Livin' on the MDedge

Even COVID-19 can’t stop a true optimist


Squeezing a little lemonade out of COVID-19

We like to think of ourselves as optimists here at LOTME. A glass is half full, the sky is partly sunny, and our motto is “Always look on the bright side of insanity.” Then again, our motto before that was “LOTME: Where science meets stupid,” so what do we know?

Aleutie/iStock/Getty Images

Anyway, it’s that upbeat, can-do attitude that allows us to say something positive – two somethings, actually – about the insanity that is COVID-19.

Our journey to the bright side begins, oddly enough, in the courtroom. Seems that our old friend, the face mask, is something of a lie-detector aid for juries. The authors of a recent literature review of studies on deception “found that facial expressions and other forms of nonverbal behaviour are an unreliable indicator of deceit,” according to a statement from the University of Portsmouth, where the analysis was conducted.

The one study that directly examined the role of face coverings in court proceedings showed that, “by taking away the distraction of nonverbal behaviours, observers had to rely on speech content, which turned out to be better for detecting lies,” the university said.

The second stage of our positivity trek brings us to the National Trends in Disability Employment monthly update, where we see a fourth consecutive month of gains for people with disabilities despite the larger trend of declines among those without disabilities.

Here are some numbers from the Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability to tell the story: From October to November, the employment-to-population ratio increased 4.2% for working-age people with disabilities, compared with 0.4% for people without disabilities. At the same time, the labor force participation rate rose 2.4% for working-age people with disabilities and just 0.1% for working-age people without disabilities.

Both indicators surpassed their historic highs, Andrew Houtenville, PhD, director of the Institute on Disability, said in the update. “These gains suggest that the restructuring resulting from the pandemic may be benefiting people with disabilities. Ironically, it may have taken a pandemic to shake the labor market loose for people with disabilities.”

And that is how a world-class optimist turns one gigantic lemon into lemonade.

Cut the cheese for better sleep

So, we’ve already talked about the TikTok lettuce tea hack that’s supposed to help us sleep better. Well, there’s another food that could have the opposite effect.

Cartoon illustration of a mouse resting on a block of cheese seamartini/iStock/Getty Images

According to an article from the BBC, cheese has something of a reputation. Ever since the 1960s, when a researcher noted that one patient’s nightmares stopped after he quit eating an ounce or two of cheddar each night, there’s been speculation that cheese gives you weird dreams. Another study in 2005 suggested certain types of cheese cause certain types of dreams. Blue cheese for vivid dreams and cheddar cheese for celebrity cameos.

But is there any truth to it at all?

Regardless of what we eat, going to bed hungry could cause vivid dreams, according to research by Tore Nielsen, director of the University of Montreal’s dream and nightmare lab. The 2015 study showed that high lactose could have an effect on dreams.

In that study, 17% of participants said their dreams were influenced by what they ate, but the kicker was that dairy products were the foods most reported as causing the weird dreams, the BBC noted.

“It’s likely an indirect effect in that lactose produces symptoms like gas, bloating and diarrhoea and influences dreams, as dreams draw on somatic sources like this. And if you have certain kinds of intolerances, you still may be likely to eat those foods sometimes,” Mr. Nielsen told the BBC.

There’s also the theory that it’s all in the timing of consumption. Are you the type of person to sneak a slice of cheese from the fridge late at night? (Nods.) Same.

“One reason cheese and nightmares come about is that eating later before bed is more likely to disrupt sleep, and cheese can be hard to digest,” said Charlotte Gupta, a research fellow at Central Queensland University in Australia and a coauthor of a 2020 review on how diet affects our sleep.

So as tempting as it is, maybe skip sprinkling Parmesan cheese shreds into your mouth at the open fridge before bed.


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