How to - Tips & Tricks

Free-running sleep
My new method with the sleep improvement is this:

1. Go to sleep when tired.
2. Wake up without an alarm.

Early studies on circadian rhythm showed that our internal clocks run on a 25-hour period when isolated from external stimuli like daylight and timekeeping. External cues like sunlight reset our circadian rhythm and match it with the 24 hour day. These cues are called zeitgebers. (Other zeitgebers are food, exercise, and social interaction).

Even with a 25h internal clock, humans have slept with the 24h day before alarm clocks were invented. Artificial light prolongs the internal clock. To wake up without an alarm clock, don’t expose yourself to too much artificial light at night. That will shift your internal clock forward.

Many insomniacs have circadian rhythms that run on 26 or 27 hour periods. It is difficult to entrain a 27-hour internal clock with a 24-hour external clock. Solution: free-running sleep with 27-hour days. Go to bed when you’re tired, wake up naturally. Obviously hard to manage if you’re not self-employed or on vacation.

Studies show that free-running sleepers experience a 10-15% boost in creativity compared to those who use an alarm clock. Health-wise, free-running sleep is the optimal sleep schedule. It can be synced with the 24h day, but with artificial lights (like computer monitors) it might run out of sync, which is OK too.

It is risky to wake up without alarm so I will only attempt it on weekend days.

Find out more about circadian rhythm or insomnia at the medical search engine

Improve your sleep
I have found a book that is about sleep habits and sleep schedules. There are numerous advices in the book about how to improve the sleep. And this is what I need. I have a strange problem. If I sleep for too long I wake up with a big headache. As if my body says hey that was too much sleep and produces a warning message in a shape of headache. If I go to bed late and wake up early I have a different "warning" message. I yawn all day. So my first attempt at the sleep improvement is this:


"Keep wake-up times consistent and sleep quality will improve dramatically, giving you more energy and decreased sleep need."

The body has an internal 24-hour clock which controls the circadian rhythm. Sleep quality is optimized during a very specific window of the circadian rhythm. If we learn to sleep exactly within that window we will enjoy the best sleep of our life. That is, we want to perfectly hit the “circadian low-point”, which is the time when our body is programmed to sleep.

If you sleep in on weekends your internal clock is always playing catch-up as it tries to match itself with your indecisive wake-up times. For each hour you sleep in late on weekends it will take an extra day during the week to reset your clock. Sleeping in on weekends makes it difficult to hit the circadian low point. Your body tries to increase sleep duration to compensate for poor sleep quality.

Keep wake-up times consistent. Even on weekends. Your sleep quality will skyrocket. For those who don’t need alarm clocks (e.g. you are self-employed), you might be better off with free-running sleep…

Find out more about sleep improvement at the medical search engine

Chew, chew, chew
The process of digestion begins in the mouth. The saliva in the mouth, besides helping to masticate the food, carries an enzyme called ptyalin which begins the chemical action of digestion. It initiates the catabolism (breakdown) of carbohydrates by converting starches into simple sugars. This explains the need for thorough mastication of starchy food in the mouth. If this is not done the ptyalin cannot carry out its functions as it is active in an alkaline, neutral or slightly acid medium and is inactivated by the highly acid gastric juices in the stomach.

Although enzymatic action starts while food is being chewed, digestion moves into high gear only when the chewed food has passed the esophagus and reached the stomach. While the physical action of peristalsis churns and kneads solid food into a semi-solid amorphous mixture called chyme, this mixture undergoes chemical changes initiated by gastric juices secreted by the walls of the stomach. These juices include mucus for lubricating the stomach, hydrochloric acid and gastric juice.

The enzyme or active principle of the gastric juice is pepsin. This enzyme in combination with hydrochloric acid starts the breakdown of proteins into absorbable amino acids called polypeptides. An additional enzyme, rennin, plays an important role in the stomach of the infant. It curdles milk and allows the pepsin to work upon it. The gastric juice has no effect upon starches or fats.

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Enhance your health with proper breathing
Breathing is so simple we often take it for granted, but it has fundamental influence on body, mind, and spirit. Every time we breathe in air, we bring oxygen into the body and spark the transformation of nutrients into fuel. Every time we breathe out, we purge the body of carbon dioxide, a toxic waste.

Breathing influences our state of mind. Shallow breathing can make us tense. Deep breathing can make use calm. Breathing can make our thinking confused or clear. In the yogic tradition, breathing is the means of acquiring prana, the ethereal substance that powers life.
Pranayama is the optimization of prana through the control of the breath:

1. Sit comfortable with your spine straight or lie comfortable on your back. Take deep breaths through your nostrils.

2. Relax your breath as you slightly contract the back of your throat. The first time you do this, you may create an "oinking" sound rather like a pig! Do not worry about unusual sounds. With a little practice, you will create a steady hissing sound as you breathe in and out. You do not have to force this sounds, but it should be loud enough that another person in the room could hear it.

