WHOOP is proud to announce that we are collaborating with scientists at Harvard’s Brigham Health, Harvard Medical School, the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health at Monash University, the Institute for Breathing and Sleep at Austin Health, and ARCHANGELS, to learn how the COVID-19 pandemic and its mitigation have impacted our members’ physical and mental health using a comprehensive survey.
The COVID-19 impact survey was developed by an international team of scientists, including Dr. Charles Czeisler, Director of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Chief of the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Dr. Czeisler is the undisputed biggest name in sleep and we are honored to have him on the WHOOP Podcast, both to talk about the study we’re embarking on together and to share some expert tips and tricks about all things sleep.
COVID Resilience Project Podcast with Sleep Expert Dr. Charles Czeisler
What is the COVID Resilience Project?
Earlier this month, we completed a retrospective analysis of how WHOOP members’ sleep and exercise habits changed during the pandemic (note that the manuscript is made available as a pre-print and has not yet been peer reviewed). In it we showed that dramatic changes to sleep timing and duration occurred, and that concurrently, meaningful changes to cardiovascular health were also observed across 50,000 analyzed WHOOP members.
The COVID Resilience Project takes that line of research to the next level by layering in rich contextualizing data, ranging from exposure and experience with COVID-19, to how it impacted your work and social life, to self-reported changes to markers of mental health such as stress and anxiety, as well as reported changes to markers of physical health like weight and activity level.
The survey we are distributing was developed in collaboration with public health officials at the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), and will be used to understand public priorities and appetite for and adherence to extreme mitigation strategies. It will have enormous global health value and impact as we prepare to address the needs of communities that have endured COVID-19, and to help prepare for future waves of COVID-19 or other pandemics.
The data collected through the COVID Resilience Project will be critical for policy makers to make decisions around balancing the health and safety impact of the mitigation measures versus the disease itself; because of the importance of these types of decisions, having objective data provided by WHOOP will ensure the best possible outcome.
All active WHOOP members at least 18 years of age and residing in The United States, Canada, The United Kingdom, Australia, and Ireland are encouraged to participate. The survey is quite in depth, but participating and allowing your WHOOP data to be shared in an anonymized and aggregated way means helping to shape the way the United States and countries around the world respond to the ongoing pandemic.
What Happens with My Data?
We recognize that some of the data we are collecting touches on sensitive topics. To ensure every step is taken to protect your privacy, we have gotten approval from the research ethics committee at Monash University, and are following best research practices under the guidance of our study partners and international standards.
Upon completion of the survey, your sleep data and survey responses will be assigned a unique code that anonymizes you, and an automated script will pair your WHOOP sleep and recovery data to your survey data. Only anonymized paired data will be sent to our collaborators at Monash University, and these are the only individuals who will have access to your individual (anonymized) data for analysis.
WHOOP will also provide personalized analysis showing how your COVID-19 pandemic resiliency compares to other people who are demographically similar to you. Once we’ve delivered your anonymous data to Monash and sent your report to you, WHOOP will not maintain a copy of the survey data, and will not use the survey data for any purpose other than for the study described above.
How to Be a Part of the Study
WHOOP members in the US, Australia, Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom are eligible to participate in this study. You'll get a notification via the WHOOP app and an email in the near future with details on how to fill out the survey and take part.
Dr. Charles Czeisler Podcast Show Notes:
0:46 - Major News. Will details a new study on the ability of WHOOP to predict risk of COVID-19.
2:45 - Introducing Dr. Chuck Czeisler. Dr. Czeisler’s groundbreaking research over the last 40 years has given us a greater understanding of our circadian rhythms. He is the Director of Harvard’s Division of Sleep Medicine and works with NASA and professional sports teams, such as the Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins, to prepare astronauts and athletes to perform at their peak.
5:32 - Dr. Czeisler’s Career. He details his work and how a discovery early on in his career caused him to change his focus to sleep’s impact on physiology.
7:07 - Stress and Sleep. Dr. Czeisler explains the connection between sleep and the release of the stress hormone cortisol, and how lack of sleep and varied bedtimes can negatively affect the body.
9:01 - Sleep and Testosterone. “Sleeping for 4 hours a night for just a week decreases testosterone levels by the equivalent of 11 years of aging.”
9:50 - Naps. Dr. Czeisler discusses the difference between good napping and bad napping and how to best balance daytime sleeping and night time sleeping effectively. He also shares his insight on why he advises professional athletes to nap before big games or performances and why that can give them an advantage over the competition.
11:43 - The Importance of Sleep. “In many ways, people have seen sleep as a weakness. … We lionize individuals who supposedly get by with insufficient sleep, which I think is a real shame. We don’t say it’s great that somebody’s drunk when they go on the court. Everybody recognizes that that’s going to degrade your performance. We know that being awake for 24 hours in a row or getting 4 or 5 hours of sleep a night for the better part of a week, both of things impair neurobehavioral performance, reaction time and other things, by an amount that’s equivalent to being legally drunk.”
13:30 - Sleep is a Superpower. “Sleep is one of the things that [people] can harness if they want to perform at their best. This is what I tell teams. You can keep practicing, practicing, practicing, but if you don’t sleep on the night after you practice, then you don’t lay down the memories that are critical for enhancing your performance.”
14:26 - Exciting Research in Sleep. Dr. Czeisler shares what researchers are now learning about light’s role in resetting our internal clock and how technology can negatively affect us in bed. “It turns out that we’re every bit as sensitive as a cockroach to the effect of light in resetting our circadian rhythms. Perhaps that makes us seem less exceptional than we might want to believe, but we’re very, very sensitive to light exposure.”
17:50 - Teaching Sleep. Dr. Czeisler teaches a course at Harvard called Time for Sleep.
21:50 - Why We Need to Sleep. Dr. Czeisler dives deep on how the brain begins to involuntarily switch off if we don’t meet our need for sleep. He also explains how caffeine use can be dangerous when combined with drowsy driving. “1 out of 5 motor vehicles crashes and crash injuries are related to drowsy driving.”
24:52 - The COVID Resilience Project. “We want to evaluate [COVID-19] by looking at it through the lens of its impact on sleep. … The value of the data that we will be able to gather from WHOOP is extraordinary. We think that this is a very important project because of the potential that it has to influence public policy.”
27:32 - Asking for Your Help. “We would be incredibly grateful if the members of the WHOOP community would be willing to participate in this study. Of course it’s voluntary. All the data that we gather will be maintained confidential.”
29:44 - How You Can Help. “By filling out the survey, you would be contributing to globally important research that’s going to help contribute to the understanding of how different people and different demographics, both geographically and socioeconomically, have been impacted both by the disease and the response to the disease. The goal of the study is to [evaluate] the appropriateness of the response that we had with this eye towards this inevitable second wave,” Emily says.
32:51 - What Researchers Want to Know. “We are particularly interested in learning what has changed in your life as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. How has that affected your physical health and your mental health? We’re also particularly interested in identifying at-risk populations so that we can highlight those needs in our reports and provide resources for those populations.”
36:13 - The Role of WHOOP in the Study. “The survey empowers WHOOP members to have their voice heard and to have their data incorporated into the understanding of the impact of COVID-19 and all the mitigation efforts to prevent the spread of the disease on both mental health, physical health, and public policy.”
36:47 - Affecting Public Policy. “The CDC is involved [in the COVID Resilience Project] because they want to use this information directly to inform policy. It becomes this really unique opportunity for WHOOP members to have their voices heard and to shape the way that these policies evolve,” Emily says.
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