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Sleep loss hijacks brain’s activity during learning

Getting only half a night’s sleep – as many medical workers and military personnel often do – hijacks the brain’s ability to unlearn fear-related memories. That might put people at greater risk of conditions such as anxiety or posttraumatic stress disorder.

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Sleep is crucial for consolidating our memories, and sleep deprivation has long been known to interfere with learning and memory. Now a new study shows that getting only half a night’s sleep – as many medical workers and military personnel often do – hijacks the brain’s ability to unlearn fear-related memories. That might put people at greater risk of conditions such as anxiety or posttraumatic stress disorder.

The study appears in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, published by Elsevier.

“This study provides us with new insights into how sleep deprivation affects brain function to disrupt fear extinction,” said Cameron Carter, MD, Editor of Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging.

The researchers, led by Anne Germain, PhD, at the University of Pittsburgh and Edward Pace-Schott, PhD, at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, studied 150 healthy adults in the sleep laboratory. One third of subjects got normal sleep, one third were sleep restricted, so they slept only the first half the night, and one third were sleep deprived, so they got no sleep at all. In the morning, all the subjects underwent fear conditioning.

“Our team used a three-phase experimental model for the acquisition and overcoming of fearful memories while their brains were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging,” said Dr. Pace-Schott. In the conditioning paradigm, subjects were presented with three colors, two of which were paired with a mild electric shock. Following this fear conditioning, the subjects underwent fear extinction, in which one of the colors was presented without any shocks to learn that it was now “safe.” That evening, subjects were tested for their reactivity to the three colors, a measure of their fear extinction recall, or how well they had “unlearned” the threat.

Brain imaging recorded during the tasks showed activation in brain areas associated with emotional regulation, such as the prefrontal cortex, in people who got normal sleep. But the brain activity looked very different in people with restricted sleep, said Dr. Pace-Schott. “We found that among the three groups, those who had only gotten half a night’s sleep showed the most activity in brain regions associated with fear and the least activity in areas associated with control of emotion.”

Surprisingly, people who got no sleep lacked the brain activation in fear-related areas during fear conditioning and extinction. During the extinction recall 12 hours later, their brain activity looked more similar to those with normal sleep, suggesting that a limited night of sleep may be worse than none at all.

The researchers hypothesize that sleeping only half the night results in a loss of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which has been shown to be important for memory consolidation and usually happens toward the end of a normal sleep period.

Dr. Carter said the study used “noninvasive brain imaging to give us a novel window into how sleep deprivation disrupts the normal fear extinction mechanisms and potentially increases vulnerability to posttraumatic stress symptoms.”

“Medical workers and soldiers often have curtailed or interrupted sleep rather than missing an entire night’s sleep,” Dr. Pace-Schott said. “Our findings suggest that such partially sleep-deprived individuals might be especially vulnerable to fear-related conditions such as posttraumatic stress disorder.”

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Men with sensory loss are more likely to be obese

The association between physical activity and obesity was higher in men with hearing loss, who were 2.319 times more likely to be obese than women who reported difficulty hearing. Obesity in those with sight loss was 1.556 times higher in inactive men than women.

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Photo by @blocks from Unsplash.com

Men who suffer sensory loss, particularly hearing loss, are more likely to be physically inactive and obese than women, according to a new study published in the European Journal of Public Health.

Researchers analysed data from more than 23,000 Spanish adults, and examined associations with physical inactivity and obesity in people with vision and hearing loss, and explored differences between men and women.

Results suggest inactive people with hearing loss were 1.78 times more likely to be obese compared to those who did not have any hearing loss. In people who had difficulty seeing, the odds ratio is slightly smaller, with a likelihood of obesity being 1.375 times higher than those who did not report vision loss.

The association between physical activity and obesity was higher in men with hearing loss, who were 2.319 times more likely to be obese than women who reported difficulty hearing. Obesity in those with sight loss was 1.556 times higher in inactive men than women.

Those with combined seeing and hearing difficulties had the highest prevalence of physical inactivity (44.8%) and obesity (26.1%). Analysis showed a significant association between physical inactivity and obesity in men with vision or hearing loss, but not in women.

Around 62% of adults in Spain are overweight, with 26% reporting as obese. In the UK, the figures are broadly similar at around 64% and 28% respectively, suggesting strong similarities between the countries.

A total of 11.04% of the people surveyed self-reported vision loss, 6.96% reported hearing loss, and 3.93% reported suffering both vision and hearing loss.

Lead author Professor Shahina Pardhan, Director of the Vision and Eye Research Institute at Anglia Ruskin University, said: “It is clear from our study that there are significant differences between genders.

“Although women were overall less physically active than men, we found an association between physical inactivity and obesity in men, but not in women. This indicates that, especially in people with vision and hearing losses, exercise and being active has a very important role in preventing obesity for men.

