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How Can Insomnia Affect Your Emotions?



You likely know from experience that sleep and mood go hand in hand. A sleepless night can leave you feeling crabby the next morning and put a damper on your whole day. When you have chronic insomnia, night after night of lying in bed awake can take an even bigger, longer-lasting toll on your mood.

To understand the connection between sleep and mood, look no further than your brain. Deep inside the brain, the region known as the amygdala is probably best known as the control center for our emotions. But it also plays a role in sleep.

Some research suggests that when you’re sleep-deprived, there’s more activity in this part of the brain in response to negative emotions like fear. There may also be fewer connections between the amygdala and certain other parts of the brain, which can worsen your mood.

Also, when you have insomnia, you may miss out on critical phases of sleep. While you sleep, activity in your brain cycles through different stages. Your brain is very active during the REM (rapid eye movement) stage. It’s when you dream, and when you process new information into your long-term memory.

REM sleep also affects your emotional and mental health. When you don’t get enough of it, your brain can’t properly process information linked to your emotions. This can affect your mood, and is sometimes even linked to mental health disorders.

Researchers have studied the link between sleep loss and mood for many years. They’ve  discovered that people who are short on sleep are more likely to have negative moods and emotions like:

  • Anger
  • Acting without thinking (impulsivity)
  • Frustration
  • Irritability
  • Sadness
  • Stress

A 2021 study from the University of South Florida shows just one sleepless night can affect your emotions. Researchers looked at data from nearly 2,000 middle-aged people who kept journals on their physical and emotional health. Those who lost sleep reported feeling angry, nervous, lonely, irritable, and frustrated.

The negative feelings started after only one night of sleeplessness and continued to get worse over the next few days. Study participants’ moods returned to normal after they slept for more than 6 hours.   

Emotional and mood changes from a lack of sleep don’t discriminate. They affect younger and older people, men and women, but may show up in different ways. Studies find that men are more likely to be physically and verbally aggressive when they’re sleep-deprived. Women have less energy, more anxiety, brain fog, and moodiness. Kids tend to act out by throwing tantrums, and being hyperactive, angry, and aggressive.

While sleep can affect your mood, the reverse is also true: your mood has an impact on how well you sleep. Researchers are still studying the connection between sleep and mental health, but they believe it’s “bidirectional,” meaning one affects the other. Not only can sleep loss raise your risk for certain mental health disorders, it can also be a symptom.

Trouble sleeping is a common warning sign of depression. As many as 75% of people with the condition have insomnia symptoms.

There’s also a strong link between sleep and anxiety disorders. When you’re anxious and stressed, your body makes more adrenaline and the stress hormone cortisol. You’ll have trouble turning your brain off and may notice physical symptoms like a rapid heartbeat and quick, shallow breathing. All of these things work to keep you alert.

Annie Miller, a behavioral sleep medicine therapist at DC Metro Sleep and Psychotherapy in Bethesda, MD, says many of her clients are anxious about their sleepless nights.

“Worrying about it, thinking about it all the time can really take a toll on your day-to-day life,” she says. “Insomnia is a 24-hour a day disorder. It’s not just something that’s taking place at night. It becomes a preoccupation.”

Neurologist and sleep specialist Chris Winter, MD, of Charlottesville, VA, sums up insomnia in one word: fear.

“It’s the fear of not being able to go to sleep tonight because last night was difficult; the last 2 years have been difficult,” he says. “You spend hours praying that tonight will be different.”

Winter says that although people think of sleep as an ability we’re born with, it’s actually a learned skill. He suggests behavioral therapy to get to the root cause of your insomnia.

Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) helps you pinpoint thoughts and behaviors that promote insomnia. You’ll replace them with ones that support sounder sleep. Among other methods, CBT-I includes:

  • Sleep hygiene or changing your habits to promote better sleep. This might include quitting smoking, drinking less alcohol, and unwinding a couple of hours before it’s time for bed.
  • Sleep restriction or reducing the time you spend in bed. This makes you tired, which helps you fall asleep more easily the next night. The goal is to break the habit of lying in bed when you’re awake. Once you’re sleeping better, you increase your sleep time again.
  • Relaxation training. This might include meditation, guided imagery, or other techniques to help you wind down.

If you have insomnia, sleep experts say, it’s best to get treatment right away.

“The sooner the better, because you’re learning a skill set,” Winter says. “It’s easier to deal with insomnia when it’s new than when it’s chronic. CBT-I training can be life-changing for people. It’s empowering.”

Keep in mind that another medical condition could be causing your insomnia. Talk to your doctor. They’ll ask about your sleep habits and may order tests to rule out other health issues.

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5 Family and Community Engagement Strategies to Improve Student Outcomes



Strong school-family-community partnerships bring exceptional value to children’s education. A recent book by Karen L. Mapp, a senior lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and four other co-collaborators synthesizes the available research to explain who benefits from these partnerships and the many advantages of family and community engagement.

