BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
Your alarm blares louder and more violently than it ever before. As you crawl out of the warm covers of your bed, you muster up all the strength in your body just to get dressed for another school day. As you’re eating your morning cereal, your eyes begin to droop and your head starts to tip forward. You nearly fall asleep at the wheel when driving to school. And finally, when you’re sitting down in your first period class, it hits you. You just can’t take it anymore, and your head crashes on your desk as you immediately slip back into a peaceful, deep slumber.
One of the biggest issues among adolescents today is sleep deprivation. Kids are constantly sleep deprived at school, and at what cost? Why are kids so tired at school every day? It eventually always boils down to one thing: absurdly early school start times. These early start times can seriously affect a student’s ability to learn and be active in a school environment.
First, to understand why school start times are in fact too early for adolescents and their sleep schedules, one must understand the basics of sleep itself. It is common knowledge that people sleep for a third of their lives. It is obviously a necessity for humans to function normally on a daily basis, but in order to recognize possible problems with one’s sleep schedule, it is defined in two ways. According to the Journal of Advanced Nursing, the first state of sleep is when you “fall asleep,” or a “state of reduced responsiveness to external stimuli.” This is the stage of sleep where one can be woken up if provoked enough. The second state of sleep is more complicated. In a day, one has a circadian rhythm or cycle, which is one’s daily waking up to a sleep schedule, until they wake up again. It is the most inactive, unresponsive portion of the circadian cycle, and if altered or tampered with (i.e. school start times that are too early), this cycle can severely affect one’s ability to stay awake during the day.
Sleep deprivation is often an issue with many people around the world, but the issue is most highlighted among tired adolescents in school who end up declining in terms of school skills because of it. According to the same Journal of Advanced Nursing, common effects of sleep deprivation include stress due to small changes in hormones, as well as an overall increase in antisocial and negative, anger-fueled behavior. The Journal of School Health conducted a 2013 study to see if there was a relationship between school violence from students and sleep deprivation. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) found that 69 percent of adolescents reported insufficient sleep, and of those who reported sleep insufficiency (less than eight hours of sleep per night), 20.94 percent of students bullied at school in the last 12 months compared to 17.18 percent of students getting more than eight hours of sleep per night.
Solutions to these problems all lead back to the time that school starts every day. As of now, kids in school, mainly adolescents in middle to high school, are being heavily affected by these early start times. According to the National Comorbidity Survey – Adolescent Supplement between 2001 and 2004, which The American Journal of Public Health reported on in 2015, a sample of 9,244 adolescents aged thirteen to seventeen in the U.S. were polled. First, the survey accounted for different variables such as age, sex, and all different start times that were ultimately averaged out. Then it was found that only 26 percent of adolescents (average of 23 percent of girls and 29 percent of boys) obtain the recommended amount of nightly sleep by the National Sleep Foundation during the week. Overall, it was concluded that students with later start times gained more sleep per weeknight, despite possibly going to bed later than those with early start times. It was also concluded that there was no difference among adolescents with early and late start times regarding making up for any lost weeknight sleep on weekends, i.e. kids with early start times who get less sleep during the week don’t sleep more than those with later start times on weekends. So, with both those findings, the Journal was able to conclude that there is definite sleep loss among kids who start school too early. Some argue, however, that later school times come with more negatives than positives. For example, it takes time away from after school activities like sports or clubs because the school day ends later. Also, for some students, a later start time actually incentivizes more laziness because they spend more time asleep, but ultimately this is extremely rare. The comprehensive research conducted and health benefits of later start times definitely outweigh the possible negative effects.
Overall, sleep is absolutely necessary for adolescents to succeed in school. It affects their ability to learn and perform both in and out of the classroom. The dreaded Monday morning alarm is one of the worst things a teenager can hear, especially when it’s too early. These studies prove that early start times have a seriously negative effect on adolescents and that they need to be changed. Later school start times could have wildly positive outcomes on both a student’s propensity to learn, as well as their overall behavior and well-being. Some school districts have already started experimenting with or fully implementing these policies. For example, Shaker Heights School District in Shaker Heights, Ohio has been experimenting with one day a week late starts for the past few years and is close to implementing this policy to more or all days of the week, due to the positive effects on the students, according to current administration. And if more schools continue to utilize these later start times, it is a giant step in the right direction for the well-being and health of adolescent students.
A mile a day keeps the stress away.
The familiar view from the library’s second floor and numerous midterms, papers, and readings on your never ending to-do list. This is exactly what college students experience on a daily basis. The only possible outcome for too many tasks and not enough time? Stress.
