Author Archives: Courtney Michelle Walker

How Does Sleep Deprivation Affect Us?

In college, it is very hard to get a full night’s worth of sleep. With schoolwork, clubs, Greek life, going out, and studying, there is no way that you will be able to sleep for a long time. I swear I have sleep deprivation so I wanted to research it and see what that really means.

In America today, at least 40% of Americans are sleep deprived. A typical adult needs an average of 7-9 hours of sleep each night. However, obviously most people do not have time to sleep that much. Most people average 6 hours of sleep during the week every night. Sleep deprivation can come from a sleeping disorder. Apparently around 70 million people in America have insomnia, they probably just don’t know it.

Sleep deprivation is not a good thing, and can cause short and long term affects and issues. First off, it is not healthy to be sleep deprived. If you do not get a long good night’s sleep, and then you will have problems in the daytime with alertness. You will have a hard time remembering things, concentrating, focusing, and staying awake. This can include falling asleep while driving which is very, very dangerous and risky. Surprisingly, 41% of people driving have admitted to falling asleep at the wheel at least once. It can be as dangerous as driving drunk. It is estimated that sleep deprivation is the cause for one out of every five car accidents that occur.

Many long term affects follow sleep deprivation. Not sleeping enough messes with your biological rhythms. Of course it will stress your body and make you tired, but it also puts strains on your interactions with others, your work, and other parts of one’s life. Losing just 90 minutes of sleep can cause you to be 32% less alert the next day. As a result of this, your motor skills can become impaired and your hormones can fluctuate inappropriately. Sleep deprivation also causes your immune system to be weak. This will make you become sick more often. It can also cause high blood pressure, heart failure, diabetes, and many more serious illnesses. Not getting enough sleep can also severely affect your mood. It can also affect your body and make you obese.

Your body needs sleep because it is the time when your brain organizes itself. Sleep deprivation can also make you develop Alzheimer’s disease faster. This is because if the body doesn’t have sleep, then the central nervous system that cleans the brain is not able to empty the information. Then cerebrospinal fluid starts to fill up throughout the days. This liquid starts to build toxins in it. If one is also sleep deprived this can cause brain cell loss.

While you sleep, your brain sorts and stores information that you got that day. Once we get information, it moves from our hippocampus to our prefrontal cortex, to the neocortex region, where long-term memories are stored. Every night this process happens. Without sleep, we wont be able to remember things and false memories may occur. You will incorrectly process memories if you do not get enough sleep and may confuse your events that have happened.

Now here are some ways to try avoiding sleep deprivation in college

  1. Try to avoid caffeine at night or even during the day. This will keep you up at night and will make it hard to fall asleep.
  2. Try to wake up close to the same time everyday. Do not sleep in on weekends and try t keep the same sleep schedule.
  3. Do not watch TV at least an hour before bed.
  4. Do not do homework right before bed or use your computer.
  5. Put your phone down at least an hour before you want to fall asleep.


Why Can’t We Remember Being a Baby?

My parents always tell me stories about my childhood and when I was a baby. They tell me these funny memories and things I did when I was little. I always get mad because I don’t remember any of these things and I feel like they are making it up! But how come we don’t remember?

Most people, like me, can’t remember when they were really young unless someone reinforces these memories through pictures or retelling of the stories. We can’t remember because of a phenomenon called childhood amnesia.

One study showed that up until age 3, the children could recall events that happened during the past year. This recall of events continued through age 7. These children remembered about 72% of the same memories that they remembered when they were 3. However, it is interesting because once the participants turned 9, they could only remember 35% of the events they remembered when they were 7 and 3.

The researchers think that this happened because starting around age 7, children begin to store linear memories that start to include space and time. This new forming timeline of events causes them to forget the things that were not remembered this way.

When we are babies, we rely on episodic and semantic memory to remember things. Episodic memory comes from personal experience. Semantic memory is when you are processing ideas that do not come from personal experience, like numbers and colors. Over time, your episodic memory starts to become semantic. This is why you do not remember the actual event happening.

Scientists believe that we cannot recall events from our childhood because of how they are accessed and stored. When a child gets to age 2-4, their hippocampus finally connects these regions that store the information and puts it together. The connections let us remember long-term memories.

study conducted in 2014 blamed our circuits that are in our brains for not letting us remember our younger years. This study focused around the formation of cells in infant’s brains. Neurogenesis is the process of growing neurons. But babies however produce neurons at a faster rate in the hippocampus, where our memory is stored.

The researches then used rodents to test these new neurons. The researchers used drugs to lower the neurons in the rodents’ brains. And it turns out they were able to remember better. Increasing the neurons has the opposite effect.

Another really interesting hypothesis suggests that remembering being a baby could be connect to right and left-handedness. The Neuropsychology journal did a study on people who are right and left handed and their ability to remember childhood memories. They found that the people who were both left and right handed could remember more than the people who were solely right-handed.100 participants were in this study that were either ambidextrous or right-handed. They were asked to remember two events from their childhood. One memory had to be a story retold to them by a parent or other person and would later on be found out if it is true. The ambidextrous people personally remembered more memories than the right-handed people. They think this is because ambidextrous people have greater communication between the two hemispheres of the brain.


little child baby smiling lying under thr towel

Can Animals Predict the Weather?

