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Lab Notes: Sleep and a full moon, the best way to motivate yourself and more

MOROCCO-MOON-FEATURE

FADEL SENNA/AFP/Getty Images

A view taken from the Moroccan capital Rabat on July 13, 2014 shows a full moon, with volcanic domes and impact craters.

Looking for new ways to motivate yourself? Want to know about the REAL paleo diet? And might you be part werewolf? These are some of the questions we hope to answer in our new regular segment, Lab Notes. 

Sanden Totten, Southern California Public Radio's science reporter, joins Alex Cohen to talk about some fun new scientific studies.

In today's installment of Lab Notes with  Southern California Public Radio's science reporter Sanden Totten, we look at our diets, our sleep habits and our self esteem.

Real Paleo diet included carbs and plants

Researchers studying a prehistoric burial site in Central Sudan recenlty found skeletons of  prehistoric  humans from as far back as 6,700 B.C., before farming was established.

The scientists analyzed the fossilized dental plaque on these skulls of these early humans and found traces of a plant called purple nut sedge (Cyperus rotundas). Today, this plant is considered a weed in many parts, but it seems to have medicinal properties. It's also a good source of carbohydrates,  contradicting the image of our early ancestors as knuckle dragging, meat eating hunters. It turns out they also ate plants and carbs.

Full moons are bad for sleep

A recent study out of Sweden  found that people slept on average 20 to 25 minutes less during full moon nights as compared to quarter moon nights. These people also seemed to have more trouble falling asleep during a full moon. Why would this be? Researchers aren't certain, but they suggest perhaps we evolved to be more alert on nights when there is plenty of moon light since predators could use that light to hunt us in the dark.

When giving yourself a pep talk, use the second person 

If you are trying to pump yourself up for a big meeting or test, you'd do better to say "You can do it!" rather than "I can do it!" At least that's what researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign discovered, after having research subjects write themselves notes of encouragement before taking a series of tests. Maybe using the second person helps people imagine someone other than themselves is rooting for them. Or maybe they just like imagining Rob Schneider's character from the "Waterboy" yelling at "you can do it!" to them.


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