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Sleep Benefits and Sleep Deprivation Risks

Pandemic school closures improved teens’ sleeping patterns, study finds

Students got more sleep and enjoyed better health and wellness when school was closed

While many studies have reported on the negative ways that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected young people, a new study conducted by the University of Zurich found some positive results. Their work showed that school closures related to the pandemic gave teens the opportunity to sleep more and improve their general health and well-being. 

“Although the lockdown clearly led to worse health and well-being for many young people, our findings reveal an upside of the school c...

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    Healthy sleeping habits could lower the risk of heart failure, study finds

    Being vigilant about a nighttime routine can be incredibly beneficial for consumers’ heart health

    Recent studies have highlighted the ways that poor sleeping habits can negatively affect consumers’ heart health. Now, a new study conducted by researchers from the American Heart Association has found the inverse to be true: healthy sleeping habits can be good for consumers’ hearts. 

    According to their findings, consumers with solid sleep routines lowered their risk of heart failure by more than 40 percent compared to those who had inconsistent nighttime habits. 

    “Our findings highlight the importance of improving overall sleep patterns to help prevent heart failure,” said researcher Dr. Lu Qi. 

    Prioritizing healthy sleeping habits

    To understand how healthy sleeping habits can affect consumers’ heart health, the researchers analyzed data from more than 408,000 participants involved in the U.K. Biobank database. Healthy sleeping habits were identified from five major characteristics: daytime sleepiness, sleep duration, snoring, tendencies towards being a night owl versus an early riser, and insomnia. Each participant received a sleep score based on how many of the habits they followed each night; the higher the score, the better the sleep quality. 

    The researchers learned that those with the best sleep scores had the lowest risk of heart failure. Those who incorporated the most healthy habits into their nightly routines had a more than 40 percent lower risk of heart failure than those who had the lowest sleep scores. 

    While consumers should strive to incorporate as many healthy sleep habits as they can, the researchers found that meeting only one healthy habit was still enough to reduce the risk of heart failure on its own. For example, those who rarely felt tired during the day were nearly 35 percent less likely to experience heart failure, whereas those who were prone to waking up earlier were roughly 10 percent less likely to experience heart failure. Similarly, those who slept at least seven hours each night and those who didn’t experience insomnia-related symptoms also had a lower risk of heart failure. 

    As the health risks associated with disrupted sleep continue to mount, these findings highlight the importance of cultivating healthy habits at bedtime. 

    Recent studies have highlighted the ways that poor sleeping habits can negatively affect consumers’ heart health. Now, a new study conducted by researchers...
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    Getting more sleep after a traumatic event can help ease negative effects, study finds

    Experts wonder about how a lack of sleep could enhance trauma-related symptoms

    Recent studies have highlighted the benefits of getting quality sleep each night, while others have shown how a lack of sleep can affect everything from consumers’ diets to cognitive functioning

    Now, a new study conducted by researchers from Washington State University has found that sleep could be the key to better mental health following a traumatic event. According to their findings, increasing sleep time after a trauma was linked with fewer negative effects. 

    “People with PTSD oftentimes experience nightmares and other types of sleep disturbances, such as frequent awakenings and insomnia,” said researcher William Vanderheyden. “One thought was that those sleep disturbances may cause further cognitive impairment and worsen the effects of PTSD or the initial trauma. So we wanted to see whether repairing the sleep disturbances associated with trauma exposure could help alleviate the symptoms of PTSD.” 

    The power of sleep

    Over the course of a three-day study conducted on mice, the researchers sought to understand how sleep can affect mental health outcomes following a trauma. On the first day, the mice heard a sound and then were immediately shocked in the foot. After they had grown used to this experience, the next two days were devoted to having them forget that memory, by having the sound played without the shock. 

    In terms of their sleeping habits, half of the mice were given optogenetic stimulation prior to the three-day experiment, which allows a sleep-related hormone to be released in greater quantities and aids in longer sleep times. The other half of the group received no interventions and slept as they normally would. 

