The Connection Between Sleep and Dementia
For many people, middle age is a time when getting enough sleep can be a real challenge. With life often presenting multiple demands for time and attention, sleep often seems like the only place to cut corners. But before you decide to downgrade your shut eye time, keep in mind that less sleep now could put you at higher risk for dementia as you age. Though the exact mechanism for this effect is not yet known, scientists speculate that the brain goes into clean-up mode during our nightly slumber, clearing out excess proteins. These excess proteins can build up and eventually lead to dementia and Alzheimers. In a large, longitudinal study, researchers found that less than 6 hours nightly sleep in one’s 50’s and 60’s increased risk of dementia by approximately 30%, compared to those who slept 7-8 hours nightly. Though researchers emphasize that this study did not show direct causation between sleep and dementia risk, they did emphasize that is likely a contributing factor that can be controlled by those hoping to reduce their risk. 

Exercise reduces risk of severe COVID
If you are looking for some workout inspiration, the latest research shows that regular exercise protects the body from severe COVID and greatly reduces the risk of hospitalization and death. In this study, sedentary people—who are rarely or never active—were twice as likely as their active counterparts to be hospitalized with COVID and were two and a half times more likely to die from the condition. Of all the risk factors for severe COVID, only advanced age and being an organ recipient were more likely to lead to severe illness. These benefits are likely due to the fact that fit people recover from viruses of all types more quickly and generally have more robust immune responses than less active people. Faster walking pace and grip strength have also been associated with reduced risk of developing severe COVID.

What do overeating, overscheduling and your messy closet have in common?
As children our math lessons included addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, but recent research shows why as adults we love to add more than anything else. A paper—recently published in Nature—demonstrates that when presented with a problem most people will attempt to solve it by adding an element, even when taking something away would be a much better option. 

Social scientists speculate that there are several reasons for this inclination. One is that additive solutions take less cognitive effort and are therefore easier to come up with. This is demonstrated in how easy it is to fill up your grocery cart, but challenging to choose what to put back if you go over budget. Or how easy it is to fill up a closet, but difficult to clean out. They also emphasize that with our culture emphasizing speed, the quickest option is often seen as the best, even when it’s not in the long term. And the more conditioned we get to using additive solutions, the more likely we are to rely on them, creating a world in which clutter, over scheduling and red tape abound. How can we combat this cognitive blind spot? Awareness is the first step. The next time you are facing a conundrum, challenge yourself to come up with solutions that involve subtraction instead of just adding. 

Can Mindfulness Make You Selfish?
Mindfulness is a mental health practice that is associated with many benefits including reduced anxiety and stress levels, but it turns out that for some people there could be a dark side to this practice. 

Similar to yoga, most mindfulness techniques originated in more interdependent Eastern cultures, which tend to place a high value on interdependence, valuing the collective over individuals self-determination. Conversely, Western cultures—such as the United States— tend to value individual autonomy over a collective identity. Due to these differences in cultural values, some of the benefits of mindfulness could be lost in translation, as the practice is removed from the original context in which it developed. 

This helps to explain recent research findings which show that for people who view themselves as independent, practicing mindfulness can lead to increased selfishness and less prosocial behavior. 

Conversely for people who view themselves as an interdependent part of a community, mindfulness training can increase selfless behavior. In this experiment, people who viewed themselves as independent were less likely to say they would volunteer at a community organization after engaging in a mindfulness exercise. Experts recommended thinking of mindfulness as a tool that can be helpful in certain situations and not others and also to be mindful of the impacts mindfulness training is having on the people around you.