Music, Pregnancy, and Sleep

Music moves people in many ways. And it appears to cause especially strong reactions in women who are pregnant.

According to an article on HealthDay, moms-to-be showed greater changes in blood pressure in response to music than other women.  They also had stronger feelings about the music they liked and the music they didn’t

Researchers in Germany played a series of 10- to 30-second clips of music to pregnant and non-pregnant women. In some cases, the researchers altered the music to make it less pleasant-sounding.

The expectant mothers rated the music as more intensely pleasant or unpleasant than those who weren’t pregnant.  They also showed much stronger blood pressure responses to the music.

It’s not clear why music has such a strong effect in pregnancy, but higher levels of estrogen may play a contributing role.

The hormone affects the brain’s reward system, which is responsible for the pleasant sensations experienced while listening to music.

And if you’ve been having trouble sleeping, listen up…lack of sleep may be more serious than previously thought.  In fact, regular, prolonged loss of sleep may cause a permanent loss of brain cells.

A new study looked at lab mice that were kept awake to replicate the kind of sleep loss common in modern life, through night shifts or long hours in the office.

In the mice, prolonged lack of sleep led to 25% of certain brain cells dying.  According to the study, if the same is true in humans, it may be futile to try to catch up on missed sleep.

Researchers say that in the future it may be possible to develop a drug to protect the brain from the side-effects of lost sleep.

I’m Dr. Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s music here.

Eraser Challenge

A dangerous trend called the “Eraser Challenge” is causing concern for parents and doctors.

WRIC-TV in Richmond, Virginia recently ran a story on the game, and quoted physicians who said it could have serious negative effects on the teens who play it.

The game involves taking an eraser and rubbing it back and forth on your skin, reciting the alphabet until you get to the end.  The challenge is to see who can do it the longest.

Staci Thomas is a mom of a teenager and was shocked when she found out her son’s scars were from an eraser.  He came home with deep cuts on the back of his hand, and it took her a while to get him to admit what he had done.

It turned out that Staci’s son had been playing the eraser challenge with friends.

Stacy says “The thought never crossed my mind that you could inflict such harm with an eraser.”

The Eraser Challenge is being played by kids across the country.

Pediatrician David Arkin says “You’re going to often wind up with some disfigurement and some scarring. The scarring is going to permanent from these things.”

Dr. Arkin says the game could be much more dangerous and harmful than teens realize.

He says it can lead to a serious infection and points out that blood-borne infections like HIV could potentially be spread by the game.

Dr. Arkin advises parents of teens and pre-teens to talk to their kids about the dangers of playing the game.

To learn more about dangerous teen fads, go to and enter “teen trends” in the search engine.

I’m Dr. Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

Why Reading to Young Kids is so Important

If you have young children at home, are you reading to them on a regular basis?  If not, it’s time to start!

Last week the nation’s largest pediatricians’ group said parents should read aloud to their children every day starting in infancy, to help with their language development and their future academic success.

CBS News reports that the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement in which they reminded parents that the first three years of life are a “critical time in child development.  The AAP points out that during those years, children are building language, literacy, and social and emotional skills that will last a lifetime.

The Academy urged pediatricians to spread the message to parents of young children and to provide books to needy families.

They told their members to encourage parents to read to their kids, starting at a very young age, as that “can enhance parent-child relationships and prepare young minds to learn language and early literacy skills.”

To help promote reading, the doctors’ group is teaming up with the Clinton Foundation’s Too Small to Fail program, children’s book publisher Scholastics, and a group called Reach out and Read. That nonprofit group works with doctors and hospitals to distribute books and encourage early reading.

By the way, if you’re a dad, make sure you’re not leaving the reading to mom.  Research shows that boys who are read to by their fathers scored significantly higher in reading achievement.

Also, if a dad enjoys reading and reads for fun, it’s likely his kids will do the same, and score higher on achievement tests when they enter elementary school.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.


Is Your Teen Suffering From Depression?

Could a simple pencil and paper test diagnose depression in teens?

A few minutes spent filling out a widely accepted mental health assessment in a doctor’s waiting room could make a big difference for some teenagers suffering from depression.

Medical is reporting on the research conducted by Sharolyn Dihigo, an assistant professor at The University of Texas.

Dr. Dihago is also a nurse practitioner, and she wanted to find out whether nurse practitioners and others in primary care settings should add a mental health screening when a teenager comes in for a checkup.

She found that a simple paper test called a CES-DC would be a reliable, quick way of determining whether the practitioner should refer a teen for counseling.