It is difficult to avoid stress. College students in particular are easy targets for accumulating stress. The new environment college students are introduced to can lead to a breeding ground for stress. This is due to the surrounding potential stressors such as managing a social life, academics, new living conditions, and financial stability. Most people assume that these conditions contribute to obvious negative health effects such as lack of sleep, mental health disorders, and irregular eating patterns. However, while there are evident ways to tackle handling stress such as relaxation techniques or efficient time management, research shows that an increase in physical activity has a positive impact in combating stress.
How stress negatively affects you:
Before talking about ways to combat stress, it must be clear how stress can negatively impact you. Stress can affect people in all aspects. It can take its toll physically, mentally, or emotionally. Studies show that people who constantly experience stress have mood changes and can even begin to develop a lack of sympathy for others. More serious health effects would be irregular sleeping patterns and inconsistent eating habits. A person that is exposed to constant stress can later have detrimental side effects. This is why understanding that stress is not beneficial to a persons wellbeing is crucial in find ways to go against it.
How does physical activity impact stress?
Recent studies have tried to quantify the amount of physical activity it takes to reduce stress. The results show a strong relationship between the quantity of physical activity being exerted by the individual, and the change of stress rates. The more energy and sweat the exercise required, the lower the stress reported by the participants. Those who reported doing more physical activity throughout the week, said to have felt less stressed. This study interviewed its participants after being enrolled in a physical activity class. One girl said “My mind is quicker, meaning I am more effective and do homework quicker than normal.”. Many others said similar things, and wished they had taken a physical activity class sooner. Many others had similar feelings toward the physical activity class. Exercise serves as an outlet for college students because it helps take their minds off of everyday worries even if it’s for a small amount of time. However, physical activity isn’t for everyone. Some people are so used to being exposed stress, that a certain tolerance has grown. Stress tolerance makes it easier for one to become more calm during tough situations because they have learned to deal with stress.
How can this be used to benefit students?
Everyone remembers those middle school days when a PE class often entailed of a dodgeball tournament was the highlight of the day. Well there’s good news for all of you PE lovers, many universities require that a physical activity class is taken. According to recent research, in order to help promote a healthy lifestyle one should exercise at least 30 minutes each day for five days a week. Taking a class for physical activity is only adding to a greater well-being and a better state of mind for students. It will help destress students while also making them live a healthier life style.
In conclusion, stress is very prevalent amongst college students. However, that being said, stress does not always have to be a bad thing. People often forget that there are different methods to reduce stress. One that is often overlooked is engaging in physical activity. Although physical activity might not be the best solution for you, it should always serve as an alternative way to help with stress. As a college student one is limited to the resources that are to their disposal, but that should not limit you to find what works best for you.
So, next time you have too many meetings, deadlines to meet, exams to study for, and you’re feeling stressed about time, don’t forget to hit they gym even if it’s for 30 minutes. Remember that a mile a day, can keep the stress away.
Our Plastic Ocean
The ocean, which provides sustenance and economic stability to people all over the world, shelter to billions of marine organisms, and a beautiful recreation area to beach-goers, is becoming increasingly polluted by a man-made menace. This threat is an increasingly dire danger to marine life, especially seabirds. Scientists are trying to fight a predator which is globally dispersed, doubles in production every eleven years, and may never decompose: plastic. A countries’ population size and the quality of waste management systems are key to determining which contribute the most waste. The United States ranks within the top twenty countries in the world contributing to this pollution (Jambeck). While there has recently been an increase in movements to clean up existing plastic in the oceans, research suggests that the most effective way to avoid pollution is for humans to develop better waste management systems (Jambeck). Although cleanups are beneficial, I argue that preventative approaches such as better waste management and eco-friendly alternatives to plastic are our best bet to save our blue paradise and avoid suffering the toxic effects of plastic passed through the food chain.
Wildlife and the Food Chain: the Consequences
“Marine Debris” -National Geographic
“Toxins are passed through the food chain and could end up in your stomach.”
Plastic negatively affects wildlife through entanglement and ingestion. Because plastics don’t biodegrade, they brake up into tiny pieces that are consumed by fish and sea mammals. In a study published in 2015, plastic concentrations were recorded to be as high as 580,000 pieces per square kilometer of water (Wilcox). The particles are killing more than 100,000 sea turtles and birds a year (Andrews). Ingestion of the substance can cause gut blockage and/or organ damage due to toxins leeching into the organism’s body. Toxic chemicals absorbed by the body can also be transmitted to offspring and cause reproductive issues in the host. Even if ingested plastic doesn’t fully block the gut, it will reduce the space for nutritious food in the stomach, initiating a prolonged death by starvation. Also, when plastic is digested, pollutants are released into the consumer’s tissues. Diethylhexyl phthalate, contained in some plastics, is a toxic carcinogen. Health-bisphenol-A, along with phthalates are also contained in some plastics and can interfere with human hormonal function (Andrews). Toxins are passed through the food chain and could end up in your stomach. Scientists have used various studies to measure toxin exposure.
