I love to talk to people about sleep health, the may ways it impacts their well-being, and what to do to improve sleep. If you’d like a speaker for your group let me know, firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’ve talked in the past about circadian rhythms, how there is a daily rhythm of hormone fluctuations that make us more alert during the day, and more sleepy during the night. There are also changes in organ function by time of day. Shiftworkers’ health suffers for being up and active at a time their body is programmed to sleep.
What we haven’t discussed is how these rhythms are established in the first place. Just this week, there was an article published in Science by Lazar and Feng about the circadian rhythm of fat metabolism in the liver.
During the day, molecules modify the liver DNA to reduce fat production. Those molecules leave during the night (so there are 100 at 5am, as opposed to 15000 at 5pm). With those molecules absent, more fat is produced and stored in the liver. The authors conclude “This leads to a circadian rhythm of metabolism that is important, because disruption of this rhythm leads to fatty liver. This may explain in part why altered circadian rhythms in people who do shift work is associated with metabolic disorders.”
There are molecular changes like this happening in many organ systems, multiplying the effect of being out of sync with the natural light-dark cycle. As our understanding of circadian physiology develops, we’ll be better able to improve the health of shiftworkers.
The new Sleep In America Poll came out today, the first day of National Sleep Awareness Week 2011.
This poll was all about our use of technology during the hour before bed, our nightly sleep, and daytime function. Here are some of the highlights:
– 63% say that during the week their sleep needs are not met
– 60% say they have a sleep problem almost every night
– 95% of us use technology during the hour before bed a few nights a week or more
– 20% of 13-29 year olds say they are awoken by a text, phone call or email several nights a week
-22% of 13-18 year olds are clinically sleepy
– About 10% of 13-45 year olds say they drive drowsy 1-2 times a week
Even the light from your TV or laptop is enough to suppress melatonin. During the hour before bed your melatonin should be increasing, allowing you to become sleepy and fall to sleep easily. The time for bright light is in the morning to get energized.
So, what has to happen to have a good social life? People need to think you are somewhat attractive, you need to be able to read others’ emotions, and you need to be a pretty good person.
All these aspects of a good social life are impacted negatively if you don’t sleep well. Research this last year has shown that when people are sleep deprived they:
A) are considered less attractive than when they are well rested
B) are less able to discern happy and angry emotions from anothers’ facial expression
C) are more likely to put their own interests above others when making moral or ethical decisions.
So, we already knew the many ways poor sleep or sleep deprivation impacts our physical health and performance. Now we’re starting to learn how our social abilities are impacted too.
My next thought is about the high number of children who are sleep deprived (80% of highschool students). Since this is a time when they are learning social skills, what is the long-term impact of being sleep deprived at this critical time?