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Determining if you have a bed bug infestation can be a challenge. Bed bugs are very small (about the size of an apple seed), they’re awfully good at hiding and only make an appearance for a brief period. Here are the top ways to tell if your room is infested:

* look for dark blood marks, usually small streaks on sheets

* look for the bugs or their shells where they like to hide… between mattress crevices, seams and handles, inside bed linens, curtains, furniture, behind headboards, picture frames, outlets or screw heads.

 * lay double-sided carpet tape in strips around the perimeter of your room. If you have bed bugs, you’ll likely see one or more of them stuck to the tape after a few days.

 * inspect your arms and legs for close-together bites; often in a row.

For more information about bed bugs, check out our special Sleep issue. Click on the cover to the left, or download it on our web site at www.roomplanners.com.

Getting an infestation of bed bugs into your home is stressful and expensive to treat (not to mention itchy!). Here are 7 ways to avoid inviting these stealthy critters into your home in the first place…

 1. Wash new sheets or new clothes in very hot water before placing in closets or drawers. Or put them through a hot dryer cycle.  The heat will kill any bed bugs that were in the retail store or factory packaging.

 2. Wash clothes in very hot water after being in public places (theaters, hotels) or in other people’s homes. If you work in other people’s homes for a living, leave clothing or uniforms in a sealed bag.

3. Avoid buying used furniture. If you do, inspect it carefully with a flashlight before bringing it into your house.

4. Shake out suitcases over the bathtub when you get home from hotels, or leave empty suitcases in a hot car for a day or two to kill bugs and eggs.

5. Wrap your mattress in a mattress protector that resists and kills bed bugs.

6. Avoid a cluttered home; it gives bed bugs more places to hide and makes them hard to find.

7. Watch regularly for bed bugs  (and their signs) in your home. Early detection saves money.

Finally, if you do get an infestation, avoid visiting other people’s homes until your house is clear of them.

It’s near epidemic. Bed bugs are infesting hotels, offices, stores and theaters. 

 The ultimate hitchhikers, bed bugs can cross your threshold many ways… along with overnight guests who’ve spent a night in a hotel, inside your luggage after you’ve spent a night in a hotel or a few hours on an airplane, on your clothes after a few hours shopping or at the movie theater… or even through the walls of a neighboring suite.

Books and articles on these stealthy critters reads like a vampire novel. Their eggs are invisible… they can live up to a year without eating…  their bites can look different on different people (making a bed bug problem hard to diagnose)… they can live anywhere we do and especially like burrowing deep into our mattress… a single bug can lay 4 or 5 eggs a day; 300-500 eggs in a lifetime… they’re good at hiding and their flat shape lets them squeeze in and out of tight hiding places… they don’t need a nest, just a place to hide… they head for the bed when you do, but they may hang out somewhere else entirely… and a safe pesticide to eradicate these thirsty predators isn’t available yet…

 The widespread use of DDT all but eradicated the common bed bug in the 1940s and ’50s. But DDT was banned in 1972 as too toxic to wildlife. By the late 1990s, bed bugs had developed resistance to the chemicals that replaced DDT.

 In addition, a 1996 law that required older pesticides to be re-evaluated based on more stringent health standards left exterminators with fewer pesticides available to fight these strong, stealthy pests.

 More of a nuisance than a health hazard, bed bugs are  nonetheless stressful and their bites remarkably itchy. An exterminator can rid your home of them (never spray your mattress with insecticides yourself!). But that can get expensive fast. Keeping bed bugs out of your house is always your first course of action. And if you do get them? Address the problem quickly.

 Photos: MedicineNet.com

According to recent research, teens are averaging 6.5 to 7.5 hours of sleep a night. That’s well below the 9-10 hours recommended by sleep experts for their age.

You may argue that you stayed up late too, back in the day, and you turned out just fine. But that was before the age of back-lit cell phones and computers that keep minds alert and bodies fooled into thinking it’s still daytime. Techno gadgets, it seems, are cutting into much-needed rest. Apart from keeping kids up at night, they cause too much stimulation at a time when kids should be clearing their minds. Research is showing that they also cut production of melatonin, that helpful sleep dust our brains scatter throughout our bodies in the absence of light.

A recent Pediatrics research survey of high school students reported only 21% of them got anywhere near the needed 8-10 hours of sleep. After 9:00 pm, 82% of them were still watching TV, 55% were using a computer online, 44% were talking on the phone and 34% were texting!

Here are a few ideas to get your kids to bed earlier… and ensure they’re sleeping like a baby, whatever their age!

1. Get kids tuckered out with plenty of physical exercise during the day. We all sleep better after some physical exertion! But with so much time spent indoors with electronics, kids are getting less exercise than ever before. Exercise is most beneficial to sleep if it’s a few hours before bedtime.  

2. Invest in a good mattress. A supportive, comfortable mattress is important at any age, but growing bodies need the right support as much as older bodies.

3. Cut caffeine at least 5 hours before bedtime. (Some experts recommend cutting caffeine intake by 2:30 pm). Soft drinks, some energy drinks and chocolate can all contain high levels of caffeine.

4. Shut down and power off computers an hour before bedtime. Use that time for reading, relaxing, praying, listening to music, quiet conversation, going for a walk, family time in front of the fireplace, drawing or just getting ready for bed!

