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Monthly Archives: October 2016

Why Does a Trip Home Always Feel Shorter ?

You’ve been looking forward to this vacation for months. You started packing weeks ago, spent days mapping out family activities, and arrived at the airport hours before departure. So now that you’re finally en route, why does it feel like you’ll never get there?

According to researchers (as well as frequent business travelers and wanderlusters), your reason for traveling doesn’t matter: The outward journey always seems to take longer than the trek back home.

What’s going on? A recent study from Tilburg University in the Netherlands found this “return trip effect” all boils down to our expectations. Before you head out on that initial voyage (Paris, here we come!), you tend to underestimate the time it will take, says researcher Niels van de Ven, PhD, an assistant professor of social psychology. Chalk it up to pre-trip excitement, but when you lowball your travel time, the journey ends up feeling a whole lot longer.

And it has an effect on the trip home, too. “Based on that feeling, the traveller expects the return journey to be long as well, and this then turns out to be shorter than expected,” van de Ven said in a press release. About 17 to 22 percent shorter, to be precise.

To determine this, the researchers tested a few different “return trip effect” theories. About 350 participants were questioned during a bus trip to a theme park, a bike trip, or while watching a video of someone riding a bike to and from a destination. In all scenarios, it was clear that the phenomenon existed — participants said that the initial trip felt longer than the return trip (even though the trips were of the same time and length). When the researchers dug deeper to understand why, signs pointed to this “violation of expectations.”

This research sheds new light on the phenomenon, which was previously thought to be related to route familiarity — a trip home would feel shorter because the course was better known and more predictable. But in this study, researchers found that the “return trip effect” persisted even when respondents took a different (but equal-length) path home.

So the next time your kids are screaming “Are we there yet?” from the back seat, cut them a break: This travelling phenomenon is simply messing with their heads. Then, take comfort in the notion that they probably won’t ask the same question on the trip back home.

Why Do We Talk in Our Sleep?

The When and How of Sleep Talking

Sleep talking tends to occur during two different stages of sleep: During stage two, when it’s just a stream of thoughts not accompanied by a dream, and during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, when it’s accompanied by active dreams. During REM sleep it’s easy to arouse a person out of sleep talking, but during stage two, it’s very hard to wake someone up, and they likely won’t remember what they were talking about. And even during REM sleep, what a sleep-talker is saying may not be related to what’s happening in their dream.

“With sleep talking, we may have active dreams — we may be speaking about what we’re dreaming. On the other hand, we could be dreaming one thing and speaking something completely different,” says Dr. Kohler.

Sleep talking can vary in frequency and intensity, and can be caused by a variety of factors, which may be as simple as drinking alcohol before going to sleep. “Having a high fever, being under emotional stress, taking certain medications, and having underlying sleep problems like sleep apnea can all cause a person to talk in their sleep,” says Kohler. Sleep talking may also run in families, he says. There aren’t any specific medications that have been singled out to cause sleep talking.

What Does All That Chitchat Mean?

Although you may be tempted to read a lot into what your partner utters in their sleep, experts don’t recommend taking too much stock in those sweet nothings. “It’s not a reflection of what’s going on in your life,” Rosenberg says. Kohler agrees: “There’s a myth that secrets can be revealed with sleep talking, but that’s not really accurate. The things people are talking about can potentially have nothing to do with reality.”

And as many parents know, sleep talking is common in kids. “This is more of a brain development issue in children,” says Rosenberg. “Most kids will grow out of it.”

If your partner or child is chattering away in their sleep, “let it play itself out — just observe and make sure they are safe,” recommends Rosenberg.

So when would sleep talking actually be a cause for concern? Only if you feel overly tired during the day, if your nocturnal chatter is disturbing your partner, or if your sleep talking is accompanied by any other “acting out,” such as sleepwalking. If you’re feeling sleepy all the time, a sleep specialist can help determine the best course of action to ensure you get better sleep.

Health Reform Law Gaining Wider Acceptance

To be sure, Americans remain sharply divided over the legislation, with slightly more than one-third (36 percent) of adults saying they want the law repealed and 21 percent saying they want it to remain as is. Another 25 percent would like to see only certain elements of the law modified, the poll found.

“The public is still divided, mainly on partisan lines, as to whether to implement or repeal all, parts, or none of the health care reform bill,” said Harris Poll Chairman Humphrey Taylor.

The poll, conducted earlier this month, found that support for the legislation clearly breaks down along party lines. Almost two-thirds of Republicans (63 percent) said they wanted the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act repealed, compared to 9 percent of Democrats.

