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January 20, 2004

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Dawn-Elise Snipes (Always) Thinking About Wellness
with Dawn-Elise Snipes

Recovering from Sleep Loss, Improving Your Sleep

Sleep loss comes in many "forms." Sleep studies examining cognitive function during sleep deprivation have reported: memory and attention lapses, poor reaction time, problems with speech fluency, distractibility, difficulty with complex reasoning and planning.

There are consistent findings that, people are often not aware of their performance impairment. For example, studies have shown that people's self-assessments of sleepiness peak after one week of sleep restriction, but their performance continues to decline into the second week. Think how this can affect shift-workers, students who study or party too late, or even new parents who have not slept through the night in six months.

A variety of factors can enhance the effects of sleep loss. Situational factors such as noise, temperature, physical activity, and drugs can alter the quality of sleep. Subjective and individual factors such as motivation, interest, age, type of sleeper (e.g., long, short, good, poor), personality, and sleep loss experience have been demonstrated to also affect sleep loss on performance measures. That is, if the person is interested in the task and it is tailored to his/her personality, then the effects of sleep loss will be much less.

Sleep "payback" is not accomplished on an "hour-for-hour" basis. Some studies show initial and sometimes full recovery after one night of recovery sleep, while others show only partial recuperation after two nights of full sleep. Either way, it is thought that you can "recover" from sleep deprivation with a couple of consecutive good night's sleep.

Studies of 180 degree reversal of sleep-wake schedules comparable to that of night shift workers, results in 1.5 to 2 hours of sleep loss per night. This level of sleep is associated with increased sleepiness and impaired performance in these subjects. Pharmacologically restoring sleep during the day to night-time levels reverses the increased sleepiness and the performance impairment. Further, the effects of sleep loss on performance can be attenuated, and even eliminated, even if sleep is restored outside of the optimal circadian times. In short, if you get 8 solid hours of sleep during the day, it is virtually the same as getting 8 solid hours of sleep at night once your body adjusts it's circadian rhythms.

Many drugs impact the quantity and quality of sleep including alcohol, antihistamines and anti-anxiety medication.


Tips for Improving Sleep:
  • Keep work and bills out of the bedroom
  • Do not use your bed for anything but sleep
  • Eliminate as much light as possible
  • Turn on an air purifier for "white noise"
  • Wear comfortable clothing that breathes like 100% cotton
  • Use aromatherapy scents on your pillows
  • Try doing something relaxing before going to bed.
  • Keep a pad and pen by your bed incase you think of something--you can write it down so you do not worry about forgetting it.
  • Do not exercise or eat a heavy meal within 3 hours of going to bed
  • Try to go to bed at the same time each night
  • Try to eliminate naps in the late afternoon if you must nap, limit them to 40 minutes
  • If it takes less than 7 minutes to fall asleep, you are sleep deprived.
  • If it takes more than 15 minutes to get to sleep, get up and do something for 30 minutes then try again.

About the author


Add your comments to the discussion on Dawn Elise Snipes' column in the Wellness Issues forum.

Contact Dawn-Elise: wellness@policeone.com







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