Everyone Wins! The Evidence for Family-School Partnerships & Implications for Practice (Scholastic, 2022) cites various research to demonstrate how family-community-school partnerships benefit all stakeholder groups when they’re approached effectively:

  • Students have higher grades, better attendance, deeper engagement in school, greater self-esteem, and higher rates of graduation and college attainment.
  • Educators enjoy better job satisfaction, better success motivating students from different backgrounds, more family support, and an improved mindset about students and their families.
  • Families have stronger relationships with their children and better rapport with educators. They can navigate school policies and advocate for their children more effectively.
  • Schools enjoy a better climate, more support from their community, and improved staff morale—leading to better teacher retention.
  • School districts and communities become better places to live and raise children. They experience fewer disciplinary problems, greater participation in afterschool programs, and more family and student involvement in decision-making.
community members talking and hugging in matching green volunteer t-shirts in front of an outdoor mural

What elements make school-family-community partnerships particularly effective? Here are five tips for how school systems can successfully promote family and community engagement in education and drive better student outcomes.

1. Successful Family Engagement Requires Intentional Leadership

Engaging with families has to be a core activity and not just an afterthought. It requires a total commitment by school and district leaders, and this commitment must include investing in the tools and training needed to help educators effectively engage with families from all backgrounds. It must be a real and intentional focus, and as Mapp says: “It’s real when I see it on your budget sheets.”

2. Teachers and Administrators Must Communicate Clearly and Consistently

To encourage family involvement in their children’s education, educators must interact with families frequently—and in many ways. For instance, teachers and administrators might engage with families in person during school drop-off and pick-up periods, set up a Family Information Board in the school’s lobby, write and distribute regular newsletters or blog posts, and/or send emails or text messages to parents.

Communicating effectively is one of the National PTA’s “National Standards for Family-School Partnerships,” which guides how schools and families should work together to support student success. Teachers and administrators should learn about and meet families’ preferred methods of communication, and families should be able to share and receive information in culturally and linguistically relevant ways.

3. Develop Healthy, Positive Relationships Based on Mutual Trust and Respect

Interactions between educators and families should be positive and reciprocal, with families feeling valued and supported. Educators can establish trust and encourage healthy, two-way communications with families by sharing information about their children’s positive behaviors and accomplishments and which skills may need work. Listen to all parents and provide opportunities for shared decision-making.

4. Be Mindful of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Welcoming all families and fostering a sense of belonging is another National PTA standard. When families engage with your school, do they feel respected, understood, and connected to the school community?

To ensure equity and inclusion, learn about the families you serve and their unique needs and challenges. Use culturally responsive engagement practices. Create opportunities for connection, especially with historically marginalized families and students. Learn about and seek to remove barriers for families to participate fully in their children’s education.

5. Help Families Support and Extend the Learning at Home

Students learn more effectively when they have opportunities at home to practice, reinforce, or extend the skills and lessons they’ve learned in school. Educators can facilitate this process by giving families specific ideas for expanding their children’s learning at home, such as by incorporating core math and literacy concepts into everyday routines.

Schools can also make instructional resources such as take-home packs, activity sets, and other materials available to families to support their children’s education.

How School Specialty® Can Help

School Specialty has more than six decades of experience in providing tools, resources, and strategies that promote successful education both in school and at home. We offer arts and crafts, early childhood, ELA, math, science, STEM/STEAM, physical education, special needs, and social emotional learning resources for families, as well as games, puzzles, and general supplies.

How do you promote family engagement in your classroom and community? Let us know in the comments!

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Preteens and skincare: What parents should know – CHOC




Published on: April 16, 2024
Last updated: April 9, 2024

Should teens and preteens be using so many skincare products with fancy ingredients? A pediatric dermatologist answers parents’ questions.


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Living With Crohn’s: My Daily Routine



By Michelle Pickens, as told to Danny Bonvissuto

As early as I can remember, I’ve had issues with my health. When I was little, I had severe constipation, nausea, vomiting, and food sensitivities.

As I got older, those symptoms transitioned into diarrhea, irregular bowel movements, and pain. I was always very fatigued and my immune system was weak: The second someone in my class had the cold or flu, I’d get it, too. Looking back, it was a sign.

From a mental perspective, my anxiety was high. What if I need to find a bathroom? What if I’m nauseous? Doctors would say, “Oh, you’ll grow out of it. It’s just your anxiety.”

Finally, a Diagnosis

After years of misdiagnosis, I was finally diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2015. I was 23 and had just finished up college while working full time. My symptoms were getting worse. I had a lot of vomiting and pain. The fatigue was at the point where it was difficult for me to work or even get out of bed some days.

