Author Archives: Jessica Heckler

Anger + Hunger = Hanger

During the past few years, people have coined a new state of being, not hungry, not angry, but hangry.  This term means that you are hungry and because you are hungry, you are angry about it.  In this definition, the hunger is causing you to be angry, but I’m not sure how scientifically accurate this is.  I am a frequent claimer of being hangry, often getting easily irritable when I have not eaten in a while, and I want to find out if there is any science behind the state of being hangry.  Is there reason why people become angry when they feel hungry?

It turns out that the body does react to hunger in ways that could relate to and cause anger in people.  As described in this article by a senior research fellow at the University of Sydney, hanger (the state of being hungry and angry) is a real thing.  According to this explaination, the beneficial parts of what we eat will be decomposed into simple sugars, amino acids, and free fatty sugars during the digestion process, which are nutrients that the body needs to function normally.  As you get hungry, less of these nutrients are left circulating in your blood stream.  When these levels get too low the brain begins to panic and acts in ways to raise these levels. Glucose is a very important part of brain function, when glucose levels drop too much, the brain must react to fix this.

A drop in glucose levels can cause many things, one of them being controlling your temper. Controlling your temper takes a lot of energy from your brain, and when glucose levels are down, your brain does not have enough energy to control this all of the time.  It has been found that the people who usually suffer from your hanger are people that you care the most about because you are more comfortable around them and your brain does not see the need to use its last bits of energy controlling your temper.  This is all too accurate for me, as my mom and my best friends are the people who usually experience my hanger fits.

Another reason for hanger is related to the common stress response known among psychologists as the flight-or-fight response.  In the brain’s attempts to raise glucose levels, the body releases a lot of hormones, one being adrenaline.  This release of adrenaline can make you act as if you are in the presence of stress and are reacting in a way of fight-or-flight.  By choosing to take the fight route, you may be taking the actions of yelling at someone or showing a short temper to defend yourself.

After reading all of this information, I am happy to say that there is mechanism behind being hangry that directly relates being hungry and becoming angry.  This to me is great news!! Now the next time you snap at someone while hangry, you can simply blame it on your body’s response to being angry.  Not only will the person who you snapped at probably become less angry at you, but if your lucky they might insist that you get some food in you too!! Since there is a known mechanism to hanger, it is quite easy to figure out how to overcome it.  Make sure to be smart when trying to combat hanger though.  Some foods are better than others!  Nutritional foods are always the better option because they provide more nutrients for your brain and your body.  Although Snickers candy bars commercials may suggest otherwise, candy and junk food will not help your body in the long run, so fuel up on a healthy, nutritional snack and strike back against hanger!


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Social Anxiety in Social Media!

Social media is a great tool to keep in touch with friends and see what they are up to even when they are not around.  People rely on social media to stay informed with news around the world and their home town, but there are many downfalls to social media too.  Our generation is among one of the firsts that truly let social media take over our lives, and we spend countless hours glued to our phones or laptops trying to stay up to date on everything.  This time spent on the internet reduces times spent with people, and I think it is hurting people’s ability to interact with one another in person.  Not only are we becoming less capable of carrying on a conversation with another person that is not over text, but a lot of people our age get nervous when they have to go out to a social gathering and talk to people.  Because of my own personal experience, especially while trying to meet new people and being thrown into a whole new social setting at college, my hypothesis is that the use of social media is correlated with an increase of social anxiety among teenagers.  People stress over the smallest social encounters, and it did not use to be like this when we were kids.

Many doctors also believe that there are many negative outcomes coming from social media.  According to this clinical report, doctors warn patients of other effects of social media on teenagers like forms of cyber bullying and depression.  Like in the real world, teenagers want to be accepted by peers online, and if they see others getting more likes than them or someone has more followers, they may become depressed.   This report also says that many usual signs of depression are shown by teenagers after spending prolonged periods of time on social media, especially Facebook.  Although this article does not specifically talk about anxiety, a lot of times depression and anxiety come hand in hand, so if social media is causing depression, this could be linked to the increased social anxiety that I have seen in teenagers. 

