Friday Roundup – Small Screens and Sleep Habits, Gut Bacteria and Anxiety, How Not to Talk Yourself Out of Working Out, and More!


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Friday Roundup – The Latest in Mental Health News

(and other stuff)

Smartphone Screens and Sleep Habits in Children

Research has consistently demonstrated that the flickering lights from a TV screen disrupt a child’s sleep. reports on a new study, published in the journal Pediatrics, that finds even smaller screens, such as those found on smartphones and tablets, can influence children’s and adolescents’ sleep habits.

Researchers, led by Jennifer Falbe, from the University of California, Berkeley, found the following results:

  • Children who fell asleep next to a small screen reported sleeping almost 21 minutes less than peers who slept in environments free of electronic devices.
  • Children who reported attachment to small screens stated significantly interrupted sleep, as compared to children who reported watching lots of TV or who slept with a TV nearby did not report.
  • Children who watch TV or play videogames for a major portion of the day also reported sleeping less.

According to Falbe, “While any type of light can suppress melatonin release, blue light emitted from electronics has a stronger impact on melatonin release. Content can be engaging and emotionally arousing.”

Anxiety and Gut Bacteria

The connection between gut bacteria and the brain has become a focus of neuroscientific interest in recent years. The Huffington Post reports on a study recently published in the journal Psychopharmacology that finds preliminary evidence pointing to an association between gut bacteria and mental health.

In the study, researchers from Oxford University found that supplements developed to increase healthy bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, also known as “prebiotics,” may reduce anxiety in a way that can change a person’s method of processing emotional information.

Probiotics are made up of good bacteria strains. “Prebiotics” are carbohydrates that nourish those strains of good bacteria. As research continues to find a link between gut bacteria and the brain – particularly psychological functioning – probiotics and prebiotics will be the focus of future studies for potentially reducing the symptoms of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

In a statement, lead author Dr. Kirsten Tillisch, comments, “Time and time again, we hear from patients that they never felt depressed or anxious until they started experiencing problems with their gut. Our study shows that the gut–brain connection is a two-way street.”

How Thoughts Can Affect Your Workout

The new year brings in an onslaught of resolutions regarding becoming healthier, losing weight, and looking good. As gym memberships are on the rise, reports on how having the right mentality is a major contribution to staying on track. Article author, Laura Melone, provides 10 self-defeating thoughts that are bound to interfere with your commitment to well-being. Becoming aware of these thoughts and redirecting your focus to positive attributes and your dedication to health is a solid foundation to fall upon when that treadmill seems like the enemy.

1. “Everyone else is more fit than me.”

2. “I can’t do this.”

3.  “Look at that body! She/He has it so easy. It’s unfair!”

4. “I feel as if everyone is looking at me.”

5. “I’ll just copy that man/woman; he/she looks good.”

6. “I can never achieve the body I want.”

7. “I’ll just zone out and watch TV while I work out.”

8. “Cardio bores me to tears.”

9. “When will I see results? I haven’t lost a pound.”

10.  “I hate exercise!”

Imagination vs. Reality in the Brain reports on a study, recently published in the journal NeuroImage, that finds imagination and reality “flow” in different directions in the brain. When discussing “flow,” study researchers, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, are referring to the direction of the brain’s neurons’ electrical signals.

According to the study’s findings, visual information gathered from “real life” events  direct “up” from the brain’s occipital lobe to the parietal lobe, but images derived from imagination direct “down” from the parietal to the occipital.

Dr. Guilio Tononi, study co-author and psychiatry professor and neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, states, “There seems to be a lot in our brains and animal brains that is directional that neural signals move in a particular direction, then stop, and start somewhere else. I think this is really a new theme that had not been explored.” Tononi and his colleagues recommend further investigation for deeper understanding.

This week’s roundup is dedicated to Nicholas Sparks, romantic-drama novel writer extraordinaire….who just separated from his wife.


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