Electric Sleep: The Gadgetry Tracking and Hacking The Way We Rest

As activity tracking goes mainstream, an arsenal of consumer technology is rolling out for sleep. But how much do these interventions help?

At 2.16am, I stumble to the bathroom. I catch a glimpse of myself. The light from the red bulb is flattering – I’ve been told to eliminate all blue light on my nocturnal trek – but the sleep-tracker headband, currently emitting the sound of gently lapping waves, kills any woke-up-like-this vibe. I adjust its double straps and feel my way back to bed.

The next time I wake is at 6.30am – after fractured dreams in which the Dreem 2 headband makes many cameos – to birdsong, also from the headband. When I check the app, I see I have slept six-and-a-half hours of my anticipated eight. Anxious to remedy this, I head out for my first coffee. In his new book Blueprint: Build a Bulletproof Body for Extreme Adventure in 365 Days, athlete Ross Edgley warns that this sort of overriding behaviour can bring about “biochemical bankruptcy”. Not now, Ross.

Health influencers like Edgley are all over sleep lately, and no wonder, when so many of us obsess over it. A 2021 report released by the Sleep Health Foundation estimates around one in 10 Australians have a sleep disorder, while a report from 2019 found that more than half are suffering from at least one chronic sleep symptom. Studies have suggested that sleep deficiency can lead to weight gain and a weakened immune system and that poor sleep patterns may contribute to later dementia risk.

In recent years, sleep-fretting has intersected with fitness-tracking, with the latest bio-hacks regularly featured on the podcasts of personal-development heavyweights such as Joe Rogan, whose Whoop Strap – worn around the wrist – told him he was getting four or five hours a night, not the seven or eight he’d thought; and Aubrey Marcus, whose Oura ring measures various biomarkers overnight and gives him a total score in the morning. “If I can get close to 80%, I’m golden for the day,” Marcus told the authors of My Morning Routine.

Wearables, such as watches, rings and headbands, appeal to those of us who enjoy geeking out on our stats, but could they also be cultivating anxiety and feeding into insomnia? Associate Prof Darren Mansfield, a sleep disorders and respiratory physician who is also deputy chair of the Sleep Health Foundation, thinks some balance is needed.

“These devices in general can be a good thing,” he says. “They’re not as accurate as a laboratory-based sleep study, but they are progressing in that direction, and technology enables the person to be engaged in their health. Where it can become problematic is people can become a bit enslaved by the data, which can lead to anxiety or rumination over the results and significance. That might escalate any problems, or even start creating problems.”

As a clinician, Mansfield thinks that the most useful role of these devices is monitoring routine, not obsessing over the hours of good-quality sleep. “There will be some error margin, but nonetheless when we’re looking for diagnostic information, like timing of sleep and duration of sleep, they can capture that,” he says.

Since Mansfield admits his sleep doesn’t need much hacking, I seek out an insomniac-turned-human guinea pig. Mike Toner runs the dance music agency Thick as Thieves, and has been on a mission for five years to fix the sleep issues earned from a decade of late nights in Melbourne clubs and reaching for his phone to answer international emails at 3am.

“I tried everything,” he says. “Magnesium capsules and spray, melatonin and herbal sleep aids. I even signed up for treatment at a sleep centre. You sleep in this room with all these wires connected to you, things coming out of your nose, cameras trained on you. Ironically, I slept better that night than I have any other night.”

He decided to start monitoring his body in earnest, learning about the latest devices from the Huberman Lab Podcast and The Quantified Scientist. Sleep-monitoring wearables have progressed from having an accelerometer to track movements which are fed through an algorithm to predict when a person is asleep, to being able to track sleep latency; sleep efficacy; heart-rate variability; light, deep and REM sleep and sleeping positions.

Toner’s accumulated a few as the technology becomes more sophisticated. He estimates having spent around $1,500 on them, and a further $3,500 for the sleep-centre treatment.

Then there are the cooling devices. Toner beds down on a Chilipad as soon as the weather gets warmer – a hydro-powered cooling mattress.

The idea is that lying down in a cool room – perhaps after taking a warm shower – tricks the body into slumber, since our body temperature drops when we’re asleep.

Non-techy strategies include having hands and feet out from under the covers, or using a fan. Lifestyle guru and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss recommends a short ice bath before bed. Be warned, though: Dave Asprey – founder of Bulletproof, which sells high-performance products – once tried putting ice packs on his body right before bed. As he told MensHealth.com: “I ended up getting ice burns on about 15% of my body.”

Mansfield says that ensuring you’re cooler in the evenings may help with sleep. “Generally, a lower-level temperature is better tolerated at night … 25C can make a beautiful, comfortable day, but can be unbearably hot at night when our own core temperature drops, so 18C or 19C is more tolerable.

“Then in the last two hours before getting up, your temperature rises again – you might have thrown off the blanket in the night and then might wake up at 5am feeling freezing cold.”

And what about the new frontiers of technology? According to neuroscientist Matthew Walker, in his influential book Why We Sleep, in the future, we can expect the marriage of tracking devices with in-home networked devices such as thermostats and lighting.

“Using common machine-learning algorithms applied over time, we should be able to intelligently teach the home thermostat what the thermal sweet spot is of each occupant in each bedroom, based on the biophysiology calculated by their sleep-tracking device,” Walker says. “Better still, we could program a natural circadian lull and rise in temperature across the night that is in harmony with each body’s expectations.”

Mansfield thinks this kind of integration is feasible, and that a thermostat linked to a device measuring circadian rhythms offers plausible benefits in preparing people’s sleep, but he predicts that automated control of room lighting will wind up being manually overridden, because technology can’t necessarily gauge when we’re in the middle of reading a book or having a conversation. “It’s liable to just irritate people,” he says. He’s more interested in technology that will track conditions like sleep apnoea.

As Toner has concluded, no device is a silver bullet. Ultimately, it was a $70 online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) course that his GP referred him to that fixed his sleep over three months of strict adherence. Now he just uses technology to make sure he’s not drifting off track.

The key lessons? Only use your bedroom for sleep and sex. Set your alarm for the same time, no matter how late you get to bed. Screens off early. No day-napping. Alcohol is a bad idea. All of these things are easily monitored yourself using a good old notebook, and they don’t cost a cent. They just take persistence.

With those good habits in place, Toner is now mindful of how he will put the CBT pointers he’s learned during lockdowns into practice once his life picks up its pace again.

“I used to put this obligation on myself to be there all the time with my artists, but interestingly, coming out of this pandemic, a lot of the artists are having the same train of thought as I am, wanting to avoid late nights,” Toner says.

He’s even coaching some of them for a charity run – quite the lifestyle change for many. “I’ve spent so long fixing this that one of the things I’ve realized, when we eventually go back to work routines, is I’m going to be fiercely protective of my sleep.