In this report from 2007, it explains that there is a lot of research supporting the positive correlation between loneliness and problematic internet use, however, the mechanism for this correlation is not as well-known and accepted.  The mechanism requires more research to be done on this topic, which is what this report is about.  This study is done to try to show that social anxiety might connect better with the negative effects of using the internet than loneliness does.  Compared to my original hypothesis, this study is explaining it in terms of reverse causation.  Here, they are explaining that social anxiety causes people to be lonely which causes them to go on the internet and rely on social media more as a form of companionship.  Using the internet to express themselves is easier than talking in person and potentially leaving a bad impression for people with social anxiety, so this does seem to make sense, even though it goes against my hypothesis.  An experiment was performed with 343 undergraduate students and it did show in the end that social anxiety leads to problematic internet use.  Although this study was of a decent size, more studies would have to be done with different ages and cultures in order to come to a general consensus.  This study was also on problematic internet use, not just everyday social media, so this could yield semi-different results than if the test was just done to show social media use, not problematic internet use.

Overall, even if social media is not causing teenagers to have more social anxiety and stress
about being put in social situations, it still has many harmful effects when it is used too much.  As an avid Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram follower, after reading these studies and realizing how much damage social media can be doing to me and my confidence, I think I will try to cut back on my use of social media.  It really is not necessary to be updating yourself every few minutes on what is going on in everyone else’s lives.  The most important thing is your own personal well-being, so turn off the social media and take care of yourself before becoming so consumed in everything else.


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The Anxiety of Alarm Clocks

As the semester goes on, the sleep deprivation grows more and more and it gets harder every day to wake up for those 8am classes.  The terrible sound of the alarm clock sounds, and somehow I get out of bed, running on a few hours of sleep and a cup of coffee.  I dread the sound of my alarm, but not only in the morning.  If I hear this tone go off in the middle of the day, I immediately feel anxious.  This sound makes me cringe at any time of the day.  In fact, every day I have my educational psychology class a watch alarm goes off that sounds exactly like my morning alarm clock, and instantly I feel a twinge of anxiety and lose all focus.  I began to think, maybe my brain is conditioned to feel this anxiety, associating the sound with having to wake up.  From this experience, I began to question the real reason why this sound brings along such anxiety with it.  My hypothesis is that our brains learn to associate this tone with anxiety after a long period of time of being paired together.  Along with this, I want to find out why this sound still gives me anxiety completely out of context in the middle of class.

In this study done by Philip C. Kendall at Temple University, he describes that classical conditioning, which is very common in psychology, is the reason for this anxiety.  Classical conditioning is a process believed by behaviorists that associates neutral stimuli with an unconditioned stimulus, and when this unconditioned stimulus is aversive, the neutral stimulus becomes unpleasant too.  In this article, it explains how a lot of anxiety is learned through classical conditioning as a child.  Since I have been using the same tone as my alarm clock since middle school, it makes sense that I would have learned to associate anxiety to this tone since waking up early causes me anxiety.  I am associating this sense of anxiety with the tone as well as with waking up early, and once it has been conditioned, this tone will cause anxiety in other environments.  This supports my hypothesis, but now I know how and why this works the way it does.

While researching this topic, I also found an interesting topic that could be a reason as to why the tone of an alarm clock gives me anxiety.  In this article in Psychology Today, it explains that since noise is a stimulus, it can cause people to react negatively to it, like any other stimulus.  It also explains that stimuli that can not be controlled can cause more stress than stimuli under our control because humans like to be in control of their surroundings.  Some people also have a stronger sensitivity to sound than others, and after reading this article, I have realized that I definitely fall into this category.  People who fall into this category are at a higher risk to be stressed by certain sounds, which can also add to the stress of the conditioning of the sound of an alarm clock, making this conditioned aversive stimuli even more likely to be stressful.

One way to try to avoid this classical conditioning of the sound of an alarm and anxiety is switching up the sound that you wake up to each morning so that you are not conditioning your mind to hate a certain sound.  This is also why people suggest that you don’t set your favorite song as your alarm in the morning because you will learn to hate it by associating it with the anxiety and stress of waking up in the morning.

