We might feel drowsy as we start to fall asleep, but our brain is still active, and noises or discomfort can disturb us. As we drift into light sleep, an area of the brain called the hypothalamus starts to block the flow of information from our senses to the rest of the brain. But it will still let through noises, which need to be able to wake us up. After about half an hour of light sleep, most of us enter a type of deep sleep called slow-wave sleep. Our brains become less responsive and it becomes much harder to be woken up. But some things will always get through – such as our names being called out loudly. Missing out on parts of our usual sleep cycle reduces the quality and quantity of sleep.
We all have a built-in body clock which tells us when we are tired. It helps synchronise thousands of cells in our body to a 24-hour cycle called the circadian rhythm. The main synchroniser for our body clock is light. Our eyes react to light and dark, even when our eyelids are closed. Daylight prompts our brains to reduce the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. This makes us feel more alert. If we get less sleep during the night, because of going to bed late or waking up early, we’re unlikely to get as much deep sleep as we need.
The wrong temperature
Our core body temperature should drop by half a degree when we are asleep. So as sleep approaches, our body clock makes blood vessels in our hands, face and feet open up, in order to lose heat. But if we get too cold, we get restless and find it hard to sleep. Or if our bedrooms or duvets are too warm, our bodies can’t lose heat, which can also cause restlessness.
Stimulating food and drink
We can have trouble sleeping after we consume food and drink that act as stimulants.
Drinks high in caffeine make it harder to fall asleep and can interfere with our deep sleep. Caffeine can stay in our system for many hours, so our sleep quality can be affected by the caffeinated drinks we consume earlier in the day.
In the course of a night we usually have six to seven cycles of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, during which our brains process the information we’ve absorbed during the day. This leaves us feeling refreshed. But a night of drinking means we’ll typically have only one to two cycles and wake up feeling tired.
Foods containing a chemical called tyramine, such as bacon, cheese, nuts and red wine, can keep us awake at night. This is because tyramine triggers the release of noradrenaline, a brain stimulant.
A busy mind
Stress is the enemy of sleep. In bed, our mind is left free to wander and anxiety concerning sleep will only make it worse. It’s difficult to keep track of time when you’re lying down in the dark waiting for sleep. People often nod off and wake up again but it feel as if they’re getting no sleep at all. This delivers fragmented sleep with much less time spent in the important deep sleep stages.
Sleep experts recommend that people with this problem get up and do an activity which distracts the mind from worry – such as a puzzle – before trying to sleep again.
CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure, is a treatment that uses mild air pressure to keep the airways open. When a person sleeps, the muscles of the entire body relaxes. This includes the upper airway muscles surrounding the throat. These muscles may relax enough to collapse on the airway causing an obstruction of oxygen into the lungs and carbon dioxide out of the lungs; This is called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). CPAP helps to prevent this collapse by pushing air into the throat creating an air stent. Once the airway is open, the person will be able breathe easily as he/she sleeps.
CPAP treatment involves a CPAP machine, which has three main parts:
A mask or other device that fits over your nose or your nose and mouth. Straps keep the mask in place while you’re wearing it.
A tube that connects the mask to the machine’s motor.
A motor that blows air into the tube.
Some CPAP machines have other features as well, such as heated humidifiers. CPAP machines can be small. They are also lightweight and fairly quiet.
CPAP is often the best treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a common disorder that causes pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. As a result, not enough oxygen reaches your lungs.
In obstructive sleep apnea, your airway collapses or is blocked during sleep. When you try to breathe, any air that squeezes past the blockage can cause loud snoring. Your snoring may wake other people in the house.
The mild pressure from CPAP can prevent your airway from collapsing or becoming blocked.
The animation below shows how CPAP works to treat sleep apnea. Click the “start” button to play the animation. Written and spoken explanations are provided with each frame. Use the buttons in the lower right corner to pause, restart, or replay the animation, or use the scroll bar below the buttons to move through the frames.
If your doctor prescribes CPAP, you’ll work with someone from a home equipment provider to select a CPAP machine. Home equipment providers sometimes are called durable medical equipment, or DME.
Your doctor will work with you to make sure the settings that he or she prescribes for your CPAP machine are correct. He or she may recommend an overnight sleep study to find the correct settings for you. Your doctor will want to make sure the air pressure from the machine is just enough to keep your airway open while you sleep.
There are many kinds of CPAP machines and masks. Let your home medical provider know if you’re not happy with the type you’re using. He or she may suggest switching to a different type that might work better for you.
CPAP has many benefits. It can:
Keep your airway open while you sleep
Correct snoring so others in your household can sleep
Improve your quality of sleep
Relieve sleep apnea symptoms, such as excessive daytime sleepiness
Decrease or prevent high blood pressure
Many people who use CPAP report feel more energetic once they begin treatment. They’re more attentive and better able to work during the day. They also report fewer complaints from bed partners about snoring and sleep disruption.
Nitrates and nitrites can be categorized into inorganic and organic forms based on their chemical structure. There are similarities and differences between these two chemical forms that affect their pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties and their subsequent biologic effects in humans. This artical will focus on inorganic nitrates.
Inorganic Nitrates and Nitrites
Inorganic nitrate (NO3–) and nitrite (NO2–) are water soluble (as a result of their interaction with the positively charged portions of polar water molecules)
and commonly exist as salts of nitric acid and nitrous acid, respectively. They are often bound to a metal cation such as Na+ or K+ and occur naturally through the fixation of atmospheric nitrogen and oxygen as part of the environmental nitrogen cycle (the cyclic movement of nitrogen in different chemical forms from the environment, to organisms, and then back to the environment as illustrated).
Inorganic nitrites are also produced endogenously through oxidation of nitrous oxide (NO) formed from the enzymatic degradation of L-arginine and through the reduction of nitrate with xanthine oxidoreductase.
Organic Nitrates and Nitrites
The organic forms of nitrates and nitrites are more complex and most are synthesized medicinal products (except ethyl nitrite). Organic nitrates are small non-polar hydrocarbon chains attached to a nitrooxy-radical (-ONO2; -ONO for amyl and ethyl nitrite). The addition of aliphatic or aromatic groups of variable length and volume affect the lipophilic properties of these molecules. It has been suggested that for some molecules, the greater the number of –ONO2 groups, the greater its potency; (the potency being dependent on the molecule’s lipophilicity).
Nitrates and Nitrites exist in organic and inorganic forms.
The chemical form affects the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties of nitrates and nitrates.
Inorganic nitrates and nitrites are generally more water soluble than organic nitrates and nitrates.
Inorganic nitrates and nitrites are produced endogenously and exogenously.
Organic nitrates and nitrites are mostly synthesized medicinal products.
Organic nitrates and nitrites are generally more complex and lipophilic than inorganic nitrates and nitrites.
