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Can Dreams Reset Your Emotional Compass? Choose a Soothing Chime Alarm Clock

Monday, December 17th, 2012
Dreams May Useful in Resetting Our Emotional Compass - Yoshitoshi Taiso

Dreams May Useful in Resetting Our Emotional Compass - Yoshitoshi Taiso

Dreams may not be the secret window into the frustrated desires of the unconscious that Sigmund Freud first posited in 1899, but growing evidence suggests that dreams — and, more so, sleep — are powerfully connected to the processing of human emotions.

According to new research presented last week at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Seattle, adequate sleep may underpin our ability to understand complex emotions properly in waking life. “Sleep essentially is resetting the magnetic north of your emotional compass,” says Matthew Walker, director of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab at the University of California, Berkeley.

REM sleep appears to not only improve our ability to identify positive emotions in others; it may also round out the sharp angles of our own emotional experiences. Walker suggests that one function of REM sleep — dreaming, in particular — is to allow the brain to sift through that day’s events, process any negative emotion attached to them, then strip it away from the memories. He likens the process to applying a “nocturnal soothing balm.” REM sleep, he says, “tries to ameliorate the sharp emotional chips and dents that life gives you along the way.

Can Dreams Improve Our Emotional Life?

Can Dreams Improve Our Emotional Life?

adapted from Time.com, by Tiffany Sharples

Boulder, Colorado—an innovative company has taken one of life’s most unpleasant experiences (being startled awake by your alarm clock early Monday morning), and transformed it into something to actually look forward to. “The Zen Alarm Clock,” uses soothing acoustic chimes that awaken users gently and gradually, making waking up a real pleasure.  Rather than an artificial recorded sound played through a speaker, the Zen Clock features an alloy chime bar similar to a wind chime.  When the clock’s alarm is triggered, its chime produces a long-resonating, beautiful acoustic tone reminiscent of a temple gong.  Then, as the ring tone gradually fades away, the clock remains silent until it automatically strikes again three minutes later.  The frequency of the chime strikes gradually increase over ten-minutes, eventually striking every five seconds, so they are guaranteed to wake up even the heaviest sleeper.  This gentle, ten-minute “progressive awakening” leaves users feeling less groggy, and even helps with dream recall.

Gentle Chime Alarm Clocks for a Progressive Awakening

Gentle Chime Alarm Clocks for a Progressive Awakening

Now & Zen – The Chime Alarm Clock Store

1638 Pearl Street

Boulder, CO  80302

(800) 779-6383

Posted in Bamboo Chime Clocks, Sleep Habits, Well-being, sleep, wake up alarm clock


Dreams May Serve to Process Memories – Choose a Gentle Chime Alarm Clock to Recall Your Dreams

Sunday, December 16th, 2012
What Do Dreams Mean...Kasamori Osen Ippitsusai Buncho

What Do Dreams Mean...Kasamori Osen Ippitsusai Buncho

Recent developments in dream research won’t make sense without first touching on the academic thunderbolt of 1977, when a paper by two Harvard neurophysiologists, Allan Hobson and Robert McCarley, ran in the American Journal of Psychiatry. At the time, Sigmund Freud’s theory of dreams (which holds, in part, that dreams preserve sleep by distracting the brain with reflections of the unconscious) was a pillar of psychiatry. In The Brain as a Dream State Generator: An Activation-Synthesis Hypothesis of the Dream Process, the Harvard pair challenged Freudian theory on virtually every point. They argued that dreams are nonsense created when the forebrain makes “the best of a bad job in producing even partially coherent dream imagery from the relatively noisy signals” sent up to it from the brain stem at the onset of REM. Their paper served to yank dreaming from the realms of the psychological and plonk it in a dreary, physiological bucket.

Later, the English molecular biologist Francis Crick, a co-discoverer in the 1950s of the structure of the DNA molecule, drained a little more romance from dreaming. His and theoretical biologist Graeme Mitchison’s “reverse learning” theory held that dreams rid the brain of superfluous notions, and that without this regular flushing brain overload would manifest as hallucinations and obsessions. There are echoes of this idea in the perspective of Drew Dawson, director of the University of South Australia’s Centre for Sleep Research: “I tend to think of dreaming as a bit like backwashing the swimming pool filter.”

While hugely influential, Hobson and McCarley’s Activation-Synthesis model attracted hordes of critics, who protested that many dreams aren’t merely cognitive fragments nor a succession of chaotic images, but so story-like, sequential and dramatic that the thinking brain must surely have played a more substantial role in their production than the last-minute editing of a pile of neural bloopers. And there’s the matter of lucid dreaming, in which people become aware in the course of a dream that they are, in fact, dreaming, and are able to control the course of events—a phenomenon that strengthens the case for higher-brain involvement in dream construction. The lucid dreamer can apparently apply certain techniques to prolong the dream and take it in delightful directions. “The experiences are so convincing,” says Victoria University’s Bruck, “it seems as if another level of reality exists.”

Dreams Serve to Process Memories

Dreams Serve to Process Memories

But the wrecking job on the notion that dreams are a random by-product of REM sleep was carried out by the South African neuroscientist and psychoanalyst Solms, who was working at the Royal London Hospital in the 1990s when he made his career-defining discoveries. Solms wasn’t alone at the time in realizing that dreaming occurred outside periods of REM, that it was also common at sleep onset and shortly before waking in the morning. But he found an even weaker spot in the Hobson-McCarley hypothesis. If their theory was right, then people with damage to a part of the brain stem called the pons—the on-off switch for REM sleep—shouldn’t be having dreams. Solms, however, had five patients with lesions in precisely that region, and while they weren’t having REM, they were nonetheless reporting dreams.

