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Pray together to stay together

Couples who share religious practices tend to be happier than those who don’t, according to a new study.

True to the aphorism, couples who pray together stay together, said study co-author W Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, and

“African American couples are more likely to have a shared spiritual identity as a couple”. In the study, researchers found that 40 per cent of blacks in marriages and live-in relationships who attended religious services regularly had a partner who did the same, compared with 29 per cent of non-Hispanic whites and 29 per cent of Hispanics.

White couples, in general, reported greater relationship satisfaction than other groups, presumably because of income and educational advantages, the study says. But the racial gap lessens when religious similarities come into the mix.

“What this study suggests is that religion is one of the key factors narrowing the racial divide in relationship quality in the United States,” said Wilcox.

The strongest difference-maker for couples was spiritual activities such as praying or reading the Bible at home.

“Praying together as a couple is something that is very intimate for people who are religious. It adds another level of closeness to a relationship,” Wilcox said.

A good night’s sleep may be key to improved memory

A good night’s sleep could be the key to an improved memory and what’s more — it could help you imagine the future too.

The REM (rapid eye movement) sleep stage — where people’s dreams are most vivid — is also important for people’s memory systems, said University of California researcher Sara C Mednick and her colleagues.

Study participants were shown multiple groups of three words (eg, cookie, heart, sixteen) and asked to find another word that can be associated with all three words.
In this case, the answer would have been “sweet”.

Participants were tested once in the morning and again in the afternoon, either after a nap with REM sleep, one without REM sleep or a quiet rest period. Results showed that the REM sleep group improved by almost 40 per cent over their morning performances.

“REM sleep is important for pulling together all the information we process on a daily basis and turning it into memories we can use later,” said Mednick.

“This helps us to understand more about the benefits of sleep and to help people maximise their sleep schedules for optimal productivity and memory retrieval,” she added.

Brain imaging research suggests that the ability to remember past events may be crucially involved in people’s ability to imagine events that have not happened yet and even simulate these ‘future’ occurrences, according to researcher Daniel L Schacter from Harvard.

Arguing may be good for your health

Arguing now and then for the right reasons may be good for your health, a new study suggests. Kira Birditt, University of Michigan, and colleagues found that when people experience tension with someone else, whether their boss, spouse, or child, sidestepping confrontation could be bad for their health.

Avoiding conflict was associated with more symptoms of physical problems the next day than was actually engaging in an argument, they found.

The results of the study also showed that bypassing bickering was also associated with abnormal rises and falls of the stress hormone cortisol throughout the day.

“Relationships have important influences on how we feel on a daily basis, especially the problems in our relationships,” said Birditt.

“How we deal with problems affects our daily well-being,” she added. In a previous study, Birditt and her colleagues found that the most common way for people to deal with their interpersonal problems is to simply avoid them. The researchers wanted to know the health impacts of this avoidance behaviour.

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