By:

Source: Electric sleep: the gadgetry tracking and hacking the way we rest | Sleep | The Guardian

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Why Some COVID-19 Infections May Be Free of Symptoms But Not Free of Harm

Scientists are studying the potential consequences of asymptomatic COVID-19 and how many people may suffer long term health problems. Eric Topol was worried when he first saw images of the lungs of people who had been infected with COVID-19 aboard the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship that was quarantined off the coast of Japan in the earliest weeks of the pandemic.

A study of 104 passengers found that 76 of them had COVID but were asymptomatic. Of that group, CT scans showed that 54 percent had lung abnormalities—patchy grey spots known as ground glass opacities that signal fluid build-up in the lungs.

These CT scans were “disturbing,” wrote Topol, founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, with co-author Daniel Oran in a narrative review of asymptomatic disease published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. “If confirmed, this finding suggests that the absence of symptoms might not necessarily mean the absence of harm.”

One recent study estimated that a staggering 35 percent of all COVID-19 infections are asymptomatic. “That’s why it’s important to know if this is a vulnerability,” Topol says.

But Topol says he hasn’t seen any further studies investigating lung abnormalities in asymptomatic people in the more than a year and a half since the Diamond Princess cases were first documented. “It’s like we just gave up on it.”

He argues that asymptomatic disease hasn’t gotten the attention it should amid the race to treat severe disease and develop vaccines to prevent it. As a result, scientists are still largely in the dark about the potential consequences of asymptomatic infections—or how many people are suffering those consequences.

One stumbling block that scientists worry could keep them from truly understanding the scope of the problem is that it’s incredibly challenging to pinpoint how many people had asymptomatic infections. “There’s probably a pool of people out there who had asymptomatic disease but were never tested so they don’t know they had COVID at that time,” says Ann Parker, assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins and a specialist in post-acute COVID-19 care.

Still, there is some evidence that asymptomatic disease can cause serious harm among some people—including blood clots, heart damage, a mysterious inflammatory disorder, and long COVID, the syndrome marked by a range of symptoms from breathing difficulties to brain fog that linger after an infection. Here’s a look at what scientists know so far about the effects of asymptomatic COVID-19 and what they’re still trying to figure out.

Heart inflammation and blood clots

Just as imaging scans have revealed damage to the lungs of asymptomatic individuals, chest scans have also shown abnormalities in the hearts and blood of people with asymptomatic infections—including blood clots and inflammation.

Thrombosis Journal and other publications have described several cases of blood clots in the kidneys, lungs, and brains of people who hadn’t had any symptoms. When these gel-like clumps get stuck in a vein, they prevent an organ from getting the blood it needs to function—which can lead to seizures, strokes, heart attacks, and death.

There have been relatively few of these case reports—and it’s unclear whether some patients might have had other underlying issues that could have caused a clot. But the Washington State researchers who reported on one case of renal blood clot write that it “suggests that unexplained thrombus in otherwise asymptomatic patients can be a direct result of COVID-19 infection, and serves as a call to action for emergency department clinicians to treat unexplained thrombotic events as evidence of COVID-19.”

Meanwhile, studies also suggest that asymptomatic infections could be causing harm to the heart. In May, cardiac MRI scans of 1,600 college athletes who had tested positive for COVID-19 revealed evidence of myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, in 37 people—28 of whom hadn’t had any symptoms, says Saurabh Rajpal, a cardiovascular disease specialist at the Ohio State University and lead author on the study.

Myocarditis can cause symptoms such as chest pain, palpitations, and fainting—but sometimes it doesn’t produce any symptoms at all. Rajpal says that while the athletes in the study were asymptomatic, “the changes on the MRI were similar to or almost the same as those who had clinical or symptomatic myocarditis.”

Although these chest scans are worrisome, Rajpal says that scientists don’t know yet what they ultimately mean for the health of asymptomatic patients. It’s possible that myocarditis might resolve over time—perhaps even before patients know they had it—or it could develop into a more serious long-term health issue. Long-term studies are necessary to suss that out.

The athletes’ heart inflammation might also be completely unrelated to their COVID-19 infection. Scientists would need to compare the scans with a set taken just before an individual was infected with COVID-19. So that, Rajpal says, will still need to be teased out.

Long COVID

Additionally, people with asymptomatic infections are at risk of becoming so-called COVID-19 long-haulers, a syndrome whose definition has been hard to pin down as it can include any combination of diverse and often overlapping symptoms such as pain, breathing difficulties, fatigue, brain fog, dizziness, sleep disturbance, and hypertension.

“There’s a myth out there that it only occurs with severe COVID, and obviously it occurs far more frequently in mild COVID,” Topol says.

Linda Geng, co-director of Stanford Health Care’s Post-Acute COVID-19 Syndrome Clinic in the U.S., agrees. “There is actually not a great predictive factor about the severity of your illness in the acute phase and whether you will get long COVID,” she says. “And long COVID can be quite debilitating, and we don’t know the endpoint for those who are suffering from it.”

Studies attempting to assess how many asymptomatic infections account for long COVID symptoms have varied. FAIR Health, a healthcare nonprofit in the U.S., found from an analysis of healthcare claims that about a fifth of asymptomatic patients went on to become long-haulers. Another study, which is under peer review, used data from the University of California’s electronic health records and estimated that number could be as high as 32 percent.

Melissa Pinto, a co-author of the latter study and associate professor in the Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing at University of California Irvine, says the researchers examined healthcare records of people who tested positive for COVID-19 but hadn’t reported symptoms at the time of infection—only to come in later with symptoms associated with long COVID-19. To ensure they were identifying long-haulers, the researchers screened out anyone with a preexisting illness that could explain their later symptoms.

“This is not from another chronic disease,” she says. “These are new symptoms.”

But it’s unclear how accurate any of these estimates might be. Pinto says that some long-haulers are wary of seeking care after having their symptoms dismissed by physicians who weren’t familiar with long COVID-19 syndrome. That’s why she believes that the rates of asymptomatic infections among long-haulers are an underestimate.

Anecdotally, Geng and Parker both say that while they’ve seen plenty of patients with mild symptoms that initially went unrecognised, they’ve had little experience treating patients who were truly asymptomatic.

“We saw many patients who didn’t think they had symptoms except in retrospect because they found out that they had tested positive,” Geng says. “Because they’ve had these long unexplained symptoms of what’s presumed to be long COVID, they think, well, maybe that wasn’t allergies.”

But she thinks that most people who were truly asymptomatic are unlikely to have gotten tested and therefore wouldn’t think to consult a specialist in post-COVID-19 care if they started experiencing unexplained symptoms like brain fog and dizziness.

