It’s not just for kids — even adults appear to benefit from a regular bedtime

DURHAM, N.C. — Sufficient sleep has been proven to help keep the body healthy and the mind sharp. But it’s not just an issue of logging at least seven hours of Z’s.

A new study on sleep patterns suggests that a regular bedtime and wake time are just as important for heart and metabolic health among older adults.

In a study of 1,978 older adults publishing Sept. 21 in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers at Duke Health and the Duke Clinical Research Institute found people with irregular sleep patterns weighed more, had higher blood sugar, higher blood pressure, and a higher projected risk of having a heart attack or stroke within 10 years than those who slept and woke at the same times every day.

Irregular sleepers were also more likely to report depression and stress than regular sleepers, both of which are tied to heart health.

Full story at EurekAlert!

Empty Nests Are Overrated

My younger foster daughter stormed out of the living room where we’d been doing battle.

“You knew what you were getting into when you signed up for me!” she screamed, the crash of the front door shattering my heart.

But the truth was I didn’t know what I was getting into when I became a foster parent. My husband, Saul, and I had had Janine and her sister Mariah as foster children for almost four years by then. I had known the girls since they were small. I was their pediatrician. I met them on the day their mother, Linda, dragged them into my office with no appointment — they were not even my patients yet — and announced that Mariah was sick.

“She’s not well!” Linda bawled. “You have to help her!”

Full story at the New York Times

Researchers find children experience concussion symptoms three times longer than adults

Concussion symptoms for children under 13 years old typically last three times longer than they do for older teens and adults, but keeping them out of the classroom during recovery is not necessarily the preferred treatment, according to a comprehensive research review in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

Parents should be aware that significant changes in the treatment of concussion — including a major shift to promoting active recovery — have emerged in recent years, said Hallie Zwibel, DO, Director of Sports Medicine at New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine, and lead researcher on this study.

“It used to be thought that rest was best for a concussion. Kids were told to stay home from school and sit in a dark room for two weeks,” says Dr. Zwibel. “Now we encourage them to get back to school after two days and progressively get more active, so long as symptoms don’t return or worsen.”

Full story at Science Daily

Lucid dreaming: Controlling the stories of sleep

Have you ever started dreaming and suddenly realized that you were in a dream? Have you ever managed to gain control over your dream narrative? If your answer to these is “yes,” you’ve experienced what is called lucid dreaming.

Lucid dreaming has recently been popularized by movies such as Inception.

The movie features impressive dream artisans who are able not just to control the shape and content of their own dreams, but also those of others.

Such feats of dream manipulation may not seem possible to the same extent in our real lives, but they are not altogether absent.

Full story at Medical News Today

The small Spanish town using art to tackle mental health stigmas

The picturesque town of Sant Boi in Spain, 20 kilometers from Barcelona, is surrounded by the beautiful mountains of the Parque forestal del Montbaig nature reserve.

But other than its views, the town is famous for two things: its rich artistic heritage and the large mental health hospital at the heart of the town.
The hospital was founded in 1855, and its long history continues to shape how people view the area.
“When you’re outside of Sant Boi, for example Barcelona, and the people ask, ‘where are you from?’ and you say ‘from Sant Boi,’ they say, ‘Oh, the town of the loonies.’ This is what we want to change,” local artist Dani Sánchez told CNN.

Teens hope their videos will prompt dialogue about mental health

Woodside High School senior Valentina Lovazzano joined the student advisory board at Menlo Park’s youth mental health advocacy organization SafeSpace midway through her junior year, after she finally found help for debilitating anxiety problems that had at times made it hard for her to leave the house.

Once Lovazzano got the help she needed, “the first thing I wanted to do was reach out to other people,” she says. “I wanted everyone to feel it’s a normal thing, you’re not alone. We’re all teenagers, we’re going to go through stuff. It’s going to be OK,” she says.

Now Lovazzano and a group of other students who serve on SafeSpace’s student advisory board are sharing those messages in five short videos SafeSpace is releasing this week to coincide with National Suicide Prevention Week.

Full story at Palo Alto Online

How our brain and personality provide protection against emotional distress

If you feel anxious prior to exams, take note: studies suggest that you can learn how to be resilient and manage your stress and anxiety.

Researchers at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois recently examined a sample of 85 healthy college students to see how a number of personality traits can protect an individual’s brain against symptoms of emotional distress, namely depression and anxiety.

“In this study, we wanted to look at commonalities across brain regions and across personality traits that contribute to protective factors,” said Matt Moore, a Beckman Institute Graduate Fellow and co-author of the study. “We targeted a number of regions in the prefrontal cortex, looking specifically at the volume of those regions using structural magnetic resonance imaging. We did a confirmatory factor analysis, which is basically a statistical approach for testing whether there is a common factor underlying the observed measurements.”

Full story at Science Daily

To Raise Confident, Independent Kids, Some Parents Are Trying To ‘Let Grow’

Walking through the woods alone can be a scary prospect for a kid, but not for 7-year-old Matthew of Portland, Oregon. He doesn’t have much of a backyard at his condo, so the woods behind his house essentially serve the same purpose. He spends hours out there: swinging on a tire swing, tromping across the ravine to a friend’s house, and using garden shears to cut a path. He lays down sticks to form a bridge across the small stream that flows in the winter.

And he does all of this without any adult supervision.

Matthew’s mom, Laura Randall, wants her son to gain the sort of skills and confidence that only come with doing things yourself. But she didn’t just toss her 7-year-old out the door with some hiking boots and garden shears one day. They worked up to it gradually with what Randall calls “experiments in independence.”

Full story at npr.org

Your mental health app’s diagnosis could be way off

Apps that help us deal with our well-being can often be helpful and comforting, but how much should we rely on a mobile application to tell us how to cope with our mental health struggles?

According to new research conducted by the University of Sydney in Australia, there may be some major problems in the way mental health apps are framing mental illness and diagnosing users.

The research, which was recently published by the American Academy of Family Physicians, consisted of a qualitative content analysis of 61 mental health apps across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

Full story at Medical News Today

Nerve stimulator may help depressed patients feel normal

An implanted nerve stimulator may help patients with the most severe depression get some of their day-to-day lives back, even if it doesn’t fully relieve their symptoms, doctors reported Tuesday.

Patients who have been using the vagus nerve stimulator say they have regained significant quality of life, and the improvements have lasted for as long as five years, the team reported in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

They hope that their findings will help encourage health insurance companies to pay for the pacemaker-like devices and the surgery needed to implant them. Although the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the devices for depression in 2005, health insurance companies, including Medicare, rarely pay for them.

Full story at NBC News