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Category: Mental Wellbeing (Page 1 of 10)

We need sleep to keep our brains healthy and guard against cognitive decline

Brain & Life »

How well we sleep impacts how we think and feel, as well as our alertness, memory, and concentration. “Sleep quality and quantity are directly related to the health of the brain,” says Beth A. Malow, MD, MS, FAAN, professor of neurology and director of the sleep disorders division at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. Several studies have demonstrated an association between sleep disturbances such as insomnia, fragmented sleep, sleep apnea, and even excessive napping and an increased risk of cognitive decline over time, says Brendan P. Lucey, MD, assistant professor of neurology and director of the sleep medicine section at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

In 2009, a series of studies on mice conducted at Washington University were among the first to suggest that chronically sleep-deprived subjects develop higher levels of harmful amyloid beta and tau proteins—considered, along with neurofibrillary tangles, to be hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. “Think of tau and amyloid as the waste produced by typical nerve function,” says Charlene Gamaldo, MD, FAAN, associate professor of neurology and medical director of the Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center. “Normally, the brain clears these metabolic waste products away.”

And it may clear away these proteins during sleep, according to a landmark 2013 rodent study in Science by researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center, who showed that during deep sleep, when neural activity quiets down, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) bathes the brain, washing away excess amyloid beta and tau proteins. A more recent study, published in the November 2019 issue of iScience, provided further insight into CSF’s function. MRI scans taken while subjects were sleeping showed that during deep sleep, blood flow in the brain diminished as pulsing waves of CSF flushed out excess amyloid beta and tau, presumably girding the brain against cognitive decline. So while it has been known that sleep has some value for survival, these reports seem to put sleep front and center in terms of protecting us from cognitive decline.

Read the whole article to learn why and how to get adequate sleep »

A top concern for Canadian employees is their mental well being

Increasingly, we are seeing studies that show well being at work is good for business, it’s good for the economy, and most of all, it’s good for people – employees, managers, and owners.

Vincenzo Morello, Radio Canada International »

According to a survey by Morneau Shepell, 77 per cent of Canadians would take a lower salary in favour of better mental health support.

The results of the survey said that many factors could be contributing to the mental stress of Canadian workers. Factors like financial stress, and workplace culture. Forty-two per cent of employees said that they struggle more with finances than their peers with the same income.

Another contributing factor to this phenomenon is that 45 per cent of Canadians surveyed believed that the mental demands of their job have increased over the last two years.

Allen said that in last years survey, 60 per cent of employees said that the workplace had a positive influence on their mental health, while another 25 per cent said it was harmful.

Read the whole article at CBC’s RCI »

Watch » Matt Walker » Sleep is your superpower

The link between lack of sleep and cancer is now so strong that the World Health Organization has classified any form of nighttime shift work as a probable carcinogen.

TED Talk »

Sleep is your life-support system and Mother Nature’s best effort yet at immortality, says sleep scientist Matt Walker. In this deep dive into the science of slumber, Walker shares the wonderfully good things that happen when you get sleep — and the alarmingly bad things that happen when you don’t, for both your brain and body. Learn more about sleep’s impact on your learning, memory, immune system and even your genetic code — as well as some helpful tips for getting some shut-eye.

Human evolution explains why physical activity is important for our brain health

David A. Raichlen and Gene E. Alexander, Scientific American »

  • It is by now well established that exercise has positive effects on the brain, especially as we age.
  • Less clear has been why physical activity affects the brain in the first place.
  • Key events in the evolutionary history of humans may have forged the link between exercise and brain function.
  • Cognitively challenging exercise may benefit the brain more than physical activity that makes fewer cognitive demands.

[…]

People often consider walking and running to be activities that the body is able to perform on autopilot. But research carried out over the past decade by us and others would indicate that this folk wisdom is wrong. Instead exercise seems to be as much a cognitive activity as a physical one. In fact, this link between physical activity and brain health may trace back millions of years to the origin of hallmark traits of humankind. If we can better understand why and how exercise engages the brain, perhaps we can leverage the relevant physiological pathways to design novel exercise routines that will boost people’s cognition as they age—work that we have begun to undertake.

There’s lots more to this article over at Scientific American »

 

People are feeling pressured to be perfect, and it’s killing them

» Instead of trying to be the best, do your best. Knowing that you’ve done the best you could do, with what you have, under the circumstances, even if it falls short of other people’s expectations, is really the only thing you can ask of yourself.

Christie Aschwande, writing for Vox »

Perfectionism is a broad personality style characterized by a hypercritical relationship with one’s self, said Hewitt, who co-authored Perfectionism: A Relational Approach to Conceptualization, Assessment, and Treatment. Setting high standards and aiming for excellence can be positive traits, but perfectionism is dysfunctional, Hewitt said, because it’s underscored by a person’s sense of themselves as permanently flawed or defective. “One way they try to correct that is by being perfect,” Hewitt said.

[…]

Curran and his colleague Andrew Hill gathered data from more than 40,000 college students who had taken a psychological measure of perfectionism between 1989 and 2016. In 1989, about nine percent of respondents posted high scores in socially prescribed perfectionism, but by the end of the study, that had doubled to about 18 percent, he says. “On average, young people are more perfectionistic than they used to be,” Hill says, and “the belief that other people expect you to be perfect has increased the most.”

The rise in perfectionism is especially troubling because it has been linked to an array of mental health issues — a meta-analysis of 284 studies found that high levels of perfectionism were correlated with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, deliberate self-harm and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The constant stress of striving to be perfect can also leave people fatigued, stressed and suffering from headaches and insomnia.

[…]

Striving for perfection isn’t the same as being competitive or aiming for excellence, which can be healthy things. What makes perfectionism toxic is that you’re holding yourself to an impossible standard that can never be achieved — essentially setting yourself up for perpetual failure.

The link between gratitude and generosity

Volunteering at a food bank is one way people feel rewarded by giving.
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Christina Karns, University of Oregon

‘Tis the season when the conversation shifts to what you’re thankful for. Gathered with family and friends around a holiday feast, for instance, people may recount some of the biggies – like their health or their children – or smaller things that enhance everyday life – like happening upon a great movie while channel-surfing or enjoying a favorite seasonal food.

Psychology researchers recognize that taking time to be thankful has benefits for well-being. Not only does gratitude go along with more optimism, less anxiety and depression, and greater goal attainment, but it’s also associated with fewer symptoms of illness and other physical benefits.

In recent years, researchers have been making connections between the internal experience of gratitude and the external practice of altruism. How does being thankful about things in your own life relate to any selfless concern you may have about the well-being of others?

As a neuroscientist, I’m particularly interested in the brain regions and connections that support gratitude and altruism. I’ve been exploring how changes in one might lead to changes in the other. Continue reading

Air pollution causes brain structure changes that resemble Alzheimer’s disease

Nicholas Bakalar »

Over 11 years of follow-up, they found that the greater the women’s exposure to PM 2.5, the tiny particulate matter that easily penetrates the lungs and bloodstream, the lower their scores on the cognitive tests.

After excluding cases of dementia and stroke, they also found a possible reason for the declining scores: The M.R.I. results showed that increased exposure to PM 2.5 was associated with increased brain atrophy, even before clinical symptoms of dementia had appeared. The study is in the journal Brain.

“PM 2.5 alters brain structure, which then accelerates memory decline,” said the lead author, Diana Younan, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Southern California. “I just want people to be aware that air pollution can affect their health, and possibly their brains.”

Read the whole article at the NY Times »

Published article in the journal Brain » Particulate matter and episodic memory decline mediated by early neuroanatomic biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease

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