Circadian Rhythms And Your Diet
While it might seem as though eating a big lunch makes you feel sleepy, that isnt really the cause of most afternoon tiredness. The hormones that cause sleepiness and wakefulness naturally rise and fall in a repeating rhythm throughout the day. While individual circadian rhythms vary slightly, most people experience a hormonal dip that leads to sleepiness twice a day, at around 2 a.m. and 2 p.m.
You can work with your circadian rhythms to promote sleep by limiting heavy meals to earlier in the day and sticking to lighter meals or small, nutritious snacks in the evening.
Sleep Deficiency And Eating Behaviors
Epidemiological studies show that insufficient sleep is independently associated with a higher risk of obesity. Clinical studies of of sleep-restricted adults show an increased hunger and calorie intake when participants are allowed free access to food. A preference for late evening or nighttime food intake and increased snacking has been observed. There also appears to be a food preference for higher carbohydrate and fat foods, which could partly explain the overall higher calorie intake.
Changes in hormone levels that signal either hunger or satiety have also been observed in clinical sleep restriction studies. Leptin is a hormone associated with satisfaction. When food enters the stomach, leptin is released from fat cells and travels to the brain where it signals the body to stop eating by creating a sensation of fullness. People with obesity may actually have very high levels of leptin the more body fat one has, the more leptin is produced in fat cells. However, a condition called leptin resistance may occur in which the brain does not receive the usual signal from leptin to stop eating. In response, more and more leptin is released. Lower leptin levels as well as high leptin levels suggesting leptin resistance have been observed in sleep-deprived adults.
How Is Sleep Deprivation Diagnosed
Doctors can often diagnose sleep deprivation by discussing a patients symptoms and sleep patterns. This may involve reviewing a sleep diary or taking a sleep questionnaire that offers a detailed look at sleep patterns and daytime symptoms.
In some cases, additional testing with sleep tracking technology, known as actigraphy, or with an overnight sleep study may be conducted if further information is needed or if a doctor suspects that the patient may have an underlying sleep disorder.
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Sleep For People With Heart Disease
Because sleep deprivation can harm the heart, its important for people with cardiovascular problems to make getting good sleep a priority. Some evidence even indicates that improving sleep may reduce the likelihood of heart attacks or other cardiovascular problems in people who are otherwise at high risk.
Unfortunately, some heart problems can interfere with sleep. For example, diabetes can cause frequent nighttime urination, and other cardiovascular disorders may create chest discomfort when trying to get to sleep. Worry and anxiety about heart health can also make it hard to wind down and fall asleep normally.
Because numerous factors can influence both sleep and cardiovascular health, its most helpful to talk with your doctor about heart-healthy sleep. A doctor can help develop a specific plan to improve your sleep while also addressing other lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise, that are important for your heart and overall wellness.
Researchers Tracked Students’ Sleeping Habits For A Month Here’s What They Found
Do you believe that the earlier you go to bed and the earlier you get up, the healthier, happier, and more productive you’ll be? Many people do, and many websites, including this one, offer lots of advice about how to be a morning person and why it’s so important to be one.
Well, maybe it isn’t so important after all. A new study from Harvard traced the sleep habits of 61 students over 30 days and correlated those habits with the students’ grades. It found that students who got regular sleep–that is, who went to bed and woke up about the same time every day–did better in school than those who slept irregular hours. You might expect that much to be true, but here are some more surprising findings:
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Sleep Deprivation Is Linked With An Increased Risk For Heart Disease And Stroke
Another huge issue with sleep deprivation is sleep apnea, which is sleep interruption due to breathing problems. This can cause sleep deprivation and you may not know it until the sleep apnea causes a heart attack or stroke in your sleep!
Sleep disorders are very serious issues that need attention ASAP. If you think you might have one of these conditions talk to a medical professional immediately. Developing a heart condition or sleep deprivation can even be fatal.
Strokes are also dangerous and can be caused by deprivation. If you sleep less than five hours per night and do not exercise, your chances of having a stroke go up by almost 50%.
If you think you might be developing any kind of heart condition or sleep disorder talk to a medical professional as soon as possible! Pay attention to yourself and the symptoms that sleep deprivation causes so they dont turn into major health issues like strokes or heart disease.
It’s Associated With Alcohol And Tobacco Use
A night-owl lifestyle often goes hand-in-hand with other unhealthy behaviors: People who consistently stay up late tend to use more alcohol and tobacco products than those who go to bed early, for example.
Of course, thats not true for all night owls, and theres also no evidence that staying up late actually leads to these behaviors. Its not clear whether staying up late is a cause or a result of these other lifestyle issues, says Knutson. In fact, if youre staying up late because you cant fall asleep, these unhealthy behaviors might be a big part of the problem.
