7 Signs Your Body Doesn’t Actually Know How To Maintain Deep Sleep

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Every night of sleep is not created equal — even if you think you get eight hours of rest. If you’re having trouble getting deep sleep, you may not even know it. Sleep medicine experts know how to pinpoint the vague symptoms related to this issue, however, and can help you get back on track. Having a hard time getting adequate sleep is troubling enough, but it can be caused by a variety of underlying issues.

“There are several medical problems that make it difficult for people to maintain deep sleep at night,” Dr. Teofilo Lee-Chiong, M.D., Chief Medical Liaison at health technology company Philips, tells Bustle. “According to Philips annual global sleep survey, three quarters of adults around the world experience at least one of the following conditions that impact their sleep: insomnia, snoring, shift work sleep disorder, chronic pain, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and narcolepsy.” Both physical and mental health problems can make getting that deepest stage of sleep difficult, but since this all goes on at night, you may struggle pinpointing what’s going on.

Paying more attention to how you sleep at night, plus keeping an eye on whether you’re tired during the day, can give you a little more data to then help you try to work on your sleep cycle at home, or bring your concerns to a doctor. Everyone deserves a good night’s rest.

Here are seven signs your body doesn’t actually know how to maintain deep sleep.

1You Wake Up Easily

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If you’re prone to waking up from every car that passes, every bump in the night, or even the slightest hint of sunlight out your bedroom window, then you may not be getting the deep sleep you need.

“If you’re a light sleeper, it might be a sign that you’re not maintaining deep sleep,” Caleb Backe, health and wellness expert at Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. “When your body is in deep sleep, it should be difficult for you to be woken. When this isn’t the case, a lack of deep sleep might be to blame.” If your constant waking up is causing you difficulties during the day, this is worth mentioning to a doctor.

2You Constantly Hit The Snooze Button

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

Feeling refreshed when you wake up in the morning may seem like a myth to you, but it doesn’t need to be. If you need to hit snooze every morning, then you may not be getting the deep sleep you need in the middle of the night.

“If you know you’re getting enough hours of sleep, but you just can’t stop hitting the snooze button and feel groggy in the morning, it might be a sign that you’re not maintaining deep sleep at night,” Backe says. If you find that even putting in an effort to break this habit doesn’t work, then you may want to examine what’s keeping you from getting deep into your sleep cycle at night.

3You Snore A Lot

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When severe, snoring can be more than just an annoyance during the night. Your snoring may actually be preventing you from getting the deep sleep your body so desperately needs.

“Snoring is another common cause that impacts sleep with 29 percent of global adults reporting they experience this condition,” Dr. Lee-Chiong says. “[… And] snoring can be a manifestation of an underlying sleep apnea disorder.” So if you have an inkling that your snoring is causing you to have trouble breathing, or is severe in another way, then you should definitely bring it up to a doctor.

4You Need To Nap To Get Through The Day

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Naps can be a really great occasional boost. But if you absolutely need them to get through the day, something more serious might be going on.

“If you find that you can’t get through the day without taking a nap, despite having the recommended six to eight hours sleep the night before, it might be a sign that you’re not maintaining deep sleep at night,” Backe says. Your daytime naps may actually be making it harder for you to get deep sleep at night, so trying to get yourself back onto a regular schedule may help.

5You Wake Up During The Night

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If you get up multiple times every night, for whatever reason, that’s a strong sign of something underlying going on in the world of sleep medicine.

“Waking up throughout the night can indicate that you are not reaching a state of deep sleep,” Dr. Lee-Chiong says. “Deep sleep, or the final stage of non-REM sleep, is the time when your brain waves are at their lowest frequency and you are at your hardest to wake up.” Finding ways to improve your sleep environment, or talking to your doctor about this issue, may help improve things.

6You’re Tired Throughout The Day

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

Being sleepy during the day doesn’t have to be something you put up with willingly just because it’s common. Exhaustion — even when you feel you’ve slept an adequate number of hours — doesn’t need to be your norm.

Six in 10 global adults experience daytime sleepiness at least twice per week,” Dr. Lee-Chiong says. “People who do not obtain optimal deep sleep at night often feel tried throughout the day, which may impact their energy levels and productivity.” If this applies to you, then you may want to try working on your sleep hygiene to improve the amount of deep sleep you achieve.

7You Wake Up Before Your Alarm Goes Off

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Waking up before your alarm occasionally can be a good thing — especially if it is slightly before your alarm and at a regular time. But if you wake up way before your alarm goes off, then your sleep cycle may be off.

“If you wake up too early and never return back to sleep, this might influence your time in deep sleep and REM sleep,” Vikas Jain, MD, sleep medicine specialist at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, tells Bustle. Staying in bed and trying to rest for those final few hours may help.

Not getting adequate deep sleep could end up being as detrimental as staying up too late or waking up too early. So if you realize you may not be getting deep enough sleep throughout the night, you may want to either find ways to adjust your routine, or visit the doctor to get to the bottom of it.

Neuroscience Discovers 5 Things That Will Make You Happy

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So what’s going to make you happy? Let’s get more specific: what’s going to make your brain happy? And let’s focus on things that are simple and easy to do instead of stuff like winning the lottery.

Neuroscience has answers. I’ve discussed this subject before and it was so popular I decided to call an expert to get even more dead simple ways to start your brain feeling joy.


