May, 2014

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Lack of Sleep may Increase the Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

Insomnia increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease – Research Finding

Young and middle-aged adults who suffer from insomnia and other sleep disorders may be more likely to develop Alzheimer’s in later life, research in mice suggests.


Insomnia may raise levels of amyloid beta in the brain. The protein is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Photograph: Getty

Chronic lack of sleep may promote the development of Alzheimer’sdisease, two new studies suggest. The findings may have implications for people suffering from insomnia and other sleep disorders.

Researchers monitored levels of amyloid beta, a protein fragment known to be linked to Alzheimer’s, in the brains of sleep-deprived mice with symptoms of the disease.

They found that preventing the mice from sleeping caused a 25% increase in amyloid beta levels. The peptide builds up in the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers to form damaging plaques.

Amyloid beta levels were generally higher when mice were active than when they were sleeping, and animals that stayed awake longer had higher amounts of the peptide in their brains. The research will be published tomorrow in the journal Science.

Another study, also published in Science, links the finding to humans, showing that amyloid beta levels in the spinal fluid of volunteers increased when they were awake and fell during sleep.

Professor David Holtzman from the Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St Louis, US, where both studies were carried out, said: “The results suggest that we may need to prioritise treating sleep disorders not only for their many acute effects, but also for potential long-term impacts on brain health.”

The scientists also found a link with orexin, a protein involved in regulating the sleep cycle. When orexin was injected into the brains of mice, the animals stayed awake longer and levels of amyloid beta in their brains increased.

A drug that blocked the action of orexin led to a significant reduction in levels and increased the amount of sleep.

Three weeks of chronic sleep deprivation was enough to accelerate the deposition of amyloid plaque in the brains of the mice. But after two months of treatment with the orexin blocker, the deposits had shrunk by more than 80% in some cases.

“This suggests the possibility that a treatment like this could be tested to see if it could delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Prof Holtzman.

He pointed out that as people age and their risk of Alzheimer’s increases, they usually sleep for shorter periods.

Further studies are being considered to see whether chronic sleep loss in young and middle-aged adults increases the risk of Alzheimer’s in later life.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, affecting an estimated 700,000 people in the UK. The figure is expected to double within a generation.

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Improve your sleep and avoid the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Sleep Hygiene Handout is here for your help.

The Benefits of a Spiritual Practice

Why I Recommend Yoga to My Clients

Sr Jamie BrownSister Jamie Brown

As a Holistic Wellness and Pastoral Counselor, whenever a client comes to me for counseling, whether online at, or here in person at Lothlorien House, I will nearly always recommend a spiritual practice.  I encourage yoga and other meditative practices not only for people specifically seeking spiritual guidance, but for everyone in general, regardless of the reason they came to me for counseling.

Now, I’m not talking about the gymnastic contortionist exercise that is popularly called “yoga” in the west, which consists of trying to force your body into a variety of strange and difficult poses; not that I have anything against it, and there may even be some physical benefits to doing the exercise, but it’s not really “yoga” per se.  In the classical sense, yoga is a spiritual practice of which the physical poses are just one aspect.  Yoga literally means “yoke” or “union” –  union with the Divine, or unity within oneself, body/mind/soul.  The particular type of yoga that I teach can be done by anyone, even the wheelchair-bound.  It involves a specific breathing technique coordinated with gentle arm movements.  More athletic students can combine this with the difficult poses if they wish, but it’s not necessary.  The breath is the key.

 anjali mudra You may well ask, what on earth does this have to do with therapy?  Everything, really!  My purpose as a counselor is to help you find clarity, wholeness and inner peace.  Certainly part of that process involves communication between us during our sessions, where I give you a safe place to share your concerns, ask questions that will shed light on the situation, help you gain insight, offer useful feedback, encouragement, and so forth.  That is why you attend therapy.  But, an equally important, if not more important part of the process, is what you do on your own, because ultimately you must find wholeness within yourself.  And that is where your spiritual practice comes in.
There are many different approaches; I favor the method shared above due to its being the simplest as well as the most powerful technique I have ever found.  Various other forms of meditation can also be used such as simply “following the breath,” gazing at a candle or spiritual image, visualization, or chanting mantra, the rosary, the Jesus Prayer, etc.  What they all have in common is helping the mind to settle down so we can find that peaceful place in the center of our being, the place where we are whole, where we know that we are loved, where ultimately we can experience a deep, abiding joy that is not contingent on external circumstances.  When we spend time in that Center on a daily basis, even just a few minutes each morning, healing takes place, anxiety is relieved, and we feel refreshed and strengthened to face the challenges in our life – whatever those particular challenges may be.  Natarajasana

