Warning: One all-nighter can throw off circadian rhythms

30 Oct
Kayla Hunt is junior at the University of Florida majoring in Public Relations. Wanting to experiment writing on science and health and environmental topics, she decided Layman's Terms Media would be the perfect outlet. In her free time, she keeps  an informal blog titled Bloggish Gibberish that chronicles her life experiences as a college student.

Kayla Hunt is junior at the University of Florida majoring in Public Relations. Wanting to experiment writing on science and health and environmental topics, she decided Layman’s Terms Media would be the perfect outlet. In her free time, she keeps an informal blog titled Bloggish Gibberish that chronicles her life experiences as a college student.

 

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of contributing bloggers beginning their careers as journalists/public relations professionals at the University of Florida. Please see my earlier post about getting journalists excited about science writing early on.

UF physician gives tips on how to reverse insomnia

By Kayla Hunt

With the pressure of balancing academics, a social life and health, many students find it hard to make time to sleep. Experts warn that one all-nighter can throw off one’s sleep cycle, which can result in insomnia.

Dr. Mary Wagner, a physician at the University of Florida’s Sleep Center, said circadian rhythms – which serve as the internal clock that tells us when to wake up and when to fall asleep – are to blame for this.

There is a way to move circadian rhythms to a time where it agrees with a person’s daily schedule, but it takes a couple of weeks depending on the amount of change in one’s schedule, Wagner said.

“When you try to change your sleep schedule, it could be done by going to sleep and waking up roughly 15 minutes before your usual time,” Wagner said.

When accustomed to the original 15-minute change, add another 15 minutes and repeat until the desired time is achieved, Wagner said.

She also said no weekend exceptions should be given because your body will naturally want to stick to the later time again.

Circadian rhythms are a biological process that occurs in roughly 24-hour intervals, but our bodies naturally push these rhythms back over time.

“This makes it easier to push bed time later rather than sooner,” Wagner said.

Insomnia, which results from your daily schedule disagreeing with your rhythms, is the most common sleep complaint among Americans, according to the International Sleep Foundation.

“When insomnia goes untreated, it causes the person to have an increased risk of obesity, depression and ADHD – attention deficit hyperactivity disorder,” Wagner said.

Wagner said the reason people find it so easy to stay awake for a long time is because of how accessible distractions are made.

“The top causes for difficulty sleeping are artificial light exposure, social interactions and eating,” Wagner said, “but the internet and worrying are also major culprits.”

The recommended amount of sleep for a young adult is between seven and nine hours and is different from one person to another, according to the International Sleep Foundation.

Christian DeVault, a sophomore pre-pharmacy major at UF, said he feels sleep deprived because he only gets about six hours of sleep.

“I get distracted at night by the internet and my hobby of juggling because I want time to myself when I’m done studying,” DeVault said.

There is a way to move circadian rhythms to a time where it agrees with a person’s daily schedule, but it takes a couple of weeks depended on the amount of change in the schedule, Wagner said.

“When you try to change your sleep schedule, it would be done by going to sleep and waking up roughly 15 minutes before your usual time,” Wagner said.

When accustomed to the original 15-minute change, add another one and repeat until the desired time is achieved, Wagner said.

She also said no weekend exceptions should be given because your body will naturally want to stick to the later time again.

Good sleeping hygiene, the conditions of the person and the environment, is crucial to getting a good night’s rest as well as helping with changing those rhythms, Wagner said.

The foundation describes good sleeping hygiene as not eating or drinking too much before bed, especially caffeine and alcohol; creating an environment that is dark, cool and comfortable; and avoiding disturbing noises and light sources.

“We need to pay attention to the cues of light exposure, social interaction and eating when trying to change our sleeping pattern,” Wagner said. “The most important cue is light, so one major step to resetting rhythms is making sure the room in which you’re sleeping in in completely dark without the distractions of a television, a smart phone and the internet.”

Kailyn Allen, a freshman political science major at UF, said she has taken control of her sleeping schedule and doesn’t feel sleep deprived despite having a lot of homework and stress.

“For about a year, I have used a sleep mask to go to sleep and it definitely helps tremendously,” Allen said.

Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation and guided imagery can be especially helpful as well as exercise that is done earlier in the day, according to the International Sleep Foundation.

 

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One Response to “Warning: One all-nighter can throw off circadian rhythms”

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  1. To study or to sleep? A college student’s dilemma | Layman's Terms Media - November 27, 2013

    […] Warning: One all-nighter can throw off circadian rhythms […]

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