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Happy Snooze Year!

Do you have any resolutions this year?

It might be worth setting some goals; Fidelity Investments’® annual Financial Resolutions Study found that people who made resolutions at the start of 2021 were more optimistic about the future than those who didn’t (Dhue, 2021). Key findings from the Financial Resolutions Study can be found here. While the survey focused primarily on financial resolutions, it covered non-monetary goals as well. An interesting trend is that more Americans are setting resolutions related to physical health, mental health, or general well-being in 2022 compared to 2021. “Eat more nutritiously”, “exercise”, and “focus on things that truly matter” were top priorities in the 2022 Fidelity survey; previous years have seen items like “lose weight,” “quit smoking,” or “drink less alcohol” topping the list (Norcross & Vangarelli, 1988; Oscarsson, Carlbring, Andersson, & Rozental, 2020).


Unfortunately, setting a resolution doesn’t always translate into keeping a resolution. Longitudinal studies have found that 55% of resolution-makers stick to it after one year (Oscarsson et al., 2020), and only 19% were able to keep their resolutions after a two-year period (Norcross & Vangarelli, 1988). Writer Marta Acosta would say that “the problem with New Year’s Resolutions is that you’re expected to make tectonic lifestyle changes immediately after the holidays when your brain is as lumpy and dried out as a slice of fruitcake that someone shoved under the sofa” or that “New Year’s Resolutions are designed to fail since they’re made at a time when people are exhausted emotionally and physically”(Acosta, 2013). Ah, here’s where sleep comes in. The rest of this post will be about how sleep can help alleviate the exhaustion preventing you from achieving your resolution goals.


Goal 1: Eating More Nutritiously or Losing Weight

Whether the resolution-maker is more concerned with longevity or they are interested in obtaining a certain aesthetic, sleep can help with weight loss or nutrition goals. Here’s a great place to mention that health is far more complex than a body weight number. Fixating on body weight may actually derail legitimate plans for physical or mental self-improvement. Body mass index (BMI) is a commonly-used biometric that has been found to be a poor indicator of actual body fat, but is still related to disease risk and overall mortality (Nuttall, 2015). Longer sleep is associated with lower BMI and more favorable metabolic and cardiac health profiles (Cappuccio & Miller, 2017; Potter, Cade, & Hardie, 2017; St-Onge et al., 2016). Individuals with higher BMIs are at an increased risk for sleep disturbances like obstructive sleep apnea that are known to negatively impact long-term health (Jehan et al., 2017).


Insufficient sleep is related to increased appetite, especially for unhealthy foods (Gonnissen, Hursel, Rutters, Martens, & Westerterp-Plantenga, 2013; Knutson, 2007; Lin et al., 2020; Spiegel, Tasali, Penev, & Cauter, 2004). A 2011 study found that individuals who went to bed later consumed more calories in the evenings, consumed more fast food and full-calorie soda, and consumed less fruit and vegetables compared to sleepers who went to bed earlier and had longer sleep duration (Baron, Reid, Kern, & Zee, 2011). Relatedly, a 2014 study found that extending bedtime was associated with a 14% decrease in overall appetite and a 62% decrease in desire for sweet and salty foods in overweight young adults (Tasali, Chapotot, Wroblewski, & Schoeller, 2014). Social jet lag, the phenomenon where a person's sleep patterns differ so greatly between the weekday and the weekend as to cause feelings of fatigue, has even been associated with resting-state changes in the brain regions related to appetite (Nechifor et al., 2020). The results from these studies clearly indicate that increasing sleep duration and establishing a regular bedtime can help achieve nutrition and weight loss goals.


Goal 2: More Exercise

I love Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, but I always cringe when I see him posting about his 4:00 AM workouts on social media. Human growth hormone, known for its role in muscle growth, strength, and exercise performance, is released during sleep. As humans and professional wrestlers-cum-actors get older, the total amount of growth hormone secreted over a 24-hour span decreases by two- to- threefold (Van Cauter & Plat, 1996). I’m begging you, D.J., go back to sleep! Sacrificing sleep by waking up early or staying up late to hit the gym is going to undermine your resolution and undercut the benefits of exercising in the first place. Sleeping longer may seem counterintuitive to the goal of being more active, but increasing sleep duration can actually lead to greater levels of activity during waking hours (Devine et al., 2019). Sleep loss negatively affects aerobic capacity and muscular endurance and may be related to overtraining syndrome and injury risk (de Sousa Nogueira Freitas et al., 2020; Fullagar et al., 2015; Grandou, Wallace, Fullagar, Duffield, & Burley, 2019; Simpson, Gibbs, & Matheson, 2017). Plus, if the real motivation behind a resolution to exercise more is related to losing weight or improving long-term health, I can further refer you to the points I made above for Goal 1.


