Respecting Cortisol – WSJ Article “… Teens Stay Up All Night, Sleep All Day”
Ms. Friedman, wrote a Wall Street Journal article titled – “Locked Down Teens Stay Up All Night, Sleep All Day.” The article is a vivid example of how people lose respect for cortisol and why it matters. The article attempts to justify why staying up all night and sleeping during the day might be OK. It describes several teenagers who stay up all night for various reasons – homework, playing video games, watching movies, Snapchat videos, or talking with friends. Admittingly, some of this is a result of the frustration being confined to the homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Staying up at night gives the teens separation from their parents.
In the previous posts, we talked about the loss of normal circadian physiology of cortisol. When the sun comes up, your melatonin goes down, other hormones such as testosterone are raised. When the sun goes down, your cortisol decreases in preparation for the increases in melatonin and other hormones that need to take place for sleep to occur normally. Remember that growth hormone is specifically released after midnight in most humans. It does not happen at any other time.
A disquieting part of the article is where the author tries to quote New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, saying “it’s okay for kids to stay up and live the vampire lifestyle” in her video discussion with a psychologist. The video is available for review on her Facebook page. In the video, the Prime Minister was concerned and asked questions about teenagers staying up and living a “vampire lifestyle” and asked the psychologist whether it is a good or bad thing. It was the psychologist who said that staying up at night “is OK if the kids did this for some weeks” and the screen time was used to cope with being cooped up in the house with their parents. The psychologist agreed that there can be negative consequences of staying up all night. Any modern-day psychologist knows the importance of circadian rhythms and the connection to cortisol. The video highlighted that human psychology surrounded being cooped up in a home. Nowhere did they suggest that this is a good long-term solution, as the title of the WSJ article suggests.
The article describes kids staying up all night, watching movies, and eating macaroni and cheese and microwave burritos. If this is not a recipe for obesity and chronic fatigue, I do not know what is. Obesity in human beings doesn’t happen overnight, it starts early in childhood. Carbohydrate intolerance starts when we are young through years of eating processed cereals, fruit juices, sodas which are sugar-laden with high fructose corn syrup, leading each of us to consume well over one-hundred pounds of sugar each year (read my post about 100 lbs sugar). Eating French fries and chicken nuggets fried in vegetable oil also derails our metabolism. It is obvious the rate of adolescent obesity is increasing, and it is this culture of poor eating habits from a young age that sets us up for obesity later in life. Trying to “make it OK” to stay up all night is just another added layer to the reasons why our rate of obesity is only going to increase. It all comes back to our loss of respect for cortisol. Every time a patient comes in with complaints of fatigue, insomnia, difficulty to lose weight, high blood pressure, carbohydrate intolerance, and the other things that they’ll humans, it can all delete to this disconnect we have justified are losing our connection to cortisol. During these COVID-19 times, people’s cortisol has become even more dysregulated. Have you ever wondered why so many of the patients who became ill or died because of the COVID-19 virus had comorbidities? It is estimated that about 12% of the US population are metabolically healthy; likewise, about 12% of those people with COVID-19 who were put on ventilators lived; meaning that 88% died. It is a metabolically healthy population that can handle being infected with the COVID-19 virus. Hopefully during these unprecedented times people take a step back and figure out how to improve their metabolic health so when the next pandemic arises our bodies can be in a place where we can naturally handle the disease. Respecting your cortisol levels plays a big part in this.
Unfortunately, Ms. Friedman misses the point on many levels trying to justify the “teenager vampire lifestyle” and that it might be something normal for the kids. Studying a little circadian physiology and watching adults come into the clinic complaining of fatigue, obesity, and insomnia is convincing enough to know that if you do not respect your cortisol from an early age, the result is inevitable. During these difficult times, why not focus on ways to make ourselves metabolically healthy so when the next pandemic comes around, we can be ready for it.
This is the seventh Respecting Cortisol post, and more are coming.
Also why The Biggest Loser contestants should have fixed their cortisol before trying to lose hundreds of pounds