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Cashmere Wool

Cashmere is a highly sought after luxury product that comes with an understandably high price tag and we’re about to dig a little deeper to see why that is.

The current Cashmere goats name is derived from Kashmir, a Province in India that borders with China and Pakistan. Kashmir has been producing cashmere for thousands of years, most commonly used in their well known shawls. The cashmere products from this area first started attracting attention from Europe in the 1800’s, and then continued to spread throughout the world.  Today the majority of cashmere comes from the high plateaus of Asia, major supplier countries being China, Mongolia, and Tibet.

The specialty fiber is collected during molting seasons when the goats naturally shed their hairs. Some countries such as China and Mongolia remove the fibers by hand with a course comb, while other countries like Iran, Afghanistan, New Zealand, and Australia shear the goats. Both methods are effective and from here the hair goes to be separated by a mechanical process known as dehairing, this is a very tedious process.

Today cashmere wool defined by The U.S. Wool Labeling Act of 1939 is the fine, dehaired, undercoat produced by Cashmere goats (Capra hircus laniger). The fiber should have a mean maximum diameter of 19 microns and the co-efficient of variation around the mean cannot exceed 24%. There also cannot be more than 3% (by weight) of cashmere fibers over 30 microns. This specialty fiber is not to be confused with the straighter and more course outer coat that is called guard hair. On average a cashmere goat will produce around one pound of fiber a year, of that only 4 to 6 ounces is the fine under hair used in the production of cashmere.

Cashmere is known mainly for its softness, and its insulation properties are often over looked. Cashmere fibers are highly adaptable, they have a high moisture content that allows insulation properties to change with the relative humidity in the air. This is what allows you to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer; making cashmere great for not only clothing, but also great for rugs, carpets, bedding, camping, and sports equipment.

“Cashmere and Camel Hair Manufacturers Institute.” Cashmere and Camel Hair Manufacturers Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2013. <http://www.cashmere.org/cm/general.php >.

Harris, Aisha. “Why Is Cashmere More Expensive Than Other Kinds of Wool?” Slate Magazine. N.p., 27 Dec. 2012. Web. 16 Dec. 2013. <http://www.slate.com/articles/life/luxury_explainer/2012/12/cashmere_why_is_it_so_soft_why_is_it_so_expensive.html >.

Latex Mattresses

Latex mattresses come in Natural, Synthetic, or a blend of the two. Latex mattresses are becoming increasingly popular these days, mainly due to the fact that some latex mattresses are 100% natural. This organic property appeals to the health conscious people as well as the Eco-friendly. Natural rubber is harvested by tapping; tapping is done by making a diagonal cut through the bark of a rubber tree and once the bark is removed, a milky white rubber fluid is collected. Trees can be re-tapped every couple of days, through careful tapping, an acre of rubber trees (around 180) can produce nearly 1,900 pounds of rubber annually. Since the trees are not permanently harmed, they continue to grow, making natural rubber a completely renewable resource. That same 1 acre of rubber trees is able to absorb enough carbon dioxide to cancel the output of 1 car driven 26,000 miles.

Synthetic latex is made by polymerizing a monomer that has been emulsified with surfactants; this synthetic rubber was first created in WWII to make products for the military due to a natural rubber shortage in the US. Synthetic latex does have the same basic properties of natural latex and is typically less expensive. There is also a blended latex option that is just a mixture of the natural latex and the synthetic latex, the most popular being 40% natural and 60% synthetic.

How does rubber become a latex mattress? Most companies make latex foam by using two popular methods, the Talalay or the Dunlop as seen below along with a new method called the Continuous, and is exclusive to Mountain Top Foam. After the latex mattress is made there are a few more options to choose from, is the entire mattress latex, latex over foam, or even foam over latex? Most latex mattresses can also be personalized with the options of soft, medium, or firm so you get the mattress that is just right for you.

The Dunlop Method
The Dunlop method (originally developed in the 1920’s) uses a gelling agent to set the latex and maintain the consistency of the foam structure, which is washed off at the end of production.

dunlop

The Talalay Method
The Talalay method (originally developed in the 1950’s) involves similar steps but flash freezes the molded foam in order to set the structure before vulcanizing it instead of gelling agents.

talalay

Continuous Production Method
Latex can also be made by using a continuous production process which, while technically a Dunlop method, does not use the traditional moulding process to shape the foam before vulcanizing it. Instead, by using a continuous moving conveyor they are able to more accurately control the mixture which ensures a more consistent product over the Dunlop method and used much less energy than the Talalay method.

latex-c

*Natural latex has a variety of benefits and since it’s made from natural rubber, it’s completely safe. Because it’s all natural, it’s hypoallergenic. It’s even safe for those with latex allergies. People with latex allergies are not allergic to the latex, but a protein found in rubber. Thanks to the washing process, the protein, which is water based, is completely removed.

“The Purity 100% Natural Latex Mattress W/Cashmere and Cotton Cover.”BedInABox.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2013. <http://www.bedinabox.com/product/6533.html >.

Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a disorder resulting in discomfort, aching or strange sensations in the legs that are only relieved upon moving the legs. 1Insomnia is the major byproduct of RLS and can make staying rested very difficult. The sensations felt in the legs have been described as tingling, itching, creeping and aching. These sensations distract the mind and make sleeping nearly impossible due to lack of comfort.

