Injuries And Work Accidents
Work accidents and injuries are more likely to occur overnight. A major risk factor for adverse effects of sleep deprivation involves shift work. Shift workers often sleep fewer hours than they need, and the sleep is often poorly aligned to their natural circadian rhythm.
Some major work-associated disasters have, in part, been blamed on sleep deprivation. A few well-known examples include the grounding of the Exxon Valdez and the resulting oil spill in Alaska, as well as the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
Have A Pleasant Sleep Environment
Youre more likely to get quality sleep if your bedroom is comfortable and relaxing.
To create an ideal sleep environment:
- Turn off electronics, including TVs and smartphones.
- Keep the bedroom cool .
- Use a comfortable mattress and pillow.
- Cover up loud sounds with a fan, humidifier, or white noise machine.
Losing Even An Hour Puts You In Sleep Debt
Many people think of sleep like a bank account: Withdraw an hour on Monday, then deposit an extra one on Saturday to break even. But the equation is more complicated than that, says Dr. Cathy Goldstein, an associate professor of neurology at the the University of Michigan Sleep Disorders Center. You might be getting some alertness benefits by sleeping longer on the weekends, but as far as truly making up for the lost sleep during the week, you really cant make up for it hour by hour, she says.
Research has suggested that a person would actually need four days of adequate rest to make up for even one hour of sleep debt. Since many people get less sleep than they need just about every weeknight, Goldstein says its almost mathematically impossible to close that gap over only two weekend nights. The sleep debt is just accumulating over time, she says.
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In Small Study Reaction Speed Recovered But Other Sleep Loss Deficits Persisted One Week Later
- After 7 days of recovery from a 10-day period of deficient sleep, participants in a small study had recovered their pre-sleep deprivation reaction speed, but had not fully recovered on any other measures of function.
After 7 days of recovery from a 10-day period of deficient sleep, participants in a small study had recovered their pre-sleep deprivation reaction speed, but had not fully recovered on any other measures of function. Jeremi Ochab of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland, and colleagues present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on September 1, 2021.
Sleep deficiency is well known to negatively impact human functioning. For example, it is associated with deficits in attention and memory, as well as increased risk of car accidents, heart problems, and other medical issues. However, while some research has addressed recovery after chronic sleep deprivation, it has been unclear how much time is needed to fully recover from prolonged periods of deficient sleep.
After 7 days of recovery, the participants had not yet returned to pre-sleep deprivation performance on most measures of functioning. These included several EEG measures of brain activity, rest-versus-activity patterns captured by wrist sensors, and accuracy on Stroop tasks. Only their reaction times had recovered to baseline levels.
How To Avoid Sleep Debt
The easiest way to avoid the consequences of lost sleep is to avoid accumulating sleep debt in the first place. Learn how much sleep your body needs and prioritize sleep as one of the most important ways to care for your body.
While the amount of sleep, people need can vary from person to person, most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night according to guidelines from the National Sleep Foundation. Children and teenagers need even more sleep to support their bodies as they grow and develop.
It may seem like sacrificing a little sleep to study or work a few more hours helps you get more done, but remember that getting sufficient sleep improves cognitive performance and allows you to be more focused and efficient during the day. Here are a few more ideas for improving your sleep hygiene to reduce the chances of accumulating sleep debt:
Sometimes losing sleep is unavoidable. Whether its due to a demanding work schedule or a late night with family or friends, its important to have a plan for recovering from lost sleep. Fortunately, with a little patience and consistency, people can recover from sleep debt and regain the benefits of being well slept.
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How To Recover From Sleep Deprivation
It is possible to recover from sleep deprivation, but it can take some time. A quick nap or sleeping in on the weekend can ease symptoms, but people need multiple nights or even weeks of good sleep to fully catch up.
Some studies have shown that sleeping in on the weekend can improve insulin sensitivity, fat metabolism, body weight, stress levels, fatigue and performance. One study found it even eliminated the risk of early death. Most sleep experts, however, say that it’s better to go to bed earlier than it is to sleep in late.
One study found that it took an average of four days for people to recover from just one hour of sleep debt. Overall, the more sleep debt people have accumulated, the longer it takes to recover. Another study found that teenagers needed about two weeks into their school holiday to cancel out sleep debt.
Sleep experts say for optimum sleep health, people need to stick to a consistent sleep schedule, waking up and going to be bed as close to the same time each day as possible. Even on the weekends.
When people sleep in or stay up later, the disruption to the circadian rhythm can make it difficult to return to a regular sleep schedule during the week.
Does Sleeping In On Weekends Help Reduce Sleep Debt
It is possible to catch up on sleep by receiving recovery sleep. During recovery sleep, most people show an increased proportion of slow wave sleep that is thought to help compensate for previous sleep loss.
