Congruent with the not-so-great outcomes of many other quick-fixes, short-cutting rejuvenation, restful sleep, and relaxation in order to gain more productivity can backfire. Just as symptom hopping, pill-popping, and whack-a-mole disease smacking is not addressing the root cause of our health issues, side-stepping sleep seems to produce short-term results and lasting, unwanted side-effects. This leads to the dog chasing its tail phenomenon. There are lots of moments it feels productive, but it’s just a big ol’ circular chase of time, energy, and frustration.
We have already seen the evidence of how our chemically-laden personal care and home products and processed food time savers are not proving to be the “anti-aging” and “weight-loss promoting” tools we were promised they’d be. Unfortunately, they are actually major contributors to the sad stats of our health care system today. In fact, recently, the Endocrine Society issued a statement summarizing the links between endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure to diabetes and obesity.
Now, as we pay the piper for dietary and chemical “solution” overload, it seems the “city that never sleeps” philosophy is also under scrutiny. Although it’s trendy to be “hacking” our bodies through the use of various supplements and “nootropics”, admittedly helpful and necessary at times, it could have its downfalls. I feel that when used correctly and intelligently, it’s a wonderful tool for those who need biological support for better focus or for certain periods of time when deadlines are lurking and looming. To be clear, some of my favorite podcasts are hackers, and it’s cool to listen to how we can manipulate our biochemistry.
However, most people need an awful lot of resources and gadgets to keep their body humming doing superhuman tasks. Furthermore, most people aren’t taking steps to offset the “energizer bunny” phases. They are just trading a quality life for more quantity in life. This may be one reason our nation is fat, unhappy, and unhealthy.
More and more, studies are reporting that bypassing sleep has long-term consequences including blood sugar dysregulation, heart health implications, obesity, cognition, mood, immune issues, and inability to modulate stress. In fact, it seems that sleep is becoming the next hot topic alongside the microbiome! (Of course, sleep affects our microbiome. J) Therefore, if we hack for less sleep, we then have to do more hacking for these effects as well. Phew, are you feeling tired?
Below are some current studies reporting on what happens when we bypass our biological clock for the glitz and glimmer of gadgets.
For the Young and Tired, Health Implications Start Early
According to researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health recently reported, “Sufficient sleep is critical for adolescent health, yet the number of hours slept per night has decreased among teenagers in the United States over the last 20 years.”
Part of the reason may be related to early school start times. Health Day reports, “Five out of six middle and high schools in the United States start the day too early, which keeps students from getting the sleep they need, a new government report finds. Middle and high schools should aim for a start time no earlier than 8:30 a.m. to help kids get enough sleep, according to a policy statement issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics last year. But a review of U.S. Department of Education data found that slightly less than 18 percent of public middle and high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later…
“Getting enough sleep is important for students’ health, safety and academic performance,” said lead author Anne Wheaton, an epidemiologist in the CDC’s division of population health. “Early school start times, however, are preventing many adolescents from getting the sleep they need.”
However, it’s not just the early wake-up time that is affecting tweens and teens. You must also figure in the late night lure of electronics and technology. In fact, a 2015 study published in the British Medical Journal with 9846 adolescents from three age cohorts, aged 16-19, demonstrated that media had a negative effect on sleep. The authors suggested, “There are probably multiple pathways explaining the associations between sleep and electronic devices. Media use may directly affect sleep by replacing it due to its time consuming nature, or may interfere with sleep through increased psychophysiological arousal. Alternatively, the bright light exposure inherent in most electronic media devices12 may interfere with sleep by delaying the circadian rhythm when exposure takes place in the evening14 and/or by causing an immediate activation in itself.11 ,15.”
