Story at a glance

  • People may suffer from chronic sleep loss.
  • Researchers are interested in how people recover from periods of less sleep.
  • In an experiment, participants who had 10 days of sleep loss did not fully recover after seven days of normal sleep.

Sleep is essential, but many people don't always get enough of it. Some may try to recover on the weekends or when taking time off from work; however, recent research has suggested that even one night of sleep loss has physical and mental health effects. New research on sleep recovery suggests that one week of recovery from 10 nights of bad sleep may not be enough to get back to full functioning.

In a paper published in PLOS ONE, researchers based at Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland, conducted a study with healthy adults. The 23 participants were asked to wear a device on their wrist to monitor their sleep. They also underwent daily electroencephalography (EEG) to monitor brain activity and answered daily questions (Stroop tasks) that are meant to measure reaction time and accuracy.


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During the experiment, the first four days acted as a baseline for comparison. They then had 10 consecutive days of partial sleep restriction where they got 30 percent less sleep than they needed. For the final seven days, participants were allowed to sleep as much as they wanted.

At the end of the study, the researchers found that none of the functions they measured returned to baseline except for the reaction times in the Stroop tasks. This included some of the EEG measures for brain activity, accuracy in the Stroop task, and rest-versus-activity measures taken by the wrist sensors.

Although the researchers say it would be hard to compare this study with others that use different methods, they believe this study contributes new insights into how we recover from chronic sleep loss. Also, because of complications with the study, the researchers only ended up using data from 13 participants, which may be too small a sample size.

The authors said in a press release, “The investigation of the recovery process following an extended period of sleep restriction reveal that the differences in behavioral, motor, and neurophysiological responses to both sleep loss and recovery.”


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Published on Sep 08, 2021