Parker says that ultimately physicians are still trying to understand the broad symptoms seen in long-haulers. “When a patient comes to see us, we do a very thorough evaluation because we still don’t know exactly what to attribute to COVID and what might be a pre-existing underlying syndrome,” she says. “The last thing I want to have happen is to say to a patient, yes, this is because you had COVID and miss something else that we could have addressed.”

Mysterious inflammation in children

Physicians have also seen troubling clinical manifestations of asymptomatic COVID-19 in children. Early in the pandemic, reports emerged of a rare and mysterious inflammatory syndrome similar to Kawasaki disease that typically sets in weeks after an initial infection.

“Six weeks down the line these people, especially children, will develop inflammation throughout their body,” Rajpal says.

The condition—now called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C—typically causes fever, rash, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhoea. It can have harmful effects on multiple organs, from hearts that have trouble pumping blood to lungs that are scarred. It is typically seen among children under 14, although adults have also been diagnosed with this syndrome.

MIS-C is incredibly rare. Kanwal Farooqi, assistant professor of paediatrics at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, says that less than one percent of paediatric COVID-19 patients present with some type of critical disease—and MIS-C is just one of them. However, asymptomatic infections do play a role in the syndrome: A recent study of 1,075 children who had been diagnosed with MIS-C showed that three-quarters had originally been asymptomatic.

But there’s reason to hope that this syndrome might not cause long-term effects in patients, symptomatic or otherwise. Farooqi was the lead author on a recent study of 45 paediatric patients showing that their heart problems—which ranged from leaky valves to enlarged coronary arteries—mostly resolved within six months.

“That is reassuring,” Farooqi says. Still, she recommends administering follow-up MRI scans even to patients whose heart troubles seem to have resolved to make sure there’s no longer-term damage, such as scarring. She also says that it’s “really reasonable” to be cautious about asymptomatic infections and encourages parents to have their child evaluated if they have any persistent symptoms even if the original infection was mild or asymptomatic.

“What’s important is that we can’t right now say that there are no consequences,” she says.

Calls for more studies

Scientists caution that there’s still so much we don’t know about the potential harm of asymptomatic infections. Many have called for more rigorous studies to get to the bottom of the long-term effects of asymptomatic disease, why those effects occur, and how to treat them.

Rajpal points out that his study was only possible because the Big 10 athletic conference requires athletes to get tested every few days. Regular testing is key for uncovering asymptomatic cases, he says, which means that most data on asymptomatic disease is likely to come from healthcare workers, athletes, and other workplaces with strict testing protocols.

It’s also unclear what could be causing these lingering side effects. Scientists hypothesise that it could be an inflammatory response of the body’s immune system that persists long after an infection has been cleared. Others suggest there could be remnants of the virus lingering in the body that continue to trigger an immune reaction months after the COVID-19 infection peaked.

“This is all unchartered, unproven, just a lot of theories,” Topol says.

Yet even if asymptomatic infections aren’t linked in high rates to death and hospitalisation, Pinto and others say it’s important to keep in mind that long COVID-19 symptoms can be debilitating to a patient’s quality of life.

“Even if people survive, we don’t want them to be having a lifelong chronic disease,” Pinto says. “We don’t know what this does to the body, so it’s not something that I would want to take my chances with.”

The bottom line

With so much we don’t know about the long-term effects of asymptomatic COVID-19, scientists insist it’s better to err on the side of caution.

“The full impact can take years to show,” Rajpal says. Although the chances are slim that an individual with asymptomatic infection will have a really bad outcome, he points out that the continuing high rate of infections means that more people are going to suffer.

“Even rare things can affect a lot of people,” he says. “From a public health perspective if you can reduce the number of people that get this infection, you will reduce the number of people who get severe outcomes.”

Parker agrees, adding that it’s particularly important to prevent infection now as the more transmissible Delta variant drives surges in cases and hospitalisations across the country.

“We have had an amazing breakthrough in terms of the rapid development of effective and safe vaccines,” she says. Although Parker and other scientists remain uncertain of the health effects of asymptomatic COVID-19, “we do know that vaccinations are safe and effective and available.”

By Amy McKeever

Source: Why some COVID-19 infections may be free of symptoms but not free of harm | National Geographic

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Non-Negotiable Diet, Sleep and Exercise Routines For a Longer Life

Thanks to today’s advanced research and new innovations, it’s more than possible for us to live longer, stronger and healthier lives. While life expectancy in the U.S. dropped one full year during the first half of 2020, according to a CDC report, much of that was attributed to the pandemic. Prior to Covid, however, life expectancy in the U.S. was 78.8 years in 2019, up a tenth of a year over 2018.

As a longevity researcher, I’ve spent the bulk of my career gathering insights from world-leading health experts, doctors, scientists and nutritionists from all over the world. Here’s what I tell people when they ask about the non-negotiable rules I live by for a longer life:

1. Get regular checkups

Early diagnosis is critical for the prevention of disease and age-related decline, so it’s important to get yourself checked regularly, and as comprehensively as possible.

At the very least, I make it a point to have a complete annual physical exam that includes blood count and metabolic blood chemistry panels, a thyroid panel and testing to reveal potential deficiencies in vitamin D, vitamin B, iron and magnesium (all nutrients that our body needs to perform a variety of essential functions).

2. Let food be thy medicine

Poor diet is the top driver of noncommunicable diseases worldwide, killing at least 11 million people every year.

Here are some of my diet rules for a longer life:

  • Eat more plants: To reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, try to have every meal include at least one plant-based dish. I typically have broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus or zucchini as a side for lunch and dinner. When I snack, I opt for berries, nuts or fresh veggies.
  • Avoid processed foods: Many products you find in grocery stores today are loaded with salt, sugar, saturated fats and chemical preservatives. A 2019 study of 20,000 men and women aged 21 to 90 found that a diet high in processed foods resulted in an 18% increased risk of death by all causes.
  • Drink more water: Most of us drink far too little water for our optimal health. I keep a bottle of water with lemon slices at hand wherever I spent most of my day.
  • Include healthy fats: Not all fats are bad. High-density lipids (HDL), including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, are considered “good fats,” and are essential to a healthy heart, blood flow and blood pressure.

3. Get moving (yes, walking counts)

Just 15 to 25 minutes of moderate exercise a day can prolong your life by up to three years if you are obese, and seven years if you are in good shape, one study found.

I try not to focus on the specific type of exercise you do. Anything that gets you up out of the chair, moving and breathing more intensely on a regular basis is going to help.

That’s why the method I practice and recommend the most is extremely simple: Walking. Brisk walking can improve cardiovascular health and reduce risk of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. It can even ease symptoms of depression and anxiety.

4. Eat early, and less often

Clinical data shows that intermittent fasting — an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting — can improve insulin stability, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, mental alertness and energy.