Even more interesting to Solms were 53 Royal London Hospital patients with healthy brain stems who said they’d stopped dreaming. Most of them had damage to the part of the brain that generates spatial imagery. That made sense: if you can’t create pictures in your mind, how are you going to dream? It was the circumstances of the remaining nine patients that fascinated Solms. They had damage to the white matter of the ventromesial quadrant of the frontal lobes, an area linked to the transmission of the chemical dopamine and crucially involved in motivation, urges and cravings. These patients still experienced REM sleep but reported having lost both the capacity to dream and all sense of spontaneity, drive and love of life. They did what they were told and that was about it.

It seemed to Solms that dreams must themselves be associated with driving urges—a very Freudian take—but he needed more evidence in the form of more people with lesions in this particular spot. Nowadays, damage to that part of the brain is rare, normally a result of strokes or tumors. But it was a lot more common in the ’50s and ’60s when some mental illnesses were treated by removing it in an operation called a prefrontal leukotomy. Solms waded through the literature and found hundreds of case studies in which the effects of this procedure were described. To his amazement, reported loss of dreaming was one of them. “So I thought I’d discovered something new,” says Solms, “but it turned out to be something we’d documented long ago but had forgotten.” In the field of dreams, however, his findings were no less significant for that: Solms had shown REM and dreaming to be dissociable states and produced a compelling case that the higher brain has the central role in dream creation.

Solms, who believes science is getting closer to answering the key questions about dreaming, is leading two studies at the University of Cape Town with that goal in mind. One involves using functional magnetic resonance imaging to try to disentangle the REM brain from the dreaming brain. He wants to obtain images of the dreaming/non-dreaming brain at sleep onset and note the differences between the two. “If we can image what’s going on at that point, then we’ll get a clear handle on what mechanisms are important for dreaming as opposed to REM sleep,” says Solms, who predicts a key role for the motivational part of the brain.

His other study involves comparing the sleeping ability of subjects who dream with that of subjects who can’t because of brain lesions. Solms argues that because our motivational drive is fully active while we’re asleep, our brain’s way of keeping us asleep and undertaking the necessary repairs is by tricking us, through dreams, into thinking we’re up and about and pursuing our desires. It’s the neurological equivalent of putting on a DVD for the kids so the main players in the house can get some shut-eye. “Dreams replace the real actions that are instigated by our motivational impulses while we’re awake,” Solms says. His hunch is that the non-dreamers in his study will wake up more often during the night than the dreamers, especially during REM sleep: “The dream,” he says, “is what keeps you asleep.”

Others approach dreams from a different angle. An argument that resonates with many is that whatever the explanation for dreaming, humans must do it for the same reason that all mammals have done it for more than 100 million years; any theory must make as much sense when applied to a rabbit as to a person. In the same Darwinian vein, sleeping and dreaming must serve important functions because they’re vulnerable states and natural selection would have eliminated them if they didn’t provide compensating benefits. In the ancestral environment, human life was short and perilous; ever-lurking predators threatened survival and reproductive success. The biological function of dreaming, argues Antti Revonsuo, professor of psychology at the University of Turku, Finland, is to simulate threatening events so to prepare the dreamer for recognizing and avoiding danger.

Why do We Dream?

Why do We Dream?

The threat-simulation theory, first presented in 2000, “is built on the actual empirical evidence we have concerning the content of dreams,” Revonsuo says. “It’s surprising how many theories of dreaming there are that are not based on any systematic review of the evidence.” He cites studies showing that, typically, dreams are too seldom sweet, and that negative feelings, dangerous scenarios and aggression are over-represented. Based on ongoing work with PhD student Katja Valli, Revonsuo estimates that the average “non-traumatized” young adult has, conservatively, 300 threat-simulation dreams a year. In the dreams of both men and women, male strangers and wild animals are most often the enemy, and the dreamer’s typical responses are running and hiding, often in a state of terror.

If dreams are biased toward simulating ancestral threats, the traces of these biases would be strongest early in life, before the brain has adjusted to the realities of the contemporary environment. Sure enough, Revonsuo says, research shows that animals make up about 30% of all characters in the dreams of children aged 2-6 compared to 5% of adults’. True, the animals of children’s dreams are often fluffy and harmless, but almost half the time they’re frightening creatures—snakes, bears, lions, gorillas—that children would seldom, if ever, have encountered in waking life.

The reason we don’t dream about reading and writing, Revonsuo speculates in his original paper, is not because these activities don’t engage our emotions but because they’re “cultural latecomers that have [yet] to be effortlessly hammered into our evolved cognitive architecture.” Revonsuo knows that his theory pleases neither Freudians nor neuroscientists. “If, for the supporters of the psychological theories, it grants too little meaning to dreams,” he says, “for the supporters of neurophysiological random-noise theories, it grants dreaming far too much.”

Harvard’s Stickgold believes dreams have a different function entirely. “I think it’s pretty clear now that sleep and dreaming serve to process memories from the last day and all the way back,” he says. “Sleep can strengthen memories… and help extract the meaning of events by building associative networks with other memories. Dreaming is probably a high-level version of this processing.” Clearly, he adds, you don’t have to remember your dreams for these processes to work. “The brain is tuning your memory circuits as you sleep, and remembering the imagery created during this process may be fun, may be instructive, but is almost undoubtedly a freebie.”

