Sleep Deprivation: The Ugly Truth

Tired WomanWhen it comes to health concerns, sleep is something we tend to take for granted. We’ll stay up late to catch a talk show, read just one more chapter or finish a few more things around the house—and we’re not usually able to sleep in and make up for it.

For many of us, this is just another part of life; but, when it becomes habitual, it can cause real problems.

You may not think of “just being tired” as a real problem. But, consider disasters like Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, the Exxon Valdex oil spill and the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. What do they all have in common?

Sleep deprivation played a major role in each one.

Lack of sleep leads to lack of concentration

Mike Davis, RRT, RPSGT, a registered sleep technician in the Memorial Medical Center’s Sleep Disorders Center, says the reason for this is that lack of sleep leads to, among other things, a lack of concentration.

“If you work behind a computer, you can mess up some numbers,” Davis said. “If you run a nuclear reactor, then this is a much bigger issue.”

Of course, the concern is hardly limited to those with their fingers on the trigger of a potential explosion. Anyone with a high-stress role needs to be fully alert to properly perform. And this is especially true for healthcare workers—namely those whose primary role includes the direct care of patients.

“If you’re in a stressful job, you can start making errors from a lack of concentration,” Davis said. “When you’re assessing patients, that means you could miss something you need to see.”

Forego the nap in favor of a full night’s rest

To sleep better and feel those all-important effects of a good night’s rest, Davis recommends foregoing naps in favor of a full seven to nine hours of sleep in a row—if possible.

“Most of us don’t get seven to nine hours,” Davis admits. “But, we need to try and get as close to that as possible so that we experience the deep REM sleep cycles that help us feel rested the next day, and are said to aid with memory processing.”

Choose sleep over technology

Another tip? Put away the smartphone.

“With the internet and phones, it’s so much easier to stay awake,” Davis said.

So, when faced with the nightly battle between sleep and Facebook, please, choose sleep. It could mean a world of difference for your work day.