To ease into the “eat early, and less often” diet, I started with a 16:8-hour intermittent fasting regimen. This is where you eat all of your meals within one eight-hour period — for instance, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., or between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

But keep in mind that a fasting or caloric-restricted diet isn’t for everyone; always talk to your doctor before making any drastic changes to your diet and eating routine.

5. Constantly work on quitting bad habits

One of the biggest toxic habits is excessive use of alcohol. Studies show that high and regular use can contribute to damages your liver and pancreas, high blood pressure and the immune system.

Large amounts of sugar consumption is another bad habit. Sure, in the right doses, sugars from fruits, vegetables and even grains play an important role in a healthy diet. I eat fruits and treat myself to some ice cream once in a while. But make no mistake: Excess sugar in all its forms is poison. To lessen my intake, I avoid processed foods and sugary drinks.

Lastly, I don’t smoke — but for anyone who does, I recommend quitting as soon as possible. According to the CDC, cigarette smoking is behind 480,000 deaths per year in the U.S.

6. Make sleep your superpower

A handful of studies of millions of sleepers show that less sleep can lead to a shorter life. Newer studies are strengthening known and suspected relationships between inadequate sleep and a wide range of disorders, including hypertensionobesity and diabetes and impaired immune functioning.

I aim for at least seven hours of sleep per night. For me, an essential ingredient for getting quality sleep is darkness; I make sure there’s no light and no electronic devices in my room before bedtime.

 

By: Sergey Young, Contributor

Sergey Young is a longevity researcher, investor and the founder of Longevity Vision Fund. He is also the author of “The Science and Technology of Growing Young: An Insider’s Guide to the Breakthroughs That Will Dramatically Extend Our Lifespan.” Sergey is on the Board of Directors of the American Federation of Aging Research and the Development Sponsor of Age Reversal XPRIZE global competition, designed to cure aging. Follow him on Twitter @SergeyYoung200.

Source: ‘Non-negotiable’ diet, sleep and exercise routines for a longer life

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The Unspoken Reasons Employees Don’t Want Remote Work To End

It’s no secret that employee-employer tensions about heading back to the workplace are growing. As more employers push to get employees back in-house, the workers themselves are taking a harder stand. An April 2021 survey by FlexJobs found that 60% of women and 52% of men would quit if they weren’t allowed to continue working remotely at least part of the time. Sixty-nine percent of men and 80% of women said that remote work options are among their top considerations when looking for a new job.

The “official” reasons that they don’t want to head back to the workplace are well-documented. They’re more productive. It’s easier to blend work and life when your commute is a walk down the hallway. But, for some, the reasons are more personal and difficult to share. Who will walk the dog they adopted during the pandemic? They gained weight and need to buy new work clothes. The thought of being trapped in a cubicle all day makes them want to cry.

We spoke with several people who shared their very personal reasons why they don’t want to return to work. (Because of the sensitive nature of some of the comments, Fast Company has allowed some of the individuals to use a pseudonym to protect their identities.)

‘I need to nap during the day’

Since 2013, when a backpacking incident caused a spine injury that required two surgeries, Lynn (not her real name) has been dealing with chronic pain and sleep issues. As a result, she’s often tired during the day and realized she wasn’t at her best, especially after lunch, when fatigue would often set in.

“When I’m in meetings, and people throw questions to me, I can’t really answer instantly [or I] say the wrong things,” she says. She didn’t feel comfortable talking to her boss or colleagues about the issues she was facing and was dealing with anxiety, depression, and hair loss in recent years as a result of her sleep issues. But, during the pandemic, she’s been able to adjust her schedule so she can take a nap during her lunch hour and rest periodically when she needs to do so. (Research tells us that naps are good for our brains.)

Since she’s been working from home, her productivity has soared—and her supervisor has noticed and begun complimenting her on her work. She feels sharper and healthier. Her biggest concern right now, she says, is that she will have to give up the balance she has finally found.

‘I’d give up my raise for remote work’

Melvin Gonzalez, a certified public accountant (CPA) for Inc and Go, an online business formation website, is facing a dilemma. “I love my career, love my job, and have amazing benefits which include a lifelong pension—something very rare in today’s labor force,” he says. “However, as with everything in life, there is a price to pay: my commute,” he says. Gonzalez travels two hours each way, which adds up to more than 20 hours per week just getting to and from work.

Gonzalez said he never really considered how much time he was spending on commuting until he worked from home during the pandemic, He used the extra time—the equivalent of a part-time job—to go to the gym, spend time with his wife and children, and still get his work done.

Now that he’s facing heading back to the office, he’s not ready to give up that time. He and his colleagues have shared their concerns with their employer, but he doesn’t think remote work will continue to be an option. He says he’s even willing to give up a raise to keep his flexibility. “This has certainly become my main concern about going back to the office,” he says. “I believe my mood for work will not be the same.”

‘I’m in recovery’

Until the pandemic hit, Frank (not his real name) worked at a high-end restaurant in Philadelphia. What his co-workers didn’t know at the time was that he was struggling with alcoholism. The environment, where he had ready access to alcohol and co-workers who loved to go out for drinks after work, made it difficult for him to quit.

But, while many saw their substance abuse issues increase during the pandemic’s isolation, Frank was able to get his addiction under control, he says. Now that the restaurant is resuming full service again and inviting him to return to his old job, he has concerns about whether that will put his recovery in jeopardy. “Most people don’t recover because they’re not willing to change their lifestyle,” he says. If he refuses to return to his old job, money will be tight, but he’s pretty sure he can make a go of it. “I also don’t want to admit to all of my co-workers that I’m a recovering alcoholic,” he says.

‘I don’t want to give up my side hustle

“My reluctance is really the opportunity cost of commuting,” says Shondra (not her real name), a public relations professional in New York City. Before she was laid off in April 2020, she would wake at 6 a.m. to have enough time to get ready, walk her dog, commute, and start work by 10 a.m. After she was laid off, she started picking up freelance work, which turned out to be lucrative—and which she could easily do from home.

Shondra has a new employer, but the plan about whether or not employees will be required to be back at the office full-time is “very unclear,” she says. For now, she has plenty of time to complete her responsibilities for her employer and work on her freelance projects. That won’t be the case if she goes back to her long commute. Plus, the thought of being on mass transit with so many other people gives her pause from a safety perspective, she says.

She’s waiting to see what happens but is reluctant to give up the freelance work that got her through her layoff. “It’s given me the opportunity to build a nice nest egg, in case—God forbid—something like that happens again,” she says. “I don’t want to lose this opportunity by having to return to the office full-time.”

