Archive for category Sleep

Young Adults Value Appearance More Than Health


Young Adults Value Appearance More Than HealthFor many young adults, beauty really is little more than skin-deep and has little to do with health.

A new investigation by University of Missouri researchers studied how college-age women view their bodies, and how they feel about media messages aimed at women.

María Len-Ríos, Ph.D., an associate professor of strategic communication, and Suzanne Burgoyne, Ph.D., a professor of theater, used a focus group to develop an interactive play about body image.

The objective of the interactive play was to encourage frank discussions about conflicting societal messages regarding weight, values and healthful choices.

“During our focus group conversations, we learned that young people don’t think about nutrition when it comes to eating,” Len-Ríos said. “They think more about calorie-counting, which isn’t necessarily related to a balanced diet.”

The focus groups included college-age women, college-age men and mothers of college-age women, who discussed how body image is associated with engaging in restrictive diets, irregular sleep patterns and over-exercising.

“We receive so many conflicting media messages from news reports and advertising about how we should eat, how we should live and how we should look,” Len-Ríos said. “Some participants said they realize images of models are digitally enhanced, but it doesn’t necessarily keep them from wanting to achieve these unattainable figures—this is because they see how society rewards women for ‘looking good.’”

During the course of the investigation, researchers completed in-depth interviews with nutritional counselors who said lack of time and unhealthy food environments can keep college-age students from getting good nutrition.

“Eating well takes time, and, according to health professionals, college students are overscheduled and don’t have enough time to cook something properly or might not know how to prepare something healthful,” Len-Ríos said.

Based on the focus group conversations and interviews, Carlia Francis, an MU theater doctoral student and playwright, developed “Nutrition 101,” a play about women’s body images.

During performances, characters divulge their insecurities about their own bodies, disparage other women’s bodies and talk about nutrition choices. After a short, scripted performance, the actors remain in character, and audience members ask the characters questions.

“When you’re developing something for interactive theater, focus groups and in-depth interviews are great at getting at stories,” Len-Ríos said.

“Many of the stories used in the interactive play—like valuing people because of their appearance and not their personal qualities or abilities—came from individuals’ personal experiences.”

Burgoyne said the play helps facilitate dialogues about nutrition, media messages and self-awareness.

“Body image is a sensitive topic, and the play helps open discussions about how individuals view themselves and how media messages influence their self-images,” Burgoyne said.

“An easy way to improve individuals’ body images does not exist, but hopefully, the conversations that arise from the performances will help develop ways to counteract the images that the media promote.”

Source: University of Missouri

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Sleep Problems A Global Epidemic?


Sleep Problems A Global Epidemic?Can’t sleep? You’re not alone. New research shows that the levels of sleep-related problems in the developing world are approaching those seen in developed nations, linked to an increase in depression and anxiety.

According to an analysis of sleep problems in African and Asian countries by researchers at the Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick, an estimated 150 million adults are suffering from sleep-related problems across the developing world.

Researchers said 16.6 percent of the population report insomnia and other severe sleep disturbances in the countries surveyed, which is quite close to the 20 percent found in Canada and the U.S.

The researchers looked at the sleep quality of 24,434 women and 19,501 men aged 50 years and over in eight rural areas in Ghana, Tanzania, South Africa, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Indonesia, as well as an urban area in Kenya.

They examined potential links between sleep problems and social demographics, quality of life, physical health, and psychiatric conditions.

The strongest link was found between psychiatric conditions such as depression and anxiety and sleep problems, mirroring trends seen in the developed world, the researchers note.

The researchers also point out that there was a “striking variation” across the countries surveyed. For example, Bangladesh had the highest prevalence of sleep problems, with a 43.9 percent rate for women — more than twice the rate of developed countries and far higher than the 23.6 percent seen in men. Bangladesh also saw very high patterns of anxiety and depression, according to the researchers.

In Vietnam, 37.6 percent of the women and 28.5 percent of the men reported sleep problems. Meanwhile, Tanzania, Kenya and Ghana saw rates of between 8.3 percent and 12.7 percent.

The researchers also pointed out that South Africa had double the rate of other African countries — 31.3 percent for women and 27.2 percent for men.

People in India and Indonesia had very little sleep issues — 6.5 percent for Indian women and 4.3 percent for Indian men, while Indonesian men reported rates of sleep problems of 3.9 percent and women had rates of 4.6 percent.

