Smartphone App to Help You Sleep Better

While all the apps vary, they generally work by having users pick a window of time in the morning — typically 20 to 40 minutes long — during which they would like to get up, then nudging the sleeper awake at the lightest point of sleep in that window. Sleepers get a score each morning that factors in the number of hours they slept while adding and subtracting points for things like disruptions and the percentage of time spent in the deep, restorative stages of sleep. The programs also let users keep track of daily habits like caffeine intake, exercise and meals, among other things, so they can see which habits might be affecting their sleep.

But while some people swear by these tools, scientists caution that the claims they make and the advice they dole out to users may not be very sound.

“I think these are clever devices, but there’s very limited data on how valuable they are,” said Dr. David M. Rapoport, the director of the sleep medicine program at New York University School of Medicine. “They’re a really good way to capture data. But some of them are giving out recommendations in ways that just aren’t proven.”

He points out that certain features, like quantifying sleep and tracking habits, are particularly beneficial because they identify sleep patterns. “Many people lie to themselves about how much sleep they’re really getting,” he said. “If it takes an app to tell you you’re only getting four hours a night and that that’s why you’re tired, then that’s a good thing.”

But, he says, when an app instructs you to get eight hours of sleep instead of seven, or to avoid coffee after 6 p.m. for better sleep, it has gone too far, since not everyone needs the same amount of sleep or is affected in the same way by caffeine. “These apps tend to suggest that there’s a right way you should do things,” he said, “but we cannot make the same recommendations for everybody.”

By ANAHAD O’CONNOR at the New York Times

Using Constraints to Cultivate Creativity

Usually when we think creativity, we think openness, shades of gray — and yellows, greens and blues — and an infinity of options at our disposal.

But, sometimes, the less we have to work with, the more creative we can get. Sometimes, constraint can actually help creativity flourish.

“There are many real-life situations in which imposing severe constraints leads to an outpouring of creativity,” writes Tina Seelig, executive director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, in her excellent book InGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity.

In it, Seelig includes the ingredients we need to nurture creativity, which she views as an asset in any field and a skill that requires practice.

(Specifically, she proposes a model of creativity called the “Innovation Engine.” You can learn more in this piece by Karen Frenkel.)

As Seelig writes, “Creativity allows you to thrive in an ever-changing world and unlocks a universe of possibilities. With enhanced creativity, instead of problems you see potential, instead of obstacles you see opportunities, and instead of challenges you see a chance to create breakthrough solutions.”

In her chapter on constraints, Seelig discusses the various types of restrictions and gives interesting examples of how individuals and companies have used boundaries as big opportunities.



Studies Indicate Vitamin D Improves Mental Health

I’ve been wondering how vitamin D and mental illness are related, so I did a search and found that vitamin D does, indeed, play a role in mental illness based on these reasons from the Vitamin D Council’s website:

  1. Epidemiological evidence shows an association between reduced sun exposure and mental illness.
  2. Mental illness is associated with low 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] levels.
  3. Mental illness shows a significant comorbidity with illnesses thought to be associated with vitamin D deficiency.
  4. Theoretical models (in vitro or animal evidence) exist to explain how vitamin D deficiency may play a causative role in mental illness.
  5. Studies indicate vitamin D improves mental illness.

Here’s even more details, according to the Vitamin D Council:

  • Mental illness has increased as humans have migrated out of the sun.
  • There is epidemiological evidence that associates vitamin D deficiency with mental illness. Two small reports studied the association of low 25(OH)D levels with mental illness and both were positive.
  • Depression has significant co-morbidity with illnesses associated with hypovitaminosis D such as osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Vitamin D has a significant biochemistry in the brain. Nuclear receptors for vitamin D exist in the brain and vitamin D is involved in the biosynthesis of neurotrophic factors, synthesis of nitric oxide synthase, and increased glutathione levels — all suggesting an important role for vitamin D in brain function. Rats born to severely vitamin D deficient dams have profound brain abnormalities.