Overall, my hypothesis was correct and the reason for being able to generalize this alarm clock sound over environments is due to classical conditioning.  Because my brain has paired this sound with the anxiety of waking up in the morning, I do not physically have to be waking up in the morning to feel this anxiety because the sound as well as the morning both now trigger the conditioned response of anxiety.  After learning about this, I think it is best to change the tone that you wake up to each morning fairly regularly so your body does not condition anxiety to a certain sound, and if you do not want to switch up your alarm all of the time, pick a sound that you will not hear regularly in your environment! That way you never have to feel the sudden panic that I feel as I hear the tone of my alarm coming from a watch in educational psychology every class at noon!!


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Class Sizes

As a secondary education mathematics major, class size is always something that comes into discussion in my education classes.  It seems that some of my professors have different opinions on this subject, and I want to know what is really the best for students, considering I will be in the classroom teaching these varying class sizes in four years.  Coming from a relatively big high school to a huge university, I personally never minded big class sizes, but a lot of districts, including my own, always fought for smaller class sizes anyways.  The people fighting, like school board members and politicians, insist that smaller class sizes are beneficial for everyone and that students will learn more with more individualized attention, but I am not too sure that it is always necessary to have super small classes.  I believe that students learn from each other and group work is essential, especially in math where teaching someone else how to do something can actually help you learn it yourself.  My hypothesis is that class size does not matter, as long as the students comfortably fit in the classroom, after the students’ initial foundation is built in the elementary and middle school years.  Once the students have a solid foundation to build off of, they should not need as much individualized attention.  I also believe that students should be able to self-regulate their learning by high school, and if they know that they need more individualized attention to go over a certain topic, they can stay after school or go to office hours in order to get the help that they need. Since this extra help is more readily available than in the earlier years of education, I think that smaller class sizes are not nearly as important in high school and beyond.

After doing some research, I was able to come across this meta-analysis, a study where multiple studies are taken into consideration and compared to come to a more confident conclusion, and I found that this question of the effects of class sizes is not an easy question to answer.  Many studies have been conducted on the question of class size and a lot of them came to very different conclusions.  In this meta-analysis, Ofsted’s study is referenced where it was found that it was not the class size that affected the students’ achievement but the teacher’s ability to teach.  However, in the Blatchford and Mortimore study it was found that there was a correlation between class size and student achievement showing that in the first few years of education smaller class sizes produced higher achieving students.  There are also other studies that come to more inconsistent conclusions about the effects of class sizes on students.

The problem with studying and conducting experiments on class size is all of the variables that are different from school to school and all of the different elements of teaching.  Looking at classes of different sizes taught by different teachers leaves too many elements not in control to be able to draw conclusions and be confident that these conclusions are coming strictly from class size.  One way to test this would be to have the same teacher teach two classes, one of a large size and one of a small size, with similar students in each class, like being from the same socioeconomic class and growing up with the same educational background, and giving both classes the same test to measure student achievement.  This would have to be repeated multiple times all around the world so that results could be generalized to the population.  Here, the null hypothesis could be that small class sizes have no beneficial effects on student achievement and the alternative hypothesis could be that small class sizes have beneficial effects on student achievement

Another interesting point in this meta-analysis is that teachers might just not know how to teach in each environment.  Each class size comes with different benefits.  Teachers with small class sizes have different opportunities than teachers with large class sizes, but being able to make the most of the class sizes is what really matters.  Class size might not be the issue here; it might be a that teacher’s ability to teach larger classes is underdeveloped.  Classrooms are very complicated systems, and based on the studies that have been done, there is not much reason to believe that class size is solely the reason behind the conclusions being drawn.  Perhaps the answer to this question on class sizes is not to raise taxes and hire more teachers in order to decrease class sizes, but to hire better teachers who are more highly trained to teach in either situation and who know how to make the most out of the opportunities in both classroom environments.

Looking back on my hypothesis, I now realize that it is too broad of a question, especially because of all of the different conclusions that have been drawn on this topic.  Even though according to Blatchford and Mortimore my hypothesis was partially correct, this has not been replicated enough and other conclusions have been made that do not support this finding. Class size is something that is very hard to study and in order to solve this question, experiments and observational studies will have to be planned very carefully in order to just be testing class size, and I do not see this happening in the near future.  Either way, I know that with my wonderful education here at Penn State, I will be ready no matter what class size to teach my students and make the most out of all the opportunities I am given.

