Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Don’t Delay — Go to Sleep!

September 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Did you just stifle a yawn? Have you been struggling to stay awake all week and complete your work? You may be suffering from social jet lag, a superficial-sounding occurrence that actually is a gateway for poor health.

“Social jet lag is the phenomenon of staying up later and sleeping in later on the weekends, compared to the rest of the week,” sayJames A. Rowley, MD-2s James A. Rowley, MD, Professor of Medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine. “For instance, if one generally goes to bed at 11:00 pm on weekdays and is up at 7:00 am, but on weekends goes to bed at 2:00 am and gets up at 11:00 am, that would be social jet lag, especially if the person is then unable to get to sleep easily at bedtime on Sunday night.”

Preliminary results of a new study show that social jet lag has emerged as an important marker for poorer health, worse mood, and increased sleepiness and fatigue.

“Sleep regularity, beyond sleep duration alone, plays a significant role in our health,” says the study’s lead author, Sierra B. Forbush, an undergraduate research assistant in the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona in Tucson led by Michael A. Grandner, PhD, MTR, director of the Sleep and Health Research Program.

Sierra Forbush“While the evidence that lack of sleep results in poor health is well established, the exact mechanisms are unclear,” according to Dr. Rowley, medical director of the Detroit Receiving Hospital Sleep Disorders Center and a member of the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “Generally, lack of sleep is first associated with daytime sleepiness, fatigue and tiredness, irritability, impaired work performance, and impaired driving — extended insufficient sleep can be similar to driving while intoxicated. With time, insufficient sleep is associated with changes in your immune system, so a person is more likely to get viral infections such as cold.”

With a shortage of sleep being such a health gremlin, it seems logical to make up for a sleep-deprived week on the weekends, but Dr. Rowley strongly disagrees. “Everyone should be getting seven hours of sleep per night, the number of hours recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine for adults, and should not vary their sleep patterns by more than about 30 minutes on any given day.”

A pattern of sleep deprivation and then a complete abandonment of a slumber routine is what plays havoc with mood, productivity, and clarity. Therefore, the goal is not to correct for five days of less than 40 winks by snoozing an extra amount on the weekend. “It is okay for a person getting less than seven hours of sleep during the week to make up some of it on the weekends, but they should still be going to bed within 30 minutes of their regular bedtime so as to prevent social jet lag. What’s even better is striving to get seven hours on weeknights as well,” advises Dr. Rowley.

Forbush agrees: “A regular sleep schedule may be an effective, relatively simple, and inexpensive preventative treatment for heart disease as well as many other health problems.”

The study states, “Each hour of social jet lag is associated with an 11 percent increase in the likelihood of heart disease. These effects are independent of sleep duration and insomnia symptoms, which are related to both social jet lag and health.”

As the Sleep and Health Research Program study looked at persons between the ages of 22 and 60 years, I wondered if social jet lag affects everyone equally. Dr. Rowley says no. “My experience is that younger people are much more able to tolerate changes in sleep and sleep rhythms than an older person; that is, an older person is much more likely to feel the effects of jet lag and shift work than a younger person in terms of insomnia, tiredness, and fatigue.”

However, poor habits established early have a way of catching up as we age, so it’s best for all ages to get into a healthy sleep routine that embraces seven hours of sleep each night.

A yawn here or there is not a signal of poor health. However, there are definite signs that indicate a need for medical intervention, says Dr. Rowley, such as “getting seven hours of sleep each day but having problems with daytime sleepiness or fatigue, an inability to fall asleep within 30 minutes on a regular basis for more than a month, or the presence of snoring that is bothersome to others.”

For more information: www.sleepeducation.org.

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