Many North Americans don’t eat enough vegetables, and as a result, we miss out on the vital nutrients that keep us healthy. If you are looking to turn your health around, a great place to start is by adding more vegetables into your diet. However with that said some vegetables may contain high levels of nitrate which can lead to nitrate poisoning. This doesn’t mean that you should stop eating your vegetables, but it does mean that you need to be cautious about what you eat. Luckily, we have a nitrate tester that can help you determine if vegetables are safe to eat or not!
Where do high levels of nitrate in vegetables come from?
In a world where demand is high, farmers have to do whatever they can to grow enough vegetables to meet it. Sometimes, this leads to the use of nitrogen fertilizers, as it helps the vegetables to grow faster. Making more vegetables in a shorter amount of time is great. But the risk is that some vegetables may have higher levels of nitrate than others causing them to be unsafe to eat. This can also occur when vegetables don’t have the sunlight exposure. Nitrate levels in some vegetables can build up if they’re grown in low light environments.
Nitrate poisoning can be a serious problem and research has proven that it can lead it cancer. Methemoglobinemia is a blood disorder that inhibits the distribution of oxygen throughout the body and can be caused by nitrate poisoning. So don’t take the risk! Ensure that you are providing yourself and your family with vegetables and fruits that are not only nutrient dense, but also safe to eat.
SOEKS EcoVisor F4
SOEKS EcoVisor F4 is a real home-based laboratory that combines four functions into one device! So it is an easy and convenient way to protect your family’s health. EcoVisor F4 is an advanced type of technology that combines all of our high-end SOEKS products. With its excellent state-of-the-art design and brilliant ergonomics, we can fairly call it our most innovative product.
Above all the EcoVisor body is made from a satin-coated material with rubberized side parts. The touch screen improves control and creates more visual interface. The SOEKS EcoVisor is easy to use even for an inexperienced user and can be connected to a computer; This will allow you to easily update the firmware after purchasing the device. All in all the device has a built in rechargeable battery (accumulator) and charger cable to connect to your computer.
The EcoVisor provides a quick and easy way to check the quality of your food products. All you need is to select a product from the expanded list. You will even find the most exotic fruits and vegetables. All nitrate level limits are already added to SOEKS EcoVisor’s memory. Accordingly it will display “Significant excess of Standard” for products that are dangerous and “Normal Nitrate Content” for safe ones.
The EcoVisor F4 now has a new and improved measuring probe. The old probe would only measure nitrates at one point of the fruit or vegetable and was only accurate at room temperature. The new probe is now able to measure multiple points of the fruit or vegetable at different temperatures. This allows you to get an accurate measurement even when it is chilled.
The EcoVisor F4 already has a built-in dosimeter. It can check the background radiation level of food products, water and other objects. After the activation, EcoVisor SOEKS continuously measures radiation and monitors the accumulated dose. So if you often fly in a plane, experience a radiation exposure from hospital or come into contact with radioactive objects in any way, the EcoVisor’s built-in dosimeter will be an indispensable function for you. If the monthly accumulated radiation dose exceeds the permitted level, the EcoVisor F4 will warn you of a danger to your health.
Electromagnetic Field Meter (EMF meter)
For the most part, electrical devices are all around us which means we are constantly exposed to electromagnetic emissions. Multiple electric devices create high EM emission areas in any house or apartment. For this reason SOEKS EcoVisor F4 has a built-in electric and magnetic field sensors. It will readily help you to detect high emission areas. It will also help you decide on where to move a baby crib or a sofa to a safe area.
Total Dissolved Solids Meter (TDS meter)
Water gives life but it can be a source of danger too. In this case using SOEKS EcoVisor can help detect tap water contamination, check your filter performance and the quality of water from a well.
Shop our devices and testers online today on Soeks.Store, and please contact us if you have questions or concerns.
Do you like to have a weekend lie-in or a nightcap before going to bed? These habits could actually be harming your sleep.
Relax your mind
Simple breathing exercises can help. Breathe, using your abdomen not your chest, through your nose for three seconds, then breathe out for three seconds. Pause for three seconds before breathing in again. Practise this for ten minutes at night (five minutes is better than nothing).
Some people find that lavender oil, valerian or other herbs help them to sleep.
If you still have problems, you could try massage, aromatherapy, or even acupuncture.
If you still find yourself tossing and turning, abandon the bedroom and find something enjoyable and absorbing to do. Jigsaws are perfect. Don’t go back to bed until you begin to feel sleepy.
Regular exercise is a great way to improve your sleep. Just be careful not to do it close to bed time as exercise produces stimulants that stop the brain from relaxing quickly.
This being the case, exercising in the morning is an excellent way to wake up the body. Going for a run or doing some aerobics releases stimulants into the body, which perks you up.
If you are injured or disabled, you can still benefit from exercise. Check out disability exercise tips.
Create a calm bedroom environment
Your bedroom should be for sleep only. Avoid turning it into an entertainment centre with televisions, computers and stereos.
Two thirds of children have a computer, games machine or TV in their bedroom and could be losing out on sleep as a result.
It’s fine to have a nightcap, but too much alcohol can make you restless. Alcohol is also a diuretic, which means it encourages you to urinate (never welcomed during the night).
Drinking is also more likely to lead to snoring, which can restrict airflow into the lungs. This reduces oxygen in your blood which disturbs your sleep and contributes to your hangover.
Caffeine is a stimulant which can stay in your system for many hours. So avoid sources of caffeine such as coffee, chocolate, cola drinks and non-herbal teas.
Watch what you eat
Eating a large heavy meal too close to bedtime will interfere with your sleep.
Spicy or fatty foods may cause heartburn, which leads to difficulty in falling asleep and discomfort throughout the night.
Foods containing tyramine (bacon, cheese, ham, aubergines, pepperoni, raspberries, avocado, nuts, soy sauce, red wine) might keep you awake at night. Tyramine causes the release of norepinephrine, a brain stimulant.
If you get the munchies close to bedtime, eat something that triggers the hormone serotonin, which makes you sleepy. Carbohydrates such as bread or grain, cereal will do the trick.
Set a regular bedtime and wake up time
Create a habit of going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, even on weekends. This helps anchor your body clock to these times. Resisting the urge for a lie-in can pay dividends in alertness.
If you feel you haven’t slept well, resist the urge to sleep in longer than normal; getting up on schedule keeps your body in its normal wake-up routine.
Remember, even after only four hours, the brain has gained many of the important benefits of sleep.
It’s only natural
Most of us have a natural dip in alertness between 2 – 4pm.
A 15 minute nap when you’re tired can be a very effective way of staying alert throughout the day. Avoid napping for longer than 20 minutes, after which you will enter deep sleep and feel even worse when you wake up.
See a doctor if your problem continues
If you have trouble falling asleep night after night, or if you always feel tired the next day, snore, or stop breathing during sleep you might have a sleep disorder. It is advisable to seek more advice from your doctor. Most sleep disorders can be treated effectively.
