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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Health Watch

(Hat tip: Mom)

Two interesting links from my mother, both in the Wall Street Journal... the first one is important to everybody, the second may be good for many bloggers (hmm, I wonder who this may apply to...).

Storing Medical Information:

The Problem: Personal information isn't immediately available in a medical emergency.

The Solution: Store it on your cellphone or hand-held device. You can enter critical information -- such as names of physicians, emergency contacts, insurance, prescriptions you are taking and any allergies you have -- yourself. Use your phone's memo function, which will save it in your address book. Medical personnel are increasingly trained to check a cellphone's address book for contact info.

There's more, with some new inexpensive ways of keeping such info being sold online. Click the link for more.

Sleep issues:

Staying up late and sleeping until noon usually seems like normal teenage behavior.

But there's increasing concern among doctors that many teens may actually be suffering from a little-known sleep disorder. The problem, called delayed sleep phase syndrome, isn't well known and is often underdiagnosed, but it may afflict anywhere from 360,000 to several million teens and young adults, according to a 2004 review article in the medical journal Sleep. One of the gravest concerns, researchers say, is that it is often misdiagnosed as attention deficit disorder, depression or a behavioral problem that is treated with prescription drugs. The sleep disorder, however, can usually be treated without drugs.

DSPS is believed to be the result of the body's internal clock -- called the circadian system -- getting stuck in the wrong place, causing kids to stay up late. As kids enter puberty, circadian rhythms that affect sleep begin to change, which is why most kids' bedtimes shift about an hour later as they get older. But for reasons no one understands, some kids experience more dramatic changes as their internal clocks shift forward too far. Those kids can't fall asleep until the early hours of the morning, but still have to get up early for school, so they have to get by on just a few hours of sleep each night.

There are plenty of people, particularly teens and young adults, who have trouble with sleeping at normal times. I can't imagine any bloggers who have this problem, posting in the wee hours of the morning, catching just a few hours of sleep a night... but check out the whole article. It's very interesting. I've actually done the 'stay up, change the sleep cycle' routine many times, though I do it in one shot (by staying up straight through for 2 days). The problem is, that works for about 2 days before you get yourself right back to the late schedule again.

I've often wondered whether for someone like me it makes much of a difference; I function quite well on an average of about 5 hours a night, and so what if they're at weird hours? Is it that most people need 7+ to function, but if you're fine without it, then it doesn't make a difference; or is it unhealthy in the long-term for someone to live years on an average of 5 hours? Anybody know?

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