World Sleep Day: How scientific studies relate eating pizza, binge-watching to your sleep
Love to binge-watch your favourite Netflix or Amazon Prime series before bed? Science says what you probably already know: It’s bad for your sleep patterns and can negatively impact your life.
Sleep is a real issue. So let’s talk science: On World Sleep Day (March 16), we look at what various researches have to say about it or lack of it. From studies finding a correlation between sleep deprivation and wanting more food to a study that will make you want to skip dessert.
1. Binge-watchers have higher rates of poor sleep quality, insomnia, fatigue
Researchers from the University of Michigan and the Leuven School for Mass Communication Research in Belgium published a study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine looking at how binge-watching affects young people’s sleep patterns. They had 423 participants ages 18 to 25, and roughly 61% of them were female. These subjects answered a series of questions about their binge-watching habits, sleep quality, fatigue, and insomnia over the course of a month.
What did the scholars find?
Roughly four-fifths of participants called themselves binge-watchers, and 40% of those respondents said they’d binge-watched something during the previous month. Women binge-watched more frequently than men did, but men binge-watched for twice as long as women when they did. Additionally, people who binge-watched had higher rates of poor sleep quality, insomnia, and fatigue; binge-watching was to blame for almost one-third of people who reported bad sleep patterns. We’re just as upset as you.
2. More sleep means your brain cleanses itself of toxins more effectively
We know it’s tough to get in extra zzz’s during weekdays, so make sure you sleep in when you can on the weekends. Your clean, happy brain will thank you later when you’re toxin-free.
Apparently extra zzz’s make a lot of difference. While you may get a break from the day’s grind while sleeping, your brain is actually incredibly busy. A study from the University of Rochester Medical Center found that the brain’s waste removal system is highly active during a snooze session, thanks in large part to cell shrinkage. To put that in English: When you sleep, cells in your brain get much smaller, allowing it to more effectively cleanse itself of toxins that can easily accumulate. Sounds exhausting, right?
You see, the brain isn’t an excellent mutli-tasker when it comes to cleaning. (But hey, neither are we!) The brain only has limited energy at its disposal and it appears that it must choose between two different functional states—awake and aware or asleep and cleaning up. So missing out on much-needed rest doesn’t give it a chance to tidy up.
3. Did you know your sugar intake has an impact on your sleep quality?
Sometimes it seems like you never get enough sleep. Even nights when you get nine hours, you still wake up feeling tired the next day, and trudge to work with your eyes half-closed. According to a study, diet, and more specifically sugar, could be to blame.
There may be a relationship between sugar and sleep quality, according to researchers. Published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, the data shows that low fibre and high saturated fat and sugar intake is associated with lighter, less restorative sleep with more arousals. In other words, people who eat more sugar, foods higher in fat, and less fibre — aka the food in our college dining halls — are more likely to have trouble falling asleep, wake up during the night, or feel groggy the next day. On the other hand, people who eat more protein and less saturated fat sleep better.
Though researchers indicated that further study is needed to truly understand the relationship between diet and sleep. In the meantime, next time you want to get a good night’s sleep, maybe skip dessert?
4. You could be overeating because of lack of sleep
You can now blame eating an entire pizza on lack of sleep: It’s science. A study (and personal attack on our lifestyle) has found a correlation between sleep deprivation, here defined as ‘less than five hours of sleep,’ and wanting more food. Previously linked by research on circadian rhythm disruption and hormone alteration, lack of sleep may actually cause overeating by producing higher peaks of a lipid in our bloodstream called endocannabinoid, which makes eating more pleasurable.
Endocannabinoid is almost exactly what it sounds like: inner cannabis. Or rather, a compound produced in our bodies that affects the same parts of the brain that marijuana does. The daily rhythm of a particular endocannabinoid called 2-AG can be triggered by a lack of sleep, which could be causing the excess cravings you feel when your sleep-deprived body is running on low energy.
5. Sleep for less than 8 hours and you risk being depressed
A University of Minnesota study found that students who slept less than eight hours “reported significantly more symptoms of depression, and greater use of caffeine, alcohol, and illegal drugs than better-rested peers.” Yeah, sleep is way important.
Teenagers’ body clocks are biologically programmed to go to bed late and wake up late. Why? Teens release melatonin (the sleep hormone) later in the day than adults do, which explains why they probably don’t get tired until at least 11pm. Going to bed later makes it harder to fit in eight solid hours of Zs, meaning you’re probably going to encounter some negative effects.
Like what, you ask? Lower grades in school, poor concentration, moodiness, and poor performance in athletics.