Sleep Research News -- October 2020

woman hits snooze button on alarm clock

An End to Daylight Saving Time?

What if, instead of shifting clocks forward an hour in the spring and back an hour in the autumn, we didn’t have daylight saving time at all? 

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine is calling for just that.

The organization released a statement supporting a switch to permanent standard time. The statement was published online Aug. 26 in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

“Permanent, year-round standard time is the best choice to most closely match our circadian sleep-wake cycle,” said lead author M. Adeel Rishi, a pulmonology, sleep medicine and critical care specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and vice chair of the AASM Public Safety Committee. “Daylight saving time results in more darkness in the morning and more light in the evening, disrupting the body’s natural rhythm.”

The AASM statement outlines the negative effects of daylight saving time, such as increased risk of stroke, increased production of inflammatory markers (one of the body’s responses to stress), increased traffic fatalities and greater human error.

“There is ample evidence of the negative, short-term consequences of the annual change to daylight saving time in the spring,” said AASM President Kannan Ramar. “Because the adoption of permanent standard time would be beneficial for public health and safety, the AASM will be advocating at the federal level for this legislative change.”

AASM conducted a survey of 2,000 U.S. adults in July and found that 63% supported canceling daylight saving time. Only 11% wanted to keep it.

Nineteen organizations have endorsed the AASM’s position, including the National PTA, the National Safety Council and the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine.

Remote Workers Having Trouble With Sleep

People who have found themselves unexpectedly working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic may have found their sleep patterns disrupted. Small wonder.

“What I’m seeing is an increase in sleep disruption in getting to sleep and staying asleep related to the overall increased collective stress,” said Allison Siebern, an adjunct clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences, in an Aug. 18 article in Fast Company.

Irregular schedules are part of the problem. Employees are juggling household responsibilities, caretaking, virtual meetings across time zones, and extra anxiety and stress, the article said. Many people put in additional work hours because they don’t need to rush to after-work activities or to pick up the kids. Another problem: Remote employees might be using their bedrooms as workspaces as multiple members of the household are working and attending school at home and need to spread out.  Also, people are having difficulty relaxing at the end of the day. Without a commute, employees are finding it hard to transition between work time and down time. Then add the feelings of being overwhelmed and isolated during a pandemic.

What can you do?

First, try to keep a regular schedule as much as possible. That might mean giving yourself a bedtime, scheduling breaks and figuring out how to manage your time so you can finish your workday at a reasonable hour, the article said. Next, step away from the laptop (and all other electronic devices). Shut them off at least half an hour before bed. Finally, if you work in your bedroom, put up a screen or move a piece of furniture so that you’re not looking at your bed during the workday. 

“Spend some time closing up the workday and transition to personal and family time,” Siebern said. “This creation of closure to the day can be helpful when working from home — and this includes no longer peeking at work emails after that closure.”

How Does Your Sleep Compare?

It’s always interesting to take a peek at how successful people live.A July 22 infographic in Entrepreneur magazine broke down 50 high-achievers’ sleep schedules. Just for fun, here are several:

Gordon Ramsay, chef, goes to sleep at 2 a.m. and wakes at 5 a.m., total of three hours of sleep.

Donald Trump, U.S. president, goes to sleep at 1 a.m. and wakes at 4 a.m., total of three hours of sleep.

Dwayne Johnson, actor, goes to sleep at midnight and wakes at 4 a.m., total of four hours of sleep.

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Facebook, goes to sleep at 3 a.m. and wakes at 8 a.m., total of five hours of sleep.

Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, goes to sleep at 11:30 p.m. and wakes at 4:30 a.m., total of five hours of sleep.

Taylor Swift, singer-songwriter, goes to sleep at 1:30 a.m. and wakes at 7 a.m., total of 5 ½ hours of sleep.

Barack Obama, former U.S. president, goes to sleep at 1 a.m. and wakes at 7 a.m., total of six hours of sleep.

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, goes to sleep at 1 a.m. and wakes at 7 a.m., total of six hours of sleep.

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet Inc. and Google, goes to sleep at midnight and wakes at 6:30 a.m., total of 6 ½ hours of sleep.

Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, goes to sleep at midnight and wakes at 7 a.m., total of seven hours of sleep.

Mark Wahlberg, actor, goes to sleep at 7:30 p.m. and wakes at 2:30 a.m., total of seven hours of sleep.

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, goes to sleep at 10 p.m. and wakes at 5 a.m., total of seven hours of sleep.

Serena Williams, professional tennis player, goes to sleep at midnight and wakes at 7 a.m., total of seven hours of sleep.

Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, goes to sleep at 10:45 p.m. and wakes at 6:45 a.m., total of eight hours of sleep.

Oprah Winfrey, entertainment mogul, goes to sleep at 10:15 p.m. and wakes at 6:20 a.m., total of more than eight hours of sleep.

Tiger Woods, pro golfer, goes to sleep at 10 p.m. and wakes at 6:30 a.m., total of 8 ½ hours of sleep.

Tom Brady, quarterback, goes to sleep at 8:30 p.m. and wakes at 5:30 a.m., total of nine hours of sleep.

Erasing the Sleep Debt

If you typically sleep six hours or less each night during the workweek, French researchers have some bad news for you — sleeping in on the weekends probably won’t help you catch up on enough rest.

In a study of 12,000 people, more than one-third said they slept at least 90 minutes less than the amount of sleep they needed on weekdays, causing a significant sleep debt, according to a June 30 article by HealthDay News reported by UPI.

“Our survey shows that about 75% of people with sleep debt did not find their way to get more sleep on the weekend or by napping,” said study author Damien Leger, chief of the Hotel Dieu Center of Sleep and Vigilance at the Public Assistance Hospital of Paris. “They probably did not take time to do it. Or had poor conditions to sleep, such as a noisy environment, stress or children at home. So, their sleep debt is not recovered.”

On average, participants reported sleeping six hours and 42 minutes on weekdays. On weekends, they slept seven hours and 26 minutes, and 27% said they took naps at least once during the week.

Even with the extra nighttime rest and naps, only 18% of severely sleep-deprived participants were able to sleep enough to make up for the weekday shortages. 

“In general, consistency is key,” said Adam Krause, a doctoral candidate in cognitive neuroscience with the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley. “I think of this like a healthy diet. It’s better to eat healthy for two days a week than not at all but eating healthy two days a week does not reverse the damage caused by eating poorly for the remaining five days. The best sleep diet is one that is sufficient and consistent.”

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