Make sleep a priority during the work week. Catching up on your sleep during the weekend may not be enough to stave off the effects of sleep loss.
A study published in the August issue of SLEEP found the impairments caused by sleep-deprivation such as lapses in attention and delayed reaction time remained even after sleeping in for a day. Full recovery after sleep restriction may take multiple nights of extended sleep.
The laboratory-based study involved 159 healthy adults who were about 30 years old. More than half of the participants were African American. All but 17 of the subjects had to sleep from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. for five consecutive nights. On the sixth night they were randomly assigned to one of six lengths of recovery sleep.
The participants took a 30-minute long computerized neurobehavioral assessment every two hours throughout the duration of the study. The assessment included a Psychomotor Vigilance Test and the Karonlinska Sleepiness Scale. A modified Maintenance of Wakefulness Test was also given at the start of the study, after the fifth night and during the recovery day.
Researchers noticed a reduction in impairment after the night of recovery sleep. The improvements increased for lengthier sleep times, the effects of sleep loss were never fully eliminated. Lapses of attention, subjective sleepiness, reaction times and fatigue scores were above baseline for all 27 participants assigned to 10 hours of recovery sleep.
Solving long-term sleep debt takes more than one night of recovery sleep. Because most people are unable to stay asleep for much longer than 10 hours it’s impossible to close the gap in a single night.
Another interesting finding involved the participants who were assigned to extreme sleep restriction on the sixth night instead of recovery sleep. Performance and alertness significantly deteriorated after a final night with little to no sleep.
The study shows that burning the candle at both ends during the workweek will hurt your ability to perform on the job and the problems may not end when the weekend rolls around.