Deprived of Sleep

10/13/2020

Larry A. Law

Most people don’t realize how dangerous being sleep deprived is, yet most wouldn’t ever consider getting behind the wheel of a car drunk. However, being sleep deprived while driving is even more dangerous than driving drunk. While drunk drivers have delayed responses in steering and braking, drowsy drivers have microsleep episodes (momentary lapses into sleep). These involve a complete shutdown as they become unaware of their environment and stop reacting altogether! Even if this type of thing lasts for just a second or two, it results in more vehicle accidents than alcohol and drugs combined!

In one study scientists show that after a person has 6 nights of only 4 hours of sleep per night, they will perform as badly as those who have been awake for 24 hours straight. They will have a 400% increase in microsleep episodes. Another study shows a similar result after only 10 days of 6 hours sleep per night. This becomes a huge problem for those who are chronically getting less than 6 hours of sleep per night, yet most people would not say they are sleep deprived when asked. But their performance tests don’t lie. 

The recycle rate (the time needed for the brain to fully recharge) is 16 hours. The human brain begins to fail if it’s awake too long. After 10 days with just 7 hours of sleep per night, the brain is as dysfunctional as it would be after staying up for 24 hours straight. And that may seem unbelievable given that so many people do not get 10 days of 7 full hours of sleep every night! It’s typical to think, “I’ll catch up on sleeping over the weekend” but the brain cannot catch up that way. An example of this inability to catch up is in the loss of memory mapping. Memories made each day are meant to be stored into long term storage every night. But if you don’t get enough sleep, they don’t make it in long term storage. In this way, the brain is damaged in ways that cannot be undone. Even though 6 or 7 hours of sleep per night may seem like a lot of sleep, the fact remains that it’s not enough over the long term. The human brain needs 8-9 hours of consistent sleep for optimal health. 
​Another aspect of sleep deprivation is that it brings out the worst in us humans. Insufficient sleep results in mood swings. Deep emotional centers of the brain (located in striatum above and behind the amygdala) are bathed by the chemical dopamine. Lack of sleep can cause emotions to easily swing from one extreme (depression and worthlessness) to the other (aggression and violence). For these and other reasons, sleep should become a priority for all of us. Along with good nutrition, clean air and water, sleep is a necessary component of wellness! 

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