Seabirds: a Closer Look
“Albatross” -National Geographic
Using a literature review, oceanographic modeling, and ecological models, scientists have developed a way to predict future rates of plastic exposure for 186 seabird species. Without waste management infrastructure improvements, the quantity of plastic waste available to enter the ocean from land is predicted to substantially increase by the year 2025 and 99.8% of birds are expected to consume debris by 2050 (Wilcox). Ingestion rates increase significantly with more exposure, larger body size, and a more recent study date (with a few outliers). The area that will be most affected by increasing rates is the area with the most seabird diversity, not simply the area with the highest concentration of plastic. The Southern Ocean, specifically the boundary in the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand, hosts the most diverse display of seabirds and will thus be most affected (Wilcox). There are limitations to this research considering that, in general, evidence for the impact of plastic on seabirds is still limited. Also, Ingestion levels may vary across the genus, or within a particular species of bird, not to mention that future predictions themselves are inherently uncertain. However, assuming the overall increasing trend of plastic concentration continues, the predictions of this research can be supported. Plastic pollutants, along with ecological and environmental changes due to climate change, over-fishing, and the introduction of invasive predators have resulted in the decline of half of all seabird species. Thankfully, scientists and everyday environmentally conscious persons can help prevent further decline through properly disposing of plastics and helping support cleanup efforts.
The Ocean Cleanup Project is an initiative to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch- a concentration of pollution, mostly plastic, located in the central North Pacific Ocean that is larger than the state of Texas (Krantz). The Project employs a reactionary approach to the issue, that is, cleaning up waste that has already accumulated in the water.
“Cleaning up in the middle is like mopping up a leaking tap without fixing the tap itself.” -Erik Van Sebille
Many leading scientists, however, such as PNAS author Erik Van Sebille, argue that “Cleaning up in the middle is like mopping up a leaking tap without fixing the tap itself.” Sebille adds, “It’s much better to do it as close to the source as possible, before it has a chance to interact with marine life.” Both the PNAS report and Jambeck’s study support the idea of more effective waste management as an effective way to combat the threat of plastic pollution. Recognizing that improving waste management infrastructure in developing countries will require substantial resources and time, the author encourages industrialized countries to take immediate action by reducing waste and curbing use and proliferation of single-use plastics.
Waves of Change
Eben Bayer, co-founder of a biomaterials company called Ecovative that developed a plant-based substitute for styrofoam, laments, “It is extremely hard to clean up any pollution once it occurs. Folks hear ‘Pacific Garbage Patch’ and think it’s some concentrated area. It actually stretches over hundreds of miles and is very diffuse. The material that is out there is certainly an issue, but the bigger problem is, what will our oceans looks like in 25 or 50 years if we continue like this? Our beaches will have plastic trash, not kelp, lining the edges, and our marine life, animals, and birds, will pay a heavy price.”
“…what will our oceans looks like in 25 or 50 years if we continue like this? Our beaches will have plastic trash, not kelp, lining the edges, and our marine life, animals, and birds, will pay a heavy price.” -Eben Bayer
This imagery is essential to the ocean cleanup movement if it is to continue gaining public support. Due to the removed locations of visible plastic concentrations, most people do not see the issue manifested and do not wish to contribute money to fix what they cannot see themselves being affected by. Raising awareness is therefor essential to avoiding catastrophic consequences of plastic-infested waters. In order to save the health of our water, marine life, and our own bodies, we need to take action. Stopping the problem at the source through better waste management is the most effective solution. By recycling, not littering, using more re-usable or renewable materials, and voting for candidates who support environmentally-friendly policies, you can help keep our waters and the world healthy.
Chris Wilcox, Erik Van Sebille, and Brita Denise Hardesty. [PNAS] Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2 July 2015. Threat of plastic pollution to seabirds is global, pervasive, and increasing. Available from: http://www.pnas.org/content/112/38/11899.
(found through Science Magazine article Nearly every seabird may be eating plastic by 2050 by Sid Perkins)
Jenna R. Jambeck, Roland Geyer, Chris Wilcox, et al. [AAAS] The American Association for the Advancement of Science. 13 February 2015. Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean. Available from: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/347/6223/768.full?ijkey=BXtBaPzbQgagE&keytype=ref&siteid=sci
Andrews, Gianna. “Plastics in the Ocean Affecting Human Health.” Case Studies. The National Association of Geoscience Teachers, 14 Nov. 2016. Web. 16 Feb. 2017. <http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/health/case_studies/plastics.html>.
