Volume 1 Issue 5

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I Can you catch up on Missed sleep? n general, adults need an average of eight hours of sleep per night – though some may need as little as six and others as much as 10. Scientists refer to the difference between the hours of sleep you need and the amount of sleep you actually get as sleep debt. In today's world, many people accumulate sleep debt most nights of the week, even if it's just by missing out on 30 to 60 minutes of needed snooze time. But even 30 minutes a night of sleep debt could amount to almost a week's worth of lost sleep per year! Why does this matter? After all, even with sleep debt, most people still seem to function just fine. In reality, the consequences of sleep debt are serious and include everything from impaired driving and worsening vision to trouble with memory and brain fog. So while you may have gotten through your day's worth of meetings and deadlines without passing out at your desk, your drive home could get really dicey. Most people assume that marathon sleep-in sessions over the weekend will help them catch up on their lost sleep during the week, as well as sharpen their minds and performance abilities that consequently took a nosedive. If only it were that easy. Unfortunately, you can't replace lost sleep all at once. In fact, sleeping a bit longer on the weekends can actually make you more exhausted on Monday morning. While you may think you're catching up on your sleep, what you're really doing is disturbing your circadian rhythm – your body's internal clock that regulates your sleep patterns. Sleeping in could delay your body's internal clock by several hours, making it harder to wake up when you need to on Monday morning. Additional research has shown that catching up on sleep over a few days does not improve the declines in performance and reaction times that happen in sleep deprived states. In one study, researchers divided 66 volunteers into four sleep groups. Each group spent seven days sleeping for either three, five, seven or nine hours per night. The participants then performed speed and psychomotor vigilance tasks. Not surprisingly, the speed and reaction times of the people who had the least amount of sleep suffered the most. All participants were then allowed a threeday "recovery period", in which they could sleep for at least eight hours per night to "make-up" lost sleep. However, for the most sleep-deprived folks (the three hour test group), those three days of recovery sleep failed to fully reverse their decline in speed and reaction time. In their conclusion, the researchers wrote, "These results suggest that the brain adapts to chronic sleep restriction… These adaptive changes are hypothesized to restrict brain operational capacity and to persist for several days after normal sleep duration is restored, delaying recovery." In a similar study conducted at Brigham and Women's Hospital, researchers recreated the sleep/wake schedules that many shift workers like doctors and nurses maintain – wake times of up to 33 hours, followed by sleep times of 10 hours. They found that the 10 hours of sleep consistently restored task performance during the first few hours of being awake, but the damage of the chronic sleep loss was too much to overcome, as it "markedly increased the rate of deterioration in performance across wakefulness." PAYING YOUR SLEEP DEBT FORWARD As you can see, extended weekend snooze-fests Page 14 | Abby's Magazine -

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