POLITICS
07/27/2016 04:49 pm ET Updated Jul 28, 2016

Trump Just Totally Ignored Science... Again

His latest macho brag could be dangerous, experts say.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has bragged about his sleep deprivation, just like he's bragged about every
Carlo Allegri/Reuters
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has bragged about his sleep deprivation, just like he's bragged about everything else. But scientific research shows it would hurt his performance on the job.

Donald Trump doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to recognizing trustworthy science.

The Republican presidential nominee has made comments suggesting he thinks climate change is a hoax, immigrants are to blame for the spread of infectious diseases and mandatory childhood vaccines cause autism. All of those claims have been proven wrong in studies conducted by researchers and published in respected, peer-reviewed scientific journals.     

So, perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when it comes to sleep ― a topic neurologists, neurobiologists and neurophysiologists have studied for decades ― Trump’s take is a bit uninformed. 

I don’t sleep much,” he’s said more than once. He’s boasted about getting just three or four hours of sleep a night, which is about half the amount of shuteye recommended for most adults.

The brag is yet another example of Trump ignoring legitimate, peer-reviewed science. Numerous studies have shown if you don’t get enough sleep, you are more likely to have trouble focusing, make bad decisions, struggle with learning new information, make less appropriate moral decisions and feel stressed, angry, sad and mentally exhausted. 

“Bragging about sleep deprivation is not only not supported by science or facts, but it can be dangerous,” Phyllis Zee, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, told The Huffington Post.

“The average adult needs seven to eight hours of sleep to function well and be healthy. Curtailing sleep has been shown to be associated with increased risk for adverse health and mood disorders,” she said.

Bragging about sleep deprivation is not only not supported by science or facts, but it can be dangerous. Phyllis Zee, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital

Another consequence of not sleeping: it’s pricey. A study that looked at more than 7,400 workers across the country found that insomnia is costing the U.S. workforce $63.2 billion a year in lost productivity. That’s not exactly something to brag about.

“Complex thinking ― logical thinking, decision-making and thinking out of the box ― those are the things that go first when you are sleep-deprived,” Sara Mednick, professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, explained. 

“And when you’re really sleep-deprived, you don’t really get the effect it’s having on you,” she told HuffPost. “So it’s easy for somebody to be very confident that they’re doing fine, but because their decision-making is off, they may not understand the depths of the problem.”

Maybe we’re jumping to conclusions. Maybe Trump catches up on shuteye during the day?

‘No Naps For Trump’

Scheduled naps during the day can help mitigate the worst effects of daytime sleepiness when not getting enough sleep at night is unavoidable, Mednick said.

More studies ― again, the peer-reviewed ones, conducted by experts who devote their lives to studying these topics ― show daytime naps can boost alertness and creativity, improve memory and learning, make you more productive, lift your spirits and decrease stress.

In one study that looked at the effect of a 30-minute nap the day after a group of healthy men had been deprived of sleep, researchers found that napping helped relieve their stress and strengthen their immune function.

But Trump’s latest comments on naps at a town hall event earlier this week in Roanoke, Virginia, seem to confirm he’s not a fan of the daytime siesta.

“No naps for Trump. No naps,” he said in this Time magazine video.  

Politics aside, being president certainly is a demanding job. And it’s no stretch to say that the role doesn’t likely always leave time for adequate rest.

Past commanders-in-chief have been known to struggle to clock the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night. President Barack Obama has said he usually gets just five hours of sleep ― which he admits is “probably not enough.” President Bill Clinton was known to burn the midnight oil when he needed to, and President George H.W. Bush reportedly took sleeping pills to help counter the effects of jet lag while traveling.

But it’s Trump’s macho no-sleep brag that completely ignores the science that’s ultimately concerning (if not downright alarming). Not only does he not get enough sleep, but he doesn’t seem to care.

“I don’t take naps. We don’t have time,” Trump said earlier this week. 

A lot of people think they are too busy to sleep, but Mednick warns that “nobody is immune to the effects of sleep deprivation.” Studies have shown that sleep-deprived surgeons make more errors, truck drivers are more likely to crash and airline pilots are more likely to make mistakes, she said.

‘A Lot Of Cynicism Toward Science’

Many scientists fear a Trump presidency could have a negative effect on science ― both in terms of support for federal funding for the National Institutes of Health research and for recruiting top international researchers to the U.S. (thanks to the candidate’s anti-immigration stance). 

My scientist colleagues are really scared,” said Ehab Abouheif, a developmental biologist at McGill University in Canada who told the journal Nature about traveling to the U.S. to be interviewed for a position here. Abouheif is Muslim, and Trump has proposed banning Muslims from entering the country.

“It feels like there’s a lot of cynicism toward science and scientists, and that’s concerning,” Benjamin Corb, public affairs director at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, said in the same article.

Trump has not even staked out policy positions on core science issues, while “the Clinton campaign has consulted dozens of scientists on topics that include health, education and the environment,” Nature reported in a later article.

And despite murmurs that Trump, if elected, doesn’t actually plan to run the country and will leave policy matters up to his vice president, there’s still cause for alarm.

Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, has claimed smoking doesn’t kill, global warming is a myth and stem cell research is obsolete. 

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims ― 1.6 billion members of an entire religion ― from entering the U.S.

Sarah DiGiulio is The Huffington Post’s sleep reporter. You can contact her at sarah.digiulio@huffingtonpost.com.

HuffPost

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