Instead of looking forward, we should be consulting the past.
When will the pandemic end? All these months in, with over 37 million COVID-19 cases and more than 1 million deaths globally, you may be wondering, with increasing exasperation, how long this will continue.
A new study of nurses shows the importance of sleep—and staying aware on the job.
- A study of nurses found that an extra 29 minutes of sleep dramatically improved job-related mindfulness.
- Nurses that reported higher mindfulness scores were 66 percent less likely to experience symptoms of insomnia.
- Roughly 70 million American adults suffer from some form of sleep disorder.
Should you "hack" your sleep pattern? | Vanessa Hill | Big Think<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="af84e812903700afbdc0c73e6b7c619e"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/1Y-qLKZWyDs?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>It shouldn't be surprising that more sleep leads to greater capacity to focus. Specifically, the nurses that reported greater sleep sufficiency, higher sleep quality, and less insomnia fared best the next day at work. The goal, however, was to track more than awareness. As Lee <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-10/uosf-shd101320.php" target="_blank">notes</a>,</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Mindful attention is beyond just being awake. It indicates attentional control and self-regulation that facilitates sensitivity and adaptive adjustment to environmental and internal cues, which are essential when providing mindful care to patients and effectively dealing with stressful situations."</p><p>In a sort of feedback loop, the nurses that reported higher mindfulness scores were 66 percent less likely to experience symptoms of insomnia. About <a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/almost-one-third-americans-sleep-fewer-six-hours-night-180971116/" target="_blank">one-third of American adults</a> sleep less than six hours per night. <a href="https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/insomnia-brain-health" target="_self">Problems</a> ranging from cognitive decline and weight gain to automobile accidents and immune system issues result from too little sleep. </p><p>If car crashes are more likely when drivers aren't sleeping enough, just think of the number of workplace accidents—an especially harrowing prospect if your job requires sticking needles into patients and monitoring their vitals. With an <a href="https://bigthink.com/21st-century-spirituality/sleepless-nation-why-eight-plus-hours-is-necessary-for-optimal-health" target="_self">estimated 70 million Americans</a> suffering from some form of sleep disorder, this is an under-discussed public health crisis. </p><p>The feedback loop from Lee's study shows the necessity of cultivating both more awareness and sleeping better. When you work in health care, it's not only your health on the line. </p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a>. His new book is</em> "<em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KRVMP2M?pf_rd_r=MDJW43337675SZ0X00FH&pf_rd_p=edaba0ee-c2fe-4124-9f5d-b31d6b1bfbee" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy</a>."</em></p>
Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling has an important favor to ask of the American people.
- Michael Dowling is president and CEO of Northwell Health, the largest health care system in New York state. In this PSA, speaking as someone whose company has seen more COVID-19 patients than any other in the country, Dowling implores Americans to wear masks—not only for their own health, but for the health of those around them.
- The CDC reports that there have been close to 7.9 million cases of coronavirus reported in the United States since January. Around 216,000 people have died from the virus so far with hundreds more added to the tally every day. Several labs around the world are working on solutions, but there is currently no vaccine for COVID-19.
- The most basic thing that everyone can do to help slow the spread is to practice social distancing, wash your hands, and to wear a mask. The CDC recommends that everyone ages two and up wear a mask that is two or more layers of material and that covers the nose, mouth, and chin. Gaiters and face shields have been shown to be less effective at blocking droplets. Homemade face coverings are acceptable, but wearers should make sure they are constructed out of the proper materials and that they are washed between uses. Wearing a mask is the most important thing you can do to save lives in your community.
There has been a dramatic increase in abuse and misuse.
- Benzodiazepine usage has increased in 2020 due to the pandemic.
- The FDA is requiring new label warnings due to increased abuse and misuse of benzos.
- Drugs like Valium and Xanax are approved for short-term use only, yet many are on them for years and even decades.