Sleep apnea is a common disorder that causes your breathing to stop or get very shallow. Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. They may occur 30 times or more an hour.
Sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep disorder. It causes your airway to collapse or become blocked during sleep. Normal breathing starts again with a snort or choking sound. People with sleep apnea often snore loudly. However, not everyone who snores has sleep apnea.
You are more at risk for sleep apnea if you are overweight, male, or have a family history or small airways. Children with enlarged tonsils may also have it.
Doctors diagnose sleep apnea based on medical and family histories, a physical exam, and sleep study results.
A person may not be aware that his/her sleep is interrupted throughout the night due to snoring or obstructions. This is because he/she may not be fully conscious during these occurrences. However if a person feels drowsiness during the day, he/she should consult a doctor about getting a sleep study. People with sleep apnea are at higher risk for car crashes, work-related accidents, and other medical problems. If you have it, it is important to get treatment. Lifestyle changes, mouthpieces and surgery may help treat sleep apnea in many people if their diagnosis is mild. But if the diagnosis is moderate to severe, CPAP is the gold standard of treatment for optimal results.
The primary routes of exposure to nitrates and nitrites may differ depending on occupational and non occupational factors. Non-occupational factors may include:
Hobbies (such as gardening, arc welding, etc.),
History of inhalational drug use,
Source of drinking/cooking water and how it is supplied,
The chemical form of the nitrates and nitrites.
Occupational and Paraoccupational Exposures
Occupational exposure occurs primarily through the inhalation and dermal routes. Explosive and fertilizer industry workers may be exposed to nitrate through inhalation of dusts containing nitrate salts. Dusts can also dissolve in sweat exposing skin to concentrated solutions of the salts. Farmers may experience periodic exposures depending on their activities, especially with regard to the handling of fertilizers. Exposure of family members to nitrates from dusts brought home on work clothes has been reported.
The primary route of non-occupational exposure is ingestion of water or foodstuffs that contain high levels of nitrates or nitrites. Inhalation exposures may occur from inhalant drug use and dermal exposures may occur from some topical medications. These would be special instances and not the primary routes of exposure for the general population.
Primary occupational routes of exposure to nitrates and nitrites include inhalation and dermal routes.
The primary route of exposure to nitrates and nitrites for the general population is ingestion.
Inhalation and dermal exposures have been reported in non-occupational settings under certain circumstances, but are not the primary routes of exposure for the general population.
Understanding the environmental fate of nitrates and nitrites may help pinpoint potential sources of exposure. This would be important in assessment of patient exposure risk, prevention and mitigation of nitrate / nitrite overexposure and in the prevention of adverse health effects from exposure.
Environmental Nitrogen Cycle
In general, the following describes the activity of nitrates and nitrites in the environment. Microbial action in soil or water decomposes wastes containing organic nitrogen into ammonia, which is then oxidized to nitrite and nitrate.
Because nitrite is easily oxidized to nitrate, nitrate is the compound predominantly found in groundwater and surface waters.
Contamination with nitrogen-containing fertilizers (e.g. potassium nitrate and ammonium nitrate), or animal or human organic wastes, can raise the concentration of nitrate in water.
Nitrate-containing compounds in the soil are generally water soluble and readily migrate with groundwater.
Shallow, rural domestic wells are those most likely to be contaminated with nitrates, especially in areas where nitrogen-based fertilizers are widely used.
Approximately 15 percent of Americans rely on their own private drinking water supplies which are not subject to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards, although some state and local governments do set guidelines to protect users of these wells.
In agricultural areas, nitrogen-based fertilizers are a major source of contamination for shallow groundwater aquifers that provide drinking water.
A recent United States Geological Survey study showed that 7 percent of 2,388 domestic wells and about 3 percent of 384 public-supply wells nationwide were contaminated with nitrate levels above the EPA drinking water standard of 10 parts per million (ppm) or 10 mg/L.
Elevated concentrations were most common in domestic wells that were shallow (less than 100 feet deep) and located in agricultural areas because of relatively large nitrogen sources, including septic systems, fertilizer use, and livestock.
Although suppliers of public water sources are required to monitor nitrate concentrations regularly, few private rural wells are routinely tested for nitrates.
During spring melt or drought conditions, both domestic wells and public water systems using surface water can show increased nitrate levels.
Drinking water contaminated by boiler fluid additives may also contain increased levels of nitrites.
Mixtures of nitrates / nitrites with other well contaminants such as pesticides and VOCs have been reported.
Nitrate and nitrite overexposure has been reported via ingestion of foods containing high levels of nitrates and nitrites. Inorganic nitrates and nitrites present in contaminated soil and water can be taken up by plants, especially green leafy vegetables and beet root.
Contaminated foodstuffs, prepared baby foods, and sausage / meats preserved with nitrates and nitrites have caused overexposure in children.
Although vegetables are seldom a source of acute toxicity in adults, they account for about 80% of the nitrates in a typical human diet.
Celery, spinach lettuce, red beetroot and other vegetables have naturally greater nitrate content than other plant foods do.
The remainder of the nitrate in a typical diet comes from drinking water (about 21%) and from meat and meat products (about 6%) in which sodium nitrate is used as a preservative and color- enhancing agent.
For infants who are bottle-fed, however, the major source of nitrate exposure is from contaminated drinking water used to dilute formula.
Bottled water is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a food. It is monitored for nitrates, nitrites and total nitrates / nitrites.
Nitrate or nitrite exposure can occur from certain medications and volatile nitrite inhalants.
Accidental and inadvertent exposures to nitrites as well as ingestion in suicide attempts have been reported.
Deliberate abuse of volatile nitrites (amyl, butyl, and isobutyl nitrites) frequently occurs. Amyl nitrite (nicknamed by some as “poppers”) is used commercially as a vasodilator and butyl / isobutyl nitrites can be found in products such as room air fresheners.
Fatalities have been reported in adults exposed to nitrates in burn therapy; however infants and children are especially susceptible to adverse health effects from exposure to topical silver nitrate used in burn therapy.
Other medications implicated in methemoglobinemia include:
Quinone derivatives (antimalarials),
Bismuth subnitrite (antidiarrheal),
Ammonium nitrate (diuretic),
Amyl and sodium nitrites (antidotes for cyanide and hydrogen sulfide poisoning),
Isosorbide dinitrate/tetranitrates (vasodilators used in coronary artery disease therapy),
Benzocaine (local anesthetic), and
Other possible sources of exposure include ammonium nitrate found in cold packs and nitrous gases used in arc welding.
An ethyl nitrite folk remedy called “sweet spirits of nitre” has caused fatalities.
Shallow, rural domestic wells are those most likely to be contaminated with nitrates, especially in areas where nitrogen based fertilizers are in widespread use.
Other nitrate sources in well water include seepage from septic sewer systems and animal wastes.
Foodstuffs high in nitrates, home prepared baby foods, and sausage/meats preserved with nitrates and nitrites have caused overexposure in children.
