets”


Surprising Health Benefits of Sleep

Sleep makes you feel better, but its importance goes way beyond just boosting your mood or banishing under-eye circles.

Adequate sleep is a key part of a healthy lifestyle, and can benefit your heart, weight, mind, and more.

“Sleep used to be kind of ignored, like parking our car in a garage and picking it up in the morning,” says David Rapoport, MD, director of the NYU Sleep Disorders Program.

Not anymore. Here are some health benefits researchers have discovered about a good night’s sleep.


Improve memory

Your mind is surprisingly busy while you snooze. During sleep you can strengthen memories or “practice” skills learned while you were awake (it’s a process called consolidation).

“If you are trying to learn something, whether it’s physical or mental, you learn it to a certain point with practice,” says Dr. Rapoport, who is an associate professor at NYU Langone Medical Center. “But something happens while you sleep that makes you learn it better.”

In other words if you’re trying to learn something new—whether it’s Spanish or a new tennis swing—you’ll perform better after sleeping.

Read More “Surprising Health Benefits of Sleep”

Is It Dangerous to Eat Really Hot Peppers?

It’s standard for spicy food to cause your upper lip to sweat, your nose to run, and your mouth to feel like it’s on fire. But can eating hot peppers mess with your health post-meal? The question is worth considering, especially as the ALS Pepper Challenge (AKA the Ice Bucket Challenge 2.0) gains popularity.

Stars like Kelly Clarkson and Shaquille O’Neal have been spotted swallowing spicy stuff for the challenge, which aims to raise awareness and funds for the neurodegenerative disease. But while we watched them struggle to chomp on crazy hot peppers, we couldn’t help but wonder: What makes chilies so darn fiery and are they even safe to nosh on in excess? Here, we pepper nutritionist Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, with all our burning questions. Read the below before you eat a heap of habañeros.

What makes peppers so hot?

The main compound that gives chilies their signature kick is a phytonutrient called capsaicin. “Capsaicin attaches to the receptors on the taste buds that detect temperature and sends signals of spicy heat to the brain,” explains Bazilian, who’s also the author of Eat Clean, Stay Lean.

The amount of heat a pepper packs has to do with the level of capsaicin it contains. To figure out how spicy a certain type of hot pepper is, adventurous eaters can refer to the Scoville scale, which ranks varieties from most to least spicy based on their capsaicin concentration. The scale ranges from standard bell peppers that have no capsaicin to ghost peppers and the Trinidad scorpion–the spiciest chilies around.

Dangers of eating hot peppers

“It’s a bit of a myth that hot peppers can actually create physical damage to the esophagus or tongue,” says Bazilian. But that doesn’t mean there are no dangers associated with noshing on fiery foods. Why? When we eat very hot peppers, the brain receives “pain” signals that can result in an upset stomach, nausea, or vomiting, says Bazilian. The stomach reacts as if you’ve consumed a toxic substance and works to release whatever was just eaten–i.e. spicy peppers–stat.

“If vomiting occurs, the acid that comes up from the stomach can irritate the esophagus,” explains Bazilian. Depending how hot a pepper is, that irritation can cause serious damage. Back in October 2016, one man actually burned a hole in his esophagus after consuming (and subsequently retching) ghost peppers during an eating contest. Other potential reactions to eating super-spicy peppers include numbness and breathing difficulties.

Health benefits of hot peppers

To complicate things, eating hot peppers can also deliver health benefits. Research suggests that certain capsaicin-rich ingredients, like cayenne pepper, can help eaters slim down by curbing appetite and revving the body’s calorie-burning abilities. What’s more, cayenne has also been shown to help clear sinuses, ease pain, and curb the growth of some bacteria.

To reap the benefits of hot peppers, choose varieties that aren’t too high on the Scoville scale and consume them in tasty meals, rather than straight up. “This way the impact on the tongue, esophagus, and stomach is less, too,” says Bazilian.

Things to Do When You Can’t Sleep Because Your Mind Is Racing

We’ve all had nights when we lie awake in bed, unable to quiet our racing thoughts. There are plenty of reasons why sleep may be evading you—maybe you had caffeine too late in the afternoon, for example, or you’ve been staring at your laptop screen for hours and haven’t given yourself time to wind down before bed.

These are things to keep in mind for improving future nights of sleep, of course. But what if it’s too late to make those changes tonight, and you’re already paying the wide-awake consequences? Or what if you’ve done everything “right” leading up to bedtime, and you still find yourself tossing and turning?

“It’s very common for people to report being physically tired, but not being able to shut their mind off, especially if they’re very excited or worried about something,” says James Findley, PhD, clinical director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.

It can be difficult to quiet those racing thoughts, says Findley, but there are some tricks that may help your brain override rumination so you can drift off to sleep. Here are a few to try next time insomnia strikes.


Make a to-do list

“Worries keep people awake, and they don’t have to be negative worries,” says Findley. “It could also be something positive you’re planning, like a trip or a big event with a lot of things you have to remember.” Spending time during the day or earlier in the evening to sit and address those concerns may help, he says—but if it’s too late for that, grab a notebook and try physically writing them down in a list for the next day.

A recent study found that writing out a to-do list of future tasks helped people fall asleep nine minutes faster than people who wrote about tasks they’d already accomplished that day. (The longer and more detailed the participants’ lists, the faster they fell asleep.) It may seem counterintuitive that focusing on tomorrow’s responsibilities would lead to faster sleep, but researchers think the act of getting them down on paper helps clear the mind and stop rumination, at least temporarily.

Woman on couch at night

Get out of bed

Staying in bed and trying to make yourself fall asleep is a bad idea, says Cormac O’Donovan, MD, associate professor of neurology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, because it may train your brain to associate your bed and your bedroom with insomnia and worries—which will only make the problem worse over time. Instead, if you lie awake for more than 20 to 30 minutes, get out of bed and do something else.

“If you’re trying to sleep and your brain’s not letting you, it could just be that you’re going to bed too early,” says Dr. O’Donovan. Conventional wisdom may tell you that you need eight hours of sleep, “but everyone is different, and some people’s bodies only demand six or seven,” he says. Staying up until you’re truly tired can help you find a sleep pattern that works best for you, as long as you can still wake up in the morning without a problem.