Symptoms of RLS are most evident in the nighttime, especially when trying to fall asleep. The urge to move the legs can disrupt sleep causing insomnia and daytime drowsiness the following day. Over half of those suffering from RLS symptoms report taking more than 30 minutes to fall asleep each night. 2

Between 5 and 15 percent of the population suffer from restless leg syndrome, although many are misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all. 2 RLS is commonly diagnosed as simple insomnia or depression as many of the symptoms are similar.

RLS can begin at any age but it more severe and pains last longer as age increases. The peak onset period is around middle age. 1 Additionally, RLS is known to run in families. More than 70 percent of children diagnosed with RLS also had a parent with RLS. 2 RLS is more common in females and those who are pregnant, suffer from rheumatoid arthritis or are anemic are at higher risk. 1

Treatment

Treatment for RLS is typically prescribed medication and relaxation therapy. 1 Walking, massaging the legs and acupressure are a few of the techniques proven to help reduce RLS symptoms. Relaxation techniques such as Yoga and Pilates, especially late in the day can assist in stretching the legs and help to alleviate symptoms. 2 Heat therapy in the form of heat or ice packs or simply a hot bath have also been shown to help with relaxation of muscles and helping to ease symptoms.

Caffeine intake can increase chances of developing RLS and can worsen symptoms if intake is not suppressed. Also, those with low iron levels or anemia may develop RLS and should take actions to increase iron intake.

The best way to combat the symptoms associated with RLS is through relaxing and going through the process to get better sleep overall. This includes making the bedroom quiet, cool and comfortable, not eating close to bedtime and exercising regularly.  Additionally, memory foam mattresses and latex mattresses may help with RLS as they help to reduce pressure points.

Teamed with the many other sleep problems and disorders, especially in adults, individuals suffering from RLS can experience a very difficult time sleeping resulting in lack of focus, lack of attentiveness and onset of depression.

Bibliography

1. Maas, Dr. James B., Megan L. Wherry, David J Axelrod, Barbara R. Hogan, and Jennifer A. Blumin. Power Sleep: The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance. New York : Villard, 1998.

2. National Sleep Foundation—Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) and Sleep; http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-related-problems/restless-legs-syndrome-rls-and-sleep

Health Benefits of Sleep

We are all aware that sleep is “good for us”, but how does the one-third of our lives spent sleeping really benefit us? Chronic sleep deprivation can result in a number of harmful disorders as well as making overall life quality suffer.

1. Restoration of Memory

Sleep is vital to the formation and recall of memories. During REM sleep, dreams are used to help consolidate memory. 1 Without the vital rest the brain needs to create memories, retention and recall of events and information will be severely affected. For instance, staying up all night to cram for an exam will result in short term recall, but no long term memory because the brain never had a chance to store the information as a memory.

2. Prevent Sickness and Flu

Sleep deprivation can weaken the immune system making it not as capable of fighting disease such as influenza. Lack of sleep can alter the functioning of the body’s white blood cells used to fight infection. Therefore, lack of sleep can lead to various other sicknesses further preventing sleep.

3. Helps to Fight Obesity and Increase Metabolism

Obesity, a growing problem in the world, has been shown to have a connection with sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation causes the body to crave foods with higher calorie and carbohydrate content to make up for lack of energy. 1 Lack of sleep also decreases metabolism at a rate that mimics metabolic rates of aging. As sleep affects obesity, obesity also affects sleep. Many of those suffering from sleep apnea are overweight and fix their sleep problems by exercising.

4. Restoration and Repair of the Body and Mind

After exercising or exerting yourself in any way, the body’s muscles become tired and need recovery time. Sleep is the time your body and mind use to repair muscles and tissues and improve the body’s functioning. By giving yourself the adequate amount of sleep, you are also restoring your body to its optimal state of functioning.

5. Reduces Stress and Stress-related Symptoms

Stress can bring on severe mental and physical problems such as depression, cardiovascular disorders and high blood pressure. Studies have shown that sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, that result in fragmented sleep can cause increased stress and increase risk for heart problems. 2

6. Improves Mood

Without adequate sleep, it is likely that most will experience an increase in irritability. Sleep deprivation causes stress, anger and overall feeling of mental exhaustion. In addition to the natural grogginess felt when deprived of sleep, individuals will also typically refrain from social interaction and be difficult to work with.

7. Energy and Alertness

Daytime drowsiness causes decreased alertness and increased safety risks. For example shift workers (nightshift/irregular shift workers) are extremely sleep deprived. These workers tend to have more accidents on the job than workers who keep regular hours because of lack of alertness and energy. 3

Sleep is vital to well-being and health. Many of the above factors affect each other and can all be improved by simply exercising healthy sleep habits. Sleep makes everyone happier and healthier and contributes to productivity in our day-to-day lives.

Bibliography:

1. Medical University of South Carolina—Sleep Health Benefits; http://www.muschealth.com/healthyaging/sleep_health_benefits.htm

2. Harvard Medical School—Health Publications: Importance of Sleep and Health; http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/importance_of_sleep_and_health

3. Maas, Dr. James B., Megan L. Wherry, David J Axelrod, Barbara R. Hogan, and Jennifer A. Blumin. Power Sleep: The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance. New York : Villard, 1998.