Nationally, it’s estimated that five to 20 percent of adolescents suffer from depression, but many don’t receive the treatment they need.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children and teenagers be screened for mental health problems in primary care.

Dr. Dihago says “Getting teens treatment when they need it is essential and has potentially life-saving benefits.”

She points out that providing this test while a family waits for their appointment can overcome a teen’s hesitation to talk about feelings that are linked to depression.

The good news is that if the test detects depression, the physician or nurse practitioner can help the teen get the treatment that he or she needs

By the way, in case you’re wondering, “CES-DC” is short for Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale for Children.  It’s free and doesn’t require extra training for the person who administers the screening.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

Coping With Shyness

Dear Dr. Bill,


My son will be 4 at the end of December.  For as long as I can remember, he has been afraid of walking into a room of people.  He used to cry when we took him to the church nursery, but now he’s doing better at it as long as he can control the steps we go through before he “allows” me to leave.  He also has problems at his daycare center —if we get there too late and any group projects have started, he stands out in the hallway and won’t go in.  My son doesn’t mind playing with kids once he feels comfortable but it’s getting up to that point that I’m concerned about.  What do you suggest?




Dear Lauren,


Shyness can be a social handicap for kids and it can be frustrating for parents to deal with.  It’s important to understand that some kids are born with a genetic predisposition to be less outgoing than others.


Shy children can tend to be more anxious and less willing to tackle things that may be new or less familiar.  Unfortunately, parents can sometimes compound the problem by reinforcing the avoidant behavior either by giving into it, or by criticizing the child’s shyness and harming their self-esteem.


It’s possible that you’ve been reinforcing your son’s fear of groups and new situations by giving in to his demands.  You mentioned that you have to go through several “steps” before he will “allow” you to leave.


You’ll need to start placing limits on this behavior, even though your son may cry, protest, or even tantrum.  Your goal should be to simply take him into the nursery or daycare center, say goodbye, and leave.


Enlist the help of the nursery worker or daycare supervisor to make the transition easier.  Your son isn’t going to like this new plan, and chances are he will raise a huge fuss.  But don’t give in to your his protests.  If you do, you’ll be rewarding him for his acting out, and he’ll only amp up the volume next time.


Thanks for writing Lauren.


I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

Have You Experienced “Facebook Rejection?”

How do you feel when no one likes your post or photo on Facebook?  Well, a new study has found that rejection on social media, even if unintended, can lower your self-esteem and affect your sense of belonging.

According to, researchers in Australia did an experiment in which some Facebook users were not allowed to share information, while others didn’t receive feedback on their updates.  Both groups had lower levels of belonging, control, self-esteem and even a lower sense of meaning in life.

One of the users who was prevented from posting anything said: “I did not enjoy having to stop sharing on social media!  I felt like being grounded and watching my friends play outside…”

Lead researcher Stephanie Tobin points out that social media is different from having a one-on-one, face-to-face conversation where you receive non-verbal feedback from the person you’re talking to.  She says with Facebook, “When you put something out there, people don’t have that sense of obligation to respond right away.”

Dr. Tobin says that if the need for belonging isn’t being met through Facebook, people will go elsewhere for positive reinforcement.

Sociologist Brady Robards says that may explain the increasing popularity of social networking apps such as Snapchat and Instagram.

By the way, the research team found that as new Facebook features become available, users are beginning to develop new habits.  These include grouping their best friends and unsubscribing from all their friends’ news feeds. Instead more people are manually checking individual profiles to get their updates.

For an interesting faith perspective on social networking, go to Relevant and look for the article “Is Facebook Killing Our Souls?”

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

The Link Between Anger & Heart Attacks

Here’s another reason to keep your cool under stress.  HealthDay News is reporting on a new study that found that angry outbursts could raise your odds for a heart attack or stroke.

The researchers say the risk to any one person of a having heart trouble after an outburst remains very low.  But their review of multiple studies found that the risk did rise considerably compared to periods of calm.

Dr. Sripal Bangalore at NYU Medical Center in New York City says “It’s not surprising that such an association is seen since we know that anger is associated with increased reaction of the body’s nervous system to stress.”

The unhealthy reaction to anger includes “increases in heart rate and blood pressure — both of which can have immediate negative consequences.

In the study, researchers found that within two hours of an angry outburst, a person’s risk of heart attack increased nearly five-fold, their risk of stroke rose nearly four-fold and their risk of a dangerous heart rhythm disorder called ventricular arrhythmia also rose.

The risk was highest among people who got angry more often and had existing risk factors such as prior heart problems.