Stickgold’s evidence includes an experiment he led in 2000 when Harvard researchers were able to elicit the same dream in a bunch of people as they drifted off to sleep. They did this by exposing 27 subjects to an intensive three-day course in the computer game Tetris, which involves assembling geometric shapes. By the second night of training, 17 subjects had reported having the same dream image—falling Tetris pieces—indicating to Stickgold that the need to learn prods the brain to dream. More of these kinds of studies are needed, he says, “because as we learn to manipulate dream content, we can start to figure out what the rules are that the brain uses in selecting material for our dreams.” Though not sold on the memory-consolidation theory, the Dream & Nightmare Laboratory’s Nielsen sees merit in it. Of course, if dreaming does embed memories it’s doing it in ways we don’t understand, he says. “Perhaps memory needs to be sliced and diced and then reassembled in odd ways in order for consolidation to be maximized.”

Psychotherapists tend to regard a lot of the research into dreaming as missing the point. Scientists, they say, can theorize all they like about dreaming’s function and physiological underpinnings, but why dreams matter is their effect on the dreamer. The man contemplating an extramarital affair dreams of the dire consequences of having one. He awakens to feel not only exquisite relief that he was dreaming but determined to walk the line. If, as Solms believes, dreams spring from the motivational part of our brain at a time when other parts that inhibit us are off-line, “it follows that there’s value in interpreting dreams,” he says. They provide a “privileged, unfiltered access” to what’s on a person’s mind. Mark Blagrove, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Wales, where he runs a sleep laboratory, thinks it’s possible the search for a biological function of dreaming could be futile. “It could just be,” he says, “that our elaborate dreams are a side effect of the fact that we have a highly evolved imagination.”

All the competing theories on why we dream may be wrong. One or more of them could be right. “I have no doubt that dreams can be enjoyable, informative, even revelatory to the dreamer,” says Harvard’s Stickgold. “But dream analysis is a more tricky question. The more dogmatic and doctrinaire the beliefs of the analyst, the less useful and potentially more destructive the analysis process becomes.” People should understand, he adds, that dreams aren’t constructed with the goal of delivering a message; they don’t have an inherent meaning. “But when you look at your dreams after you wake up… you can often feel the associative networks that were activated during dream construction, and trace them back a ways, and maybe discover a new way of looking at events in your life, of looking at yourself, at others, or at the world at large.” Maybe that’s worth a third of our lives asleep, perchance dreaming.

Boulder, Colorado—an innovative company has taken one of life’s most unpleasant experiences (being startled awake by your alarm clock early Monday morning), and transformed it into something to actually look forward to. “The Zen Alarm Clock,” uses soothing acoustic chimes that awaken users gently and gradually, making waking up a real pleasure.  Rather than an artificial recorded sound played through a speaker, the Zen Clock features an alloy chime bar similar to a wind chime.

When the clock’s alarm is triggered, its chime produces a long-resonating, beautiful acoustic tone reminiscent of a temple gong.  Then, as the ring tone gradually fades away, the clock remains silent until it automatically strikes again three minutes later.  The frequency of the chime strikes gradually increase over ten-minutes, eventually striking every five seconds, so they are guaranteed to wake up even the heaviest sleeper.  This gentle, ten-minute “progressive awakening” leaves users feeling less groggy, and even helps with dream recall.

adapted form Time.com, by Daniel Williams

Gentle Chime Alarm Clock for a Progressive Awakening

Gentle Chime Alarm Clock for a Progressive Awakening

Now & Zen – The Zen Alarm Clock Store

1638 Pearl Street

Boulder, CO  80302

(800) 779-6383

Posted in Bamboo Chime Clocks, Chime Alarm Clocks, Dreams, Sleep Habits, sleep


A Theory of Sleep – Banish the Snooze Button – Set Your Gradual Chime Clock

Saturday, December 15th, 2012
Why We Sleep

Why We Sleep

Why We Sleep?

Sleep may really be–A series of repeated cycles of pruning and strengthening of neural connections that enables you to learn new tricks without forgetting old ones. Of course, none of that explains why you have to be unconscious for all the pruning and strengthening to occur. Maybe it’s just easier to be asleep than awake while the work is going on. “When you fall asleep, it’s like you’re leaving your house and the workmen come in to renovate,” suggests Terry Sejnowski, a computational neurobiologist at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif. “You don’t want to live in the house while the construction’s going on because it’s a mess.”

It all sounds plausible enough, but that doesn’t mean everyone is convinced. “It may not sound exciting, but I think sleep is essentially for rest,” says Robert Vertes, a neuroscientist at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. Vertes thinks most sleep scientists are overinterpreting their data because they find it so hard to believe that our brains just need to shut down for eight hours or so every night. As for what’s being done during that time, the short answer, he says, is “We don’t know.”

Perhaps the brain just needs to restore itself. “We’ve all had the experience of going to bed with a problem, getting a good night’s sleep and waking up in the morning, and there’s a solution,” says Dr. Gregory Belenky, who recently retired as head of sleep research at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Md., and is now at Washington State University at Spokane. But instead of thinking that extra information processing is going on during sleep, he says it makes as much sense to suggest that depleted circuits are just being rejuvenated.