Goal 3: Cut Back on Smoking, Alcohol, or Other Substances

It may be surprising to learn that sleep is related to addiction. Poor sleep is actually a common risk factor for addiction and relapse in tobacco, alcohol, or other substance use disorders (Ahrens & Ahmed, 2020; Brower & Perron, 2010; Conroy & Arnedt, 2014; Hamidovic & de Wit, 2009). Smoking and drinking are related to sleep disturbances in a bi-directional fashion, meaning that tobacco and alcohol can cause sleep disturbances, but sleep disturbances also increase a desire to smoke or drink (Ara, Jacobs, Bhat, & McCall, 2016; He, Hasler, & Chakravorty, 2019). Resolving to stop or reduce consumption may be more successful if the quitter acknowledges that sleep is related to addictive behaviors. In Goals 1 and 2, I recommended increasing sleep duration or improving sleep hygiene. But someone who is quitting smoking, drinking, or other substances may have new or worsening sleep difficulties that cannot be fixed by going to bed earlier. If that is the case, I recommend seeking out a personalized intervention strategy with the help of a qualified sleep medicine or addiction medicine specialist.


Goal 4: Focus on What Truly Matters

Sleep is what truly matters. Nothing else. Moving on.


Just kidding! However, that joke highlights the difficulty of Goal 4. To focus on “what truly matters”, someone with this resolution has to first figure out what matters to them. Sleep deprivation affects memory, emotional decision-making, prosocial behavior, moral judgement, and our ability to pay attention (Alkozei et al., 2018; Banks & Dinges, 2007; Boardman et al., 2018; Cousins & Fernández, 2019; Killgore, 2010; Killgore et al., 2007; Lim, Tan, Parimal, Dinges, & Chee, 2010). Perhaps a good starting point for someone hoping to achieve Goal 4 would be to clear their schedule for a day and sleep satiate, which is a fancy science term that means sleep as long as you want to. Once you have cleared your mind of all the adenosine and beta-amyloids, you may be able to think clearly about what is important in your life. Whatever else ends up on the list, don’t forget to add sleep!


Footnotes

Acosta, M. (2013). The She-Hulk Diaries. In. New York, New York: Hyperion.

Ahrens, A. M., & Ahmed, O. J. (2020). Neural circuits linking sleep and addiction: animal models to understand why select individuals are more vulnerable to substance use disorders after sleep deprivation. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 108, 435-444.

Alkozei, A., Haack, M., Skalamera, J., Smith, R., Satterfield, B. C., Raikes, A. C., & Killgore, W. D. (2018). Chronic sleep restriction affects the association between implicit bias and explicit social decision making. Sleep Health, 4(5), 456-462. doi:10.1016/j.sleh.2018.07.003

Ara, A., Jacobs, W., Bhat, I. A., & McCall, W. V. (2016). Sleep disturbances and substance use disorders: a bi-directional relationship. Psychiatric Annals, 46(7), 408-412.

Banks, S., & Dinges, D. F. (2007). Behavioral and physiological consequences of sleep restriction. J Clin Sleep Med, 3(5), 519-528. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17803017

Baron, K. G., Reid, K. J., Kern, A. S., & Zee, P. C. (2011). Role of sleep timing in caloric intake and BMI. Obesity, 19(7), 1374-1381.

Boardman, J. M., Bei, B., Mellor, A., Anderson, C., Sletten, T. L., & Drummond, S. P. A. (2018). The ability to self-monitor cognitive performance during 60 h total sleep deprivation and following 2 nights recovery sleep. J Sleep Res, 27(4), e12633. doi:10.1111/jsr.12633

Brower, K. J., & Perron, B. E. (2010). Sleep disturbance as a universal risk factor for relapse in addictions to psychoactive substances. Medical Hypotheses, 74(5), 928-933.

Cappuccio, F. P., & Miller, M. A. (2017). Sleep and Cardio-Metabolic Disease. Curr Cardiol Rep, 19(11), 110. doi:10.1007/s11886-017-0916-0

Conroy, D. A., & Arnedt, J. T. (2014). Sleep and substance use disorders: an update. Current psychiatry reports, 16(10), 487.

Cousins, J. N., & Fernández, G. (2019). The impact of sleep deprivation on declarative memory. Progress in brain research, 246, 27-53.

de Sousa Nogueira Freitas, L., da Silva, F. R., Andrade, H. d. A., Guerreiro, R. C., Paulo, F. V., de Mello, M. T., & Silva, A. (2020). Sleep debt induces skeletal muscle injuries in athletes: A promising hypothesis. Medical Hypotheses, 142, 109836. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mehy.2020.109836

Devine, J. K., Burke, T. M., Skeiky, L., Choynowski, J. J., Quartana, P. J., Balkin, T. J., . . . Simonelli, G. (2019). Objective changes in activity levels following sleep extension as measured by wrist actigraphy. Sleep Med, 60, 173-177. doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2019.04.003

Dhue, S. (2021, December 8, 2021). Making New Year's resolutions during Covid has paid off: Fidelity survey. Invest in you: Ready. Set. Grow. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2021/12/09/making-new-years-resolutions-during-covid-has-paid-off-fidelity.html

Fullagar, H. H., Skorski, S., Duffield, R., Hammes, D., Coutts, A. J., & Meyer, T. (2015). Sleep and athletic performance: the effects of sleep loss on exercise performance, and physiological and cognitive responses to exercise. Sports Medicine, 45(2), 161-186.