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How Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Heart
Its difficult to overstate the hearts importance to health. Responsible for pumping blood throughout the body, the heart powers the circulatory system that ensures that all the organs and tissues in the body get the oxygen they need.
Unfortunately, heart problems are a leading cause of illness and death in the United States. While its already well-known that factors like poor diet, limited exercise, and smoking can harm the heart, theres a growing recognition of the dangers of sleep deprivation for heart health.
Sleep provides time for the body to restore and recharge, playing a key role in nearly all aspects of physical health. For the cardiovascular system, insufficient or fragmented sleep can contribute to problems with blood pressure and heighten the risk of heart disease, heart attacks, diabetes, and stroke.
As a result, getting good sleep may help prevent damage to the cardiovascular system, and for people with heart problems, can be part of following a heart-healthy lifestyle.
Are There Different Types Of Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation and sleep insufficiency may be categorized in different ways depending on a persons circumstances.
- Acute sleep deprivation refers to a short period, usually a few days or less, when a person has a significant reduction in their sleep time.
- Chronic sleep deprivation, also known as insufficient sleep syndrome, is defined by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine as curtailed sleep that persists for three months or longer.
- Chronic sleep deficiency or insufficient sleep can describe ongoing sleep deprivation as well as poor sleep that occurs because of sleep fragmentation or other disruptions.
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Lack Of Sleep Negatively Affects Your Digestive System
Wondering why you cant lose weight or you tend to eat too much at meals? Lack of sleep affects the hormones that control hunger and feelings of fullness. These hormones, leptin and ghrelin, tell your brain when youve had enough to eat. But, when you dont get enough sleep, your brain produces less of these hormones, so you eat more or snack late at night.
On top of producing less leptin and ghrelin, your body produces more insulin than you need after you eat. Higher insulin levels promote the storage of fat and increase your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. To make matters worse, chronically sleep-deprived adults are usually too tired to exercise, exacerbating your inability to lose weight.
Lack Of Sleep Can Lead To Depression Or Anxiety
Your mind is also in danger when sleep deprived. Lack of sleep has been linked to anxiety and depression because the brains ability to regulate emotions is impaired when tired. It can also lead a person down a path towards mental illness, so its important you get enough sleep every night for your health sake.
If you dont sleep enough you wont be in the mood to do anything, and itll be harder to focus. People who stay up late typically have higher levels of cortisol which is known as the stress hormone. Its also been proven that those with major depression tend to wake up earlier than others so they may fall asleep at unusual times such as noon or nighttime instead of their usual bedtime hours like 11 pm-12 am. If this sounds familiar then perhaps talk to your doctor about methods to sleep better.
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What Sleep Conditions Can Hurt My Heart Health
Over time, sleep problems can hurt your heart health.
Sleep apnea happens when your airway gets blocked repeatedly during sleep, causing you to stop breathing for short amounts of time. Sleep apnea can be caused by certain health problems, such as obesity and heart failure.
Sleep apnea affects how much oxygen your body gets while you sleep and increases the risk for many health problems, including high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. It is more common among Blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans than among whites.7
Insomnia refers to trouble falling sleep, staying asleep, or both. As many as 1 in 2 adults experiences short-term insomnia at some point, and 1 in 10 may have long-lasting insomnia.8 Insomnia is linked to high blood pressure and heart disease. Over time, poor sleep can also lead to unhealthy habits that can hurt your heart, including higher stress levels, less motivation to be physically active, and unhealthy food choices.
For better sleep, get enough natural light, especially earlier in the day. Try going for a morning or lunchtime walk.
What Are The Consequences Of Sleep Deprivation
The effects of sleep deprivation and sleep deficiency can be serious and far-reaching.
Acute sleep deprivation raises the risk of unintentional errors and accidents. Drowsy driving, which involves slowed reaction time and the risk of microsleeps, can be life-threatening. People who are sleep deprived are more likely to struggle in school and work settings or to experience mood changes that may affect personal relationships.
Chronic sleep deprivation can contribute to a wide range of health problems. Sleep plays a fundamental role in the effective functioning of nearly all systems of the body, so a persistent lack of sleep creates significant risks to physical and mental health:
Given these diverse and important impacts of sleep deprivation, it comes as no surprise that studies have found insufficient sleep to be tied with a greater overall risk of death as well as a lower quality of life.
On a society-wide level, the impacts of sleep deprivation are enormous. The CDC estimates that as many as 6,000 deaths each year are caused by drowsy driving, and sleep deprivation has been calculated to incur hundreds of billions in added healthcare costs as well as over $400B in productivity losses per year in the United States alone.
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Sleep And Blood Pressure
During normal, healthy sleep, blood pressure drops by around 10-20%. This is known as nocturnal dipping, and research highlights its role in cardiovascular health.