The brain, like the rest of the body, runs on glucose, Belenky explains. Using computerized scanners that provide images in real time, he and his colleagues have shown that the brain’s ability to use glucose drops off dramatically after being awake 24 hours, indicating a decrease in brain activity–despite the fact that there’s still plenty of glucose available. The biggest drops occur in exactly those areas of the cortex that anticipate and integrate emotion and reason. After 24 hours, however, the drop-off stabilizes. “But performance doesn’t level off,” Belenky notes. “It continues to tank.” Why? No one knows.

In addition to refueling the brain, sleep seems to detoxify it. Animals with a high metabolic rate, like field mice and bats, use a lot of calories and generate a lot of destructive molecules called free radicals. “The brain is particularly susceptible to this because neurons, by and large, don’t regenerate,” says Jerome Siegel, a neuroscientist at UCLA and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Los Angeles. Maybe sleep provides necessary downtime so that the brain can deal with all those free radicals.

One of the ultimate Zen like experiences is waking-up from a great slumber refreshed and energized. Your mind and body are harmoniously one, both alert and focused. Having a refreshed mind and body are two keys to a natural and Zen lifestyle. Waking up in the morning should not be a loud and abrupt awakening, but rather it should be a peaceful positive experience.  The right natural alarm clock can transition your deep and tranquil sleep into a serene start to consciousness. Imagine a long-resonating Tibetan bell-like chime waking you up to a beautiful morning experience.

The right alarm clock can be the most beneficial investment for you. With our Now & Zen natural alarm clock you are awakened more gradually and thus more naturally. Now & Zen is focused on creating a naturalistic lifestyle, and our clocks are an example of our philosophy.

adapted from Time.com by Christine Gorman

Gradual Chime Clocks for a Progressive Awakening

Gradual Chime Clocks for a Progressive Awakening

Now & Zen – The Gradual Chime Alarm Clock Store

1638 Pearl Street

Boulder, CO  80302

(800) 779-6383

Posted in Bamboo Chime Clocks, Now & Zen Alarm Clocks, Sleep Habits, sleep


Meditation: It’s What’s For Sanity – Choose a Gentle Zen Timer with Chime for Your Meditation Timer

Friday, December 14th, 2012
Meditation Timers & Clocks - Utgawa

Meditation Timers & Clocks - Utgawa

I’m not exactly clear on how they did it. Something about taking Group No. 1 over here, hooking them up to a nifty array of happyfun electrodes and letting them begin their deep and experienced meditation practice, and then, at some point, suddenly blasting the sound of a woman screaming in distress right into their prefrontal lobes like a swell little ice pick of terror.

And then the researchers observed which parts of the meditators’ brains lit up and noted that it was the hunks related to empathy and compassion and also the parts that say, “Hey, that screaming can’t be good, and I think I’ll get up and go help that poor woman.”

Then they did a similar thing with Group No. 2, only minus most of the experienced meditation part. And when this group heard the same woman screaming in distress, their brains also lit up, only this time it was those parts that said, “Huh, chick screaming in distress, let us now reach for the remote control and turn up the volume on this delightful episode of ‘How I Met Your Mother’ to drown out that obnoxious sound, because, you know, how annoying, and, by the way, I could really use a Bud Light and some guns right about now.”

It’s not exactly news

I might be oversimplifying. Or exaggerating. No matter, because the fact remains it is was one of those nice studies that deigns to reveal a helpful factoid that millions of people, and thousands of teachers and gurus and healers, have known for roughly a billion years.

It is this: Deep meditation, the act of stilling yourself and calming the mind and working with the breath and maybe reciting a mantra or clearing your chakras or running a nice bolt of golden energy up and down your spine, can have a positive effect on your worldview, can inject some divine love juice into your core and make you more sympathetic, kinder, more apt to feel a natural inclination toward generosity and compassion and helping people who might be, you know, screaming.

I know. Totally shocking.

It’s a small study that goes handily with the umpteen similar bits of research recently, all of which seem to indicate some other famously healthful aspect of meditation: stress relief, illness prevention, life extension, emotional stability, improved sleep, increased productivity, better orgasms, fewer ingrown hairs, brighter sunshine, better gas mileage and also merely learning to sit still and shut up once in a while, which I can promise you will make your wife and your siblings and your kids and your dog and even your own squealing manic ego very happy indeed.

Meditation Timers and Alarm Clocks with Soothing Chimes

Meditation Timers and Alarm Clocks with Soothing Chimes

Did you already know of such benefits? I’m guessing you did. Here in NorCal, meditation is so widespread and normalized it’s available in the Whole Foods bulk aisle. I do believe over in Berkeley and parts of Marin County you are actually required by law to meditate at least twice a week atop your handmade zazen cushion in your Zen rock garden next to your carefully restored BMW 2002 as you listen to very cheesy wind chime music on an iPod-enabled Bang & Olufsen 5.1 home theater system just before you pour yourself a nice glass of Sonoma Chard, or the police come and politely take away your Tibetan Nag Champa incense holder for a month.

Just a froufrou thing

Ah, but I suppose this is not the case nationwide. I imagine the practice is still widely considered, even after all these millennia and all these studies and teachers and perky New Age bookstores and all the obvious proof that meditating has little, really, to do with religious belief, to be some sort of hippie cultish pagan anti-Christian satanic froufrou thing more aligned with monks and bells and Hindu wackiness than with everyday gul-dang gun-smokin’ ‘Merkin life.