Driving down the highway on the way to Penn State, we always pass a million cows. When the cows are lying down on the grass, my brother always says that it is going to rain because the cows can predict the weather. He says that they are saving a spot under them so that they have dry grass to eat after it rains. I always wondered if this was actually true, and if animals can predict the weather, so here is a blog on it!

This myth is a weather folktale that many people believe around the world. It is the belief that if cows are lying down on the grass, then it is about to rain. And if the cows are standing up, then the skies are going to be clear. This belief is thought to originate many years ago when weather radar’s didn’t exist. So people only had the environment to look for clues on what weather was to come.

Researchers at the University of Arizona wanted to find out if this was really true, so they put pedometers on the cows to see how much they got up and sat down. This study showed that the cows preferred to stand up when it is hot outside. When the cows are standing up, their body is more exposed to the cool air so they don’t overheat. When the weather cools down and when a storm starts to approach, cows are more likely to lie down. However, according to the Farmer’s Almanac, the cows lye down in the grass because they are eating their food and not saving a dry spot.

Besides cows, other animals are thought to be able to predict weather as well, like dogs and birds. Animals have different senses than us, which contribute to this. The most critical one is hearing. Animals can hear many sounds that people can’t here. Infrasonic’s are the low-pitched vibrations that are below 20 Hertz. Animals can also hear high-pitched sounds that we cant that are between 16 Hertz and 12,000 hertz. Cows specifically can hear up to 40,000 hertz. Only earthquakes and ocean waves produce those low infrasonic sounds, therefore only animals can hear them.

Researchers believe that animals like elephants can detect an earthquake earlier than other animals because of its large feet. Their feet can sense the shockwaves in the ground way before any other animal. They feel the vibrations under them that let them know they need to get to safety.

Additionally, animals can sense changes in air and water pressure. Hurricanes cause a decrease in both of these pressures and the animals’ notice. When they sense a hurricane or tsunami, they escape quickly.

To certify this, researchers observed a group of sharks. The researchers tracked the movement of the sharks during the storm Gabrielle and the hurricane Charlie. Once the air and water pressure dropped before the storm, the sharks swam deeper in the water where there is greater protection.

In conclusion, it is very unlikely that animals can predict the weather. However, it is certain that they are able to sense signals from the environment way before humans can.


Can Drinking Too Much Water Cause Weight Gain?

Every time I drink a lot of water, I notice that I gain a few pounds. I brought this up to my mom and she said it was just water weight that I’ll lose over the next few days. I never really understood what this meant and how our body works. I thought drinking a lot of water would help you lose weight. Here is a blog clarifying this!

Water is necessary for your body to function properly and is necessary for the transport of oxygen and nutrients. The Mayo Clinic says that water makes up 60% of our body weight and every system in our body depends on it. “For example, water flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to your cells and provides a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissues,” Mayo Clinic. “Your metabolism is basically a series of chemical reactions that take place in your body,” says Trent Nessler, who is managing director of Baptist Sports Medicine. By drinking a lot of water, one can keep their chemical reactions smoothly running. Even being just 1% dehydrated can make ones metabolism drop. Too little water can lead to dehydration. Additionally, Water helps to decrease your appetite so it helps you to not overeat. However, drinking a lot of water at one time can backfire and actually make you gain weight.

The extra pounds that I gain from drinking water are called water weight. If a person drinks a large amount of water at one time, their kidneys won’t be able to keep up and won’t be able to dismiss the extra water. This extra water that’s left over in your body disrupts the electrolyte balance that is responsible for regulating the water. One quart of water is equal to two pounds. This weight will be on the scale immediately after you drink the water, however, in about 24 hours it will cycle and your weight will return to the normal. Additionally, if a person’s diet is very high in sodium, and very low in potassium, then a person has a greater risk for holding water in.

On the other hand, water can also help one lose weight. Adding a lot of water to a person’s diet can help them not feel as hungry throughout the day. “When your body realizes it is getting enough water, it will allow you to release retained waters from your cells through digestion,” (Discover Good Nutrition).

Hypernatremia can come from drinking too much water. This occurs when someone drinks a lot of water at one time. Hypernatremia causes a persons blood and electrolytes to be diluted and also leads to nausea, confusion, seizures, muscle spasms, swelling of the brain and vomiting.

Stew Smith, a fitness author, had a client that lost 20 pounds in one week by just adding water to their diet. His client was very bloated and this was removed when he drank water because the bloating was caused by dehydration and a diet filled with a lot of sodium.

One study found that the people who drank water before they ate consumed less food during their meal. Approximately they consumed 75 fewer calories during each meal. It does not seem like a lot, but if you times it by 365 for every day during the year, then you can avoid eating 27,000 calories.

There is no universal standard for the amount of water one should drink in a day. It is different for each person and depends on their environment and their personal activity level.



Can too much TV lead to depression?

Over Thanksgiving break I spent the majority of my time just relaxing and watching TV. I am addicted to Netflix and watched multiple episodes of Grey’s Anatomy each day. While watching my Netflix, my mom kept yelling at me saying to stop watching because it causes depression and makes me loose brain cells. I thought she was absolutely crazy when she was saying that so I decided to look it up. That is why I am researching if this is really true. Will watching too much TV really make me have depression?