Interestingly, it seems tweens are even more negatively impacted. Brown University reported, “Enough light exposure at night can keep anyone from falling asleep as quickly as they otherwise would have. But the new research, published online in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, finds that the sleep biology of boys and girls aged 9 to 15 who were in the earlier stages of puberty were especially sensitive to light at night compared to older teens. In lab experiments, an hour of nighttime light exposure suppressed their production of the sleep-timing hormone melatonin significantly more than the same light exposure did for teens aged 11 to 16 who were farther into puberty.”
Recently, Science Daily reported on a study connecting lack of sleep to a compromised immune response. “A new study led by a sleep researcher supports what parents have been saying for centuries: to avoid getting sick, be sure to get enough sleep.”
These studies have implications on the importance of bedtime for tweens and teenagers. One key could be to limit screen time before bed and to prioritize sleep over catching up with social media. Easier said than done, right?
How about this for motivation? A recent study showed that lack of sleep may lead to weight gain in teenagers. Health Day reports:
Teens may have a new reason to take their parents’ advice and go to bed early. Staying up late on weeknights may increase a teen’s risk of becoming overweight over time, a new study says.
For the study, researchers analyzed data from more than 3,300 American teens and found that each extra hour of late bedtime was associated with a more than two-point increase in body mass index (BMI). BMI is an estimate of body fat based on weight and height.
The link between late bedtimes and BMI increase was not significantly affected by total sleep time, amount of exercise, or time spent in front of computers or televisions, the investigators found.
However, as with anything, more is not necessarily better.
After measuring coronary calcium, researchers found:
- Adults who sleep five or fewer hours a day have 50 percent more calcium in their coronary arteries than those who sleep seven hours a day.
- Those who sleep nine or more hours a day have more than 70 percent more coronary calcium compared to those who sleep seven hours.
- Adults who reported poor sleep quality had more than 20 percent more coronary calcium than those who reported good sleep quality.
Click here to get some sleep tips.
Read some more studies and other healthy news at my Top Reads Wellness Blog.
Gore AC, Chappell VA, Fenton SE, Flaws JA, Nadal A, PrinsGS, Topari R, Zoller RT. Executive Summary to EDC-2: The Endocrine Society’s Second Scientific Statement on Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals. Endocrine Reviews. 2015; er.2015-1093 DOI:10.1210/er.2015-1093
Thompson D. Most U.S. Schools Start Too Early for Kids to Get Enough Sleep: Study. HealthDay. Aug. 6, 2015. http://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/adolescents-and-teen-health-news-719/most-u-s-schools-start-too-early-for-kids-to-get-enough-sleep-study-702113.html
Sleep and use of electronic devices in adolescence: results from a large population-based study. BMJ. February 2, 2015;5:e006748 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2014-006748
Orenstien A. Bright screens at night imperil sleep of young teens. Brown University. Brown News. August 26, 2015. https://news.brown.edu/articles/2015/08/sleep
Crowley S, Cain SW, Burns AC, Acebo S, Carksadon M. Increased sensitivity of the circadian system to light in early/mid puberty. The Journal of Clinical Endocronology & Metabolism. August 24, 2015. http://press.endocrine.org/doi/10.1210/jc.2015-2775
Basch CE, Basch CH, Ruggles KV, Rajan S. Prevalence of Sleep Duration on an Average School Night Among 4 Nationally Representative Successive Samples of American High School Students, 2007-2013. Prev Chronic Dis 2014;11:140383. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5888/pcd11.140383.
Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. Teens increasingly sleep deprived. EurekAlert. February 16, 2015. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-02/cums-tis021115.php
University of California – San Francisco. Short sleepers are four times more likely to catch a cold: Researchers connect sleep loss to higher rates of illness. ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/08/150831163729.htm
Preidt R. For Teens, Late Bedtime May Lead to Weight Gain Health Day. October 2, 2015. http://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/overweight-kids-health-news-517/for-teens-late-bedtime-may-lead-to-weight-gain-703835.html
Struggles with sleep may affect heart disease risk, American Heart Association Rapid Access Journal Report, September 10, 2015