Gonnissen, H. K., Hursel, R., Rutters, F., Martens, E. A., & Westerterp-Plantenga, M. S. (2013). Effects of sleep fragmentation on appetite and related hormone concentrations over 24 h in healthy men. British Journal of Nutrition, 109(4), 748-756.

Grandou, C., Wallace, L., Fullagar, H. H., Duffield, R., & Burley, S. (2019). The effects of sleep loss on military physical performance. Sports Medicine, 49(8), 1159-1172.

Hamidovic, A., & de Wit, H. (2009). Sleep deprivation increases cigarette smoking. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 93(3), 263-269.

He, S., Hasler, B. P., & Chakravorty, S. (2019). Alcohol and sleep-related problems. Current opinion in psychology, 30, 117-122.

Jehan, S., Zizi, F., Pandi-Perumal, S. R., Wall, S., Auguste, E., Myers, A. K., . . . McFarlane, S. I. (2017). Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Obesity: Implications for Public Health. Sleep Med Disord, 1(4). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29517065

Killgore, W. D. (2010). Effects of sleep deprivation on cognition. Prog Brain Res, 185, 105-129. doi:10.1016/b978-0-444-53702-7.00007-5

Killgore, W. D., Killgore, D. B., Day, L. M., Li, C., Kamimori, G. H., & Balkin, T. J. (2007). The effects of 53 hours of sleep deprivation on moral judgment. Sleep, 30(3), 345-352. doi:10.1093/sleep/30.3.345

Knutson, K. L. (2007). Impact of sleep and sleep loss on glucose homeostasis and appetite regulation. Sleep medicine clinics, 2(2), 187-197.

Lim, J., Tan, J. C., Parimal, S., Dinges, D. F., & Chee, M. W. (2010). Sleep deprivation impairs object-selective attention: a view from the ventral visual cortex. PLoS One, 5(2), e9087.

Lin, J., Jiang, Y., Wang, G., Meng, M., Zhu, Q., Mei, H., . . . Jiang, F. (2020). Associations of short sleep duration with appetite‐regulating hormones and adipokines: A systematic review and meta‐analysis. Obesity Reviews, 21(11), e13051.

Nechifor, R. E., Popita, C., Bala, C., Vonica, C., Ciobanu, D., Roman, G., . . . Craciun, A. (2020). Regional homogeneity and degree of centrality in social jetlag and sleep deprivation and their correlations with appetite: a resting-state fMRI study. Biological Rhythm Research, 1-21.

Norcross, J. C., & Vangarelli, D. J. (1988). The resolution solution: Longitudinal examination of New Year's change attempts. Journal of substance abuse, 1(2), 127-134.

Nuttall, F. Q. (2015). Body Mass Index: Obesity, BMI, and Health: A Critical Review. Nutr Today, 50(3), 117-128. doi:10.1097/NT.0000000000000092

Oscarsson, M., Carlbring, P., Andersson, G., & Rozental, A. (2020). A large-scale experiment on New Year’s resolutions: Approach-oriented goals are more successful than avoidance-oriented goals. PLoS One, 15(12), e0234097.

Potter, G. D., Cade, J. E., & Hardie, L. J. (2017). Longer sleep is associated with lower BMI and favorable metabolic profiles in UK adults: Findings from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey. PLoS One, 12(7), e0182195.

Simpson, N., Gibbs, E., & Matheson, G. (2017). Optimizing sleep to maximize performance: implications and recommendations for elite athletes. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, 27(3), 266-274.

Spiegel, K., Tasali, E., Penev, P., & Cauter, E. V. (2004). Brief communication: sleep curtailment in healthy young men is associated with decreased leptin levels, elevated ghrelin levels, and increased hunger and appetite. Annals of internal medicine, 141(11), 846-850.

St-Onge, M. P., Grandner, M. A., Brown, D., Conroy, M. B., Jean-Louis, G., Coons, M., . . . Stroke, C. (2016). Sleep Duration and Quality: Impact on Lifestyle Behaviors and Cardiometabolic Health: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Circulation, 134(18), e367-e386. doi:10.1161/CIR.0000000000000444

Tasali, E., Chapotot, F., Wroblewski, K., & Schoeller, D. (2014). The effects of extended bedtimes on sleep duration and food desire in overweight young adults: a home-based intervention. Appetite, 80, 220-224. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2014.05.021

Van Cauter, E., & Plat, L. (1996). Physiology of growth hormone secretion during sleep. J Pediatr, 128(5 Pt 2), S32-37. doi:10.1016/s0022-3476(96)70008-2

Link to Fidelity Findings: https://www.fidelity.com/bin-public/060_www_fidelity_com/documents/about-fidelity/2022_Fidelity_FinancialResolutionsSheet.pdf