There’s a direct cause and effect relationship between how much time you spend watching TV and the likelihood of getting depression in the future. This means that if you watch a ton of TV over time, you have a greater chance of being diagnosed with depression.

Below are three scientific studies that were published to provide support on this theory:

Sociologists at the University of Maryland analyzed data from over 30 years that showed the relation between happiness and media use. They found that “happy” people watch about an hour less of TV everyday than the people with depression do. The people who were most happy watched television for about two hours a day or less. They spend their time with other people such as friends and family.

In Scotland a study using 4,000 people was conducted. This study found that 66% of these adults who watched over two hours of TV everyday were obese and had a higher rate of anxiety and depression. “The correlation between depression and television viewing habits was strong enough that good exercise habits had no ameliorating effect, even though exercise is usually prescribed as a panacea for depression and other types of mood disorders,” (American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2010).

In the US Nurses’ Health Survey, there was data collected for over 50,000 women for 14 years. This data included the womens television watching habits and their health disorders. This data showed that the women who watched over three hours of television each day are 13% more likely to get depression in the future than those who worked out more and didn’t watch TV as much. These people who did not watch TV as much lowered their risk of getting depression by 20% (study published in American Journal of Epidemiology, 2011).

These results do not directly prove that watching a lot of TV can cause depression, there could be confounding variables involved in all of these cases. Examples of some confounding variables are previously diagnosed disorders, obesity, alcohol habits, smoking habits, etc.

Additionally, depression has also been linked to other binge behaviors besides watching TV, like heavy drinking.

“Even though some people argue that binge-watching is a harmless addiction, findings from our study suggest that binge-watching should no longer be viewed this way,” Yoon Hi Sung said. Fatigue, obesity, and additional health problems are directly related to binge-watching. When people binge-watch they become distant from the real world, such as work and their family and friends.

How to Avoid This From Happening: Try to reduce the amount of time you watch TV to two hours a day or less. Some studies showed that people who watched over three hours were almost two times as likely to have obesity. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggest that parents limit their kids to only watching TV for about an hour a  day.


Can Food Really Make Me Less Stressed?

Whenever I am stressed or anxious, I resort to eating to make me feel better. I find myself usually turning to foods high in sugar, like candy or cookies. These foods give me comfort and for some reason make my stress level go down. I decided to research if eating really does make one feel better and take away their stress, like it does with mine!

Certain foods can trigger parts in your brain that make you happy

Like me, many people turn to chocolate or candy to make themselves feel better. Chocolate is known as a joy stimulant. A study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology showed that people who drank a chocolate drink once a day felt more calm and content than the people who did not.

Chris Kilham goes around the world to find plant based medication and says that cocoa boosts serotonin in the brain. “Almost every single antidepressant aims at either enhancing serotonin or keeping it in the brain longer. Chocolate or cocoa does that very well. Women do that prior to and during menstruation, when brain serotonin goes down. Chocolate will help to boost that back up. And a lot of people just plain like the mood that it puts them in,” Kilham says.

Chocolate isn’t the only food that can put you in a better mood. Here are some other foods that do the same thing:

Protein: Protein maintains a persons blood sugar to help have continual energy. And the more energy you have, the better mood you’ll be in. Some foods with high protein include greek yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs, milk, steak and chicken.

Calcium: Having low levels of calcium can cause a person to feel depressed. Low levels of calcium affect women more than men, so women should have a lot of it. Calcium is sometimes put together with vitamin D to regulate mood fluctuations. Estrogen helps with calcium production, therefore, having a lot of calcium can relieve depressive symptoms.

Fruits/Vegetables:  Bananas have up to 10 miligrams of dopamine and can instantly uplift your mood. “Dopamine is our primary reward chemical,” says Kilham. “You know that enormous amount of pleasure you get when standing under a hot shower? You feel that because your body is producing dopamine. So anytime you get extra dopamine, that’s going to have a beneficial effect on mind and mood.” Avocados are also good to eat when you are stressed. They have potassium, which lowers ones blood pressure. They also have vitamin B that you need to improve brain health and neurotransmitters. Asparagus also contains a lot of Vitamin B and folic acid. Neurotransmitter impairment can be caused by low folic acid levels. This can lead to anxiety and cause a person to be stressed. Greens like spinach have a lot of magnesium, which help regulate brain-adrenal. This keeps a person calm.

Coffee: Caffeine naturally lifts ones mood. Coffee improves mood and cognitive function overall.

Oysters: There is a study that shows when someone is anxious, there is an imbalance of copper and zinc. This ratio is responsible for the function of normal neurotransmitters. An increase in copper and a decrease in zinc can lead to anxiety. Oysters help balance the correct ratio and stress levels. Additionally, grains and legumes have phytic acid that also balances these two minerals.

Meat: Turkey especially contains tryptophan, which is a precursor to serotonin. Therefore, making you feel calm. Tryptophan in meat has been shown to reduce a person’s anxiety. Fatty meat is also good for a person when they are stressed. Omega-3 fats like salmon or beef decrease anxiety because they stop adrenaline from rising.

