5 Reasons You're Not Sleeping

Brandpoint  |  2016-02-03

(BPT) - Tossing, turning and constantly waking - it can be maddening when you don't get the sleep your mind and body so desperately needs. If you constantly struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep, you're in good (albeit tired) company.

Millions of Americans across the country are chronically sleep deprived. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that insufficient sleep is a serious and growing public health concern. What most people don't realize is their lack of quality rest is often connected to bad sleep habits.

Are you guilty of any of these top five mistakes that reduce your body's ability to sleep all night? Learn what they are and how to make simple corrections for a more rejuvenating rest.

Mistake 1: Sleeping on an old mattress
An old, unsupportive mattress inhibits quality sleep, yet the cost and time it takes to purchase a new mattress deters people from upgrading. Fortunately, the mattress industry is evolving so it's easier than ever to get a new mattress. For example, order GhostBed at www.ghostbed.com and it's delivered in a compact box. Once open, it expands into a lush three layer, 11-inch mattress. With a 101-night free sleep trial and 20 year warranty, it's the easiest way to try out a new mattress without visiting different stores.

Mistake 2: Using electronics at bedtime
Tablets, cell phones, smartphones - digital devices make it easy to stay connected, but they mess with the brain's ability to fall asleep. Light omitting devices disrupt the body's natural circadian rhythms. That means when you're checking your phone right before bed, you're causing your brain to think it's time to wake. The best solution is to avoid digital devices for at least an hour before bed. Instead of TV or tech, take a bath, read or do some gentle yoga to get your body into sleep mode.

Mistake 3: Ignoring phantom noise pollution
Ticking clocks, beeping phones and buzzing electronics may not seem loud, but this phantom noise pollution is secretly robbing you of a good night's rest. To encourage your body to get into REM sleep, try to eliminate as much noise as possible from the bedroom. If you're left with other disruptive noises, such as a snoring partner or outside traffic, invest in a white noise machine or earplugs to block it out.

Mistake 4: Keeping the bedroom too warm
If you crank up the heat and grab an extra blanket at bedtime, you might be disrupting your sleep patterns. The National Sleep Foundation identifies temperature as a key factor to sleep, recommending a cooler sleeping environment. So turn down the thermostat, reduce blankets and rethink your mattress. GhostBed keeps sleepers cool because it is made with premium latex that allows for increased air flow, and gel memory foam instead of conventional memory foam.

Mistake 5: Allowing inconspicuous light
You flip off the light switch when it's time for shuteye, but your room is probably not completely dark. Even subtle glow from a nightlight, phone or muted TV disrupts those crucial circadian rhythms, causing your body to think dawn is near, which in return triggers you to get up. Try to remove or block all light in your room, and if there's some you just can't eliminate, an eye mask is a helpful alternative.

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New Flexible Spending Account Options Will Help You Stretch Your Money

Brandpoint  |  2016-02-03

(BPT) - As we head into the 2016 annual health care enrollment period, the benefits of different plan options may seem hard to decipher. Like many employees, you may have never considered a flexible spending account, or FSA. In fact, only about 30 percent of workers who have an FSA available to them sign up to take advantage of the program. However, a variety of benefits make health care FSA plans worth a second look.

According to a March 2015 survey conducted by Visa and WageWorks, fear of losing money at the end of the year is the number one reason employees don’t participate in health care FSA plans, despite the fact they’re leaving tax savings on the table. What you may not know is that the IRS revised options in 2013 to allow for carryover of FSA dedicated funds up to $500 — meaning, you don’t need to fear the notion of “use it or lose it.” With an increasing number of employers now providing FSA carryover options, there’s a good chance your employer is offering this benefit to you as well. In the same Visa/WageWorks survey, 60 percent of employers said they opted to offer the FSA carryover option this year.

A health care FSA with carryover helps eliminate the stress and pressure of having to spend your annual contribution by the end of the year, and allows for ease of budgeting and allocating where and when health care dollars are spent.

A convenient way for employees to access and use FSA funds in a secure way is through a Visa debit card. While individual health care needs vary, here are just a few common eligible health care expenses and scenarios that can be covered with flexible spending account dollars.

  • Copays and deductibles are generally covered out of pocket, but both are easily handled by funds allocated and available through your FSA.

  • The cost of important and routine exams, such as physicals or dermatology checkups, can quickly add up. But, with dedicated FSA funds, you can cover these costs with ease.

