Discover more from Understandably by Bill Murphy Jr.
4 a.m. sunrise
My latest simple way to improve memory. Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
When it comes to writing about wellness, I sometimes go back to the well (pun intended).
One subject that keeps coming up: Simple habits that people can do to improve memory, supported by at least some kind of credible science.
Walking backward to inspire recall (June 2021)
Sleeping on your side instead of your back (June 2022)
Developing detail-oriented hobbies (December 2022).
In fact, we've had so many intriguing discoveries recently that I'm sure I'm forgetting a few other fascinating ones. As ironic as that may be, it's also fine, because a recent study suggests a very simple change to your sleep pattern could have positive effects on both alertness and memory.
Short version: Wear an eye mask when you sleep.
Writing in the monthly peer-reviewed journal Sleep, a research team spanning universities in the U.S.,
Scotland Wales (my bad), and Italy reported the results of two experiments they did involving 122 human subjects.
The first experiment involved getting adult participants between 18 to 35 to agree to wear masks at night for a week, to keep sleep diaries, and to participate in a series of in-lab tests at the end of the week.
They then participated for a second week—this time without masks, but with similar sleep diaries and end-of-week in-lab tests. In short, participants who wore masks had better episodic memory and alertness when they took tests measuring word association, alertness, and sustained attention than they did without.
For the second experiment, 33 participants agreed to sleep for two nights with an eye mask, and then two additional nights wearing a mask with eye holes cut out, which was intended to control for any comfort or discomfort that might arise from the fact of wearing a mask to begin with.
Participants' sleep stages were also tracked by use of a light meter and EKG band. While they didn't report feeling any less tired or more refreshed after wearing masks, they did perform better on memory tests.
The researchers theorize this might be the result of participants spending more time in deeper phases of sleep while wearing masks, because ambient light is blocked.
In fact, one of the researchers revealed in an interview that it was her personal experience of moving to
Scotland (Wales again, my mistake) to pursue her degree, and finding that her home didn't have shutters to keep out the morning light, that prompted her interest in this study to begin with.
"Houses in Cardiff don't have shutters!" Viviana Greco, a PhD candidate at Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre, told PsyPost, adding: "This was particularly problematic during the summer months, when the sun rises as early as 4 a.m., making it difficult to sleep."
Look, I'm all for better health, both for myself and for everyone else on the planet. I expect you probably are too.
I'm also self-aware enough to know that it's easier to adopt simple habits and make them stick than it is to ask people (or yourself) to make massive lifestyle changes, even in support of a brain health goal.
So, since I came across this article a few weeks ago, I’ve started wearing a sleep mask. It happens to be a faux leopard-print one that came in a gift set I gave my wife as a stocking-stuffer last Christmas, so I assume I look a little ridiculous in it.
But, it’s night, so as long as my wife doesn’t mind, I’ll stick with it. As for whether my memory has improved … well, I’ll have to try to remember to let you know once I’ve used it a little while longer.
7 other things worth knowing today
Sales of previously owned homes rose 14.5% in February compared with January, according to a seasonally adjusted count by the National Association of Realtors. However, the median price of an existing home sold in February was $363,000, a 0.2% decline from February 2022. (CNBC)
A union representing 30,000 Los Angeles school custodians, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and other support staff has started a three-day strike with support from the district’s teachers, effectively stopping classes for more than a half million students in the nation’s second-largest school system. (CNN)
A rare strain of bacteria found in recalled eyedrops has been linked to dozens of infections, as well as cases of vision loss, surgical removal of eyeballs and one death. Global Pharma Healthcare's Artificial Tears Lubricant Eye Drops, distributed by EzriCare and Delsam Pharma, were first recalled in early February. (ABC 7 NY)
More than 10,000 U.S. troops are now officially and permanently stationed in Poland after a ceremony Tuesday, assigned to Area Support Group Poland, the first U.S. Army garrison on NATO's eastern flank. The U.S. already has five army garrisons in Germany, one in Belgium and one in Italy. Polish defense minister: "We appreciate it very much that U.S. troops are on a permanent basis in our country. It is very important that the Western world remains united." (AP)
New York City is taking precautions after former President Donald Trump announced he may be arrested. Law enforcement sources say plans for potential violence or large protests have prompted a joint response from the NYPD, U.S. Secret Service and the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force. Barricades are up around both Trump Tower and the criminal court where he'd likely have to appear. (CBS News)
California lawmakers this week are launching a plan to force digital giants like Facebook and Google to pay publishers for news content. The California Journalism Competition and Preservation Act resembles a separate bitterly contested federal bill that would allow publishers to jointly bargain content distribution terms with the tech giants. (Washington Post)
End of an era: The last gas-powered muscle car from Dodge isn’t leaving the road without some squeals, thunder and crazy-fast speed. The 2023 Challenger SRT Demon 170 will deliver 1,025 horsepower from its 6.2-liter supercharged V-8, and the automaker says it will be the quickest production car made. This is the last year of production as a gasoline model. (AP)