- Study Reveals Why All-Nighters May Be So Dangerous for Your Health
- Altering Sleep and Eating Patterns Leads to Dramatic Changes in Your Blood
- Proteins That Regulate Blood Sugar Levels and Calorie Burning Were Thrown Out of Whack When Sleeping and Eating Were Shifted
- This Study Was a Small One, but the Results Are Important, Experts Say
- Is the Night Shift Bad for Your Health?
- Sleeping During the Day: Is it OK?
- The good news about napping—and the downsides of nodding off mid-day.
- Newborn Sleep Patterns
- What are the sleep patterns of a newborn?
- What are the different alert phases of a newborn?
- Caution on swaddling
- Helping your baby sleep
- What are the signs of sleep readiness?
- How can you help your baby fall asleep?
- How to Stay Up All Night
- 1. Practice
- 2. Caffeinate
- 3. But avoid energy drinks
- 4. Take a nap
- 5. Get up and move
- 6. Find some bright lights
- 7. Use your devices
- 8. Take a shower
- Catch up the next day
- What is Psychosis?
Study Reveals Why All-Nighters May Be So Dangerous for Your Health
Altering Sleep and Eating Patterns Leads to Dramatic Changes in Your Blood
Previous research has shown that night-shift work is a risk factor for weight gain and other metabolic disorders. “We know that shift work is associated with increased weight gain, obesity, and diabetes,” says Dr. Depner. To investigate the possible ways that circadian misalignment (eating at night and sleeping during the day) can lead to health problems, Depner and his colleagues set out to examine the ways reversing the sleep-wake cycle affects protein levels in human blood.
The study participants were six healthy men in their 20s with regular sleep schedules (sleeping an average of eight hours at night), who spent six days in a research center at the University of Colorado Hospital. During their stay, researchers strictly regulated their meals, sleep, activity, and exposure to light.
After spending the first two days following a traditional sleeping and eating schedule (where they slept at night and consumed their meals during the day), the men were gradually transitioned to a simulated night-shift sleeping and eating schedule. On these altered-schedule days, the men were kept up all night and allowed to sleep for 8 hours during the day. On these days, they also ate their meals at night.
The researchers took blood samples from the men every four hours. They found that of the 1,129 proteins being studied, as many as 10 percent, or 129 proteins, were altered by the simulated night shift. Proteins that would normally be more prevalent in higher levels during the day were peaking at night, and vice versa. The researchers were surprised by both the magnitude and amount of these biochemical changes, Depner says. “They changed so much and so rapidly — and these changes happened by the second day.”
Proteins That Regulate Blood Sugar Levels and Calorie Burning Were Thrown Out of Whack When Sleeping and Eating Were Shifted
One of the proteins was glucagon, a key hormone that causes the liver to secrete blood glucose and helps regulate blood sugar levels. During the simulated night-shift phase of the study, glucagon levels rose at night rather than the day and peaked at levels that were higher than in the daytime. “We know that over time, this would be a primary risk for diabetes,” Depner explains.
Another protein that was affected by the night shift was FGF19, or fibroblast growth factor 19, which animal studies have shown can boost calorie burning. On the days when sleep and eating were shifted, the FGF19 levels decreased, which researchers say may be one explanation for why the study participants burned 10 percent fewer calories per minute during these night-waking periods.
“ changed in a way that would decrease the energy the body uses,” Depner says — which could lead to weight gain if the pattern continued over time.
The study also identified 30 proteins that fluctuated depending on the time of day, regardless of when an individual slept or ate.
Because light is known to play a significant role in keeping our circadian systems on track, the researchers made sure the participants were in dim candlelight without any exposure to electronics or artificial light at night, notes Depner. Despite this, researchers saw clear changes in protein patterns. “We eliminated cell phones and screens, but still saw negative consequences,” says Depner, meaning that while light may be a factor, it’s not the only one that affects the body’s circadian system and the other processes it influences.