  • FSA monies can be used to keep your smile bright and healthy. Dental cleanings, dentures and orthodontia are all eligible FSA expenses.

  • Not only can your FSA help to keep your mind at ease about medical expenses, it can also help to keep you seeing in clear view. Annual vision exams, new glasses and LASIK services can also be covered with FSA funds.

  • Many employees may think specialty visits are ineligible expenses, but your chiropractor or acupuncturist can also be paid for with FSA funds.

  • Necessary health care equipment like blood pressure monitors or thermometers can be purchased with an FSA, as can important and potentially life-changing services, such as smoking cessation programs.

Additionally, the pre-tax salary reduction helps pave the way for employees to really stretch their hard-earned dollars. For example, the average employee who contributes $500 to their health care FSA at the start of the year will probably utilize all of those funds by the end of the plan year and by contributing that amount to an FSA will save approximately $150 in taxes, depending on his/her tax rate (the maximum contribution for an individual is $2,550, which would save an average of $765 at a 30 percent tax rate).

Using your Visa debit card for your FSA may also cut down on your paperwork. Many of the processing systems at pharmacies, grocery stores and other retailers that sell medical products are programmed to distinguish between covered items and non-covered items, making getting the care you need more simple.

As you review your options this open enrollment season, ask your employer if they offer flexible spending accounts with carryover, available on a Visa debit card. To learn more visit www.visahealthcare.com.

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Get Motivated to Get Organized

Family Features  |  2016-02-02

Simple Tips to Complete a Closet Makeover

(Family Features) It’s that time of year when you think about getting organized for a fresh new start. But how many times have you thought about finally clearing out your closet, decided it’s just too overwhelming, and simply shut the door only to think about it later?

“Let’s face it, most of us put cleaning out and organizing our closets at the top of our New Year’s resolutions’ list every single year,” said Barbara Reich, professional organizer. “But how many of us just think about it without actually doing it? To get serious and take action, you need a plan of attack.”

Once you make a commitment and get on board with the project, go from there with these tips from Reich.

  • Start by determining your overall goal. Are you simply organizing what you have or do you need to purge unused items? Get rid of things you don’t need or won’t wear. Remember that items in good condition can be donated to those in need.

  • Once you’ve determined just how much stuff you’ll have to organize, it’s time to consider what systems will best fit your space and needs. A do-it-yourself closet organizer product, such as ClosetMaid ShelfTrack, is affordable, easy to install and adjustable, making it simple to create a customized design. Accessories, such as drawers and shoe shelves, help personalize the space, while fabric bins are perfect for storing handbags and other smaller items.

  • Before you decide exactly which pieces you need, sketch out your plan on paper or use an online design tool. ClosetMaid’s DIY Design Tool even provides a parts list to help ensure you buy the right pieces for your design. You may also find it helpful to make a categorized list of all the items you need to store and mark them off as you identify the right storage products for your space.

  • Once you install your new system, the fun really begins. Start by hanging as much as possible; this makes it easier to see what you have. Group and place like things together by category, such as pants, skirts, tops, etc., then within each category, group by season and by color. Take advantage of prime real estate by positioning the things you wear most often in the place that is most accessible and easiest to reach.

  • Once you have everything hung and stored in its proper place, congratulate yourself on having the closet makeover checked off your list. However, to continue enjoying your newfound organization, you must be vigilant about keeping the space organized. Have a plan in mind when you purchase new things. Ask yourself if you really need the item and determine what you can discard to make room.

For more tips to help you get organized this new year, visit ClosetMaid.com, StorganizationBlog.com or call 1-800-874-0008.

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Source: ClosetMaid

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Naturally Clean for Spring

Family Features  |  2016-02-02

A Surprising Way to Make Spring Cleaning Simple

(Family Features) Wiping away the grime of winter doesn’t have to mean launching an attack with dangerous chemicals. As you tackle this year’s spring cleaning chores, take a note from Mother Nature and rely on the cleaning power of a surprisingly effective natural product: vinegar.

During the last century, vinegar has become increasingly recognized as a low cost and eco-friendly household product. From cooking and canning, to cleaning items indoors and out, homeowners are discovering that this eco-friendly, acetic liquid is as versatile as it is useful.

“Cleaning with vinegar has always been an effective way to banish dirt and grime in kitchens, bathrooms, the garage and the outdoors,” said Mike Smith, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Mizkan Americas, the makers of Four Monks Cleaning Vinegar.

