seasonal changes
Sleep better by soaking up some sun
Psychology Today, January/February

You’d think that during these lo-o-o-ong nights of midwinter, we’d find it easier to get a lot of sleep, but it turns out the opposite is true: Lack of daytime sunlight can make it harder to sleep at night.

As author Sarah Korones explains, blue light rays in the spectrum of natural sunlight curb the body’s release of melatonin, a hormone that makes us sleepy. As sunlight fades, melatonin increases. “If you don’t have a change in melatonin levels during the 24 hours of the day, your body doesn’t know when to rest and when to stay awake,” she quotes University of Copenhagen ophthalmologist Line Kessel as saying.

Artificial light doesn’t have the same spectrum. So it is crucial in the winter months to get outside and soak in some natural light. This is particularly important for the elderly, she adds, as the natural yellowing of aging eyes can make it even more difficult for blue rays to reach the retina.

hospital stays
Check this out before checking in
“The Patient’s Checklist,” Sterling, $16.95

Elizabeth Bailey, a director and producer for several record labels, frequently uses checklists to keep track of the artists under her wing. When her 81-year-old father needed help to manage a frustrating hospital stay, she came up with a similar system for him. Now she’s publishing her lists, for use by other patients.

Her book, subtitled “Ten Simple Hospital Checklists to Keep You Safe, Sane & Organized,” has one list outlining what to do before you go to the hospital. (No. 5: “If possible, schedule surgery early in the day, early in the week — not in July.” Why not July? Because that’s when interns and residents typically start their rotations, and they will lack experience.) Other lists suggest what to bring, what to do during your stay, what you need to know at discharge. Bailey asserts that “the single greatest threat to patient safety in hospitals is simple human error: communication breakdowns resulting from overly fragmented care by overworked doctors and nurses, lapses in the most basic sanitary practices, and mistakes in routine care because of the frantic hospital pace.” If you go in prepared, she says, you can better advocate for your own well-being.

Whitney Fetterhoff