This Study Was a Small One, but the Results Are Important, Experts Say
Though small, this study is one of the first and most revealing to look at how protein levels in the blood are affected by when we eat and sleep — and shows what’s happening to those protein levels in real time when those everyday patterns are altered, Depner says. The results emphasize the important role our body’s circadian clock plays when it comes to our health.
The study illuminates potential ways that circadian misalignment (that is, sleeping and eating when our body clocks aren’t expecting it) can lead to disease by identifying proteins affected by those factors, says Eve Van Cauter, PhD, a professor of endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism in the department of medicine at the University of Chicago, who was not involved in the new study. “We know shift workers are at increased risk of diabetes and cancer, but we don’t know the pathway,” says Dr. Van Cauter. “This study is pointing at the pathways.”
While this study is definitely an important step in understanding the ways in which circadian misalignment can lead to health problems, it’s worth noting that it involved only six men, who were young and healthy, notes Depner. The researchers plan to do future studies on larger groups of people including women.
Another limitation was the frequency of the blood tests, notes Van Cauter. In this study, blood samples were taken only every four hours. “While informative, the sampling was infrequent — given that the entire 24-hour cycle only had six data points,” says Van Cauter.
Our biological patterns can’t always be adequately captured in four-hour increments, she adds. “Human rhythms are more complex.” (Though, she adds, increasing the frequency of the blood tests would have increased the cost of the research significantly.)
Bottom line: If you’re someone who regularly pulls all-nighters or has to work regular night shifts, it’s important to keep in mind that there are clear health consequences and costs of being a night owl. These findings show that “even in healthy people, you can see the negative effects of ,” says Depner. Talk to your doctor about ways to stay healthy if your job or other factors do require you to shift your sleep schedule. And if your job and lifestyle do allow you to follow a regular sleep schedule (sleeping at night and eating during the day), this study offers more evidence that doing so could have big benefits for your health.
Despite the fact that napping is commonplace in other cultures around the world, the activity in the U.S. is slightly less popular. Nevertheless, a national survey finds that one in three Americans takes a nap regularly. If you feel a bit run down or unfocused in the afternoon, you may also have considered taking a nap, but worried that the extra daytime shut-eye could impact your ability to sleep at night. The truth is, humans are hardwired to feel a little tired in the middle of the afternoon—most people’s natural circadian rhythm dips between 1 P.M. and 3 P.M. resulting in that sleepy feeling —and most likely, adding a short afternoon siesta will not disrupt your normal seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Follow these steps to get the most out of your nap, without interfering with your nighttime sleep.
Step 1: Watch the Clock
Taking a nap at the wrong time of day can be counterproductive. For instance, napping near dinnertime throws off your regular bedtime schedule, since it’s tough to relax when you’re not fatigued. Luckily, there’s a sweet spot on the clock: The best time to take a nap is after lunch, between 2 P.M. and 3 P.M., when the body’s energy naturally starts to flag.
Step 2: Keep It Short
If a little napping is good for you, more must be better, right? Not necessarily. Sleeping for an hour or more is too much during the day and will likely set you up for nighttime troubles. The right amount of time for a refreshing nap is about 20 minutes. This short window of zzz’s will put you in the non-REM or lightest stage of sleep. If you snooze for longer, you’ll enter a deep sleep stage and may wake up feeling less alert than when you started.
Step 3: Set the Scene
When you’re ready to take a quick nap, be sure the spot you pick is conducive to good sleep. The ideal environment for a snooze is one with a comfortable temperature, limited light, and minimal noise. If you are traveling, consider packing noise-canceling headphones and an eye mask to help you relax no matter where you are.
Step 4: Limit Caffeine
It’s tempting to grab a big latte when you’re feeling tired in the afternoon, but too much caffeine later in the day can leave you wired and unable to fall asleep at night. A cup or two of coffee is fine in the morning, but once the P.M. rolls around, you’re better served with a 20-minute nap to get your engine humming again.
Is the Night Shift Bad for Your Health?
You’ve often been told about the importance of getting enough sleep. But how often have you been told about the importance of when to sleep?
A Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) Division of Sleep Medicine study showed that a combination of insufficient sleep and sleep patterns that disagree with our body’s biological clock (circadian rhythm) may lead to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes and obesity. This is unwelcome news for rotating shift workers, a group particularly prone to not getting enough sleep, and, out of necessity, to sleeping at abnormal times.
A circadian rhythm is a biological process that regulates and coordinates many of your body’s functions, including metabolism. It tells your body when you should sleep and when you should eat. So, what would happen if you defied your body’s instinctive cues?
To address this question, researchers studied the impact of a rotating shift worker’s sleep schedule in a tightly controlled lab environment. At first, participants were getting an optimal amount of sleep at the optimal time – about 10 continuous hours each day, with each session starting after sunset. Next, participants were only allowed to sleep 5.6 hours each day, with the sleep occurring at varying times of day and night – to mimic the circadian disruptions that are experienced by a rotating shift worker (or someone with recurrent jet lag).
The researchers found that when the participants’ sleep, activity, and meal patterns were out of synch with circadian rhythms for three weeks, their resting metabolic rate decreased dramatically – translating into a yearly weight gain of about 10 pounds. During this same period of sub-optimal sleeping, participants’ blood sugar spiked and remained higher for hours after meals (because of poor insulin secretion by the pancreas), a telltale sign of developing diabetes.
By keeping the participants’ diet and activity levels constant throughout the study, researchers were able to determine that insufficient sleep and sleeping at abnormal times were directly responsible for lowering metabolism and raising blood sugar levels. This suggests that when our sleep schedule is dictated by factors that conflict with our body’s natural inclinations, our health suffers.
“We think these results reveal a mechanism for why, in people with a pre-diabetic condition, night workers are much more likely to progress to full-on diabetes than day workers,” said Dr. Orfeu M. Buxton, a neuroscientist at BWH and the study’s lead author. “Since night workers often have a hard time sleeping during the day, they can face both circadian disruption working at night and insufficient sleep during the day. The evidence is clear that getting enough sleep is important for health, and that sleep should be at night for best results.”
Sleeping During the Day: Is it OK?
The good news about napping—and the downsides of nodding off mid-day.
Sneaking in some sleep midday is linked to a long list of benefits, including improved mood, better memory, reduced fatigue, and even lowered blood pressure. In addition, while your body clock is set to help you feel alert in the morning and sleepy in the evening, it’s also programmed to make you feel naturally tired mid-afternoon, and a nap has been shown as the best way to cope with this fatigue.
That said, naps aren’t for everyone. Some people wake up from an afternoon snooze feeling groggier than they did before they fell asleep, and for others, napping can interfere with the quality of their nighttime sleep—especially if they already suffer from insomnia. And needing to take naps due to excessive daytime sleepiness may be a sign of an underlying health condition, such as Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, or depression. Talk to your doctor if you feel overwhelmingly exhausted during the day or if napping on a regular basis is a necessity for you. Otherwise, follow these tips to get the most from your nap:
1. Be Brief. The longer the nap, the worse you’ll feel when you wake up. Limit your snoozing to 30 minutes at the most.
2.Time Your Nap Carefully. While you may get the urge to nod off later or earlier some days, as a general rule of thumb it’s best to nap around 2:00pm or 3:00pm. This is usually an hour or two after lunch, when your blood sugar and energy level starts to dip. A quick nap at this time can help you feel more alert for the rest of the day without interfering with your nighttime sleep.
3. Set the Scene. Since you probably don’t have a lot of time allotted for your nap, it’s key to fall asleep as fast as possible. A cool, dark, quiet room will help you accomplish this.
4. Ditch the Guilt. Naps often get a bad rap, but they can actually improve your productivity, learning, and creative thinking. Whether you’re napping at home or during the workday, don’t feel bad about a little bit of midday shut-eye!
Newborn Sleep Patterns
What are the sleep patterns of a newborn?
The average newborn sleeps much of the day and night, waking only for feedings every few hours. It’s often hard for new parents to know how long and how often a newborn should sleep. Unfortunately, there is no set schedule at first, and many newborns have their days and nights confused. They think they are supposed to be awake at night and sleep during the day.