On the other hand, there are foods that cause a bad mood

Sugar: Changes in blood sugar level can cause mood swings, energy loss, and can lead to weight loss and diabetes.

Processed foods: Things that are added to processed foods, like trans fats, put unnecessary stress on the body. “Our bodies haven’t adapted to (some) manufactured additives. In some studies, it was shown that trans fats are linked to an increase in irritability and aggression,” says Pick.

So all in all, food does really help out with lowering stress levels. It was nice to know that healthy foods can also put someone in a better mood. Maybe I will try to resort to healthier options when I am stressed now instead of junk food!


Why Are Everyone’s Taste Buds Different?

Everyone says I am the world’s pickiest eater, and I find it annoying because it isn’t my fault that I don’t like most foods, it’s my taste buds’ fault!! I always wonder why my taste buds don’t like certain foods so here is a blog on it.

Papilla is the little bumps that we all have on our tongues. People who have a ton of bumps usually find flavors to be too much and don’t like the taste of things, LIKE ME. We have sensitive tongues so we like things mild and toned down. While people who do not have a lot of bumps on their tongue like spicy things and their tongues can handle foods like that. Another factor in liking different tastes has to do with the tongues taste bud’s ability to detect molecules in the food. Everyone can recognize the 5 tastes, but the different chemicals that we all have can make the range of those tastes differ.

In high school we did this taste experiment in psych class. To find out how sensitive your tongue is, you can put blue food dye on your tongue. If your tongue doesn’t get very blue then you have way more taste buds, and your tongue is more sensitive to taste. If your tongue turns very blue then you have less taste buds and you can usually have more flavors and spicy food!


People’s tastes also are different because of the sensory capacities for the different tastes. “The sensory capacities of your taste buds are dictated by the structure of the receptors on your taste cells, and on their capacity to excite the process of transmitting the taste message,” (TasteScience). The receptors catch the molecules that touch the front of the taste cells. After, they direct a message in the cell to the nerve endings around the cells. The different structure that everyone has come from their genes.

Another factor that plays into what you taste is trigeminal sensitivity. This means the different reactions to cold and hot. Foods of course trigger the tastes, but they also trigger the trigeminal sensitivity on the temperature. For example, some people like the cooler taste of mint, and some like the warmer taste that cinnamon has.

Studies and Research:

Roche Institute of Molecular Biology in New Jersey has researchers that just discovered a protein messenger inside of our taste buds. It is called gustducin and activates when we eat sweet and bitter things. Dr. Robert F. Margolskee said that gustducin performs as an intercessor for the sweet stimuli and a chain that sends messages straight to the brain to inform it that it is a sweet taste.

Dr. Stephen D. Roper does most of his research on a freshwater lizard. He does this because the lizard’s taste buts are a million times bigger than human’s taste buds. This makes it easier to record the cells responses to different food. Dr. John Teeter and Dr. Joseph Brand use a catfish for their research because it has taste buds all over its body on the outside.


Why Do We Yawn?

I’m always tired so I constantly yawn and I have always wondered why. I’ve also noticed that other people yawn when I yawn and I am curious as to why this happens.

You may think that you yawn because you are just tired, but that may not fully be the case. Believe it or not, the movement of yawning could come from the brain. When you are tired, bored, or stressed, your temperature in the brain changes and this is actually what leads to yawning. “Yawning- a stretching of the jaw, gaping of the mouth and long deep inhalation, followed by a shallow exhalation—may serve as a thermoregulatory mechanism,” says Andrew Gallup who is a psychology professor at SUNY College.

Why is yawning contagious?

Mimicry is probably the main reason of why yawning happens to be contagious. As people, we like to understand and feel other people’s feelings through empathy (Matthew Cambell). Matthew Campbell is a researcher at Emory University. For example, when you see someone smile, you usually smile as well just because they are smiling. “We catch yawns for the same reasons. It isn’t a deliberate attempt to empathize with you. It’s just a byproduct of how our bodies and brains work.” Matthew Campbell says.

Platek states that yawning is contagious for about 65% of people. Using an MRI, Platek found that the areas of the brain that are activated during contagious yawning, the posterior cingulate and precuneus, are used while handling our emotions and others.


In a 2007 study, Andrew Gallup discovered that holding warm or ice packs to one’s forehead affected how often people yawn when they witnessed someone else yawning. When the participants had a warm pack held to their forehead, they all yawned 41% out of the times they saw it. When someone was holding a cold pack, they only yawned 9% of the time. Everyone’s brain contains 40% of his or her body’s energy. This means the brain heats up more than other systems in the body. As a person stretches their jaw, they make the rate of their blood flow to their brain rise, Gallup says. Also as a person inhales, the air changes the temperature of their blood flow, which brings colder blood to their brain.

A thermoregulatory system mechanism can clarify why people seem to yawn most either in the morning or at night. “Before we fall asleep, our brain and body temperatures are at their highest point during the course of our circadian rhythm,” Gallup says. When we go to bed, our temperature goes down. Also when we wake up, our temperatures rise again.

