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How Does Sleep Affect Your Overall Health?

Are you getting enough sleep at night? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one third of adults aren’t getting the sleep they need, and you could be one of them. The National Sleep Foundation suggests that adults ages 18 to 64 get between seven and nine hours of sleep every night.

Getting enough sleep isn’t just about how you feel the next day. Over time, it can have a profound effect on your health. Here are just five ways sleep affects your health.

Sleep Affects Your Cardiovascular Health

When you sleep, your body is working to repair itself. This is especially true when it comes to your heart and blood vessels. Getting too little sleep is said to increase your risk of heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, stroke, and high blood pressure.

Researchers suggest two ways in which this link occurs. The first is through direct physical changes and the other is through behavioral factors that impact both your sleep patterns and your heart. According to the National Sleep Foundation, individuals who sleep fewer than six hours per night are twice as likely to experience a heart attack or stroke compared to those who sleep six to eight hours, and that’s when accounting for weight, age, and smoking and exercise habits.

Sleep Deprivation Increases Obesity Risk

Another physical impact of sleep is on obesity, where too little sleep increases your chances of gaining weight. Obesity puts a strain on your bones, muscles, blood vessels, and other organs to negatively impact your overall health. This can increase your risk of:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • High blood pressure
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Infertility

The Harvard School of Public Health suggests several reasons behind the sleep-obesity relationship. Among them, it’s believed that sleep-deprived individuals may exercise less because they don’t have the energy. Not getting enough sleep can also increase your daily caloric intake. This is because lack of sleep impacts hormone balances, particularly those that control appetite. Not only that, but people who sleep less have more opportunities to eat throughout the day, so they’re bringing in more calories overall while burning fewer calories.

Sleep is Associated with Immune Function

Research suggests that individuals who don’t get enough sleep have a harder time fighting off common infections than those who get enough shut-eye at night. Your body uses proteins called cytokines to promote sleep, and when you’re sick or stressed, these cytokines need to increase to help combat symptoms. However, getting too little sleep decreases production of cytokines as well as antibodies, making it harder for your body to fight infection.

Sleep Impacts Mood and Decision-Making Skills

While you’re sleeping, your body isn’t just recharging on the physical level. It’s also working to refresh your mental capacities. You’re probably familiar with how a sleepless night leaves you irritable in the morning, but long-term sleep deprivation can severely impact your mental health. According to researchers, there’s a strong link between sleep and emotional regulation. Sleep plays a large role in memory, mood, decision-making and problem-solving skills, and creativity. Therefore, the amount of sleep—and quality of sleep—you get can greatly affect your performance in school and work.

Sleep Deprivation is Linked to Depression

When it comes to sleep and mental health, the link goes far beyond irritability and creativity. Approximately 90 percent of patients with major depression experience sleep abnormalities. Normalizing sleep patterns can reduce the risk of depression relapse while continued abnormalities have been shown to increase risk of relapse. A similar link has been seen in patients with PTSD. It’s believed that this relationship between sleep and depression is bi-directional, meaning sleep deprivation can lead to depression and vice versa.

With these points in mind, it may be time to reevaluate your sleep schedule to ensure you’re getting enough shut-eye at night. Your health depends on it.


Employees fear one-on-one conversations with the boss

What’s the biggest cause of anxiety among employees? If you guessed public speaking, you’re wrong, according to the results of a new study. What really stresses out employees is asking for a raise.

The study from Robert Half found that only 28 percent of Canadian employees feel confident when asking for a pay increase, compared to 48 percent who feel assured when public speaking. In fact, 39 percent of respondents said they would rather clean their house than ask for a raise in a one-on-one conversation, while 10 percent would rather find a new job.

This insecurity isn’t new, but it has changed slightly over time. Last year, 31 percent of those surveyed felt confident when asking for a raise, while in 2015, the percentage was 35 percent.

Robert Half’s Confidence Matters research outlines workers’ confidence levels and attitudes about a variety of career and salary topics. More than 400 Canadian workers employed full-time in office environments were surveyed by an independent research firm for it. The survey was also conducted in 2015 and 2016.