Nitrate or nitrite exposure can occur from certain medications and volatile nitrite inhalants.
The SOEKS EcoVisor F4 is a 4-in-1 testing device that is designed to:
SOEKS EcoVisor F4 performs express analysis of nitrate content in fresh fruit and vegetables. Nitrate content analysis is based on conductivity of alternating high-frequency current in the measured product (ionometry).
SOEKS EcoVisor F4 defines radiation background level and identifies radioactive contaminated foods and construction supplies. The Ecotester can easily assess the level of radioactivity according to the power level of ion radiation (gamma radiation and beta particles flux).
SOEKS EcoVisor F4 records the electromagnetic field in facilities, living areas and from domestic appliances. When electromagnetic fields are detecting, electric and magnetic field intensities evaluate.
SOEKS EcoVisor F4 evaluates water quality. The analysis is based on measurement of high-frequency alternating current conductivity.
SOEKS EcoVisor F4 Specifications:
Name of specification
Nitrate Tester – Nitrate measurement
Scale range of possible nitrate content, mg/kg
from 20 to 5 000
Temperature compensating, C
From 0 to 30
Measurement uncertainty, max
Dosimeter – Radiation measurement
Scale range of possible radiation background mSv/h
up to 1 000
Scale range of possible radiation background mR/h
up to 100 000
Registered gamma ray energy, eV
Warning thresholds, mSv/h
Warning threshold, mR/h
From 0,1 to 100 from 10 to 10 000
Warning threshold of accumulated dose
Time of accumulated dose, days
Up to 1 000
EMF meter – Electromagnetic Field measurement
Scale range of electric field frequency, hz
From 20 to 2000
Scale range of magnetic field (magnetic induction) intensity crest value, A/m (meTl)
From 0,08 to 20
(From 0,10 to 25)
Max. permissible relative measurement uncertainty of magnetic field intensity, %
Scale range of magnetic field intensity crest value, V/m
From 10 to 5000
Max. permissible relative measurement uncertainty for electric field, %
TDS meter – Water quality measurement
Scale range ppm (mg/l)
Up to 5000
Resolution ppm (mg/l)
Temperature compensating, C
From 0 to 30
Measurement uncertainty, from full scale
Operating time including hibernation, hours
Up to 24
AAA batteries or accumulator
Power supply range, V
2.2 – 3.5
Overall dimensions Height x Width x Thickness, max, mm
147 x 54 x 21
Device mass (with power supply) , max, grs
Battery charging current, max, mA
Current from power supply or USB , max, mA
Charger output voltage, V
From 4.5 to 5.5
Color touchscreen TFT 320 x 240
Operating temperatures range, °С
From 0 to +40
The Device SOEKS EcoVisor F4
Main parts of the device consist of:
1. Micro USB slot for charging the accumulator.
2. Touchscreen for displaying information and menu navigation.
3. OK button for switching the device on/off, confirmation button.
4. LEFT button for menu navigation, return to previous menu when pressing for 2 seconds.
5. RIGHT button – menu navigation.
6. Measuring probe inserts in the product to measure nitrate content level.
7. Protective cap protects the probe.
Nitrate Measurement – Nitrate Tester EcoVisor F4
Measurement of nitrate content level is based on the patented technology of a biobased product ionometry (Patent of invention № 23 90 767 Ionometry Method for biobased products and the device for its performance) and has been developed by the SOEKS company.
The technology is based on a specialized procedure method that puts high-frequency electric current through pulp.
Every plant contains ions of potassium, magnesium, ferrum (iron), cuprum, chlorine, plenty of organic acids and other elements in certain amounts that are necessary for proper growth.
The amount of every single element (ionic or molecular) is determined by bio organics of certain plant (it has a basic level of ion concentration) and by contents of water and soil where the plant grows.
People often use fertilization for efficient growth of plants. For instance, saline fertilizers such as nitrates and phosphates. As they break down and the plant easily absorbs these fertilizers.
As it spreads around the plant, saline ions (nitrates, phosphates and etc.) accumulate in different plant parts including fruits. This leads to higher amount of electrolytes and to higher electrical conductivity of fruit as well.
SOEKS EcoVisor F4 has mastered the measurement of nitrate ions content in fruits and vegetables. A percentage of these in fruit and vegetables is identified by an independent analysis method (potentiometric identification of nitrate content according to Russian National Standard (GOST) “Fruit and vegetables recycling products. Nitrate content identification”).
The result of express analysis is shown by the device in the form of nitrate ion concentration and its comparison to maximum permissible concentration for certain product. The device measures the nitrate concentration per kilogram of product netto. 200-300 mg of nitrates eaten within 24 hours is considered to be safe for an adult. If 600-700 mg is eaten within 24 hours, nitrates are considered toxic.
For instance, when measuring a beetroot, the device shows 1000 mg of nitrates per kg. According to the standard measurement, it is safe to only eat 200-300 mg of this beetroot without damaging your health. When measuring a watermelon, the device shows 350 mg/kg. If a person eats 2 kg of watermelon, he or she will consume 700 mg (350 mg/kg x 2 kg) which is toxic.
One should also understand that the shown result is evaluative and cannot be compared to quantified chemical analysis at an advanced laboratory. That kind of analysis requires a lot of time and is not free. Nevertheless, the presence of such laboratory and qualified analytical chemist at home is impossible for the majority of people. The EcoVisor F4 is a like portable lab that allows you to avoid buying suspicious products. This will help protect yourself, your relatives and children from being exposed to these poisonous products.
The nitrate tester analysis takes only a few seconds. The only maintenance it requires is to change the battery or charge the accumulator just as you would your mobile phone.
Of course, you may ask yourself is there an increased electrical conductivity if a fruit or vegetable does not contain nitrate ions? This is possible. But will the consumer feel safer buying a product with increased amount of phosphates or any other ions instead of nitrates or when buying a product that is already going bad? One should not forget that basic electrical conductivity is determined for every single type of fresh fruit or vegetable. When a product goes bad, the content and concentration of organic acids change.
ATTENTION! We strongly do not recommend to measure nitrate content in liquids, chemically and heat-treated products, products that are not included in the device’s menu list. Received data will be misleading and uncertain.
One should also remember that the device is designed for measuring products at a room temperature. Change of the product temperature can increase measurement uncertainty. This regards to products that have just been taken out of fridge or have been exposed to sun rays. In SOEKS EcoVisor F4 there is a function of thermal compensation, which is achieved by means of embedded temperature gauge in probe of the device. Thanks to software patches, when measuring you can get the same measurement result even when temperatures of measured products are different.
There are fruit and vegetables in the list of Nitrate tester, which contain air cavities (for instance, sweet pepper). When measuring such products, it is important not to insert the probe into the air cavity. When the probe is inserted into the air cavity, the measurement result will be misleading.