There was a study done with mice studies of mice, It showed a rise in brain temperature after yawning. As soon as the mice began to inhale at the bginning of the yawn, the temperature went down. “That’s pretty much the nail in the coffin as far as the function of yawning being a brain cooling mechanism, as opposed to a mechanism for increasing oxygen in the blood,” says Platek.

However, different researchers at The Duke Center for Human Genome Variation discovered that contagious yawning might go down as people get older and may have nothing to do with empathy at all. “The lack of association in our study between contagious yawning and empathy suggests that contagious yawning is not simply a product of one’s capacity for empathy,” said Elizabeth Cirulli, the author of the study. They stressed that a better understanding of contagious yawning could potentially lead to such as schizophrenia and autism. It may seem weird but people with autism or schizophrenia didn’t yawn as much when other people yawned. More in depth research on this could maybe help us understand these two diseases more.


Is Coffee Bad For You?

I am so addicted to coffee and I can’t go a day without drinking it. When I am super tired in the morning I drink coffee to wake me up so I can start my day. Even though it disrupts my stomach, I still have to drink it. That is why I am going to do this blog on the question:

Is coffee bad for you?

The answer to that is yes, and here is why:

Coffee has caffeine, which increases anxiety and interrupts you in your sleep. This makes you have fatigue and can sometimes cause insomnia. “The caffeine in coffee potentially leads to some spinal bone loss in postmenopausal women if they typically drink more than three cups, or 300 mg of caffeine, a day, but don’t get enough calcium in their diet”, says Linda Massey, a nutrition professor at Washington State University.

Additional things that coffee affects are:

Hydrochloric Acid:

If you drink coffee on an empty stomach, just like I do, it creates hydrochloric acid in your stomach and that is why your stomach usually hurts when you drink it. Protein digestion is affected by a reduction of hydrochloric acid; and protein that you eat can permit to the small intestine before being broken down correctly. Undigested protein can lead to many health problems like gas, bloating, and could maybe even cause colon cancer.

Coffee or Laxative?

The coffee that you drink arouses the process in the digestive area that causes us to have to use the restroom. Some people actually drink coffee in order to go to the bathroom, just like a laxative. However, this is not good for you. Drinking coffee also promotes an increase in gastric draining. This means that the stomach’s fillings are flowed to the small intestines, usually before the food has been broken down correctly. This makes it harder for nutrients to be taken from your food. Additionally, this makes irritation and inflammation rise in the gastrointestinal tract and that is why some people have to use the bathroom after drinking coffee.


Another thing that happens to me when I drink coffee is I get heartburn. Heartburn is caused by coffee because coffee makes the lower esophageal sphincter relax. This muscle in your stomach is usually closed after you eat in order to prevent the stuff inside your stomach from going back to the esophagus, burning the lining of it with acid. Caffeine relaxes the esophageal sphincter so coffee is the main trigger for this.


People who drink coffee a lot can have trouble getting minerals into their everyday diet that are necessary to stay healthy. “Coffee affects iron absorption in the stomach and affects your kidneys ability to retain calcium, zinc, magnesium and other important minerals,” (HealthAmbition). Pretty much any disturbance that has to do with magnesium absorption is not good for the body because you need it to regulate your bowel.

Ulcers, IBS and Acidity:

The caffeine and acids that are in coffee that you drink can aggravate your stomach lining of the small intestine. If a person has stomach ulcers or gas problems it is highly recommend that they avoid coffee as a whole. My mom thinks I have an ulcer because of what happens to my stomach when I drink coffee. Ulcers are caused by Helicobacter pylori bacteria (Healthambition). The effect from the acid in coffee that it has on the stomach can weaken the stomach lining as a whole. Coffee also irritates the small intestine and can lead to abdominal spasms, constipation, cramps, and diarrhea. This is called irritable bowel syndrome and it is becoming very popular these days.

Studies to prove this:

Apparently, drinking over 4 cups of coffee a day can lead to an early death.  “A Mayo Clinic partnered study found that men who drank more than four 8 fl.oz. cups of coffee had a 21% increase in all-cause mortality,” (caffeineformer). This study can not fully account for these results because of outlying factors. Some of the people in the study probably smoked or were unhealthy, contributing to an early death as well.

A study conducted in 1973 in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that over 12,000 patients who drank 1-5 cups a day increased their own risk of having a heart attack by 60%. Another study at the New England Journal of Medicine in 1978, discovered a short-term increase in blood pressure after just 3 cups of coffee.

Johns Hopkins Medical School did a 38-year study with over 1,000 students. In 1985 it discovered that the people who drank 5 or more cups a day were about 3 times as likely to have a heart problem related to the people who did not drink coffee at all.

A more recent study in 2001 discovered that there was a 20% rise in urinary tract cancer for people who drank coffee, but not for the people who drank tea. They tested this again in 2015 and found the same results. That was also done again in a 2015 meta-analysis.

Overall, coffee is not the best idea if you need some caffeine in the morning, especially if you do not eat breakfast! You should find an alternative thing to wake you up like taking a cool shower or drinking tea.


Why Do We Snore?

Ever wonder why you snore at night? Or why someone you know doesn’t stop snoring while they sleep? Well I find snoring to be extremely annoying, so I am going to write this blog on it.

Why do people snore?