Gwen Moran is a writer, editor, and creator of Bloom Anywhere, a website for people who want to move up or move on. She writes about business, leadership, money, and assorted other topics for leading publications and websites

Source: The unspoken reasons employees don’t want remote work to end

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Remote Work Resources You Can Trust: Pre-Covid Game Changers

Unite Your Team with Compass Metrics

How AI Technology Complements Document Cameras in Education

Companies May See Reputation Boost in Opposing Georgia Voting Law

50 Most Meaningful Jobs in America, Ranked

10 Tips to Polish Your LinkedIn Profile so You Can Land the Perfect New Job

Psychological Flexibility at Work and Employees’ Proactive Work Behaviour: Cross‐Level Moderating Role of Leader Need for Structure

Employee engagement practices during COVID‐19 lockdown

The Role of Self‐Concept in the Mechanism Linking Proactive Personality to Employee Work Outcomes

How To Stay Cool at Night, Even When You’re a Hot Sleeper

You might recognize a particular sensation: You climb into bed and drift off to sleep, your head comfortably rested on the cold side of the pillow. And then, in the middle of the night, you’re roused awake, your limbs sweaty as you toss the covers aside. The struggle for hot sleepers is real.

The good thing is there are measures you can take to reduce your chances of having consistent unpleasant wake-up calls: Your bedding, mattress, and even the time you eat dinner have an affect on your body temperature as you sleep. Here are a few myths to stop believing—and what to do instead to get the best, perfectly cool sleep.

Myth: You Should Only Take Cold Showers

“Contrary to popular belief, a warm shower or bath is a great way to cool down,” says One Medical provider and regional medical director Natasha Bhuyan, M.D. Once you step out of the shower, your body will naturally start to cool down. Cold water might feel great at night on an especially hot day, but since it’s stimulating rather than relaxing, it can make it more difficult to fall asleep, she adds.

Myth: Memory Foam Always Overheats

You’ve likely heard that memory foam mattresses trap heat, making it hard to maintain a reasonable temperature at night. But not all memory foam is made equally. “Look for one with temperature-regulating fibers or a layer of cooling gel,” says Craig Schmeizer, CEO and founder of Idle Group (which includes companies Idle and Haven). Because they’re denser than traditional coil mattresses, many memory foam options allow for less circulation—hence, higher temperatures for sleepers. But the right materials can allow for optimal airflow.

Myth: Being a Hot Sleeper Is Always Natural

Always end up feeling hot when you’re trying to fall asleep? It could just be your natural body temperature—but don’t necessarily jump to that conclusion. “There could be aggravating factors at play,” says Bhuyan. If your room temperature is above average, if you eat right before bed, and if you drink alcohol or caffeine, you can experience restless or hot nights. If you’ve ruled out any other possibilities, then it could be hormonal fluctuations.

Myth: Mattress Protectors Don’t Matter

It’s not just your mattress that matters. “Starting at the base of your bedding is an easy way to make sure every layer of your sleep situation is as cool as ‘the other side of the pillow,’” says Schmeizer. He recommends using a mattress protector made with Tencel fiber, which wicks away excess moisture, leading to overall more comfortable sleep.

Myth: Fans Lower the Temperature in Your Space

If you’re not cranking the AC, Bhuyan recommends opening the window and using a fan to circulate the air in your space. “Although that won’t lower the temperature of the room, it can definitely create a sensation of cooling,” she says. If you’re using an overhead one, make sure it goes counterclockwise for the optimal effect.

Myth: Silky Sheets Are Always Cooling

Slippery satin or microfiber sheets might seem like they would offer the chillest night’s rest, but it’s best to stick to the classics: “Cotton pajamas and sheets are the most breathable and can help keep us cool at night,” says Bhuyan. Percale sheets have a looser weave than sateen, so are best for hot sleepers, and bamboo, hemp, and linen sheets are great options, too.

By: Rebecca Deczynski

Source: How to Stay Cool at Night, Even When You’re a Hot Sleeper

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Related Contents:

Technology in the Bedroom

How Blue Light Affects Sleep

What is ASMR and How Can It Help You Sleep?

Music and Sleep

Humidity and Sleep

Sleep Dictionary

How Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Heart

The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Teeth Grinding

How to Sleep When it’s Hot Outside

genesis-2-1

Content Resources:

Harding, E., Franks, N., & Wisden, W. (2019). The Temperature Dependence of Sleep. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 13. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6491889/

Szymusiak, R. (2020). Handbook of Clinical Neurology (Vol. 156). Elsevier. Retrieved fromhttps://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-444-63912-7.00020-5

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2019, August 13). Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/understanding-Sleep

Walker, H. K., Hall, W. D., & Hurst, J. W. (1990). Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations (3rd ed.). Boston: Butterworths.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21250045/

Okamoto-Mizuno, K., & Mizuno, K. (2012). Effects of thermal environment on sleep and circadian rhythm. Journal of Physiological Anthropology, 31(1), 14. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3427038/

Breus, M. J. (2017, November 30). Hot Nights Can Disrupt Your Sleep. Psychology Today. Retrieved September 18, 2020, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sleep-newzzz/201711/hot-nights-can-disrupt-your-sleep

National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute. (2011, September). In Brief: Your Guide to Healthy Sleep. Retrieved September 18, 2020, from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/sleep/healthysleepfs.pdf

How Much Do I Need To Sleep? It Depends on Your Age

Do you find yourself dozing off at your desk, even after what you thought was a good night’s rest? Then you probably have the same question as so many others: How much do I need to sleep? The answer of how many hours you need is not so straightforward, said Dr. Raj Dasgupta, an assistant professor of clinical medicine in the division of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.Sleep needs are very individualized, he said, but the general recommendation — the “sweet spot” — is to get seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Recommendations really change as people age, however.”Sleep needs vary over the lifespan,” said Christina Chick, a postdoctoral scholar in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University.

CDC’s sleep guideline

Adults should get at least seven hours of sleep a night, but 1 in 3 of them don’t, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Poor sleep has been associated with long-term health consequences, such as higher risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and dementia. In the short term, even one day of sleep loss can harm your well-being, according to a recent study. People who get poor sleep might also be predisposed to conditions such as anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder, Dasgupta said.”There are chronic consequences, and there are acute consequences, which is why sleep is more than just saying, ‘The early bird gets the worm,'” he said. “It’s much more than that.”

Sleep for kids and teens

If it feels like babies are sleeping all day, they pretty much are. In the first year of life, babies can sleep 17 to 20 hours a day, Dasgupta said. Infants 4 months to 12 months need their 12 to 16 hours of sleep, including naps, according to Chick. Toddlers, who are between the ages of 1 and 3, should get 11 to 14 hours of sleep, according to Dr. Bhanu Kolla, associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at the Mayo Clinic with a special interest in sleep. Children ages 3 to 5 should sleep for 10 to 13 hours, he added, and from ages 6 to 12, they should sleep nine to 12 hours. For kids up to age 5, these sleep recommendations include naps, Chick said. Teenagers should get eight to 10 hours of sleep, Kolla said. This recommendation has sparked a debate in recent years about start times for school.