The research also found a higher prevalence of sleep problems in women and older age groups, consistent with patterns found in higher-income countries.

“Our research shows the levels of sleep problems in the developing world are far higher than previously thought,” said Dr. Saverio Stranges, who was the lead author of the study, published in the journal Sleep.

“This is particularly concerning as many low-income countries are facing a double burden of disease with pressure on scarce financial resources coming from infectious diseases like HIV, but also from a growing rate of chronic diseases like cardiovascular diseases and cancer. This new study suggests sleep disturbances might also represent a significant and unrecognized public health issue among older people, especially women, in low-income settings.”

The research also found that sleep problems are not linked to living in big cities, as most of the people surveyed lived in rural settings, he said, noting, “We might expect even higher figures for people living in urban areas.”

Source: The University of Warwick

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Feeling that Reality is Unreal


It feels like NOTHING is real, but…that doesn’t depress me. Shouldn’t it? For the past few months (and nothing I can think of significant has happened in the past few months, at least nothing out of the ordinary) i’ve begun to feel as if the world around me wasn’t real. But it’s not…depressing or scary…and the fact that its not scary, is a little bit odd to me. I don’t feel particularly unhappy or unsafe, in fact, you could even say that recently I’ve been happier than normal. But even sitting down in the living room typing this seems like it isn’t really happening. It’s like i’m just thinking really hard about things happening or watching some odd 3d projection of information pretending to be physical matter or light or whatever. Shouldn’t I be depressed? Why do I feel so strangely…I don’t even know how to explain it. Not euphoric, because that’s too extreme, just…disconnected. A sort of happy isolation. Am I crazy, or am I like…SUPER CRAZY? What’s wrong with me?

A. I would need many more details about your symptoms to know what, if anything, may be wrong. For instance, it would have been helpful to have answers to the following questions:

  • Do you have a recent history of substance use?
  • How often do you feel as though nothing is real?
  • When did these feelings begin?
  • Are you able to distinguish between what is real and what isn’t?
  • Are you engaging in any particular activity when these feelings occur?
  • Did you recently began taking a new medication?

There are several general possibilities that may explain your symptoms: a significant lack of sleep or the use of drugs or alcohol. If you have used drugs or alcohol recently, your symptoms may be a side effect of those substances. I receive many letters from individuals who have recently “smoked something” and subsequently feel similar to what you have described.

It’s also possible that you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition. Depersonalization disorder is characterized by feeling detached or estranged from oneself. Sometimes individuals with this disorder describe feeling as though they are in a movie or living in a dream. Some individuals who experience depersonalization worry that they are “crazy.”

On some occasions, individuals with depersonalization disorder experience derealization. Derealization is the experience of feeling as though the external world is strange or not real. Depersonalization disorder typically develops in adolescence or early adulthood (average age is about 16) and can be exacerbated by a traumatic event. Depersonalization disorder is categorized as a dissociative disorder and may be associated with other conditions such as schizophrenia, panic disorder, acute stress disorder, another type of dissociative disorder, drug use, or a general medical problem.

My recommendation is to have an evaluation by a mental health professional. An evaluation could determine if you should be concerned about your symptoms, if your symptoms require treatment and if you have a mental health condition. It is advantageous to receive an objective opinion from a trained professional when experiencing unusual psychological symptoms. Please take care. I wish you the best of luck.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Do I Have an Issue?


Hi, I’m 14. I’ve been in high school for about a year now. I started becoming very very lonely. I used to go out with my “friends”. Now I stay home every single day & it’s summer. I sometimes cry myself to sleep because I feel so unwanted! My parents are divorce, I live with my dad & my dad HATES my mom. I haven’t seen my mom in 4 years. Witch probably makes me so emotional. I sometimes even cry because I don’t think I feel love or understood by anyone. I don’t like talking a bout my feelings to people because I feel unwanted, I feel like they won’t care. I keep so much to myself. It brakes me. I believe my dad is Bi-Polar & has anger issues, witch could be a reason why I get mad very easy. I hate my body so much! I’m fat! Im very insecure. I have so much emotion in me. I’m always sad, I could be happy for one minute then back to sad. I also sleep my whole day away.