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Alex Korb is a postdoctoral researcher in neuroscience at UCLA and author of The Upward Spiral.

So let’s get to it. Alex has some great suggestions for simple things you can do to feel happier every day …

1) Listen To Music From The Happiest Time In Your Life

Music affects the brain in an interesting way: it can remind you of places you have listened to it before.

Were you happiest in college? Play the music you loved then and it can transport you to that happier place and boost your mood. Here’s Alex:

One of the strong effects of music comes from its ability to remind us of previous environments in which we were listening to that music. That’s really mediated by this one limbic structure called the hippocampus which is really important in a thing called “context dependent memory.” Let’s say college was the happiest time of your life. If you start listening to the music that you were listening to at that time, it can help you feel more connected to that happier time in your life and makes it more present.

I hope you weren’t happiest in elementary school because it’s going to be weird if you’re playing the Barney song or the Sesame Street theme around the house.

(To learn more about what the music you love says about you, click here.)

Now you can’t listen to music everywhere you go. What does neuroscience say you should do when you have to take those earbuds out?

2) Smile — And Wear Sunglasses

The brain isn’t always very smart. Sometimes your mind is getting all this random info and it isn’t sure how to feel. So it looks around for clues. This is called “biofeedback.” Here’s Alex:

Biofeedback is just the idea that your brain is always sensing what is happening in your body and it reviews that information to decide how it should feel about the world.

You feel happy and that makes you smile. But it works both ways: when you smile, your brain can detect this and say, “I’m smiling. That must mean I’m happy.”

So happiness makes you smile, but smiling can also produce happiness. Feeling down? Smile anyway. “Fake it until you make it” can work. Here’s Alex:

That’s part of the “fake it until you make it” strategy because when your brain senses, “Oh, I’m frowning,” then it assumes, “Oh, I must not be feeling positive emotions.” Whereas when it notices you flexing those muscles on the side of the mouth it thinks, “I must be smiling. Oh, we must be happy.” When you start to change the emotions that you’re showing on your face, that changes how your brain interprets a lot of ambiguous stimuli. Since most stimuli that we experience is ambiguous, if you start to push the probability in the positive direction then that’s going to have a really beneficial effect.

In fact, research shows smiling gives the brain as much pleasure as 2000 bars of chocolate, or $25,000.

And so what’s this about sunglasses? Bright light makes you squint. Squinting looks a lot like being worried. So guess what biofeedback that produces? Yup. Your brain can misinterpret that as being unhappy.

Sunglasses kill the squint and can help tell your brain, “Hey, everything is okay.” Here’s Alex:

When you’re looking at bright lights you have this natural reaction to squint. But that often has the unintended effect of you flexing this particular muscle, the “corrugator supercilii.” Putting on sunglasses means you don’t have to squint and therefore you’re not contracting this muscle and it stops making your brain think, “Oh my God, I must be worried about something.” It’s really just a simple little interruption of that feedback loop.

So smile. And wear those sunglasses. They can make you look cool and make you happier.

(For more on how to be happier and more successful, click here.)

So you have your music playing, you’re smiling and wearing your sunglasses. But you can still be stressed about things. What should you think about to kill your worries and keep yourself happy?

3) Thinking About Goals Changes How You See The World

And I mean, literally. Researchers flashed a bunch of circles on a screen in front of study subjects. One of the circles was always slightly different than the others. It was brighter or smaller, etc.

But when they told people to prepare to point at or try to grab the circles something crazy happened

If they thought about pointing at the circles, they became better at noticing the brighter circle.

If they were told to think about grabbing a circle, it was easier for them to identify the smaller circle.

What’s that mean? Having a goal literally changed how they saw the world.

So when you’re feeling stressed or challenged, think about your long-term goals. It gives your brain a sense of control and can release dopamine which will make you feel better and more motivated. Here’s Alex:

The goals and intentions that you set in your prefrontal cortex change the way that your brain perceives the world. Sometimes when we feel like everything is going wrong and we’re not making any progress and everything is awful, you don’t need to change the world, you can just change the way you are perceiving the world and that is going to be enough to make a positive difference. By thinking, “Okay, what is my long-term goal? What am I trying to accomplish?” Calling that to mind can actually make it feel rewarding to be doing homework instead of going to the party because then your brain is like, “Oh yeah. I’m working towards that goal. I’m accomplishing something that’s meaningful to me.” Then that can start to release dopamine in the nucleus accumbens and that can start to make you feel better about what you’re doing.

(To see the schedule the most successful people follow every day, click here.)

Sometimes you can try all these little tricks and it doesn’t feel like it’s making a bit of difference. That’s often because you’re missing something that’s really key to good brain function …

4) Get Good Sleep

We all know depression messes up how people sleep. But what’s interesting is it’s actually a two way street: bad sleep also causes depression. Here’s Alex:

They took all these people with insomnia and followed them for a few years and it turned out that the people with chronic insomnia were much more likely to develop depression. Depression causes sleep problems but sleep problems are also more likely to lead to depression.

So how do you improve your sleep? Alex has a number of suggestions:

Get bright sunlight in the middle of the day. At night, try and stay in a dimly lit environment. Having a comfortable place to sleep and having a bedtime ritual so that your brain can prepare to go to sleep are also good. Trying to go to sleep at the same time every night and keeping a gratitude journal can also improve your sleep.