Radiation measurement – Dosimeter EcoVisor F4
Some chemical elements (so called radioactive isotopes) contain unstable nucleus that decay into small elementary particles or quanta. Detachment of elementary particles or quanta is called radiation.
Radiation is ionizing, because it leads to atomic ionization of substance that is struck by radiation. Ionization is called the process of striking one or a few electrons out of atom. After that, nucleus and left electrons create a system that is positively charged and is called an ion.
Ionized atoms strongly differ from average nucleus. Ions destroy other molecules by breaking a bond between nucleuses. That is the reason why ionized radiation influence on human’s health is harmful.
Radiation influence on the human body is called irradiation. Irradiation transpierces any body tissues and ionizes their particles and molecules. This leads to creation of ionized nucleuses (ions or so-called free radicals) that destroy molecules and lead to inclusive death of tissue cells.
As it was said before, nuclear disintegration into elementary particles is accompanied by radiation of these particles. This radiation is divided into following types:
Alpha decay (alpha particles) are inert helium nucleus, the most massive particles.
Beta decay (beta particles) are electrons that move with an enormous speed. They are able to penetrate our body for a few centimeters.
Gamma decay (gamma particles) consist of gamma ray quantum, which although are considered to be particles, represent at the same time electromagnetic radiation such as sunlight, radio waves and x-rays. Their differences consists only of a big energy that every gamma quantum carries. Gamma decay always spreads with the light velocity when other particles are not that speedy. In comparison with alpha and beta particles, you need more materials such as concrete or lead in order to protect yourself from gamma decay.
X-rays are electromagnetic radiation (just like gamma decay) but it has less energy. In everyday life, it is used only at medical institutions.
Neutron radiation is an uncharged particle streams (neutrons). It occurs only in nuclear reactors.
Modern domestic dosimeters measure radiation in micro Sieverts per hour (mSv/h) and micro roentgen per hour (mcR/h). The radiation dose absorbed by human’s body is measured in micro Sieverts and the radiation dose in the air at measurement spot is measured in micro roentgen.
To estimate the radiation influence on the human body, the concept of equivalent dose is used. Equivalent dose is an amount of energy absorbed by mass unit of biological tissue considering biological danger of this radiation type. The unit of measurement for equivalent dose is the Sievert (Sv).
To estimate the influence of gamma decay which are the most absorbed radiation type and give most impute to human exposure, the concept of air radiation dose is used. It has its own unit of measurement – roentgen (R).
There is no natural radiation background standard because radiation background depends on the region, district and amount of radioactive particles that are found in objects around. For instance, radiation background at highlands is always higher than at low land.
SOEKS EcoVisor F4 measures radiation in micro Sieverts per hour (mSv/h) and micro roentgen (mcR/h), where 0.01 mSv/h corresponds to 1 mcR/h according to biological radiation effect.
Natural radiation background usually ranges from 0.08 mSv/h till 0.18 mSv/h. Safe radiation background level for a human is considered to be up to 0.4 mSv/h (the 0.4 mSv/h exposure per hour).
When level of radiation is exceeded (more than 0.4 mSv/h), the recommended time of staying in an irradiation area is regressive. When radiation level amounts to 0.4 mSv/h, you can stay in the irradiation area for one hour. When the radiation level amounts to 0.8 mSv/h, you can stay in irradiation area for half an hour. Duration of stay in area with 1.6 mSv/h radiation amounts shouldn’t exceed 15 minutes and so on.
Electromagnetic Field Measurement – EMF meter EcoVisor F4
Electromagnetic field (EM field) is a special form of matter which measures the interaction of charged particles. It represents interrelated alternating electric and magnetic fields. EM field spreads from one space point to another in form of electromagnetic progressive waves running from source.
EM field is created of particle charges. For example, in physics, students do experiments with ebonite electrification to demonstrate the electric field.
Magnetic field is created when electrical charges move through a conductor.
In order to characterize electric field strength, we use “electric field intensity” definition (mark sign – E, measurement unit – V/m (Volt per meter)). Magnetic strength is characterized by N magnetic field strength, measurement unit – A/m (Ampere per meter). When measuring very low and extremely low frequency, “magnetic density” definition is often used (mark sign – V, measurement unit – Tl (Tesla)).
Electromagnetic Field Influence on Human’s Health
Experimental Data of Russian and foreign research show that electromagnetic fields are highly bioactive and can negatively affect our health.
Many researches of EM field’s biological effect allow us to detect the most susceptible body systems: nervous, immune, endocrine and reproductive systems. These body systems are critical in our daily function.
EM fields influence water rich body organs mostly which are the eyes, brain, stomach and kidneys.
The following are symptoms of high EM field exposure can cause fatigue, irritability, sleep disorders, memory impairment and lack of attention.
The biological effect of EM fields tends to accumulate and can consequentially cause the degenerative process of the central nervous system, blood cancer (leukemia), encephaloma and endocrine system.
EM fields are especially dangerous for children, pregnant women, people with disorders of central nervous, the endocrine or cardiovascular system, allergic individuals and people with a compromised immune system.
Research has shown that the nervous system of the human body is the most sensitive to EM fields. When affected, it can cause serious malfunctions at the neuronal level, neural synapse and isolated neural structures. People who are in contact with electromagnetic fields, eventually face memory and higher nervous activity disorders.
Nowadays it is experimentally proven that electromagnetic fields negatively affect immunologic reactivity of body. Research data points to the fact that immunogenesis processes are violated and suppressed when being affected by electromagnetic fields.
When being affected by electromagnetic fields, changes in the pituitary adrenal system may occur. When being affected by electromagnetic fields, pituitary adrenal system is stimulated and therefore the amount of adrenalin in the blood rises and can trigger blood clotting. It is acknowledged that hypothalamus – pituitary – adrenal cortex system reacts on environmental interaction immediately and consistently.
Reproductive system disorders are usually connected with changes in its regulation within the nervous and neuroendocrine systems. This has been shown in research concerning the pituitary gonadotropic activity condition as it is affected by electromagnetic fields. Continuous EM field irradiation leads to lower pituitary activity.
Many scientists refer EM fields to teratogens that influence women’s health during pregnancy and fetus development. It is thought that electromagnetic fields can, for example, lead to physical defects of fetus. The fetus is very vulnerable at infancy during period of implantation and early organogenesis.
It is proven that fetus sensitivity to EM field is notably higher in mothers and may cause damage during it’s development. Results of epidemiological studies allow us to estimate that pregnant women who are in contact with electromagnetic field might suffer from premature birth. It might negatively affect fetus development and even cause congenital malfunctions of fetus.
Electromagnetic Field in Facilities
Electric field strength of 50 Hz commercial frequency in facilities (at 0.2 m distance from windows and walls, 0.5-1.8 m high from floor) should not exceed 500 V/m (kilovolt per meter).
Magnetic field strength of 50 Hz commercial frequency in facilities (at 0.2 m distance from windows and walls, 0.5-1.5 m high from floor) should not exceed 10 mcTl (microtesla).