3. Breathe as long and deep as you can without creating tension anywhere in the body.

Perfect your technique with help of an instructor.

What diseases can be relieved by pranayama? Pranayama purifies the channels along which the life stream of 'prana' flows in the body and prevents various disorders. It increases one's resistance to respiratory diseases. It helps cure cough and cold, insomnia, chronic headache and asthma. And, as reported in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, pranayama can even relieve diabetes and heart disease.

To find out more use the medical search engine

Vitamin A
I have recently started reading about vitamins and some findings are really interesting.

The vitamin of the day is vitamin A, the forgotten vitamin.

Known as anti-ophthalmic, vitamin A is essential for growth and vitality. It builds up resistance to respiratory and other infections and works mainly on the eyes, lungs, stomach and intestines. It prevents eye diseases and plays a vital role in nourishing the skin and hair. It helps to prevent premature ageing and senility, increases life expectancy and extends youthfulness. The main sources of this vitamin are fish liver oil, liver, whole milk, curds, pure ghee, butter, cheese, cream and egg yolk, green leafy and certain yellow root vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, turnip, beets, carrot, cabbage and tomato and ripe fruits such as prunes, mangoes, papayas, apricots, peaches, almonds and other dry fruits. A prolonged deficiency of vitamin A may result in inflammation of the eyes, poor vision frequent colds, night blindness and increased susceptibility to infections, lack of appetite and vigour, defective teeth and gums and skin disorders.

The recommended daily allowance of vitamin A is 5,000 international units for adults and 2,600 to 4,000 international units for children. When taken in large therapeutic doses, which are usually 25,000 to 50,000 units a day, it is highly beneficial in the treatment of head and chest colds, sinus trouble, influenza and other infectious diseases. It is also valuable in curing night blindness and other eye diseases as well as many stubborn skin disorders. This vitamin can be given upto 1,00,000 units a day for a limited period of four weeks under doctor's supervision.

In a recent year-long study, huge doses of vitamin A given twice a year reduced death by about 30 per cent among Indonesian children. This has raised the hope in the fight against a significant cause of childhood mortality in developing countries.

It may now be cheaper to rent in central London
The best way to enjoy London is to find yourself a lovely flat to rent short term, and settle in to being a Londoner for a few days of freedom at a great price.

Renting is so much cheaper than staying in hotels in central London and allows you to be your own person - cook and entertain friends at half the price of having to feed them in hotel restaurants.

Tenants have never had so much choice. Thousands of flats are available through specialist property companies offering flexible flats with all the benefits of being in a hotel - with a well informed, uniformed concierge ready to take your bags or hail you a cab without the high cost.

The supply of properties is being boosted by cash strapped private landlords, who are moving out and renting their homes to generate income.

"At this time of year there is always demand from overseas visitors but another group of people who want homes are those who have sold their houses and need to rent while they look for another one" says Lucy Morton of estate agent WA Ellis.

‘It is now possible to move in for a night, a week or a month’

Traditionally a typical short term let was for three months but it is now possible to move in for a night, a week or a month. "The downside of short term lets is the shorter the tenancy, the more expensive it will be, and they might have to accept the fact that the landlord will want to show potential new clients around the property."

Residential Land has a portfolio of 1,500 furnished apartments in new-build developments and mansion blocks across 25 central London postcodes. The company manages the buildings itself, meaning tenants do not have to deal with estate agents. Rents start at £250 a week.

At Grand Plaza, a scheme of 205 apartments in Bayswater, studios cost from £99 per night, much cheaper than an equivalent standard hotel room. Apartments have open-plan kitchens, television, telephone and broadband plus cleaning and laundry services.

Frasers offers fully-serviced apartments at seven prestige "residences" in Kensington and Chelsea, most with no "minimum-stay" restrictions. The company’s motto is "creature comforts and a budget-friendly price tag". It also provides a full hospitality service - in-room dining, theatre tickets, restaurant reservations and so on. Family apartments are available, and some residences have a gym, swimming pool and children’s play area.

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New rules for Home Information Packs - HIPs
Home owners now have to have a Home Information Pack ready before they put their property up for sale. In the past, vendors only had to order a HIP before putting their property on the market. Sellers also now need to put more details into the pack, including the council tax band of the property.

There have been criticisms of HIPs, with some claiming they are an "expensive waste of time". However, the Government says the changes give buyers in England and Wales (where HIPs apply) more clarity, and they welcome them.

Mike Ockenden, director general of the Association of HIP Providers, said: "HIPs provide buyers with a great deal of important information that should be taken into consideration before making an offer, from the home's energy efficiency to local search information."

