Monday, September 1, 2014

Do You Have Sleep Drunkenness?

We all know when we've had a little too much to drink.  Maybe you feel slightly high, or very happy.  Some people cry.  But there's a new way to be drunk, and, believe it or not, it happens when you're asleep and you suddenly wake up. 

It's called sleep drunkenness and is characterized by confusion, or inappropriate behavior during or after arousal from sleep.  Most people experience no symptoms.

It affects 15% of the general American population -- that's one in seven people -- with half the people studied saying it happened more than once.  Almost 90% had a sleep disorder or a mental health disorder or were taking psychotropic drugs, according to  

“The high prevalence is surprising,” said Dr. Stuart Quan, a professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School and physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, who wasn’t involved in a different study, reports.

This state of “confusional arousal” usually occurs when you wake up somebody suddenly, and they don’t know what’s going on, or where they are, Newsweek says. "The condition can cause real problems, especially if it happens frequently; more than half of those who reported experiencing sleep drunkenness said it happened at least once per week."

This is troublesome “because a person in this state doesn’t have his cognitive abilities,” Ohayon told Newsweek.

In the study of sleep habits reported by biosciencetechnology -- of the 19,000 participants aged 18 or older -- those with mental health disorders such as bipolar illness, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety were more likely to experience the state.

The extreme confusion lasts for less than five minutes in 37 percent of people. But in one-third of people, it lasts five to 15 minutes, according to Newsweek.

So, do you have it? You'd probably know, if you do.  Your family and friends certainly would!

Turns Out It Doesn't Take Much to Make Us Happy

We go out for dinner on Sunday nights. I usually have a salad and my husband, a burger. We always go to the same restaurant. The servers know us there and have my iced tea and his water, waiting, on our favorite table.

We sit and talk – about our son, our wobbly finances, our crazy families. Pretty ordinary night. But it makes me happy. I lopk forward to it all week.

Now a new study is finding that for some people, happiness can be that simple.

According to a recent story in The New York Times, “What we do, it seems, has more potential for lasting satisfaction and memory-making than what we have.” Ron Lieber writes that, if you can cover basic expenses, pursuing inexpensive, everyday things that bring comfort and satisfaction can lead to happiness equal to jetting about on international trips in your 70s and 80s.

Well, we're not that old but it seems to be holding true for us. I'm going back to work next week but I haven't held a job – other than my freelance writing – in 13 years. This is really good news for us, because, the very same day I was offered the job, my husband, a dentist, lost his part-time job at a clinic (mainly because he wasn't finding enough cavities and crowns). So finances are a little tenuous for us right now, and have been, for some time, even though he still has his practice in Queens.

Anyway, Lieber goes on to say that scholars in the field have already established that experiences tend to make people happier than possessions. Not just big ones, like weddings and births and baptisms and (this spring) bar mitzvahs (same child), but the little ones, too.

What we do, it seems, has more potential for lasting satisfaction and memory-making than what we have. Even though, I admit, I'm looking forward to what it will buy me, I'm also excited about the satisfaction and contentment being employed again in a creative, supportive environment will bring.

Apparently, extraordinary experiences bring great joy throughout life. But what researchers found again and again was that the older people got, the more happiness ordinary experiences brought. In fact, the happiness-making potential of everyday pursuits eventually grows equal to that of ones that are rarer.

Is it because we have less extraordinary experiences as we age? I doubt it. Lieber says maybe it's because we know ourselves better – we don't have to go sky-diving or feed fish to great whites while swimming beside them (people actually do this) to prove to ourselves we're hip, or, at least, way cooler than we were in high school – and ordinary things can deliver that same level of happiness.

Here's the real kicker: it doesn’t hurt, either, that you may appreciate the ordinary much more once you’re more aware of the decreasing number of years you have left to enjoy it. But that can happen when you're younger too. Just as I left my 40s, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, then again, two years later. I was fortunate, mine hadn't spread. But it can't help making you realize you're going to die someday, that your days here on earth are not infinite.

I was recently asked in another job interview what I saw myself doing five years out. Living, I wanted to say. But what I said instead was that I don't think five years ahead anymore. I live each day as it comes. Probably why I didn't get that job!

But it's true. We only have this day. So now I try to live this, and it pretty much works. Don't have what you want. Want what you have. I do.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Can Your Toothbrush Give You Cancer?

Want to truly be grossed out?

