Why do some people uncontrollably convulse right before they fall asleep?
What is it? You’re lying in bed, just about to drop into blissful oblivion, when suddenly you feel like you’re falling, your leg jolts out to balance you, you jolt up to see what the hell is going on…The phenomenon of jerking yourself awake just as you’re dropping off is commonly known as “sleep jerks” or “hypnic jerks.”
Why does it happen? Scientists are divided on the subject and there are two different hypotheses, but not a lot of concrete research about causes. Some sleep researchers believe that the jerking motion is linked to the physical changes that occur within your body as you fall asleep; your breathing slows down, your temperature drops and your muscle tension changes. It is thought that hypnic jerks may be a byproduct of this muscular transition.
The other hypothesis is that as your body begins to fall into a state of total relaxation there’s a point at which your muscles really let go. At this point your brain can sometimes misinterpret this muscle relaxation as a sign that you’re falling and shoots out a message to jerk your limbs to stay upright—this would also explain why you often feel like you are falling right before you wake up.
Should I worry? This is an entirely normal phenomenon and as long as it only happens once or twice in a night you have nothing to worry about. However, there is a disorder known as “Periodic Limb Movement,” which causes patients to jerk for up to two hours at regular intervals during sleep, leaving the patient exhausted upon awaking but unaware as to why. Obviously if this is happening, it’s probably best to head to the doctor.
Why does asparagus make your pee smell weird?
What is it? Yes, it’s gross but let’s not beat about the bush here—you’ve eaten some asparagus and then about 15 to 30 minutes later you take a pee and you smell the strange stench of rotting egg. You try to convince yourself it’s not you, but there’s no denying it, that smell is coming from your pee.
Why does it happen? Asparagus is filled with sulfurous amino acids that break down during digestion into various compounds. These can give a unique smell to your urine as they are excreted.
“It’s the same sulfur group that makes skunks smell,” explains dietician Samantha Li. “Not a great deal of research has been done into the phenomenon so no one can say exactly why it affects some people more than others.” Indeed, scientists are again divided on the issue: One camp believes that only about half the population has a gene enabling them to break down the sulfurous amino acids in asparagus into their smellier components. Meanwhile, others believe we all digest asparagus in the same way, but only about half of us have a gene that enables us to actually smell the specific compounds formed in the digestion of asparagus.
Should I worry? According to the Dictionary of Medical Syndromes, which includes an entry on the urinary excretion of “odoriferous components of asparagus”: “The syndrome does not have any pathological significance.” In other words, you’re safe, it’s normal—just hold your nose next time.
What are those dust specks you sometimes get in front of your eyes?
What is it? When you are tired or have been looking at a light source for too long, you may notice strange specks floating in front of your eyes that look like a small hair or a spot of dust. These are called “floaters.”
Why does it happen? Floaters are actually tiny clumps of cells inside the vitreous (the clear jelly-like substance that fills the inside of your eye). So while they may look like specks or strands of hair, you are in fact seeing the shadows of floaters cast on the retina (the light sensitive part of your eye). This is why as you move your eye, the floater moves with it—because what you’re seeing is not in front of your eyes but actually within your eyes. The floaters can be a sign of strain on the eye and occur when the vitreous thickens and clumps. It’s also common for pregnant women to experience floaters on a regular basis—in this case, they are seeing little bits of protein that are trapped in the eye.
Should I worry? Most spots and floaters are a harmless annoyance that disappears over time. However, you should see a doctor if the eye floaters are accompanied by flashes of light, peripheral vision loss or migraines, as those could be signs of more serious conditions such as diabetes or retinal hemorrhages.
Why do baked beans make you fart?
What is it? Canned baked beans, soybeans, peas, cabbage and onions can all create the most potent and irrepressible gas.
Why does it happen? Baked beans (and many other similar products) are sweetened with a family of sugars called “oligosaccharides.” In a nutshell, these are big clumsy molecules that are too large to slip into your body through the lining of the small intestine. Normally when your food reaches your small intestine, your intestinal enzymes snap up all the useful molecules, but for some reason these particular sugars are too complex to be broken down and therefore pass through into the large intestine still bearing valuable nutrients. Within the large intestines sit bacteria, which break down any leftovers. When a useful molecule slips into their home, they divide and grow to take advantage of the new food. As they consume the sugars, they let out gas which then accumulates and collects in your intestines. So essentially a bean fart is millions and millions of little bacteria farts combined together.
Should I worry? Yes! No, just kidding. Like all these things, if it’s happening often and is harming your social life, then you should probably visit your doctor. If not, just grin and bear it…or blame it on your dog.
Why do you sometimes shiver shortly after you pee?
What is it? While some of you will have no idea what we’re talking about when we refer to the pee shiver, others will be nodding in an all-too-familiar manner. The pee shiver occurs within the last few seconds of urination; it’s an uncontrollable shake that takes hold of the entire body.
Why does it happen? No one has ever conducted a study on why this phenomenon occurs. However, after chatting to many waterworks experts, the most plausible explanation we discovered was from urologist Dr. Stephen Woo. “Basically, your autonomic nervous system controls your body’s involuntary muscles, like the muscles around your bladder that help you control yourself when you go to the toilet,” he explains. “It also regulates your body’s temperature control, making you shiver to warm up or perspire to cool down. So there is a theory that during urination, the autonomic system can get over-stimulated and in addition to the messages it is sending to your bladder to allow you to urinate, it may also cross-communicate to other areas; hence the shiver. It’s almost like your autonomic system becomes confused and sends mixed messages.” The longer you hold in your pee the more your body can become overstrained and more likely to send these confused messages.
Should I worry? The pee shiver is not normally a problem but when it occurs to a man, it has been known for the shiver to cue a drop in blood pressure, which can cause them to pass out at the urinal. But before you start taking precautionary friends into the toilet with you, this usually only happens to men above the age of 60.