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Harvard discovers much faster way to adjust your sleep cycle (parentingsquad.com)
89 points by y2002 on May 25, 2008 | hide | past | favorite | 27 comments

I've had lifelong problems maintaining anything remotely resembling a normal, consistent sleep schedule, coupled with chronic insomnia. Two sleep studies several years apart and a CPAP machine have done nothing. Scientific findings of a "food clock" that can override the circadian rhythm for sleep leads me to experiment. For the next 30 days I won't eat 16 hours before I intend to wake. On waking, eat breakfast. I hope this works.

Your sleeping problems resemble mine so closely I could have written that post, right down to the sleep studies and failed CPAP. I sincerely and truly and really really hope the food clock works for you; I'm going to start eating something, anything, when I wake up now.

Thanks--I hope the experiment works also. It seems as though it should, based on my experience. It's also an opportunity to record the results of an experiment in Google docs, using their fancy spreadsheet gadgets.

I sure wouldn't mind seeing these results...

How much do you exercise each day and what do you do?

This is a great technique.

I've noticed i actually do this inadvertantly on long plane trips. I can't eat on a airplane or 12 hours before a long flight. When i arrive, it is usually midnight and there is nothing to eat (since most stores are closed). In the morning i usually have a big breakfast. I've never suffered from jet lag, due to readjusting my food cycle.

I know this works for me regarding jet lag. I will use this tequnique to adjusting my sleep cycle at home.

parentingsquad.com is so ad-riddled that it actually has more adblock'ed items than the actual content.

In any case, the article in short - "Starving yourself before a long flight may help prevent jet lag"

And here's Reuter's version http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSN22520427200...

That was an interesting meme. I have long valued waking up early, and I promote going to bed hungry. Looks like the two principals are related.

I guess not eating breakfast is why my cycle is so unstable...

This actually makes plenty of sense as when I used to have breakfast regularly I would wake up within a minute every morning without an alarm.

I thought this was common knowledge. For those who are used to eating with an hour of getting up, the breakfast regulates the energy levels in the day. So it makes sense to align all the meals with a breakfast schedule. I've used this trick for a long time. Never suffered from jet-lag.

Apparently it isn't common knowledge, but I guess I should have guessed it: I've been using food (esp. high protien foods) to stay awake for all-nighters for years. I never would have guessed the opposite would work!

It's at the bottom of the article, but the author of the paper was interviewed on NPR's Science Friday: http://www.sciencefriday.com/program/archives/200805234

Alternatively, do it the way I did: Travel to china, and when you get back, don't allow your sleep schedule to revert back to your timezone.

Interesting - but not portable. ;)

To people living in other time zones.

Can someone explain how this works.

Lets say I want to start waking up at 6AM everyday. How can I use my food clock to help me?

You need to fast for the 12-16 hours before 6:00 am. So stop eating between 2:00 to 6:00 pm the day before. When you wake up at 6:00 am, eat a healthy breakfast.

But wont that put me to sleep right away - I usually feel sleepy after a meal. This seems counter-intuitive.

> I usually feel sleepy after a meal.

Carbs do that (e.g. potatoes). Try eating proteins and greens only instead and see if it still makes you sleepy.

the other theory i heard was that the stomach uses blood to churn food, which deprives the brain of blood

That means you're eating the wrong things.

I figured it out. What the article refers to is a strategy to not sleep during the long flight but instead starve yourself so you stay awake. And then when you eat, you basically reset your body clock to the start of a new day.

I think this is very early research and not really applicable.

...but instead starve yourself so you stay awake.

Staying awake during the fast isn't necessary.

Text doesn't always load, so:


Not eating for 12-16 hours can help people quickly reset their sleep-wake cycle, according to a new study from the Harvard Medical School. This discovery can drastically improve a person's ability to cope with jet lag or adjust to working late shifts.

Scientists have long known that our circadian rhythm is regulated by our exposure to light. Now they have found a second "food clock" that takes over when we are hungry. This mechanism probably evolved to make sure starving mammals don't go to sleep when they should be foraging for food.

The lead researcher Clifford Saper explains:

>The neat thing about this second clock is that it can override the main clock ... and you should just flip into that new time zone in one day.

It usually takes people a week to fully adjust to a new time zone or sleeping schedule. To think that this new "food clock" hack can help you change your internal clock in one day is mind boggling.

How does it work?

For example, if you want to start waking up at 2:00 am in the morning, you should stop eating between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm the previous day. When you wake up at 2:00 am, eat a nice healthy meal to break your fast.

Another example: If you are travelling from Los Angeles to Tokyo, figure out when breakfast is served in Tokyo, and don't eat for the 12-16 hours before Tokyo's breakfast time.

Why does this work?

Like everything else in our evolutionary history, it has to do with survival:

>"For a small mammal, finding food on a daily basis is a critical mission. Even a few days of starvation, a common threat in natural environments, may result in death," the study

>"Hence, it is adaptive for animals to have a secondary "master clock" that can allow the animal to switch its behavioral patterns rapidly after a period of starvation to maximize the opportunity of finding food sources at the same time on following days."

>The shift is a survival mechanism in small mammals that forces them to change their sleeping patterns, Fuller suggests. One starvation cycle is enough to override the traditional light-based circadian clock, the study suggests.

>"This new timepiece enables animals to switch their sleep and wake schedules in order to maximize their opportunity of finding food."

>"A period of fasting with no food at all for about 16 hours is enough to engage this new clock," says Saper.

>"So, in this case, simply avoiding any food on the plane, and then eating as soon as you land, should help you to adjust — and avoid some of the uncomfortable feelings of jet lag." CBC (quoting study published in the May 22 issue of Science.

For more information, check out Science Friday's interview with lead researcher Clifford Saper. "

Page not found?

Should HN implement some sort of mirror for down/unreliable sites? I'm a big opposer of posting mirrors for everything right off the bat (give credit where credit is due) but the link in this story was a 404 for me.

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