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sleep deprivation

Sleep, Response Inhibition & the Quality of Your Decisions

The frontal lobes of the brain (forebrain) is where we make all our decisions. Neuroscientists refer to these decision-making processes as "executive functions". We may not be executives at a global corporation, but our personal success in life definitely depends on the quality of our daily decisions.

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Childhood Sleep Loss Suppresses Goal-driven Behaviors Later On

Not enough sleep in childhood may lead to alcohol and drug abuse in young adulthood.

A new prospective study suggests that overtired children are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs when they become young adults by lowering their response inhibition

Young adults who had trouble sleeping in childhood were twice as likely to have the same problem in adolescence. This persistent sleep deprivation directly predicts alcohol related problems later on in young adulthood.

Could it be that irregular schedules, combined with media such as television, video and computer games are robbing your children of the sleep they need and setting them up for substance abuse later in life?

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Driving Ability of Sleep Apnea Patients Worse with Alcohol Use

Alcohol use worsens driving risk in those with obstructive sleep apnea.

Driving skills in people with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are more severely affected by alcohol use and sleep deprivation than age-matched controls. Australian investigators found both sleep restriction (4 hrs. max in last 24 hrs.) or a moderate blood alcohol level (0.05 g/dL, which is lower than the legal driving limit in the U.S.) caused worse steering deviations from the median lane and greater deterioration of steering control during the 90 minute simulated drive than controls. OSA participants were 20-32% more likely to have at least one crash also.

PositiveTip: Avoid sleep restriction or alcohol use to be a safe driver--even if you don't have OSA.

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Are You Sleepy, Too?

More than 10% of the US population gets insufficient sleep every night!

Chronic sleep insufficiency is under-recognized. Almost one-third of the US population reports sleeping less than 7 hours per night. This inspite of the numerous physical and mental problems associated with not enough sleep--as well as injury, loss of productivity and early mortality. A new CDC telephone survey of more than 400,000 Americans living in all states reports just over 10% of adults got insufficient sleep on each of the preceding 30 days. This was most prevalent in ages 24-34. People unemployed or unable to work were at the greatest risk. West Virginia had the highest incidence and North Dakota the lowest.

PositiveTip: Get sufficient sleep (7-8 hrs per night) regularly. It improves health, performance, and clear thinking.

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Sleep Apnea Patients Need to Avoid Even Small Amounts of Alcohol for Safety

Even small amounts of alcohol in those with sleep apnea are very dangerous to driving--and for everyone!

Investigators in Austrailia have compared the impact of small amounts of alcohol and sleep deprivation on the simulated driving skills of those with untreated obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and controls. Subjects with OSA were 21% more likely to have crashes after a small amount of alcohol (BAC 0.05 g/dL) and 32% more likely following sleep deprivation (4 hrs sleep on one night). The controls only had one crash. Even less than a legal dose of alcohol can be deadly. (Legal limits vary from 0.015 g/dL in Japan to 0.08 g/dL in the US.)

PositiveTip: Avoid alcohol and sleep restriction before driving or performing tasks in which safety is a factor.

Know Your Own Level of Performance

We all recognize that a person under the influence of alcohol subjectively feels they are functioning at their peak performance, when objectively they demonstrate significant declines in cognitive and motor performance. So, even when sober, how can you determine if you are fit to perform your expected tasks safely and well?

This is not easily done when you are tired unless you have a standard with which to compare yourself. Unfortunately, the areas of the brain most compromised by fatigue are the same areas required to evaluate and recognize the deficits of the fatigued state.

When soldiers who have slept as little as four hours per night for several weeks were questioned about their performance, they indicated they were functioning very well--maybe better than when rested! In actuality, they were functioning at about 30-35% of their rested capacity! Functional losses in fatigue are very similar to those caused by the influence of alcohol.

Which is Better: Tired or Drunk?

Why do people attempt to drive cars, operate complex machinery, or fly airplanes when they are tired?

Answers to this question are varied, but usually boil down to one common attitude: we think the risk is trivial or perfectly acceptable! Often this is the case because we have done it before, toughed it out, or "made it safely". As a result we become cavalier and self-assured--too often to the determent of others and ourselves.

Consider the person who may drive several hundred miles while frequently dozing at the wheel without stopping because they wanted to get home. Yet this same person considers it criminal to drive while under the influence of alcohol. What is the difference? Sure, being sleepy is natural, but it is also as dangerous as alcohol when operating a vehicle or other equipment.