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Music and Friends

Whenever I’m feeling stressed or down, I put on my favorite music, making everything a little bit better, but nothing beats jamming out to your favorite playlist with your best friends or teammates.  Music can have many effects on people, but as I ran into my friends dorm room this weekend and we all began jamming out to our favorite song, I began to realize that listening to music with friends has a much stronger impact on me than just putting in my headphones.  Then I thought back to high school volleyball, and how important our pre-game warm up playlist always was to our team, because it helped us all destress and get ourselves ready for the game.  None of us ever listened to music on our own because we believed it helped us more to all jam together.  After making these connections, I wondered if the effects of music on our moods depends on the social environment that we are in.  My hypothesis is that being in a social context with friends or teammates that you enjoy spending time with will increase the effects of music on increasing your mood and decreasing stress.

In this study done in Germany at the Phillips University of Marburg published earlier this year, scientists are testing how a social environment can improve the already beneficial effects of music.  Here, the null hypothesis would be that listening to music in the context of other people does not increase the decrease in stress provided by music, and the alternative hypothesis would be that listening to music in the context of other people does increase the decrease in stress provided by music.  Although the scientists told the participants what to do, there was not a control group and participants were simply recording how they felt, making this an observational study.  Participants listened to music in thirty minute intervals five times a day and answered multiple questions following it.  They continue this process for a week and then the researchers looked at the results.

From this study, the scientists were able to draw the conclusion that listening to music with other people and listening to music for the sole reason of relaxation both had the same effects on decreasing stress levels, which goes against my initial hypothesis.  However, if the participant was just listening to music to listen to music and not for the reason of reducing stress, then listening to the music with a group of people actually decreases stress levels more than listening to music alone.  Although this study conditionally goes against my hypothesis, this study was only done with 53 people, which is not a very large sample size, and it does not specify if these people were randomly chosen or if they were all from the same group of people, meaning it could not be generalized to other age groups and cultures.

In order to draw conclusions about this study across the board for everyone, researchers would need to conduct many more studies, using more people from a more randomized sample in order to create a meta-analysis incorporating all of their findings and coming to a conclusion that can be agreed upon.

Until more research is completed, I will still continue to listen to music and jam out with my friends because it always puts me in an awesome mood even on my worst days.  For all of you who enjoy listening to music to reduce stress, I suggest you try it too because I have always had great results from it! Even though there is not enough research to support this hypothesis now, the more healthy social environments you put yourself into, the better chance that you will be smiling and laughing with friends, so go ahead and jam out with them too instead of plugging in your headphones!


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The Benefits of Chocolate

In my mind, everyone loves chocolate, and when I hear that someone doesn’t, I seriously question how in the world someone could dislike such a sweet treat.  Chocolate is loved all over the world, and I was lucky enough to grow up only a short road trip away from the Hershey chocolate factory.  My whole life, I have assumed that since chocolate is candy, there couldn’t possibly be any benefits to eating it, except for making me happy.  About a week ago, there was a discussion in class on the correlation between the number of nobel prize winner’s in a country and the amount of chocolate eaten per person in the country which made me realize that maybe eating a little bit of chocolate every now and then might have potential benefits for my health.  Although in class we could not find a mechanism for why nobel prize winner’s and chocolate consumed has a strong, positive correlation, my hypothesis is that eating chocolate in moderation could have certain health benefits.

Before getting too far into this debate, let me just clarify: not all chocolate is the same chocolate, meaning that different types of chocolates are made with different ingredients and thus providing different health benefits and problems.  In this article, I will be focusing on dark chocolate because after a little bit of basic research, I have found that dark chocolate has the most health benefits, and it also so happens to be my favorite kind of chocolate.  A] huge point made in a lot of articles that I read, like this one, was that this dark chocolate that you are eating has to have a very high percentage of cocoa in it in order for you to see the most benefits from it, usually recommending at least 70% cocoa.  A lot of people have never tried a chocolate this rich in cocoa, but lucky for me, my Pop-pop makes homemade fudge and always has some laying around! This chocolate is a little bit harder to find in a grocery store because it is not the same dark chocolate taste that you would get from a Hershey’s bar labeled as dark chocolate.  This dark chocolate has a very bitter taste, which also means it has less sugar, another benefit to eating dark chocolate of milk!!