And hence I guess we still need studies like this to lend validation to a timeless wisdom that, if disseminated more widely, could improve the health of the nation. Hey, every little bit helps, right? Enough studies and enough serious medical journals bring alternative ideas like meditation to the fore and maybe, just maybe, we could nudge the culture away from mania and obsession and road rage and a zillion Prozac prescriptions as the only means of coping with the trudging maelstrom of daily existence.

It can’t hurt. Because the problem is that we as a culture are still very much trained, beaten, shaped from birth to never, ever, no matter what you do, calm down and breathe more consciously and try to live more fully in the moment you are in. Present-time awareness? Breathwork? Cultivating a sense of loving kindness? Save it for the New Age Expo, hippie. Real men live in some neurotic-psychotic state of need and regret and wishful thinking, all undercut with a constant shiver of never-ending dread. Isn’t that right, Mr. President?

But meditation, well, it abides none of that noise. It brings you into the here and now and plops you into the lap of stillness and reminds you that there is more to it all, that you have incredible power to change your own habits and tendencies and daily love quotients, that God often speaks in whispers and flutters and quiet little licks on your heart and only when you dial down your raging internal dialogue can you actually hear what she’s trying to say. What’s not to like?

Of course, you need no scientific study to learn any of this for yourself. But who knows, maybe there will come a day when you can stroll into just about any doctor’s office and she will say, what’s that? You say you’re getting weird rashes and heart palpitations and you feel overwhelmed? You have rage issues? Melodrama? Warmongering and pain and fear of the Other? Have a glass of wine. Eat better. Exercise. More sex, less whining, better books.

And oh yes, also this: Once a day, just for a few minutes, go sit very still, close your eyes, shut up and breathe.

Use our unique “Zen Clock” which functions as a Yoga & Meditation Timer.  It features a long-resonating acoustic chime that brings your meditation or yoga session to a gradual close, preserving the environment of stillness while also acting as an effective time signal. Our Yoga Timer & Clock can be programmed to chime at the end of the meditation or yoga session or periodically throughout the session as a kind of sonic yantra. The beauty and functionality of the Zen Clock/Timer makes it a meditation tool that can actually help you “make time” for meditation in your life. Bring yourself back to balance.

Meditation Timers and Clocks -- From Now & Zen

Meditation Timers and Clocks -- From Now & Zen

adapted from SFgate.com by Mark Morford columns with inset links to related material can be found at sfgate.com/columnists/morford.

Now & Zen – The Zen Timer and Alarm Clock Store

1638 Pearl Street

Boulder, CO  80302

(800) 779-6383

Posted in Bamboo Chime Clocks, Meditation Timers, Meditation Tools, Yoga Timer, Zen Timers, mindfulness practice


The More You Sleep, The Longer You Live – Choose a Gentle Chime Alarm Clock

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
the more you sleep, the longer you live...

the more you sleep, the longer you live...

It’s done in bed, it feels great and most Americans don’t get enough of it. It’s sleep, of course, the most undervalued contributor to optimum health and performance.

Did you know that sleep had anything to do with success in sticking to a diet? Get to know leptin and ghrelin. They sound like a Hungarian comedy act, but they are hormones that regulate appetite. Ghrelin is produced in the stomach and signals the brain when it’s time to eat. Leptin is secreted by adipose tissue (i.e., fat) and has the reverse effect, telling your brain when you are full. Chronic lack of sleep increases ghrelin and decreases leptin, leading you to feel hungry when you don’t really need to eat and to keep eating after you have gotten the calories you need.

Hitting the weights at the gym? Good sleep will bring you the results you want more quickly. The body repairs itself, including rebuilding your sore biceps, during the deepest phase of sleep. That’s why a good night’s sleep will not only make your workouts more productive but will also boost your immune system in general.

Despite these and other benefits, including greater mental alertness, improved concentration, better mood – even lower risk of car accidents – sleep remains underrated when it comes to health promotion. Maybe people can’t believe that something as mundane as consistently getting seven or eight hours of sleep a night can have such a positive impact on their health. Or maybe, in a culture of double cappuccinos and Ambien, sleep deprivation goes unrecognized in the first place.

If you get stuck in a period of weeks or even months where sleep is hard to come by (e.g., new baby, a big work deadline), pay off your sleep debt with extra sleep as soon as you can and you should suffer no long-term ill effects. But don’t make sleep deprivation a lifelong habit. A study of almost 7,000 Alameda County residents, over a nine-year period, found that people who routinely slept six or fewer hours a night had about 70 percent higher risk of dying than did people of similar age who slept seven or eight hours a night.

choose deep and tranquil sleep - get a soothing chime alarm clock

choose deep and tranquil sleep - get a soothing chime alarm clock

There are many common sense ways to make it easier to get to sleep, including keeping to a consistent schedule and avoiding big meals, caffeine and intense exercise just before bed. A full list of strategies is available from the National Institutes of Health at www.nhlbi. nih.gov/health/public/sleep/healthy sleepfs.pdf.

The Institute’s strategies for better sleep are useful, but they work only if you make sleep a priority, which many people in the compulsively busy Bay Area do not. If you think you don’t have time to sleep enough, remember that survey research shows that most people grossly underestimate how much time gets away from them in the evenings when they are idly surfing the Net or half-watching TV. If you feel tired, turn off the machines and go to bed. And if you believe you absolutely must see the next episode of “Big Brother” or a rerun of “Gilligan’s Island,” remember that TiVo and VCRs were invented so that we can watch such programs later, when we are rested enough to appreciate their nuanced messages and enduring contributions to our culture.

adapted from SFgate.com, by Dr. Keith Humphreys

One of the ultimate Zen like experiences is waking-up from a great slumber refreshed and energized. Your mind and body are harmoniously one, both alert and focused. Having a refreshed mind and body are two keys to a natural and Zen lifestyle. Waking up in the morning should not be a loud and abrupt awakening, but rather it should be a peaceful positive experience.  The right natural alarm clock can transition your deep and tranquil sleep into a serene start to consciousness. Imagine a long-resonating Tibetan bell-like chime waking you up to a beautiful morning experience.

