Friday, March 30, 2012

The sleep-deprived diet?

And now for something completely different! Believe it or not, I'm a fairly early riser now that I have a 'real job.' Between the vagaries of my position and being a family guy, I'm forced into a regular work schedule and a regular sleep schedule.

When I was in graduate school, however, I used to work long, long into the night, go home at 2:30 am and get into work mid-morning. It was an unhealthy lifestyle, but kind of weird and fun. I really enjoy eating ridiculous amounts of greasy food at 3 in the morning. That I don't get to do so any more is a minor tragedy. I used to really enjoy getting home, cooking up a full breakfast at 4 am, flipping on the TV and watching television on agribusiness and eating homemade hashbrowns.

So imagine my surprise to read the following in the middle of an article about the public health consequences of 24-hour shift work (via The Pump Handle, and their very serious treatment of issue regarding emergency work and sleep deprivation):
The “jet lag diet” is a dietary manipulation of carbohydrate and protein intake sometimes recommended for travelers crossing multiple time zones. Essentially, protein is ingested before times of activity and carbohydrates are ingested before the sleep phase. 
However, timing of meals, rather than content of the diet, has been proven of more assistance in entrainment to a new light–dark cycle. Low doses of caffeine (4 mg/kg, with 1 cup coffee =100 mg of caffeine) administered at 12:20 AM and 1:20 AM have been shown to effectively decrease sleep tendency on the night shift, enhance performance during the first 2 nights of a block of night shifts, and yet not disrupt daytime sleep. 
Excesses of caffeine, however, should be avoided.
Who knew!?! I was eating the right way!* Readers, do you miss late nights in the lab? What was your late night snack of choice?

*I'm mostly kidding. I recognize that's a wild misreading of the article. Grad students, you should try to get 8-12 hours of sleep a night. Yeah, I know -- but you should try. 


  1. There's a pizza joint behind the chemistry department that closes at about 2:30am. The hipster who works that shift gives me a wild discount because he can home early if I eat all his pizza, haha.

  2. Gorging up on salty + greasy food (in addition to caffeine and sugar) to fight off tiredness actually works, for few more hours. It really screws you up in terms of your productivity the following day though. Also getting two beers will fight of the tiredness temporarily but the fine coordination and concentration suffers

  3. An Anon posted in The Hunger Games thread accidentally. He says:

    "I did my Ph.D. in the UK in the mid-80s, so my routine and hours probably look rather laid-back compared with what you guys in the States have to do.
    It was something like: In at 8, work till about 5, then off to the pub to sink 8 pints of lager, followed by a vindaloo (or, when I became more adventurous, a "phal", which renders the mouth completely numb after one mouthfull), then off to a nightclub for some more alcohol, followed by a kebab, then back to a colleagues flat to listen to the Bonzo dog doo-dah band until early morning. This was repeated two or three times a week. Astonishingly I managed to get a Ph.D., but was advised that a post doc was probably not for me (!!)

    Do I miss late nights in the lab? Well, I didn't do them on a regular basis, but I pulled the odd 36 hr stretch and, no I don't miss them at all. Snack of choice in the early hours? Probably a kebab. Let's face it, at that time in the morning you'll eat just about anything. If I tried that now it'd probably kill me."

  4. There were primarily two options for us in grad school: 1. Late night burrito place, closing at 1AM, 2. Late night burgers / Greek food, closing at 3-4(ish). Unsurprisingly, you had to jostle through lines of moderately inebriated college kids to access either. But, hey, many 24-hr lab pushes were successful due to junky AM food.

  5. I didn't do late shifts often, but certainly did on more than one occasion - pre-conference pushes, maintenance on home-built vacuum chambers, and when the boss was micro-managing me. During those times, I'd typically work from 9am-3am, sometimes for a month or two at a time. On the drive home at that hour, all the late-night places are closed, but none have opened for breakfast either. Rather than fix something substantive for myself, I used that time to down a six-pack of ~5% aqueous ethanol solution before hitting the sack.

  6. Ah ha ha ha, 8-12 hours sleep a night *wipes away a tear*

    But seriously, chocolate covered coffee beans - the king of research/thesis snacks.

  7. I never remember being in lab later than 9 PM but my favorite late night snack was definitely the traditional energy-rich PB & J. Sometimes supplemented by trail mix and very milky, sugary coffee.

  8. A huge submarine sandwich from Elsies in Harvard square, if I remember correctly. Kept me going for hours.

  9. I actually didn't try to eat too much at night (unless I was really hungry and went to McDonalds to get a couple of McChickens without mayo for a dollar each). I heard that eating before sleep makes you gain weight and I was worried about my figure. Fat lot of good going to sleep hungry did me! The only way I lost weight was by doing a postdoc outside of the States. And I lost a lot of weight and turned some of it into muscle. I blame eating taco bell and pub food during the day. Maybe they also put cholesterol in the beer in the States, I don't know.... Plus that lying girlfriend kept telling me that I wasn't fat when it was clearly the case.

  10. The German sausage place had the best fries. But for late night eats, the black bean vegi nachos from the College Inn Pub couldn't be beat.

  11. Steak 'N' Shake, FTW! It's open 24/7.