Pregnancy, stress hormones and a new adaptive Alarm Clock

Hannover, Germany – Got kids (or are you about to have kids)? Then you’ve got stress! If you have stress, then you also have cortisol, and you need to know what to do about it – because excess exposure to cortisol (the body’s primary stress hormone) is associated with weight gain, increased hunger (sugar cravings), diabetes, elevated blood pressure, immune suppression, depression, memory problems.

What is cortisol?
Cortisol is the body’s primary stress hormone. Under stressful circumstances cortisol is part of the body’s “fight-or-flight” reaction, where it helps to regulate carbohydrate metabolism, cardiovascular function, and immune system activity. In this way, a small amount of cortisol is released, for a short period of time. Under conditions of chronic stress, however, cortisol exposure is prolonged – and bad things happen to your health.

Who has elevated cortisol?
The scientific literature shows quite clearly that there are three main groups of people who are likely to have elevated cortisol levels: Those who are exposed to daily stress from physical or psychological factors, those who sleep unregularly and those who excessively restrain their eating patterns for weight loss.

Who needs to control their cortisol levels?
Everybody, but especially women. Men and women are known to respond to stress with pretty much the same cortisol response. This means that when both men and women are stressed-out, their cortisol levels go up, and when the stress goes away, their cortisol levels come back down. The differences between men and women in stress response come not from physiology, but from psychology.

Research from the University of California at San Francisco shows us that women tend to get stressed-out by different things (family and kids) than men do (careers). Evidence from studies at Goteberg University in Sweden show us that women also are exposed to more hours of stress in a given day then are their male counterparts.

This means that working men and women will have similar cortisol levels at work, but upon returning home for the evening, women still had elevated cortisol levels, while those in men fell back top normal ranges. This probably indicates that the women had additional sources of stress at home (laundry, dinner, childcare) compared to the men (who came home to relax).

Why should you control your cortisol levels?
Aside from the strong link between elevated cortisol and obesity, diabetes, depression, osteoporosis, skeletal muscle wasting, (and in men: erectile function problems) and many other chronic conditions, there is also growing evidence that stress/cortisol exposure during pregnancy may pass an increased risk for certain health problems onto children.

In a variety of animal studies, elevated cortisol levels (such as those that might be seen during “normal” emotional distress in humans) have been linked to high blood pressure, memory problems, immune suppression, and mood disturbances in both pregnant mothers and their children.

Researchers believe that the excess cortisol produced by the mother’s stressful experiences may influence cortisol metabolism during the baby’s crucial development periods.

What can you do to control your cortisol levels?
There are a variety of approaches that can be effective in managing stress and controlling cortisol levels. In addition, Clinical Neurologist Dr. Hans Joerg Stuerenburg, M.D., Ph.D. developed and patented an innovative adaptive stress free alarm clock, “The Gentle Alarm”.

Compared to conventional alarm clocks, the Gentle Alarm enables an individualized, natural wake up procedure, which adapts itself to the users’ particular needs within a few nights. This patented alarm clock is leading to a gentle and stress free wake up.

Sudden, abrupt waking in the morning as with loud, conventional alarm clocks and the associated release of stress hormones and cortisol from the adrenal gland can be avoided by using this novel and intelligent self adapting sleep cycle alarm clock.

One effect of a individualized, stress free and natural wake up process and a gentle, soft wake up, is the improvement of the mother’s cortisol metabolism during the baby’s crucial development periods.

Stuerenburg sees additional health benefits of this intelligent innovation in weight loss. In addition, Cortisol reduction will also lead to increased skeletal muscle mass, since one of the adverse effects of cortisol is skeletal muscle wasting.

The Gentle Alarm is easy to use, like a conventional, normal alarm clock. In order to be woken up smoothly, sleepers will be guided from the deep sleep phase or dream phase into the light sleep phase by gentle sounds.

Unlike the hitherto existing “sleep cycle alarm clocks” The Gentle Alarm does not require additional implement such as wristband motion sensors, sound sensors or movement sensors. Users simply set their desired wake up time. After waking up, they merely slide a finger across the screen to stop the alarm. Everything else is taken care of by the patented and intelligent system.

The Gentle Alarm (patent pending) was developed for iPhone in collaboration with Craft mobile and can be downloaded from the Apple iTunes AppStore for iPhone or iPod touch (requires iPhone OS Version 3.0 or newer).

Tuesday 2 November 2010
“The Independent”, one of the four largest British newspapers, named 9 conventional alarm clocks (like “Beo time”, Bang and Olufsen’s offering, 295) and one alarm clock app, “The Gentle Alarm” (2.50, for iPhone and iPod touch) “The ten best alarm clocks”. The Independent mentioned: “Best for stress heads. The Gentle Alarm app for iPhone and iPod touch. This app monitors your natural sleep patterns and produces a personalised waking programme which stirs you from your slumber at the least stressful point of your sleep cycle”.

The Gentle Alarm 1.0
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Craft mobile is an agile team specialized on the implementation of iPhone applications. Craft mobile was initiated in 2009 and is a project of Craft AG, Freiburg (established Aug. 2000). Dr. Hans Joerg Stuerenburg (M.D., Ph.D.): Specialist in Neurology is Head of the Neurolo-gical Department, Niedersachsen Medical Center, Bad Nenndorf, Germany. Copyright (C) 2010 Craft AG, Freiburg. All Rights Reserved. Apple, the Apple logo, iPhone, iPod and iPad are registered trademarks of Apple Inc. in the U.S. and/or other countries.

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