The right alarm clock can be the most beneficial investment for you. With our Now & Zen natural alarm clock you are awakened more gradually and thus more naturally. Now & Zen is focused on creating a naturalistic lifestyle, and our clocks are an example of our philosophy.

Choose the Gentle Chime Alarm Clock

Choose the Gentle Chime Alarm Clock

Now & Zen – The Gentle Chime Alarm Clock Store

1638 Pearl Street

Boulder, CO  80302

(800) 779-6383

Posted in Bamboo Chime Clocks, Sleep Habits, Zen Timers, sleep


Remember to Sleep, Sleep to Remember – Set Your Zen Alarm Clock with Gradual Chime

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012
Sleep to Remember - Utamaro Kitagawa, Dojoji Dancer

Sleep to Remember - Utamaro Kitagawa, Dojoji Dancer

Just in time for the holidays, some medical advice most people will like: Take a nap.

Interrupting sleep seriously disrupts memory-making, compelling new research suggests. But on the flip side, taking a nap may boost a sophisticated kind of memory that helps us see the big picture and get creative.

“Not only do we need to remember to sleep, but most certainly we sleep to remember,” is how Dr. William Fishbein, a cognitive neuroscientist at the City University of New York, put it at a meeting of the Society for Neuroscience last week.

Good sleep is a casualty of our 24/7 world. Surveys suggest few adults attain the recommended seven to eight hours a night.

Over time, a chronic lack of sleep can erode the body in ways that leave us more vulnerable to heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses.

But perhaps more common than insomnia is fragmented sleep – the easy awakening that comes with aging, or, worse, the sleep apnea that afflicts millions, who quit breathing for 30 seconds or so over and over throughout the night.

Indeed, scientists increasingly are focusing less on sleep duration and more on the quality of sleep, what’s called sleep intensity, in studying how sleep helps the brain process memories so they stick. Particularly important is “slow-wave sleep,” a period of very deep sleep that comes earlier than better-known REM sleep, or dreaming time.

Fishbein suspected a more active role for the slow-wave sleep that can emerge even in a power nap. Maybe our brains keep working during that time to solve problems. He and graduate student Hiuyan Lau devised a simple test: documenting relational memory, where the brain puts together separately learned facts in new ways.

Sleep to Remember - Choose a Gentle Chime Alarm Clock

Sleep to Remember - Choose a Gentle Chime Alarm Clock

First, they taught 20 English-speaking college students lists of Chinese words spelled with two characters. Half the students took a nap, being monitored to be sure they didn’t move from slow-wave sleep into the REM stage.

Upon awakening, they took a multiple-choice test of Chinese words they’d never seen before. The nappers did much better at automatically learning that the first of the two-pair characters in the words they’d memorized earlier always meant the same thing – female, for example. So they also were more likely than nonnappers to choose that a new word containing that character meant “princess” and not “ape.”

“The nap group has essentially teased out what’s going on,” Fishbein concludes.

These students took a 90-minute nap, quite a luxury for most adults. But even a 12-minute nap can boost some forms of memory, adds Dr. Robert Stickgold of Harvard Medical School.

Conversely, Wisconsin researchers briefly interrupted nighttime slow-wave sleep by playing a beep – just loudly enough to disturb sleep but not awaken – and found those people couldn’t remember a task they’d learned the day before as well as people whose slow-wave sleep wasn’t disrupted.

That brings us back to fragmented sleep, whether from aging or apnea. It can suppress the birth of brain cells in the hippocampus, where memory-making begins – enough to hinder learning weeks after sleep returns to normal, warns Dr. Dennis McGinty of UCLA.

To prove a lasting effect, McGinty mimicked human sleep apnea in rats. He hooked them to brain monitors and made them sleep on a treadmill. Whenever the monitors detected 30 seconds of sleep, the treadmill briefly switched on. After 12 days of this sleep disturbance, McGinty let the rats sleep peacefully for the next two weeks. The catch-up sleep didn’t help.

adapted from SFGate.com, auran Neergaard, Associated Press

One of the ultimate Zen like experiences is waking-up from a great slumber refreshed and energized. Your mind and body are harmoniously one, both alert and focused. Having a refreshed mind and body are two keys to a natural and Zen lifestyle. Waking up in the morning should not be a loud and abrupt awakening, but rather it should be a peaceful positive experience.  The right natural alarm clock can transition your deep and tranquil sleep into a serene start to consciousness. Imagine a long-resonating Tibetan bell-like chime waking you up to a beautiful morning experience.

The right alarm clock can be the most beneficial investment for you. With our Now & Zen natural alarm clock you are awakened more gradually and thus more naturally. Now & Zen is focused on creating a naturalistic lifestyle, and our clocks are an example of our philosophy.