According to this article from CNN Health, dark chocolate has the most flavonoids when compared to milk and white chocolate, which makes it the healthier option.  Flavonoids come from the actual cocoa bean that is used when making chocolate and holds most of the nutrients that you will find in a chocolate bar.  People believe that the antioxidants found in chocolate come from these flavonoids which is why they are so important in chocolate.

After doing a little more research, I found that there really are a lot of health benefits that come from the cocoa bean, which can be found in higher concentrations in dark chocolate.  In this article written by Kris Gunnars, the many benefits are explained like antioxidants, increased brain function, decreased risk in cardiovascular disease, and improved blood flow, but it is also stressed that no one should go out and eat tons and tons of chocolate because it still does carry a lot of unwanted calories and there still is sugar in dark chocolate even though it is significantly less than you would find in a Hershey’s bar.  Gunners suggests eating a tiny bit after a meal will be plenty to see the benefits of the cocoa.

Out of all of the benefits of chocolate that I read, the one that caught my attention the most was the claim that cocoa could possibly increase brain function because I thought maybe, just maybe, that there was a possible mechanism behind the correlation we saw in class between chocolate consumed and noble prizes won.  One reason why Gunnars claimed that it improved brain function was because in some trials it has been shown that eating cocoa can affect the blood flow to the brain and show improvements in cognitive functions, especially in elderly people.  However, after reading this, I decided to do a little bit more research on this particular matter. 

Most of the research I found that discusses if dark chocolate can affect your cognitive functions and make you smarter come across the same problem we did in class.  Although there is correlation between high cognitive function and chocolate intake, it is unclear if chocolate makes people smarter or if smart people just generally like to eat chocolate, and it does not seem that there is an answer for this yet because it would be fairly hard to prove.  In this research, it does say that chocolate could in fact be making people smarter, and they have data from an experiment to support their hypothesis, but they also mention that there are a lot of other factors that could be leading to this increase in intelligence.

All in all, it has not been proven that chocolate makes your smarter, but it is still a serious possibility that scientists are continuously looking at and trying to understand.  Along with this benefit of chocolate, there are also many other health benefits that could make eating a little bit of dark chocolate a day a good idea, given evidence to support my hypothesis! This research will only fuel my love for dark chocolate, but I’m sorry for all of you Hershey lovers out there because the results you will see will not be as great as eating dark chocolate.  The next time you go to eat chocolate, opt for dark chocolate instead and tell yourself that you are just looking out for your own health.  It makes me a lot less guilty about eating this tasty treat!

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The Freshman Fifteen

Leaving for college is full of goodbyes from friends and family and getting countless words of advice from everyone as you give them one last hug, and I found it all too strange that one of my most common pieces of advice, besides the “study hard and have fun, but not too much fun” line, was “avoid the freshman fifteen”!  This seemed absurd to me.  Was people’s biggest concern really that I would leave looking one way and return for Thanksgiving break fifteen pounds heavier? Because I can assure you that this was definitely not up on the top of my list of freshman worries that could possibly lead to my downfall.  Of course, I have heard of the infamous freshman fifteen before, but I never really gave it a second thought, always assuming that it could not be real.  If anything, at a school as big as Penn State, I thought I might lose a few pounds between averaging 15,000 steps a day and skipping a meal here and there to study, so I decided to do a little bit of research myself to see if my hypothesis of the freshman fifteen being nothing but a myth is correct.

While researching, I found conflicting results on whether the freshman fifteen is a real threat to us or not.  Some stories swear it’s something that every freshman should look out for, and others say it’s nothing to worry about.  Even though I could just share the findings that confirm my hypothesis, I do not want to take part in any sort of confirmation bias that could provide you guys with false information, so here is what I found on both sides on my argument:


The Freshman Fifteen is REAL!

