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Double Tipping: Ice Cream Brain Freeze & Snoozing in Your Plane Seat
USA Weekend Magazine, June 3, 2007
by Susan T. Lennon

Ice Cream Brain Freeze

A third of us get it. None of us needs to worry about it.

There may be some truth to that familiar childhood rhyme: "I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream." Why? Because about a third of us may feel the urge to scream when we indulge in ice cream, thanks to "brain freeze."

"As god-awful as the pain may be ... you're not going to blow an aneurysm."

What is it? "It's a painful swelling of the blood vessels around the head, triggered when an icy-cold substance hits the back part of the roof of your mouth and chills it," says David W. Buchholz, M.D., author of Heal Your Headache.

The piercing headache starts a few seconds after contact and usually lasts less than a minute. The good news? "It does not produce any damage whatsoever," says Buchholz, an associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins. "As god-awful as the pain may be ... you're not going to blow an aneurysm or have a stroke."

But why doesn't it usually happen with cold soda? Temperature and consistency.

"The food must be icy-cold and, because it needs to maintain contact with the roof of the mouth, thick enough to do more than simply slide down the throat," Buchholz says. So a milkshake, Slurpee or margarita can produce the same result.

The best way to avoid the ache? Even when it's 110 degrees in the shade, sip your drink or eat your treat slowly.


How to snooze in your plane seat

Taking a trip across several time zones? To reduce jet-lag fatigue, "adjust your sleep/wake cycle to match your destination's several days before you leave," says Clete A. Kushida, M.D., of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. If that's not possible, try these tips to help you snooze better on the plane:

Preflight prep

If you generally have trouble sleeping, you'll find it difficult to catch some ZZZs while aloft. "See a doctor for conditions like snoring, breathing problems, leg kicking or insomnia," Kushida urges. "There are more than 80 different sleep disorders, and most can be treated." If your doctor prescribes a mild sleeping pill, test it before your trip to check for adverse reactions.

On-board buffers

  • Wear comfortable clothing.
  • Minimize noise with earplugs.
  • Block light and distractions with an eye mask.
  • Avoid over-the-counter antihistamines and prescription tranquilizers. They can produce prolonged grogginess long after you wake up.
  • Avoid alcohol. "It disrupts deep sleep and worsens sleep apnea," says Kushida, who is also director of Stanford University's Center for Human Sleep Research.

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