Sleeping in on the weekend may help improve insulin sensitivity , fat metabolism , body weight , stress levels , daytime sleepiness, fatigue, alertness, and performance . One study that tracked the sleeping patterns of people over 13 years found that catching up on sleep by sleeping in on the weekend cancelled out the risk of early death .
The caveat is that many of the benefits of catch-up sleep are only achieved after multiple nights or weeks of catching up on sleep. One study found that participants needed an average of four days to recover from just one hour of sleep debt , and another study found that teenagers didn’t recover from sleep deprivation until two weeks into the school holidays . The time required to benefit from catch-up sleep might explain why another study found that one weekend of catch-up sleep failed to show benefits for weight gain or insulin resistance.
The size of your sleep debt determines how long it takes you to catch up on sleep. Many people accumulate such a large sleep debt during the week that they would practically have to sleep all weekend to pay it back. When we fail to fully make up our sleep debt over the weekend, it carries over into the next workweek.
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Diagnosis For Sleep Deprivation
Medical specialists suggest there is one primary sign for moving toward a cure and sleep deprivation treatment. If youre sleep-deprived, a telltale sign is that you feel sleepy during the daytime. Specialists say that if youre sleeping well, you remain alert even when doing tedious tasks.
Another sign includes falling asleep almost immediately when lying down. While this may seem counterintuitive, its a sign of tiredness. Another signal of possible sleep deprivation is experiencing microsleeps. These moments occur during the day when you briefly fall asleep when you shouldnt .
If you believe you need sleep deprivation treatment, your doctor could refer you to a sleep specialist. This healthcare professional will quiz you on sleep and ask detailed and relevant questions to assess the issue. If they suspect an underlying problem, the specialist may do a sleep study test, medically known as a polysomnography. During a sleep study, your brain activity, oxygen levels, arm and leg movements, and how often you wake are monitored.
What Are The Symptoms Of Sleep Deprivation
At first, sleep deprivation may cause minor symptoms, but over time, these symptoms can become more serious.
Initial sleep deprivation symptoms may include:
Diminished ability to fight off infections
Sleep deprivation complications over time may include:
Increased risk for depression and mental illness
Increased risk for stroke and asthma attack
Increased risk for potentially life-threatening complications, such as car accidents, and untreated sleep disorders like insomnia, sleep apnea, and narcolepsy
Severe mood swings
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Can You Recover From Sleep Deprivation
Whether or not you can recover from sleep deprivation or sleep debt depends on what type of debt youâre trying to recover from. Acute sleep debt is actionable. When you make up for the lost sleep, you can reverse the impairments caused by short-term sleep deprivation.
In an important study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, participants who had their sleep restricted to 4.5 hours per night for a full week experienced a dramatic boost in cognitive performance and mood after just two full nights of recovery sleep.
While the scientific evidence confirming the bodyâs ability to recover from short-term or acute sleep debt is solid, the science on recovering from chronic or long-term sleep debt is murkier. According to the National Institutes of Health , some experts have doubts about the bodyâs ability to recover completely from the deleterious health consequences associated with chronic sleep deprivation.
However, even if you canât reverse the effects of chronic sleep debt, you can reap benefits from catching up on acute sleep debt fairly immediately, and it’s absolutely worth making the effort to do so.
How To Recover After A Sleepless Night
Some insomnia is part of our 24-hour society. Here’s how to counter the effects of being sleep deprived.
According to the American Insomnia Study, about 23 percent of American workers are sleep deprived, which costs the American economy $63.2 billion dollars a year in lost productivity.
American adults lose about 11 days a year to insomnia and often go to work too tired to do their jobs properly.
“We live in a society that is on the go 24 hours a day,” says David A. Neumeyer, MD, a sleep specialist at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Mass. For many of us, that does not leave enough time for the seven or eight hours of sleep that we need every night. This can be especially dangerous if the sleep deprived worker has a job like a pilot, surgeon, or truck driver.
People at risk for insomnia and sleep deprivation include those with sleep disorders and medical conditions that interfere with sleep as well as caregivers and shift workers who have a tough time regulating their sleep hours.
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A World That Never Sleeps
Modern life is increasingly fast paced, and the pressure to perform, produce, and achieve is ever-present. Although that may be good for worker productivity, it ignores a fundamental fact of human biology: We are diurnal creatures.
We have evolved to sleep at night and to be alert during daylight hours. Furthermore, we need a minimum amount of sleep every 24 hours.
Chronic sleep deprivation is a very under-recognized problem in our society, said Dr. Stahl. Sleep deprivation is a very common cause of poor concentration, inattention, and daytime sleepiness, increasing risk of accidents, including motor vehicle accidents.
