One night with no sleep can impair hand-eye coordination the next morning as much as being legally intoxicated, according to an Australian study published in 1997 in Nature magazine. Forty people were kept awake for 28 hours. Performance improves somewhat as the next day continues, but remains impaired. This is not good news if you need to drive or use a weapon. This study adds support to the need to make proper sleep a top priority.

Sleep Deprivation Negatively Effects Performance More Than Alcohol

Too little sleep can slow you down as much as too many drinks. 

That�s the conclusion of a Stanford University study of people with mild to moderate sleep apnea:  people whose breathing stops several or even dozens of times an hour, interrupting their sleep without their knowledge.

  About 12 million Americans have the problem but fewer than 2 million of them have been diagnosed, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association�s Web site.  The undiagnosed figure may be as high as 25 million, according to Stanford�s Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Center.

  People known to have apnea did as poorly on a test of reaction time as people who were too drunk to drive a bus or truck in California, said Dr. Nelson B. Powell of the Stanford center.

  On three of seven measurements, they did worse than people too drunk to drive at all in California and other states where the legal test is a blood alcohol content of .08 percent.

  Powell said he wanted to underscore the dangers of driving while sleepy, whether or not it�s because of apnea. 

The study looked at 80 volunteers and 113 people with apnea.  The volunteers� average age was 29; 56 percent were women.  In contrast, 81 percent of the apnea patients were men, and their average age was 47.

  However, statistical analysis ruled out age and gender as reasons for the difference, Powell said.

  All of the people took a 10-minute test of reaction speed, pushing a button to turn off a randomly set light.  After four tests to get their baseline reaction time, the comparison group started drinking 80-proof alcohol.

  They were tested three more times as they kept drinking.  Their blood alcohol count averaged .05 percent at the first retest, .08 percent at the second and .083 at the third.

  It�s illegal in California and several other states for anyone with a blood-alcohol content of more than .04 percent to drive a bus or truck, and .08 is considered legal proof of driving drunk in 16 states.

  In addition to simple reaction times, analysts looked at six mathematical permutations, such as the means  the 10 fastest and of the 10 slowest times.

  The apnea patients, whose breath stopped about 29 times an hour while they were asleep, did worse on all seven measurements than the drinkers did on their first re-test, and worse on three of them than those who were legally drunk.

  The Associated Press, September 27, 1999


People suffer from insomnia or different reasons.  Sleep disturbance can be related to physiological changes, medical problems, emotional distress, changes in lifestyle or any other changes which may influence daily patterns, and general life stressors.  Take a few minutes to review what may possibly be related to the difficulty that you are experiencing with sleep.  If it has been some time since your last physical examination or you think that there may be a relationship between the sleep disturbance and physiological changes or a medical problem make an appointment with your physician to identify or rule out health-related issues.  If health-related issues are definitely not a factor then consider the following ways to improve your sleep.

If you are not able to identify the exact symptoms of your insomnia keep a sleep journal for two weeks ad write down your sleep-wake cycle, how many hours you sleep, and all the other details related to your sleep disturbance. 

1.         Establish a regular time for going to bed, and be consistent.  This helps to cue you that it is time for sleep.  Going t sleep at the same time and awakening at the same time daily helps stabilize your internal clock.  Having a different sleep-wake schedule on days off can throw you ff.  For the best results be consistent.  If possible stay on your shift hours all week. 

2.         Do not go to bed too early.  Do not be tempted to try to go to bed earlier than you would normally need to.  If you have started doing this then identify the reason why (depression, stress, boredom, pressure from your partner).  When people go to bed too early, it contributes to the problem of fragmented sleep.  Your body normally lets you sleep only the number of hours it needs.  If you go to bed too early you will also be waking too early. 

3.          Determine how many hours of sleep you need for optimal functioning and feelings rested.  Consider the following to determine the natural length of your sleep cycle. 

a)      How many hours did you sleep on the average as a child?

b)      Before you began to experience sleep difficulty how many hours of sleep per night did you sleep on the average?

c)      How many hours of sleep do you need to awaken naturally, without an alarm?

d)      How many hours of sleep do you need in order to not feel sleepy or tired during the day?

4.         Develop rituals which signal the end of the day.  Rituals that signal closure for the day could be tucking the kids in, putting the dog out, and closing up the house for the night ... then ... it�s time for you to wind down by watching the news, reading a book (not an exciting mystery), having a cup of calming herbal tea, evening prayers, or doing something like meditation, deep breathing exercises, or progressive muscle relaxation.  All of these behaviors are targeted for shifting your thinking from the daily stressors to closure that the day is over and it is time for rest so that you can start a new day tomorrow.

  5.          Keep the bedroom for sleeping and sex only.  If you use your bedroom as an office or for other activities your mind will associate the bedroom with those activities which is not conducive to sleep.

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