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Watch out for the flu bug

Winter is just around the corner and there's not a darned thing any of us can do about it. Some people, especially those in northern climes, are more affected by the ice and snow than folks farther south.

Winter can be a joyous season - skiing, skating, snowmobiling, Christmas. Softly falling snow can be beautiful and so can the sun glinting off the drifts.

But if you suffer from any of the winter-based illnesses, then the season is anything but a winter wonderland. While others are out enjoying winter sports and the beauty of the countryside, you are cooped up inside wrapped in a blanket, feeling miserable.

Everyone has suffered from a cold or the flu sometime in his or her life. In fact, no doubt more than once. It's not pleasant for anyone, but it's even worse for anyone suffering from a sleep disorder.

Imagine trying to use your CPAP when you're all stuffed up and full of mucus.

Those with insomnia finally manage to fall asleep only to be rudely awakened by a coughing spell or a stuffed up nose. The slight fever so common in these ailments can make dreams and nightmares worse. And you're up and down half the night because you're too hot, or too cold, thirsty or in need of medication.

Every year it seems the flu bug becomes stronger. Different strains make it hard to deal with. My advice to you is to get a flu shot, the sooner the better, especially if you suffer from a sleep disorder or chronic health condition.

Don't Be Sad

S.A.D - Seasonal Affective Disorder, is more common in the northern States and Canada although it does surface farther south occasionally.  Brought on primarily by a lack of sunlight during the short, dull days of winter, it can be downright depressing. And, in fact, it is considered a form of depression. This depression has many names - cabin fever, winter blues, the doldrums.

The symptoms include:

  • Depression  - A need for more sleep even though you are sleeping well
  • Lack of energy - Listlessness, lethargy
  • Weight gain - A craving for high carbohydrate and/or fatty foods
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • General malaise 

In some people the attacks are very mild and of short duration.

For others, from mid-October until May, they are so depressed they may even become suicidal. The weight gain caused by eating sweets and fatty foods only adds to the problem.

How about treatment?  Well, there are a few things that might help:

  • Increase the light in your home.
  • Go for walks, especially on bright days.
  • Exercise - This is important. It helps to get rid of depression and of the excess weight you've gained.  
  • Don't sleep your life away. Remember, you're a human, not a bear.
  • Watch what you eat. - Avoid excess sweets and fatty foods
  • Take a vacation -  If all else fails and you can afford the time and the money, warm, sunny country.
  • And remember - If winter comes, can spring be far behind?


Asthma and the Common Cold

Fall and winter can both bring on asthma attacks. You wake up in the middle of the night gasping for breath, and, even when the attack is over, you find it difficult to get back to sleep. Nocturnal asthma - frightening at the best of times, but even worse it's aggravated by a sleep disorder. In fact, the majority of asthma attacks do occur in the night or early morning hour.

John Neil Rhoades, the About Guide to Asthma, has this to say about these nighttime attacks: "Variation in airway resistance due to the natural Circadian Rhythm is present even in the non-asthma population. An article in Allergy and Asthma Magazine, Nocturnal Asthma by Stephen Nagy, M.D. says that this variation in airway resistance in amplified in asthmatics. One large population study showed a decrease in peak flows of greater than 20% at night in 75% of asthmatics tested."

Even the common cold, impossible to cure and just about as impossible to treat, can cause sleep problems.

Like asthma, a cold can wake you up from a sound sleep (often hard-won) with a fit of coughing, sneezing or the inability to breathe through your nose.

Get your pharmacist's advice and try some of the over-the-counter medications - cough syrups, antihistamines, rubs for aching muscles. See your doctor, although, in the case of a cold, there's often nothing much a physician can do either. Stick to the age-old remedy - drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest. It may not cure the cold, but you'll be more comfortable while it runs its course.



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