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When it comes to quality of sleep among Americans, men seem to outperform women, a new survey from the Better Sleep Council has found. The male participants of the survey often bragged about getting adequate amounts of sleep, while the women were considerably less likely to get a good night’s rest.

The Sleep Gap between the Sexes

The survey found that a vast majority—84 percent—of female participants found that sleep is important to their health. However, compared to men, the women fell short of getting recommended amounts of sleep each night. The male participants earned a positive 72 percent score for sleeping well at night. This is only slightly above the 70 percent score average American adults of both sexes received from the researchers. Overall, both men and women were lacking enough sleep.

The researchers found that men got better sleep because they tended to engage in more positive sleep habits. More than a third of the male participants slept alone, thus reducing distractions. More men minimized stress levels, followed strict bedtime rituals including on weekends, and didn’t consume caffeinated drinks after lunchtime, leading to overall better sleep than the women.

Women experienced considerable barriers to uninterrupted sleep—mainly their loved ones. Women were more likely than men to let kids or pets sleep in their beds. Such distraction-causing bedtime habits caused women to miss sleep more. Women were also considerably more likely to have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.

Mounting Evidence for a Sleep Epidemic among Women

Other surveys have also found women to lack more sleep than men. A 2007 poll by the National Sleep Foundation found that women are more likely than men to suffer from sleep disorders. Women with children are often the last to go to bed at night, resulting in less sleep.

Both men and women require at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night, according to guidelines set by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Sleep deprivation is linked to a number of adverse health conditions among both sexes, including increased risk for heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and mood disorders like anxiety.

A study of 71,000 female nurses who regularly got less than 5 hours of sleep at night found that the sleep-deprived women were more likely to develop diabetes and cardiovascular problems compared to those who slept 8 hours a night. Women who are most likely to lose sleep were corporate women, who worked long hours at the office and commuted a lot, often losing out on sleep in the process. It’s estimated that more than a third of American working women are seriously sleep-deprived.

Why Women Sleep Less

Scientific research indicates several reasons why women lack sleep compared to men. As mentioned above, lifestyle is a major contributing factor. Women often work long hours and when they come home, they are tasked with looking after children. Working mothers don’t go to sleep until their children are asleep and the school bags for the following day are packed. Women prioritize the needs of the family over their individual need to sleep well.

Other biological factors may also play a role. Female sex hormones tune body clocks to wake up earlier compared to men. The menstrual cycle can also play a role, particularly menopause. Pregnant women experience sleep disturbances, which can continue even after the baby is born (mostly because of the crying baby).

Certain diseases, such as restless leg syndrome, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and obstructive sleep apnea, can keep women awake at night as well. Another factor is the bed partner, which is likely to be a male who snores and moves around a lot in their sleep.

Medical professionals recommend that women address this issue head-on and actively sleep at least 20 minutes more than the healthy 7 hours a night. Developing good sleeping habits is at the forefront of tackling this particular gender-oriented problem.

Joi Bellis is a Psych grad who is now working on her Master's degree. She loves yoga, cats, and books.

          
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Disability

On Stacking Books in the Library, and Undoing My Own Ableism

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My first job right out of high school was working in a public library. I was one of three library pages who would put books away in order to maintain the bookshelves. A majority of the library staff watched me grow up in that building, and I was given my first opportunity at an internship the year before. I was very bonded to the staff and to the building itself. Working there reminded me a great deal of my childhood.

“Violet” was one of the book pages I worked alongside. For as long as I can remember, she had always worked at the library, it was almost as if she came with the building. Violet retired the year the building was given a grant to be rebuilt, which I always found to be appropriate timing. As a child, I could always count on Violet to be in the fiction section of the library.

Walking in, I knew I would find her pursing her lips and mumbling to herself while she put the cart of books away. Typically, she would stop me, and let me know I looked just like my mother and would then ask after her, right before complimenting me for the season I reminded her of, Autumn. By the time I began to work at the library, Violet was an elderly woman. She would come into the library every morning at 8:45 a.m. with fifteen minutes to spare, so she could sit on the ratty old orange couch in the staff lounge for ten minutes and then spend the last five minutes greeting staff as they came in before getting to her book cart.

Violet was meticulous at keeping time and budgeted herself to shelving two carts for the three hours she would work every day. Some days she was overly ambitious and was able to complete two and a half carts, but that was rare. Once she finished her shift she would grab her things from the staff lounge and go home. Later I learned Violet had a schedule she followed daily, consisting of breakfast at the Tea Cup Café, a walk to work, completion of her shift and then a return to the Tea Cup Café before going home. She lived alone and had a visiting nurse who would come to her home twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon.