“Snoring is the sound produced by vibrating structures of the upper airway, typically during inhalation. Any membranous part of the airway lacking cartilaginous support, including the tongue, soft palate, uvula, tonsillar pillars and pharyngeal walls, can vibrate,” (Lynn A. D’Andrea , sleep specialist at the University of Michigan). While a person is asleep, their muscle tone reduces, making one relax. While this happens, it can make the extent of the airway space smaller, causing limits on how much air can get through. The restricted space in the airways causes the vibrating sound, which is snoring. When there are sudden stops in a persons snoring, it usually is total blockage of the airways and this can be due to oxygen levels going down quickly. It can also be due to the person waking up for a second. Snoring usually leads to poor sleep, causing a person to have fatigue.

Causes of Snoring:

Alcohol/smoking/medications- Drinking alcohol, smoking, and some medications, like tranquilizers, can make the relaxation of muscles increase, which leads to more snoring. Also, if you are a smoker and snore then you should quit smoking. Smoking causes airways to inflame and causes it to swell, making the airways even smaller.

Age- As a person gets older their throat becomes smaller. Obviously a person can not do anything about this, so changing your sleeping habits are the only thing you can do.

Being overweight- Weak muscle tone and fat tissues contribute to making someone snore. Exercising daily and eating healthy can sometimes be the only things you need to do in order to stop snoring.

Nasal/sinus problems- Congested airways and/or a stuffy nose clearly make breathing hard and usually leads to snoring.

Sleeping posture- Sleeping flat on your back can cause a person’s throat to relax and block their air passage. Changing your sleep position can help. Sleeping on your side can help snoring

The way you’re built- Surprisingly, men have narrower air pathways than women do, which is why more men snore. “A narrow throat, a cleft palate, enlarged adenoids, and other physical attributes that contribute to snoring are often hereditary,”(HelpGuide).

Studies on Snoring:

“New forms of treatment for snoring focusing on objective measures were needed. We tested the effectiveness of oropharyngeal exercises to reduce snoring,” said Geraldo Lorenzi-Filho, MD, PhD.

Some Exercises Are:

  • Pushing the top of your tongue to the top of the mouth and sliding your tongue towards the back
  • Put the back of your tongue against the bottom of your mouth while still keeping the tip of the tongue touching the bottom, front row of teeth.

A lot of snoring may lead to memory loss at an early age, according to a new study.

This specific study, conducted by Dr. Ricardo Osorio at NYU Langone Medical Center, found that the people who had trouble breathing when they sleep were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment way earlier than the people who had no issues breathing while asleep.

During the study, people were looked at if they had mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s. It found that the people with problems breathing were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment around age 77. The people who did not have distress breathing were diagnosed at age 90.

“The age of onset of MCI for people whose breathing problems were treated was almost identical to that of people who did not have any breathing problems at all,” (Dr. Ricardo Osorio).


There are some remedies that can help a person from snoring. There are devices that open the nasal passages while someone is asleep. Some are as simple as the “Breathe Right” brand nasal strips. These strips open nasal breathing by lifting and opening the passages of the nose. There are also surgeries and procedures that a person can get to open their airways and nasal passages. Laser surgery that takes away vibratory tissue from the back of the airway has a success rate of 50-100%.


Does Working Out Actually Make You Feel Better?

Whenever I am in a bad mood, my peers always tell me to go to the gym or go for a walk. But obviously when I am sad and upset, working out is the last thing I’d ever want to do. However, there is support to claim that working out and exercising really do improve your mood and make you feel better.

When you workout, you release brain chemicals such as endorphins. Endorphins interact with things in your brain that trigger a “feel good” feeling all around the body. “For example, the feeling that follows a run or workout is often described as “euphoric,” (WebMD). This can sometimes be known as the term “runners high” which puts you in a good mood. Endorphins act as painkillers in a way and they make you think you aren’t in as much pain as you really are. Endorphins make your brain much more active to take your mind off of whatever you are upset over.


Another source says that there is a different chemical in the brain that comes from exercising and increases your mood. Lifehacker suggests that when you begin to exercise, your heart rate obviously increases, so this tricks your brain into thinking you are stressed. “To protect yourself and your brain from stress, you release a protein called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor,” (Lifehacker). This is why we feel so peaceful and clear when we are exercising and after we finish.

A study conducted by Duke University in the 1990’s put depressed patients into three groups: an exercise only group, an exercise plus antidepressant group, and an antidepressant drug only group. After a few weeks, the drug-only group was doing better than the other groups. However, after 10 months, it was the exercise-only group that had the highest decrease in depression symptoms and stay-well rate.

Another thing that comes from exercise, which obviously makes you feel better, is an increase in self confidence. The common phrase “look good, feel good” is absolutely true, and as you workout, your body changes to make itself better. This will increase your self confidence and improve your mood because you will be happier with what you look like.

Dr. James Gordon said “What we’re finding in the research on physical exercise is, the physical exercise is at least as good as antidepressants for helping people who are depressed. And that’s even better for older people, very interesting, even more important for older people.” Another study found that 30-minute workouts done three times a week cut depression symptoms in half in young adults. That is incredible. In another study, adults aged 20 to 45 years who had depression did exercise alone to see if it improved their condition. The adults who did low-intensity workouts for three to five days a week had a 30 percent decrease in symptoms.

