Stanford study finds interrupted sleep impairs memory
Tuesday, 09 August 2011 16:00A recent study by Stanford scientists found that when sleep is interrupted, memory may be impaired. The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, used a new method to awaken subjects without causing stress, since stress may affect memory as well.
The technique used light to affect certain brain cells, triggering mice to awaken without otherwise disturbing them. This allowed researchers to study the affects of sleep interruptions without affecting other factors, like total sleep time.
"Regardless of the total amount of sleep, a minimal unit of uninterrupted sleep is crucial for memory consolidation," the authors wrote. The result was expected, since people with some neurological and psychiatric conditions that affect sleep continuity have been found to have memory deficits.
Further research is necessary to determine how much sleep and what sort of interruptions interfere with human memory, but the research indicated sleep interruptions are the cause of memory impairment, as suspected.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one major cause of sleeping difficulties is stress. If workplace stress interrupts sleep and leads to memory impairment, employee performance may suffer as a result. Wellness programs can help employees manage and reduce anxiety, encouraging better performance.
May is Employee Health and Fitness Month
Wednesday, 18 May 2011 16:00While organizations should make employee wellness a priority year-round, May marks Employee Health and Fitness month, a time for employers to contemplate whether they're doing enough to encourage active and healthy lifestyles in their staff.
Employee wellness programs and other health initiatives serve not just to improve the well-being of the working population, but also help to strengthen employee performance, reduce workplace stress and cut back on costs stemming from employee health benefits.
Previously, the National Association for Health and Fitness (NAHF) designated just one day to employee wellness, but recently expanded the scope to a full month.
"Business and industry can encourage positive behavior change in the supportive context of workplace policies and culture and provide support that assists today's workforce with their daily struggles," said NAHF Executive Director, Phil Haberstro.
Kaiser Permanente offered some ways in which employers can make small changes to promote employee wellness. First, having meetings in which workers are allowed to stand and are served healthy snacks may help, as could promoting walks during lunchtime.
Stress may reduce chances of cancer survival
Thursday, 28 April 2011 16:00Researchers at Fox Chase Cancer Center have recently shed some light on the mechanisms behind the ability of mental stress to exacerbate tumor growth.
The team noted that the link between stress and poor physiological health - including cancer prognosis - has long been established. But recently, they found that psychological factors can lead to an increase in vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) expression - a protein that is known to promote tumor proliferation.
When examining the mental and physical health of 37 individuals who had just been diagnosed with head or neck cancer, the researchers found that those with the most stress had the least chance of survival.
"Our analysis indicated that higher levels of perceived stress and depressive symptoms were associated with greater VEGF expression in the tumor tissue of these patients," said co-author Caroline Fang.
Authors said that stress management techniques may be most helpful in patients who are in early stages of the disease, when psychosocial intervention was shown to be most effective.
Results of the study suggest that hospitals and cancer centers may want to consider stress-relieving tools not just for doctors and nurses, but for patients, too.
Insomnia may be alleviated with behavioral counseling
Thursday, 10 February 2011 16:00Research that was published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine suggests that people who have trouble sleeping may find relief - and some much needed rest - by taking part in just a few behavioral counseling sessions.
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researchers examined 79 adults who were divided into two groups: one received two in-person and two phone counseling sessions with a clinician and the other was given literature on insomnia and sleep habits.
Individuals who participated in counseling sessions were more than 40 percent more likely to have had a favorable response to the treatment or eliminated their insomnia altogether.
Sleep disturbances have been shown to lead to elevated levels of stress during the day. Results of this study suggest that organizations that offer employee wellness programs that address sleep disorders may be helping to reduce workplace stress.
Authors of the study noted that focusing on behavioral aspects of insomnia and sleep patterns may remove some of the stigma behind treatments that have traditionally been thought of as psychological.
The National Sleep Foundation estimates that as many as 47 million Americans are not getting adequate sleep at night. The organization also said that these individuals are more likely to get involved in accidents, experience road rage and engage in arguments with others.
Veterans in the workplace stand to benefit from wellness programs
Sunday, 09 January 2011 16:00In the coming years, it may be more important than ever for employers to offer comprehensive employee health benefits that include coverage of wellness programs, as hundreds of thousands of veterans are set to join the civilian workforce.
As U.S. operations in Iraq are winding down, and a similar approach is expected in Afghanistan, veterans of these conflicts - who already number more than 1.5 million individuals - will be coming home and launching or resuming their professional careers.
Unfortunately, many of these individuals are likely to be experiencing psychological after-effects of exposure to traumatic events, and will therefore require ongoing care for depression, anxiety or, in some cases, substance abuse. In fact, a study published this month in the journal Psychiatric Services has found that these disorders may impact some veteran employees' time management skills and productivity.
The report's authors - a team of psychologists and psychiatrists from academic centers in Boston, Syracuse, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Baltimore - emphasize the need for "empirically supported interventions and development of care models that focus on work-specific interventions" in order to facilitate veterans' successful transition to civilian and professional life.
While focus on corporate wellness may help veterans boost their productivity in the workplace, it will likely benefit all employees, as some studies suggest that as many as half of all Americans experience stress on a regular basis.
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