A. It seems as though you may be experiencing symptoms of depression. You have negative thoughts, you don’t feel good about yourself and you are withdrawing from friends and family. Your feelings may be related to the breakup of your parents’ marriage or their contentious relationship. They may be so focused on battling each other that they are neglecting your emotional needs.

Another aspect of this problem is that you have been without your mother for four years. It is unclear why you have not seen your mother for such a long time but this likely is contributing to your problems.

I would strongly advise you to speak to your father or other members of your family about the possibility of professional help. Don’t ignore these problems. Your symptoms need to be addressed. It seems as though your father is currently unable to meet your emotional needs and if that is the case, then you should seek help from a mental health professional. A therapist can assist you in developing coping skills and the processing of your feelings in a psychologically healthy way.

If you feel uncomfortable approaching your father about this issue, then as soon as school begins next month, speak to a guidance counselor. The guidance counselor could assist you in addressing these problems or refer you to a mental health professional.

In the meantime, force yourself to be in the presence of others. That may not be easy but do it anyway. The less that you are isolated, the better. Isolation increases the likelihood of negative feelings. I would also encourage you to begin writing in a journal. A journal could be helpful in a number of ways including being a release for your emotions and documenting your symptoms. When and if you have the opportunity to meet with a mental health professional, having those notes from your journal could greatly assist the therapist in determining what might be wrong. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Keep the TV or Computer on At Night? You’re at Greater Risk for Depression


Keep the TV or Computer on At Night? You are at Greater Risk for DepressionIf hamsters are anything like their human counterparts, keeping your TV or computer on at night while you sleep in the same room could not only disrupt your sleep — it could lead to clinical depression.

Any kind of light in your bedroom — a streetlight, a TV, likely even a nightlight — may lead to the depressive symptoms, if exposed to such light for at least a month.

While hamsters exposed to light at night for four weeks showed evidence of depressive symptoms, those symptoms essentially disappeared after about two weeks if they returned to normal lighting conditions.

Even changes in the brain that occurred after hamsters lived with chronic light at night reversed themselves after returning to a more normal light cycle.

These findings add to the growing evidence that suggest chronic exposure to artificial light at night may play some role in the rising rates of depression in humans during the past 50 years, said Tracy Bedrosian, lead author of the study and doctoral student in neuroscience at Ohio State University.

The good news is that the effects of sleep loss are readily reversed with some normal, completely-dark sleep. Use your TV’s sleep timer function to turn it off after you go to sleep. Shut down your computer before going to bed.

This study is the latest in a series out of Nelson’s lab that have linked chronic exposure to light at night to depression and obesity in animal models.

The new study found that one particular protein found in the brain of hamsters — and humans — may play a key role in how light at night leads to depression.

They found that blocking effects of that protein, called tumor necrosis factor, prevented the development of depressive-like symptoms in hamsters even when they were exposed to light at night.

The study involved two experiments using female Siberian hamsters, which had their ovaries removed to ensure that hormones produced in the ovary would not interfere with the results.

In the first experiment, half of the hamsters spent eight weeks in a standard light-dark cycle of 16 hours of light (150 lux) and 8 hours of total darkness each day. The other half spent the first four weeks with 16 hours of normal daylight (150 lux) and 8 hours of dim light — 5 lux, or the equivalent of having a television on in a darkened room.

Then, these hamsters were moved back to a standard light cycle for either one week, two weeks or four weeks before testing began.

They were then given a variety of behavior tests. Results showed that hamsters exposed to chronic dim light at night showed less total activity during their active period each day when compared to those in standard lighting conditions.

Those hamsters exposed to dim light also showed greater depressive symptoms than did the others– such as less interest in drinking sugar water that they usually enjoy.

But within two weeks of returning to a standard light cycle, hamsters exposed to dim night light showed no more depressive-like symptoms than did hamsters that always had standard lighting. In addition, they returned to normal activity levels.

After the behavioral testing, the hamsters were sacrificed and the researchers studied a part of their brains called the hippocampus, which plays a key role in depressive disorders.

Findings showed that hamsters exposed to dim light showed a variety of changes associated with depression.

Most importantly, hamsters that lived in dim light showed increased expression of the gene that produces tumor necrosis factor. TNF is one of a large family of proteins called cytokines — chemical messengers that are mobilized when the body is injured or has an infection. These cytokines cause inflammation in their effort to repair an injured or infected area of the body. However, this inflammation can be damaging when it is constant, as happens in hamsters exposed to dim light at night.

