Posts tagged with "CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey"

Study: Having a pet may take a toll on your sleep

March  30, 2023

Your beloved pet may be interrupting, or impairing the quality of, your sleep, research conducted at Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee has found, reports NBC News.

Although pets can have many positive effects on health, pet ownership was linked with poorer sleep, according to the study results, published the journal, Human-Animal Interactions on March 24.

The researchers looked at data from the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which asks questions on a variety of health topics. They adjusted for factors that could affect sleep—including race, income, age, gender, and BMI—and focused on whether a person owned a cat or a dog.

Sleep quality was measured by looking at reported bouts of snoring or snorting at night; being diagnosed with a sleep disorder; having trouble sleeping or falling asleep; waking up during the night; waking up too early; feeling unrested; not getting enough sleep; needing medication to sleep; or having leg jerks or cramps. Taking longer than 15 minutes to fall asleep and regularly getting fewer than six hours of sleep were also indicators of poor sleep.

The findings showed that having a dog was associated with a greater chance of having a sleep disorder or, overall, having trouble sleeping; while having a cat was associated with having a higher chance of leg jerks during the night.

The study was observational, meaning the researchers could not say for certain the pets caused poor sleep, but the results were consistent with previous studies that found that pet ownership negatively affected sleep quality.

Lead study author Lauren Wisnieski, an assistant professor of Public Health and Research at Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee, noted that the study didn’t look at where people’s pets slept. For example, is a dog taking up all the space on the bed? Is a cat curling up right next to the pet owner’s head?

That would be a good direction for future studies, she said, “to ask owners more about where their pets sleep and how those pets are disrupting their sleep.”

Lieve van Egmond, a sleep researcher at the Uppsala Sleep Science Laboratory in Sweden, noticed that her sleep changed when she got her kitten, Bacco. She looked into the relationship between pets and sleep quality while earning her doctorate. She was not involved with the new study, but did lead a separate study that also used self-reported data to examine how pets may affect sleep.

In that study, published in 2021, van Egmond and her team  found that having a cat was associated with a shorter night’s sleep, but having a dog was not linked to changes in sleep. Still, she noted that more research would need to be done to establish whether the findings were a coincidence, or if pets were truly causing sleep issues.

She said the association found in the new study likely has more to do with owning a pet—and the many different factors tied to that unique cat or dog—rather than where those pets sleep.

“The age of the pet has a big influence on whether or not they keep you up at night,” van Egmond said. “If you have multiple pets, they can egg each other on.” 

With dogs, she said, it depends a lot on the breed and the activity level it needs. Making sure a pet gets plenty of physical activity and mental stimulation during the day and working with its natural instincts can help animals — and their owners — get better rest. 

Unlike dogs, cats tend to have bursts of energy at night, van Egmond said. That was certainly the case for Bacco, who would run circles around her apartment and, even if her bedroom door was shut, would wake her up by scratching at it to be let in, she said.

She eventually consulted a cat behavioral specialist and learned that if she played with Bacco before she was ready for bed, she would activate the cat’s hunting instinct. By being fed after that, Bacco would feel that he had successfully hunted his food and was rewarded with a nice meal in return. His natural instinct after that was to groom himself and go to sleep—just as van Egmond was getting ready for bed herself.

The new study “indicates that pets can influence your sleep, but we have to really take into account that pets are much more than a facilitator or inhibitor of sleep. They are part of the family,” she said.

Still, people can use this information to evaluate why they may not be getting enough rest, she said. “If they have pets and they have poor sleep, they should look at where this is coming from,” van Egmond said. If it is the pet, “see where the bottleneck is and how you can make it so the cat or dog will not interrupt you when you are sleeping.”

Research contact: @NBCNews

Thirsty for knowledge: Hydration may impact cognition in older women

December 31, 2019

A new study conducted at Pennsylvania State University suggests that both dehydration and overhydration may impact cognitive function in older women.

For the study, Penn State researchers investigated whether hydration levels and water intake among older adults was linked to their scores on several tests designed to measure cognition. They found that, among women, lower hydration levels were associated with lower scores on a task designed to measure motor speed, sustained attention, and working memory. No such link was found for men.

“The study gives us clues about how hydration and related drinking habits relate to cognition in older adults,” said Dr. Hilary Bethancourt, a postdoctoral scholar in biobehavioral health and first author on the study. “This is important because older adults already face increased risk of cognitive decline with advancing age and are often less likely than younger adults to meet daily recommendations on water intake.”

Dr. Asher Rosinger, director of the Water, Health and Nutrition Lab at Penn State, said the researchers found similar results when the participants were overhydrated.

“We found a trend suggesting overhydration may be just as detrimental to cognitive performance as dehydration for older adults,” said Rosinger, who was senior author on the study. “Because of this, being in the ‘sweet spot’ of hydration seems to be best for cognitive function, especially for tasks requiring sustained attention.”

Rosinger said the findings suggest older adults may want to pay close attention to their hydration status, by both consuming enough liquids to avoid dehydration as well as ensuring adequate electrolyte balance to avoid overhydration.

“Because older adults may not necessarily feel thirsty when their body is reaching a state of underhydration and may be taking diuretics that can increase salt excretion, it is important for older adults and their physicians to better understand the symptoms of being both under- and overhydrated,” said Rosinger.

Researchers have long suspected that dehydration may have an effect on cognitive performance. However, previous studies have largely focused on young, healthy people who are dehydrated after exercise and/or being in the heat.

Bethancourt said that because exercise and elevated ambient and body temperatures can have their own, independent effects on cognition, she and the other researchers were interested in the effects of day-to-day hydration status in the absence of exercise or heat stress, especially among older adults.

“As we age, our water reserves decline due to reductions in muscle mass, our kidneys become less effective at retaining water, and hormonal signals that trigger thirst and motivate water intake become blunted,” Bethancourt said. “Therefore, we felt like it was particularly important to look at cognitive performance in relation to hydration status and water intake among older adults, who may be underhydrated on a regular basis.”

For the study, the researchers evaluated data from the Centers for Disease Control’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, in which they looked at a nationally representative sample of 1,271 women and 1,235 men ages 60 and older.

Participants gave blood samples and reported all foods and drinks they had consumed the previous day. The researchers calculated hydration status based on concentrations of sodium, potassium, glucose, and urea nitrogen in participants’ blood. Total water intake was measured as the combined liquid and moisture from all beverages and foods.

The subjects also completed three tasks designed to measure different aspects of cognition, with the first two measuring verbal recall and verbal fluency, respectively.

A final task measured processing speed, sustained attention, and working memory. Participants were given a list of symbols, each matched with a number between one and nine. They were then given a list of numbers one through nine in random order and asked to draw the corresponding symbol for as many numbers as possible within two minutes.

Bethancourt said that when they first plotted the average test scores across different levels of hydration status and water intake, there appeared to be a distinct trend toward higher test scores in relation to adequate hydration and/or meeting recommended water intake. However, much of that was explained by other factors.

“Once we accounted for age, education, hours of sleep, physical activity level, and diabetes status—and analyzed the data separately for men and women— the associations with hydration status and water intake were diminished,” Bethancourt said. “A trend toward lower scores on the number-symbol test among women who were categorized as either underhydrated or overhydrated was the most prominent finding that remained after we accounted for other influential factors.”

The study has been published in the European Journal of Nutritiion.

Research contact: @penn_state