Sleep deprivation studies consistently reveal that there are real consequences to skipping out on sleep. In fact, most studies reveal that getting less than seven or eight hours of sleep on a regular basis can have comparative effects to not having any sleep for a couple of nights.
Sleep Deprivation Studies Explained
It isn't easy to conduct a valid sleep deprivation study without keeping a close eye on every participant at all times. These studies are usually conducted within a laboratory setting with each participant constantly monitored to ensure they stay in an awakened state. The findings from the study may be considered invalid if it is discovered that one of the participants involuntarily nodded off and indulged in even a very brief nap.
Researchers must gather willing participants into a controlled setting and keep them awake for whatever period of time is necessary for the study, which is commonly two or three days. Authentic studies do not allow participants any sleep whatsoever for the duration of the study. Participants are also closely monitored and tested for neurobehavioral and physiological changes while they are awake. The participants have been tested before they are put in the sleep deprivation study; so, any deviations in behavior during the sleep deprivation study will become obvious to the researchers.
Participants are put through a variety of tests throughout the study in order to find out what changes occur when they are deprived of sleep. For example, participants may be asked to complete a test of reaction times on a simulated driving test at the beginning of the study - before any sleep deprivation is present - and then again once every day of the study. Tests such as these reveal the dramatic differences lack of sleep can make on a person's body and mind because they demonstrate how differently a person reacts when sleep deprived as opposed to well rested.
Results of Studies
Sleep deprivation studies have varying results; however, most studies have consistently shown a variety of interesting results:
- Sleep deprivation decreases reaction time.
- Cognitive functions slow considerably when the person is sleep deprived.
- Immune systems quickly become compromised when a person does not get enough sleep.
- Long periods of insufficient sleep can have the same potential side effects as a day or two of absolutely no sleep.
- The effects of consistent sleep deprivation build up over time and can have serious consequences.
- People who are sleep deprived are often unaware of their neurobehavioral and physiological deficits.
What the Findings Mean
The fact that these studies consistently show that a lack of sleep can be detrimental to the way a person functions mean a few things that people should realize:
- You can't scrimp on sleep. Eventually your lack of sleep will catch up with you and make you less reactive and might make it easier for you to fall ill.
- You may not realize the effect your lack of sleep will have on you. Even if you feel as though you're fine, the people around you may notice the signs that you aren't functioning at one hundred percent.
- The quality of your sleep is important too. Not only will you function better with a consistent level of seven or eight hours of sleep every night, but if the sleep is uninterrupted and restful then you are much less likely to suffer the effects demonstrated by sleep deprivation.
Participate in a Sleep Deprivation Study
If you're interested in participating in a sleep deprivation study, contact a local research facility or university to find out if there are any sleep deprivation studies scheduled in the near future. In order to qualify for a study you should be in good health and available to spend a few nights away from home at a research facility.Participants are usually financially compensated for their time but the amount of money earned on studies varies greatly.