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Science & Spirit: Brain fog, deep sleep for anxiety, and why you should lace up those running shoes.

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This week, the world of science made some interesting connections. Researchers found that inflammation may be the cause of brain fog, that deep sleep stages calm an overly anxious mind, and that any amount of running is better than no running. For details, read on.

Is Inflammation Making You Sluggish?

When we’re not feeling well physically, we often feel equally cruddy mentally. Brain fog rolls in, and our thinking slows to a snail’s pace. This can be almost as awful as the physical illness itself. A team of researchers has discovered the link between this state of mental fog and how the body responds to illness. The culprit: inflammation. They found that the part of the brain network associated with alertness is sensitive to being affected by inflammation. If you suspect inflammation is making your brain feel sluggish, read our story, “How to Fight Inflammation with Food.”  

Deep Sleep Calms the Brain

After a study done on sleep-deprived volunteers, researchers at the University of California-Berkeley say that poor sleep directly contributes to anxiety. “Without sleep, it’s almost as if the brain is too heavy on the emotional accelerator pedal, without enough brake,” wrote the study’s senior author, Matthew Walker. Walker is a UC Berkeley professor of neuroscience and psychology. Though sleep is rarely prescribed to people as a way of lowering anxiety, this study found that deep, NREM sleep states can calm an overly anxious brain. Here is a recipe for a deep sleep tonic to help you get in the rest zone.  

Run, Even a Little

If you want to live longer, give running a go. You don’t have to run far, and you don’t have to run fast. That’s the good news from a meta-analysis of 14 other studies on running, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. In the study, running was associated with a 30 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and a 23 percent lower risk of death from cancer. Even running once a week, or in shorter amounts (less than 50 minutes a session), or slowly, still was better than not running at all, when it came to health and longevity benefits. So, if you are a slow, infrequent runner, take heart. And keep trying. 

Want more inspiration? Read “How to Add Meaning to Your Movement.”


Kathryn Drury Wagner

Spirituality & Health’s Wellbeing Editor, Kathryn Drury Wagner, is based in Savannah. She’s been a contributor to the magazine for many years, and she loves sharing ways to build a healthy, mindful, and sustainable lifestyle. 


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