Despite its strong cleaning power, vinegar does have one downfall: its distinctive odor. You can experiment with dozens of DIY recipes online to overcome this dilemma, or you can rely on a store-bought non-toxic cleaning vinegar such as Four Monks, which is made from a proprietary process that reduces the strong aroma and leaves a clean, crisp scent.

Learn how vinegar can make it easier to tackle common tasks around the house with these hacks and discover more uses for cleaning vinegar at VinegarTips.com.

In the Kitchen
Clean off the blades of a well-worn can opener with an old toothbrush soaked with vinegar to help remove dirt and grease.

Clean your ice/water dispenser by running vinegar through the system. Flush the vinegar out by running water through the system for 30-60 seconds.

Rid your dishwasher of mineral buildup by pouring half a cup of vinegar into the reservoir and running an empty cycle. You can also use vinegar in the dishwasher instead of another glass cleaner to keep your glassware sparkling.

Renew sponges and dishrags by placing them in just enough water to cover them. Then add one-fourth cup of vinegar and let them soak overnight.

Remove dark stains on an aluminum pot by boiling two cups of vinegar. For stained and smelly plastic food containers and lunchboxes, wipe them with a cloth dampened with vinegar.

To clean a grease-splattered oven door window, saturate it with vinegar. Keep the door open for 10-15 minutes before wiping with a sponge.

Deodorize the garbage disposal by pouring in half a cup of baking soda and half a cup of vinegar. Let sit for five minutes then run hot water down the disposal.

Avoid using toxic chemicals where you store food; wipe up spills in the fridge with vinegar.

In the Bathroom
Rid a faucet of lime deposits by tying a plastic bag containing one-third to one-half cup of vinegar around it and leaving it there for two or three hours. Wipe down with a sponge and scrub any remaining deposits with an old toothbrush. The same approach can be used to remove buildup on a showerhead.

The fizzing combo of vinegar and baking soda can unclog and remove odor from a tub drain. Pour half a cup of baking soda in the drain, then follow with two cups of hot vinegar. Immediately plug the drain with a rag to keep the bubbles contained for 10 minutes. Rinse by pouring a kettle of boiling hot water down the drain.

Spray shower doors with vinegar after you’ve squeegeed the glass – or before you turn on the water – to help release hard water deposits.

Clean shower door tracks by filling them with vinegar and letting it sit for a few hours. Pour hot water into the tracks and scrub away any remaining film with a toothbrush.

To make the toilet bowl sparkle, pour in a cup or more of vinegar and let it sit for several hours or overnight. Scrub well with the toilet brush and flush.

Remove old bathtub decals with vinegar heated in the microwave.

In the Laundry Room
Remove coffee and tea stains by flushing the area with vinegar, rinsing and repeating. For wine stains, saturate the spot with vinegar and allow it to stand for several minutes. Then, wash as normal. Tip: For more delicate fabrics or precaution, test on an inconspicuous part of the garment first.

Restore yellowed clothing by soaking garments overnight in a solution of 12 parts warm water and one part vinegar. Wash them the following morning.

Soak new garments in a few cups of vinegar for 10-15 minutes before washing to stop dyes from running in the wash.

If frequent ironing has left your iron plate dirty, make a paste from one part vinegar and one part salt to scrub it clean.

Remove scorch marks from an iron by rubbing it with a warm solution of equal parts vinegar and salt. If that doesn’t work, use a cloth dampened with vinegar.

Forgot that you left wet laundry in the machine and it now smells moldy? Pour a few cups of vinegar in the machine and wash the clothes in hot water. Then run a normal cycle with detergent to rinse the clothes.

Prevent lint from clinging to clothes by adding half a cup of vinegar to the wash cycle.

What Is Vinegar?
Vinegar is the acetic liquid that results when a product containing sugar is allowed to ferment. Vinegar can be created from nearly any product containing sugar; fruit and grains, such as barley and corn, are common sources of vinegar.