By THERESE J. BORCHARD at PsychCentral

Job Loss and Unemployment Stress

Losing a job is stressful

Our jobs are much more than just the way we make a living. They influence how we see ourselves, as well as the way others see us. Our jobs give us structure, purpose, and meaning. That’s why job loss and unemployment is one of the most stressful things you can experience.

Beyond the loss of income, losing a job also comes with other major losses, some of which may be even more difficult to face:

  • Loss of your professional identity
  • Loss of self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Loss of your daily routine
  • Loss of purposeful activity
  • Loss of your work-based social network
  • Loss of your sense of security

Grief is normal after losing a job

Grief is a natural response to loss, and that includes the loss of a job. Losing your job takes forces you to make rapid changes. You may feel angry, hurt, panicked, rejected, and scared. What you need to know is that these emotions are normal. You have every right to be upset, so accept your feelings and go easy on yourself.

Also remember that many, if not most, successful people have experienced major failures in their careers. But they’ve turned those failures around by picking themselves up, learning from the experience, and trying again. When bad things happen to you— or going through unemployment—you can grow stronger and more resilient in the process of overcoming them.

Authors: Melinda Smith, M.A.; and Robert Segal, M.A. at


Would You Like to Exhibit Your Book, Company, Organization or Services at Our Annual Conference?

September 29, 2012

Houston, Texas

We would like to extend an invitation to you and your company to be an exhibitor at the annual SARDAA Conference which will be held at the Marriott Houston Energy Corridor, 16011 Katy Freeway, Houston, Texas 77094.

The Exhibit Hall will be open Saturday, September 29, 2012 from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. Each booth will include one 6 foot table and two chairs. The Exhibit Hall will be easily visible and accessible to all conference participants. If you would like to be an exhibitor, please fill out the “Exhibitor Contract” page no later than September 1st, 2012.

The local conference committee is welcoming any “gifts” such as, pencils, notepads, etc. to be included in our conference attendee bags. We are also looking for items to be used as door prizes and auction at the evening event. Any items you can donate will be greatly appreciated. Contact me at if you are able to donate items.

For those of you who have worked with us in the past, we would like to say thank you. For those of you who have not yet come our way, we would certainly encourage you to do so. We would like to make your acquaintance.


When My Crazy Father Actually Lost His Mind

We were on something like the 15th round of rummy, and my father was winning decisively. He cracked a wide, toothy grin as he laid his cards on the table. “That’s 321 for BaBa, and 227 for String Bean,” he said, tallying the ledger we were keeping on a piece of scrap paper.

Before he finished writing the numbers, he began a rapid succession of anecdotes about his first car. And his second. And his third. He reached for a magazine to show me the vintage Mustang he said he was planning to buy my mother for their 45th wedding anniversary, which, he reminded me, was just six months away. Then he began speaking Sicilian, instructing me to repeat after him: “Napeladan mangia pane!” (“People from Naples eat bread.”) “Calabrese testa dura!” (“People from Calabria have thick heads.”) My father has the most amazing blue eyes, and right then they were wide and eager, like an overexcited child’s. He was rambling, and the inflections of his voice betrayed sheer manic joy. It was a mood completely incongruous with our setting.

We were playing our card game at the Psychiatric Emergency Screening Services, or PESS, a small locked-down unit in the community hospital near my parents’ apartment in Somerville, N.J. Harsh fluorescent lighting fell on cracked and faded yellow walls. A disheveled, rail-thin woman paced and wept in the room across the way. Down the hall, a police officer guarded locked double doors.

It was early December 2010. That August, my father, who was 69, became abruptly and deeply paranoid. Convinced that nameless people were trying to kill him, he slept no more than an hour or two a night and started drinking after five years of sobriety. When his suspicions grew to include his immediate family, he became violent and threatened suicide. At one point, he tried to jump out of the car as my mother was driving down the highway on the way to the doctor’s office. On another day, he poured motor oil over her windshield as she was pulling out of the garage. More than once, he hit her. More than once, he threatened to burn the house down.