Electric and magnetic fields of 50 Hz commercial frequency can be evaluated when domestic appliances are turned off and local lighting is turned on. The electric field is evaluated when ambient lighting is off and magnetic field is evaluated when ambient lighting is on.
Electromagnetic Field in Living Area
The electrical field of 50 Hz commercial frequency from overhead transmission lines and other objects on the territory of residential constructions should not exceed 1 kV/m (kilovolt per meter) 1.8 m high from ground.
The magnetic field strength of 50 Hz commercial frequency from overhead transmission lines and other objects on the territory of residential constructions should not exceed 25 mcTl (microtesla) 1.8 m high from ground.
Electromagnetic Field from Domestic Appliances
In home, domestic appliances are sources of electromagnetic exposure. A person should evaluate their effect at a distance 10 ± 0.1 cm while standing in front, behind and next to the object (except TV).
Electromagnetic field from TV with a diagonal less than 51 cm (20”) is measured at a distance of 50 ± 1 cm in front, behind and next to the TV. When screen diagonal is more than 51 cm, the EM field is measured the same way at a distance of 100 ± 1 cm. The device must be preliminarily turned on and work at least 20 minutes before measuring.
Electromagnetic Field from PC
The electrical field strength from PC ranging from 5 Hz to 2000 Hz should not exceed 25 V/m (volt per meter). The magnetic flux density from a PC ranging from 5 Hz to 2 KHz should not exceed 0.25 mcTl (microtesla).
Electromagnetic field is measured at 50 cm distance from the screen.
Water Measurement (Quality Evaluation) – TDS Meter EcoVisor F4
Water quality measurement is intended for quality evaluation of drinking water, as well as of water from treatment systems such as hydroponics, fish tanks, swimming pools, domestic appliances and from water wells.
The device measures the amount of solid particles that have been dissolved in water (TDS- total dissolved solids) per 1 million water particles – ppm (parts per million).
Among water particles, there is an enormous amount of dissolved water impurities in it. The main impurities are both inorganic salts (such as chlorides, sulfate bicarbonate of calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium) and a small amount of organic substances.
The amount of dissolved in water solid particles depends on natural environment and varies from region to region. In the city, water content is influenced by it’s industrial drainage, rainfall drainage, chlorination etc.
Solids dissolved in water determine our water quality and can affect our bodily functions.
Potassium and magnesium salts affect water hardness. High levels of these elements can worsen the water’s taste, smell, muddiness etc. Hard water negatively affects digestive system, hair and skin when we shower. It can also cause kidney diseases. With the help of EcoVisor F4 now, it is possible to determine whether the water is suitable for drinking, domestic needs or if it requires purification.
EcoVisor F4 can be used for evaluation of water filter efficiency. In addition, EcoVisor F4 is used for reverse osmosis filter. Such filters have a few filtration levels. One of them is represented by reverse-osmosis membrane which stops water impurities that cannot be stopped by other filters. This membrane’s service life period depends on amount of impurities in stream water. If the membrane clogs, it can lead to its mechanical damage and the whole filtration system can break down.
EcoVisor F4 can measure the amount of solid particles entering and exiting the filtration system and record its indication. If the amount of salts when exiting has increased, it is time to wash and change the membrane.
In addition, EcoVisor F4 is used in aquaristics. The device can pick water with necessary amount of solids.
Moreover, EcoVisor F4 can be used when watering plants and flowers. Harsh water can negatively affect plants because it increases concentration of lime in the ground. As the result, the ground becomes alkaline and blocks the nutrition for the plants.
Water with high amount of solids is harmful for domestic appliances (washing machines, coffee machines, and irons with steam generator, kettles, dishwashers and boilers). In all of these devices, there is a heating spiral. The scale on the heating spiral can overheat and breakdown. The EcoVisor F4 can help to evaluate quality of water in domestic appliances and take precautions when using it in the future.
Leading neuroscientist Matthew Walker explains why sleep deprivation is increasing our risk of cancer, heart attack and Alzheimer’s – and what you can do about it.
Matthew Walker has learned to dread the question “What do you do?” At parties, it signals the end of his evening; thereafter, his new acquaintance will inevitably cling to him like ivy. On an aeroplane, it usually means that while everyone else watches movies or reads a thriller, he will find himself running an hours-long salon for the benefit of passengers and crew alike. “I’ve begun to lie,” he says. “Seriously. I just tell people I’m a dolphin trainer. It’s better for everyone.”
Walker is a sleep scientist. To be specific, he is the director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley, a research institute whose goal – possibly unachievable – is to understand everything about sleep’s impact on us, from birth to death, in sickness and health. No wonder, then, that people long for his counsel. As the line between work and leisure grows ever more blurred, it is rare to meet a person who doesn’t worry about their sleep. But even as we contemplate the shadows beneath our eyes, most of us don’t know the half of it – and perhaps this is the real reason he has stopped telling strangers how he makes his living. When Walker talks about sleep, he can’t in all conscience, limit himself to whispering comforting nothings about camomile tea and warm baths. It’s his conviction that we are in the midst of a “catastrophic sleep-loss epidemic”, the consequences of which are far graver than any of us could imagine. This situation, he believes, is only likely to change if government gets involved.
Walker has spent the last four and a half years writing Why We Sleep, a complex but urgent book that examines the effects of this epidemic close up, the idea being that once people know of the powerful links between sleep loss and, among other things, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and poor mental health, they will try harder to get the recommended eight hours a night (sleep deprivation, amazing as this may sound to Donald Trump types, constitutes anything less than seven hours). But, in the end, the individual can achieve only so much. Walker wants major institutions and law-makers to take up his ideas, too. “No aspect of our biology is left unscathed by sleep deprivation,” he says. “It sinks down into every possible nook and cranny. And yet no one is doing anything about it. Things have to change: in the workplace and our communities, our homes and families. But when did you ever see an NHS poster urging sleep on people? When did a doctor prescribe, not sleeping pills, but sleep itself? It needs to be prioritised, even incentivised. Sleep loss costs the UK economy over £30bn a year in lost revenue, or 2% of GDP. I could double the NHS budget if only they would institute policies to mandate or powerfully encourage sleep.”
Why, exactly, are we so sleep-deprived? What has happened over the course of the last 75 years? In 1942, less than 8% of the population was trying to survive on six hours or less sleep a night; in 2017, almost one in two people is. The reasons are seemingly obvious. “First, we electrified the night,” Walker says. “Light is a profound degrader of our sleep. Second, there is the issue of work: not only the porous borders between when you start and finish, but longer commuter times, too. No one wants to give up time with their family or entertainment, so they give up sleep instead. And anxiety plays a part. We’re a lonelier, more depressed society. Alcohol and caffeine are more widely available. All these are the enemies of sleep.”
