The Dangers of Sleep Deprivation

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It’s tuesday night, and Billy, a high schooler, is doing his homework. Billy usually has an astronomical amount of homework since his coursework is rigorous, but this night is different. Billy realizes he has a very important test tomorrow and winces at the thought.

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Soon after he finishes his homework it is midnight, and he begins to study for his test. After studying for a good two hours, Billy gets into bed at around 2 am and ends up falling asleep half an hour later. He wakes up at 6 am the next morning and feels more fatigued than usual. Later that day, Billy flunks his test. He could’ve done exceedingly better by changing one aspect of the previous night: the time he went to bed. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and the Sleep Research Society (SRS), adults should get a minimum of seven hours of sleep. Dr. Nathaniel F. Watson, incoming AASM president and Consensus Panel Moderator for AASM, stated more than a third of the population is not getting enough sleep, so the focus needs to be on achieving the recommended minimum hours of nightly sleep (AASM). Sleep deprivation is a widely overlooked problem that needs to be given more awareness and must be addressed. This problem affects many aspects of human life such as human performance and mental health.

To begin, a victim to the enigma of sleep deprivation is human performance. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), sleep deprivation impairs attention, short-term and long-term memory, the ability to make decisions, and many more cognitive functions. The impairment of these functions could lead to enormous sometimes catastrophic problems, especially in the field of medicine. The Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Emory University School of Medicine conducted a study to test the cognitive ability of house staff and medical students after one night of on-call duty. They administered two cognitive function tests to the participants; the tests were administered before and after on-call duty. The results showed an overall decrease in score of three and a half points when the tests were taken after on-call duty. Sleep deprivation affects a human’s ability to think as well as their reaction times causing them to be less sharp. In a study done by the Department of Aerospace Physiology at the Fourth Military Medical University in Xi’an China, eight healthy, male college students were instructed to stay awake for twenty six continuous hours. During the time the participants were awake, they were asked to take nine different tests at different times of the day. At the end of the study, the researchers found that sleep deprivation increased the time it took to respond to a question,

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