What’s for Dinner?

Vegetarian Set Meal at VegeCafe Lotus in Toyohashi, Japan

The main dish is Veggie Meat Cutlet on Skewers.

Researcher Finds “Earworms” After Listening to Music Near Bedtime Continue During Sleep

Most people listen to music throughout their day and often near bedtime to wind down. But can that actually cause your sleep to suffer? When sleep researcher Michael Scullin, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University, realized he was waking in the middle of the night with a song stuck in his head, he saw an opportunity to study how music — and particularly stuck songs — might affect sleep patterns.

Scullin’s recent study, published in Psychological Science, investigated the relationship between music listening and sleep, focusing on a rarely-explored mechanism: involuntary musical imagery, or “earworms,” when a song or tune replays over and over in a person’s mind. These commonly happen while awake, but Scullin found that they also can happen while trying to sleep.

“Our brains continue to process music even when none is playing, including apparently while we are asleep,” Scullin said. “Everyone knows that music listening feels good. Adolescents and young adults routinely listen to music near bedtime. But sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. The more you listen to music, the more likely you are to catch an earworm that won’t go away at bedtime. When that happens, chances are your sleep is going to suffer.”

People who experience earworms regularly at night — one or more times per week — are six times as likely to have poor sleep quality compared to people who rarely experience earworms. Surprisingly, the study found that some instrumental music is more likely to lead to earworms and disrupt sleep quality than lyrical music.

The study involved a survey and a laboratory experiment. The survey involved 209 participants who completed a series of surveys on sleep quality, music listening habits and earworm frequency, including how often they experienced an earworm while trying to fall asleep, waking up in the middle of the night and immediately upon waking in the morning.

In the experimental study, 50 participants were brought into Scullin’s Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory at Baylor, where the research team attempted to induce earworms to determine how it affected sleep quality. Polysomnography — a comprehensive test and the gold standard measurement for sleep — was used to record the participants’ brain waves, heart rate, breathing and more while they slept.

“Before bedtime, we played three popular and catchy songs — Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake It Off,’ Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘Call Me Maybe’ and Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin’,” Scullin said. “We randomly assigned participants to listen to the original versions of those songs or the de-lyricized instrumental versions of the songs. Participants responded whether and when they experienced an earworm. Then we analyzed whether that impacted their nighttime sleep physiology. People who caught an earworm had greater difficulty falling asleep, more nighttime awakenings, and spent more time in light stages of sleep.”

Additionally, EEG readings — records of electrical activity in the brain — from the experimental study were quantitatively analyzed to examine physiological markers of sleep-dependent memory consolidation. Memory consolidation is the process by which temporary memories are spontaneously reactived during sleep and transformed into a more long-term form.

“We thought that people would have earworms at bedtime when they were trying to fall asleep, but we certainly didn’t know that people would report regularly waking up from sleep with an earworm. But we saw that in both the survey and experimental study,” he said.

Participants who had a sleep earworm showed more slow oscillations during sleep, a marker of memory reactivation. The increase in slow oscillations was dominant over the region corresponding to the primary auditory cortex which is implicated in earworm processing when people are awake.

“Almost everyone thought music improves their sleep, but we found those who listened to more music slept worse,” Scullin said. “What was really surprising was that instrumental music led to worse sleep quality — instrumental music leads to about twice as many earworms.”

The study found that individuals with greater music listening habits experienced persistent earworms and a decline in sleep quality. These results are contrary to the idea of music as a hypnotic that might help sleep. Health organizations commonly recommend listening to quiet music before bedtime — recommendations that largely arise from self-reported studies. Instead, Scullin has objectively measured that the sleeping brain continues to process music for several hours, even after the music stops.

Knowing that earworms negatively affect sleep, Scullin recommends first trying to moderate music listening or taking occasional breaks if bothered by earworms. Timing of music also is important — try to avoid it before bed.

“If you commonly pair listening to music while being in bed, then you’ll have that association where being in that context might trigger an earworm even when you’re not listening to music, such as when you’re trying to fall asleep,” he said.

Another way to get rid of an earworm is to engage in cognitive activity — fully focusing on a task, problem or activity helps to distract your brain from earworms. A previous study by Scullin — partially funded by a National Institutes of Health grant and the Sleep Research Society Foundation — found that participants who took five minutes to write down upcoming tasks before bed helped “offload” those worrying thoughts about the future and led to faster sleep.

