So, if you're looking at the connection between fitness and cognitive performance in older adults across a bunch of tasks, what you find is generally the same pattern. What you find is that across a bunch of different cognitive tasks from executive function to spatial reasoning to even response speed, those who are exercising more are actually doing better. So, the kind of secret they are trying to figure out when you're trying to learn orgo, and you don't get it or these neat insights that you want to have that are really relevant for that cool paper, all of those things will not come unless you get the required amount of sleep.
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The final one is two sets of things I think you should be doing. They both fall under the guideline of we should be seeking out not good grades and not a big salary but we should be seeking out healthier practices. And this is the point where I get to be a terrible salesman in the course, where I could pretend that I have a happy pill, like the panacea pill, to just make you happier over time and have all these cheesy things that you see on infomercial that will make you happier. It will give you better grades even though you’re not supposed to care about that, but it will make you look better even though you’re not supposed to care about your looks but it will do that for you too. It will also have no side effects and it’s legal. It’s not like some sketchy drug and it’s even free. Like, what could this horrible, wonderful thing be? Well, it turns out that it is two things that are completely available to you all the time but we forget the importance of. The first one of these is just simply exercise. Sounds really cheesy. You think you want a huge salary, but really simple increases in your physical activity all the time can have huge, huge psychological benefits. Even huger benefits than the other mechanisms we have for boosting happiness chemically. And so, this is what Babyak and colleagues looked at. They tried to see whether or not they could use an exercise intervention to really increase happiness in a population that was really suffering from happiness deficits, namely people with major depression. And so, they assigned people to one of three conditions for six weeks, either exercise which meant you just three times a week did 30 minutes of your own choice of exercise or a medicine condition they gave you the antidepressant Zoloft or they did both where they kind of combined both of these together. And the question is, when you come back after 16 weeks, can I look ten weeks after those 16 weeks of your relapse rate and are you still suffering from depression? Have you relapsed or are you happy? And here’s what they find. It’s pretty incredible data. So, if you look at the percentage of people who are fully recovered, you get a certain number in the medicine condition maybe just over half are recovered. But if you look at an exercise condition, about 90 percent of the people 10 weeks on are actually recovered from this. Oddly enough, it’s actually even better than the condition where I’m giving you Zoloft and exercise. But the point is that, just exercising three times a week, for 30 minutes a day can give you as much happiness bang for your buck as taking an SSRI or taking something like Zoloft. Pretty cool. In addition, we know that exercise can boost not just our mental health well-being but also our brain function and our cognitive function with it. And Hillman and colleagues have this wonderful review, where they go through all this different evidence that exercise actually helps cognitive function. Again, you guys shouldn’t worry about grades but if you’re worried about learning outcomes which is what you should be worried about then adding in exercise can help you with that, too. And they show this in a couple domains. One is a domain of looking at physical performance measured in physical fitness scores and cognitive achievement among kids. So, this is elementary school kids. And if you look at correlations between these, what you find is that both in terms of reading achievement and mathematics achievement, there’s a correlation with physical fitness scores. So, a higher your aerobic activity, the more likely you are going to be to be cognitively achieving these domains. Again, it’s a correlation but it suggests this connection between physical health and physical fitness and cognitive achievements. And we see this at the other end of the developmental spectrum, too. So, if you’re looking at the connection between fitness and cognitive performance in older adults across a bunch of tasks, what you find is generally the same pattern. So, if you look at the size of the effect in cognitive performance across older adults who are kind of deemed exercise worthy, who are kind of exercising more than controls. What you find is that across a bunch of different cognitive tasks from executive function to spatial reasoning to even response speed, those who are exercising more are actually doing better. If you want to stay cognitively with it into old age, you should start not doing more cognitive kind of exercises, but just get to the gym and do some physical exercises. And so, all of this is a kind of happy pill panacea. It’s going to make you look better and be happier, it’s going to increase your grades, and it’s totally free and you can just do it. So, adding these healthy practices and exercising can actually help you a lot. The final one is an especially important one around this time of year of midterms. Same happy pill panacea will make you look better, it will improve your grades, will improve all this stuff and it’s totally free. What is it? It is sleep. Yes, this thing. You might have forgotten what sleep looks like, undergraduate students, but this is what it is. It’s not this of you at bass library looking sad, right? It’s this. But we all know sort of the benefits of sleep but so many of you, I won’t survey to ask how many hours of sleep they are getting in this midterm season. But in an effort to kind of study for things or get good grades, all that stuff, you end up not prioritizing in your sleep. But you do it to your own deficit because it turns out that actually making sure you get sleep can help you both in terms of being happy which is what you want all good grades and all that stuff to do. But also, it can help you in terms of actually getting good grades and actually having those learning outcomes that you should be prioritizing. And so, how do we know this? Well, from lots of studies, but I’ll just tell you about one of them. So, Dinges and colleagues actually looked at this. They tested subjects’ mood during