Generally, newborns sleep a total of about 8 to 9 hours in the daytime and a total of about 8 hours at night. But because they have a small stomach, they must wake every few hours to eat. Most babies don’t start sleeping through the night (6 to 8 hours) until at least 3 months of age. But this can vary a lot. Some babies don’t sleep through the night until closer to 1 year. In most cases, your baby will wake up and be ready to eat at least every 3 hours. How often your baby will eat depends on what he or she is being fed and his or her age. Make sure you talk with your healthcare provider to figure out if you need to wake your baby for feedings.
Watch for changes in your baby’s sleep pattern. If your baby has been sleeping consistently, and suddenly is waking more often, there may be a problem. Or your baby may be going through a growth spurt and need to eat more often. Some sleep disturbances are simply due to changes in development or because of overstimulation.
What are the different alert phases of a newborn?
Babies are also different in how alert they are during the time they are awake.
Quiet alert phase
When a newborn wakes up at the end of the sleep cycle, there is typically a quiet alert phase. This is a time when the baby is very still, but awake and taking in the environment. During the quiet alert time, babies may look or stare at objects, and respond to sounds and motion. This phase usually progresses to the active alert phase. This is when the baby is attentive to sounds and sights, and moves actively.
After the quiet alert phase is a crying phase. The baby’s body moves erratically, and he or she may cry loudly. Babies can easily be overstimulated during the crying phase. It’s usually best to find a way of calming the baby and the environment. Holding your baby close or wrapping your baby snugly in a blanket (swaddling) may help calm a crying baby.
It’s usually best to feed babies before they reach the crying phase. During the crying phase, they can be so upset that they may refuse the breast or bottle. In newborns, crying is a late sign of hunger.
Caution on swaddling
Swaddling means wrapping newborn babies snugly in a blanket to keep their arms and legs from flailing. This can make a baby feel safe and help him or her fall asleep. You can buy a special swaddling blanket designed to make swaddling easier.
But don’t use swaddling if your baby is 2 months or older, or if your baby can roll over on his or her own. Swaddling may raise the risk for SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) if the swaddled baby rolls onto his or her stomach.
When you swaddle, give your baby enough room to move his or her hips and legs. The legs should be able to bend up and out at the hips. Don’t place your baby’s legs so that they are held together and straight down. This raises the risk that the hip joints won’t grow and develop correctly. This can cause a problem called hip dysplasia and dislocation.
Also be careful of swaddling your baby if the weather is warm or hot. Using a thick blanket in warm weather can make your baby overheat. Instead use a lighter blanket or sheet to swaddle the baby.
Helping your baby sleep
Babies may not be able to form their own sleeping and waking patterns, especially in going to sleep. You can help your baby sleep by knowing the signs of sleep readiness, teaching him or her to fall asleep on his or her own, and providing the right environment for comfortable and safe sleep.
What are the signs of sleep readiness?
Your baby may show signs of being ready for sleep when you see the following signs:
How can you help your baby fall asleep?
Not all babies know how to put themselves to sleep. When it’s time for bed, many parents want to rock their baby to sleep. Newborns and younger infants will fall asleep while breastfeeding. Having a routine at bedtime is a good idea. But if an older baby falls asleep while eating or in your arms, this may become a pattern. Your baby may then start to expect to be in your arms to fall asleep. When your baby briefly awakens during a sleep cycle, he or she may not be able to go back to sleep on his or her own.
After the newborn period, most experts recommend allowing your baby to become sleepy in your arms, then placing him or her in the bed while still awake. This way your baby learns how to go to sleep on his or her own. Playing soft music while your baby is getting sleepy is also a good way to help create a bedtime routine.
How to Stay Up All Night
Sometimes the dreaded all-nighter just can’t be avoided. Maybe you have a new job working night shifts, it’s finals week, or you’re having a sleepover party. Regardless of your reasons, staying up all night is tough.
Human sleep patterns follow natural circadian rhythms. Your circadian rhythms are like internal clocks affecting the way you think, feel, and behave throughout the day. Circadian rhythms are based on the lightness or darkness of your environment.