July 16 – St. Paul, MN — Parity Field Party with PATRICK KENNEDY & JIM RAMSTAD

At the hearings, consumers, providers, representatives from the business and insurer communities and state and local representatives will testify on parity implementation and enforcement.

Modeled after the field hearings in 2007, which were successful in helping to enact the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) into law, the 2012 field hearings are intended to shine a light on problems patients are still facing as they try to access mental health and addiction treatment and areas where parity is increasing access to care.

Inappropriate Prescribing: Americans Are Taking Medications That May Not Work or May be Inappropriate for Their Mental Health Problems

Writing a prescription to treat a mental health disorder is easy, but it may not always be the safest or most effective route for patients, according to some recent studies and a growing chorus of voices concerned about the rapid rise in the prescription of psychotropic drugs.

Today, patients often receive psychotropic medications without being evaluated by a mental health professional, according to a study last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Many Americans visit their primary-care physicians and may walk away with a prescription for an antidepressant or other drugs without being aware of other evidence-based treatments — such as cognitive behavioral therapy — that might work better for them without the risk of side effects.

“I would say at least half the folks who are being treated with antidepressants aren’t benefiting from the active pharmacological effects of the drugs themselves but from a placebo effect,” says Steven Hollon, PhD, a psychology professor at Vanderbilt University who has conducted extensive research on the effectiveness of antidepressants. “If people knew more, I think they would be a little less likely to go down the medication path than the psychosocial treatment path.”

The use of psychotropic drugs by adult Americans increased 22 percent from 2001 to 2010, with one in five adults now taking at least one psychotropic medication, according to industry data. In 2010, Americans spent more than $16 billion on antipsychotics, $11 billion on antidepressants and $7 billion for drugs to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The rapid growth of all three classes of drugs has alarmed some mental health professionals, who are concerned about the use of powerful antipsychotic drugs by elderly nursing home residents and the prescription of stimulants to children who may have been misdiagnosed with ADHD.

Psychotropic drugs are valuable tools in treating many mental health disorders, but inappropriate prescribing can cause serious harm. To help address those concerns, APA is developing clinical treatment guidelines that will help educate physicians, health insurers and the public about the best treatments available for common mental health disorders. APA also supports an integrated approach to health-care delivery in which primary-care and mental health providers work together to determine the best treatment plan for each patient.

By Brendan L. Smith, American Psychological Association

Guidelines for Pharmacological Treatment of Co-Occurring Mental and Substance Use Disorders

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers free publication that you can order by mail or download electronically. This resource offers general principles to assist in the planning, delivery, and evaluation of pharmacologic approaches to support the recovery of individuals with co-occurring disorders. It covers engagement, screening, assessment, treatment planning, and continuity of care.

Rodney King dead at 47. Learn how alcoholism impacted his life.

….In later years, King had several more run-ins with the law, including a 90-day jail stint in 1996 for a hit-and-run involving his wife at the time. On the 20th anniversary of the beating in 2011, he was pulled over and ticketed for a minor traffic violation.

“The trouble that (people) see me in is a part of my life that I’m working on,” he said in 2011. “I’ll always have an issue when it comes to alcohol. My dad was an alcoholic. The addiction part is in my blood. What I’ve learned to do is arrest my addiction — arrest it myself, so I don’t get arrested.”

In 2008, King appeared on the VH1 reality show “Celebrity Rehab.” He also released a memoir, “The Riot Within,” in which he describes his difficult upbringing and his reflections on the beating and its aftermath.

“He was a wonderful, sweet man,” said Bob Forrest, a Los Angeles-based musician and drug counselor who worked with King on “Celebrity Rehab.”

He said King struggled with his sobriety. “He and I would talk off and on. Sometimes he was doing great, sometimes not. He was always gracious, an honest and gentle soul.”

“He was a wonderful, kind and gentle man,” said Dr. Drew Pinsky of “Celebrity Rehab,” who also appears on CNN sister network HLN. “He was at the center of a maelstrom and was able to maintain dignity and really keep his head high in a way that was an example for all of us.”