“When it comes to confidence at work, knowledge truly is power,” says Greg Scileppi, president, Robert Half International Staffing Operations. “Professionals with a thorough understanding of in-demand skills and salary trends in their area are better able to measure their value, and are more self-assured in articulating their contributions to the business as they negotiate their compensation, at either an existing job or for a prospective role.”

Although many workers don’t relish salary negotiations, 27 percent of survey respondents said they plan to ask for a raise this year, with the primary reason being that their salary hasn’t grown with their job duties – the top response for three years running.

Other takeaways from the Confidence Matters research include:

  • Employees are confident in their companies and job prospects: Seventy percent of respondents feel confident in their employer’s stability, and 42 percent feel confident about their job prospects. Another 56 percent feel confident in a job interview.
  • Many don’t know what they don’t know: Forty-eight percent of workers say they have never checked their salaries against the going market rates for the positions, compared to 43 percent in 2015; only 8 percent have checked their salaries against the going rates within the last month.
  • There’s a lot on the line: Nineteen percent of workers said they would look for a new job if their request for a raise was declined, while 22 percent of respondents who plan to ask for a raise said they need the money to cover basic needs.

Organizations benefit from having confident employees who aren’t afraid to vocalize ideas or identify new opportunities for business growth, says Scileppi. “Managers should cultivate open communication with employees, and make time for frequent check-ins to review their individual goals, progress and preferences, which will promote morale by ensuring staff feel recognized and supported.”


Employee mental health program asks: Are you okay?

Business consulting firm EY (formerly Ernst & Young) is partnering with its EAP to check in on employee mental health with one simple question: Are you okay?

Forbes is reporting that EY launched a new mental health awareness program to help reduce the stigma of seeking help for mental health-related issues. The program, with its official title of “r u ok?” helps connect employees to existing mental health resources within the organization. Some of these resources include employee champions, cross-country presentations, virtual events, e-learning curriculum, peer-to-peer connections and follow-up services with the company’s EAP.

Since the program launched in the fall of 2016, the company says it has seen a 30.2 percent increase in calls to the assist line that pertain to mental health. The program offers the ability to impact employees’ mental health by easily connecting them with resources.

Dr. Sandra Turner, leader of the “r u ok?” program, told Forbes the success of the program has been EY’s overall culture of diversity and inclusion. “We need to have the right culture,” she told the website. “One where people trust that coming forward about their struggle with mental health will not affect their job.”

Turner offers this advice to companies seeking to implement their own programs:

  • Take advantage of collaboration: Turner says many teams were involved in developing the program, including human resources, the diversity team and communications.
  • Partner with outside experts: EY collaborated with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and other mental health partners to share learnings. The firm will also focus on helping other organizations offer similar services as they move forward with the program.

New app could stop bullying

Can a new app connect students with resources to stop bullying? A group of developers at Rochester Institute of Technology is hoping their new app will do just that.

According to an article on the WHEC.com website, the B.U.S. app will connect students who are bullied with people who can help. The anonymous platform will allow people to share their experiences and have others comment on them to help solve bullying problems.

B.U.S. stands for “Be heard, Unite voices, Stand together,” and the group of researchers creating the app say the idea came from personal experience. The app would also include safety features that would check for alarming words and alert school administration if they feel a threat is present.

The app is designed to give students more options when they feel they are being bullied, as well as raise awareness of the frequency with which students are bullied.

It would include a contact list of numbers and emails of people that students can contact to continue the conversation about bullying and offer help and support to those being bullied. The app is currently only available on Android operating systems, but developers say they are currently searching for someone who can build an Apple iOS version of the app.


Affluent students more vulnerable to addictions: Study

Students who come from wealthier backgrounds may be more vulnerable to drug and alcohol problems than their peers, according to a new study.

Researchers in the United States found that by age 26, young adults in the upper middle class have a 2-3 times greater chance of being diagnosed with drug or alcohol addictions than the national rates. The study points to an increased risk of substance abuse at the high end of the socioeconomic spectrum.