Krantz, Laura. “A Sea Of Plastic.” Popular Science. N.p., Sept.-Oct. 2016. Web. 16 Feb. 2017. <http://www.popsci.com/sea-plastic>.
Albatross. Digital image. Great Pacific Garbage Patch. National Geographic Society, n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2017. <http://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/great-pacific-garbage-patch/>.
Marine Debris. Digital image. Great Pacific Garbage Patch. National Geographic Society, n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2017. <http://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/great-pacific-garbage-patch/>.
As individuals begin to use up all the resources on Earth, the human race needs to start thinking about future generations. These generations will need a safe place to live and accessible resources of food and water. Recently in the news, many famous entrepreneurs and supporters of space exploration have begun to question our ability to travel to the distant planet Mars, living there permanently and safely. Researchers know we are not able to live on Mars with our current technologies, but by analyzing medical possibilities of a Martian colony, understanding what hardships humans will face in the environment while living there, and investigating future research needed to support a flourishing environment, perhaps our efforts will enable us to colonize the unknown.
Regarding a Mars colony, one controversial issue has been whether sending humans to Mars will be safe for the individuals hoping to live there. Most people assume that sending humans will be very dangerous. They are absolutely correct. Starting with the journey there and a possibility of a one-way lifetime trip for individuals, scientists have to think of everything that could go wrong and take precautions against all the dangers. One main precaution is how to care for humans who are hurt and need quick emergency assistance. As a Mars exploration literature review states, “[c]rew health care needs for long-duration missions should include highly accurate and reliable monitoring and diagnosis systems” (Krishen, 2009, p. 6). If there is not more advanced medical technology on the mission than on Earth, then something as simple as a third degree burn can easily become life-threatening. Fortunately, there is active research going on with biotechnology that could be used on a Mars colony. With the help of “genetically engineered spider-silk” (Pereira et al., 2017, p. 1), scientists have started creating materials to solve more advanced medical situations. This new research enables a “silk-based blended material” (Pereira et al., 2017, p. 1) to have “cell adhesion properties” (Pereira et al., 2017, p. 1). Cell adhesion could allow doctors to possibly bind new cells to damaged parts of a body and prevent a loss of life. This technology could save a burn victim and could easily be used in Mars without a constant supply of new materials. One spider colony may be able to produce enough silk to never have to worry about receiving materials from back on Earth for the use of this technology. Nevertheless, this is a major medical benefit of colonization and results in a possible solution for humans to be able to live on Mars (Pereira et al., 2017, p. 1-10).
As examined in new research, health care for life threatening situations may be possible with silk technology and could also be useful on Earth (Pereira et al., 2017, p. 1-10). However, another hardship for humans to live on Mars will be allocating the correct materials to withstand Martian conditions. Material is very expensive to carry in space, in terms of the amount of weight allowed in space crafts. So naturally a light weight flexible material would be essential for a Mars colony and must be very strong to withstand many types of weather conditions (Krishen, 2009, p. 5). A flexible and sturdy material would allow humans to build shelters and research facilities to house individuals of the exploration. New research has begun exploring dust storms on Mars and what they would be like on the surface (Geissler, Fenton, Enga, & Mukherjee, 2016, p. 1-22). Dust storms are a weather condition that scientists will need to study, making sure the materials for the structures on Mars can withstand the elements. Using different images “to quantify the changes that took place from one martian year to the next” (Geissler, Fenton, Enga, & Mukherjee, 2016, p. 6), scientists were able to see different storms and their magnitude of how harsh they were. One storm in 2001 was so large it covered all of Mars “except for the poles and the peaks of the tallest volcanoes” (Geissler, Fenton, Enga, & Mukherjee, 2016, p. 5). This proves that during a colonization of Mars, scientists need to make sure everything that is protecting the humans is sturdy and can withstand the strong winds that come along with the dust storms. Studying the storms will also bring us useful information of the topography of the land, for example, like where the volcanoes are located. This information will become invaluable to colonizers when they begin to explore the vast areas around their bases on Mars (Geissler, Fenton, Enga, & Mukherjee, 2016, p. 1-22).
After exploring new research that can relate and also indirectly impact Martian missions in the future, there are still areas in which scientists need to investigate to enable the possibility for humans to live on Mars. These topics include the Martian atmosphere, how to gather energy on the surface, technology needed to propel a space ship back and forth between Earth and Mars, and last but not least “advanced air- and water-recovery systems” (Krishen, 2009, p. 6). Research in these areas will prove greater chances for the possibility for humans to live on Mars in the upcoming decades.