Once I had gotten really efficient at keeping my shelves well maintained, I would go down and help Violet with her books. At this point, I was shelving three to four carts an hour. Many times, I would put Violet’s books in alphabetical order for her on the cart so all she had to do was shelve while I walked around after her and fixed her shelves to make them look as “fronted and faced” as mine.

After several weeks of doing this, I was taken aside by my supervisor and asked that I not help Violet because Violet was capable of doing her own work and she took the time she did because she had schizophrenia. I was not aware of this, and always felt I was doing what was “right” because Violet was elderly and honestly, seemed to me to present as not very aware of her surroundings. It wasn’t until I was told of Violet having a diagnosis of schizophrenia that I realized why she presented the way she did.

I learned later on that she had been institutionalized for many years as a young woman until her brother and sister were old enough to discharge her from the facility she was in. Violet came from a time where health practitioners believed it was best to lock away persons with disabilities and forget them. This process is consistent with the manifestation of oppression through what is referred to by disability advocates as ‘containment.’ Society would rather hide Violet away than have her become a productive member of society or teach her skills because her life was less valuable than that of a person without a disability.

Violet and I never discussed her past or her diagnoses for the four years she and I worked together. After learning of Violet’s diagnosis, I realized I had been practicing ableism by doing her work for her and immediately stopped. I was not allowing Violet to do the work she was capable of because I assumed she couldn’t do it. Following this incident, I learned to ask before assisting her because I wanted to ensure I was respecting her ability to work at her own pace and do what she had been doing for thirty plus years.

The irony of it all is my brother has schizophrenia and it wasn’t until I met Violet. that I realized the importance and effectiveness of a routine but also, knowing Violate gave me hope that my brother might someday find himself in a similar position where he could function independently from my parent’s care.

The last year I worked at the library, Violet could no longer live independently due to needing around the clock assistance and eventually moved to a nursing home where she passed away some years ago. Every so often I visit the library and think of the woman who taught me about resiliency but also gave me a perspective that I keep with me always.

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Health

The Importance of First Aid Training for Young People

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Being equipped to respond to a medical emergency brings you one step closer to saving someone’s life. Though you may never encounter a critical situation, the chances are you’ll one day need to apply your first aid knowledge, meaning you could really help someone in a time of need.

First aid is usually taught, at request, later in life, but why aren’t first aid teachings encouraged among youngsters? First aid training provides highly sought after skills which bring various opportunities with it, so you’re never too young to learn the basics. Neglecting the importance of first aid could be to the detriment of society, especially since young people are unable to assess risk evaluation in the same way as adults. Educating youngsters accordingly is vital, so this article will evaluate the importance of first aid training for young people.

Should First Aid Be Taught at School?

Advocates have long argued for first aid to become a compulsory aspect of the school curriculum. This notion was supported by public health supporters in D.C., who recently urged decision makers to make first aid training a requirement at schools. Further support was received from the American Academy of Pediatrics, who have instrumentally taken active steps to influence local regulations. The need for increased first aid training and awareness is critical during a time when kids don’t know how to respond to emergencies.

Though counter arguments view first aid teachings as a waste of time and money, for something kids could easily forget, doesn’t that apply to everything taught at schools? Research has offered support for the introduction of first aid at schools, a concept which is viewed positively in most communities. The American Red Cross has proposed free first aid training at schools, so neglecting the welfare of society by failing to teach first aid is inexcusable. Teaching first aid at schools is a no brainer, considering it could breed a generation that’s capable of responding to medical emergencies.

How Would Children Benefit from First Aid Training?

Parents would love to be able to watch their children at all times, but this is unrealistic. As children get older they’re inclined to explore more, and adventures inevitably lead to accidents. This can be worrying for parents who are concerned for their child’s safety, but what could be more reassuring than knowing you children have the skills necessary to effectively respond to emergencies? Knowing basic first aid can be life-saving, for scenarios ranging from heart attacks to injuries and falls.

With new stories emerging daily regarding children saving adults, teaching first aid at schools could potentially save thousands of lives. Lifesaving lessons should be introduced at various stages, to varying extents, starting with basic first aid training in early years, before progressing to more advanced training as kids progress through school. First aid training can also influence a child’s confidence, creating benefits which extend beyond the obvious.

