Fresh Health News: Winter 2021

Sweet Dreams

Swedish study suggests an effective, non-medicinal treatment for insomnia

Roughly 30 percent of American adults suffer from intermittent insomnia, or a disturbance in one’s ability to fall or stay asleep. And 10 percent have a chronic case of this most-common sleep disorder. If you’re among these numbers, a new study out of Sweden—first published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine in September 2020—suggests adding a weighted blanket to your bed. The study involved 120 adults with diagnosed insomnia as well as a psychiatric disorder like bipolar disorder, ADHD or generalized anxiety. For four weeks, participants slept under either a light three-pound comforter or a weighted blanket (most blankets were 17 pounds, though a few people chose a 13-pounder instead). All participants wore a wristband to track sleep duration. More than half of those with the weighted blankets experienced a 50 percent or greater improvement in sleep quality over the course of the study, compared to just five percent of people in the light-blanket group. After a year, 92 percent of weighted-blanket users reported a boost in sleep quality and 78 percent were declared in remission for insomnia.

User-Generated Content(ment)

“Put your phone away!” It’s likely something you’ve thought—or even said to someone—at an event like a concert, party or football game. And while there are definitely benefits to be had by pocketing our smart screens more often, a new study reveals one potential perk of pecking around on that phone. Researchers from Rutgers University and New York University found that sharing content (including photos, videos and comments) during an experience may increase your sense of immersion in and enjoyment out of it. During a series of nine studies, a research team logged people’s feelings during and after various events—from holiday celebrations to a Super Bowl halftime show to a dance performance. They found that, across the board, people who used their phones to post content from and/or comment about the experience reported feeling more connected to it than people who did not. But don’t get carried away on your device: The findings didn’t hold when phone users moved on to apps or tasks unrelated to the event. 

Health myth: I’ll inhale too much CO2 if I wear a mask. 

The truth: COVID-19 particles that facial masks block are much larger than both oxygen and carbon dioxide, which can easily pass through fabric and medical-grade masks. According to research from Loma Linda University, COVID-19 particles are 120 nanometers (nm) in diameter while oxygen particles are 0.120 nm and CO2 particles are 0.232 nm. 

Ease the Ache

Back pain is one of the most common and difficult-to-remedy ailments. Fortunately, fresh research from the University of Utah reveals that physical therapy can be quite effective at easing the ache. The study involved 220 adults between 18 and 60 years old who had back or sciatic pain. Half of participants underwent PT for four weeks while the other half tuned into an educational session about back pain instead. After four weeks, six months and a year, the PT patients reported having less pain and a higher quality of life than the others. An unrelated new study by the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute underscores the effectiveness of PT for back pain and adds that the sooner the treatment starts, the better. By analyzing roughly 26,000 workers’ compensation claims, researchers found that people who started physical therapy more than 30 days after a back injury occurred were on disability for an average of 58 percent longer than those who started the therapy within three days of the accident.

Photographs by (sweet dreams) Lysenko Andrii/shutterstock; (try this) Prostock-studio/shutterstock; (cell phone) Gansstock/shutterstock (back pain) Andrey Popov/shutterstock & (women) adobestock