    The researchers learned that the group that had received optogenetic stimulation not only slept longer over the course of seven days, but they were also better at forgetting the traumatic experience of getting shocked in the foot during the three-day experiment. 

    The mice in the control group had a harder time forgetting the shock, and would freeze in place after hearing the sound that had signaled the shock was coming. Conversely, the mice who had gotten more sleep were better at breaking the association between the sound and the traumatic experience. 

    In thinking about how these findings could apply to humans and traumatic situations, the researchers believe that sleep-related interventions could be beneficial. However, the researchers do wonder about the role that time plays, as they hypothesize that the greatest success will come immediately following a traumatic event and not in trying to heal past traumas. 

    “This highlights that there is a time-sensitive window when -- if you intervene to improve sleep -- you could potentially stave off the negative effects of trauma,” Vanderheyden said. “Conversely, it seems likely that if you are kept awake after a trauma, this could potentially be harmful to your cognitive function, though we haven’t directly tested this as part of our study.” 

    Recent studies have highlighted the benefits of getting quality sleep each night, while others have shown how a lack of sleep can affect everything from co...
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    Getting more sleep helps consumers better handle positive and negative events, study finds

    More sleep benefits consumers’ overall emotional well-being

    There are countless reasons why getting enough sleep is crucial to consumers’ health and well-being, but getting quality sleep can be difficult -- especially during stressful times

    Now, researchers from the University of British Columbia have found that feeling well-rested can affect how consumers respond to both good and bad news. According to their study, a lack of sleep can make positive events less enjoyable, as well as make bad events even more difficult. 

    “The recommended guideline for a good night’s sleep is at least seven hours, yet one in three adults don’t meet this standard,” said researcher Nancy Sin. “A large body of research has shown that inadequate sleep increases the risk for mental disorders, chronic health conditions, and premature death. My study adds to this evidence by showing that even minor night-to-night fluctuations in sleep duration can have consequences in how people respond to events in their daily lives.” 

    Prioritizing better sleep

    The researchers analyzed over 2,000 diary entries, which were part-sleep log and part-daily record keeper. Participants recorded how long they slept each night, the events of their days, and how they responded to such events for eight consecutive nights. 

    The researchers learned that not getting enough sleep changed the way the participants’ reacted to both positive and negative events in their lives. Getting less sleep made the participants more irritable and stressed, which made them more likely to lash out due to family or work stressors. Moreover, even positive moments -- like time spent outdoors -- were harder to enjoy. 

    “When people experience something positive, such as getting a hug or spending time in nature, they typically feel happier that day,” said Sin. “But we found that when a person sleeps less than their usual amount, they don’t have as much of a boost in positive emotions from their positive events.” 

    Encouraging better health outcomes

    These findings are important for countless reasons, but particularly from a health standpoint. Recent studies have found that a lack of sleep can have negative impacts on consumers’ heart health, memory, and diet habits, among several other health concerns. 

    However, the researchers from this study encourage consumers, especially those with chronic health conditions, to prioritize getting more sleep each night, as being well-rested can have benefits for both physical and emotional wellness. 

    “For those with chronic health conditions, we found that longer sleep -- compared to one’s usual sleep duration -- led to better positive experiences on the following day,” Sin said. 

    There are countless reasons why getting enough sleep is crucial to consumers’ health and well-being, but getting quality sleep can be difficult -- especial...
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    Better sleep could help teens deal with social situations

    Researchers say quality sleep could be the ultimate coping mechanism

    Recent studies have found that teens aren’t getting enough sleep, which can affect them in more ways than many consumers may realize. 

    Now, researchers from Michigan State University found that when teens get quality sleep, they could be better equipped to deal with stressful social situations. This includes anything from arguments with friends to issues of race and discrimination. 

    “Findings of this study have important implications,” said researcher Yijie Wang. “Understanding how sleep helps adolescents negotiate social challenges may consequently elucidate how promoting sleep may improve adolescent adjustment during high school and beyond.”  

    Improving sleep quality

    The researchers had over 250 ninth graders participate in the study, all of whom wore activity-monitoring watches that tracked their physical activity and sleep for the two-week study. 