“Adults, especially those with sensory losses, should be encouraged to be as physically active as possible but there are obviously challenges, strongly suggesting that intervention and encouragement would play a very important role.

“An effective strategy to increase the levels of physical activity in this population group would be through targeted intervention programmes based on health awareness on the importance of physical activity.”

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Dad tips we take for granted but go a long way

With all the pressure that comes with responsibilities, dads also need to look after their own wellbeing too.

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Photo by @picsea from Unsplash.com

There is no one-size-fits all way to being a father, but most working dads want to do the best to support their loved ones. With all the pressure that comes with these responsibilities, dads also need to look after their own wellbeing too. 

Donato Avellana is the Health and Wellbeing Lead for the Vibe Team at Canva Philippines, and as a father himself, he acknowledges the importance of work-life balance. He has helped build programs at Canva that empower employees to have a healthy work-life balance, with holistic programs for all domains of wellness. Taking his learnings from this, he shares some helpful and practical tips to help dads to develop healthy habits that can boost their happiness at work and at home. 

1. Rest and recover well

Rest and relaxation is crucial to improve our overall health. Try your best to get at least 7 hours of sleep, go to bed an hour before you go to sleep, and stay away from your TV or mobile phone, as several studies show that the blue light from screens can disrupt sleep. Sleep is often a neglected component of overall well-being, but this is where the body repairs itself to get ready for another day. Remember that you deserve to rest.

2. Start your day with a cold shower 

Showering can also offer more benefits than many realise.  By using water that is a little cold, you can improve blood circulation, with the lower temperature causing blood to run to the skin’s surface. Good blood circulation plays an important role in our health for proper nutrient distribution throughout our body.

This is also a good time for dads to have their ‘me’ time. Breathing exercises are a great way to start the day, by offering the opportunity to regroup and reflect. 

3. Move more, make it a habit

The health benefits of movement have been scientifically proven time and time again. Your body is connected to your brain and your movement habits can positively impact how you think and feel. Inactivity can make you feel sluggish and tired, making it hard to find motivation and deliver on responsibilities.

Add regular walks, stand often, or follow stretching routines that you can commit to during the day. Taking time for a short 10-15-minute walk is a great way to have a mental and physical break.

4. Eat smart: practice a mindful eating habit. 

We have been educated about what healthy eating is since we were kids. Eating intuitively on a regular schedule is very important. Eating with no structure creates mindless eating that can lead to poor nutrition choices. Think of nourishing your body with healthy fuel for efficient performance instead of just eating. Eat a variety of whole foods, have fruits and vegetables, and hydrate smartly.

5. It’s okay to ask for help

This shortlist might not be easy for everyone, so I encourage dads to seek help when they need it. You might want to start at home with your spouse, ask for help from co-workers, peers, fellow fathers, professionals such as your doctor.

Showing appreciation to your father

If you’re still looking for heart-felt gift ideas for your dad, you can browse through Canva for free design ideas and inspiration. 

Make your dad, grandfather or any other special figure feel loved and appreciated by designing personalized cards. A wide variety of photos, customizable templates, and full-color professional layouts are available. You can also find Filipino templates by changing the language settings to Tagalog and searching for the word ‘tatay’.

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Sun Life Philippines holds ‘Tiny Habits’ workshop

The interactive event carried a fitness theme and was conducted by certified Tiny Habits Coaches TJ Agulto and Claire Limof AHA! Behavorial Design.They shared tips on creating tiny habits in a continuous period of two weeks and also emphasized the importance of celebrating small wins.

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Members of Sun Life Philippines’ Bright Habit Starters community were recently treated to an exclusive workshop on Tiny Habits, the breakthrough method for building habits by world-renowned Behavior Scientist Dr. BJ Fogg.

The interactive event carried a fitness theme and was conducted by certified Tiny Habits Coaches TJ Agulto and Claire Limof AHA! Behavorial Design.They shared tips on creating tiny habits in a continuous period of two weeks and also emphasized the importance of celebrating small wins.

The event was followed by one-on-one coaching sessions to help the participants commit to their habits. This was supervised through the Bright Habits Chatbot, which prompted them to perform daily check-ins for two weeks. This led to the participants achieving 93% success rate in practicing their Bright Tiny Habits.

Following the launch, a second batch of participants is now undergoing the same program, this time with the goal of creating habits to improve their relationships.

The Tiny Habits workshop is just one of the many perks enjoyed by the Bright Habit Starter community. Members are also provided with helpful tips, exclusive promos, and other activities designed to create a sustained behavior change in the present so they can reach their goals in the future. Launched just last March as part of Sun Life’s Ito Ang Araw Mo campaign, the community now has over 3,000 members.

Those interested to be a part of the Bright Habit Starters Community simply have to join via Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/itoangarawmo.

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