But Walker believes, too, that in the developed world sleep is strongly associated with weakness, even shame. “We have stigmatised sleep with the label of laziness. We want to seem busy, and one way we express that is by proclaiming how little sleep we’re getting. It’s a badge of honour. When I give lectures, people will wait behind until there is no one around and then tell me quietly: ‘I seem to be one of those people who need eight or nine hours’ sleep.’ It’s embarrassing to say it in public. They would rather wait 45 minutes for the confessional. They’re convinced that they’re abnormal, and why wouldn’t they be? We chastise people for sleeping what are, after all, only sufficient amounts. We think of them as slothful. No one would look at an infant baby asleep, and say ‘What a lazy baby!’ We know sleeping is non-negotiable for a baby. But that notion is quickly abandoned [as we grow up]. Humans are the only species that deliberately deprive themselves of sleep for no apparent reason.” In case you’re wondering, the number of people who can survive on five hours of sleep or less without any impairment, expressed as a percent of the population and rounded to a whole number, is zero.
The world of sleep science is still relatively small. But it is growing exponentially, thanks both to demand (the multifarious and growing pressures caused by the epidemic) and to new technology (such as electrical and magnetic brain stimulators), which enables researchers to have what Walker describes as “VIP access” to the sleeping brain. Walker, who is 44 and was born in Liverpool, has been in the field for more than 20 years, having published his first research paper at the age of just 21. “I would love to tell you that I was fascinated by conscious states from childhood,” he says. “But in truth, it was accidental.” He started out studying for a medical degree in Nottingham. But having discovered that doctoring wasn’t for him – he was more enthralled by questions than by answers – he switched to neuroscience, and after graduation, began a PhD in neurophysiology supported by the Medical Research Council. It was while working on this that he stumbled into the realm of sleep.
“I was looking at the brainwave patterns of people with different forms of dementia, but I was failing miserably at finding any difference between them,” he recalls now. One night, however, he read a scientific paper that changed everything. It described which parts of the brain were being attacked by these different types of dementia: “Some were attacking parts of the brain that had to do with controlled sleep, while other types left those sleep centres unaffected. I realised my mistake. I had been measuring the brainwave activity of my patients while they were awake, when I should have been doing so while they were asleep.” Over the next six months, Walker taught himself how to set up a sleep laboratory and, sure enough, the recordings he made in it subsequently spoke loudly of a clear difference between patients. Sleep, it seemed, could be a new early diagnostic litmus test for different subtypes of dementia.
After this, sleep became his obsession. “Only then did I ask: what is this thing called sleep, and what does it do? I was always curious, annoyingly so, but when I started to read about sleep, I would look up and hours would have gone by. No one could answer the simple question: why do we sleep? That seemed to me to be the greatest scientific mystery. I was going to attack it, and I was going to do that in two years. But I was naive. I didn’t realise that some of the greatest scientific minds had been trying to do the same thing for their entire careers. That was two decades ago, and I’m still cracking away.” After gaining his doctorate, he moved to the US. Formerly a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, he is now professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California.
Does his obsession extend to the bedroom? Does he take his own advice when it comes to sleep? “Yes. I give myself a non-negotiable eight-hour sleep opportunity every night, and I keep very regular hours: if there is one thing I tell people, it’s to go to bed and to wake up at the same time every day, no matter what. I take my sleep incredibly seriously because I have seen the evidence. Once you know that after just one night of only four or five hours’ sleep, your natural killer cells – the ones that attack the cancer cells that appear in your body every day – drop by 70%, or that a lack of sleep is linked to cancer of the bowel, prostate and breast, or even just that the World Health Organisation has classed any form of night-time shift work as a probable carcinogen, how could you do anything else?”
There is, however, a sting in the tale. Should his eyelids fail to close, Walker admits that he can be a touch “Woody Allen-neurotic”. When, for instance, he came to London over the summer, he found himself jet-lagged and wide awake in his hotel room at two o’clock in the morning. His problem then, as always in these situations, was that he knew too much. His brain began to race. “I thought: my orexin isn’t being turned off, the sensory gate of my thalamus is wedged open, my dorsolateral prefrontal cortex won’t shut down, and my melatonin surge won’t happen for another seven hours.” What did he do? In the end, it seems, even world experts in sleep act just like the rest of us when struck by the curse of insomnia. He turned on a light and read for a while.
Will “Why We Sleep” have the impact its author hopes? I’m not sure: the science bits, it must be said, require some concentration. But what I can tell you is that it had a powerful effect on me. After reading it, I was absolutely determined to go to bed earlier – a regime to which I am sticking determinedly. In a way, I was prepared for this. I first encountered Walker some months ago, when he spoke at an event at Somerset House in London, and he struck me then as both passionate and convincing (our later interview takes place via Skype from the basement of his “sleep centre”, a spot which, with its bedrooms off a long corridor, apparently resembles the ward of a private hospital). But in another way, it was unexpected. I am mostly immune to health advice. Inside my head, there is always a voice that says “just enjoy life while it lasts”.
The evidence Walker presents, however, is enough to send anyone early to bed. It’s no kind of choice at all. Without sleep, there is low energy and disease. With sleep, there is vitality and health. More than 20 large scale epidemiological studies all report the same clear relationship: the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life. To take just one example, adults aged 45 years or older who sleep less than six hours a night are 200% more likely to have a heart attack or stroke in their lifetime, as compared with those sleeping seven or eight hours a night (part of the reason for this has to do with blood pressure: even just one night of modest sleep reduction will speed the rate of a person’s heart, hour upon hour, and significantly increase their blood pressure).
A lack of sleep also appears to hijack the body’s effective control of blood sugar, the cells of the sleep-deprived appearing, in experiments, to become less responsive to insulin, and thus to cause a prediabetic state of hyperglycaemia. When your sleep becomes short, moreover, you are susceptible to weight gain. Among the reasons for this are the fact that inadequate sleep decreases levels of the satiety-signalling hormone, leptin, and increases levels of the hunger-signalling hormone, ghrelin. “I’m not going to say that the obesity crisis is caused by the sleep-loss epidemic alone,” says Walker. “It’s not. However, processed food and sedentary lifestyles do not adequately explain its rise. Something is missing. It’s now clear that sleep is that third ingredient.” Tiredness, of course, also affects motivation.
Sleep has a powerful effect on the immune system, which is why, when we have flu, our first instinct is to go to bed: our body is trying to sleep itself well. Reduce sleep even for a single night, and your resilience is drastically reduced. If you are tired, you are more likely to catch a cold. The well-rested also respond better to the flu vaccine. As Walker has already said, more gravely, studies show that short sleep can affect our cancer-fighting immune cells. A number of epidemiological studies have reported that night-time shift work and the disruption to circadian sleep and rhythms that it causes increase the odds of developing cancers including breast, prostate, endometrium and colon.