    The second component of the study was a nightly survey, which gave the participants the opportunity to reflect on their days. The survey asked them to report on how they dealt with stressful situations, how they felt emotionally, and any discrimination they experienced. 

    The study revealed that participants were better able to handle stressful situations at school when they slept better at night. The students who got better sleep were not only seeking out support from their friends to help handle conflicts at school, but they were reporting better coping and problem-solving skills overall. 

    When it came to issues of discrimination, the findings held up. The students who slept better at night responded better in these situations and reported stronger mental well-being. However, the researchers found that not getting enough sleep could lead to worse results. 

    “These studies showed that, on days when adolescents experienced ethnic or racial discrimination, they slept less and also took longer to actually fall asleep,” said Wang. 

    Promoting better sleeping habits

    It can be difficult for parents to get their teens to follow a sleeping schedule, but Wang says doing so can be incredibly beneficial. 

    These findings clearly outlined how impactful sleep can be for young people. Parents can be instrumental in their children’s social success by being stricter about bedtimes and having more positive attitudes around sleep. 

    “The promotive effect of sleep is so consistent,” said Wang. “It reduces how much adolescents ruminate, it promotes their problem solving, and it also helps them to better seek support from their peers.” 

    Recent studies have found that teens aren’t getting enough sleep, which can affect them in more ways than many consumers may realize. Now, researchers...
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    Having trouble sleeping? Try going camping for a weekend

    Researchers find that a weekend under the stars can reset a person's internal clock

    There have been countless “cures” proposed for those who have trouble sleeping. A cursory internet search will suggest anything from sipping warm milk to taking melatonin supplements. However, researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder have a much more recreational answer: go camping for a weekend.

    Doctor Kenneth Wright, an integrative physiology professor and lead author of a paper covering two studies, explains how going camping in an environment with natural light and dark cycles can reverse the damage of living everyday life in an artificially lit environment.

    "These studies suggest that our internal clock responds strongly and quite rapidly to the natural light-dark cycle. . . Living in our modern environments can significantly delay our circadian timing and late circadian timing is associated with many health consequences. But as little as a weekend camping trip can reset it," he said.

    Managing our internal clocks

    This is not the first paper that Wright has published on the beneficial effects of camping. In 2013, he conducted a study where participants were sent to camp for a week in the summer without the use of headlamps or flashlights at night. When they returned, Wright found that their levels of melatonin – a hormone that prepares the body for nighttime and promotes sleep – had synced with sunrise and sunset, a change of almost two hours.

    To build on that previous study, Wright set out to find how quickly our internal clocks could change based on the lighting of our environment and the time of the year. The first study consisted of 14 participants – nine of which were asked to camp for a weekend during the summer while the other five stayed home. After the weekend, participants who went camping had melatonin rise 1.4 hours earlier than those who hadn’t gone, suggesting that their internal clocks had altered.

    In the second study, five participants camped for an entire week around the time of the winter solstice. Statistics showed that they were exposed to 13 times more natural light than usual and that their melatonin levels began to rise 2.6 hours earlier.

    "Weekend exposure to natural light was sufficient to achieve 69 percent of the shift in circadian timing we previously reported after a week's exposure to natural light," Wright stated.

    Getting back in sync

    So, what does all of this mean for sleep? Essentially, the two studies showed that not being exposed to artificial light allowed participants’ bodies to alter according to the time of the year and their bodies’ natural needs.

    When living life normally with artificial light, the body’s internal clock and natural rhythms are often thrown off, which can impact when hormones are released, when we sleep and wake up, and even our appetite and metabolism. However, the studies show that just one weekend of camping away from that environment is enough to put our bodies back in sync. Wright hopes the results will help guide building and city design to help encourage natural light to promote health.

    "Our findings highlight an opportunity for architectural design to bring more natural sunlight into the modern built environment and to work with lighting companies to incorporate tunable lighting that could change across the day and night to enhance performance, health and well-being," he said.

    The full study has been published in Current Biology.

    There have been countless “cures” proposed for those who have trouble sleeping. A cursory internet search will suggest anything from sipping warm milk to t...
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