Category Archives: Health and Wellness

Is napping good for you?

Napping and Arthritis: How Long to Nap for, Tips for Napping

IMG via creakyjoints.org 

The healthiness of napping has been debated for years. While some depend on an afternoon snooze to make it through the day, others avoid napping for fear of interfering with sleep schedules or curtailing productivity. Let’s think twice: is napping good for you? 

Napping is linked to cardiovascular benefits. A 2007 study of self-reported sleep habits among 23,000 individuals found that, controlling for other self-reported factors such as smoking status, BMI, and activity level, those who reported regular napping had 37% lower coronary mortality, while those who napped occasionally experienced 12% lower coronary mortality (1).  

In contrast, a systematic review of 7 prospective observational studies of sleep found that longer naps were associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease (2). And a 2022 study of 350,000 participants in the UK’s Biobank longitudinal database found that increased nap frequency was associated with a 12% higher risk of stroke and 24% higher risk of hypertension (3).   

Given the conflicting results, and potential for factors that are not accounted for, a longitudinal study that objectively measures daytime sleep and follows people over many years is needed to study the relationship between napping and cardiovascular health. 

Along with cardiovascular health, napping is linked to cognitive benefits. A recent systematic review of studies with comparative cohorts found that napping was associated with better memory, vigilance, and speed of processing (4). Furthermore, in one of the few randomized studies, a small set of 32 young adults were randomized to 10-minute, 30-minute, or 60-minute naps and found that napping was associated with better memory and vigilance and longer naps were associated with greater sleepiness after napping (often referred to as sleep inertia) (5).  

Another systematic review included 18 longitudinal and cross-sectional studies among people aged 60 and older and found no association between napping and cognition or memory (6). While napping may provide some cardiovascular and cognitive benefits, there are inconsistencies and shortcomings in the current evidence. Randomized trials would help determine the association of napping with improved cognition, especially in populations that may be experiencing cognitive decline. 

 

References:

  1. Naska, A., Oikonomou, E., Trichopoulou, A., Psaltopoulou, T., & Trichopoulos, D. (2007). Siesta in healthy adults and coronary mortality in the general population. Archives of internal medicine, 167(3), 296–301. https://doi.org/10.1001/archinte.167.3.296 https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/411678 
  2. Yamada, T., Hara, K., Shojima, N., Yamauchi, T., & Kadowaki, T. (2015). Daytime Napping and the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease and All-Cause Mortality: A Prospective Study and Dose-Response Meta-Analysis. Sleep, 38(12), 1945–1953. https://doi.org/10.5665/sleep.5246 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4667384/#:~:text=In%20conclusion%2C%20a%20longer%20nap,time%20and%20all%2Dcause%20mortality. 
  3. Yang, M. J., Zhang, Z., Wang, Y. J., Li, J. C., Guo, Q. L., Chen, X., & Wang, E. (2022). Association of Nap Frequency With Hypertension or Ischemic Stroke Supported by Prospective Cohort Data and Mendelian Randomization in Predominantly Middle-Aged European Subjects. Hypertension (Dallas, Tex. : 1979), 79(9), 1962–1970. https://doi.org/10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.122.19120 https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.122.19120 
  4. Leong, R. L. F., Lo, J. C., & Chee, M. W. L. (2022). Systematic review and meta-analyses on the effects of afternoon napping on cognition. Sleep medicine reviews, 65, 101666. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smrv.2022.101666 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S108707922200079X?via%3Dihub 
  5. Leong, R. L. F., Lau, T., Dicom, A. R., Teo, T. B., Ong, J. L., & Chee, M. W. L. (2023). Influence of mid-afternoon nap duration and sleep parameters on memory encoding, mood, processing speed, and vigilance. Sleep, 46(4), zsad025. https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsad025 https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/46/4/zsad025/7034889 
  6. Álvarez-Bueno, C., Mesas, A. E., Reina-Gutierrez, S., Saz-Lara, A., Jimenez-Lopez, E., & Martinez-Vizcaino, V. (2022). Napping and cognitive decline: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. BMC geriatrics, 22(1), 756. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12877-022-03436-2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9479293/ 

Does listening to music improve cognition?

 

IMG via billboard.com 

Whether you’re at the grocery store, work, or in the classroom, you are guaranteed to see people wearing headphones or earbuds. With listening made easier than ever by mobile devices, we can be exposed to music at all times. However, is this beneficial to our concentration and productivity? You might hear that music can improve cognition and memory. Let’s think twice about how music impacts our cognition. What is the evidence that listening to music improves memory and cognition? 

The evidence is mostly circumstantial and non-experimental.  For instance, a 2007 study evaluated brain responses to musical symphonies in 18 people and found that listening to classical music stimulated parts of the brain related to working memory (1).  

A study of 65 adults with an average age of 69 demonstrated that adults who listened to classical music during a vocabulary test and a semantic memory test had faster processing speeds than adults who listened to no music or to white noise (2).   

A 2019 study of 18 participants found music activated reward centers of the brain as measured by fMRI.  

On the other hand, experimental studies do not support the idea that music improves cognition. One study randomized 86 university students to read some learning material with or without background music and found no improvement in recall or comprehension (3).  Another study divided students into no music, simple music, or complex music groups and completed cognitive tasks categorized as easy and hard. The researchers found that the effectiveness depended on the participants’ need for external stimulation while completing tasks. Participants not desiring external stimulation performed better in the no music group. So the association with music may be specific to individual preferences.  

With the available evidence, it’s not clear that listening to music improves cognition and it may vary. If listening to music works for you, science does not provide compelling reasons to stop. And there is also no reason to pick it up if that’s not your habit.  