(To learn everything you need to know about having the best night’s sleep ever, click here.)

All this little stuff to feel better is good. But if you’re not getting stuff done at work it’s going to be hard to stay happy. What’s neuroscience say about building good habits and conquering procrastination so you can stay smiling?

5) How Neuroscience Beats Procrastination

Your brain isn’t one big ol’ lump of grey goo that’s perfectly organized. Far from it. Think of it a little more like a bunch of your relatives arguing at the dinner table during a holiday get together.

When it comes to the choices you make and the things you do, Alex says there are 3 regions you need to be concerned with. You don’t need to memorize the names. It’s just important to realize they all get a vote:

  • The Prefrontal Cortex: The only one thinking about long-term goals like, “We need to prepare that report for work.”
  • The Dorsal Striatum: This guy is always voting to do what you’ve done in the past, like, “When it’s time to work we usually start by checking email 9 times, then Facebook, and then watching Netflix.”
  • The Nucleus Accumbens: The party animal of the three. “Email, Facebook and Netflix are fun. Work sucks.”

So guess what you end up doing? Yeah… Ouch.

But when you exert effort, the prefrontal cortex can override the other two and do the right thing. Repeat this enough times and you rewire the dorsal striatum: “We usually start reports quickly. I vote we do that again.

That’s how the brain builds good habits. So why don’t we do that more often? Often the culprit is stress. Here’s Alex:

I have a friend who always says, “Stress takes the prefrontal cortex offline.” Stress changes the dynamics of that conversation. It weakens the prefrontal cortex. That part of your brain doesn’t have infinite resources. It can’t be eternally vigilant and so while it’s not paying attention, your striatum is like, “Let’s go eat a cookie. Let’s go drink a beer.” Anything that you can do to reduce stress can help strengthen the prefrontal cortex’s control over your habits.

So if you want to build good habits and stop procrastinating, the first thing to do is reduce stress. (The best ways to do that are here.)

Procrastination is often a vicious circle because you delay, then you have less time to complete the project, so you get more stressed, procrastinate more, have even less time, which makes you even more stressed and … well, you get the idea.

So what’s the answer? After a little something to reduce stress, find one small thing you can do to get started. This focuses you and prevents the overwhelm that knocks the prefrontal cortex out of the conversation. Here’s Alex:

When the prefrontal cortex is taken offline by stress we end up doing things that are immediately pleasurable. Instead of getting overwhelmed, ask yourself, “What’s one little thing that I could do now that would move me toward this goal I’m trying to accomplish?” Taking one small step toward it can make it start to feel more manageable.

(To learn 5 weird but effective ways to conquer chronic procrastination, click here.)

Time to round up everything we learned. Alex gave us six great …

Wait. Did I only say “5” in the headline? Okay, you’re getting a bonus. Keep reading for Alex’s #1 easy thing to do to cause an upward spiral of happiness in your life …

Sum Up

Here’s what you can learn from Alex about how neuroscience can bring happiness:

  • Listen to music from the happiest time in your life: Let’s hope you had good taste when you were happiest.
  • Smile and wear those sunglasses: You don’t have to wear them indoors. That would be dumb.
  • Think about your goals: It changes how you see the world and releases happy chemicals in your noggin.
  • Get your sleep: Depressed people don’t sleep well. And people who don’t sleep well get depressed.
  • Beat procrastination by reducing stress and doing a simple thing to get started: Listen to those happy-era tunes and then assemble all the materials you need to get cranking.

And what’s that #1 thing that Alex says can start an upward spiral of happiness? It’s dead simple:

Go for a walk outside every morning, preferably with a friend.

Yup, that’s it. How can something so incredibly simple be so powerful? Here’s Alex:

I think the simplest way to kick start an upward spiral is to go for a walk outside every morning, and if possible, do it with a friend. The walk engages the exercise system and when you’re walking outside the sunlight you’re exposed to has benefits on the sleep systems and can impact the serotonin system. If you do it every day, then it starts getting ingrained in the dorsal striatum and becomes a good habit. If you can do it with a friend, that’s even better because you get the social connection.

Right now: share this post with a friend and ask them to join you for a walk tomorrow morning. That’s it. (And wear your sunglasses.)

Go outside. Put one foot in front of the other. Smile with a friend. And you’re on your way to neuroscientific happiness.

Looks like it really is the simple things in life that bring us joy.

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This article first appeared on Barking Up The Wrong Tree.

The Perverse Link Between ADHD and Addiction

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Credit: Marine Corps.

While the exact number of adults with ADHD is unknown, it is estimated that 4% of the U.S. adult population is affected by ADHD. While most people can function very well and become successful despite their condition, ADHD is also associated with life-long impairments in several facets of life, including educational and professional achievements, self-image and interpersonal relationships. But one of the darkest sides of ADHD is its propensity for addiction.

Why ADHD can lead to substance abuse

Addiction is a global problem that affects people from all walks of life, irrespective of gender, financial status, skin color, sexual orientation, religion, or spiritual practice. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), addiction is “a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry,” which leads to dysfunctional behavior in order to provoke relief in spite of the negative consequences a person may attract.

“Addiction is an inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death,” according to a characterization on the ASAM website.

It’s these changes in the brain that make addiction so dangerous, causing a person to lose control over his or her use of substances. This also leads to subsequent problems at work, in relationships, and with one’s sense of self-worth and esteem.

