Go to Bed: Sleep Debt and Self-Deceit

sleeping cat

This weekend, at least in the US, Daylight Saving Time resumes, which means that next week everyone’s likely to be groggy and a little confused.

It turns out that this is only a slight exaggeration of our normal state.

Jill Duffy has a slightly terrifying post this week explaining that we probably under-estimate the effects of tiredness:

Subjects in a lab-based sleep study who were allowed to get only six hours of sleep a night for two weeks straight functioned as poorly as those who were forced to stay awake for two days straight. The kicker is the people who slept six hours per night thought they were doing just fine.

In other words, not only is an amount of sleep that sounds totally reasonable–and, in fact, is an amount of sleep that a lot of folks would be grateful for–not enough, but we are blind to the effects of the sleep debt. By this point in the semester, many faculty and students are, if this research is correct, operating at cognitive deficits similar to pulling all-nighters for two days. Duffy also reports on research that documents just how poor we are at understanding how much we sleep. (If you have an Apple Watch, I highly recommend Sleep++, and of course many Fitbit models track sleep.) I guess one hidden silver lining is that we may be no *more* tired than previous generations, although, of course, they got to smoke.

To help with this chronic tiredness, we’ve written a surprising amount about sleep over the years: Anastasia covered sleep and holiday travel as a follow-up to George’s innocent query, how do you sleep?. Natalie’s explained how to take better naps, and asked what colleges and universities can do to promote better sleep, while I proposed napping your way through the semester. Anastasia pointed out that teaching schedules can make it hard to get consistent sleep, while Natalie suggests holding firmly to a regular bedtime, even drawing an analogy with our beloved gadgets. There’s even research that suggests overtiredness exacerbates procrasti-surfing on the internet and social media.

Of course, the simplest way to fight sleeplessness is simply to watch Manchester United play soccer.

So, how’s your sleep? How do you find the time to sleep during the semester? Do you have strategies for dealing with Daylight Saving Time? Please share in comments!

Untitled Photo by Flickr user Meg Stewart / Creative Commons licensed BY-SA-2.0

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