Mr Ockenden also said that the new Property Information Questionnaire (PIQ) would give vital information to buyers in their search for a new home. It includes details on parking arrangements, utilities, any structural changes and the property’s council tax band.

Fines for people who put a property up for sale without a HIP and PIQ could start at £200 for estate agents or private sellers.

Many estate agents remain unhappy with HIPs, and say the new rules will make things worse. Chief executive of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA), Peter Bolton King, said, "An expensive waste of time is counterproductive at the best of times, but in a housing slump HIPs are downright damaging." He said the scheme had been a costly failure and added an unnecessary burden to vendors.

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Holiday in Dubrovnik, Croatia
"Nowhere else in the world is a medieval city is so perfectly presented. But Dubrovnik isn’t preserved in aspic. It’s vibrant and vital, with pizzerias in its pretty squares, discos down its cobbled streets and watersports on the deep blue sea. Inimitable …"

Encircled by the sturdiest city walls, Dubrovnik climbs up cobbled streets, twists along narrow alleyways and opens onto hidden squares. It’s a labyrinth with a sightseeing treat round every corner. The view from the ramparts over terracotta-topped buildings is almost too perfect to be real. Church domes and bell towers rise towards the sky. And here and there are splashes of green – where a tall tree is throwing dappled shade onto an ancient piazza. But it’s not all about the city scene. Lapping at the city’s south-western edge, the Adriatic forms a sparkling blue backdrop to a picture unchanged through centuries. So much for the wider picture. Now home-in on the detail. This UNESCO World Heritage Site may look much as it did six hundred years ago, but it survives because it’s anything but old-fashioned. Along with the monasteries and palaces, there are markets and pizzerias. Intimate bars and restaurants inhabit old-world buildings. In July and August, Dubrovnik’s Summer Festival fills the stone-paved streets with the music of outdoor concerts.The town’s marina is attracting a growing number of yachties – and sailing is second-to-none with so many offshore islands to explore. This city is a one-off.

Accomodation in Dubrovnik

UK house prices increase?
The fall in house prices is slowing, mortgage lender the Halifax reported. The bank, which is now part of Lloyds, said prices fell around 2 per cent last month. Halifax's mortgage competitor Nationwide reported that prices went up 0.9 per cent last month, the first increase since October 2007. Philip Shaw, an economist at Investec, said: "The Halifax numbers really confirm that the underlying trend for house prices is still down and will remain the case until the end of the year." The Halifax said that year-on-year prices had fallen 17.5 per cent, a modest improvement on the 17.7 per cent fall seen in February. Yesterday's news from the Nationwide was described by experts as a “narrow shaft of sunlight” for homeowners after 18 months of almost unremitting gloom.

Signs of recovery?

Nationwide's figures show that prices of flats have been more volatile than other types of properties. The figures come shortly after the Bank of England reported that mortgage approvals for house purchases in Britain rose more than expected in February. The rise in mortgage approvals by all lenders - to 38,000 approvals in the month, up from 32,000 in January - is a good short-term indicator of actual lending and suggests this may now pick up. Recent surveys from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) have shown rising interest from prospective buyers.

Rental market booms
Demand for rental properties is at record levels as people delay plans to buy their own homes because of the downturn in the housing market.

The proportion of letting agents reporting that demand is outstripping supply is now at a high of 39 per cent, according to the Association of Residential Letting Agents (Arla), with the imbalance highest in Greater London and the South-east. The report echoes the findings of recent studies which have revealed a rental boom off the back of turmoil in the home-owning market.

The mortgage lender Paragon said strong demand had pushed the average cost of renting a home in England and Wales through the £1,000 a month barrier for the first time.

Other reasons for the boom in demand included a sudden influx of desirable properties coming on the market. The main cause of these is the development of new blocks of two-bedroom flats coming on-stream.

The strong level of demand has led to a further fall in the average length of time a property is empty between tenants, falling from 24 days to 22 during the past three months. There has also been an increase in the average length of time tenants stay in a property, rising from 16.1 months to 16.3 months.

Michelle, 29, who has been renting in Islington, north London, since October said she was keen to buy her first home, but was likely to remain a tenant for the foreseeable future. "I've been looking to buy a two-bedroom flat since the end of last year," she said. "But the worry is: if I buy a flat now – will it be worth less than I paid for it in six months' time?

"I don't want to end up with negative equity and even though I've saved up the deposit needed to get a mortgage, I plan to keep renting until it becomes clearer which way house prices are going.

"Renting in London is expensive one-bedroom flats seem to be on the market from at least £250 per week plus bills, which can really add up, but at the moment waiting for even a small percentage fall in prices which could end up saving me thousands of pounds when it comes to buying my own place. Staying in rented accommodation seems to make sense at the moment."

Average rents for a house now range from £931 a month outside the South-east to £3,000 in London, while flats range from £585 outside the South-east to £2,000 in London.

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