According to Jennifer Warner, the freshman fifteen should be one of every freshman’s biggest fears.  In this study, researchers found that freshman do in fact gain weight during their first year at college, but of those students that do gain weight, it is not a huge amount.  In just the first semester, these freshman gain about an extra 5% of their original body weight, but usually it adds up to around ten pounds.  However, in my opinion, the 25% of freshman that the statistic pertains to may have other reasons for weight gain than just being a freshman in college.  Yes, that is a lot of people, but there are also a lot of other factors that could play into this freshman fifteen.  For one, if you are a freshman who is choosing to go to parties and drink every night, expect to be plagued by the freshman fifteen because not only are you drinking a major amount of extra calories, but you are most likely eating more too.  This drastic weight gain could also be coming from your frequency at the ‘all-you-can-eat’ buffets or your lack of physical activity along with the many changes in your environment and behavior as you enter college.


It’s just a MYTH!

On the other hand, the next research study I looked at is telling me that there is no need to fear because the freshman fifteen is irrelevant to the majority of college freshman.  According to this post, most college students did not gain any weight in their freshman year, and even the students who did gain weight usually gained no more than five pounds.  Five pounds is a lot more manageable than fifteen, but still does show a slight correlation between starting college and gaining weight.  However, according to this study done at Ohio State University, most freshman only gained about three pounds, and in this same study researchers found that very few freshmen actually gained fifteen pounds during their first year, with less than one tenth of students reporting this significant weight gain.  Reading that only this small fraction of students actually gain fifteen pounds surprised me considering how much the freshman fifteen is played up in the media, but what surprised me even more was that one in four freshmen lost weight!!  Everyone always says that college is a new beginning, a fresh start, and I guess those freshman used this new beginning to change their diet and get in shape!

All in all, for most of you, the freshman fifteen will be nothing but a myth, conditionally proving my hypothesis to be correct, but the freshman four might be more realistic.  That being said, as long as you continue with a healthy diet and exercise regularly (including the hike to class from one end of campus to the other), you really should not be worried about anything!


Don’t let your guard down too fast!! According to this study, the majority of college students will gain weight while in college, just not all during freshman year like the freshman fifteen theory.

So in my words of advice, don’t believe that you have beat the freshman fifteen until AFTER you graduate, or you may be looking at the senior sixteen, and NO ONE wants that!!


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Lights and Depression… and a lot more!!

In class on Thursday, we read an article for our pop quiz on the effects of exposure to dim lights at night on depression, and instantly this caught my eye.  I have always been the kind of person to sleep with a dim light on in the room.  Whether it be a lamp that I left on or the television, very rarely do I sleep in a completely pitch black room.  My favorite time of the year is when my mom puts the window candles in so I can fall asleep with the light of the candle glowing into my room.  Naturally, I never saw this as a possible cause of depression, but since reading that it might be, I am starting to second guess my habit of sleeping with a dim light on.  When we read this article in class, I was very surprised in the findings that showed alterations in the hippocampus of hamsters after being exposed to dim light at night, and I was not too sure how accurate this one study on hamsters could be, so I decided to do a little bit more research on my own.


During my research, I found another experiment done on hamsters at the Ohio State University Medical Center, and in their research, it showed that signs of depression were observed after hamsters slept with a light on at night in a very short amount of time, one or two weeks to be exact.  To me, this seemed crazy, but with scientific evidence to prove it, it also seems to be very reliable data.  Another reason why to see this data as reliable is the experiment’s ability to be replicated.  In science, it is very important that the results can be found again to prove that it all did not simply happen by random chance.  In this experiment, the researchers also discovered differences between the hippocampus in the hamster’s that slept with a dim light on and a normal, healthy hamster that did not sleep with a dim light on.  In the hippocampus of a person with depression, similar alterations in the hippocampus to the ones in the hamster would be seen, signaling that there might be a connection between sleeping with a dim light on and depression.  The researchers hypothesized that this change could come from the lack of melatonin, since the production of this hormone is being stopped or slowed down by the light at night.  This is exactly like the article that we read in class, showing that this is a commonly accepted theory.

Now, I know most of you are reading this and doubting that a little dim light while you’re sleeping could really cause all of this, because that is how I felt after class on Thursday, but it seems that this data has some truth behind it.  According to the article that I previously referred to, anything that affects your production of melatonin will affect your mood.  While coming across this information on the effects of light at night on depression, I also ran into a few other reasons why not to sleep with a source of dim light on.  By interrupting the production of melatonin, there are also many other risks involved that I was never aware of before doing this research. Along with depression, a lack of melatonin can also lead to multiple other mood disorders.  On top of that, a lack of melatonin can also lead to obesity, which goes hand in hand with diabetes.  But the one that concerned me the most and got my attention was the correlation between too much light at night, or not enough melatonin, and cancer.