Lead study author Saniya Luthar, a professor of psychology at Arizona State University, told LiveScience that these are “alarming” rates of addiction. And, contrary to popular believe, it dispels the myth that addition is a problem that affects mostly those in lower-income areas.

The study found higher rates of drinking to the point of intoxication smoking marijuana in wealthier students than among the public.

The most alarming trend was that by age 26, lifetime rates of addiction to drugs or alcohol were 19-24 percent among women and 23 to 40 percent among men from families with a higher socio-economic status – approximately three times higher than the national average for women and two times higher for men.

Why the higher rates of addiction? Luthar told the website that she suspects it is academic pressure, financial means to gain fake IDs and a group culture that promotes drug and alcohol abuse. She also surmised that it may be that parents of high-achieving students do not take drug or alcohol use seriously because the kids are still performing well academically.

How can parents prevent this? Some recommendations include:

  • Putting more emphasis on minimizing drug and alcohol use early on
  • Communicating openly with teenagers about the risks associated with drug and alcohol use
  • Helping students maintain a realistic perspective on their academic achievements

5 Facts You Might Not Know About Diabetes

An estimated 380 million people suffer from diabetes world-wide, and that number is only on the rise. Estimates from the World Health Organization say that by 2030, the number of diabetes patients will double. Diabetes is a serious health condition that is the leading cause of kidney failure, heart failure, stroke, amputations, and blindness. This condition affects the hormone insulin, which is responsible for helping glucose—or sugar—enter your body’s cells so you can use it for energy.

The two most common types of diabetes are referred to as type 1 and type 2. Type 1, also called juvenile diabetes, usually occurs early in life and affects your body’s ability to produce insulin. These patients need to take insulin injections as part of their treatment. Type 2 is more common and occurs when your body becomes insulin resistant. Risk for type 2 diabetes increases in overweight individuals and is often treated through diet and exercise.

For anyone with diabetes or who has a family member or friend with diabetes, this may seem like basic information. But here are five other facts about diabetes you might not know.

1.      Type 1 Diabetes is an Autoimmune Disease

We don’t often associate diabetes with the immune system, but that’s exactly where type 1 diabetes starts. An autoimmune disease is a condition where a person’s immune system begins attacking their own body. In type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakenly attacks the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. This results in little to no insulin production in the body, which is why patients with type 1 diabetes must take daily insulin injections to survive.

2.      People With Type 2 Diabetes May Not Have Symptoms

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 25 percent of people with diabetes don’t know they have it. One of the contributing factors to this high number is the fact that type 2 diabetes can occur without symptoms. Patients often go years with the condition without ever knowing it. When type 2 diabetes symptoms do arise, they often include:

  • Increased hunger and thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Weight loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent infections
  • Slow-healing sores
  • Patches of dark skin

3.      Patients Can Have More Than One Type of Diabetes

Although most patients only suffer from one type of diabetes, some people can develop multiple types. This is referred to as “double diabetes.” This happens when someone with type 1 diabetes develops a resistance to insulin, which is the main feature of type 2 diabetes. This usually happens as a result of obesity. Like anyone with type 2 diabetes, patients with double diabetes can overcome their insulin resistance through proper diet and exercise, although their inability to produce insulin will remain.

4.      There are More than Two Types of Diabetes

While type 1 and type 2 diabetes are the most common, there are numerous other types of diabetes that rarely get talked about. Gestational diabetes, for example, occurs in pregnant women with high blood glucose levels. Another type, called type 3, refers to insulin resistance in the brain that increases the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. “Type 1.5” is a lot like type 1 diabetes as it is caused by an autoimmune disease, but the symptoms are more closely related to type 2 diabetes. Other types include drug-induced diabetes, neonatal diabetes, secondary diabetes, and many more.

5.      Diabetes Isn’t Caused by Eating Too Much Sugar

It’s a common misconception that type 2 diabetes is caused by eating too much sugar. Although a high-sugar diet can increase risk, it does not cause diabetes on its own. Other factors play a role as well, including genetics, ethnicity, age, and sedentary lifestyle.