5. Take drastic measures, if necessary! Ban computer use on weeknights, except for homework. Limit video games to weekends. Create a central recharging station: insist that kids bring cell phones and other portable electronics to a kitchen or home office location before bedtime– it’ll keep these gadgets out of their rooms and hands during sleeping hours.

6. Enforce a strict and regularly scheduled bedtime. To determine what time that should be, work backwards from the time your child needs to get up to ensure the right number of sleep hours for the child’s age. (Experts recommend 10-12 hours of sleep for kids up to age 5; 9-10 hours of sleep for kids aged 6-19).

 7. Talk to kids about the importance of sleep. If they understand that adequate sleep leads to better grades, looks and health, they may be more likely to at least think about a little more sleep! Lobby your school to add a class about the physical effects of too little or poor quality sleep, including its effects on health, weight control and mental concentration.

8. Create a bedroom conducive to sleep. Keep it as dark as possible with light-blocking blinds or curtains (a dark room stimulates a higher production of melatonin). Turn the thermostat down and layer blankets so kids can adjust them for their temperature.

 9. Model the behavior you want your kids to have. Shut off all TVs and computers by 10 pm, or enforce a quiet hour for everyone before your kid’s bedtime.

 10. Shift into new sleep routine prior to the start of a new school year or semester. Used to staying up late and sleeping in, the first week back to school can be excruciating…  for kids and parents! Make changes to bedtimes a week or two prior. Adjust their getting-up and going-to-bed times by 30 minutes every few days to help them ease into the new schedule.

We’re getting less sleep than ever before.

But before we blame the counting sheep for poor leadership from #1… #8 being out of sequence… or #86 too depressed to even think about jumping fences tonight, it behooves us to at least consider what the flock is facing.

They know we’re sleeping fewer hours.. and so tired we don’t always need them. But they’re also up against a growing trend toward insomnia, with more of us lying awake with plenty on our mind besides them. The ups and downs of the economy alone are enough to keep us wide awake. That’s not to mention fears of losing our job or house, or other personal issues competing with our time to dream.

Those late nights trysts with our computers aren’t helping either. Stimulating our minds and illuminating our brains isn’t exactly a good thing to do at night. Studies are suggesting that being up close and personal with a highly lit computer screen may decrease our production of melatonin – the hormone that goes into high gear when the sun goes down, sprinkling sleep dust on us in the dark.

The bottom line? Recent stats say 70% of us have sleep issues (up from 60% just 10 years ago!). Still others just have really bad nocturnal habits.

The good news is that 50% of us with sleep disorders (and 100% of us with really bad nocturnal habits) don’t need medication. We can cure ourselves. But it will mean getting 7.5-9 hours of sleep every night.

In exchange, we’ll feel  better, be healthier, smarter, thinner and even better looking (more sleep can make us look 3 years younger!). We may even let the sheep take the credit.

Sleeping on a comfortable mattress is the best way to  fall asleep faster. But we’ve got plenty more good ideas! Check out our special ‘sleep issue’ to find out what to do… and not to do – to sleep better.Just click on the photo to the left, or visit www.roomplanners.com to subscribe to our free monthly magazine.

If you need to place the alarm clock across the room to wake you, you may be one of a growing number of us who aren’t getting sleep and chronically over-tired. See for yourself how your sleep habits stack up!

INSTRUCTIONS
Answer 1-5 for each question, with 1 = always / 5 = never.

1. I need an alarm clock to wake me at the right time.

2. I hit the snooze button at least once or twice.

 3. I need more than one cup of coffee to get me going in the morning.

 4. I easily forget things, including names of people or places.

 5. I eat sugar to feel more energetic.

 6. I feel irritable or impatient.

 7. I have a hard time being creative.

 8. I fantasize about sleeping in.

 9. When I wake up, I’m already looking forward to going to bed that evening.

 10. I take medication to help me sleep.

 11. I fall asleep right after dinner.

 12. I feel drowsy when driving.

 13. On weekends, I sleep 2 hours or more later than my weekday wake-up time.

 14. People tell me that I look tired or have dark circles under my eyes.

 15. I have nightmares or wake up suddenly.

 16. I wake up 2 or more times during the night.

 17. I drool when I sleep.

 18. I get twitches in one eye.

 19. I fall asleep reading a book or studying.

 20. I doze off during quiet movies, lectures, classes or concerts, even ones I enjoy.

SCORING YOUR RESULTS

85 points of higher. You’ve got above average sleep habits! You may occasionally crave more sleep than you get, but you’re doing more right than wrong.

65-70 points. Some simple adjustments in your sleep habits will increase your focus, energy, memory and overall well-being.

50-65 points. You may be suffering from a sleep disorder… or just poor nocturnal habits. Try simple changes to your routine or consult a sleep expert.

Under 50 points. You may be dozing off as you read this! If you can’t get more sleep using the tips in this sleep issue, consult a sleep expert or a medical doctor.

Annual Sleep IssueGet more information about sleep, including tips on how to fall asleep faster, how to create a hotel-inspired bedroom, and much more. Click on the magazine to open.

Click here to receive our free online magazine each month.

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