Some people are more vulnerable to addiction than others. One primary factor which specialists have identified are adverse childhood experiences, which create their own brain changes. Research has also identified neurological conditions that make people prone to addiction, ADHD being one of them.

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a syndrome characterized by persistent patterns of inattention and/or impulsivity and hyperactivity that is inappropriate for a given age or developmental stage. The exact causes of ADHD are still unknown but the evidence so far suggests that dopamine neurotransmission dysfunction is at least partially responsible for the disorder’s symptoms. This dopamine link may also explain why ADHD often co-occurs with substance use disorders.

Symptoms of ADHD across lifespan. Credit: ADHD Institute.

The risk of drug and substance abuse is significantly increased in adults with persisting ADHD symptoms who have not been receiving medication.According to one study, ADHD is associated with a twofold increase in the risk of psychoactive substance use disorder. In addition, it is estimated that more than 25% of substance-abusing adolescents meet diagnostic criteria for ADHD. A 2004 survey found that 60% of the adults with ADHD have been addicted to tobacco while 52% have used drugs recreationally.

“One of the strongest predictors of substance use disorders in adulthood is the early use of substances, and children and teens with ADHD have an increased likelihood of using substances at an early age,” Dr. Jeff Temple, a licensed psychologist and director of behavioral health and research in the department of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Texas Medical Branch, told Health Line.

Bearing all of this in mind, clinicians working with patients that suffer from both ADHD and substance abuse may need to use a different approach than they would normally. While the treatment literature for ADHD in patients with substance use disorder is not well developed, the emerging trend is that medications effective for adult ADHD may be effective for adults with ADHD and co-occurring substance use disorder. Exercising regularly and having behavioral health checkups during treatment are also important.

The key seems to be starting ADHD treatment as early as possible, before a person has the chance to develop a substance use disorder during his or her teens. Although there is no “cure” for ADHD, there are accepted treatments that specifically target its symptoms. However, it is essential that ADHD treatment begins when the patient is sober, so some drug or alcohol detox may be required before treatment.

“A conservative approach for treating co-occurring ADHD and SUD would be to begin treatment with a non-stimulant pharmacotherapy, but if an adequate response is not obtained, consider stimulant pharmacotherapy. The decision regarding the use of stimulant medications for a patient with ADHD and a co-occurring substance use disorder should be made on the basis of a broad clinical assessment and an individual risk-benefit analysis. For many patients, psychostimulants can be used safely and effectively; however, careful monitoring during treatment is essential to ensure prescribed stimulants are being used in a therapeutic manner, and in the case of worsening substance use or when faced with evidence of the diversion of prescribed medication, treatment should be discontinued,” according to researchers at the New York State Psychiatric Institute.

‘Night Owl’ Brains May Not Function As Well for Daytime Work

Author Article

A new study finds that “night owls” — those whose internal body clock dictates they go to bed and wake up very late — appear to have fundamental differences in their brain function compared to “morning larks.”

This suggests that night owls could be disadvantaged by the constraints of a normal working day.

Researchers at the University of Birmingham discovered that night owls, who typically have an average bedtime of 2:30 am and a wake-up time of 10:15 am, have lower resting brain connectivity in many of the brain regions associated with the maintenance of consciousness.

Importantly, this reduced brain connectivity was tied to poorer attention, slower reactions and increased sleepiness throughout the hours of a typical working day.

According to the Office for National Statistics, around 12 percent of employees work night shifts. It is well-established that night-shift workers often face huge negative health consequences due to the constant disruption to sleep and body clocks.

However, this type of disruption can also result from being forced to fit into a societal 9-5 working day if those timings do not align with one’s natural biological rhythms. Since around 40-50 percent of the population identify as having a preference for later bedtimes and for getting up after 8:20 a.m., the researchers say much more work needs to be done to investigate any negative implications for this group.

“A huge number of people struggle to deliver their best performance during work or school hours they are not naturally suited to,” said lead researcher Dr. Elise Facer-Childs, from the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Human Brain Health. “There is a critical need to increase our understanding of these issues in order to minimize health risks in society, as well as maximize productivity.”

For the study, the researchers looked at brain function at rest and linked it to the cognitive abilities of 38 individuals who were identified as either night owls or morning larks using physiological rhythms (melatonin and cortisol), continuous sleep/wake monitoring and questionnaires.

The participants underwent MRI scans and then completed a series of tasks, with testing sessions being undertaken at a range of different times during the day from 8  a.m. to 8 p.m. They were also asked to report on their levels of sleepiness.

Self-identified morning larks reported being least sleepy with their fastest reaction time during the early morning tests, which was significantly better than night owls. Night owls, however, were least sleepy and had their fastest reaction time at 8pm in the evening, although this was not significantly better than the larks, highlighting that night owls are most disadvantaged in the morning.

Interestingly, the brain connectivity in the regions that could predict better performance and lower sleepiness was much higher in larks at all time points, suggesting that the resting state brain connectivity of night owls is impaired throughout the whole day (8 a.m.-8 p.m.).

“This mismatch between a person’s biological time and social time, which most of us have experienced in the form of jet lag, is a common issue for night owls trying to follow a normal working day. Our study is the first to show a potential intrinsic neuronal mechanism behind why ‘night owls’ may face cognitive disadvantages when being forced to fit into these constraints,” said Facer-Childs, who is now based at the Monash Institute for Cognitive and Clinical Neurosciences in Melbourne, Australia.