“As children move toward adolescence, they naturally prefer to go to sleep later and wake up later,” Chick said. “This is why school start times are such an important focus of debate: If you can’t fall asleep until later, but your school start time remains the same, you’re going to get less sleep.” The quantity of sleep is important, but so is the quality of it, Dasgupta added. Getting deeper sleep and hitting the rapid eye movement (REM) stage helps with cognition, memory and productivity throughout the day. REM is the sleep stage where memories are consolidated and stored. It also allows us to dream vividly. People can sometimes get the right quantity of sleep but still feel fatigued, and this might mean they aren’t reaching these sleep stages.

Sleep for college students and adults

The stereotypical image of the college student usually includes messy hair, undereye bags, and a coffee or energy drink in hand. It doesn’t matter if they stay up all night partying or cramming for an exam — both result in sleep deprivation. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s almost like a rite of passage in a college student to pull the perennial all-nighter even though we know that’s not what you’re supposed to do,” Dasgupta said. He and Kolla concur that seven to nine hours of sleep is best for adults, though Kolla added that older adults may be better at coping with some sleep deprivation.

As an exception, young adults may need nine or more hours on a regular basis because their brains are still developing, Chick said, and adults of any age may also need nine or more hours when recovering from an injury, illness or sleep debt. There are also “natural variants,” Kolla said, referring to some people who require more than 10 hours of sleep and others who get less than four and function normally. If you’re wondering whether it matters if you’re an early bird or night owl, Chick said it depends on “whether your lifestyle is compatible” with your preference. “If you are a night owl, but your job requires you to be in the office at 7 am, this misalignment is less than ideal for your physical and mental health,” she wrote in an email. “But it would be equally problematic for a morning person who works the night shift.”

How to improve your sleep

Are you not getting enough sleep? Here are a few ways to solve that:

1. Stick to a bedtime routine. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. You can even keep a journal to log these sleep times and how often you wake up at night, Dasgupta said, so you can have an idea of what works for you. You should also make sure your room is dark, cool and comfortable when you go to sleep.

2. Turn off the electronic devices. Do this as early as possible before bed, Chick added, as light exposure can affect your body’s sleep-wake cycle. “Particularly if you are aiming to fall asleep earlier, it’s important to expose yourself to bright natural light as early as possible in the day, and to limit exposure to light in the hours before bedtime,” she said. “Electronic devices mimic many of the wavelengths in sunlight that cue your body to stay awake.”

3. Try mindfulness techniques. Breathing exercises, meditation and yoga can also support sleep, Chick added. Her recent study showed that mindfulness training helped children sleep over an hour more per night.

4. Set good food and exercise habits. Finally, eating healthy and keeping a daily fitness regimen can support better sleep at night, Dasgupta said. “Always try to be consistent with exercise during the day,” he said. “Exercise relieves stress, it helps build up your drive to sleep at night, so there’s many good things there.”

Source: How much do I need to sleep? It depends on your age – CNN

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More Contents:

How ‘Soft Fascination’ Helps Restore Your Tired Brain

Imagine shining a flashlight at a wall in a dark, empty room. If you walk toward the wall, the light will contract. The closer you get to the wall, the smaller and more concentrated the beam of light becomes. By the time the flashlight is an inch from the wall, you’ll see a tight, bright circle of light surrounded by shadow and darkness.

Your attention is a lot like the beam of that flashlight. You can focus it closely and intensely on something, or you can relax it — allowing it to grow soft and diffuse.

A lot of research — much of it recent — has examined the different types and qualities of attention and their associations with mental health and cognitive functioning. This work has revealed that certain types of attention may tire out your brain and contribute to stress, willpower failures, and other problems.

Meanwhile, activities that broaden and soften your attention may reinvigorate your brain and promote psychological and cognitive wellbeing.

Whenever you train your attention on something — an act that cognitive scientists sometimes call “directed attention” — this requires effort. More effort is needed when other things (i.e. distractions) are vying for your attention, or if the thing you’re trying to focus on is boring.

According to a 2016 review from researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School in the U.K, your ability to effortfully focus your attention is finite. Just as an overworked muscle grows weak, overworking your attention seems to wear it out. When that happens, a lot can go wrong.

For one thing, your ability to concentrate plummets. Your willpower and decision-making abilities also take a hit. According to a 2019 study in the journal Occupational Health Science, attention fatigue may also contribute to stress and burnout.

There’s even some work linking attention fatigue to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). “The symptoms of ADHD and ‘attention fatigue’ so closely mirror each other that the Attention Deficit Disorders Evaluation Scale has been used as a measure of attention fatigue,” wrote the authors of a 2004 study in the American Journal of Public Health.

Certain activities seem to reinvigorate the brain in ways that support directed attention and self-regulation.

Experts are still trying to figure out exactly what resource in your brain is drained by effortful directed-attention tasks. They haven’t nailed that down yet. But there’s evidence that directed attention involves frontal and parietal regions of the brain that are also involved in other “cognitive-control” processes. These are the activities that take you out of autopilot and steer you toward goal-directed thoughts and actions — the stuff that isn’t necessarily fun or engaging, but that supports your career, your relationships, and your health.

Distractions, multitasking behaviors, loud noises, bustling urban environments, poor sleep, and many other features of modern life seem to promote attention fatigue. On the other hand, certain activities seem to reinvigorate the brain in ways that support directed attention and self-regulation processes. And one of the most studied and effective of these — as you’ve probably heard — is spending time in nature.

“Getting out in nature seems to relax the brain’s frontal lobes and relieve this attention fatigue,” says Phil Stieg, MD, PhD, chairman of neurological surgery and neurosurgeon-in-chief at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Exactly how nature does this is tricky. Stieg says that several overlapping mechanisms of benefit are likely at play.

But one that has garnered a lot of expert attention is termed “soft fascination.” The gist is that natural environments are just stimulating enough to gently engage the brain’s attention without unhelpfully concentrating it.

“[W]hat makes an environment restorative is the combination of attracting involuntary attention softly while at the same time limiting the need for directing attention,” wrote the authors of a 2010 study in Perspectives on Psychological Sciences. Nature, they added, seems to hit that sweet spot.

On the other hand, activities that grab and hold our attention too forcefully — books, social interactions, pretty much anything on a screen — entertaining through they may be, are unlikely to recharge our brain’s batteries. “Unlike soft fascination, hard fascination precludes thinking about anything else, thus making it less restorative,” the study authors added.

A lot of the work on soft fascination is folded into a psychological concept known as Attention Restoration Theory, or ART. While a lot of the ART research highlights time in nature as the optimal route to cognitive replenishment, it’s not the only route.