If you really feel lazy and don’t want to go to the gym, there are other solutions:

To improve your mood, you don’t even have to do that intense of a workout. A study by Dr. Andrea Dunn at Cooper Research Institute in Dallas, Texas found that people who walked for only 35 minutes per day, six days per week, had a decrease in their depression by 47%.  This study explained that a minimum of three hours of even just walking a week helps with depression and takes away the symptoms.Exercising works just as well as the medicine Prozac (PsychCentral). Another thing that can help treat your symptoms of depression even more is taking a friend with you on your walk. Being in contact with a friend and venting to them about your stress can give you emotional support at the same time as working out. “Meeting a friend for a walk can be a great way of combining casual social interaction with moderate physical activity,” (PsychCentral).

Another substitute for exercising is surprisingly cleaning. I like to clean when I am in a bad mood because it makes me feel in control of something and organizing helps. Cleaning has an advantage; it is that “you are able to see the results of your efforts, which can be a great motivator,” (PsychCentral). Another easy substitute for exercising is just walking your pet outside. Dogs for the most part are very happy and their energy effects you and makes you happy as well. An easy way to ease your depression is to bring your dog on your walk with you.

All in all, if you are ever in a bad mood you should get up and do something productive. If you do not want to do an intense workout at the gym, then go for a walk or clean your house. Any activity can help with your symptoms and help to make yourself feel better!


“Exercise and Depression: Endorphins, Reducing Stress, and More.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2015.

“Is Exercise the Best Drug for Depression?” N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2015.

“What Happens to Our Brains During Exercise (and Why It Makes Us Happier).” Lifehacker. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2015.

“3 Ways to Beat Depression Through Exercise.” World of Psychology. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2015.

Why are we ticklish?

I’ve always wondered why we are ticklish in some spots and why we laugh. So here is an explanation. Under our skin there are many nerve endings that alert the brain of exposure to things like cold and hot. When the nerve endings are stimulated by a person’s fingers or a feather, they send a signal to your brain. The touch that results in a tickling sensation is because of two regions of the brain.

The somatosensory cortex analyzes touch. The signal sent from the sensory receptors pass through the anterior cingulated cortex, which hosts pleasant feelings. These create the tickle sensation. This is a known fact because an MRI was used in studies to prove this. The MRI also showed that we can’t tickle ourselves. The cerebellum, responsible for movement, can sense when a self-tickle is coming and tell the brain. The brain filters out unnecessary information so that it can put its focus on important stuff. A touch from yourself is not worth your mind’s attention, so your brain throws out the information before it gets to your consciousness.

Charles Darwin and Ewald Hecker said that humor and tickling are related because both require a good mood to work. However, the truth is that humor and tickling aren’t related. Neuroscientists have explained that “we’re showing our submission to an aggressor when we are being tickled.” The areas of the body that are most ticklish are also most prone to injury. Through tickling, one person is teaching the other to defend them self.

Darwin suggested that we are ticklish in places where we aren’t usually touched by others. The bottom of the feet and underarms are the most common ticklish places. The soles of the feet diffuse pressure when we’re standing or walking so it isn’t commonly touched. The soles of the feet have a lot of Meissner’s corpuscles, which are sensitive nerve receptors close to the skin’s surface. “Your underarm has the axillary vein and artery, and allows access to your heart, since the rib cage no longer provides protection to the chest cavity at the underarm” (Clark). The neck is also another common ticklish spot because there are no bones.

Why do we laugh when we are being tickled?

The laughter that comes from being tickled is a defense mechanism to signal submissiveness. It’s an acknowledgement of defeat. Tickling and laughing activate the Rolandic Operculum that controls facial movements and emotional reactions. However, tickling laughter and funny laughter were found to be different. Tickling laughter stimulates the hypothalamus that controls temperature, hunger, tiredness and sexual behavior. It controls instinctive reactions to situations like flight or fight. This is why some people laugh before they are even tickled. ‘When you tickle someone, you actually stimulate the unmyelinated nerve fibers that cause pain,’ said Dr. Alan Hirsch.


Why Are There Seasons?

It is getting cooler now and the leaves are starting to fall off the trees. Summer just ended and Fall is beginning. Every place in the world experiences seasons.
What causes the seasons and why?

The earths orbit is not a perfect circle. We have seasons because the axis of the earth is tilted. Its tilted at 23.5 degrees. The earth’s axis goes right through the center from top to bottom. It spins around the pole and turns once a day. For six months the Northern hemisphere is tilted towards the sun, and the Southern hemisphere is tilted away from the sun. If you’re pointed towards the sun, then you receive more energy, therefore it is warmer. If it is turned away from the sun it is cooler.


This tilt is also the reason for the longer days in Summer, and longer nights in the Winter. In summer the day is long because the Northern Hemisphere is tilted towards the Sun. This is the Summer Solstice. In the Spring and Fall, they receive the same amount of energy from the sun and the days are the same. This is called the Equinox.


Here is a link to a video that explains all this in an easier way to understand.

Why Are There So Many Shark Attacks Happening?