Poor sleep, whether from a lack of sleep or sleep disruptions, is associated with non-dipping, meaning that a persons blood pressure doesnt go down at night. Studies have found that elevated nighttime blood pressure is tied to overall hypertension .
In fact, nocturnal blood pressure has been found to be even more predictive of heart problems than high blood pressure during the day. Non-dipping has been tied to an increased risk of stroke and heart attack. Its also been linked to kidney problems and reduced blood flow to the brain.
Raised daytime blood pressure has been identified as a consequence of sleep deprivation in multiple studies, but it doesnt affect all people equally. The link between lack of sleep and high blood pressure is highest in middle-aged adults. People who work long hours in high-stress jobs and people with other risk factors for hypertension are more likely to have raised blood pressure after chronic poor sleep.
What Night Owls Can Do
Your chronotype may be ingrained in your DNA, says Knutson, but that doesnt mean you cant change it. About 50% is genetic, but that leaves another 50% where theres opportunity for shifting your clock, she says. But it does require vigilance and consistency with your schedule, which can be a challenge to maintain.
Night owls can gradually acclimate themselves to an earlier bedtime by turning in a few minutes earlier every night, she says. Its also important to avoid bright light at night, and to wake up at the same time every day.
Exposing yourself to bright light first thing in the morning can also help reprogram the brain to wake upand subsequently fall asleepearlier, says Dr. Varga. You can also ask your doctor about taking melatonin, a synthetic version of the brains sleep-inducing hormone, key in regulating your internal clock.
But will shifting the bodys natural chronotype actually protect against some of the health risks of being a night owl? We dont know the answer to that yet, and thats where the research needs to go next, says Knutson.
For now, I think its most important for night owls to recognize that there are health problems associated with their lifestyle, she adds. They seem to be more vulnerable to the consequences of a less healthy lifestyle, so they need to be even more vigilant about making smart choices.
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Sleeping Well Staying Healthy
While sleeping well is no guarantee of good health, it does help to maintain many vital functions. One of the most important of these functions may be to provide cells and tissues with the opportunity to recover from the wear and tear of daily life. Major restorative functions in the body such as tissue repair, muscle growth, and protein synthesis occur almost exclusively during sleep.
Many other conclusions about the role sleep plays in maintaining health have come from studying what happens when humans and other animals are deprived of the sleep they need. For example, scientists have discovered that insufficient sleep may cause health problems by altering levels of the hormones involved in such processes as metabolism, appetite regulation, and stress response.11,12,13 Studies such as these may one day lead to a better understanding of how insufficient sleep increases disease risk.
In the meantime, sleep experts say there is ample evidence that shows that when people get the sleep they need, they will not only feel better, but will also increase their odds of living healthier, more productive lives.
Sleep Increases Sex Drive
Men and women who don’t get enough quality sleep experience a loss of libido and less of an interest in sex, research suggests.
Men who suffer from sleep apnoea a disorder in which breathing difficulties lead to interrupted sleep also tend to have lower testosterone levels, which can lower libido.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Sleep Deprivation
The primary signs and symptoms of sleep deprivation include excessive daytime sleepiness and daytime impairment such as reduced concentration, slower thinking, and mood changes.
Feeling extremely tired during the day is one of the hallmark signs of sleep deprivation. People with excessive daytime sleepiness may feel drowsy and have a hard time staying awake even when they need to. In some cases, this results in microsleeps in which a person dozes off for a matter of seconds.
Insufficient sleep can directly affect how a person feels during their waking hours. Examples of these symptoms include:
- Slowed thinking
- Lack of energy
- Mood changes including feelings of stress, anxiety, or irritability
A persons symptoms can depend on the extent of their sleep deprivation and whether it is acute or chronic. Research also suggests that some individuals are more likely to experience symptoms after a lack of sleep and that this may be tied to a persons genetics. Stimulants like caffeine can also mask the symptoms of sleep deprivation, so its important to note how you feel on and off these substances.
Late Sleepers Are Tired Of Being Discriminated Against
In 2016, when I first reported on the science of chronobiology, I spoke to several people with delayed sleep phase, a condition that puts people on the extreme end of the night-owl chronotype. These people have a hard time falling asleep before 2 or 3 am and prefer to sleep until around noon. Theres nothing wrong with their sleep other than that their schedules for it are shifted.
These late sleepers are tired of being judged for a behavior they cannot easily control. If they cant change their sleep patterns, maybe society should become more accepting of them. We tend to assume that late wakers are the partiers, the deadbeats, the ones who are so irresponsible they cant keep a basic schedule. The people I spoke to found these assumptions to be personally damaging.
We should follow common sense for a solution. People should be able to sleep when their bodies demand it. Considering the potential health impacts of ignoring our biological clocks, it seems harmless enough to try.
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