Myth Busted: You Can Make Up For Lost Sleep. E-mail
There's not a law enforcement officer in the country who hasn't suffered with problems associated with sleep deprivation. The impact of shift work, working an overtime shift back to back with one's regular shift, and a major disaster where it's all hands on deck for 12 hours a day, every day, can have a debilitating impact on everything from hand- eye coordination to ability to make informed decisions quickly.

Scientists studying the ramifications of not getting enough sleep have found it can take a week or more for the cognitive and physiological consequences of poor sleep to wear off - even after getting the appropriate amount of rest. In a study conducted at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in 2003, scientists examined the cognitive effects of a week of poor sleep followed by three days of sleeping at least eight hours a night.

Result showed that the recovery sleep did not fully reverse declines in performance when it came to reaction times and other psychomotor tests, especially for people who only got between three and five hours of sleep.

In a similar study in 2008, scientists at the Karolinska Insitute in Stockholm found that when subjects slept four hours a night over five days and then "recovered" with eight hours a night over the following week, they still showed slight residual cognitive impairments a week later, even though they did not feel sleepy.

But in another study, also at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, scientists were startled when they found people recovered much more quickly from a week of poor sleep when it was preceded by a week that included nights with ten hours of rest.

In other words, if you know you have a tough week coming up in terms of rest time, try loading up on sleep beforehand, not just after the fact.

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