Overall, recent studies such as these shed new light on the technology that will allow the colonization of Mars, which in some previous studies had not been addressed yet. For example, studying dust storms will allow insight as to how to design materials to withstand the weather conditions Mars will bring. It is clear that humans are not ready or able to live on Mars, but with more research, humans will definitely reach their goal of colonization. These studies are not only exciting famous billionaires and supporters around the world, but also exciting a whole new subject area in space exploration. As the technology becomes more and more accessible to scientists, there will be an endless amount of studies done on the Martian environment. As Elon Musk says, “When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor” (Pelley, 2012).
Geissler, P. E., Fenton, L. K., Enga, M., & Mukherjee, P. (2016). Orbital Monitoring of Martian Surface Changes. Icarus, 278, 279-300. doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2016.05.023
Krishen, K. (2009). Technology Needs for Future Space Exploration. IETE Technical Review, 26(4), 228-235. doi:10.4103/0256-4602.52992
Pereira, A. M., Machado, R., Costa, A. D., Ribeiro, A., Collins, T., Gomes, A. C., Leonor, I. B., Kaplan, D. L., Reis, L. R., & Casal, M. (2017). Silk-based biomaterials functionalized with fibronectin type II promotes cell adhesion. Acta Biomaterialia, 47, 50-59.doi:10.1016/j.actbio.2016.10.002
Pelley, S. (2012, May 22). U.S., China, Russia, Elon Musk: Entrepreneur’s “insane” vision becomes reality. Retrieved February 20, 2017, from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/us-china-russia-elon-musk-entrepreneurs-insane-vision-becomes-reality/
Think about these two types of people: the ones that pull that once in a while all-nighter cramming for an exam versus those that constantly get 1 to 3 hours of sleep per night. The short-term effects of sleep deprivation and the long-term effects can be very different. A constant lifestyle that consists of chronic sleep deprivation is associated with many potentially negative conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, weight gain, and a decreased life expectancy. The list of health issues has recently grown as researchers have found that disturbances with sleeping patterns can also increase the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Now that this link between little sleep and Alzheimer’s has been brought up in the medical world, more research has been conducted to test these theories. Because this linkage is still new, does sleep deprivation truly play a role in developing Alzheimer’s later in life?
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative (the nervous system gets worse over time) disease in which individuals over the age of 60 suffer from memory loss, lower cognitive function, and worsened mental capabilities. The development of the disease has been associated with the buildup of proteins called amyloid-beta (Ab), whose function is not precisely know, and tau, which are both know to play a part in the APP pathway, where APP is a protein embedded in the cell membrane and has high concentrations in between neurons. This pathway is like knocking down dominos where one action leads to another until a final product is reached. Not much is known about this pathway, but the buildup of these proteins have been observed in many AD patients.
So how are Alzheimer’s and a lack of sleep related?
Getting adequate sleep is not only important in making sure that our organs function properly, but also very essential for our cognitive functions in the brain. According to recent studies, chronic sleep deprivation or disturbances in an individual’s normal circadian clock can increase the risk of amyloid-beta buildup that can turn into plaque in the brain. It has been shown that even before individuals with AD, which may be called preclinical AD, even show cognitive symptoms; sleep problems have already started occurring. In this stage, researchers have observed that the usually soluble Ab proteins become insoluble and then clumps up to form plaques. It is like when you pile on newly opened play-doh on top of each other and leave it out to dry. This study looked at individuals with the markers for Ab protein buildup compared to those who did not. It was noted that those with the buildup experienced a worse quality of sleep.
This theory was later tested on models of mice with AD. Mice that had the precursors for the plaque buildup experienced decreased amounts of sleep and an increased time awake. When the plaque started to accumulate in the brain, the sleep patterns of these mice models drastically changed. This research proposed the idea that with decreased sleep, more Ab protein would be released that would lead to the potential increase in Ab protein plaques. With more plaques, more of the Alzheimer’s disease symptoms can show up in the individual.
This flow chart of the sequence of how lower quality of sleep can increase AD is something that the research group created to visually present their thoughts on how the two are related. When the quality of sleep is decreased, the amount of Abs in the brain increases. With more Ab protein build up, the quality of sleep will continue to decrease. This would then continue in a cycle that could eventually lead to a symptomatic AD in the person.
So if I don’t get enough sleep now, will I potentially get Alzheimer’s?