“To manage this, we need to get better at taking an individual’s personal body clock into account — particularly in the world of work. A typical day might last from 9  a.m.-5 p.m., but for a night owl, this could result in diminished performance during the morning, lower brain connectivity in regions linked to consciousness and increased daytime sleepiness.”

“If, as a society, we could be more flexible about how we manage time we could go a long way towards maximizing productivity and minimizing health risks.”

The findings are published in the journal Sleep.

Source: University of Birmingham

Why Daydreaming Can Improve Your Mental Health

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stockfour/Shutterstock
Source: stockfour/Shutterstock

How many times do you catch your mind wandering when you’re plodding through your day’s activities? As you slip into reverie, for example, do you see yourself relaxing at your favorite beach resort? How about imagining the big event you’re attending next weekend? Are you starting to think about who you’re going to see there, and what you’ll wear? After a few seconds, you snap back to attention and focus your mind back on what you’re supposed to be doing. Perhaps you were in the middle of a meeting and realize that everyone is waiting for your answer to a question posed to the group. It’s also possible that you were trying to finish a repetitive task on your desktop, and while clicking through an endless number of cut and paste operations, you started to time travel back to the weekend before. Maybe you’ve just gone to the gym for an hour and spent most of the time thinking about a problem in your relationship.

The effects of daydreaming or mind-wandering are generally thought of as negative. When attention is diverted, you’re more likely to make a mistake — and while driving, you certainly do need to focus all of your senses on what’s going on around you. Apart from all the other potential hazards that can come from distracted driving due to cell phones, GPS, and even the car radio, drifting off into oblivion should certainly rank high on that list of dangers. At work, though, or while involved in your household routines, is it really all that bad to retreat into your thoughts, if only for a moment?

Georgia Institute of Technology’s Kelsey Merlo and colleagues (2019) decided to take a new approach to studying the age-old question of why people daydream, and what effects daydreaming can have on people’s productivity. The authors note that despite how common it is to think about something other than what you’re doing (they claim perhaps as many as half of all waking moments), the work and organizational psychology literature virtually ignores the phenomenon altogether. Most studies of daydreaming have a cognitivefocus or pin the activity down to the brain’s “default working network,” which produces internally generated activity. As in that example from the gym, your mind dissociates relatively easily when you’re involved in automatic activities. This is when the default working network allows you to split your consciousness.

Other terms refer to daydreaming in a more negative light, noting its repetitive nature in the form of rumination or worry. From the standpoint of the Georgia Tech researchers, mind-wandering or daydreaming can be defined as being stimulus-independent, in that the content of the thoughts are not a reflection of sensory input or related to the task being performed at the moment. Such thoughts can be fanciful, such as imagining yourself winning the lottery, or pragmatic, as in planning what to make for dinner. They can be related to work, as when you try to plan out your schedule for the day, and they can be triggered by stimuli such as the phone ringing, which reminds you that you have an important call coming up later in the day.

The comprehensive study conducted by Merlo and her associates took a person-centered approach in which participants provided, in their own words, the causes of their daydreaming, the content of their daydreams, and the results they felt followed from the mind-wandering interlude. The authors focused, as they stated, “on the lived-through experience of a mind wandering episode as that episode is experienced subjectively, by the worker him/herself” (p. 3). They also wanted to allow participants to experience mind-wandering in real situations rather than in the artificial conditions of a lab. They wanted to see, as they proposed, “the dynamic nature of mind wandering as part of work experience” (p. 4). This approach allowed them the flexibility to study daydreaming in its natural environment, while also maintaining scientific rigor. According to “grounded theory,” it’s just as valid to analyze open-ended responses (if done in a systematic manner) as it is to apply the methods of survey research and quantitative analysis.

Participants in the Georgia Tech study, then, were all working adults, obtained from two university sites, whose average age was 40 years old. They represented a diverse set of occupations, and half were white/Caucasian with the remainder identifying as African American (45 percent) or Asian (5 percent). In the open-ended interview that the participants completed, the less technical term “daydreaming” was used rather than “mind-wandering.”

The analyses, then, rather than representing statistical tests, reflected the broad themes that emerged across interviews, divided into the three areas regarding the onset, ending, and outcome of daydreams. Looking first at onset, or triggers, these ranged from internal states (sadness, fatigue, or boredom), direct prompts (looking at something or someone), an internal progression (thinking about one thing that then leads to another), being in a meeting, and just taking a natural break (such as being in between projects). You can enter a daydream at work, then, either because you’re inwardly triggered to do so by a mental state, externally stimulated by something that happens to you, or by being in a work situation that naturally fosters daydreaming.

People snapped out of their mind-wandering, the authors reported, for similar reasons. They can be faced with external cues, such as the “ping” of an email landing in their inbox, internal cues, or becoming aware that they were daydreaming, or by the daydream reaching its natural conclusion, and there being nothing left to daydream about. You might wake from your daydream, then, because someone is standing in front of you and demanding your attention, or because you realize it’s time to get back to what you were doing.