“If you’re on a cell phone for eight hours a day, your attention never gets a rest.”

Mindfulness also promotes attention restoration.

In many ways, it’s a kind of soft-fascination training. Mindfulness attempts to loosen the mind’s preoccupation with self-focused thoughts and judgments while also broadening awareness of your surroundings. This seems a lot like what spending time in nature does automatically, and there’s evidence that moving mindfulness training into natural outdoor settings may augment the practice’s benefits.

Stieg, the New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell neurosurgeon, recently discussed the benefits of nature on his podcast This Is Your Brain. He agrees that mindfulness may be a helpful alternative for those who don’t have access to nature (or the time to get lost in it). He also says that avoiding things that fatigue attention — loud noises, multitasking, technology — could reduce your need to escape to the outdoors.

“If you’re on a cell phone for eight hours a day, your attention never gets a rest,” he says. “I don’t think spending time in nature provides all the answers, but there’s good evidence that it support a longer, healthier, emotionally stable life.”

The bigger takeaway may be that your brain needs idle time to rest and recharge. Deprived of that time and the soft-fascination experiences that support it, your psychological and cognitive health may pay a price.

Markham Heid

By: Markham Heid

Source: How ‘Soft Fascination’ Helps Restore Your Tired Brain | by Markham Heid | Jun, 2021 | Elemental

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3 Simple Habits That Can Protect Your Brain From Cognitive Decline

You might think that the impact of aging on the brain is something you can’t do much about. After all, isn’t it an inevitability? To an extent, as we may not be able to rewind the clock and change our levels of higher education or intelligence (both factors that delay the onset of symptoms of aging).

But adopting specific lifestyle behaviors–whether you’re in your thirties or late forties–can have a tangible effect on how well you age. Even in your fifties and beyond, activities like learning a new language or musical instrument, taking part in aerobic exercise, and developing meaningful social relationships can do wonders for your brain. There’s no question that when we compromise on looking after ourselves, our aging minds pick up the tab.

The Aging Process and Cognitive Decline

Over time, there is a build-up of toxins such as tau proteins and beta-amyloid plaques in the brain that correlate to the aging process and associated cognitive decline. Although this is a natural part of growing older, many factors can exacerbate it. Stress, neurotoxins such as alcohol and lack of (quality and quantity) sleep can speed up the process.

Neuroplasticity–the function that allows the brain to change and develop in our lifetime–has three mechanisms: synaptic connection, myelination, and neurogenesis. The key to resilient aging is improving neurogenesis, the birth of new neurons. Neurogenesis happens far more in babies and children than adults.

A 2018 study by researchers at Columbia University shows that in adults, this type of neuroplastic activity occurs in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that lays down memories. This makes sense as we respond to and store new experiences every day, and cement them during sleep. The more we can experience new things, activities, people, places, and emotions, the more likely we are to encourage neurogenesis.

With all this in mind, we can come up with a three-point plan to encourage “resilient aging” by activating neurogenesis in the brain:

1. Get your heart rate up

Aerobic exercise such as running or brisk walking has a potentially massive impact on neurogenesis. A 2016 rat study found that endurance exercise was most effective in increasing neurogenesis. It wins out over HIIT sessions and resistance training, although doing a variety of exercise also has its benefits.

Aim to do aerobic exercise for 150 minutes per week, and choose the gym, the park, or natural landscape over busy roads to avoid compromising brain-derived neurotrophic factor production (BDNF), a growth factor that encourages neurogenesis that aerobic exercise can boost. However, exercising in polluted areas decreases production.

If exercising alone isn’t your thing, consider taking up a team sport or one with a social element like table tennis. Exposure to social interaction can also increase the neurogenesis, and in many instances, doing so lets you practice your hand-eye coordination, which research has suggested leads to structural changes in the brain that may relate to a range of cognitive benefit. This combination of coordination and socializing has been shown to increase brain thickness in the parts of the cortex related to social/emotional welfare, which is crucial as we age.

2. Change your eating patterns

Evidence shows that calorie restriction, intermittent fasting, and time-restricted eating encourage neurogenesis in humans. In rodent studies, intermittent fasting has been found to improve cognitive function and brain structure, and reduce symptoms of metabolic disorders such as diabetes.

Reducing refined sugar will help reduce oxidative damage to brain cells, too, and we know that increased oxidative damage has been linked with a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Twenty-four hour water-only fasts have also been proven to increase longevity and encourage neurogenesis.

Try any of the following, after checking with your doctor:

  • 24-hour water-only fast once a month
  •  Reducing your calorie intake by 50%-60% on two non-consecutive days of the week for two to three months or on an ongoing basis
  • Reducing calories by 20% every day for two weeks. You can do this three to four times a year
  • Eating only between 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., or 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. as a general rule

3. Prioritize sleep

Sleep helps promote the brain’s neural “cleaning” glymphatic system, which flushes out the build-up of age-related toxins in the brain (the tau proteins and beta amyloid plaques mentioned above). When people are sleep-deprived, we see evidence of memory deficits, and if you miss a whole night of sleep, research proves that it impacts IQ. Aim for seven to nine hours, and nap if it suits you. Our need to sleep decreases as we age.

Of course, there are individual exceptions, but having consistent sleep times and making sure you’re getting sufficient quality and length of sleep supports brain resilience over time. So how do you know if you’re getting enough? If you naturally wake up at the same time on weekends that you have to during the week, you probably are.

If you need to lie-in or take long naps, you’re probably not. Try practicing mindfulness or yoga nidra before bed at night, a guided breath-based meditation that has been shown in studies to improve sleep quality. There are plenty of recordings online if you want to experience it.

Pick any of the above that work for you and build it up until it becomes a habit, then move onto the next one and so on. You might find that by the end of the year, you’ll feel even healthier, more energized, and motivated than you do now, even as you turn another year older.

By: Fast Company / Tara Swart

Dr. Tara Swart is a neuroscientist, leadership coach, author, and medical doctor. Follow her on Twitter at @TaraSwart.

Source: Open-Your-Mind-Change

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Critics:

Cognitive deficit is an inclusive term to describe any characteristic that acts as a barrier to the cognition process.

The term may describe

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a neurocognitive disorder which involves cognitive impairments beyond those expected based on an individual’s age and education but which are not significant enough to interfere with instrumental activities of daily living. MCI may occur as a transitional stage between normal aging and dementia, especially Alzheimer’s disease. It includes both memory and non-memory impairments.Mild cognitive impairment has been relisted as mild neurocognitive disorder in DSM-5, and in ICD-11.

The cause of the disorder remains unclear, as well as its prevention and treatment. MCI can present with a variety of symptoms, but is divided generally into two types.

