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Adding Up Missed Sleep

Not getting enough sleep can affect you in more ways than you might expect. Adding Up Missed Sleep on today's Moment of Science.

Not getting enough sleep can affect you in more ways than you might expect. Adding Up Missed Sleep on today’s Moment of Science.

If you’ve ever relied on a doctor or an airplane pilot, then you know there’s a lot at stake over whether or not they’re truthful in saying that they’re capable of staying awaking and performing cognitive functions.

Well, today on a Moment of Science, we’re going to discuss a recent experiment on sleep deprivation. In the experiment we had two participants. On the right, we had Bob, who hadn’t slept in eighty-eight hours straight! After going that long without any sleep, Bob remained pretty unresponsive. On the left, we had Don, who had been restricted to no more than four hours of sleep a night for two weeks. When asked how he felt, Don said that he was a little tired, but overall he felt fine.

However, after having our participants perform a few cognitive tasks, we found that both Don and Bob were having equal trouble performing some pretty basic tasks.

This means that even missing only a couple of hours of sleep a night really adds up if you do it every night. In other words, sleep debt is cumulative, and neither participant had any right in trying to perform tasks, such as driving a car. What’s more, Don was so tired that he couldn’t even properly evaluate how tired he was, which makes his sleep debt even more dangerous.

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