When your brain perceives darkness outside, your body begins to release a hormone called melatonin. Melatonin makes you drowsy and prepares your body for sleep.
Staying up all night means fighting this natural process, which is not only difficult, but also unhealthy. Sleep deprivation can impact your ability to learn and focus. It can even be dangerous. In 2013, there were at least 72,000 car accidents caused by drowsy driving.
If you must stay up all night, the following tips can help you do it safely.
The easiest way to stay up all night is to reset your internal clock. This can take up to one week, but it’s possible. You may experience serious drowsiness at first, but your body does catch on.
If you’re switching to the night shift, give your body a few days of practice. Your circadian rhythms still rely on light cues, so make sure you’re sleeping in a very dark room during the day. Blackout curtains and eye masks are particularly helpful.
Caffeine is a helpful pick-me-up and can increase your alertness. It helps fight one of the natural substances your body releases to make you drowsy.
Studies have found that moderate doses of caffeine (600 milligrams or more than four cups of coffee) can improve your ability to think and perform tasks, but high doses (900 mg or more) have the opposite effect. High doses of caffeine can cause symptoms like anxiety and shakiness that make it harder for you to concentrate.
To stay up all night, don’t rely on one big dose of caffeine. Too much coffee can lead to stomach upset. Instead, try taking several smaller doses throughout the night such as espresso shots, caffeine pills, or caffeinated gum.
3. But avoid energy drinks
Energy drinks contain varying amounts of caffeine, typically the equivalent of one to five cups of coffee. They also contain guarana, an ingredient that also contains caffeine, which makes the total amount of caffeine higher than it appears.
When using energy drinks, it’s difficult to know exactly how much caffeine you’re ingesting, and extremely high doses of caffeine can be toxic. They’re especially dangerous when mixed with drugs or alcohol. In 2011, more than 20,000 people went to the emergency room because of energy drinks.
4. Take a nap
Taking a series of small naps throughout the night may help you stay alert. Although it’s not equal to a full night’s sleep, short naps can be restorative. Most studies on night-shift workers find that naps reduce sleepiness and improve performance.
Try to catch 15 to 20 minutes of sleep during a break. If you’re driving through the night, pull into a rest stop for a quick nap.
5. Get up and move
Daily exercise helps you maintain a healthy sleep schedule, but experts recommend avoiding exercise late at night, if you want to sleep well at night. That’s because your body produces a lot of energy when you exercise, which can keep you awake.
If you’re trying to stay up all night, try 30 to 40 minutes of aerobic exercise. If you don’t want to exercise, try getting up and moving around. Pace back and forth for 10 minutes, take a walk outside, or do a few jumping jacks.
6. Find some bright lights
Darkness cues your body to release melatonin, a hormone that makes you feel sleepy. One study found that using bright lights at night and creating darkness during the day can help night-shift workers reset their circadian rhythms.
Find a lamp that can distribute light widely throughout the room. Look for an LED bulb that can simulate sunlight. This should help you stay awake longer.
7. Use your devices
Your electronic devices, including laptops, tablets, TVs, and phones, emit something called “blue light.” According to the National Sleep Foundation, the blue light emitted from your devices can delay the release of melatonin, the sleep hormone. This can prevent you from becoming sleepy.
To keep yourself awake, use a device that you can interact with. Try playing video games on your computer or tablet. The closer the blue light is to your face, the more awake you will feel.
8. Take a shower
Taking a cold or lukewarm shower can help wake you up when you start to get tired. If you don’t want to shower, splashing your face with cold water can help. Brushing your teeth can make you feel refreshed.
Catch up the next day
Staying up all night isn’t good for you and should only be done as a last resort. After staying up all night, you’ll feel very drowsy. Try to make up the sleep the next day.