Scientists now say that hollow head toothbrushes contain 3,000 more times bacteria than solid head toothbrushes, according to

Microbial counts were lower in the solid-head toothbrush group than in the two hollow-head toothbrush groups in 9 out of 10 comparisons, in the study.

“Toothbrushes can transmit microorganisms that cause disease and infections. A solid-head design allows for less growth of bacteria and bristles should be soft and made of nylon,” said lead author and professor at the University of Texas Health School of Dentistry, Donna Warren Morris, R.D.H., M.Ed. at the Web site. “It is also important to disinfect and to let your toothbrush dry between uses. Some power toothbrushes now include an ultraviolet system or you can soak the head in mouthwash for 20 minutes.”

The study was conducted over a three-week period where participants brushed twice daily with one out of three randomly assigned power toothbrushes. Participants used non-antimicrobial toothpaste and continued their flossing routine throughout the study, but refrained from using other dental products like mouthwash.

“The packaging on most power toothbrushes won’t distinguish between a hollow-head and a solid-head design,” Morris said. “The best way to identify a solid-head design is through the connection to the body of the power toothbrush. Naturally, there will be some space to connect the two parts but a significant portion will be solid, up to the bristles or brush head.”

The good news is that the study found that there is no present or published study that has demonstrated that bacterial growth on toothbrushes can lead to systematic health effects, but as Morris stated, several microorganisms have been associated with systemic diseases.

“We do know and there are studies that have linked Fusobacterium to colorectal cancer. Some of these other bacteria have been linked with cardiovascular disease,” Morris said. “There is a high association with gum disease and cardiovascular disease. Researchers have been able to culture the same bacteria around the heart that causes gum disease. ”

So don't take this as a reason not to brush.  It's still very important.  Just look into your toothbrushes a little more carefully.

Want To See How Good A Parent You'll Be? Play With Dolls

Want to know how good a parent you'll be?

Play with dolls.

Not just any dolls but ones that having expectant parents role-play interacting with an infant using a doll can help predict which couples may be headed for co-parenting conflicts when their baby arrives, reports.

Researchers videotaped 182 couples in the third trimester of pregnancy while they played with a doll that they were told represented the baby they were about to have. Researchers analyzed how the couple interacted with each other around the doll.

The couples were videotaped again nine months after the birth of their baby to see how they actually played together.

Results showed that couples acted as similarly toward each other with the real baby as they did with the doll – in both positive and negative ways.

“The extent to which couples support or undermine each other’s interactions with the doll predicts their co-parenting behavior a year later,” said Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, co-author of the study and professor of human sciences at The Ohio State University.  “We saw the same kinds of behaviors between parents when they were interacting with their baby that we saw a year earlier with the doll.”

Schoppe-Sullivan said this particular procedure using dolls with expectant parents has rarely if ever been used in the United States (it was developed by researchers in Switzerland).
“When people first hear about it, many think it is strange. They think it is silly to have adults play with dolls,” she said.  “But couples in our study responded positively to the activity. They were able to take it seriously and it really does predict how they will co-parent.”

Lead author Lauren Altenburger, a doctoral student in human sciences at Ohio State, said the results have important implications.  “Co-parenting has consistently been linked to child outcomes. When parents fight and undermine each other’s parenting, the child suffers,” she said.  “If we can identify couples who may have

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Where Do You Get Your Health Information? If You're Young and College-Educated, The Web

Let's face it.  The Internet has become a wonderful resource to look up symptoms and treatment and other health concerns.

But a group of people is taking it too seriously, without making sure of its credibility or accuracy.  Who are they?  Younger, college-educated men and women.

A new study says consumers are increasingly turning to forums, video-sharing sites, and peer support groups to gather anecdotal information and advice, which may distract them from more reliable and trustworthy sources, according to

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer nine years ago, I immediately went online the minute it was even suspected I might have it.  Days before my diagnosis, I learned that what was spotted on my mammogram -- calcification -- is 80% of the time completely benign.  It didn't really help me relax all that much, but when it turned out to be malignant instead, I was horribly upset (probably more because of the diagnosis than the information accuracy!).

Thankfully, I've been cancer-free for seven years (it recurred) but I still visit the Web a lot for follow-up on other medical stories, like the one that said I most likely had too much treatment for what turned out to be pre-cancer (but on the verge of becoming metastatic).

“Age, educational levels, and health status were significant predictors of a consumer’s use of anecdotal information available on the Internet,” newswise quotes Kapil Chalil Madathil, a research assistant professor at Clemson University’s Department of Industrial Engineering and a co-author of a book on consumers' use of the anecdotal information available on the Net.

