Posted on Aug 14, 2017, 8 a.m.
After being awake for 19 hours, the average adult experiences cognitive impairment equal to that of consuming 5 to 6 alcoholic beverages.
New research from Canada has concluded that sleep deprivation can be as damaging as alcohol abuse. In an interview with Medisys Health Group, a hospital based in Montreal Canada, Dr. Adrian Owen presented some facts about sleep gathered from recent research. Dr. Owen is a neuroscientist at Western University and serves the Cambridge Brain Sciences online community as Chief Scientific Officer.
The Link Between Sleep Deprivation and Inebriation
It is estimated that over 30% of Canadian adults get less than six hours of sleep each night. This is short of the 7-9 hours recommended to maintain overall health.
Lack of sleep is known to dull alertness and delay reactions. Some recent studies have found that missing rest also disrupts the abilities to pay attention and to respond to emotional stimuli. It also compromises working memory, which the brain uses to store information it needs for short-term tasks.
One study used brain scans to prove the physiological effects of sleep deprivation on the brain. Researchers were able to accurately identify which participants did not get enough sleep by looking at their scans only. Scans from those lacking sleep showed less connectivity between active areas of the brain.
Another study compares a lack of sleep to alcohol consumption. It was found that after 19 hours of being awake, the average adult experiences cognitive impairment equal to that of consuming 5 to 6 alcoholic beverages.
Economic Impact of Sleep Deprivation
The loss of abilities due to sleep deprivation has a real impact on the Canadian economy. Some scientists estimate that sleepiness increases the chance of workplace accidents and injuries by 162%. According to the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards, there were 852 workplace-related deaths in Canada in 2015. Many of them can be directly linked to lack of proper sleep.
Some companies encourage employees to work long hours in hopes of increasing productivity. However, another study suggests that the loss of concentration due to lack of sleep from working extra hours actually decreases productivity over time.
Preventing Sleep Deprivation
For those having a hard time getting the right amount of sleep, Dr. Owen suggests these tips.
*Regular daily exercise encourages restful sleep. Working out during the day is best.
*Use meditation, nature walks, soothing hobbies, or other methods to reduce stress.
*Limit caffeine, nicotine, and heavy foods before bedtime.
*Alcohol consumption can negatively impact sleep patterns. Drink moderately for maximum rest.
*Stick to a set bedtime. This will train your body to sleep at certain times.
*Make sure your room is dark, quiet, and cool before going to bed.
*Prioritize your sleep. Don’t skip your bedtime to socialize or work. Understand the importance of good sleep to your overall health and well-being.
Dr. Owen has spent many years studying how a lack of sleep affects the brain. He is launching a massive research effort called the World’s Largest Sleep Study. Dr. Owen and his team are inviting millions of people around the globe to participate online. They are hoping the results will help them understand the connection between healthy brain functions and sleep.