References 

  1. Sridharan, Devarajan et al. “Neural dynamics of event segmentation in music: converging evidence for dissociable ventral and dorsal networks.” Neuron vol. 55,3 (2007): 521-32. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2007.07.003 
  1. Bottiroli, Sara et al. “The cognitive effects of listening to background music on older adults: processing speed improves with upbeat music, while memory seems to benefit from both upbeat and downbeat music.” Frontiers in aging neuroscience vol. 6 284. 15 Oct. 2014, doi:10.3389/fnagi.2014.00284 
  1. Gold, Benjamin P et al. “Musical reward prediction errors engage the nucleus accumbens and motivate learning.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America vol. 116,8 (2019): 3310-3315. doi:10.1073/pnas.1809855116 
  1. Gonzalez, Manuel F, and John R Aiello. “More than meets the ear: Investigating how music affects cognitive task performance.” Journal of experimental psychology. Applied vol. 25,3 (2019): 431-444. doi:10.1037/xap0000202 

 

Are Melatonin Supplements Effective Sleep Aids?

Platform bed and nightstand with lamp.

IMG via University of Michigan School of Public Health 

With all the distractions in our lives, falling asleep can be difficult. Especially with our phones and other devices stimulating us at all hours, it is easy to derail our natural sleep cycles. While sleeping pills are prescribed carefully in select circumstances, over-the-counter sleep aids like sedating antihistamines (Benadryl) and melatonin are also available (1,2). In particular, melatonin, a hormone that controls the sleep-wake cycle, has grown in popularity. Now, children and adults alike have started to include melatonin gummies in their nighttime routines (3). But should we think twice about the effectiveness of melatonin supplements as sleep aids? Are there any downsides to regular or long-term use? Should we prioritize healthy sleep habits and attention to our mental health?  

Melatonin is produced in the pineal gland of the brain and regulates circadian rhythm, or the cycle of alertness and sleepiness resulting from light changes in the environment (4,5). Melatonin production is highest when the environment is dark and decreases as the environment becomes lighter. This means that melatonin production can be hindered if light exposure is too high at night, leading to difficulty falling asleep (6). Melatonin supplements function by regulating patterns of sleepiness, although the exact role of melatonin is not known.  

Three systematic reviews with meta-analysis found that melatonin supplements lowered sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep) and improved sleep quality better than placebos (7). Additionally, these reviews found that melatonin supplements increased total sleep time (8), and improved sleep quality based on a sleep quality assessment, except in subjects with mental health disorders or neurodegenerative diseases (9).  

There are some concerns about potential downsides of long-term melatonin use in children (10). One study of 69 young adults with chronic sleep-onset insomnia during childhood found no differences in sleep quality between people that used melatonin for a mean of 11 years and people that did not use melatonin (11). While this finding may alleviate concerns about the safety of long-term melatonin use, it also questions the efficacy of melatonin since young adults did not experience significantly improved sleep quality in later life related to melatonin use.  

While the use of melatonin is associated with some sleep benefits more information is needed regarding the degree of benefit and potential harms. If you’re considering melatonin, it may be wise to attend to healthy sleep habits, such as limiting caffeine intake and avoiding use of electronic devices and blue light prior to sleep, and also prioritize alleviation of any feelings of despair or anxiety.   

References:

1. Mayo Clinic Staff. Prescription Sleeping Pills: What’s Right for You? Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/in-depth/sleeping-pills/art-20043959

2. Mayo Clinic Staff. Sleep Aids: Understand Options Sold Without a Prescription. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/sleep-aids/art-20047860

3. Fliesler, Nancy. Melatonin for kids: Is it safe? Is it effective? Boston Children’s Hospital. 13 June 2022. https://answers.childrenshospital.org/melatonin-for-children/

4. Zisapel N. New perspectives on the role of melatonin in human sleep, circadian rhythms and their regulation. Br J Pharmacol. 2018;175(16):3190-3199. doi:10.1111/bph.14116

5. Reddy S, Reddy V, Sharma S. Physiology, Circadian Rhythm. [Updated 2023 May 1]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519507/

6. Melatonin: What You Need to Know. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/melatonin-what-you-need-to-know

7. Li T, Jiang S, Han M, et al. Exogenous melatonin as a treatment for secondary sleep disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Front Neuroendocrinol. 2019;52:22-28. doi:10.1016/j.yfrne.2018.06.004

8. Chan V, Lo K. Efficacy of dietary supplements on improving sleep quality: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Postgrad Med J. 2022;98(1158):285-293. doi:10.1136/postgradmedj-2020-139319

9. Fatemeh G, Sajjad M, Niloufar R, Neda S, Leila S, Khadijeh M. Effect of melatonin supplementation on sleep quality: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Neurol. 2022;269(1):205-216. doi:10.1007/s00415-020-10381-w

10. Van de Walle, Gavin. “What does melatonin do, and how does it work?” Healthline. January 13, 2023. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/melatonin-and-sleep#other-benefits

11. Zwart TC, Smits MG, Egberts TCG, Rademaker CMA, van Geijlswijk IM. Long-Term Melatonin Therapy for Adolescents and Young Adults with Chronic Sleep Onset Insomnia and Late Melatonin Onset: Evaluation of Sleep Quality, Chronotype, and Lifestyle Factors Compared to Age-Related Randomly Selected Population Cohorts. Healthcare (Basel). 2018;6(1):23. Published 2018 Mar 2. doi:10.3390/healthcare6010023

12. https://sph.umich.edu/pursuit/2020posts/why-sleep-is-so-important-to-your-health.html