Although decreased sleep and more disturbances while sleeping can lead to a plaque buildup within the brain, it still happens relatively gradual. The incident dementia studies mentioned in the research was conducted over a span of one to six years while it was stated that preclinical AD ccould be present for 10 to 15 years before the symptoms of AD can start in an individual. Yet, it was observed that Ab protein concentrations changed with how much sleep an individual can be getting. In an acute instance of decreased amounts of sleep, the Ab protein concentrations increased in the brain but, a prolonged and chronic form of sleep deprivation or disturbances in sleeping patterns sped up the process of the conversion of Ab protein concentrations into the plaque. In another study, two groups with different sleeping conditions were observed; one group got an unrestricted amount of sleep while the other pulled an all-nighter. Based on the study, with a night of unrestricted sleep, the concentration of Ab protein decreased by 6% while the group that stayed up all night counteracted this decrease in concentration. This allowed for researchers to conclude that with decreased sleep, the accumulation of Ab protein plaques can potentially increase the risks of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
So what now?
Based on recent studies, it has been observed through models that sleep-wake functions and circadian rhythms are affected with increased Ab protein plaque in the brain. With these plaques in the brain, a significant amount can induce symptomatic Alzheimer’s disease. This leads to a positive feedback loop where decreased sleep increased Ab protein plaque that then contributes to AD. As stated in the research articles, this association between low amounts of sleep and AD is relatively recent. More research is being conducted and more in the direction of how this is affecting humans since most of the research has been conducted on mice models. It is hypothesized by the researchers that how sleep deprivation and other mechanisms impact the body are very similar. More research studies are being conducted to investigate whether lack of sleep will eventually cause AD or not in humans. Next time you consider pulling an all-nighter, maybe think twice about the potential consequences but some all-nighters might be worth it!
Almost every person in America has experienced pain at one point or another, and many of those who have experienced any type of moderate to severe pain, have visited a doctor about said pain, at which point they are shown a little scale, marked one to ten, often with little corresponding faces below each number to represent levels of pain, and are told to point out on the scale how much pain they are in. If you have been in this situation before, it is likely you, just like many others, have thought to yourself “Is this really a good way to measure how much pain I’m in? Isn’t pain subjective?”, and to a point you would be correct. Studies,
such as one done by the American College of Rheumatology (Hawker, Mian, Kendzerska, French, 2011) have shown that such numbered pain tests, such as the Numeric Rating Scale, NRS-11 (in reference to the 11 degrees of pain, 0-10, that appear on the scale), or the Wong-Baker Faces rating scale, are actually fairly reliable in measuring pain intensity. This being said, they have a few major flaws, the biggest of which being that the scales are only good for measuring the pain intensity one feels, and have no ability to detect how a person’s mental state, or any other number of mitigating factors, could be affecting the amount of pain that person is in.
This raises the question, “Well how can we fully measure pain?”. This problem, for many years, has had no real solution, partially because many studies into the matter have managed to make little or no overall progress, or have just reaffirmed facts we already know without providing new conclusions. Thankfully however, in the past few years leaps and bounds have been made into studying how to accurately measure pain, and many scientists have even found ways to measure pain on a less subjective and more neurological level.
So What Progress Have We Made?
Using advances in modern technology, scientists are now closer than ever to perfecting a system of pain measurement that can be accurate on all fronts, such as in a study funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the National science foundation, (Wager, Atlas, Lindquist, Roy, Woo, Kross, 2013). In this study scientists tested a new, seemingly obvious but deceptively difficult method of measuring pain. This process involves detecting how much pain a person is in by literally taking a brain scan of them. For the purposes of this study the test subjects were subjected to certain amounts of heat, allowing the scientists to analyze the patient’s brain activity, and therefore comprehend the levels of pain the patients were feeling from the heat. These brain scans measure pain with much greater accuracy than would ever be possible with a simple “Tell me how much pain you are in on a scale of 1-10.” test and are able to account for a person’s mental state when measuring pain to a level that was never possible with previous methods.
Now, this is no perfect system, and will require more tests and research before it can provide fully accurate results all of the time, but with tests like these, scientists studying pain measurement may finally be able to create a system that measures pain on a truly person to person basis, and may even be able to use this brain scanning technique for a variety of other purposes, such as studying other kinds of subjective feelings people have. In fact, this method has already proven how it can be used for just this purpose, as shown by another, earlier study done by some of the same team members, (Kross, Berman, Mischel, Smith, Wager, 2011) in which levels of emotional pain were measured in test subjects who had recently suffered from heartbreak, allowing scientists to further look at the relationships of different types of pain, such as how the emotional pain of splitting from a partner could compare to the physical pain one experiences due to a painful medical condition. This could lead to this “brain scanning for pain” system being useful not just for doctors measuring physical pain, but also for professionals such as psychologists and psychiatrists, who could use the system to better understand the kind of internal pain a patient is experiencing due to a variety of emotional and mental losses, disorders, and conditions.
