Sleep Debt?

Does Sleep Debt exist? I agree there is a sleep deprivation effect if one does not get sufficient sleep. In fact, it is now 3:45AM, I should have went to bed 3 hours ago because I am suppose to get up at 5:30 for a 2 hour drive, and I am concerned for my safety and cognitive abilities later, but I am not convinced by the current sleep research out there.

The strong view on Sleep Debt is that if you miss an hour of sleep, you must make it up or you will be deficient that hour for the rest of your life. We all have different natural dispositions for how many hours of sleep we need each night (I think mine is 6.5hrs, but the average is 8.0hrs), so it may be hard to accurately measure how much sleep debt one has accumulated through the week. Leading researchers advocate the strong view. However I believe they possess an ulterior agenda; these researchers are also professors at leading universities, and it would be in their interest if students slept more in their rooms than in the classroom! I personally think there is a more complex logarithmic relationship between sleep debt and performance, but I have no real way to research or prove it, however I have personal experiences.

Here are some personal counter examples:

My current perspective on sleep is likely biased by this early experience, but in a high school psychology class, I learned that the world record holder for longest time awake was many days. The person went delirious with hallucinations but held fast to claim the record. He then got a long full nights worth of sleep and “fully recovered.” I too have experienced similar sleep deprivation through the Marines and school. I even hallucinated while marching through the dark – all the trees became Ents (the walking trees that talked really really slowly in Lord of the Rings). For a short time I had a rigorous class schedule where I allocated 1 day to study for each class, but that cut too much into my sleep. I was getting 6 hours per night but wanted 7. Perhaps the sleep debt was building up half an hour per night. So I decided to redistribute my sleep from one day to the other 6. This worked great, I got 7 hours for 6 days then didn’t sleep the 7th, but I felt better at no additional cost in hours spent sleeping.

If we factor in other sleep practices. One practice that I find appealing is a 2 stage sleep cycle that nicely explains possible ancestorial sleeping patterns. One sleeps for 4 hours, then wakes up around midnight for about an hour or two when temperatures are cool, we’re in a lucid but relaxed state, we can hunt for sleeping game, exercise procreation strategies under the cover of night (because we’re a very complex social species), then go back to sleep another 4 hours. A few other sleep strategies recommend frequent micro and power naps, but I find these ludicrous and in no way suitable to our evolutionary development.

Whatever the case, I hope researchers discover a magical equation that we can all use to find the optimal sleeping strategy that allows us to maximize our productive waking hours to seek greater happiness rather than spend precious hours of our finite time on this earth (needlessly) dreaming about happiness.

-fp

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~ by fp on January 26, 2013.

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