Amnestic MCI (aMCI) is mild cognitive impairment with memory loss as the predominant symptom; aMCI is frequently seen as a prodromal stage of Alzheimer’s disease. Studies suggest that these individuals tend to progress to probable Alzheimer’s disease at a rate of approximately 10% to 15% per year.[needs update]It is possible that being diagnosed with cognitive decline may serve as an indicator of aMCI.

Nonamnestic MCI (naMCI) is mild cognitive impairment in which impairments in domains other than memory (for example, language, visuospatial, executive) are more prominent. It may be further divided as nonamnestic single- or multiple-domain MCI, and these individuals are believed to be more likely to convert to other dementias (for example, dementia with Lewy bodies).

See also

If You Love Staying Up Late and Sleeping In, Doing Otherwise Might Actually Hurt Your Health

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Night owls might get a rap for staying up too late watching Netflix or getting lost in meme spirals on the web, but it’s not all fun and games. Study after study shows the later you sleep and rise, the more likely you are to develop some serious health complications.

A 2018 paper by researchers from Northwestern University and the University of Surrey in the UK doubles down on the findings that night owls are more likely to suffer from a host of different diseases and disorders—diabetes, mental illnesses, neurological problems, gastrointestinal issues, and heart disease, to name a few. It also concludes, for the first time, that night owls had a 10 percent increased risk of dying (in the time period used in the study) compared to those who are early to rise and early to sleep (a.k.a. larks).

“I think it’s really important to get this message out to people who are night owls,” says lead author Kristen Knutson, an associate professor of neurology at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “There may be some compelling consequences associated with these habits, and they might need to be more vigilant in maintaining a healthier lifestyle.”

Published in Chronobiology International, the paper analyzed 433,268 individuals who participated in the UK Biobank, a massive cohort study run from 2006 to 2010 aimed at investigating the role of genetic predisposition and environmental contributions to disease prevalence. Those participants were asked questions related to their chronotype, or preferred time and duration of sleeping during a 24-hour day. Participants identified as “definitely a morning person,” “more a morning person than evening person,” “more an evening than a morning person,” or “definitely an evening person.”

The researchers found that about 10,000 subjects died in the six-and-a-half years that followed the end of the Biobank study, and the ones who were “definite evening types” had a 10 percent increased risk of perishing compared to “definite morning types.” This number, the researchers say, was found after controlling for age, gender, ethnicity, and prior health problems.

That sounds scary, sure—but there are a few limitations worth considering. For one, says Knutson, “we weren’t able to pinpoint and find out why night owls were more likely to die sooner,” so the direct cause of mortality is unknown, creating some murkiness as to what extent night owl lifestyles influenced those deaths.

“We think,” says Knutson, “it is at least partly due to our biological clocks. We think the problem is that the night owls are forced to live in a more ‘lark’ world, where you have to get up early for work and start the day than their internal clocks want to. So it’s a mismatch between the internal clock and the external world, and it’s a problem in the long run.”

The mismatch Knutson is referring to has to do with circadian rhythms, the biological processes that govern the body over the course of the 24-hour day. Circadian rhythms determine sleep patterns, energy levels, hormones, and body temperature—basically all the most important things. “There are ideal or optimal times for certain things to occur,” says Knutson.

Messing with your preferred sleep schedule can drastically disrupt your circadian rhythms, which in turn can have severe, negative effects on your health. We’re all feeling the effects of this, to some extent, no matter when we like to go to sleep; research indicates that modern humans are sleeping poorly thanks to artificial light, warmer temperatures, and stress, and scientists are working to understand what kind of impact this has on our health. Studies on extreme cases—shift workers and people like ER doctors and firefighters who regularly stay up all night—suggest the downsides can be quite dire.

Unfortunately, the Biobank data only indicated whether someone identified as a morning or evening person, not whether they had a sleep schedule that suited their chronotype. “We know what their preferred time to sleep is, but we have no idea what they were actually doing on a day-to-day basis,” says Knutson. That’s a question she hopes to address in subsequent studies.

Moreover, the data is limited to just British participants, most of whom were caucasians of Irish or English descent. It’s likely the results would be similar for other populations in the Western world, but they could also be substantially different for night owls elsewhere.

To some extent, you’re stuck with the chronotype you’re born with. Genes play a significant role in governing your internal clock, so if you’re naturally attuned to sleeping at 3:00 a.m. and waking up at 11:00 a.m., your best bet would be to find a career and lifestyle where this is okay.

But there are certain actions individuals could take to minimize the difference between their internal clock and their external life. In a perfect world, Knutson notes, employers could be more cognizant and allow employees to pick a work schedule that offers a good compromise between everyone’s needs. People can also shift their sleep and wake hours a little earlier to minimize discord, but they would need to do so gradually, and maintain that shift consistently. Lapsing into night owl habits on the weekends or on vacation is out of the question.

Of course, being a creature of the night isn’t all bad. Other studies have shown that the whole morning versus night person debate is really more of a proxy battle between organized and meticulous, or being expressive and imaginative: day-dwellers might be more focused on achieving goals and paying attention to details, but all-nighters tend to be more creative and open to new experiences. If you’re a night owl, don’t be too rash to think you should change yourself. Maybe you just need a career that harnesses your artistic side—and lets you sleep in a little.

By: Neel V. Patel

Source: Pocket

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Critics:

A night owl, evening person or simply owl, is a person who tends to stay up until late at night, or the early hours of the morning. Night owls who are involuntarily unable to fall asleep for several hours after a normal time may have delayed sleep phase disorder.

The opposite of a night owl is an early bird – a lark as opposed to an owl – which is someone who tends to begin sleeping at a time that is considered early and also wakes early. Researchers traditionally use the terms morningness and eveningness[1] for the two chronotypes or diurnality and nocturnality in animal behavior. In several countries, especially in Scandinavia, early birds are called A-people and night owls are called B-people.

The tendency to be a night owl exists on a spectrum, with most people being typical, some people having a small or moderate tendency to be a night owl, and a few having an extreme tendency to be a night owl.[13] An individual’s own tendency can change over time and is influenced by multiple factors, including:

  • a genetic predisposition, which can cause the tendency to run in families,
  • the person’s age, with teenagers and young adults tending to be night owls more than young children or elderly people, and
  • the environment the person lives in, except for the patterns of light they are exposed to through seasonal changes as well as through lifestyle (such as spending the day indoors and using electric lights in the evening).[13]

The genetic make-up of the circadian timing system underpins the difference between early and late chronotypes, or early birds and night owls.[14] While it has been suggested that circadian rhythms may change over time, including dramatic changes that turn a morning lark to a night owl or vice versa,[15][16] evidence for familial patterns of early or late waking would seem to contradict this, and individual changes are likely on a smaller scale.[17]

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References:

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