Building Confidence, Communication, and Leadership

With basic first aid training, children are introduced to fundamental, transferable skills. Learning how to contact emergency services is invaluable, and it also indirectly enhances communication and confidence. First aid training teaches children how to respond to various accidents and emergencies, but in turn will inspire a nation of young leaders. It will encourage children to work as a team, alongside enforcing patience and an ability to listen to others. These versatile skills will continue to benefit children throughout their lives.

Why wouldn’t the government want to encourage students to adapt to different environments, and ultimately do better in life? When children are taught to think clearly under pressure, they’re more likely to positively influence the world we live in, and create a knowledgeable, balanced society. In its most simplistic form, first aid training could reduce the more than 140,000 deaths a year which could have been prevented. If we want to create a progressive, forward-thinking America, introducing first aid training at schools is a great place to start.

It’s time to change the antiquated curriculum, don’t you think? It would be great to hear your opinion, so if you’d like to comment below, please do so and kick-start the conversation! Together we can call for change, so let’s rally for the good of society!

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Aging

Loneliness Found to Be High in Public Senior Housing Communities

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Older adults living in public senior housing communities experience a large degree of loneliness, finds a new study from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

Nevertheless, senior housing communities may be ideal locations for reducing that loneliness, the study finds.

“There are many studies on loneliness among community-dwelling older adults; however, there is limited research examining the extent and correlates of loneliness among older adults who reside in senior housing communities,” wrote Harry Chatters Taylor, doctoral student at the Brown School and lead author of “Loneliness in Senior Housing Communities,” published in the Journal of Gerontological Social Work.

The study was co-authored by Yi Wang, doctoral student at the Brown School, and Nancy Morrow-Howell, the Bettie Bofinger Brown Distinguished Professor of Social Policy and the director of the Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging.

The study examines the extent of loneliness in three public senior housing communities in the St. Louis area. Two of the three complexes were in urban neighborhoods, and the last was located in a suburban neighborhood. All were publicly funded under Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Program. Data for the project was collected with survey questionnaires with a total sample size of 148 respondents. Loneliness was measured using the Hughes 3-item loneliness scale. Additionally, the questionnaire contained measures on socio-demographics, health/mental health, social engagement and social support.

‘We believe that senior housing communities could become ideal locations for reducing loneliness among older adults.’

Results showed approximately 30.8 percent of the sample was not lonely; 42.7 percent was moderately lonely, and 26.6 percent was severely lonely. In analyzing the data, researchers found loneliness was primarily associated with depressive symptoms.

“We speculate that loneliness may be higher in senior housing communities for a few important reasons,” Taylor said. “The first is older adults residing in senior housing communities often have greater risk for loneliness. In order to qualify to live in these senior housing communities, older adults must have a low income, and having a lower income is a risk factor for loneliness.

“Additionally, most of the residents we interviewed identified their marital status as single, which is another risk factor for greater loneliness. Many older adults living in senior housing communities also have greater health and mental health vulnerabilities, which increases the likelihood that an older adult will experience loneliness.”

Despite all that, the study finds, senior housing communities may be better suited to combat loneliness than traditional residential homes.

“We believe that senior housing communities could become ideal locations for reducing loneliness among older adults,” Taylor said. “Senior housing communities are embedded in communities with peers who may have similar age and life experiences. There are occasional activities and support from senior housing management to encourage the building of friendships, bonds and social support among senior housing residents.

“Most senior housing communities also have a common space or multipurpose room available for use, which can also help facilitate building bonds between residents. Senior housing communities are frequently located close to public transportation, which provides access to transportation for residents without automobiles.”

Still, loneliness is frequently a stigmatized condition, he said.

“We often do not like to talk about our feelings of loneliness,” Taylor said. “For practitioners, it is important to be patient when working with older adults, and it could take a while for an older adult, regardless if they reside in a senior housing facility, to admit they are feeling lonely.

“Whether you are a child, relative or family member to an older adult, or provide services to older adults, be patient when discussing issues of loneliness and mental health with older adults.”

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Mental Health

Intimate Partner Violence Doesn’t End With the Relationship

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The violence that occurs between intimate partners does not end with the relationship’s conclusion, yet few resources exist to help survivors move beyond the betrayal of abusive relationships in order to begin new, healthy relationships.

The effects of intimate partner violence (IPV) are profound, painfully enduring and should command as much attention as providing victims with the help necessary to leave violent relationships, according to a new study by a University at Buffalo social work researcher.

“Once a victim leaves an abusive relationship we have to begin addressing the issues that stem from having been in that relationship,” says Noelle St. Vil, an assistant professor in UB’s School of Social Work. “You can carry the scars from IPV for a long time and those scars can create barriers to forming new relationships.”