Getting a consistent eight-hour sleep every night can seem near impossible. Whether you’re staying up late to cram as a student, having a big night out or binging a new series on Netflix, hitting the sack consistently by 10pm is hard to do. Even if you’re not a night owl, you might just find it hard to get to sleep. Excessive or late-night screen time, and poor lifestyle habits such as eating big meals before bed or having too much caffeine in the day, can also impact your quality and quantity of sleep. According to the Australian Sleep Health Foundation 33 to 45% of adults sleep poorly or not long enough and inadequate sleep can have a significant impact on our wellbeing.
Impaired reaction time, judgement and vision
When 17-year-old Randy Garner challenged himself to stay awake for 11 days back in the 1960s, after just one day he had trouble with his vision and lost basic coordination – by the end he was hallucinating. While extreme, this experiment highlights how sleep deprivation impacts you physically, including your sensory and motor functions. In fact, driving while sleep-deprived can be as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol, as your reaction time, judgement and vision are all impaired.
Dr Melissa Weinberg from Deakin University’s School of Psychology has studied the relationship between sleep and wellbeing. ‘The first function of sleep is to refuel your body. In the first few hours of deep sleep, your body is doing all the things it needs to do to re-energise,’ Dr Weinberg explains.
Poor information processing and memory
When you’re sufficiently charged during that first period of sleep, Dr Weinberg says you then move into the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. ‘That’s where we dream. It’s the brain replenishing and refreshing. Even though we’re asleep, our brain is awake,’ she says.
According to Dr Weinberg it’s at this time that we learn and remember. ‘If you don’t sleep, your brain doesn’t have a chance to consolidate information,’ she cautions, which means if you’re pulling an all-nighter ahead of an exam, you’re probably wasting your time. ‘If you cram you risk losing it all,’ Dr Weinberg says and adds that overall we don’t perform with mental efficiency when tired.
Interestingly, research has revealed there is a – we need to sleep in order for our short-term memory to be converted into long-term memory.
I usually go 2-3 days without sleeping and then I only sleep a couple of hours and then the cycle repeats. I know this isn’t healthy but what can I do?
It’s common for everyone to have trouble falling asleep and for some, staying asleep every once in a while, but if you are having sleep problems on a regular basis, you should talk with your health care provider. The most common cause of Insomnia (trouble falling or staying asleep) is stress, and not getting enough sleep can be a serious problem. If you’re not sleeping well, you are likely feeling very tired and run down. You may also have trouble staying awake at school, and your grades may also be suffering. Lack of sleep slows down your reaction time for example, while driving, playing sports, and doing other activities that require concentration, putting you at risk for accidents.
Teens actually need about 9 hours of sleep a night. Younger children need more, (10-11 hours a night) and adults need slightly less (7-9 hours each night). Here are some tips to help you get a good night’s sleep. If you continue to have trouble sleeping, make an appointment with your health care provider.
- No caffeine after 3pm: Avoid beverages with caffeine (soda, tea, energy drinks, etc.) especially after 3pm.
- Don’t go to bed hungry: Have your evening meal at least 3 hrs. before going to sleep. It’s fine to have a small bedtime snack such as a glass of milk and a few crackers but don’t have a big meal.
- Have a nightly routine before bed: Plan on “winding down” before you go to sleep. Begin relaxing about 1 hour before you go to bed. Try doing a quiet activity such as listening to calming music, reading a book or meditating.
- Turn off the TV and ALL electronics including video games, tablets, laptops, etc. 1 hour before sleep, and keep them out of the bedroom.
- Turn off your cell phone and all notifications (new email and text alerts) or even better, leave your phone outside your room while you sleep. Studies have shown that a part of your brain continues to respond to certain lights and sounds even while you’re still asleep.
- Make your bedroom quiet, dark and cool. If you can’t control the noise, try wearing earplugs or using a fan to block out other sounds.
- Practice relaxation techniques. Try reading a book or meditating or drain your brain by writing a list of what you need to do the next day.
- Don’t nap unless you feel sick: you’ll have a better night’s sleep.
- Don’t smoke, or quit if you do. Nicotine, alcohol, and marijuana can all keep you awake. Talk to your health care provider if you need help with substance use.
