Snoring. It’s everyone’s pet peeve, yet about a third of the population does it, and hardly anyone understands the science behind it. In technical terms, snoring is caused by the vibration of respiratory structures due to obstructed air movement during breathing. Snoring is one of many manifestations of sleep-disordered breathing (SDB), a medical condition that affects millions of people each year.
Scientists have long been interested in the connection between obesity and SDB, and the connection between SDB and executive functioning, or the ability to get things done. In a study recently released in the Journal of Pediatric Neuropsychology, two faculty members in BYU’s Department of Psychology, studied the connection in obese adolescents and found that they were much more likely to snore and thus have impaired executive function skills.
Doctors Shawn Gale and Chad Jensen state that even though obesity is itself one of the most common medical conditions people suffer from, it is unique in its potential to lead to other even more serious illnesses. It has often been associated with sleep apnea and other SDBs, particularly in the young. Also, SDB in children has been associated with behavioral difficulties and impairment in cognitive and academic function.
Gale, Jensen, and BYU graduate student Jonathan Mietchen sampled 37 adolescents enrolled in a weight loss program. Findings from their study suggest that these adolescents, whose obesity made them at risk for SDB, were rated by a caregivers as having “significantly poorer executive functioning compared to adolescents at minimal risk for SDB.”
Given the fact that the adolescents sampled in this study were enrolled in a weight-loss program, Gale and Jensen suggest that the existence of sleep problems be taken into account by caretakers and clinicians when determining the effectiveness of such programs. It may also be useful for parents and caregivers of obese adolescents to note that there is thus hope for the improvement of not only physical health but mental health and cognitive functioning–life functioning–when that adolescent loses weight.
The faculty and staff of BYU’s College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences are passionate about improving the understanding of how people work, how families work, and what makes societies tick. We spend a lot of time researching, teaching, and writing about these things. Other people seem to be interested in those things as well, as witnessed by the fact that five of the top-10 most read stories produced by BYU News in the last 12 months are stories about research done by faculty in our college. We’re proud of their great work, and excited to see the effects of it in peoples’ lives. Here are those five stories, in order of Facebook likes:
Research from psychology professor and lead study author Julianne Holt-Lunstad shows that loneliness and social isolation are just as much a threat to longevity as obesity. “We need to start taking our social relationships more seriously,” she said.
The study, published in the Perspectives on Psychological Science, took into account that loneliness looks different to different people. Someone may be surrounded by many people but still feel alone, while others may purposely isolate themselves because they prefer to be alone. The effect on longevity, however, is much the same for those two scenarios.
a study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine in May that found that couples in ambivalent relationships experience higher blood pressure than their supportive-couple counterparts. This means that their relationship has both high levels of positive and negative elements, similar to what some would call “frenemy” relationships.
Birmingham remarked that previous studies about health and marriage look at marriage quality uni-dimensionally, qualifying it as either supportive or not supportive. This study takes into consideration realistic relationships that aren’t always perfect, but aren’t always awful either.
The study was quoted in Time, New York Times, Deseret News, KSL.com, and Details magazine.
Sociology professor Scott Sanders says the findings of a study he co-authored with researchers at Cornell and LSU dispel the notion that most impoverished Americans don’t work so they can rely on government handouts.
“The toxic idea is if we clump all those people together and treat them as the same people, then we don’t solve the real problem that the majority of people in poverty are working, trying to improve their lives, and we treat them all as deadbeats,” Sanders. Science magazine says the data from this study is relevant to the upcoming presidential election, as candidates discuss ways to help the working poor move out of poverty.
“Parents’ beliefs about their children, not just their actual parenting, may influence who their children become,” said BYU professor and lead author Alex Jensen. The study, published in June in the Journal of Family Psychology, looked at 388 teenage first- and second-born siblings and their parents from 17 school districts in a northeastern state. The researchers asked the parents which sibling was better in school. The majority of parents thought that the firstborn was better, although on average, siblings’ achievement was pretty similar.
Now, drum roll please… the study that garnered the most attention on BYU news channels was about…elementary school lunches?
This study was shared by over 4,000 people on Facebook, and cited in USA Today, The Washington Post, the New York Times, Time magazine, U.S. News and World Report, Yahoo News, CBS News, the Salt Lake Tribune, LiveScience, Deseret News, and NPR. What was it that was so important? It was the finding that when recess takes place before kids sit down to eat lunch, instead of after, fruit and vegetable consumption increases by 54%.
“Recess is a pretty big deal for most kids, said Joe Price, BYU economics
professor. “If you have kids choose between playing and eating their veggies, the time spent playing is going to win most of the time.”
Price is the lead study author and collaborated with Cornell’s David Just for the paper in Preventive Medicine. Their sample involved almost 23,000 data points. Price and Just noted that, “increased fruit and vegetable consumption in young children can have positive long term health effects. Additionally, decreasing waste of fruits and vegetables is important for schools and districts that are faced with high costs of offering healthier food choices.”