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Weighted blankets found to improve sleep of insomnia patients

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Using weighted chain blankets may lead to better sleep maintenance, a higher daytime activity level, and reduced symptoms of fatigue, depression and anxiety among insomnia patients with psychiatric disorders, says a study.

The researchers found that participants in the weighted blanket group were almost 26 times more likely to experience a decrease of 50 per cent or more in their insomnia severity compared with the control group, and they were nearly 20 times more likely to achieve remission of their insomnia.

Positive results were maintained during a 12-month, open follow-up phase of the study.

“A suggested explanation for the calming and sleep-promoting effect is the pressure that the chain blanket applies on different points on the body, stimulating the sensation of touch and the sense of muscles and joints, similar to acupressure and massage,” said principle investigator Mats Alder, consultant psychiatrist at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.

“There is evidence suggesting that deep pressure stimulation increases parasympathetic arousal of the autonomic nervous system and at the same time reduces sympathetic arousal, which is considered to be the cause of the calming effect.”

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, involved 120 adults previously diagnosed with clinical insomnia and a co-occurring psychiatric disorder: major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or generalised anxiety disorder.

Participants were randomised to sleep for four weeks at home with either a chain-weighted blanket or a control blanket.

Participants assigned to the weighted blanket group tried an 8-kg chain blanket at the clinic.

Ten participants found it to be too heavy and received a 6-kg blanket instead.

Participants in the control group slept with a light plastic chain blanket of 1.5 kg. Change in insomnia severity, the primary outcome, was evaluated using the Insomnia Severity Index.

Wrist actigraphy was used to estimate sleep and daytime activity levels.

Nearly 60 per cent of weighted blanket users had a positive response with a decrease of 50 per cent or more in their Insomnia Severity Index score from the baseline to the four-week endpoint, compared with 5.4 per cent of the control group.

Remission, a score of seven or less on the Insomnia Severity Index scale, was 42.2 per cent in the weighted blanket group, compared with 3.6 per cent in the control group.

After the initial four-week study, all participants had the option to use the weighted blanket for a 12-month follow-up phase.

Participants who switched from the control blanket to a weighted blanket experienced a similar effect as patients who used the weighted blanket initially, said the study.

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Lifestyle

US President Donald Trump’s eldest son tests positive for coronavirus

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US President Donald Trump’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr has tested positive for Covid-19 and is quarantining without symptoms, the latest in a long list of infections among those with links to the White House.

“Don tested positive at the start of the week and has been quarantining out at his cabin since the result,” his spokesman said.

“He’s been completely asymptomatic so far and is following all medically recommended COVID-19 guidelines,” the spokesman said of the 42-year-old.

Trump Jr’s positive test follows infections for a string of others connected to the White House, including his father, who was hospitalized, the president’s wife Melania and Trump’s youngest son Barron.

Donald Jr’s girlfriend, former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle, also tested positive in July.

Earlier Friday, Andrew Giuliani, a White House aide and son of the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, announced he had tested positive.

Trump Jr is one of the most outspoken and aggressive defenders of his father, who is still refusing to recognize his defeat to Democrat Joe Biden in the November 3 presidential election.

In the days after the vote, Trump Jr called for his father to go to “total war” against what he calls electoral fraud despite no evidence to support the claim.

Like his father he has also consistently downplayed the pandemic, telling Fox News as the virus surged around the country last month that deaths from Covid-19 had fallen to “almost nothing.”

Trump’s administration has been heavily criticized for its response to the pandemic and for downplaying the dangers.

Many in the crowds at his pre-election rallies were often maskless and not abiding by social-distancing rules.

They were a sharp contrast with Biden’s drive-in rallies and his scrupulous mask-wearing.

On Monday, the president-elect expressed frustration over Trump’s refusal to cooperate on the White House transition process, saying “more people may die” of coronavirus without immediate coordination on fighting the pandemic.

With Trump refusing to concede defeat, Biden and his team have been unable to coordinate with government officials on crucial continuity of issues like national security, but also on emergencies like a distribution plan for Covid-19 vaccines to tens of millions of Americans.

Current US numbers — more than a quarter of a million deaths have been reported — have alarmed authorities enough to advise that people stay home for next week’s Thanksgiving holiday, when Americans usually travel to be with their families.

New York City has shut down schools for its 1.1 million students, while California will impose a 10:00 pm to 5:00 am curfew from Saturday.

There was however a new sign of hope on Friday as US biotech giant Pfizer and German partner BioNTech sought approval to roll out their coronavirus vaccine early.

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Health & Fitness

Low fitness may increase depression and anxiety: Study

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Researchers have found that people with low aerobic and muscular fitness are nearly twice as likely to experience depression.

Low fitness levels also predicted a 60 per cent greater chance of anxiety, over a seven-year follow-up, according to the study published in the journal BMC Medicine.

“Here we have provided further evidence of a relationship between physical and mental health, and that structured exercise aimed at improving different types of fitness is not only good for your physical health, but may also have mental health benefits,” said study author Aaron Kandola from University College London (UCL) in the UK.

The study involved 152,978 participants aged between 40 and 69 years.

Their baseline aerobic fitness at the start of the study period was tested by using a stationary bike the increasing resistance, while their muscular fitness was measured with a grip strength test.

They also completed a questionnaire gauging depression and anxiety symptoms.

Seven years later they were tested again for depression and anxiety symptoms, and the researchers found that high aerobic and muscular fitness at the start of the study was associated with better mental health seven years later.

People with the lowest combined aerobic and muscular fitness had 98 per cent higher odds of depression, 60 per cent higher odds of anxiety, and 81 per cent higher odds of having either one of the common mental health disorders, compared to those with high levels of overall fitness.

“Our findings suggest that encouraging people to exercise more could have extensive public health benefits, improving not only our physical health but our mental health too,” said study author Joseph Hayes from UCL.

Improving fitness through a combination of cardio exercise and strength and resistance training appears to be more beneficial than just focusing on aerobic or muscular fitness, according to the study.

“Other studies have found that just a few weeks of regular intensive exercise can make substantial improvements to aerobic and muscular fitness, so we are hopeful that it may not take much time to make a big difference to your risk of mental illness,” the authors wrote.

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Lifestyle

Gold, silver futures rise ahead of US election outcome

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Futures of gold rose on Thursday as vote counting in the US showed Joseph Biden is likely to be the next President if the country. Gold futures on the Multi Commodity Exchange (MCX) jumped above the level of Rs 51,000 per 10 gram tracking a positive trend in the international markets.

Gold prices rose on Thursday after falling for straight days. Currently, the December contract of Gold futures on the MCX is trading at Rs 51,281 per 10 gram higher by Rs 461 or 0.91 per cent from the previous close.

Silver futures also surged during the day. Currently, the December contract of silver on the MCX is trading at Rs 62,317 per kg, higher by Rs 928 or 1.51 per cent from its previous close.

“As the election process commenced, markets anticipate a slight edge towards Democrat Joe Biden winning the US presidency which might open gates for larger US stimulus,” Anuj Gupta, DVP, Commodities and Currencies Research at Angel Broking.

He further said that alarming increase in the coronavirus cases around the globe clouded the global economic outlook.

“Many nations reinforced fresh lockdown which dented markets risk appetite and further supported Gold prices. Markets will have a keen watch on the outcome of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC),” Gupta said.

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