“Researchers have found a strong association in people between chronic inflammation and depression,” said Nelson, who is a member of Ohio State’s Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research.

“That’s why it is very significant that we found this relationship between dim light at night and increased expression of TNF.”

In addition, results showed that hamsters that lived in dim light had a significantly reduced density of dendritic spines — hairlike growths on brain cells which are used to send chemical messages from one cell to another.

Changes such as this have been linked to depression, Bedrosian said.

However, hamsters that were returned to a standard light-dark cycle after four weeks of dim light at night saw their TNF levels and even their density of dendritic spines return essentially to normal.

“Changes in dendritic spines can happen very rapidly in response to environmental factors,” Bedrosian said.

In a second experiment, the researchers tested just how important TNF might be. Results showed that hamsters exposed to dim light at night did not show any more depressive-like symptoms than standard-light hamsters if they were given XPro1595. However, the drug did not seem to prevent the reduction of dendritic spine density in hamsters exposed to dim light.

These results provide further evidence of the role TNF may play in the depressive symptoms seen in hamsters exposed to dim light. But the fact that XPro1595 did not affect dendritic spine density means that more needs to be learned about exactly how TNF works, Nelson said.

Source: Ohio State University

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Can’t Sleep? Little Research Supports Use of Herbal Sleep Aids


Can’t Sleep? Little Research Supports Use of Herbal Sleep Aids

by Rick Nauert PhD

Cant Sleep? Little Research Supports Use of Herbal Sleep Aids Experts say that approximately one in three Americans suffers from chronic sleep deprivation and another 10-15 percent of the population has chronic insomnia.

But a recent review has found little evidence that herbal sleep aids are effective.

Health practitioners know that sleep disorders can profoundly affect a person’s whole life and have been linked to a range of diseases, including obesity, depression, anxiety, and inflammatory disorders.

Often over-the-counter or herbal sleep aids are used to induce sleep, but surprisingly, very little research has been done to study their efficacy.

This topic is discussed in an article found in the journal Alternative and Complementary Therapies.

People need many hours of sound, restorative sleep every night to maintain an optimal state of physiological and psychological health. However, many factors can disrupt sleep schedules and compromise the quality of sleep.

In the review article, researchers conducted a search of the Internet and electronic databases to identify literature on herbal remedies that are commonly used to manage insomnia.

They found allopathic solutions of valerian, hops, kava-kava, chamomile, and St. John’s wort have all been suggested as sleep aids.

Unfortunately, few scientific studies had been published on the therapeutic potential and safety of these herbal remedies and, when a study has been performed, the results were either inconclusive or contradictory.

The authors concluded that, considering the benefits that a natural management strategy could offer patients with insomnia, additional research is required to assess the effectiveness and safety of herbal remedies as therapeutic agents.

Source: Mary Ann Liebert

Herbal medication photo by shutterstock.

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Need Help with Extreme Anxiety


Middle of the night I wake up in a panic and need to check on my husband because I am sure that he died in his sleep. I feel his chest and cannot feel him breathing or a heart beat, I usually shake him or grab him freaking out which wakes him up. Some nights I wake up sobbing other nights my husband has to wake me up because I am crying in my sleep. I have done this with all of my children when they were little and my husband for years now but it was only once in a great while. Now it is much more extreme, at least once a week. I was the day time caretaker of my grandmother who passed away in January and I think that could be the cause of the increase in this anxiety. I need to know what this is and how I can make it stop. Please give me some direction .

A: I’m so sorry this has gone on so long without treatment. What you are describing is an anxiety disorder. Everyone who loves someone has some fears that something will happen to them. But in your case, those fears are in over-drive. I agree that the death of your grandmother probably exacerbated what was already a serious problem. Her death made your fears even more real for you.

I think you should consider seeing a mental health professional who is experienced with anxiety disorders. It might be helpful to take some anti-anxiety medication for awhile just to bring the anxiety down a notch to make it more possible for you to take advantage of talk therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been found to be the most useful approach for managing this kind of problem. You will learn ways to stop the negative thoughts and to replace them with reassurances on your own.

Please follow through and get the help you need. You – and your husband – deserve to sleep peacefully.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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