Benzodiazepine Dependence and Withdrawal - How To Avoid This<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5d7bbe438225de9f24d0ac75dc3710e2"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/qKpz91hYkvU?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Since the early '50s, tranquilizer and sedative abuse has been a common yet under-discussed phenomenon in American society. The first blockbuster drug was Miltown. In 1955, meprobamate, a derivative of the short-acting mephenesin, was brought to market. Discovered by Czechoslovakian pharmacologist Frank Berger while developing a penicillin preservative, he noticed mephenesin calmed rats without knocking them out. In 1950, Berger moved from the UK to Cranbury, New Jersey where he developed meprobamate alongside chemist Bernard John Ludwig. By 1957, a billion pills of this drug, now called Miltown, were being produced.</p><p>Then the fire went out. In the sixties, Miltown was reclassified as a sedative. The manufacturers were sued for monopolizing the tranquilizer market. Doctors eventually recognized the risks outweighed the benefits. Miltown addicts flooded treatment centers. Instead of understanding the risks tranquilizers pose, pharmaceutical manufacturers simply shifted focus to other drugs, such as benzodiazepines, antipsychotics, SSRIs, and SNRIs.</p><p>Every decade, more problems arise with these pills. While short-term efficacy is clinically proven (especially when coupled with psychotherapy), underlying risks have long been known and little discussed. As Dr. Harshal Kirane, medical director of Wellbridge Addiction Treatment and Research, <a href="https://abcnews.go.com/Health/popular-anti-anxiety-medications-highly-addictive-fda-warning/story?id=73295488" target="_blank">recently said</a> after the FDA announcement, </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Benzodiazepines will not be the next big epidemic. They have been a 'silent' epidemic for decades, intensifying consequences from the current opioid epidemic."</p><p>The FDA's decision is based on growing evidence that benzos are prescribed more frequently and for longer durations than they're approved for. This has led to increasing cases of abuse and misuse. </p>
Credit: Tomas Nevesely / Shutterstock<p>As journalist Robert Whitaker <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/antidepressants-dangers" target="_self">told Big Think</a> earlier this year, drug approval regulations are looser than many assume. Drug manufacturers, which often sponsor clinical trials for their own drugs, only have to show efficacy over placebo—how much efficacy doesn't matter. If a company doesn't like the result, they can throw out the data and never report it. Then there's chronic use.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We also don't measure long-term exposure. If you look at Xanax, it doesn't show any efficacy after about four weeks. If you're taking it on a daily basis, you really should get off it. But all sorts of people have been on it for two years, three years, five years, 10 years. We don't have a mechanism for assessing what happens to people on these drugs for that amount of time."</p><p>In fact, the original Xanax trial was for 14 weeks. At the end, the drug was under-performing the placebo. Instead of submitting that data, the company only reported the four-week data. As of 2017, Xanax was the <a href="https://clincalc.com/DrugStats/Top300Drugs.aspx" target="_blank">21st most-prescribed drug</a> in the country, with nearly 26 million prescriptions written, even though it only shows efficacy for about a month. </p><p>Psychiatrist Bechoy Abdelmalak <a href="https://abcnews.go.com/Health/popular-anti-anxiety-medications-highly-addictive-fda-warning/story?id=73295488" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">explains</a> the road to addiction: </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"When you start taking these drugs, the response is very positive so it becomes hard for patients to discontinue them. So patients often take them for many years and, with chronic use, the risk of side effects increases, especially in the elderly."</p><p>Overall, roughly 92 million prescriptions for benzodiazepines were dispensed in America in 2019, with an estimated 50 percent of patients taking them for two months or longer (according to 2018 data). </p><p>A label warning is a step in the right direction, but given the increasing amounts of mental health troubles in 2020, we need more protections. The only winner right now is the <a href="https://time.com/4900248/antidepressants-depression-more-common/" target="_blank">$17 billion antidepressant industry</a> and the <a href="https://www.goodrx.com/blog/depression-and-anxiety-prescriptions-are-climbing-nationwide/" target="_blank">burgeoning anti-anxiety market</a>. That money is made on our suffering. From the looks of it, these drugs are creating more problems than they're solving, and we're all paying the price. </p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a>. His new book is</em> "<em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KRVMP2M?pf_rd_r=MDJW43337675SZ0X00FH&pf_rd_p=edaba0ee-c2fe-4124-9f5d-b31d6b1bfbee" target="_blank">Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy</a>."</em></p>
Confirmation bias is baked into the DNA of America, but it may soon be the nation's undoing.
- From America's inception, there has always been a rebellious, anti-establishment mentality. That way of thinking has become more reckless now that the entire world is interconnected and there are added layers of verification (or repudiation) of facts.
- As the great minds in this video can attest, there are systems and mechanisms in place to discern between opinion and truth. By making conscious efforts to undermine and ignore those systems at every turn (climate change, conspiracy theories, coronavirus, politics, etc.), America has compromised its position of power and effectively stunted its own growth.
- A part of the problem, according to writer and radio host Kurt Andersen, is a new media infrastructure that allows for false opinions to persist and spread to others. Is it the beginning of the end of the American empire?