Will these scans become common soon?
Not necessarily, this technology has yet to be perfected, but the important part is that all the answers are finally within our grasp. In fact, what this shows is that the capacity of man to both study and measure pain, despite having no major advances and not being well researched for many years, is finally increasing. Maybe sometime in the new future, if you become sick or begin to experience some sort of emotional pain, when you go to see a practitioner you will no longer be greeted with a 1-10 scale and be told to point out how intense your pain is, but instead will be hooked up to a machine that conveys exactly what kinds of pain you are in, allowing for quicker, more accurate, and more effective treatment than ever before.
With this kind of knowledge within our grasp, one can only imagine just how much treatment methods will improve, and what other kinds of advances could accompany being able to better detect pain, such as new ways to treat pain in those who must live with intense pain, such as victims of cancer and pancreatitis. In the end, all it comes down to is that pain is something that affects us all, so making advances like these does not just help a small fraction of population, but instead benefits humanity as a whole and helps us to carve out a brighter future for the entire human race.
The man clutched his parched throat.
Hydration had become a fantasy, food a fiction. He couldn’t remember the last time he ate a real meal around a table.
Those days were gone.
Around him the other refugees coughed and stumbled along desperately trying to escape the destroyed home they had once known on empty stomachs and dry throats.
But they were the lucky ones. They had lived through the relentless floods and fires and natural disasters that had killed so many others.
Life had become hell. But at least they were still alive.
This is not the plot for a science fiction movie or a story from the Bible, though it may sound like one. This is not an alarmist or ambulance chasing.
This is the future. And for an increasing many, that bleak future is inching closer and closer to the present each ad every day.
This picture painted may foretell doom and gloom, but there is still hope.
Earth’s leaders have 25 years to prevent the peril of climate change.
“This is the future. And for an increasing many, that bleak future is inching closer and closer to the present each and every day.”
25 years to implement a policy to tame the rising tides. 25 years to invent and innovate to treat the Earth’s hyperthermia. 25 years to prevent passing the dreaded “point of no return” where not even the greatest policy or invention could prevent environmental destruction.
So what is this dreaded “point of no return” that scientists warn humanity about? According to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, the “point of no return” is when the Earth reaches 450 parts per million in the concentration of carbon dioxide. The earth’s current concentration is a little over 400ppm, or about 50ppm higher than what NASA deems to be a safe level. When the earth reaches the critical 450ppm threshold there will be a less than a 50 percent chance of the Earth’s leaders stabilizing the climate at a 2 degrees Celsius global average temperature increase, the maximum established by 195 signatories of the 2015 Paris climate change agreement.
If leaders fail to stabilize the average global temperature increase it could do irreversible damage to the climate, hence the so-called “point of no return.” A 2009 report by the Global Humanitarian Forum concluded that 300,000 people will die each year as a result of climate change, and cost the economy $125 billion for the same time period. The GHF also believes these figures may be too conservative.
What to do now
After reaching a scientific consensus on climate change, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s scientists turned to what humanity could do about it. The outlook was bleak. The problem wasn’t just isolated to the remote third world—it had spread to the highly populated, developed countries from coast to coast. The world’s leaders started to take note. Policy began to take shape—agreements forged between nations, climate change pacts established.
In their 2014 report, the IPCC specified two types of policy—adaptation and mitigation. Adaptation is implementing policy to protect individuals and resources from the harmful effects of climate such as the installation of technologies to help natural disaster prone areas or the collection of rainwater in storage containers to prepare for drought. Adaptation helps in the short term by addressing basic issues such as keeping people safe, protecting crops from floods and extreme heat and saving animals from extinction. But these measures do little to fix the problem, they only assuage it. As Al Gore wrote in his 1992 book Earth in the Balance, adaptation represents a “kind of laziness, an arrogant faith in our ability to react in time to save our skins.”
Mitigation attacks the root problems of climate change, mainly by limiting greenhouse gas emissions. These can include measures as small as encouraging individuals to bike to work, or large-scale as major investments in renewable energy sources such as solar or nuclear power. These measures more directly affect the problem of climate change but carry more negative consequences in the short term—fossil fuel workers will lose jobs, countries could lose substantial sources of wealth and the conventional sources of energy humanity relies on will be curtailed or eliminated. But without these measures the problems could be compounded a hundred times over—species extinction will become widespread, food will become scarce across the globe and humanity could lose the ability to implement adaptation measures.
“(Adaptation represents) a kind of laziness, an arrogant faith in our ability to react in time to save our skins.”