The ingredients in vinegar depend on the type of vinegar produced. For example, Four Monks uses distilled vinegar processed from corn, so it’s safe for your family. All vinegars are diluted with water to the preferred acidity before bottling. Four Monks has 6 percent acidity, which is 20 percent stronger than traditional vinegar, but gentle on everyday surfaces. This acetic quality is what enables vinegar to effectively clean while being safe for the body and the environment.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images

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Source: Four Monks

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Serve Your Flock Safe Eggs

Family Features  |  2016-01-28

(Family Features) Purchasing a dozen eggs offers nearly unlimited preparation possibilities. Enjoying any egg dish, however, starts with these four tips for purchasing safe eggs:

  1. Always purchase eggs from a refrigerated case.
  2. Open the carton and make sure there are no visible cracks or leaking eggs.
  3. Check the short end of the carton for the date the eggs were packed as well as an expiration or sell by date to make sure the eggs are fresh.
  4. Look for the United States Department of Agriculture grade shield or mark.

Safety Tips to Protect Your Flock
Once purchased, it’s also important to follow these safe food handling practices to ensure egg safety and quality.

  • Keep eggs in the coldest part of the refrigerator, not the door. Storing them in the refrigerator door could result in temperature fluctuations that can lead to bacteria growth.
  • Eggs may be refrigerated three to five weeks at home. The sell-by date will usually expire during that time, but the eggs are safe to use for four to five weeks beyond the expiration date as long are they are kept in a refrigerator set at 40 F.
  • Wash hands and utensils after coming into contact with eggs to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Cook eggs thoroughly. For scrambled eggs and similar dishes, cook until no visible liquid remains. Fried eggs should be cooked until the whites are completely set and the yolk is thickened but not hard.
  • Serve eggs and dishes containing eggs promptly after cooking.

Does Hen Housing Affect Food Safety?
To better understand how different hen housing systems may affect food safety and other sustainability factors, the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply recently completed a three-year research study.

The study compared flocks of egg-laying hens in three different types of housing systems: conventional cage, enriched colony and cage-free systems. As consumers are becoming more interested in the type of environment in which animals are raised, the coalition elected to conduct research in order to develop science-based information to use in supporting informed decision-making.

The research found that with proper management, eggs produced in any of the three different housing systems are safe and of comparable quality, but also accompany a variety of positive and negative aspects across other elements of sustainability.

Check out sustainableeggcoalition.org for more information about sustainable egg production, videos, interactive infographics and the CSES research results.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

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Source: Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply

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How to Give Your 2016 Resolutions Staying Power

NewsUSA  |  2016-01-21

Make this New Year

(NewsUSA) - With any new year comes a clean slate and a chance to take on new goals. For many, resolutions revolve around healthy changes, but experts caution that resolve begins to waver at the end of January -- which is why setting specific, realistic goals is proven to be more effective.

"When it comes to fitness resolutions, the focus should be on small steps," said Tom Holland, exercise physiologist and Bowflex Fitness Advisor. "While having a big goal to work toward can be motivating, it’s important to have small, manageable goals that allow you to celebrate the milestones along your fitness journey."

Here are three examples of lofty fitness resolutions -- and how to break them down into achievable goals:

  • "I want to run a marathon." Training for a race takes months of commitment. Start with a 5K and work your way up to a 10K or half marathon, before deciding if you’re ready to complete the full 26.2 miles. To build endurance before you hit the pavement, consider an in-home cardio machine like the Bowflex TreadClimber TC200. This machine combines the motions of a treadmill, a stepper and an elliptical for a low-impact, total-body workout.

  • "I want to look like a bodybuilder." This route takes serious patience. Begin with smaller goals, such as gaining one pound of muscle per month. You can accomplish this by increasing the amount of weight and reps with each workout. The Bowflex SelectTech 560 Dumbbells condense 32 different weights down to two -- maximizing space and storage at home. A smooth weight-changing mechanism in the handle allows you to adjust weights in varying increments and create a customized strength workout to sculpt your body. These first-ever "smart" dumbbells record reps, weight lifted and speed, sending your workout data via Bluetooth technology directly to your mobile device.

  • "I want to go on a cross-country bike trip." Like a marathon, months of training go into preparing for this long-distance journey. Experts suggest building up your stamina over time to avoid injury. For an at-home workout, try the Schwinn Airdyne AD Pro Total Fitness Bike. The technology in this bike allows users to tailor intensity levels during workouts -- the more effort given, the more resistance it delivers through the bike’s smooth, quiet, direct-drive belt system.

To find your perfect New Year’s workout solution, please visit www.bowflex.com or www.schwinnfitness.com. For more tips from Tom Holland, visit the Bowflex Insider blog at www.bowflexinsider.com.

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