- Most importantly, wake up at the same time every day (or within 1 hour of your usual wake up time) EVEN on the weekends. A regular wake up time promotes sleep hygiene and prevents sleep problems.
- Reduce exposure to bright light in the last three hours of the day before going to sleep.
Anyone who’s had to revise for exams will be familiar with the phrase ‘pulling an all-nighter’.
Uttering the oh-so-fashionable words makes you appear ‘cool’ amongst your friends – because it is of course very hard to stay awake all night.
But most of us are unaware of just what happens to your body when you’ve had no sleep.
According to author Geoff Rolls, the effects of not sleeping for 24 hours can actually be life-threatening.
Fans in Times Square staring into Peter Tripp’s glass booth (Picture: Ted Russell/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
Geoff charts the effects of sleep deprivation on a person’s body in the book Classical Case Studies in Psychology using an example of a DJ who stayed awake for eight days to raise money for charity.
Peter Tripp entered a glass room in the middle of Times Square in 1959, and ran his radio show for eight days straight without any sleep.
The first two days were a blast with Tripp producing flawless broadcasts and keeping his audience entertained. But on the third day, his mood dramatically changed, he became abusive and started hallucinating.
Peter Tripp stretching during his stay-awake marathon (Picture: Ted Russell/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
MORE: Humans can sleep for days if they’re left alone in the dark
According to doctors, staying awake for eight days was enough to trigger ‘nocturnal psychosis’.
Though Tripp was in good spirits after staying awake for 24 hours, not sleeping for a full day is the equivalent of having a 0.1 per cent blood alcohol concentration, according to a 2010 study.
Tripp began losing his memory even though he insisted what he was saying was the truth. Researchers have found that those who stay awake for this long tend to forget faces they see often.
Being awake for two days straight can make you more susceptible to microsleep, according to sleep educator Terry Cralle. You tend to nod off without realising.
There is yet to be evidence that prolonged sleep deprivation can lead to death, but it almost certainly makes you more prone to diseases such as diabetes, obesity and depression.
In other words, it’s probably not ideal to stay awake longer than 24 hours, even if you do have a looming deadline ahead – it’ll only lead to more problems.
What is Psychosis?
Psychosis is a mental health problem that causes people to perceive things differently from others around them.
Hallucinations – seeing, feeling, smelling or tasting things that aren’t there.
Delusions – believing things that are not true, such as someone trying to kill you.
There are no causes of psychosis but it is triggered by other conditions such as Schizophrenia and Bipolar disorder.
MORE: How using your phone before bedtime could be costing you an hour’s sleep every night
Advertisement AdvertisementInscape meditation centre in New York, where the worried weary pay $45 for Deep Rest sessions. Participants are woken up if they start snoring. Photograph: Frederick Charles
Take the Sleep Council in the UK, a body that calls itself “an impartial, advisory organisation that raises the awareness of the importance of a good night’s sleep to health and wellbeing”. The organisation commissions surveys and issues information on how well – or poorly – we sleep. It recommends a sensible bedtime and a comfortable bed as “key to sleeping well”. Sound advice, but bear in mind that the Sleep Council is the consumer education arm of the National Bed Federation, the trade association for British bed manufacturers. Unsurprisingly, it also recommends that we change our mattress every seven years to help us sleep better – and to help it sell more mattresses.
In New York, at fashionable meditation centre Inscape in the shadow of the Flatiron building, the worried and weary pay for Deep Rest sessions ($25 for 45 minutes). At one of their in-demand events on a Sunday night, I lie in a purple-hued room called the Alcove with 10 or so other people, after being anointed with fragrant calming oil. I listen to the melodic, rhythmic tones of an Australian woman over the speakers, telling me to relax and how to breathe. While the class doesn’t teach sleep, it aims to help the body unwind and become less aware (in this way it differs from meditation, where one is meant to maintain awareness). An Inscape facilitator is present to wake people if they start snoring and disturb others. The session is enjoyable and relaxing, but there is something strange about lying in a room of strangers, trying to rest. Many are regulars; one attends whenever she can. “I travel a lot for work and I’m concerned that disrupting my sleep will have negative consequences on my health,” she explains. “I’m desperate to redress the balance.”
