Stalking Points Memo: Sleep Tight Edition

by Al Pastor

  • From: The Baltimore Sun
  • Meditation: A stress reliever, but not a panacea

Take a deep breath, meditation enthusiasts: A new study finds that research on mindfulness meditation has yielded moderate evidence that the practice can reduce anxiety, depressive symptoms and pain, but little to no evidence that it can reduce substance abuse or improve mood, sleep or weight control. And no evidence was found that meditation programs were better than drugs, exercise or other behavioral therapies at addressing issues of mental health.

The latest word on meditation’s effects comes from a meta-analysis–essentially a study of existing clinical trials that sifts, consolidates and distills their findings. It’s published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The analysis showed a “small and consistent signal” that different components of negative effect–stress, distress, anxiety and depression–improved in subjects who were trained in and practiced mindfulness meditation, the authors wrote. The scale of benefits found ranged from 22% to 38% for anxiety symptoms and 23% to 30% for depressive symptoms. Its effect on pain was more robust, yielding an average improvement of about 33%.

  •  From: The Guardian
  • Animal protein-rich diets could be as harmful to health as smoking

A diet rich in meat, eggs, milk and cheese could be as harmful to health as smoking, according to a controversial study into the impact of protein consumption on longevity.

High levels of dietary animal protein in people under 65 years of age was linked to a fourfold increase in their risk of death from cancer or diabetes, and almost double the risk of dying from any cause over an 18-year period, researchers found. However, nutrition experts have cautioned that it’s too early to draw firm conclusions from the research.

The overall harmful effects seen in the study were almost completely wiped out when the protein came from plant sources, such as beans and legumes, though cancer risk was still three times as high in middle-aged people who ate a protein-rich diet, compared with those on a low-protein diet.

But whereas middle-aged people who consumed a lot of animal protein tended to die younger from cancer, diabetes and other diseases, the same diet seemed to protect people’s health in old age.

  • From: Fox News
  • Study finds link between BPA and prostate cancer

The highly controversial chemical bisphenol A (BPA) has been linked with yet another adverse health condition: prostate cancer.

In a small study published in PLOS ONE, scientists observed the presence of high levels of BPA in men with prostate cancer; they also found that BPA exposure disrupts cell division, potentially affecting cancer’s development.

The Cincinnati Cancer Center researchers say these findings point to the need for future studies looking into the effects of BPA exposure.

BPA is used to manufacture hard, polycarbonate plastics and is found in many food product containers such as cans, receipts and plastic water bottles.  It has been linked to cancers, neurological defects, diabetes and obesity. BPA exposure in the U.S. is widespread, with more than 90 percent of the population containing some levels of the chemical.

  •  From: Today
  • Up all night: Parents and kids are losing sleep to their devices

“Light will disturb your sleep — so looking at a screen is going to make it harder for them to sleep. Noise will disturb your sleep especially if it’s left on,” Knutson says. “And also these really, the more interactive devices, like video games or their tablets, are mentally stimulating. And so that’s also going to make it harder for them to go to sleep once they finally try. And it’s a distraction, so they’re just staying awake later because they’re playing with their devices.”

James Maas, a sleep expert, author and retired professor and chair of Cornell University’s psychology department, says that most people don’t realize that our brains register the blue glowing light from all our various screens as if it’s sunlight — which says to your brain, hey, it’s the middle of the day!

“If you look at these gadgets within an hour of bedtime, what happens is melatonin — the brain hormone that puts you to sleep — has been suppressed for the last hour,” said Maas. “Now, it’s going to take you much longer to go to sleep.”

The survey found that 6- to 10-year-olds are averaging about 8.9 hours of sleep on school nights – hours less than the 10 to 11 they should ideally be getting – and older kids get even less sleep, with 15- to 17-year-olds reporting just 7.1 hours of sleep per night. That’s troubling, Maas says, because that age group should be getting more like 9.25 hours of sleep every night.