Most interesting from the standpoint of daydreaming’s effect on your mental health and productivity were the responses that participants provided about the perceived outcome of a mind-wandering episode. They described some negative impacts, such as feeling guilty about having drifted off from their work tasks, or continuing to experience a negative mood state from the daydream if it involved worrying or reliving a sad event. However, many of the participants believed that daydreaming had benefited their emotions and their work performance. One software consultant noted, “Because they are so short, and I find them to be pleasant, they never hurt me.” Some noted that they worked harder after the daydream ended to catch up any lost time or effort. A financial administrator started making fewer mistakes after a daydream break, “because I was getting bored with the task.”

The authors were struck not only by these positive outcomes, but also by the fact that mind-wandering seemed to be a process that the participants stated they could control. They could decide to avoid an aversive work environment with a brief mental wander somewhere else, and when they wanted to end the daydream, they could readily do so. As a result, the authors concluded, “mind-wandering may be able to be used strategically to enhance work experience” (p. 12). The micro-break which the daydream provides can help to combat fatigue and strain during the day, because “it allows individuals to cognitively and affectively disengage from their work demands” (p. 13). You don’t need to wait until the weekend or your next vacation, the findings suggest, to get the mental health benefits of a break. Although mind-wandering seems “mindless,” at another level, using your daydreams to enhance your well-being can be an exceptionally mindfulness-boosting experience.

To sum up, the Merlo et al. findings suggest that the occasional daydream, especially the one that allows you to unfocus and then refocus, can be one of the best ways to become better at what you’re doing. The associated feelings of being refreshed and ready to tackle your next task can become just the antidote you need to lower stress and boost your feelings of day-to-day fulfillment.

Neuroscience Reveals How to Beat Morning Dread With Just 7 Words

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CREDIT: Getty Images

You know the feeling. The alarm goes off and before you’ve found the button, your brain is already in the shower, fretting over the day ahead. So much work to do. How will you get it all done? Will you do OK in that big presentation? So many meetings you aren’t looking forward to. You want to pick up your daughter after school but secretly know you hardly have the time to do so.

Dread kicks in. What’s wrong with my life?

This is the scenario neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett paints in an interesting TED talk she gave in December 2017 and in her book How Emotions Are Made.

The good news is that you don’t have to be held hostage by this spiraling A.M. anxiety. Barrett’s research points to a surprising finding about our emotions: they’re linked to physical sensations your body is feeling. That’s right, your brain reacts to physical sensations you’re feeling in the form of emotions.

In other words, you might be feeling that sense of dread as soon as you wake up because you simply didn’t sleep well, because you’re hungry, or because you feel dehydrated.

As Barrett explains:

“Your brain is searching to find an explanation for those sensations in your body that you experience as wretchedness. But those sensations might not be an indication that anything is wrong with your life.”

So before you go off the deep end with your morning mental swim, Barrett says ask yourself one question about what you’re feeling, just seven words:

“Could this have a purely physical cause?”

I tried this and found that quite often the answer is, yes. For me, I often wake up parched and, like most of us, have nights where I just didn’t sleep well. I paid attention to this and noticed whenever I felt that sense of dread, it went away as I woke up, drank water, and had breakfast.

But I’d like to add another seven-word question to the mix that you can use when you’re feeling that morning dread; in case your emotions aren’t just based on a physical sensation you’re experiencing in the moment.

“Could this be a signal for change?”

Some have called it Sunday Night Dread–that pit in your stomach you feel as you wind down on Sunday night and think about the day ahead tomorrow. A general unease and unhappiness nags at you. That’s the front line. Ground zero is when you wake up in the morning and the dread is instant and intensified as you face the immediate prospects of the day ahead.

Experiencing this over and over may be a sign that it’s time to make a change and engage in a different line of work or make dramatic changes at the job you’re in.

I experienced this towards the end of my corporate days. I ignored the feeling at first, and then for too long, frankly. Eventually, I let it trigger deep introspection, which ultimately led me to leave corporate behind and embark on my current entrepreneurial journey. I’m so glad I didn’t ignore the signals my morning routine was sending me.

So don’t accept that feeling of morning dread as “just the way it is”. Use Barrett’s question to discern if there’s an underlying physical cause based on what you’re feeling that morning. Use my question so that you’re not just brushing off that dread as you’re brushing your hair. Instead, look in the mirror and get honest with yourself.

 

Researchers shed light on the neural networks that appear to govern human consciousness.

via Identifying Brain Patterns of Consciousness — Neuroscience News Updates

The Biological Basis Of Mental Illness

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By Adrian Woolfson

A vaguely indistinct floating face made of white spots on a black background.

No. 348. Candid Portrait of a Woman on a Street Corner by Trent Parke (2013).Credit: Trent Parke/Magnum

Good Reasons for Bad Feelings: Insights From the Frontier of Evolutionary Psychiatry Randolph M. Nesse Dutton (2019)

Globally, the burden of depression and other mental-health conditions is on the rise. In North America and Europe alone, mental illness accounts for up to 40% of all years lost to disability. And molecular medicine, which has seen huge success in treating diseases such as cancer, has failed to stem the tide. Into that alarming context enters the thought-provoking Good Reasons for Bad Feelings, in which evolutionary psychiatrist Randolph Nesse offers insights that radically reframe psychiatric conditions.

In his view, the roots of mental illnesses, such as anxiety and depression, lie in essential functions that evolved as building blocks of adaptive behavioural and cognitive function. Furthermore, like the legs of thoroughbred racehorses — selected for length, but tending towards weakness — some dysfunctional aspects of mental function might have originated with selection for unrelated traits, such as cognitive capacity. Intrinsic vulnerabilities in the human mind could be a trade-off for optimizing unrelated features.

