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This question originally appeared on Quora. Answer by Ray Schilling, MD. 

What happens if you have unhealthy eating and sleeping habits, such as staying up all night and sleeping during the day? 

  1. Abnormal sleeping pattern: You are deliberately going against your built-in hormones. The reason we make cortisol in the adrenal glands is that we are ready for the fight/flight response during the day and to cope with stress naturally. You seem to be awake most of the night, which prevents you from getting melatonin that would put you to sleep, because in the presence of artificial light, the pineal gland does not release melatonin. Your body makes melatonin and stores it in your pineal gland, but your behavior prevents you from benefiting from melatonin. With your sleep pattern you are missing the midnight to 3 a.m. human growth hormone peak. Your brain releases that only during your deepest sleep and only between midnight and 3 a.m.
  2. Irregular meals: Your body receives breakfast at 4 a.m. Then you skip breakfast, because your stomach is already full. You sleep from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Of course, you will often miss lunch, because you are sleeping. Dinner seems to be light and maybe at a normal time? The problem with these off-time meals is that your body needs energy all of the time. I suspect that you are also snacking and it may not be the healthiest food. When you go for long periods without a meal you become hypoglycemic and suddenly turn very hungry, which usually turns into unhealthy snacks. This is how many people gain weight (sugar/fat snacks).
  3. Here is what I recommend:

a) go to bed between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. Sleep for seven to eight hours. When you do that you will make human growth hormone again, which is needed for your daytime energy. This way you won’t need any sleep until bedtime at 10 p.m. You were human growth hormone-deficient and that’s why you needed daytime naps to rebuild your energy. With regular sleep habits you will have energy all day long.

b) Eat three meals a day, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Follow a Mediterranean diet. Cut out sugar and starchy foods. Have lots of vegetables, fruit, nuts, seafood, lean chicken and turkey. If you want to eat beef, make sure it is grass-fed beef and eat it only once per week. Bison is better than beef.

4. You asked what health consequences your behavior may have. Your irregular sleeping habit interferes with your hormone system: human growth hormone low, melatonin suboptimal, cortisol too much; sex hormones too low (not enough nighttime sleep). You will also be more susceptible for reactive hypoglycemia from insulin overproduction, which causes craving for unhealthy sugary foods. On the long term you may be susceptible to high blood pressure, gaining weight from unhealthy snacks and diabetes. The question is whether you eat healthy food with healthy bacteria in it to take care of your gut bacteria. It is very important to take probiotics (you can get this from the health food store). Stay away from wheat and wheat products in processed foods. It contains a lot of gliadin, which creates leaky gut syndrome. Once you establish that you get autoantibodies. This can cause arthritis and many other illnesses. Chronic inflammation is also caused by this, which causes high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes; it also causes type 2 diabetes. It is much better to prevent all this than get into this downward spiral of deteriorating health.

Going to bed late has consequences. I summarized this here:  Ray Schilling's answer to What are the effects of going to bed late every night?

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