It’s a general understanding that sleep is one of the most incredible drives to boost human health, creativity and mood improvements. Therefore, it is crucial for any human being, no matter the age or responsibilities.
The participants spent 10 days experiencing partial sleep deprivation, getting about one-third less sleep than usual. These facts happened, followed by a full week of recovery.
The researchers’ findings suggest that sleep deprivation takes a lingering toll on functionality. Deficits in people’s ability to think clearly tended to accumulate as “partial sleep restriction” progressed.
The participants did not easily recover from these sleep deficits — not even after extra “make-up” sleep on subsequent days.
The amount of sleep that people need varies widely. On average, however, adults require at least 7 hours every day to maintain peak functionality.
An overworked world
It is exceedingly common for adults to sacrifice sleep for work, entertainment, and other reasons in today’s busy world.
Many people underestimate the effects of this low-level, chronic sleep deprivation on their mental and physical health.
For example, many people believe that they can “make up” for lost sleep by sleeping longer on the weekends. However, the new research suggests that we may be greatly overestimating this ability.
In their paper, the researchers note that disrupted sleep has always been common in certain professions and industries, such as healthcare, entertainment, and transportation. However, many dayshift workers are now working from home, resulting in a “blurring of the boundaries between work and private life.”
Although working remotely has been helpful for many during the global pandemic, all is not well. “The disruption of the rest-activity rhythm is one of the common side effects of remote work,” the investigators note.
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.
What about the related problems?
“Many people do not realize how insufficient sleep can affect our health. For example, insufficient sleep can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, infection, and dementia,” Dr. Stahl noted.
“A large study was published earlier this year in Nature Communications Trusted Source, showing that 6 hours of sleep or less on a regular basis [at the age of 50 and 60 years] increased risk of dementia by 30%.”
Recovery: The myth of "I will make it up later"
In the new study, the investigators used sophisticated measures of wakefulness. One such measure was continuous actigraphy, wherein body sensors monitored the participants’ activity levels.
The scientists also monitored EEG brain activity each day and employed various subjective and objective cognitive performance tests. They found that, among these measures, only reaction speeds recovered to baseline after 1 week of catch-up sleep.