Similar ideas have surfaced before, in different contexts. Evolutionary biologists Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin, for example, critically examined the blind faith of ‘adaptationist’ evolutionary theorizing. Their classic 1979 paper ‘The spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian paradigm’ challenged the idea that every aspect of an organism has been perfected by natural selection (S. J. Gould et alProc. R. Soc. Lond. B 205, 581–598; 1979). Instead, like the curved triangles of masonry between arches supporting domes in medieval and Renaissance architecture, some parts are contingent structural by-products. These might have no discernible adaptive advantage, or might even be maladaptive. Gould and Lewontin’s intuition has, to some extent, been vindicated by molecular genetics. Certain versions of the primitive immune-system protein complement 4A, for instance, evolved for reasons unrelated to mental function, and yet are associated with an increased risk of schizophrenia.

Genetic trade-offs

Decades earlier, the evolutionary theorist George C. Williams explored perhaps the most perplexing aspect of human biology: our inconvenient tendency to age and die. He suggested in 1957 that some of the genes that cause ageing evolved because they enhanced fitness early in life (G. C. Williams Evolution 11, 398–411; 1957). Such ‘antagonistic pleiotropy’ — in which a single gene controls at least one beneficial and one detrimental trait — suggests that the design of biological structures is a complex optimization problem involving multiple trade-offs. Emotions and other aspects of mental function are not like machine components, each with a set function; instead, they are embedded in complex overlapping biochemical pathways.

In 1994, Nesse teamed up with Williams for Why We Get Sick, a manifesto for “Darwinian medicine”. Their insights opened up new perspectives on the origins of diseases, arguing for ‘proximate’ causes (driven by anatomy, biochemistry and physiology) and higher-level ‘ultimate’ (evolutionary) causes. They noted that evolution selects for reproductive success rather than for health and happiness; hence, the existence of human diseases and disorders. They also detailed the contingent and sometimes ‘irrational’ nature of biological legacies, such as the nerves and blood vessels that run across the human eye’s retinal surface. Cephalopod eyes don’t have this ‘flaw’.

Good Reasons for Bad Feelings builds on these insights. Adopting an “engineers’ point of view” on mental illnesses, Nesse suggests that anxiety, although apparently undesirable, is a design component with utility in certain situations — for instance, as a “smoke detector” for potentially life-threatening events. Depression might also perform adaptive functions. The psychiatrist Aubrey Lewis argued that by signalling distress, depression could prompt others into providing assistance through foraging and other activities. It has even been suggested that depressive behaviour in vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) evolved to signal loss of status, deflecting attacks from dominant males.

Yet, however functional its components when appropriately regulated, mental illnesses cause suffering, and evidence-based treatments are sparse. Indeed, the field has seen no significant pharmaceutical breakthroughs for many years. Biological causes remain elusive, and biomarkers non-existent.

Psychiatry as a field, meanwhile, quivers with theoretical uncertainty. It has not become a sub-speciality of neurology, as one might have expected if mental illness mapped directly to neural behaviour. And common genetic variations with large effects on mental disorders are elusive. The various incarnations of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders(DSM) have enabled diagnostic consistency and the objectification of mental illnesses. But the DSM has resulted in overlapping diagnoses, and contrived symptom-cluster checklists. At times, it impinges on the territory of healthy mental function. Allen Frances, chair of the task force that wrote the manual’s fourth edition in 1994, revolted against out-of-control mental diagnosis in his 2013 book DSM: Saving Normal.

From adaptive to maladaptive

Nesse argues that evolutionary theory could foster therapeutic breakthroughs by providing a robust theoretical foundation for psychiatry. He posits that it might also help to prevent people from equating psychiatric symptoms with diseases and viewing extremes of emotion such as anxiety as disorders. Nesse also suggests that mental illnesses might result from the disruption of regulators that maintain equilibrium in the body, such as the endocrine system. The normally adaptive function of thoughts and emotions could, in such instances, become maladaptive.

The future success of clinical psychiatry might depend on an evolutionary framework being integrated with whole-genome sequence-data analysis; this could help to identify mutations predisposing people to mental illness. Given the small contributions of individual genes and the diverse mechanisms involved, this will demand analysis of the genomes of hundreds of thousands of people. As a result of the extensive and often paradoxical entanglement of genetic networks, future treatments might, by necessity, require mental circuits to be engineered to release them from hard-wired evolutionary constraints.

In Theodicy (1710), German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz argued that God, being omniscient, must have created the best of all possible worlds. (Fifty years later, in his novel Candide, Voltaire lampooned Leibniz as Doctor Pangloss, who opined that faults in the world are necessary, like contrasting shadows in a painting.)

Ironic readings aside, the philosopher’s optimism might now be shown to have rational echoes in contemporary science. As Good Reasons for Bad Feelings boldly posits, many of the core dysfunctional components of mental illness ultimately help to make us human.

11 Things Others Don’t Realize You Are Doing Because Of Your High Functioning Anxiety

Author Article

Anxiety can be very harmful and it’s not something to be overlooked. The worst problem is that a lot of people can’t understand the effects it can have on a person and find anxious people as being lazy, irresponsible and passive.

If you are not an anxious person, knowing this can help you understand anxiety a bit better. If you are, we are sure you are going to agree with these things.