This year there have been more shark attacks than there has been in 80 years. This summer, there were eight shark attacks on the North Carolina coast, a state record, from the Outer Banks to the border with South Carolina. This summer I went to beaches in North Carolina and South Carolina, and the lifeguards were constantly keeping us out of the water. These increased shark attacks are due to many reasons such as:


The summer was warmer than past summers, making many sharks head up the coast earlier in the season. Also, this year’s low rainfall led to higher salinity off the beaches, which brings sharks closer to the shore. Some studies have shown that certain species become agitated above a temperature of 80ºF. So  warmer waters could be altering the sharks behavior. Drought conditions reduce freshwater, creating an environment along the shore where higher salt levels attract sharks. A change in wind patterns could be bringing shark food closer to shore, therefore bringing sharks closer.


This year there was an increase in the number of menhadens, a fish that sharks love to eat. It was also turtle breeding season, which meant that sharks went to the coast to grab them while they went to the shore to lay their eggs.

Human Population

The biggest cause for these shark attacks could be the increase in the number of humans at the beaches. “ever-increasing amount of time spent in the sea by humans, which increases the opportunities for interaction between the two affected parties,” according to the Florida museum. A constant rising human population is a big factor.

How to avoid shark attacks:

  1. Stay in a group when you go into the ocean
  2. Don’t go too deep into the ocean
  3. Avoid going into the water in the dark at night
  4. If you are bleeding, do not go into the ocean
  5. Do not splash a lot if you are in the water
  6. Do not wear anything shiny or bright colored into the water
  7. Don’t swim after a huge rainfall or storm
  8. Avoid swimming near fishing boats


Why am I always tired?

Throughout the day I am constantly exhausted, even when I get a good nights sleep. There are many reasons why one can continuously feel tired, and ways to prevent this constant fatigue.

Not eating right

If you start your mornings with sugary and unhealthy foods, then your blood sugar level can peak and drain you out. Fatty foods and carbs have also been associated with sleepiness. These foods may fill you up, but they lack vitamins and nutrients your body needs to produce energy. should have a breakfast filled with protein, fruits, and vegetables. Not having enough iron can also lead you to feel tired. Skipping breakfast, the most important meal of the day, can also cause this exhaustion. Breakfast kickstarts your metabolism. Some good things to have are oatmeal, eggs, or greek yogurt.

Not drinking enough water

Not drinking enough water is a major cause of exhaustion. Dehydration causes a loss in blood volume, making your blood thicker. “This requires your heart to pump less efficiently, reducing the speed at which oxygen and nutrients reach your muscles and organs.”

On your phone at night

The light from your Iphone can mess up your “body’s circadian rhythm by suppressing melatonin.” You should put all devices away about an hour before you go to sleep. And if you are going to use one, then hold it about 14 inches away from your face.


Anxiety and stress can cause insomnia which leads to fatigue. “A survey by the Mental Health Foundation found that nearly a third of the population are severely sleep-deprived, often because of job and money worries. The Foundation’s report, Sleep Matters, suggests a link between insomnia and low energy levels.” Emotional stress can make you feel drained and also can keep you up at night.


Exercising more can cause you to feel less tired. “Exercise breeds energy.” You should exercise at least 40 minutes a day, 4 days a week. Exercise also releases endorphins which will leave you feeling good about yourself.


The Science Behind Gymnastics

As a gymnast sitting in physics class last year, I always wondered how gymnastics actually worked in relation to kinetics and dynamics. We learned in physics that during a skill, a gymnast’s potential energy at the beginning converts into kinetic energy. Newton’s first law states that the object at rest will stay at rest until it has a force to move. The object at rest is the gymnast and the force applied would be like swinging on a bar. The more kinetic energy and momentum a gymnast has, the more airtime a gymnast will have.



For me, it is hard to do gymnastics because I am tall. Most gymnasts are very short because it is easier for them to rotate because of their center of gravity. If you are taller, you have to have more strength to rotate your entire body over and to flip. There is a study that shows that gymnastics stunts your growth. They found that female gymnasts’ skeletal systems matured at decreased rates during gymnastics training, but then began to catch up during periods of reduced training and retirement. The researchers found that the more years a gymnast does gymnastics, the greater the decrease in growth. They also found that gymnasts tend to have more problems with their spinal growth.

Gymnastics is the most difficult sport  in the world. To be a gymnast, it takes balance, rotation, spatial awareness, and many more special skills. The force between the gymnasts’ feet and the mat, works to bring the energy of the gymnast to zero. A lot of force is used in gymnastics, even more than a football player uses. It is hard on your body, and that is why there are so many injuries in gymnastics.



First Blog

Hey! My name is Courtney Walker and I am in the College of Communications. My intended major is broadcast journalism and I am hoping to become a news broadcaster. I am from Leesburg, Virginia, which is 30 minutes outside of Washington, D.C.

I am taking this class because my advisors recommended it to me, and it sounds so interesting. I also hate classes like biology and chemistry, so I knew this science class would actually catch my attention. I am not a science major because I really have an interest in another field.

I have been a gymnast my entire life so here is a picture of me at a meet.


Here’s a video of Nastia Liukin at the 2008 olympics.