Livin' on the MDedge

The devil in the (masking) details


Not-so-essential oils

Many people use essential oils as a way to unwind and relax. Stressed? Can’t sleep? There’s probably an essential oil for that. However, it seems like these days a lot of things we love and/or think are good for us have a side that’s not so.

Two bottles of essential oil pxfuel

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a woman from Georgia died from a rare bacteria called Burkholderia pseudomallei. There have been three previous infections in Kansas, Minnesota, and Texas throughout 2021; two of the four infections were in children. Melioidosis, the disease caused by B. pseudomallei, is usually found in southeast Asia and isn’t obvious or easy to diagnose, especially in places like decidedly untropical Minnesota.

The Georgia case was the real break in this medical mystery, as the infection was traced back to a Walmart product called “Better Homes and Gardens Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstones” (a very pithy name). The bacteria were in the lavender and chamomile scent. The CDC is investigating all other product scents, and Walmart has recalled all lots of the product.

If you’ve got that particular essential oil, it’s probably for the best that you stop using it. Don’t worry, we’re sure there’s plenty of other essential oil–infused aromatherapy room sprays with gemstones out there for your scent-based needs.

Welcome to the Ministry of Sleep-Deprived Walks

Walking is simple, right? You put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’re walking out the door. Little kids can do it. Even zombies can walk, and they don’t even have brains.

Sleepwalker on a roof riskms/Getty

Research from MIT and the University of São Paulo has shown that walking is a little trickier than we might think. One researcher in particular noticed that student volunteers tended to perform worse toward the end of semesters, as project deadlines and multiple exams crashed over their heads and they were deprived of solid sleep schedules.

In a study published in Scientific Reports, our intrepid walking researchers had a collection of students monitor their sleep patterns for 2 weeks; on average, the students got 6 hours per night, though some were able to compensate on weekends. On the final day of a 14-day period, some students pulled all-nighters while the rest were allowed to sleep as usual. Then all students performed a walking test involving keeping time with a metronome.

To absolutely no one’s surprise, the students who performed all-nighters before being tested walked the worst, but between the other students, the ones who compensated for sleep deprivation on weekends did better than those who got 6 hours every night, despite getting a similar amount of sleep overall. This effect persisted even when the compensating students performed their walking tests late in the week, just before they got their weekend beauty sleep.

The moral of the story? Sleep is good, and you should get more of it. But if you can’t, sleep in on weekends. Science has given you permission. All those suburban dads looking to get their teenagers up at 8 in the morning must be sweating right now.


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