normal sleep which they defined as having about seven hours of sleep per night, and then they did an intervention where they deprived people of sleep. So, now they’re in deprived sleep four point. You guys are laughing because some of you don’t think of deprived sleep at five hours a night. But it is very deprived. Watch these effects. This is terrible, but they deprive you of sleep and then gave them sleep again at the end. And they tested if subjects reported different mood effects. They also looked at whether or not they experience physical or emotional complaints over time so they give a people complaint book. You just tick off when you had emotional or physical complaints like you didn’t feel good and so on. And so, here’s what they find. This is the measure of positive mood over time and so higher scores are more positive mood. This is when folks were getting the normal amount of sleep, seven hours a night. Here’s what happened during that time period where their sleep was restricted again, just five hours a night. Here’s the decrease for five hours a night of positive mood and then just so you think it’s not something weird about this time of year of these subjects, when they go back to sleeping seven and a half hours a night, their mood kind of pops back up. Although it has a deficit, it takes a while to kind of pop back up, it eventually does. What about physical and emotional complaints in your little emotional complaint log. They have one night a normal sleep in the white and then the rest those are the nights of restricted sleep. And you can basically see what happens which is that your number of physical and emotional complaints skyrocket. You think there’s just bad things going on in your life, but really it’s just that you’re not sleeping enough. So, that’s the kind of happiness side. Sleeping more and sleeping about seven or eight hours a night can make you happier. But I can’t help but remind you that sleeping has all kinds of other benefits, too. Maybe even the benefits of the things that you’re not sleeping because of like you’re worried about learning the material in some class and so on. Turns out that sleep can actually help your academic performance and your cognitive performance. How do we know that? Well, lovely study by Walker and colleagues was actually testing what happens to cognitive performance after sleep. They did that in a cute way. They taught people a kind of cognitive task and motor task, and they did people’s training and testing either after a long period of being awake. So, he trained at 10:00 a.m. and they tested them at 10:00 p.m. or they train them at 10:00 p.m. and then tested them at 10:00 a.m. right after people had a certain amount of sleep and they made sure everybody slept for the required number of hours. And the question is how much of a boost you get from training to test? And what you find if you look at their performance over time is that, yeah, you get a boost from training to test during your waking hours, but you get way more of a boost from training to test after you’ve sleeped. Just the act of sleeping allows you to consolidate things and to actually do better, which is why some sleep researchers actually advocate taking naps in the middle of the day to get a little bit of a cognitive boost there, too. But, this comes not just in the context of kind of learning in particular. It comes in a context of a certain form of learning that we think is so important at places like Yale where you’re kind of having this insight learning where you’re kind of thinking outside the box and doing something new. Do you need sleep for that? Well, in fact, Wagner and colleagues found that it seemed like you do. They actually gave subjects a test that involved learning a bunch of stimulus response sequences like just memorizing a bunch of these things. But they set up the pattern in kind of a cool way where there was this secret rule that could improve performance if you figured it out. But they didn’t tell subjects what the rule was. The question was, did subjects have the insight to figure out that rule on their own and did sleep affect that? Did they do that more or less with sleep or without? And so, they tested it in a similar way to that last study except they tested during the day and at night, one night where you got to sleep and one night where you were woken up. So, you were tested at night, but you didn’t sleep during the night. So, they can see if it’s an effect of night or an effect of sleep. And here is what they find, hopefully soon. Hopefully, that will come back on. Basically, what they find is that not only does sleep increase the number of insights that you can have in this task, but it increases it over a three-fold. So, the kind of secret they are trying to figure out when you’re trying to learn orgo, and you don’t get it or these neat insights that you want to have that are really relevant for that cool paper, all of those things will not come unless you get the required amount of sleep. And so, since the sleep is the one of these many things that I told you about that you guys are making furrowed faces like this is never going to happen for me. I just want to do more a scare quotes about the importance of this. This is from HuffPo about what you’re losing. In addition to happiness, after one night of bad sleep, here is what we know happens. You’re hungrier and likely to eat more later, you’re more likely to have an accident on the job, you’re probably not looking your best or looking very approachable because you look like that horrible picture, your immune system is going down you’re likely to have a cold, you’re actually losing brain tissue. There’s research saying that after one night of sleep, more likely to get emotional and less focused and having memory problems, all those complaints we talked about before. After chronic sleep deprivation, which again is defined as five hours a night and it’s sleep deprivation. So, chronic times having less than five hours or less of sleep, you are increasing your risk of death, decreasing your sperm count, gentlemen, increasing your risk of heart disease, increasing your risk for diabetes, increasing your risk for some cancers, increasing your risk of obesity, and quadrupling your stroke risk. And so, all this goes to say, go get sleep. It’s a panacea of all the happiness stuff. All the reasons you guys took this course, you can achieve just by sleeping a couple extra hours a night. So, let’s try to see if we can make that good practice. Okay, so that’s kind of the end of some of these really happy pill-like, happy practices that help us more than we think.
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