Friday, January 30, 2009

Catching Up on Sleep Possible or Just Myth

How many times have you heard someone say after losing sleep (whether from over working, video games, or forced sleep deprivation), that they'll just catch up on sleep the next night? Is it true? Can you really catch up on sleep?

Case in point: a couple of nights ago I worked an all night shift where I awoke around 5AM (thanks to the ice storm and excited kids), worked through the day, night and didn't get to take a nap until 12:30 PM the following day. 5 hours later, I awoke to the door bell, stayed up another 4 hours and made it to bed where I slept for 9 hours. Normally I sleep on average about 7 hours a night. Between the two nights I would have slept 14 hours and with the missed night's rest but extra nap and extra long sleep last night I slept a total of 14 hours. All even, right?

Let's break down what the scientists have to say about catching up on sleep and what I outlined above which is sleep debt. Sleep debt is the difference between the amount of sleep you should be getting and the amount you actually get. According to this principle, I'm at a balance sheet of 0 which means zero impact or impediment on my self. A debt, according to studies on sleep deprivation, leads to foggy brain (had that), worsened vision, impaired driving, memory problems, with long term effects including obesity, insulin resistance and heart disease.

So since I caught up immediately, I'm in no danger, right? Well, it appears that the short term debt can't be repaid immediately, but can over time be repaid by catching a couple of extra hours a night of sleep. It's also a factor of the intensity of sleep, whether deep or shallow. From my experience last night, I'd say it was deep and intense. 

So the good news is I'm probably not terribly in debt, may only an hour of so. And even better still, I can catch up on the lost sleep this weekend and my debt was minimal. Sounds like a great way to observe the Sabbath Day and take a wink or two ;)
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