Friday, July 27, 2012

Dim All the Lights, Sweet Darlin'

     Okay, I admit it! I’ve fallen asleep while watching TV in bed and allowed the glow from the screen to light up the room all night long. There, I’ve said it! And you know what else? I’ve also gone to sleep with the screen of my laptop computer softly aglow. (I don’t want to miss an important middle-of-the-night Facebook post, you know!) But is this behavior really all that big of a deal? Well, yes – yes, it is.
     A recent study (see article at PsychCentral) suggests there is now evidence that not only does the light from these devices keep us from sleeping well, but it can also cause depression. In fact, there has been concern for many years that our ever-increasing exposure to artificial light is, indeed, affecting our moods.
     The study revealed that hamsters exposed to light at night (Yes, that’s right, they did the study using hamsters!) showed symptoms associated with depression. And while I’m not quite sure how one tells if a hamster is suffering from depression or not (unless, of course, they’re smoking more than they usually do), it does seem to make sense that if a person’s sleep is disrupted, he or she might notice an increase in depressive symptoms. Regardless, a restful night’s sleep is always good for what ails you, and, therefore, anything done to ensure a good night’s rest is sure to be helpful to an overall sense of well-being. And, it reasons, that would include dimming the lights.
     As a mental health professional, and one who talks repeatedly with clients about the importance of good self-care – including getting a good night’s sleep – I know this stuff. In fact, I routinely advise clients when preparing for sleep to dim all the lights (and to turn off the television, cell phone, Nook, and iPod), close their eyes, and drift quietly off into La La Land. The idea is to eliminate all light sources from the environment, so the body can relax and they can get a good night’s sleep.
     Truth be told, though, I’m feeling just a little bit guilty, because, as I mentioned above, I ‘m not always very good at practicing what I preach. (Did I mention that I’m also a minister? Oh well.) 
     Do you sleep with the TV on? Laptop? iPod? Does your cellphone chime in with “alerts” throughout the night? How’s that workin’ for ya? What do you think? Say more about that…

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Think Through the Chip!

     While I'm certainly an advocate of good self care (and in particular, eating a good diet!), I'm not quite sure I'm convinced of the validity of the findings in a recent Cornell study, cited in Science Daily, suggesting a a rather creative way to limit one's intake of potato chips. See article.
     In the study college students were monitored and given tubes of Pringles potato chips to snack on while watching TV. Some of the chips were dyed red and intermittently distributed throughout the stack, which, according to the study, caused the students to pause and ponder if they'd had enough, before eating more.
     According to Cornell Food and Brand Lab director Brian Wansink, "An increasing amount of research suggests that some people use visual indication -- such as a clean plate or bottom of a bowl -- to tell them when to stop eating. By inserting visual markers in a snack food package, we may be helping them to monitor how much they are eating and interrupt their semiautomated eating habits," he said.
     But hey, come on, the research aside, will this kind of approach really work? I don't think so! Anyone who's ever sat down with a tube of Pringles knows how difficult it is to just eat one. (Remember the Lay's slogan "I bet you can't eat just one?") After a quick pause, let's face it, I'm on to the next half dozen chips!
     Okay, I'm kidding... I guess. In all seriousness, any intervention that can cause a person to stop and reflect, albeit briefly, about some action he or she is about to take, and to consider the consequences of that action, that's probably a pretty good thing. 
     It's all about responding to situations we encounter (putting some space in between stimulus and response), rather than reacting (a more immediate action) -- and, as I said, that's a good thing.
     What do you think? Say more about that...