-Al Gore, Earth in the Balance
Neither of these two methods can be used by themselves—they have to work in tandem to achieve the desired outcomes for humanity. These two methods also must rest upon a strong foundation—stable governments, innovative technology and policy combined together and individuals attempting to live sustainably within their personal spheres.
With strong, informed leaders and a well-informed population humanity’s capacity to solve the world’s literal biggest problem is unparalleled. It can be seen in the governments of all levels in all areas who are implementing sustainability plans for their communities. It can be seen in individuals who chose to invest their income in forward-facing technology like solar panels and electric vehicles. It can be seen in the innovators who power these informed choices and humans the capacity to hope for a better tomorrow. The earth needs more of these people and more of their information—without it humanity charts a course to its destruction, with it humans pave the road to flourishing in the future.
The Earth may be on a dangerous path, but it hasn’t reached the point of no return yet, and if Earth’s leaders can take advantage of the next 25 years, it never will.
Reversing the Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation is common on most college campuses because of multiple factors that keep them busy, from sports, taking up most of their time, to having challenging majors. Coffee is the most common way students fight drowsiness from sleepless nights, but often it also reverses other effects that sleep deprivation has on the body. Research (Grassi et al., 2016) has shown that sleep deprivation negatively impacts memory, which can affect academic performance. Sleep deprivation also changes the way blood flows and as a result the chances of obtaining diseases such as type 2 diabetes will increase. There has also been research showing that these impacts can be prevented or reversed. One would assume these would all be solved by sleep, but that is not the only way. There are many different ways a person can reverse the effect of sleep deprivation. Throughout, I will discuss the ways in which a person can fight off effects of sleep deprivation.
When a person is chronically deprived of sleep, it can cause a serious disease. This disease is called sleep deprivation in which one experiences extreme drowsiness during daytime hours. This disease can also increase glucose and insulin levels by lowering the levels of plasma in the leptin hormone, which helps to regulate energy balance by stopping you from feeling hungry (Rasaei et al., 2016). The antagonistic hormone that makes you feel hungry (ghrelin) is also affected by plasma levels. In result, these hormones impact the levels of glucose, causing them to rise. This disease is said to affect people short term and long term. Due to glucose levels raising as often as they would, the chances of becoming a type 2 diabetic will increase. (Rasaei et al., 2016). One other bodily function that sleep deprivation has on the body is harming the pathways in which blood flows through the body. The endothelium is the tissue that lines the blood vessels as well as other organs in the body. This area in the body can contract (vasoconstriction) or enlarge (vasodilation) causing endothelial dysfunctions. This would result in an imbalance of blood flow. With the rate of blood flow not being normal, hypertension occurs in which blood pressure is abnormally high (Grassi et al., 2016). Additionally, there are cognitive consequences to being sleep deprived. With supporting evidence, it was discovered that without enough sleep certain parts of the brain, mainly the prefrontal cortex that controls brains emotions and behaviors (Grassi et al., 2016).
While many would assume that getting more sleep would reverse these potentially dangerous diseases, there are ways to treat sleep deprivation with just a change in diet. One of those treatments is eating flavanol-rich chocolate. Flavonoids are found in plants and are put in dark chocolate and cocoa. This compound is helpful when it comes to sleep deprivation because of its direct effect on blood pressure. Flavonoids contain endothelium-dependent vasodilation. This in-turn, acts as regulators for a normal flow of blood throughout the body. In the same study, the discovery was found that flavanol-rich chocolate helps those participants who had controlled sleep with their memory accuracy. They tested in the 2-back activity; a commonly used task to measure peoples working memory. These participants were the ones selected to stay awake all day, limited to certain activities such as short walks and using the computer. It was concluded that flavanol-rich chocolate has the ability to reverse the negative effects that sleep deprivation has on a person’s body (Grassi et al., 2016).
Caffeine can also be used as a treatment option for sleep deprivation. Most people take in caffeine in the form of coffee, which is the most common form that college students use for extra energy during the day. What they do not know is that drinking caffeinated and even non-caffeinated drinks can reverse the chances of a person developing type 2 diabetes. This information was concluded during a study where scientist found that drinking caffeinated coffee, compared to boiled water and decaffeinated increases insulin levels after being measured 2 hours later with an oral glucose tolerance test or OGTT (test done to diagnose instances of diabetes) (Rasaei et al., 2016).
Overall, there are at least two ways in which people and specifically busy college students can reverse the effects of sleep deprivation. With advice from this article, people are now able to manipulate their diet in a way that does not drastically change the way they eat or drink. Also because of these findings, they are able to stay away from cognitive defects, blood flow dysfunctions, as well as deadly diseases. I hope that as time goes by, there will be more and more discoveries of how to reverse the negative effects of sleep deprivation.