Diabetes can be complicated, but with this information, you can go forward with a little better understanding of this common condition.


Number of students dropping out over mental health problems triples

A British study has found that that the number of students who dropped out of university with mental health problems has more than tripled from 2009 to 2015.

The data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) found that 1,180 students who experienced mental health problems left university in the 2014-2015 school year – a staggering 210 percent increase from 380 students in 2009-2010.

Dropout rates aren’t the only things increasing in the U.K. either. The same data shows that students requests for counseling increased by 28 percent between 2014 and 2016 – and demand in 2017 is already outpacing that of previous years, even though the academic year was not complete when the data was collected.

According to the Guardian, the data has prompted a number of organizations across the U.K. to ensure the right supports are in place to support students with mental health issues. The paper reports that some universities are cutting back on the number of counselors they use, or not recruiting more to meet the demand. Increased demand for services has also resulted in longer wait times for mental health services.

The main issues for which students are seeking support are anxiety (up 43 percent in the past two years) and depression (up 39 percent over the same period).


Improve Your Health With The 7 Dimensions of Wellness

When we talk about health, we often emphasize diet and exercise, but physical health is only one of the seven dimensions of wellness. June is Professional Wellness Month. As you focus on your well-being in your personal and professional life this month, be sure you’re taking steps to improve all seven areas of wellness. Take a closer look at these dimensions of wellness below.

Social Wellness

Social wellness highlights positive relationships with friends, family, and co-workers. It also involves balancing those relationships. Focusing on your social wellness allows you to build a supportive network as well as establish trust, communication skills, and conflict management skills. Social wellness can be nurtured by keeping in touch with family and friends, joining social groups, such as clubs or organizations, and practicing active listening.

Physical Wellness

Physical wellness involves adopting healthy habits that affect your physical body. This includes both diet and exercise as well as lifestyle choices such as avoiding tobacco and alcohol, seeing your doctor regularly, and balancing your activities as to avoid unnecessary physical stress. You can also improve your physical wellness by getting enough sleep at night and practicing safe sex.

Emotional Wellness

Emotional wellness refers to your mental health. It encompasses the ability to understand yourself, share your feelings, and cope with life’s challenges. Emotional wellness is important for stress relief, decision making, and learning from your experiences. This dimension of wellness can be improved through optimism, meditation, self-acceptance, and awareness. Daily activities involve seeking or accepting help when needed and expressing gratitude.

Career Wellness

Career wellness, or occupational wellness, emphasizes personal fulfillment through your career choices. This dimension of wellness focuses particularly on job satisfaction and the meaning individuals find through work. Conflict management in the workplace is also an important aspect of career wellness.

When seeking to balance your career wellness with the other wellness dimensions, start by reflecting on your occupational needs. Do you feel fulfilled in your job role? If you’re unhappy where you are, is it due to your career choice or your current job or employer? Consider exploring both paid work and volunteer opportunities to identify your interests. Nurture your career wellness by setting realistic goals and working to achieve them.

Intellectual Wellness

Intellectual wellness is about engaging in mentally stimulating experiences and trying new things. This may involve going to school, practicing new skills in the workplace, or expanding your knowledge in your personal life. Personal hobbies and community activities can be as equally stimulating as academics. Intellectual wellness is practiced through open-mindedness, creative expression, hobbies, travel, and more.

Environmental Wellness

Environmental wellness refers to how you impact your environment. This can include your immediate environment, such as your home or office, as well as the world. On a small scale, you can improve your environmental wellness by organizing your space so you feel comfortable in your everyday environment. On a global scale, this dimension of wellness can be practiced through environmental-friendly activities such as recycling, carpooling, shopping local, and more.

Spiritual Wellness

Spiritual wellness focuses on tuning into your spiritual self and finding peace in your life. This can be achieved through practicing a religious faith, but it also emphasizes defining and sticking to your own morals, ethics, and values. Religion is not needed in spiritual wellness, but it’s a route many people take to find meaning and connect with their inner selves. Along with religion, practicing self-reflection, meditation, and acceptance can help improve a person’s spiritual dimension of wellness.