Lead researcher Elizabeth Mostofsky at the Harvard School of Public Health, says because outbursts of anger are relatively rare and the effect seems to be temporary, “the impact on an individual’s absolute risk of a cardiovascular event is small.”

But she says certain people might be at higher risk, such as those who have already had a heart attack, a stroke or diabetes.

To learn more about caring for your heart and the risk factors for heart disease, visit the American Heart Association’s website at

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today audio here.

Extraverism and Health


Do you consider yourself to be an extrovert?  If so, how do you feel?

According to an article from United Press International, it turns that across the globe, people who act extroverted are happier.  Some of the outward signs of extroversion include energy, positive emotions, assertiveness, sociability and talkativeness.

Timothy Church, a professor at Washington State University, used a “Big Five” personality trait survey to measure behavior and mood in college students in the United States, Venezuela, China, the Philippines and Japan.

The big five factors are openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.

Using the big five personality trait survey, the study found that regardless of their cultural differences, those who felt or acted extroverted reported more positive emotions in daily situations.

One guy that was fairly extroverted, at least when it came to racing chariots, was Ben Hur.

More than 50 years after actor Charlton Heston brought the classic novel Ben-Hur to life on the silver screen, Paramount and MGM have signed Mark Burnett and Roma Downey to produce a remake.

Mark and Roma struck a chord among Christian consumers with their productions of The Bible miniseries and the subsequent Son of God movie.

MGM President Gary Barber says, “We are thrilled to have Mark and Roma join the production team to bring such an indelible classic story to the big screen.”

The studio plans to release the film in 2016.  In the meantime, why not rent a DVD of the original Ben Hur?  Just don’t spill your popcorn during that chariot race!


If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.

Listen to today’s audio.

A Defiant Preschooler


Dear Dr. Bill,

My son is having behavior problems at his pre-school.  He can be very defiant, because he wants to do want he wants when HE wants to do it.  What do you suggest?



Dear Tracy,

I hate to break this to you, but it’s very rare for a child who is well-behaved at home to be defiant in other settings.  You didn’t mention anything about his behavior at home, but I’m guessing that he is defiant with you as well.

I’m speculating, because I haven’t met you or your son, but I’m wondering if you’ve developed a pattern of giving in to his demands, so that he always gets what he wants.

In his pre-school, he’s now in a setting where he needs to obey other adults, follow rules, and get along with other children.  This is new to him, and he doesn’t like having limits set on his behavior.  That’s why he’s acting out with the pre-school staff.

This may be difficult for you to hear.  You love your son, and you don’t want to think of him as being difficult and defiant.   But if you’re honest, you may need to admit that your son doesn’t obey you at home, and that he often acts out or throws a tantrum when he doesn’t get his way.

If that’s the case, you’ll need to start implementing consistent limits at home.  Your son isn’t going to like this, and his behavior will likely get a lot worse before it gets better.  That’s because he’ll be doing everything he can to convince you to give up on this new discipline system.

You can also work with the pre-school staff to set up consequences at home for misbehavior at school.  Your son needs to learn that if he is defiant, aggressive, or destructive at pre-school, there will be unpleasant consequences waiting for him when he comes home.

Thanks for writing Tracy.

If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.

Listen to today’s audio.

Stroll for Thought


From artists to office workers, many people say that going for a walk helps them work out ideas or overcome creative blocks.  Now there’s new research that shows that taking a stroll really does give you a mental boost.

LiveScience is reporting on a study on “walking and thinking” conducted by researchers at Santa Clara University.

In one experiment, college students completed one set of tasks while seated, and a second set of tasks while walking on a treadmill.

Walking seemed to improve the students’ scores on a test of creative thinking.  In the test, participants were given the name of an object and had to come up with as many alternate uses for that object as they could in four minutes.

For example, one person in the study said a button could be used as a doorknob for a dollhouse, an eye for a doll, a tiny strainer, or “to drop behind you to keep your path.”

The researchers said they don’t have an explanation for why walking may increase a person’s creativity.  It’s not clear if other forms of low-intensity physical activity, or another familiar, comfortable task would have the same effect on the mind.

Future studies will eventually find the complex pathway from the physical act of walking to the cognitive changes in the brain, the researchers said.

By the way, creative types have praised the virtues of walking for centuries. In fact, several musicians were almost superstitious in their devotion to daily walks.

Tchaikovsky took a two-hour walk each day regardless of the weather, and Beethoven regularly went for a brisk stroll after lunch

Novelist Charles Dickens was an avid walker, and the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard once wrote, “I have walked myself into my best thoughts.”

Okay, I’m convinced.  I’m going to take a little stroll right now!

If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.

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