Source: Baylor University

In Pictures: Vegan Donuts in the U.S.

Could a Meat-free Diet Help Ward Off Severe COVID?

Advocates of plant-based diets suggest they can reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease and help the environment.

Now, new research suggests they may provide another health benefit: lowering COVID-19 severity.

A plant-based diet was associated with 73% lower odds of moderate to severe COVID-19 infection in the study. A pescatarian diet, which includes fish but limits or eliminates meat, was associated with 59% lower odds. Compared to those who ate a plant-based diet, those with a low-carb, high-protein diet had nearly four times the odds of moderate to severe COVID-19 infection, according to the study.

“Our results suggest that a healthy diet rich in nutrient-dense foods may be considered for protection against severe COVID-19,” said the researchers led by Dr. Sara Seidelmann of Stamford Health in Connecticut.

Plant-based diets were described as high in vegetables, legumes and nuts and low in poultry and red and processed meats.

The researchers noted that plant-based diets are rich in nutrients, especially phytochemicals (polyphenols, carotenoids), vitamins and minerals, which are important for a healthy immune system. Fish is an important source of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, both of which have anti-inflammatory properties.

Researchers drew on the survey responses of nearly 2,900 frontline doctors and nurses with extensive exposure to COVID-19 infection. The doctors were working in the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.
The survey asked about their dietary patterns over the past year, based on a food frequency questionnaire. It also asked about the severity of any COVID infections they had.

Researchers learned that 568 respondents had symptoms consistent with COVID-19 infection or no symptoms but a positive swab test for the infection.

Among the 568 cases, 138 clinicians said they had moderate to severe COVID-19 infection. The remaining 430 said they had very mild to mild COVID infection.

The study was published in the online journal BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health.

The team factored in age, ethnicity, medical specialty and lifestyle, such as smoking and physical activity. They also factored in weight and coexisting medical conditions. No association was found between diet and risk of contracting COVID-19.

The study can establish correlation, not cause. Also, it relied on individual recall rather than objective assessments.

Because of those limitations, Shane McAuliffe, a registered dietitian and deputy chair of Britain’s Nutrition and COVID-19 Taskforce, urged caution in interpreting the findings.

“A high-quality diet is important for mounting an adequate immune response, which in turn can influence susceptibility to infection and its severity,” McAuliffe said in a journal news release. However, “this study highlights the need for better designed prospective studies on the association between diet, nutritional status and COVID-19 outcomes.”

Source: HealthDay

Hoisin Tofu Tacos with Scallion Tortillas


1 (16-ounce) block extra-firm tofu, pressed
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup hoisin sauce

Quick-pickled Cucumbers

1 English cucumber, sliced
1 cup rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes

Scallion Tortillas

1/3 cup chopped scallions (the green parts), divided
1-1/2 cups all-purpose four
3/4 cup boiling water
1/4 cup sesame oil, divided


  1. Make the quick-pickled cucumbers. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients. Let sit in refrigerator while preparing rest of meal.
  2. Make the Scallion Tortillas. In a medium bowl, using a wooden spoon, mix together flour and boiling water until a mixture forms. Once cool enough to touch, transfer mixture to a floured work surface and knead for 4 minutes. Form into a ball, wrap loosely in plastic wrap, and let sit for 30 minutes.
  3. After 30 minutes, unwrap dough and place back on floured surface. Roll into a log about 20 inches long and cut into 16 equal pieces (about 1-1/4-inch each).
  4. Starting with one piece, cut side up, roll into a disk 3 inches in diameter. Add 1 teaspoon chopped scallions on top, then fold sides of disk into middle, securing scallions inside. Using a rolling pin, roll dough out into a 5-inch tortilla. Add more flour to surface and rolling pin if necessary to prevent sticking. Dust off any excess flour on tortilla, then oil each side with ½ teaspoon sesame oil and set aside. Repeat again until all dough is used up.
  5. In a skillet over medium-high heat, warm two tablespoons of sesame oil. Fry each tortilla for 45 seconds on each side, until both sides are golden brown.
  6. Make the tofu. Slice block into equal 1/2-inch pieces and add to a medium bowl. Crumble into small pieces, add cornstarch and toss to coat.
  7. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm oil. Add crumbled tofu and fry for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until crispy. Turn heat off and mix in hoisin sauce. Assemble tacos with tofu and serve topped with quick-pickled cucumbers.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Veg News

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