How pulling just one all-nighter wreaks havoc on your blood

People who occasionally pull all-nighters are at greater risk for diabetes and other illnesses, and a new study identifies blood proteins as being behind the problem.

We recently reported on a study that concluded the main threat to the health of night owls was the blowback they get from “day larks.” However, there’s apparently a big difference between preferring to simply stay up late and pulling an all-nighter, especially on an irregular basis. A University of Colorado (CU Boulder) and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in Boston study of 270,000 people published last February in Diabetes Care found that people who occasionally stay up all night are far more likely to contract Type 2 diabetes—the schedule is also implicated in a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Now, a new study from UC Boulder may have discovered at least part of the reason why: even a single all-nighter messes with your blood chemistry.


Anatomy of an all-nighter. (Jorge Cham)

15 million Americans work night shifts either permanently or periodically. The CU Boulder/BWH researchers examined data from the UK Biobank pertaining to males from 38 to 71 and discovered that people who irregularly handled night shifts or who were on rotating schedules were 44% more likely to have Type 2 diabetes, with the odds going up with the number of nights worked. (Surprisingly, permanent night workers showed no such increase in the chances of getting diabetes—it seems that their bodies had over time adapted to their workday/night.)

This makes sense in light of the new CU boulder findings. Its authors enlisted six healthy males in their 20s who spent six days and nights in a setting where their meals, activity, sleep and, light were controlled. For the first two days, the experiment mimicked a normal schedule. The men were then moved to a reverse schedule of sleeping eight hours a day and being active eight hours a night.

When the subjects slept and when blood was taken. (Depner, et al)

Throughout the study, the researchers analyzed the levels and time-of-day-behaviors of 1,129 blood proteins. Study lead author Christopher Depner tells CU Boulder Today, “By the second day of the misalignment we were already starting to see proteins that normally peak during the day peaking at night and vice versa.” They ultimately identified 129 proteins whose rhythms were being disrupted by the scheduling.

Circadian alignments vs misalignments. (Depner, et al)

One of these was glucagon, which manages the release of sugar from the liver into the bloodstream. Glucagon usually hits its highest levels during the day, but for the subjects awake at night, that flipped—not only did the peaks occur at night, but even more concerning was that those peaks indicated abnormally high levels of the protein. This could be what’s leading to the increase in diabetes.

The experiment also revealed that the night shifters burned 10% fewer calories during activity, perhaps due to the higher levels of fibroblast growth factor 19 observed—this protein is believed to influence the way in which energy is expended. With weight gain associated with Type 2 diabetes, this could also be a contributing factor.

(RapidEye/Getty Images)

Another interesting finding was that 30 blood proteins are creatures—if we can use that word—of habit, with most of them reaching their highest levels between 2 pm and 9 pm. This suggests that more accurate blood testing for these proteins could be achieved by considering their natural timing when drawing blood. An even more significant takeaway is, “If we know the proteins that the clock regulates, we can adjust the timing of treatments to be in line with those proteins,” says Depner.

As for the people most identified as being at risk in these studies, when handed unavoidable irregular night work the best defense, says Celine Vetter of CU Boulder, is to eat right, exercise, and make sure to get plenty of sleep when you can. There’s also at least one recent study that suggests you can make up lost ground by sleeping in on weekends. 

Tesla introduces new Model 3 at $45,000

The new version's battery has a shorter range and a price $4,000 lower than the previous starting price.

Tesla Model 3 (Photo: Tesla)
Technology & Innovation
  • Tesla's new version of the Model 3 costs $45,000 and can travel 260 miles on one charge.
  • The Model 3 is the best-selling luxury car in the U.S.
  • Tesla still has yet to introduce a fully self-driving car, even though it once offered the capability as an option to be installed at a future date.
Keep reading Show less
Mind & Brain
  • When it comes to educating, says Dr. Elizabeth Alexander, a brave failure is preferable to timid success.
  • Fostering an environment where one isn't afraid to fail is tantamount to learning.
  • Human beings are complicated and flawed. Working with those complications and flaws leads to true knowledge.
Keep reading Show less

Denmark has the flattest work hierarchy in the world

"It's about having employees that are empowered."