The problems linked to sleep deprivation do not end there. Many people do not realize how insufficient sleep can affect our health. Insufficient sleep can increase risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, infection, and dementia, Dr. Stahl noted.
A large study was published earlier this year in
Attention And Working Memory
Among the possible physical consequences of sleep deprivation, deficits in attention and working memory are perhaps the most important such lapses in mundane routines can lead to unfortunate results, from forgetting ingredients while cooking to missing a sentence while taking notes. Performing tasks that require attention appears to be correlated with number of hours of sleep received each night, declining as a function of hours of sleep deprivation. Working memory is tested by methods such as choice-reaction time tasks.
The attentional lapses also extend into more critical domains in which the consequences can be life-or-death car crashes and industrial disasters can result from inattentiveness attributable to sleep deprivation. To empirically measure the magnitude of attention deficits, researchers typically employ the psychomotor vigilance task which requires the subject to press a button in response to a light at random intervals. Failure to press the button in response to the stimulus is recorded as an error, attributable to the microsleeps that occur as a product of sleep deprivation.
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Treatments For Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation treatments, including for people suffering from long-term issues, will vary from one person to the next. A doctor may recommend beginning with useful home strategies for healthier sleep. However, a doctor may also suggest medication.
A doctor may prescribe sleeping pills to help you get to sleep or remain asleep. Depending on the type of pills, risks differ. To provide you with sleeping pills, a doctor will typically ask you questions, discuss options, and make sure that you dont have underlying health issues. These medications may get prescribed for a limited time to assess the benefits and side effects.
Home care remedies
Generally, medical professionals view cognitive behavioral therapy as the best treatment for sleep deprivation. Some of these strategies include sleeping on a regular schedule and getting no more than eight hours of sleep. It may also include creating a relaxing sleep environment. A few tools to use for relaxation include dark window shades, soothing noise , or earplugs.
If its determined that sleep deprivation comes from stress, stress management strategies may help such as placing a pad of paper and pen at your bedside and noting everything on your mind before falling asleep.
How Long Does It Take To Recover
Its possible to recover from sleep deprivation by sleeping more.
You can start by going to bed early rather than sleeping in late. Its also a good idea to get at least 7 to 8 hours of rest each night. This will help your body get back on schedule.
It can take days or weeks to recover from a bout of sleep deprivation. Just 1 hour of sleep loss requires 4 days to recover.
The longer youve been awake, the longer it will take to get back on track.
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What Is Sleep Deprivation
Although not considered a disease or illness, lack of sleep is a condition that could have harmful effects. Challenging life circumstances could lead you to experience sleep deprivation. Illness and underlying health issues could also prevent you from getting restorative and restful sleep. Sometimes this cycle of bad sleep can last for years.
It could seem as if theres no path to treatment when you experience a chronic lack of sleep, but there are options that can help you sleep better and recover.
Simply put, sleep deprivation is a lack of sleep. Typically, health professionals recommend that adults get approximately eight hours of sleep. However, sleep deprivation prevents many from getting the necessary rest needed. If left unchecked, lack of sleep could cause health and wellness issues such as forgetfulness, mood swings, and lowered immunity.
According to research, people who are sleep deprived are involved in 6,000 fatal car crashes each year. They are also at a 50% higher risk for obesity. Because immunity declines from lack of sleep, people who are sleep deprived have a 48% higher chance of developing heart disease. They also are three times more likely to catch a cold.
Moreover, lack of sleep affects your brain and emotions. For instance, if you dont get sufficient sleep, you have a 33% increased chance of dementia. You also have an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and irritability.
Your Circadian Clock Is More Sensitive Than You Think
Pulling an occasional all-nighter or extra-early morning may not seem like a big deal. But Goldstein says fatigue isnt the only consequence of an erratic sleep schedule it also disrupts your circadian clock, an internal system that regulates hormone levels to promote sleep at night and alertness during the day.
Your circadian clock naturally starts secreting sleep-promoting melatonin around 9 p.m., and levels stay elevated throughout the night before dropping off in the morning, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Light exposure influences circadian rhythms somewhat which is why you may have trouble sleeping after using screens at night but if you maintain stable sleep and wake times, your internal clock should be similarly reliable, Goldstein says.
When you start tinkering with your sleep times, even by a little bit, you may see consequences. A few late nights in a row can move your circadian clock later, which will make your body want to be awake late at night, Goldstein says. Similarly, a string of early mornings can have you rising at the crack of dawn naturally. If youve ever struggled to sleep on Sunday after late nights on Friday and Saturday, circadian shifts may be why, Goldstein says.
Fatigue can also worsen productivity, work or school performance and workouts the next day, creating a ripple effect that cant be easily corrected by hitting snooze on Sunday, Goldstein says.