It was so bad it pushed me to seek additional care. I took a couple months off, looked for another job, and went through all the doctor appointments it took to get the diagnosis.

There’s no blood test for Crohn’s. No way to prove what you’re feeling. Eventually I saw the right doctor, who did a test with a pill camera called a small bowel capsule. (This is a pill-sized camera that you swallow, allowing doctors to see inside your digestive system.) It tracked my intestines and was able to get into a blind spot where neither a colonoscopy nor endoscopy can see inflammation. 

It was such a relief to get the diagnosis because it made me feel like I wasn’t crazy. For so many years I knew something was wrong and couldn’t name it. I also felt hopeful. Once I knew what I was dealing with, I knew I could work to get to a better place.

Sharing My Story

In 2016, I started a blog called Crohnically Blonde as an outlet to connect with people as I go through the stages of dealing with Crohn’s. When I first started to share, there weren’t as many people talking about it.

I’ve been able to form relationships in an online community through shared experiences. I hope someone can see my story and feel that, if they’re at the beginning of their journey, there’s a way to get through.

Managing My Medication

At first, I was on a lot of medication that wasn’t working well and was a huge imposition on my schedule. Now I get infusions of an immunosuppressive drug every 7 weeks.

It means being away from my family and job for 4-5 hours, and managing child-care coverage during the treatment and the weekend after, because I feel almost flu-like. The extra help allows me to rest and fuel back up after the treatment.

I have the option to be on more medications to control my symptoms. But I try to shy away from those and manage it on my own because I don’t want to be on medicine for every single thing.

Before I had my son, I was more willing to try different medications. But while I was pregnant, I could barely be on any of the Crohn’s medicines. After I had him, it didn’t make sense to be reliant on them.

Crohn’s, Pregnancy, and Motherhood

Crohn’s affected me throughout my pregnancy. I got very sick in my third trimester because I went off my immunosuppressive drug to avoid passing any on to the baby. I ended up having to be induced early so I could get back on the medication as soon as possible.

My son, Maddox, is 1 now. Crohn’s changed my expectation of what I thought motherhood would be.

I’ve learned that I’d rather be present and able to enjoy him in the good moments than push it when I’m sick. It’s been difficult. But if I’m not well, I can’t be there for my child. I try to be with him as much as I can, but there are times when I need to step back and take an hourlong nap.

I have a great support system: My husband, mom, or mother-in-law can step in and help out for a little while, and when I feel better, I can be a better mom. There are also days when I don’t have accessible help. In those situations, I’ll do lower-key activities that I can enjoy with him but that aren’t physically demanding on me.

Schedule and Adjust

Right now I’m in a pretty good spot. I work from home now, as a recruiter for a tech company, and that makes a huge difference. A lot of my anxiety in the past was around being in an office and being sick. Now that I can work remotely, it’s such a game changer.

But Crohn’s still affects my day-to-day. I have days where I’m feeling sick, and need to rest and change my plans so I’m home and not out somewhere.

No matter how planned-out I have my day or week, if I’m not feeling well that takes precedence. I like to be a very scheduled person. But I have to roll with the punches and have a plan B.

The biggest challenge is managing my sleep and stress. They’re both very influential in symptom flare-ups. I have to get at least 8 hours of sleep, no matter what. And I try to incorporate time to de-stress, like reading a book or relaxing at the end of the day.

Going to therapy helps offset stress as well, and is now part of my ingrained self-care schedule.

Social Life Strategies

My co-workers, family, and friends are very understanding. But that wasn’t the case at first. The more open I’ve been about Crohn’s, the more people understand that I’m not flaking out if I have to change plans; there’s an underlying reason.

I only have a certain amount of energy, so now I pick and choose. I know I need to work and be with my family, which means I have less energy to put into social situations.

I plan out what I’m comfortable doing, but have also become comfortable with changing plans. Even if I’m excited to go out to dinner with a friend, I don’t push it if I feel terrible that day.

Food in Flux

I’ve followed a gluten-free diet for years. I started with an elimination diet and realized that gluten was bothering me.

Other foods aren’t as black and white. I can eat a salad one day and it’s fine, and eat the same salad the next day and it makes me sick. I repeat the safe foods that don’t make me sick and stick to a general schedule of three meals a day that are pretty much all gluten free.

Sometimes the timing matters: I’ll wake up and feel nauseated and need a starchy food like dry cereal. If I’m going on a road trip, or have a big event, like a wedding, I plan it out and try to be careful about what I eat leading up to it because I don’t want to be sick. But it’s hard because you never really know. It’s kind of a gamble.

Flexibility Is Key

I’ve learned to be as flexible as possible. I never know what each day is going to bring, I just have to trust that my body is telling what it needs for that specific day. That’s my priority, and everything else can wait.


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