tree pose

So, for example, if you come to me for marriage counseling I will advise you to do yoga, because in order to have a healthy relationship, there must be two reasonably whole people involved!  When each partner attends to their own spiritual practice, this will facilitate their ability to be good partners in the relationship.  In addition, more advanced yogic practices which are very enjoyable can be done together as a couple to promote sexual and emotional intimacy, as well as to rekindle the spark of romance.Some clients will object, “But, I’m not religious/ spiritual,” or else they are just not interested in learning a formal discipline.  That is ok, and they can still obtain similar benefits by doing something that appeals to them personally.
An example would be gardening, which is very therapeutic, getting one’s hands in the soil, planting the seeds, tending the plants, and enjoying the resulting flowers and/or vegetables.  Others enjoy walking in the woods or a garden labyrinth, or on the beach, or surfing.  This interaction with nature is spiritual in its own right.  The important thing is to have some consistent activity, whatever it may be, that allows you to make time for yourself and your own thoughts, where the world does not intrude and you can enjoy your own company, undistracted, and cultivate that inner silence and bliss.
Often clients will feel guilty at first when they try to take this time for themselves!  We, especially women, have been conditioned by society to feel that we must please everyone else and meet their demands, even if it requires neglecting ourselves.  We have been taught that spending time alone doing meditation, yoga or our own personal ritual is a selfish indulgence, a luxury that we cannot afford when others require our attention.  Some people even take a sense of pride in the martyrdom of self-neglect. backbend
 But, making time for our spiritual practice is not selfish.  We must understand that if we don’t nurture ourself, we will have nothing left to give to others.  When we make a daily practice of tapping into that center of peace, love and joy within, we will be healthier and more effective in our efforts, in harmony with ourself and others, which will in turn benefit the people around us as well.  And it is my pleasure to help you learn how to do that.

Normalized Immersion

The necessary change for eradicating fear based prejudice is normalized immersion.

Eric Holmes

Eric Holmes – Privileged ProvenTherapist

The more time we spend experiencing and being around things outside our common communities (people with disabilities, the elderly, minorities, homosexuals etc) the more normal and acceptable they become.

We must become an actual melting pot – break down nationalistic barriers, and fear based bubbles or communities of intolerance.  Our current such paradigms perpetuate our feelings of separation, heightening our anxiety and encouraging the ‘us and them’ mentalities that lead us to fear which moves us further away from connecting and progressively towards oppressive policies that harm ‘us’ by harming ‘them’.

We are all one – but we live in collectives like insulated church groups, like senior centers, disability homes, sports teams, tribes whereby the expression ‘we are all one’ comes to mean We (in this group) are all one… thus putting everyone else as other.

We must change the paradigm to a collective ‘us’. All of us, living breathing creatures, represented as citizens of Earth, working together for the collective benefit of us all.

Having a sense of purpose in life may increase lifespan

Past studies have indicated that many factors may help prolong life; eating nuts every day, increasing fiber intake and getting married are among a few. Now, new research suggests that having a “sense of purpose” in life may help us live longer.

Sense of purpose in lifeLead study author Patrick Hill, of the Carleton University in Canada, and colleague Nicholas Turiano, of the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, NY, recently published their findings in the journal Psychological Science.

The researchers note that previous studies have already discovered an association between having a sense of purpose in life and lower risk of mortality. But Hill says there has been limited research looking at whether the benefits arising from a sense of purpose changes over time, such as after important transitions in life or over different periods of development.

To find out, Hill and Turiano analyzed data from over 6,000 participants who were a part of the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study. Subjects were followed for an average of 14 years.

The researchers focused on participants’ self-reported sense of purpose in life from statements – such as “some people wander aimlessly through life, but I am not one of them” – and other psychological factors that provided information regarding positive and negative emotions and relationships with others.

A sense of purpose ‘lowers mortality risk for all age groups’

During the follow-up period, 569 of the participants died. The team found that those who passed away had fewer positive relations and reported having a lower purpose in life than those who survived.

Overall, individuals who reported having a greater purpose in life had a lower mortality risk. The researchers say they were surprised to find that this association was true across all age groups during the follow-up period.

“There are a lot of reasons to believe that being purposeful might help protect older adults more so than younger ones,” says Hill. “For instance, adults might need a sense of direction more, after they have left the workplace and lost that source for organizing their daily events. In addition, older adults are more likely to face mortality risks than younger adults.”

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