Getting too little sleep across the adult lifespan will significantly raise your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The reasons for this are difficult to summarise, but in essence it has to do with the amyloid deposits (a toxin protein) that accumulate in the brains of those suffering from the disease, killing the surrounding cells. During deep sleep, such deposits are effectively cleaned from the brain. What occurs in an Alzheimer’s patient is a kind of vicious circle. Without sufficient sleep, these plaques build up, especially in the brain’s deep-sleep-generating regions, attacking and degrading them. The loss of deep sleep caused by this assault therefore lessens our ability to remove them from the brain at night. More amyloid, less deep sleep; less deep sleep, more amyloid, and so on. (In his book, Walker notes “unscientifically” that he has always found it curious that Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, both of whom were vocal about how little sleep they needed, both went on to develop the disease; it is, moreover, a myth that older adults need less sleep.) Away from dementia, sleep aids our ability to make new memories, and restores our capacity for learning.
And then there is sleep’s effect on mental health. When your mother told you that everything would look better in the morning, she was wise. Walker’s book includes a long section on dreams (which, says Walker, contrary to Dr Freud, cannot be analysed). Here he details the various ways in which the dream state connects to creativity. He also suggests that dreaming is a soothing balm. If we sleep to remember (see above), then we also sleep to forget. Deep sleep – the part when we begin to dream – is a therapeutic state during which we cast off the emotional charge of our experiences, making them easier to bear. Sleep, or a lack of it, also affects our mood more generally. Brain scans carried out by Walker revealed a 60% amplification in the reactivity of the amygdala – a key spot for triggering anger and rage – in those who were sleep-deprived. In children, sleeplessness has been linked to aggression and bullying; in adolescents, to suicidal thoughts. Insufficient sleep is also associated with relapse in addiction disorders. A prevailing view in psychiatry is that mental disorders cause sleep disruption. But Walker believes it is, in fact, a two-way street. Regulated sleep can improve the health of, for instance, those with bipolar disorder.
I’ve mentioned deep sleep in this (too brief) summary several times. What is it, exactly? We sleep in 90-minute cycles, and it’s only towards the end of each one of these that we go into deep sleep. Each cycle comprises two kinds of sleep. First, there is NREM sleep (non-rapid eye movement sleep); this is then followed by REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. When Walker talks about these cycles, which still have their mysteries, his voice changes. He sounds bewitched, almost dazed.
“During NREM sleep, your brain goes into this incredible synchronised pattern of rhythmic chanting,” he says. “There’s a remarkable unity across the surface of the brain, like a deep, slow mantra. Researchers were once fooled that this state was similar to a coma. But nothing could be further from the truth. Vast amounts of memory processing is going on. To produce these brainwaves, hundreds of thousands of cells all sing together, and then go silent, and on and on. Meanwhile, your body settles into this lovely low state of energy, the best blood-pressure medicine you could ever hope for. REM sleep, on the other hand, is sometimes known as paradoxical sleep, because the brain patterns are identical to when you’re awake. It’s an incredibly active brain state. Your heart and nervous system go through spurts of activity: we’re still not exactly sure why.”
Does the 90-minute cycle mean that so-called power naps are worthless? “They can take the edge off basic sleepiness. But you need 90 minutes to get to deep sleep, and one cycle isn’t enough to do all the work. You need four or five cycles to get all the benefit.” Is it possible to have too much sleep? This is unclear. “There is no good evidence at the moment. But I do think 14 hours is too much. Too much water can kill you, and too much food, and I think ultimately the same will prove to be true for sleep.” How is it possible to tell if a person is sleep-deprived? Walker thinks we should trust our instincts. Those who would sleep on if their alarm clock was turned off are simply not getting enough. Ditto those who need caffeine in the afternoon to stay awake. “I see it all the time,” he says. “I get on a flight at 10am when people should be at peak alert, and I look around, and half of the plane has immediately fallen asleep.”
So what can the individual do? First, they should avoid pulling “all-nighters”, at their desks or on the dancefloor. After being awake for 19 hours, you’re as cognitively impaired as someone who is drunk. Second, they should start thinking about sleep as a kind of work, like going to the gym (with the key difference that it is both free and, if you’re me, enjoyable). “People use alarms to wake up,” Walker says. “So why don’t we have a bedtime alarm to tell us we’ve got half an hour, that we should start cycling down?” We should start thinking of midnight more in terms of its original meaning: as the middle of the night. Schools should consider later starts for students; such delays correlate with improved IQs. Companies should think about rewarding sleep. Productivity will rise, and motivation, creativity and even levels of honesty will be improved. Sleep can be measured using tracking devices, and some far-sighted companies in the US already give employees time off if they clock enough of it. Sleeping pills, by the way, are to be avoided. Among other things, they can have a deleterious effect on memory.
Those who are focused on so-called “clean” sleep are determined to outlaw mobiles and computers from the bedroom – and quite right, too, given the effect of LED-emitting devices on melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone. Ultimately, though, Walker believes that technology will be sleep’s saviour. “There is going to be a revolution in the quantified self in industrial nations,” he says. “We will know everything about our bodies from one day to the next in high fidelity. That will be a seismic shift, and we will then start to develop methods by which we can amplify different components of human sleep, and do that from the bedside. Sleep will come to be seen as a preventive medicine.”
What questions does Walker still most want to answer? For a while, he is quiet. “It’s so difficult,” he says, with a sigh. “There are so many. I would still like to know where we go, psychologically and physiologically, when we dream. Dreaming is the second state of human consciousness, and we have only scratched the surface so far. But I would also like to find out when sleep emerged. I like to posit a ridiculous theory, which is: perhaps sleep did not evolve. Perhaps it was the thing from which wakefulness emerged.” He laughs. “If I could have some kind of medical Tardis and go back in time to look at that, well, I would sleep better at night.”
Sleep in numbers:
■ Two-thirds of adults in developed nations fail to obtain the nightly eight hours of sleep recommended by the World Health Organisation.
■ An adult sleeping only 6.75 hours a night would be predicted to live only to their early 60s without medical intervention.
■ A 2013 study reported that men who slept too little had a sperm count 29% lower than those who regularly get a full and restful night’s sleep.
■ If you drive a car when you have had less than five hours’ sleep, you are 4.3 times more likely to be involved in a crash. If you drive having had four hours, you are 11.5 times more likely to be involved in an accident.
■ A hot bath aids sleep not because it makes you warm, but because your dilated blood vessels radiate inner heat, and your core body temperature drops. To successfully initiate sleep, your core temperature needs to drop about 1C.
■ The time taken to reach physical exhaustion by athletes who obtain anything less than eight hours of sleep, and especially less than six hours, drops by 10-30%.
■ There are now more than 100 diagnosed sleep disorders, of which insomnia is the most common.
■ Morning types, who prefer to awake at or around dawn, make up about 40% of the population. Evening types, who prefer to go to bed late and wake up late, account for about 30%. The remaining 30% lie somewhere in between.