1.Decline invites although you may want to go

There are certain days that you may have planned all along and when they come, anxiety takes up the whole space. It can become so debilitating that you feel as if you lack the energy to go out.

You are aware of what is happening to you and you don’t want to become a burden where you are supposed to go – so you just cancel everything.

2. Obsess over trivial things other people may not even notice

A simple word or an unintended glance from someone is enough for your head to start processing and rewinding the situation even for days! The truth is you obsess over everything that has happened recently or a week ago, or any time ago, really.

You may obsess over a conversation you had, or the fact that someone hasn’t texted you yet (after a whole 12 hour period) or really just over the fact that some stranger looked at you as if they knew you.

Whatever the case may be, many would get confused by the notion that you even notice such things.

3. Go to bed late, wake up early in the morning

One of the biggest issues for you is certainly sleeping. Of all the processing in your head after the day, you find it hard to go to bed on time.

When early morning comes, your anxiety clock starts ticking again and ringing several alarms to get things going – even though you are tired. When your anxiety has switched on (by waking up), you can’t do anything to switch it off, so you don’t go back to bed.

4. In every situation, the worst scenario is your biggest thought

Instead of enjoying the moment as it is, you can’t help picturing and convincing yourself that the worst scenario is inevitable. If it’s a first date, you are convinced that something will go terribly wrong.

If you get sick, you always manage to connect the symptoms to the worst diseases you can imagine. It’s as if your mind tricks you into believing that nothing can go right.

5. You rewind conversations in your head – over and over again

No matter how well a conversation went with somebody, you always replay that conversation in your head fearing that you may have said something wrong. That’s why you try to avoid confrontation at all cost.

This constant rewinding seems to be able to haunt you until it starts chipping a hole from the inside. You always have to remind yourself that it’s your anxiety talking and that there is most certainly nothing wrong with what you have said in the first place.

6. When someone shows concern about you, you become even more worried about the same thing

If someone notices that you are not OK and shows concern, your anxiety grows even more. The thing is, when you hear someone asking if you are alright, it makes you fear even more for yourself and your state.

You think – if it has become noticeable, then there has to be more to it than I thought. This makes you feel worse than you did.

7. You believe that you are to blame if someone doesn’t reply right away

When communicating with people, be it your significant other, a friend or a relative, if they don’t respond immediately, you start thinking that you may have said or done something wrong.

However, you should stop and consider that they may be in the middle of something that takes up their attention, or that they are just bad at communicating.

8. You are experiencing a breakdown when the future comes as a topic

While most people look forward to the future and make plans for the future, your view on the future is making you feel intimidated and frustrated.

Experiencing the present so hard makes you think how hard and daunting the future may be. This makes you retreat and hide from the thought of it.

9. You always compare your success to others who are your age

Although you may not want to compare yourself to others, your anxiety makes you scour through Facebook and stay up to date with all the successful things your peers have done.

Your worries are not that they have managed to succeed, but if you are ever going to succeed in your life like they have.

10. You obsess too much over every mistake you make by beating yourself up over it

The worst scenario is making a mistake at work. The thoughts that will consume you afterwards are tremendously difficult to handle.

Although you strive to perfect whatever you are doing, mistakes can occur, which is natural. Unfortunately, your anxiety doesn’t know that. In such cases, it becomes your worst enemy.

11. Sometimes, you feel too mentally and physically exhausted to get out of bed

Anxiety burns up most of your energy, both mentally and physically. That’s why it can happen that you cannot function properly and you just want to remain in bed and leave yourself drown in the sheets.This paralysis comes as a result of the overwhelming experiences due to your anxiety.

Neurons Surprise Researchers With Unexpected Abilities

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By Lacy Schley

capsids
Clumps of proteins form protective shells called capsids in viruses and neurons.
National Institutes of Health

Neurons Go Viral

It’s one of the first things you learn in neuroscience: Neurons are the brain’s messengers, ferrying information via electrical impulses and chemical signals. Now, we know they have another way of communicating.

Researchers announced in two papers published in January 2018 in Cell that neurons carrying a gene called Arc — involved in learning and memory — exchange information like viruses do.

Cells with the Arc gene crank out proteins that clump into capsids. Inside is messenger RNA (mRNA), which relays DNA’s genetic blueprints to cells. The capsids travel to neurons, where Arc’s mRNA is then transferred; the cells then also start releasing Arc capsids. Viruses use the same system to spread their genes throughout an organism, a similarity that surprised researchers.

Next, they aim to figure out why neurons use this method and if it has any role in memory-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Out of the Dish and Into the Mouse

Neuroscientists have implanted human brain organoids into mice — the first time they’ve done so in any animal. And the implants are taking.

In a paper published last April in Nature Biotechnology, researchers describe how the mini-brains, grafted into adult mice, quickly incorporated into their hosts. Within seven days, blood vessels from the host mouse had woven throughout the organoid. After 90 days, axons — the nerve fibers that carry neurons’ outgoing messages — had connected with host neurons.

The move is an important step forward in regenerative medicine. If cerebral organoids can survive in mice, then something similar in humans becomes more feasible. And if it works in humans, we might be able to repair brain damage. Still, grafting a rudimentary human brain into an animal crosses into tricky consciousness territory. Critics contend that we need to establish ethical guidelines before researchers can scale things up to work in humans.

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