Wake up with gradual, beautiful acoustic chimes. The Zen Alarm Clock transforms your mornings and gets you started right, with a progressive awakening

Wake up with gradual, beautiful acoustic chimes. The Zen Alarm Clock transforms your mornings and gets you started right, with a progressive awakening

Now & Zen – The Zen Alarm Clock Store

1638 Pearl Street

Boulder, CO  80302

(800) 779-6383

Posted in Bamboo Chime Clocks


How to Find Balance – Choose a Singing Bowl Timer for Your Meditation Practice

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Finding balance is one of life’s great goals, but it can be as elusive as it is desirable. Change your approach and its true nature will emerge.

When you’re balanced, you can feel it. You get the sense that your life is moving along steadily. You take things in stride. You feel healthy and vibrant, challenged by your life, but relaxed enough to enjoy it; protected by the familiar, but excited by the possibilities ahead. So why does achieving it — and maintaining it — seem so difficult to do for so many of us?

Study balance a little closer, and you realize that what many of us perceive to be the ideal balance is in fact not balance at all. Unlike, say, a balanced scale, a balanced life is not symmetrical, still, or neutral. Like riding a bike, living a balanced life comes easier to you as you gain momentum. From that perspective, the myths and truths that follow in each day’s blog can help you find a new understanding of balance — and, finally, a way to get there yourself.

adapted from Body + Soul
Although meditation can be done in almost any context, practitioners usually employ a quiet, tranquil space, a meditation cushion or bench, and some kind of timing device to time the meditation session.  Ideally, the more these accoutrements can be integrated the better.  Thus, it is conducive to a satisfying meditation practice to have a timer or clock that is tranquil and beautiful.  Using a kitchen timer or beeper watch is less than ideal.
And it was with these considerations in mind that we designed our digital Zen Alarm Clock and practice timer.  This unique “Zen Clock” features a long-resonating acoustic chime that brings the meditation session to a gradual close, preserving the environment of stillness while also acting as an effective time signal.

Singing Bowl Meditation Timer

Singing Bowl Meditation Timer

Our Zen Timepiece’s acoustic 6-inch brass bowl-gong clock is the world’s ultimate alarm clock, practice timer, and “mindfulness bell.”

Our Zen Timepiece’s acoustic 6-inch brass bowl-gong clock is the world’s ultimate alarm clock, practice timer, and “mindfulness bell.”

Zen Alarm Clock with Gentle Wake Up Chime

Zen Alarm Clock with Gentle Wake Up Chime

Now & Zen

The Singing Bowl Meditation Timer Store

1638 Pearl Street

Boulder, CO  80302

(800) 779-6383

Posted in Bamboo Chime Clocks


Progressive Alarm Clock for Lack of Sleep

Sunday, November 18th, 2012
progressive chime clock can help reduce stress and help avoid lack of sleep

progressive chime clock can help reduce stress and help avoid lack of sleep

Although the occasional all-nighter is OK, people who regularly skimp on z’s can’t undo sleep deprivation’s detrimental effects by simply sleeping later on on weekends, says a new study in the journal Science of Translation Medicine. Contrary to popular belief, the energy you feel after a Saturday morning sleep session is only short lived, according to the study. Chronic sleep loss has a cumulative effect on performance. Why? Lack of sleep raises levels of the stress hormone cortisol and affects a person’s ability to respond to stimuli, says Catherine Darley, ND, founder of Seattle’s Institute of Naturopathic Sleep Medicine. Sleep also plays a key role in mood regulation and overall physical and mental functioning. If you need some extra help falling asleep, try a natural insomnia supplement made with melatonin, tryptophan, or valerian. Inquire at your local health food store.

Progression Alarm Clocks for a Gradual Awakening

Progression Alarm Clocks for a Gradual Awakening

When you have found the perfect routine for falling asleep remember to wake yourself gently so that you can start the day with grace.  Set your Zen Alarm Clock 10 minutes earlier than you need to get up so that you can slowly awken in the morning. The Zen Alarm Clock’s long-resonating Tibetan bell-like chime makes waking up a beautiful experience — its progressive chimes begin your day with grace. When the Clock’s alarm is triggered, the acoustic chime bar is struck just once … 3-1/2 minutes later it strikes again … chime strikes become more frequent over 10 minutes … eventually striking every 5 seconds until shut off (see the chime progression graph, below). As they become more frequent, the gentle chimes will always wake you up — your body really doesn’t need to be awakened harshly, with a Zen Clock you’re awakened more gradually and thus more naturally.

adapted from Natural Solutions Magazine, May 2004 by Leslie Crawford

Chime Alarm Clock - Progressive Wake-Up Clock with Natural Acoustic Chime

Chime Alarm Clock - Progressive Wake-Up Clock with Natural Acoustic Chime

Now & Zen – Progressive Alarm Clock Shop

1638 Pearl Street

Boulder, CO  80302

(800) 779-6383

Posted in Bamboo Chime Clocks, Chime Alarm Clocks, Japanese Inspired Zen Clocks, Sleep Habits, sleep


Immunity-Boosting Soup – Use Your Zen Timer to Whip Up This Nutritious Soup

Saturday, October 13th, 2012
soup

soup

This nourishing soup bolsters immunity and helps ease cold and flu symptoms, says herbalist Rosemary Gladstar. Fresh burdock root (also called gobo) and dandelion root are available in some grocery stores. Dried burdock, astragalus, and dandelion root are available at herb stores or online.