Dr Neil Stanley is a British independent sleep expert who has been researching the field for more than 35 years. He also believes orthosomnia is a money-making proposition for big businesses. “Essentially, people want to make you anxious to sell products, devices, books,” he says. “Saying, ‘A lack of sleep is going to kill you’ is a good headline, but there’s not a whole lot of evidence for that. We are being sold a dream that we can be in control of our sleep. It’s a fairytale. But no one’s going to make money out of telling you to listen to your body.”
London-based acupuncturist Mia Kawada agrees. She says she is seeing increasing numbers of women using sleep trackers and then reporting problems with their sleep. “It’s good that people are taking responsibility,” she says. “But with every machine or gadget comes a tendency to rely on what the data says, instead of what your body is telling you. You start to care more about what the app says than how you feel.” Kawada says one of her patients was anxious because her tracker had been telling her she wasn’t getting enough deep sleep, even though she had gone to bed at 10.30pm. “When I asked her how she was feeling during the day, she admitted that she didn’t feel tired,” Kawada says, “but the statistics were clearly stressing her out. It’s a little counterproductive.
“We live in an age where we think having more information is empowering. But the more information we have, the more we feel the need to control things we have been doing automatically for millennia. By trying to exert this control, we lose the connection with our own bodies.”
“I’m in bed by nine every night, even at weekends,’ says 27-year-old Jane Clarke, an executive assistant from York who has become attached to the Apple Watch she received for Christmas in 2016. “I get up at 6.30am. It’s stressful to find time to get enough sleep. I rarely go out in the week and only see my boyfriend at the weekend. But I believe it’s good for my health to keep this routine. I never get colds.”
Petra Hawker believes that seeing friends and connecting with others is just as important to your health as sleep. “People shouldn’t be coming home from work and going to bed at 8.30pm unless they have to get up extraordinarily early. These routines mean people struggle to fit the things they need to do into their day, leading to more stress.”
Neil Stanley adds that the science around sleep trackers is not great. “They can’t measure deep sleep or dreaming sleep. They only measure movement, which gives no information about what’s happening in the brain – and that’s the important place. People are using this information to diagnose themselves with a sleep problem or determine that they need more sleep. It’s concerning. This whole ‘observed self’ lifestyle is pretty pointless. If you wake up and you are too sleepy to drive to Edinburgh, don’t drive to Edinburgh. It doesn’t really matter what a watch says. If you are awake, alert and focused during the day you have had enough sleep. It’s as simple as that. Go to bed when you are sleepy.”
Walker believes that in the next two to four years, the technology around apps and trackers will become more accurate. “What I would say is, ignorance is not bliss in this case,” he says. “The approach can’t be to say: ‘Don’t tell all those people about the problems that come from not getting enough sleep,’ because that does those people a disservice. We need to tell them the hard facts, but figure out a way of dissipating the anxiety.”
That may be easier said than done, however. Graphic designer Mari Wright from London says she has consigned her fitness tracker to the drawer after becoming “obsessed” with monitoring her health on it. “I was a signed-up clean sleeper,” she says, “but to get to bed early I ate ready meals, which was probably counterproductive. No matter what I did, I was regularly measuring six hours or so of sleep on the device and I talked about it every day. Eventually, my sister told me to stop it. I do miss it, but I can’t say I feel much different. If anything, I sleep more.”
Some names have been changed
Petra Hawker’s tips for a good night’s sleep
1 Wind down for an hour before bed. Go into a room that is comfortable, write down any problems you have or things you need to do. Don’t go on your phone or a screen – blue light from these devices affects the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. Deep breathing and yogic exercises will reduce adrenaline levels.
2 Keep the bedroom cool, dark and quiet; these are biological indicators to the body that it’s time to sleep.
3 Don’t use the bed as a workspace or somewhere to watch TV. The brain needs to learn that the bed is for sleeping in, not for lying in without sleep.
4 The brain likes routine. If you do the same thing every night, it will fall into a pattern.
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