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As the importance of sleep has been highlighted so has a common misconception—namely, that we should sleep all night in one continuous block.

Waking up at night?

By Erica Sloan

As the importance of sleep has been highlighted so has a common misconception—namely, that we should sleep all night in one continuous block. But, if you looked at a hypnogram of an average person’s sleep on a tracker (aka a chart showing time spent in each sleep stage) you’d soon recognize that waking up in the middle of the night is not as bad as its made out to be. It’s actually totally normal according to neurologist and sleep specialist Doctor Brandon Peters.

To be clear, that doesn’t mean waking up and staying awake or struggling to fall asleep at night should also be your new norm. But it’s worth noting that  few middle-of-the-night awakenings occur naturally as a product of our sleep architecture that has us cycling between sleep stages throughout the night.

Dr. Peters claims that a few awakenings during the night are typically nothing to worry about for us because they won’t negatively impact the quality of our sleep, even if we get up from bed for a few minutes in the middle of the night, say, to go to the bathroom. Ironically, what Peters suggests does affect sleep quality- the fact that you’re up in the night worrying about the fact that you’re awake.



Cities need a chief heat officer

By Ryan Lenora Brown

For years, Eugenia Kargbo had watched her hometown grow denser and hotter. Freetown, Sierra Leone, situated on a peninsula that juts into the Atlantic Ocean, had always been balmy. Home to just over 1 million people in 2015, has an estimated 1.27 million today. And as the population swelled, trees came down to make room for houses, temperatures ticked upward, and residents began complaining of heat. Now, as Freetown’s first-ever “chief heat officer, (CHO)” Kargbo has a chance to be part of the solution. 

Globally, deaths caused by high temperatures have risen 74% since 1980, but because heat is far less visible, it has long been difficult to drum up resources to fight.

What CHOs do depends largely on where they are. In sweltering Western cities like Miami, the job might entail improving access to air-conditioning, retrofitting buildings to be cooler, and advocating for heat waves to be given names, as hurricanes are. Because places like Freetown were warm to begin with, a rise of a few degrees can be the difference between merely hot and completely unlivable. 

The hope is that having government officials dedicated to heat means that there are always eyes on the problem, even when the world’s focus turns elsewhere.



Surprise vaccine outcome

By Sarah Sloat

Getting vaccinated not only protects you during the pandemic but it seems it can also improve your mental well-being. A large-scale study of 8003 adults published by the Public Library of Science showed that, overall, mental health scores of participants improved after receiving a single COVID-19 vaccine dose.

Simply put, vaccinated people reported decreased mental distress levels and were less likely to exhibit signs of mild or severe depression.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has affected several aspects of people’s lives, including their employment and finances, health risks and opportunities to socialize, all of which can affect mental health,” the researchers wrote. “Getting the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine resulted in significant improvements in mental health.”

Although the researchers can’t pinpoint why those who got the shot experienced a boost in their mental health, they said it’s likely a combination of factors.

“An unvaccinated individual may still benefit from the reduced prevalence rates in the population, may become less worried about loved ones, and may benefit from increased social and economic opportunities if the vaccine rollout results in more social and economic activity due to lower disease risk,” the researchers wrote.


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