Recovering from a Lack of Sleep Takes Longer Than You Might Think, Study Says

There are a lot of people around the world suffering from sleep deprivation, and it has attracted the attention of many medical professionals. While there is still a lot we don’t know about sleep and its benefits, it has long been established how detrimental lack of sleep is to both a person’s physical and mental wellbeing. It is estimated that during 2021, about 45% of the human population suffered from one of many different sleep issues. There is a belief that sleep can be easily made up for later if missed, a belief that is wildly inaccurate. An increasing number of studies have shown that it is nearly impossible to make up for lost sleep.

A recent study of 13 young adults in their 20s spent 10 nights getting 30% less sleep than they needed. A full week later after having slept as much as they liked, their cognitive abilities still had not recovered to where they had been before the sleep deprivation. Their physical abilities did seem to fully recover over that same period of time. Reaction time also resumed their baseline levels, but things like accuracy for cognitive activities were not back to normal. One of the most affected aspects of cognitive abilities that did not recover was memory building. It is possible that over time, those aspects can be fully restored, but the study did not continue long enough to make that determination.

Even though the sample size was small, it supported other studies. An earlier study had found that people who regularly sleep less than 6 hours over a two-week period had similar functionality as someone who was sleep deprived for two full nights. Medical professionals and researchers believe this is because the brain needs dedicated periods of time to fully absorb memories and skills from the previous day. When a person has a chronic problem with getting adequate sleep, they are less able to focus, learn, create, and make good decisions. Just one night of reduced sleep can significantly impair a person. One study found 18 hours of being awake results in a person having the same impairments behind the wheel as someone with a 0.05 blood alcohol level. Skipping sleep for a full24 hours results in most people having the same driving skills as someone with a 0.10 blood alcohol level, which means they have the same physical and mental acuity of someone who is driving drunk. The 2017 study with middle-aged adults found one night of reduced sleep resulted in increases in the body of the production of beta-amyloid, a protein, which is associated with plaques around the brain that are associated with Alzheimer’s. Another study found that reduced sleep increases the risk of dementia and earlier death. Lack of sleep also causes increased blood pressure, weight gain, weaker immune systems, and a greater chance of strokes, heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. It also affects a person’s emotional state as they are less able to regulate their emotions and are more likely to suffer from depression and paranoia.

Researchers don’t know how long it takes to make up for a single night of sleep, let alone longer periods of sleep deprivation, or if a person ever can fully recover. To avoid the plethora of potential problems and reduced abilities, it is best to work to ensure you get adequate sleep every night. At a minimum, 7 hours are recommended, but some people do need up to 10 hours. Avoiding smoking and drinking caffeine at night can help. Reducing the amount of alcohol can help as well. Exercise and a good diet can be significant benefits to getting a better night’s sleep as well.

To learn more about why you should not skip sleep, you can read the full article at Recovering from a Lack of Sleep Takes Longer Than You Might Think, Study Says. The article even includes a video of things you can do to help you sleep better. The video is less than 8 minutes and demonstrates four exercises you can do before you go to bed to help your body to relax so you can sleep better.

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