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Biology 202, Spring 2005
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Sleep Deprivation and Effects on Everyday Life


Amy Johnson

Amy Johnson
Professor Grobstein
Neurobiology and Behavior
February 22, 2005

Sleep Deprivation and Effects on Everyday Life

Walking around Bryn Mawr's campus and sitting in its classrooms it seems like every student is yawning and struggling to stay awake. Everyday people struggle to stay awake because they did not get enough sleep the night before or have deprived themselves of sleep for a while. Yet, if there is a test the next day students (at least I always try) will go to sleep early so as to be able to perform optimally. So if wanting to be successful in a special task is so important what about the tasks we perform daily that need complete alertness? Do they not deserve the same treatment?

Sleep deprivation can cause forgetfulness, exhaustion, and fatigue, to name a few. When a person is exhausted and fatigued it causes pessimism, sadness, stress, and anger, none of which are appreciated by other people. When I come across one of my friends in a bad mood I try to avoid them; when someone is perpetually in a bad mood they will not maintain many friends (5).

In addition, lack of sleep affects the brains ability to solve problems. Everyday people are faced with simple problems that need to be solved, but sleep deprivation makes it much more difficult for people to complete the tasks (sleep-deprivation.com). This is given support by a study done by UCSD. Researchers studied the brain activity of subjects who were sleep deprived and noted that the parts of the brain usually associated with the particular task was not active, but another part of the brain was. When asked to perform a verbal task the parietal lobes were more active than the temporal lobe, which is usually involved in language processing. At the same time, subjects were given arithmetic problems to solve, and the same was found. In the sleep-deprived subject the parts of the brain stimulated were not the same as in the rested subjects, and in addition the deprived subjects skipped and got more questions wrong (1).

These findings suggest that while doing even simple tasks different parts of the brain are being stimulated, parts of the brain that would not under normal circumstances be used. This means that the neurons are maybe not firing as fast as normal or maybe not even at all, making it seem as if brain is not working as well as usual, and that this can have unfortunate consequences.

Most people drive a car on a regular basis, but driving a car while sleep deprived is just as bad as driving a car while under the influence of alcohol. People who have been awake for upwards of fifteen to twenty hours performed worse than a person with a blood alcohol level of .05, which is just under the legal limit for most states and is the legal limit in most of Europe. What is even more interesting about this is that of all fatalities related to drowsiness behind the wheel fifty-five percent occur to drivers under the age of twenty-five (4).

The same way people tend to get more sleep the night before a test people also tend to get more sleep the night before a big game or other sort of athletics meet. This is also in direct relation to the fact that the brain is not working correctly without sufficient sleep. Lack of sleep can cause recovery time to decrease and can cause hypoglycemia, both of which hinder athletic performance greatly. In addition these could lead to injury, an athlete's worst nightmare (3). Not everyone is an athlete, but everyone does use his or her body all day every day. So even a non-athlete's body will be affected by sleep deprivation.

Sleep deprivation even affects weight. Sleep has been found to be an important aspect in body weight and metabolism. When a person is sleep-deprived, chemicals that make one hungry are in excess and chemicals that show how healthy appetite are at low levels, thus making a person eat more (6).

Why then, when I do a survey of people I see, do they all seem sleep deprived? Sleep deprivation is bad for their health and well being. It makes people cranky and unhappy. Not only that, but it also has seriously detrimental effects on the health of people, and their ability to recover from illness and injury.


References

1)
Brain Activity is visible Altered Following Sleep Deprivation
, an article on a study done at UCSD

2)
Sleep Deprived at Stanford: What all Undergraduates Should Know about how Their Sleeping Lives Affect Their Waking Lives
, an article by William Dement

3)Sleep Deprivation can Hinder Sports Performance, an article by Elizabeth Quinn


4)Sleep Deprivation as bad as alcohol impairment, study suggests

5)Sleep Deprivation Symptoms: Lack of Energy, Fatigue and Exhaustion.

6)Sleep Deprivation Tied to Shifts in Hunger Hormones


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