St. Vil calls IPV a pervasive public health issue.

Nearly one in three women in the U.S. have experienced IPV.  One in 10 women have been raped by an intimate partner.

IPV is a subtype of domestic violence.  While domestic violence can include violence occurring among any individuals living in a single household, IPV is at the level of an intimate relationship.

It’s one partner trying to gain power and control over another partner. IPV can involve many types of violent behavior, including physical, verbal, emotional and financial.

Looking at IPV from the perspective of betrayal trauma theory, a concept that explores when trusted individuals or institutions betray those they’re expected to protect and support, St. Vil’s research, published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, explores how the long-lasting implications of IPV and the consequences of being in such a relationship should be addressed.

“We often use betrayal trauma theory to describe children who have experienced child abuse,” says St. Vil.  “But the same betrayal occurs with IPV: a partner who you trust, can be vulnerable with, who should be building you up, is in fact inflicting abuse. It’s a betrayal of what’s supposed to be a trusting relationship.”

With most help and support centered on keeping women safe in a relationship or providing them with the means to get out of an abusive relationship, St. Vil began thinking about the effects of the trauma.

“How do you move forward after leaving?” she asked. “What does that look like?”

Her interviews with nine survivors of IPV represent the initial steps to answer those questions and revealed four barriers to establishing new relationships.

  • Vulnerability/Fear: Women emerging from IPV often set up an emotional wall, hesitant to begin new relationships. Some victims said they entered into a physical relationship, but avoided becoming emotionally attached.
  • Relationship Expectations: Some women in the study opened themselves emotionally, but expected even what appeared to be a healthy relationship to decay into violence.
  • Shame/Low Self-Esteem: Participants in the study expressed how low self-esteem sabotaged new relationships. Part of gaining power and control in violent relationships involves breaking down self-esteem.  When things aren’t going well in new relationships, victims can return to the feelings experienced during IPV, asking, “Why would anyone love me?”
  • Communication Issues: St. Vil says communication is a major issue in new relationships as victims struggle to understand and explain to new partners what they experienced during IPV and its effects on their current behavior.  Women who were unable to communicate their experiences felt disconnected from their new relationships.

St. Vil says her one-on-one interviews capture critical aspects of IPV survivors’ experiences.

“This is a starting point,” she says. “We’re trying to understand the depth of the issue and can use the data from this research for a potentially larger study.”

For the time being, St. Vil is emphatic.

“The effects don’t end once a woman is out of the relationship.  We need to understand that and know there’s more work to be done.”

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Health

5 Trends Indicating a More Nature Loving Millennial Culture

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Every generation has certain hallmarks. For example, many people probably associate millennials with technology. Millennials always seem to be checking social media sites and trying to purchase the latest gadget. This may true, but you can find convincing evidence millennials may not be so into technology after all. However, did you know there is evidence to suggest that millennials are on track to be one of the most nature loving generations ever? It’s true! Check out the trends indicating this surprising finding below.

Sharing

Millennials are big on sharing. For example, millennials essentially created the social media landscape we know and use today. Millennials are also the drive behind companies that promote the sharing of vehicles and apartments through smartphone apps. Part of this obsession with sharing stems from economic necessity.

For example, millennials stuck paying off a bunch of student loans feel compelled to share mortgage payments, cars, and grocery bills. However, nature also provides an opportunity to share. Nature is also one of life’s least expensive pleasures. A group of millennials can take a hike or watch a sunset without even needing to even buy a ticket. Everybody can share the trail or sunset, and everybody can share the memory of it afterward.

Climate Change

The evidence shows that millennials are concerned about climate change. As a result, many millennials support environmentally conscious political candidates and strive to be environmentally aware. This awareness often translates into a greater love of nature. This makes sense. Why would millennials want to save the planet and not take the time to enjoy it? This means that millennials are all about being close to nature and the object of their generation’s political affection.

Communal Thinking

Millennials are understood to be a collective generation. This means that millennials often value the needs of a group over the needs of an individual. This helps explain why millennials love social media and sharing resources. However, this collective viewpoint translates well into nature.

Nature is the one thing we all share, and, depending on how we treat nature, it is the one thing that can either help or harm everybody. This collective thinking makes millennials feel attracted to nature more than other generations. Millennials see and understand how nature and humankind interact in a type of feedback loop. Millennials see themselves as a part of nature, and they enjoy doing the best they can to take care of nature.