Melatonin is a very essential hormone when it comes to being healthy.  The brain usually starts to naturally make or produce melatonin right around the time that you should be going to sleep, between the hours of nine and ten at night, but any sort of light source will send messages to your brain to be alert and not go to sleep, causing the secretion of melatonin to be stopped.  Not only is sleeping with a light on bad for your health, but really any source of bright light after ten could be putting you at risk for major health problems.  This lack of melatonin can cause all of the problems stated above.


As I recently found out, melatonin is actually very important while to fight an deteriorate cancer cells, but not having enough melatonin could lead to a higher risk of developing cancer.  Melatonin also regulates your circadian rhythm, which is your body’s natural clock that keeps you on a normal schedule.  By upsetting your circadian rhythm with a lack of melatonin, it can increase your appetite and increase your weight.  In an experiment done with mice here, if a light was left on for the mice at night,  they would eat more of their food because they were awake longer even though they were given the same amount of food that they would get on a normal day, and from this, they gained a noticeable amount of weight, showing a strong correlation between light at night and weight gain.  However, a second experiment was then done where the mice’s food was limited to only the certain times a day that a mouse would usually eat, and then there was no weight gain.  This shows that the mice probably only gained weight because they felt the need to eat later at night since they were still up.  In my opinion, this is a real problem among people, because I know, at least personally, that when I’m up late studying for an exam, I always eat a midnight snack.

Luckily for us, most of this can be reversed!! In the same experiment done with the hamsters above, their symptoms of depression went away when they were given a normal night’s sleep without any dim light interrupting them.  I know that sometimes eight hours is a lot to ask for in all of our hectic schedules, so if eight hours is impossible, at least try to sleep in complete darkness when you do have the time to sleep.  Personally, my opinion on this whole subject has completely changed now that I am more informed.  I walked out of class on Thursday thinking it was crazy to change our sleeping habits after one experiment with hamsters, but now I think the best thing to do is to turn off all sources of light while sleeping. Like Andrew said at the end of class while discussing the last question of the pop quiz, you might as well turn off all the lights as a precaution because that sounds a whole lot better than being depressed! Better safe than sorry!


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Here We Go!

Hello SC200!! My name is Jess Heckler, and this is my first year at Penn State!  To tell you a little bit about myself, I love to play volleyball, soccer, listen to music, and although I might not be the best at it, I also enjoy photography.  Here is a picture I took this summer watching the sunrise over the ocean.


This summer I also went to a few concerts , and my favorite by far was seeing Coldplay perform at Lincoln Financial Field! To see my favorite performance of the night, click HERE!  I have been a Penn State fan my whole life and am so excited to be up here AND to finally get to sit in the student section at the football games!!

Now, time for the important stuff.  To be completely honest, I am taking this course because my academic advisor told me this would be a good course to take as a first year student.  Coming into my orientation, I had no idea what to put on my schedule, except for the required courses for my major.  After reading the description of this course I decided it would be a great fit for me since I do not need specific science courses but have always had an interest in science.  Growing up, science always fascinated me, and I loved learning the why behind everything that happens in this world, so I am looking forward to using my critical thinking skills and putting my mind to the test in this class.

Right now, my intended major is secondary education mathematics because I have always wanted to be a teacher and math has always been my favorite subject. Now, I know some of you are questioning why I would ever want to go back to a high school and be stuck there for the rest of my life, and really it’s a great question, but in my opinion, I feel like high school teachers have the greatest impact on students, whether it be good or bad, and can really shape the way that their students think.  So yes, I am actually looking forward to going back into a high school and changing the way that students think.  That being said, I have nothing against being a science major, it just doesn’t take me to where I see myself being in the future.  That and the fact that having labs for hours on end kind of scares me.  Anyone who is willing to do that must be extremely smart and motivated.  MAJOR props to them.

Not another science geek,