But while poll respondents were split about the law as a whole, many strongly supported key elements of the bill, “with the notable exception of the individual mandate [the requirement that all adults purchase health insurance] which remains deeply unpopular,” Taylor said.

That support for certain components of the law seems to be increasing slowly with time. For instance, 71 percent of those polled now back the law’s provision that prevents insurance companies from denying coverage to those already sick. At the end of 2010, 64 percent supported this provision.

Other provisions that are showing a slow but steady rise in acceptance since November 2010 include:

  • Allowing children to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until they turn 26 — 57 percent in January 2012 versus 55 percent in November 2010.
  • Creating insurance exchanges where people can shop for insurance — 59 percent versus 51 percent.
  • Providing tax credits to small businesses to help pay for their employees’ insurance — 70 percent versus 60 percent.
  • Requiring all employers with 50 or more employees to offer insurance to their employees or pay a penalty — 53 percent versus 48 percent.
  • Requiring research to measure the effectiveness of different treatments — 53 percent versus 44 percent.
  • Creating a new Independent Payment Advisory Board to limit the growth ofMedicare spending — 38 percent versus 32 percent.

But the most controversial aspect of the law — the so-called individual mandate that requires all adults to have health insurance or face a fine — remains widely unpopular, with only 19 percent of those polled supporting it.

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on the constitutionality of the law starting in late March.

“It’s clear that people really appreciate key reforms that are in the Affordable Care Act and it demonstrates how important it is for people to know that those reforms actually are embodied in the legislation,” said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, nonpartisan group that says it’s dedicated to quality, affordable health care for all Americans.

The problem is that many people don’t know what’s actually in the law, as previous polls, including some conducted by Harris Interactive/HealthDay, have shown.

“People do not understand the health reform bill,” said John Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis, a conservative public policy research organization in Dallas that says it backs private alternatives to government regulation and control. “This reflects a failure all the way around on the part of backers of the bill, critics and the health-care media. No one’s explained how this works.”

Pollack pointed out that some provisions of the Affordable Care Act aren’t scheduled to take effect until 2014.

The poll also found that, by a 55 percent to 45 percent margin, people think health care reform should be addressed by each state separately, rather than at the federal level.

A fair amount of the current Republican primary race to challenge President Obama in the November election has focused on pledges to repeal much or all of the health care act.

Slightly more than half of those polled — including 61 percent of Republicans — said they knew that when Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts he supported a law that provides health insurance to many people in the state. The law is similar to the federal law signed by Obama in March 2010.

Most poll respondents said they had little or no idea what the Massachusetts law has — and has not — accomplished. The legislation, which includes an individual mandate, has provided coverage to a majority of state residents, is popular with most people in the state, but has yet to contain costs.

The poll was conducted online Jan. 17-19 with 2,415 adults 18 years of age and older. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted, where necessary, to bring them into line with their actual proportions of the U.S. population. So-called “propensity score weighting” was also used to adjust for respondents’ likelihood to be online.

Ticks that spread Lyme disease

Lyme disease is a mysterious, chronic condition that can lead to devastating symptoms, and a new study suggests the ticks that spread it may be increasing in numbers.

The report, published Wednesday in the Journal of Medical Entomology, found that the blacklegged tick and the western backlegged ticks, two vectors of Lyme, have now been reported in nearly half of all U.S. counties. The last comprehensive survey of the ticks’ presence was published in 1998, Science Daily reported.

By using a similar method to the one used in 1998, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) observed that the backlegged tick has been reported in more than 45 percent of counties compared to 30 percent in 1998. Compared to 1998, the backlegged tick is considered established in twice the number of counties today, Science Daily reported. The western backlegged tick, meanwhile, only increased from 3.4 to 3.6 percent of counties.

The Northeast has seen the biggest spread of the backlegged tick, while the nusiance’s presence in the South has stayed stable.

“This study shows that the distribution of Lyme disease vectors has changed substantially over the last nearly two decades and highlights areas where risk for human exposure to ticks has changed during that time,” said Dr. Rebecca Eisen, a research biologist at the CDC, according to Science Daily. “The observed range expansion of the ticks highlights a need for continuing and enhancing vector surveillance efforts, particularly along the leading edges of range expansion.”

The symptoms of Lyme can often be mistaken as the flu, but prompt treatment with antibiotics can aid treatment. The CDC recommends using insect repellent, reducing the tick habitat, applying pesticides and removing ticks quickly to help prevent Lyme.