sleep

Thanks for the memory – not

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Memory is a wonderful thing although there are probably some things you would rather forget.

Well that’s not quite so easy according to a recent study presented at the Neuroscience 2017 conference in Washington.

Roy Cox and his colleagues at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre in Boston found that the brain is pre-disposed to dwell on and strengthen negative memories while we sleep.

They tested almost 60 people by showing them both neutral and unpleasant images to different hemispheres of the brain and recording electrical activity which showed that the images had been localised in one hemisphere.

Twelve hours later they were given a memory test. Those subjects kept awake in the interim remembered roughly equal numbers of unpleasant and neutral images. Those who slept remembered more negative ones.

This suggests that “sleep selectively stabilises emotional memories” and would confirm a number of ideas about how information is “tagged” e.g. by emotions or even sounds, that make it easier to be recalled.

With people suffering PTSD or similar the trick is to find a way of reducing the emotional content. That to me is the more interesting aspect of this kind of research.

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How to be successful – before breakfast!

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2e0b10a000000578-0-image-a-128_1446483667831I’m still trying to work out what time I would have to get up to fit in all theses things before breakfast.

Or maybe these people don’t sleep (which is not a good thing)

Or maybe they multi-task (which is not a good thing either as it’s impossible)

The author is a time management guru who writes books telling people how to have successful lives. I’d have though all those attending the Davos Forum had already made their millions and billions.

 

Traumatised? Don’t sleep on it.

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CharismaEver had a traumatic event and been told by well-intentioned friends or colleagues that you’ll be OK after a good night’s sleep?

Well scientists at Oxford University now believe it’s the worst thing you can do.

Sleep is known to help consolidate memories so they are suggesting that sleep deprivation might be desirable  in reducing long-term psychological effects by impairing those memories.

In an experiment two groups were shown a disturbing film which included a suicide. One group went to bed as normal while the other was kept awake by staff trained to stop them falling asleep.

In the days that followed all the participants were asked  how often images from the film popped into their heads. The ones that slept were found to be more likely to experience flashbacks.

Professor Foster said “Maybe the routine treatment after such events should be gently to keep people awake – to sit with them and chat to them“. At present patients are often sedated after such events to help them sleep.

He also referred to experiences after battles in early cultures when it was more likely that the tradition was to sit round  campfire celebrating the event with alcohol.

Post traumatic stress (PTSD) can cause a number of problems for those suffering from it. Not just the flashbacks but problems concentrating, irritability and a heightened startle response.

A recent American study showed that women under 65 who had suffered traumatic experiences and had four or more symptoms of PTSD were 60% more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke in later life.

Even those without any symptoms but who had suffered some trauma were 45% more likely to suffer cardiovascular disease compared to women who hadn’t been exposed to traumatic events.

Karestan Koenen of Columbia University said “Our results provide further evidence that PTSD increase the risk of chronic disease. The medical system needs to stop treating the mind and the body as if they were separate.Patients need access to integrated mental and physical care”

Men working themselves to death

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It’s not just women who are putting their health at risk (see “Stress can be a killer for women ..).

Unfit men who work long hours are doubling their risk of dying from heart disease. And it doesn’t matter whether or not the work is physically demanding. Work itself increases your heart rate and blood pressure.

According to Denmark’s National Research Centre for the Working Environment if you work longer than 45 hours and don’t take exercise you run twice the risk of dying than fit men who also work long hours but exercise.

Their study, published in the journal Heart, looked at 5,000 men aged 40 to 59 and tracked their working hours and fitness levels over 30 years. One in five of the men worked longer than 45 hours a week and if they were unfit these were the ones who  were at most risk. Even working between 40 and 45 hours increased the risk by almost 60% compared with men who worked less than 40 hours.

Physically fit men were least at risk no matter how many hours they worked – not just of dying from heart disease but from other causes as well. High levels of fitness counter the negative effects on the body and speed up recovery time allowing you to sleep better and leaving you less tired and irritable.

The Daily Mail reported that full-timer workers in the UK work 1.5 hours a week longer than the EU average of 39.9 hours. Of course our government opted out of the Working Time Directive despite earlier warnings of the ill effects of working over 50 hours (See “Taking work to extremes).

Apparently only workers in Romania and Bulgaria work longer hours and the UK has one of the highest heart attack rates in the world – someone having a heart attack every two minutes.