Chas' Compilation

A compilation of information and links regarding assorted subjects: politics, religion, science, computers, health, movies, music... essentially whatever I'm reading about, working on or experiencing in life.

Monday, April 17, 2017

How our sleep patterns change throughout our lives, and how to cope with the changes

And don't I know it. This article explains a lot:

Sleep Patterns Make Steep Changes During Your Life
[...] MIDLIFE SLEEP CRISIS

A lot of accomplished people claim not to need a lot of sleep. Household arts maven Martha Stewart purports to get only four hours a night. So does Tonight Show host Jay Leno. Napoleon, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Salvador Dali and Leonard da Vinci didn’t get much shut-eye either. So television journalist Pamela Wallin, who also averages only four hours a night, is in august company. “I’ve been an insomniac for as long as I can remember,” says Wallin, a Saskatchewan native who lives in Toronto. “I’ve tried herbal remedies and chamomile tea. I avoid prescription drugs because I can’t afford to lose my sharpness the next day.” Ultimately, Wallin regards her chronic insomnia as something she just has to live with. “If I needed more sleep,” she reasons, “I probably wouldn’t have gotten done what I have done in my life.”

Sixty-two per cent of Americans experience a sleep problem a few nights a week, according to a National Sleep Foundation study released last month. Two-thirds say sleepiness interferes with their concentration. “We should really get nine or 10 hours of sleep,” says psychologist Coren. “But we’re only getting seven. Sleep is not something we value.” Family stresses, the frenetic pace of life and poor bedtime habits all contribute to an epidemic of sleeplessness. Among modern complications: the wired world. “I know people who have a fax machine at the foot of their bed with a little bleeper so they can get up in the middle of the night to read their faxes,” says Coren. “The pressure to lead a 24-hour life is getting worse.”

At least many poor sleepers know they need help. About 2,000 people a year use the sleep clinic at UBC run by psychiatrist Jon Fleming. Thirty-five per cent of them complain of insomnia, a disorder that often runs in families. Others attend the clinic because of sleep apnea (troubled breathing) and narcolepsy (an overwhelming desire to sleep), among other sleep disorders. “The causes of insomnia are legion,” says Fleming. “It can be caused by psychiatric conditions or drug and alcohol abuse. But the leading cause is stress.” When Vancouver children’s bookstore owner Phyllis Simon can’t sleep, she gets out of bed for a while and writes a list of all the things she has to do. “I try to transfer my anxieties to the list. Then I’ll make myself a cup of warm milk.”

But waking up in the middle of the night and then going back to sleep – – as Simon sometimes does — can be harder on cognition than not sleeping at all, says University of Montreal psychiatrist Roger Godbout. “Your performance the next day will be worse than if you stay up all night,” he explains. While insomnia may lead to fuzzy thinking, those who short-circuit sleep by working long hours could also be compromising their physical health. Research at the University of Chicago shows adults who get fewer than seven hours of sleep are more prone to diabetes, high blood pressure and endocrine dysfunction.

Women also report more sleep problems than men — a consequence, often, of their biology. Just before menstruation, says Toronto Western Hospital sleep researcher Helen Driver, “there is a withdrawal of hormones that triggers poor sleep.” Entering menopause doesn’t make it better. Thirty-six per cent of menopausal women polled by the National Sleep Foundation said hot flashes interfered with their night’s rest. Sleep investigators are becoming more aware of the effects of the female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, says Driver. “Progesterone,” she says, “interacts with a receptor in the brain that seems to have sleep-inducing qualities.” [...]
I used the "Midlife Stage" as an excerpt for this blogpost, because that is about where I am at now. But the entire article starts with infancy, childhood, teen years, all the way through to old age. Something for everyone! Read the whole thing, for embedded links and advice for improving your sleep, whatever stage you may be in.
     

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Successful people don’t operate alone

America's Insensitive Children?
Perhaps unlike their U.S. peers, kids in Denmark—where happiness levels are the highest on Earth—are taught in school to care for one another from a young age.
Contrary to popular belief, most people do care about the welfare of others.

From an evolutionary standpoint, empathy is a valuable impulse that helps humans survive in groups. In American schools, this impulse has been lying dormant from a lack of focus. But in Denmark, a nation that has consistently been voted the happiest place in the world since Richard Nixon was president, children are taught about empathy from a young age both inside and outside of school.

[...]

Another, less obvious example of empathy training in Danish schools is in how they subtly and gradually mix children of different strengths and weaknesses together. Students who are stronger academically are taught alongside those who are less strong; shier kids with more gregarious ones; and so on. The goal is for the students to see that everyone has positive qualities and to support each other in their efforts reach the next level. The math whiz may be terrible at soccer, and vice versa. This system fosters collaboration, teamwork, and respect.

Studies show that this system of interactive teaching involves a steep learning curve. Students who teach others work harder to understand the material, recall it more precisely, and use it more effectively. But they also have to try to understand the perspective of other students so they can help them where they are having trouble. The ability to explain complicated subject matter to another student is not an easy task, but it is an invaluable life skill. Research demonstrates that this type of collaboration and empathy also delivers a deep level of satisfaction and happiness to kids; interestingly, people’s brains actually register more satisfaction from cooperating than from winning alone.

Perhaps, then, it is no surprise that empathy is one of the single most important factors in fostering successful leaders, entrepreneurs, managers, and businesses. It reduces bullying, increases one’s capacity to forgive, and greatly improves relationships and social connectedness. Empathy enhances the quality of meaningful relationships, which research suggests is one of the most important factors in a person’s sense of well being. Research also suggests that empathetic teenagers tend to be more successful because they are more purpose-driven than their more narcissistic counterparts. And if you think about it, it all makes sense. Successful people don’t operate alone; every human needs the support of others to achieve positive results in his or her life. [...]
When I was younger I might have dismissed this as new age twaddle. But I'm older now, and I've learned to appreciate that people are, to varying degrees, interdependent on one another. No one lives in a vacuum, and certainly "successful" people have good relationships with other people.

Empathy does matter. I think we are sometimes resistant to it because our empathy can be manipulated for political or commercial purposes. But regardless of attempts to misuse it, it still has a place in human society. There is a lot of alienation in American culture. You have to wonder, if children were taught to recognize and understand empathy and human emotions, their own and others, at an early age, if there would be less school shootings and bullying?

As a landlord, I've also seen a lot of people, many young people, who seem to have no control over their emotions, and they often end up being evicted, because they lack self control and seem not to understand basic human interactions. They seen not to understand their own emotions, and unable to empathize with other peoples emotions. In frustration, they become angry and lash out, which only makes their problems worse. It does not bode well for our culture or our country.

I'm amazed at how many young people I see, who have everything going for them, who have much more help and resources available to them than I did at their age, repeatedly fail and sabotage themselves. They are angry all the time, and seem to lack basic social skills to succeed in life. Even if one does not agree with everything in this article, I would still say there is definitely room for improvement in this area.
     

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