Millennial Health

Millennials are one of the healthiest generations ever. For example, millennials are less likely to smoke than any previous generation. Millennials are also more likely to shun sugary drinks and embrace healthier diets. All of this focus on health often translates into physical activity. Interestingly, much of this physical activity takes place in the outdoors. Millennials love hiking, biking, and backpacking through nature. This also means that when things go wrong, millennials are also more likely to seek healing through wilderness therapy and other healthy lifestyle choices. Many millennials would rather hit the trails to feel better instead of laying on a therapist’s couch.

Being One

It’s true that millennials are often viewed as a somewhat self-centered and narcissistic generation. However, this intense focus on the self also drives millennials to nature. While outdoors, millennials feel the majesty of nature. For better or for worse, it can make some millennials feel the feelings of insignificance for the first time.

Massive mountains, ancient forests, and mighty waterfalls can trigger powerful emotions in millennials. After feeling these emotions, millennials often enjoy the feelings and decide to seek out more. Nature can then be seen as an escape route for millennials wishing to escape the stereotypes of their generation.

All of the above items demonstrate how millennials are on track to value nature more than any other generation. This is great news for the planet, and it is great news for people interested in capitalizing on these millennial trends.

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Aging

Medicare For All – Protection for Your Retirement Plans

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An unexpected medical emergency, a life-changing diagnosis, or a car accident are a number of countless situations that can land us in the emergency room, setting off a chain reaction of diagnostic tests, follow-up appointments, prescriptions, treatments, and more. Of course, this all has a significant implication on your pocketbook, and even if you have insurance, the bills can still be staggering.

Health insurance is supposed to be an investment, a sort of safety net to minimize your financial obligations in the event of a significant health illness or injury. But rising premiums, high deductible plans, and coverage exclusions have rendered comprehensive, quality, affordable insurance plans a thing of the past.

This can have significant implications for older adults nearing or at retirement age. A car accident, a cancer diagnosis, or any number of other health issues can quickly drain away savings, including retirement plans.

Health Care Costs Threaten Retirement Plans

Amassing a retirement savings large enough to provide a comfortable living for decades is no small feat. Because seniors tend to see increased health issues and health care costs in their latter years of life, a significant portion of their retirement plan needs to be able to cover those increased costs.

According to a study performed by Fidelity, a 65-year-old couple retiring in 2017 will need to cover approximately $275,000 in health care costs throughout their retirement. That amount reflects a 6% increase over the 2016 figure of $260,000. However, that estimate has increased more than 70% when compared with the initial estimate ever performed by Fidelity back in 2002.

Simply saving up enough money to be able to retire can be a challenge, especially when you encounter unexpected health issues and emergencies earlier on in life. According to a survey by Bankrate, only 41% of adults say that they have enough money in savings to be able to pay off an unexpected cost. However, 45% of survey respondents indicated that they’d had a major unexpected expense in the past 12 months.

And if a family has a high-deductible insurance plan, a single visit to the ER can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Families without adequate savings may feel pressured to reach into retirement savings to fund the emergency, leaving them with even less savings than they’d had initially.

A Compounding Problem

The issue of health care costs depleting retirement savings becomes even more urgent when you consider the seniors who can’t afford to retire at all. The U.S. Jobs Report indicated that the retirement age is increasing, with almost 19% of United States seniors aged 65 or older were working at least part time during the second quarter of 2017. Additionally, 19% of 70- to 74-year-olds were still working.

Working later into life leads to increased retirement savings, but this isn’t a practical option for many seniors. Health issues force many seniors to quit their jobs even if their retirement savings aren’t yet large enough to provide them with long-term security.

Simply finding a job can be a challenge, since employers may be more reluctant to hire seniors (despite age discrimination laws). Seniors may find themselves with fewer job options and may have to settle for lower-paying jobs with poor health insurance policy offerings.

Medicare for All: Protecting Retirement Savings

Medicare for All could be a solution to this growing problem. With single-payer health care, all Americans could enjoy protection against unexpected large medical bills. Americans wouldn’t need to dip into their retirement savings for health-related emergencies. And with reduced health care costs, they could put more earnings into their retirement plans.

If more Americans were able to put aside more retirement savings, they could retire at age 65 without having to worry about extending their employment into their senior years. They could enjoy reduced stress and could focus on healing after a health crisis, rather than worrying about the massive bills that would follow.

With access to the medications and treatments that they need, Americans could enjoy better health, happiness, and an improved quality of life. Isn’t that what we want for our seniors, our retirees, and all American citizens?

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