Sleep deprivation’s effect on the mind and body
A recent article in The Atlantic detailed writer Seth Maxon’s “experiment” into sleep deprivation, in which he forced himself to stay awake for four days with harrowing consequences. Long story short, he was hospitalized for psychosis and put on a regimen of antidepressants to put him back on the path to “normalcy,” which, 10 years later, he believes he has yet to achieve.
“Today, I still feel like I have more difficulty concentrating than I did before I stayed awake for several straight days. It might just be my imagination. I will probably never be sure,” he wrote.
There has been myriad research on the importance of sleep and the impact a lack of sleep has on the body and the mind. According to WebMD, sleep deprivation can lead to whole host of issues, including decreased performance and alertness, memory and cognitive impairment, high blood pressure, obesity, risk of stroke, depression and mental impairment, to name a few.
In 2005, Dr. Jeffrey S. Durmer and Dr. David F. Dinges of the Indiana University School of Medicine published a paper in Seminars in Neurology outlining the detrimental effects of prolonged sleep deprivation on the body and the mind. “Sleep deprivation studies repeatedly show a variable (negative) impact on mood, cognitive performance, and motor function due to an increasing sleep propensity and destabilization of the wake state,” they wrote. “Specific neurocognitive domains including executive attention, working memory, and divergent higher cognitive functions are particularly vulnerable to sleep loss.
“Recent chronic partial sleep deprivation experiments, which more closely replicate sleep loss in society, demonstrate that profound neurocognitive deficits accumulate over time in the face of subjective adaptation to the sensation of sleepiness.” In other words, if we continually rob ourselves of sleep, our bodies may adapt but our minds don’t.
Prolonged sleep deprivation is serious business—military organizations around the world use sleep deprivation as a torture tool because, according to U.S. Department of Justice lawyers, it breaks down detainees’ ability to resist coercion, and because it decreases prisoners’ tolerance for physical pain.
It could be said that those who don’t get enough sleep are literally torturing themselves. So do your body and your mind a favor and go to sleep.