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
popular

Denmark may be the birthplace of the Lego tower, but its workplace hierarchy is the flattest in the world.

According to the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report 2018, the nation tops an index measuring "willingness to delegate authority" at work, beating 139 other countries.

Keep reading Show less

The surprising psychology of sex with your ex

We all know sleeping with your ex is a bad idea, or is it?

Shutterstock
Sex & Relationships
  • In the first study of its kind, researchers have found sex with an ex didn't prevent people from getting over their relationship.
  • Instead of feeling worse about their breakup after a hookup, the new singles who attempted sexual contact with their ex reported feeling better afterwards.
  • The findings suggest that not every piece of relationship advice is to be taken at face value.
Keep reading Show less

Yes, Mega Millions just passed $1 billion. What does that look like?

It's hard to imagine such a number. But these images will help you try.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Megamillions_tickets.jpg
News/Social

The Mega Millions lottery just passed $1 billion for tonight's drawing.

What does that even look like, when represented by various currencies?

It takes just 6 numbers to win. You can only, however, purchase tickets up until 10:45 ET tonight.

Keep reading Show less

Relationship hack: Why class clowns make better partners

Want a happy, satisfying relationship? Psychologists say the best way is to learn to take a joke.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
Sex & Relationships
  • New research looks at how partners' attitudes toward humor affects the overall quality of a relationship.
  • Out of the three basic types of people, people who love to be laughed at made for better partners.
  • Fine-tuning your sense of humor might be the secret to a healthy, happy, and committed relationship.
Keep reading Show less

Single algae cells can help deliver targeted medicine

Tiny and efficient, these biodegradable single cells show promise as a way to target hard-to-reach cancers.

Credit: O. Yasa et al./Adv. Mater.
Surprising Science
  • Scientists in Germany have found a potential improvement on the idea of bacteria delivering medicine.
  • This kind of microtargeting could be useful in cancer treatments.
  • The microswimmers are biodegradable and easy to produce.

Metin Sitti and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute in Germany recently demonstrated that tiny drugs could be attached to individual algae cells and that those algae cells could then be directed through body-like fluid by a magnetic field.

The results were recently published in Advanced Materials, and the paper as a whole offers up a striking portrait of precision and usefulness, perhaps loosely comparable in overall quality to recent work done by The Yale Quantum Institute. It begins by noting that medicine has been attached to bacteria cells before, but bacteria can multiply and end up causing more harm than good.

A potential solution to the problem seems to have been found in an algal cell: the intended object of delivery is given a different electrical charge than the algal cell, which helps attach the object to the cell. The movement of the algae was then tested in 2D and 3D. (The study calls this cell a 'microswimmer.') It would later be found that "3D mean swimming speed of the algal microswimmers increased more than twofold compared to their 2D mean swimming speed." The study continues —

More interestingly, 3D mean swimming speed of the algal microswimmers in the presence of a uniform magnetic field in the x-direction was approximately threefolds higher than their 2D mean swimming speed.

After the 2D and 3D speed of the algal was examined, it was then tested in something made to approximate human fluid, including what they call 'human tubal fluid' (think of the fallopian tubes), plasma, and blood. They then moved to test the compatibility of the microswimmer with cervical cancer cells, ovarian cancer cells, and healthy cells. They found that the microswimmer didn't follow the path of bacteria cells and create something toxic.

The next logical steps from the study include testing this inside a living organism in order to assess the safety of the procedure. Potential future research could include examining how effective this method of drug delivery could be in targeting "diseases in deep body locations," as in, the reproductive and gastrointestinal tracts.

Gary Shteyngart: reality catches up to dystopian fiction

Our modern-day Kafka on his new novel Lake Success and the dark comedy that in 2018 pretty much writes itself

Technology & Innovation
  • riding the Greyhounds of hell, from New York to El Paso
  • the alternate reality of hedge fund traders
Keep reading Show less