Among more than 3,000 participants, younger consumers who attended four or more years of college were far more likely to reference online anecdotal information than were older individuals with a high school education or less. Additionally, respondents who reported poorer levels of health take to the Internet significantly more often than do those who are healthier, for obvious reasons.

But next time you're considering diagnosing yourself, based on information gleaned from the Internet, try a real doctor instead.

Do You Eat A Lot of Ramen Noodles? Maybe Lay Off

Here's a scary thought.  Did you know eating too many ramen noodles might give you a heart attack?

A new study says this is especially true for women (figures).

Significant consumption of the convenient food product – ramen included – may increase a person’s risk for cardiometabolic syndrome, especially in women, reports.

This means diabetes, stroke, or heart disease risk.

 Because ramen consumption is relatively high among Asian populations, the research focused primarily on South Korea, which has the highest per-capita number of instant noodle consumers in the world. In recent years, South Koreans have experienced a rapid increase in health problems, specifically heart disease, and a growing number of overweight adults. Such changes could lead to increased mortality due to cardiovascular disease, as well as increased health care costs, according to the Web site.

The researcher, Dr. Hyun Joon Shin, who led the study on behalf of the Baylor Heart and Vascular Hospital (BHVH), found that eating instant noodles two or more times a week was associated with cardiometabolic syndrome, which raises a person’s likelihood of developing heart disease and other conditions, such as diabetes and stroke. Dr. Shin is Baylor’s primary investigator on the study, a clinical cardiology fellow at Baylor University Medical Center and a nutrition epidemiology doctoral student at Harvard School of Public Health.

Dr. Shin also found that those results were more prevalent in women. He said that can likely be attributed to biological differences (such as sex hormones and metabolism) between the sexes, as well as obesity and metabolic syndrome components. In addition, men and women’s varied eating habits and differences in the accuracy of food reporting may play a role in the gender gap.

 Another potential factor in the gender difference is a chemical called bisphenol A (BPA), which is used for packaging the noodles in Styrofoam containers. Studies have shown that BPA interferes with the way hormones send messages through the body, specifically estrogen.

“This research is significant since many people are consuming instant noodles without knowing possible health risks,” Dr. Shin said. “My hope is that this study can lay a foundation for future research about the health effects of instant noodle consumption.” 

Shy? You Probably Use Facebook More Than Anyone

This is kind of surprising.  Shy people use Facebook longer, but disclose less on it.

According to a new study, it’s the quiet ones who are logging in longer, says an assistant professor in the Communications Arts Department at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) at

“The shy people spend more time on Facebook, but they disclose less information,” says Dr. Pavica Sheldon, who has done several studies on use of the social media site by university students.  "I'll poke you. You'll poke me!" Self-disclosure, social attraction, predictability and trust are important predictors of Facebook relationships, says another expert.

Makes sense to me.  I must confess, I'm a bit of a coward when it comes to confronting people.  But I do it well on the Web.  It's much easier to say things (but sometimes unwise) in writing than face-to-face.  I don't think I'd ever break up with someone by texting but I hear it's been done.  A lot.

For an introvert, using the site doesn’t always mean posting to it, she points out. Maybe she's just reading and observing (or, like me, agonizing about all the parties she wasn't invited to!).  Sheldon's research shows that introverts spend more time on Facebook than extroverts do. “Shy people and people who are more lonely use Facebook to pass the time,” she says.

But it's the extroverts ( narcissists and people who desire great control over how they present themselves) who benefit most from Facebook.  Even though introverts spend more time, the more extroverted a person is, the more status posts he or she is likely to make, says Sheldon.

We've all seen the endless posts about dinners at home and out, the cute kitties taking a bath, or licking their whiskers or sleeping in front of the fire.  Or the kid who excels at soccer and baseball and basketball and football and . . .you get the drift. 

No, shy people don't tend to post stuff like that. 

“Narcissists like fame, they like to be seen,” Sheldon says.“What I found out is that my research supports the ‘rich get richer’ hypothesis.  Those users who are richer in their offline relationships will also benefit more from their use of Facebook. The more extroverted you are, the more you will benefit.”

And what about the selfie addict? Narcissists and those who score highly in self-monitoring – the ability to alter their behavior to adjust to changing social situations – tend to post more photos than other users.

“Posting pictures gives them more control over how they are being presented,” Dr. Sheldon says. And we all know how much we want to look popular and liked and live exciting lives, now, don't we?