Health Advice



Which Came First: Migraine or Sleepless Night?

Scott LaFee on

People who suffer from migraines often have trouble getting a good night's sleep, but it's not clear whether migraines cause poor sleep quality or poor sleep quality causes migraines.

A new meta-analysis of 32 studies involving more than 10,000 people doesn't answer the question but it did identify two key factors. First, adults and children with migraines appear to spend less time in rapid eye movement -- or REM -- sleep, which is important for learning and memory function. Second, although children with migraines fall asleep faster than other children (perhaps due to sleep deprivation), their sleep quality is worse.

Body of Knowledge

If an average man never shaved, his beard would grow to approximately 30 feet. The world's longest documented beard belonged to Hans Langseth, a North Dakotan farmer who died in 1927. He began growing his beard in 1865 at the age of 19. He requested that the beard be cut off at his death and preserved. It was 17 feet, 6 inches long and now resides in the Smithsonian Institution.

Get Me That, Stat!

Nearly 5% of adults in the United States use electronic cigarettes or other electronic vaping products, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate of teens vaping cannabis is rising.

Stories for the Waiting Room

Mental health professionals long ago moved from using the word "schizophrenic" to the kinder, less authoritative "person with schizophrenia." A new study indicates doing so has broad benefits, largely by helping destigmatize disabilities and mental health conditions.

Some advocates say the same approach should now be used for diabetics and alcoholics, switching instead to "persons with diabetes" and "persons with alcoholism."

Doc Talk

Orthostatic hypotension: dizziness caused by standing up too fast

Mania of the Week

Lypemania: an uncontrollable sense of mournfulness or melancholy

Never Say 'Diet'

The Major League Eating record for mince pies is 46 in 10 minutes, held by Sonya Thomas. For strawberry rhubarb pie: 7.9 pounds in eight minutes, held by Patrick Bertoletti; for apple pie, 13.125 pounds, held by Joey Chestnut; and for pumpkin: 20 pounds, 13 ounces, in eight minutes, held by Matt Stonie. This month, we'll note some holiday-themed records held by professionals, though as amateurs, many of us will do our best when the day comes.

Best Medicine

PMS jokes aren't funny. Period.


"A lot of people are afraid of heights. Not me. I'm afraid of widths." -- Comedian Steven Wright

Medical History


This week in 1964, famed Texas heart surgeon Michael E. DeBakey performed the first successful coronary artery bypass graft procedure.

Perishable Publications

Many, if not most, published research papers have titles that defy comprehension. They use specialized jargon, complex words and opaque phrases like "nonlinear dynamics." Sometimes they don't, yet they're still hard to figure out. Here's an actual title of actual published research study: "Farting as a defense against unspeakable dread."

This case study, published in 1996 in the Journal of Analytical Psychology, described a young boy growing up in extremely trying circumstances. Nonetheless, the boy showed remarkable resilience with one notable response: When he felt endangered, wrote the author, he created a defensive olfactive container "using his bodily smell and farts to envelop himself in a protective cloud of familiarity against the dread of falling apart, and to hold his personality together."


Q: Why do people yawn?

A: Lots of species yawn, from mammals and birds to reptiles and hist. It's an evolutionarily ancient reflex that begins in the womb around 11 weeks' gestation. There are two types of yawning: contagious and spontaneous.

Spontaneous yawning appears to happen most often when we are limbering up for an activity, a way to increase blood flow to the brain by stretching out the arteries supporting it. It may also happen when our heads are cold, and extra blood is needed to warm them up.

Contagious yawning, a trait humans share with chimps and dogs, may have to do with sociability, mimicking others to show empathy and communion.

Medical Myths

A full-term human pregnancy is measured as nine months or 40 weeks, but actual length for a healthy pregnancy can vary by as much as five weeks. Only 4% of women deliver at the standard 280 days, and 70% within 10 days of their estimated due date, even when the due date is calculated with help of an ultrasound.


"Here lies me and my three daughters,

Brought here by using seidlitz waters.

If we had stuck to Epsom salts,

We wouldn't have been here in these vaults." -- Headstone in the cemetery of Childwald church in England. Seidlitz powder is an effervescing medication composed of tartaric acid, sodium bicarbonate and potassium sodium tartrate, mixed with water to create a mild laxative. It's not clear how the concoction proved fatal.


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