Ingredients

Makes about 3 quarts

  • 1 ounce dried astragalus root
  • 4 ounces fresh dandelion root, thinly sliced (or 2 ounces dried)
  • 4 ounces fresh burdock root, thinly sliced (or 2 ounces dried)
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh gingerroot
  • 1 tablespoon dried kelp, dulse, or other sea vegetable
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium-size onion, chopped
  • 5 to 8 medium-size fresh shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup miso paste, (any variety)

Directions

  1. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil and reduce heat. Add astragalus, dandelion, burdock, ginger, and sea vegetable; set your Zen Alarm Clock and Timer for 45minutes to an hour and cover and simmer. Strain, return broth to pot, and keep over medium heat. In a saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat; add onion and mushrooms, and saute until tender. Add garlic; saute for a few more minutes. Add entire mixture to broth. Turn off heat, and stir in miso paste.
Bamboo Zen Timer

Bamboo Zen Timer

adapted from Body + Soul, November/December 2006

“The Zen Alarm Clock & Chime Timer’,  uses soothing acoustic chimes that signal it’s time –  gently and gradually.

Rather than an artificial recorded sound played through a speaker, the Zen Clock features an alloy chime bar similar to a wind chime.  When the clock’s alarm is triggered, its chime produces a long-resonating, beautiful acoustic tone reminiscent of a temple gong.

How to Use your Zen Alarm Clock and Timer to time Soup

How to Use your Zen Alarm Clock and Timer to time Soup

Now & Zen

- The Zen Timer Store

1638 Pearl Street

Boulder, CO  80302

(800) 779-6383

Posted in Bamboo Chime Clocks, Goodness


Lemon Balm Tea May Ease Insomnia – Timer Your Tea with The Zen Timer with Chime

Friday, October 12th, 2012

tea solutions

tea solutions

What it is
A member of the mint family, lemon balm has a distinct lemony flavor and aroma, which makes it a popular garden herb. Although it’s mild enough to use for treating children’s ailments, lemon balm is a powerful herbal healer for adults as well.

Why it’s used
Herbalists today primarily use lemon balm for easing insomnia, anxiety, stress, and digestive upsets. It is also used to ward off insects and heal bug bites. The recent discovery of the herb’s antiviral compounds has made it popular as a topical treatment for oral and genital herpes.

History and folk remedies
Lemon balm has been cultivated for more than 2,000 years as a medicinal plant. As early as the tenth century, Arab physicians recommended the flavorful herb for easing nervous tension. In medieval Europe, extracts of lemon balm became a fashionable sedative; the emperor Charlemagne decreed that the herb be grown in every monastery garden in his domain. Throughout the Middle Ages, herbalists prescribed lemon balm for insomnia, headaches, nervous stomach, anxiety, depression, and menstrual cramps. From the time of ancient Greece, lemon balm was also used to help heal minor wounds and to treat bug bites and stings.

How it works
Researchers have identified a variety of compounds in lemon balm with mildly sedative properties that relax the nervous system. Other compounds, including fragrant essential oils, help to relieve indigestion. The plant contains polyphenols, compounds that fight infection-causing bacteria; this supports the traditional use of lemon balm for healing wounds. Laboratory studies also show that lemon balm has antiviral properties. Scientists theorize that the herb prevents viruses from attaching to cells.

Scientific support
In a German study, lemon balm combined with valerian (Valeriana officinalis) was found to significantly improve sleep quality when compared with a placebo (Fitoterapia, 1999, vol. 70, no. 3). Another study showed that the same herbal formula was as effective as the pharmaceutical tranquilizer Halcion but without the negative side effects typical of sedative drugs (Therapiewoche, 1992, vol. 42).

lemon balm

lemon balm

The botanical name Melissa comes from the Greek word for bee, because bees love this flowering herb. German researchers have also proven the effectiveness of lemon balm as a herpes treatment. In a recent study, 116 people with herpes sores (oral and genital) were given either a cream containing 1 percent lemon balm extract or a placebo. Those using the herb had a significantly better recovery rate than those using the placebo (Phytomedicine, 1994, vol. 1, no. 1). Another study followed 66 individuals just starting to develop a cold sore. On day two, those using the lemon balm cream were healing more quickly, had less discomfort, and exhibited fewer and smaller blisters than those not taking the herb (Phytomedicine, 1999, vol. 6, no. 4).

Dose
To make a lemon balm tea, pour 1 cup of boiling water over 2 teaspoons of dried leaf (or 2 tablespoons of fresh leaves). Set your Zen Timer with Chime for 15 minutes. Cover, steep for 15 minutes, strain, and drink. For insomnia, drink 1 cup 30 minutes before bed. For stress and anxiety, drink up to 3 cups throughout the day. If you prefer using a concentrated liquid extract, take 1/2 to 1 teaspoon diluted in a small amount of warm water up to three times a day.

adapted from Delicious Living, July 2004 by Laurel Vukovic

“The Zen Alarm Clock & Chime Timer’,  uses soothing acoustic chimes that signal it’s time –  gently and gradually.

Rather than an artificial recorded sound played through a speaker, the Zen Clock features an alloy chime bar similar to a wind chime.  When the clock’s alarm is triggered, its chime produces a long-resonating, beautiful acoustic tone reminiscent of a temple gong.

Digital Zen Timer with Chime, a good timer for lemon balm tea

Digital Zen Timer with Chime, a good timer for lemon balm tea

Now & Zen’s Chime Timer Store

1638 Pearl Street

Boulder, CO  80302

(800) 779-6383

Posted in Bamboo Chime Clocks, Sleep Habits, Well-being, Zen Timers, sleep


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