The seven dimensions of wellness can be remembered through the acronym SPECIES. It takes all the pieces of the puzzle to balance one another and achieve a strong sense of well-being. What will you do this month to improve your overall wellness?


Online mindfulness training reduces stress, improves resiliency: Study

A new study has found that participating in online mindfulness training for just five to 10 minutes per day can reduce stress, increase resilience and boost engagement at work.

The study of 178 Canadian first responders had them complete a 30-day mindfulness challenge this past March to see the impact of such training on their mental health. After participating in online mindfulness training for just five to 10 minutes a day for 30 consecutive days, the responders experienced less stress, greater resilience and increased engagement at work. The first responders serve in policing, fire, EMT, rescue, ER, 911 and the military. Vancouver-based MindWell-U donated the training.

“The 30 Day Mindfulness Challenge is an evidence-based mental health tool that supports employees in the workplace. Because it’s just a few minutes a day and accessible from any device at any time, we thought it could really benefit first responders,” says Dr. Geoff Soloway, Co-Founder and Chief Training Officer at MindWell-U. “The Challenge also teaches something we call ‘mindfulness-in-action’ so participants learn how to be mindful in the middle of whatever they’re doing, whether that be delivering a lecture, closing a deal, operating heavy machinery or responding to an emergency.”

The first responders reported the following outcomes:

  • 95% feeling better about their health and wellbeing
  • 93% managing stress better
  • 92% practicing greater self-care
  • 92% focusing better on tasks
  • 91% engaging more with work
  • 91% managing conflict better
  • 89% treating others more kindly
  • 88% communicating better
  • 83% experiencing improved leadership skills
  • 81% collaborating better with others
  • 80% managing time better

In addition, 97% of participants were satisfied with the training, and almost everyone said they had integrated mindfulness into their life and plan to stick with it.

“The 30 Day Mindfulness Challenge taught me to take a step back and look at things more clearly instead of getting caught up in the moment,” says one Toronto area paramedic.  “Learning to respond instead of react has lowered my stress and made me more effective at my job whether I’m driving an ambulance or administering first aid.”


The top 5 trends in corporate wellness programs

It’s no secret that corporate wellness programs can reduce health care costs for both physical and mental health. But what type of wellness programs should companies implement to get the most bang for their buck?

In an article for Corporate Wellness magazine, Gerry Morton, the CEO of EnergyFirst, identifies the top five wellness trends that can help companies. They include:

  1. Fitness challenges and contests

This can be anything from office marathons to course competitions or weight loss challenges. Morton says offering a monetary reward for winners help encourage participation.

Another challenge is encouraging employees to participate in a race, often fundraising for charity to make it even more appealing. Having employees work together to both fundraise and run a 5K, 10K, half marathon or marathon is a great way of boosting employees’ health and mental health.

  1. Flu shot and vaccination programs

Offering on-site (and free) clinics where employees can get vaccines for the flu, measles, pneumonia and shingles encourages employees to get those necessary vaccinations done. This also helps prevent employee illness and the downtime (and costs) associated with them.

  1. Nutrition/weight management education programs

Education and counseling to help employees combat health issues such as high Body Mass Index (BMI), high cholesterol and high blood pressure are a great way to improve employee health. Consider bringing in a nutritionist for “lunch and learn” sessions or even cooking classes to help employees get their diets on track.

  1. Healthy desks

There’s a new trend toward treadmill desks, standing desks, swapping out chairs with fitness balls, and even active desks with small bike pedals underneath them. The trend isn’t just a fad – studies have shown that sitting too long can be detrimental to one’s health.

Many of these ergonomically-friendly desks have even more benefits, including reducing musculoskeletal injuries caused by things like carpal tunnel syndrome.

  1. Health coaching and therapy

On-site, face-to-face wellness coaching and therapy is the next big thing in employee wellness, Morton says. Bringing in coaching for employees empowers them to change their behaviors, which in turn lowers their risk for health issues.