Sleep deprivation has been associated with a range of problems, from metabolic disturbances to lack of concentration and judgment (Khan & Aouad, Sleep Medicine Clinics, June 2017). Sleeping longer, at least a little bit, might help people with attention and reaction time.
Baseball Players Benefit from Sleeping Longer:
At least, that is what scientists found in a study of 17 major league baseball players. First the researchers established the players’ habitual sleep time. Then they randomly assigned players to continue with their usual nighttime regimen or to sleep an extra hour every night for five nights. The investigators referred to this practice as “sleep loading,” a concept many athletes might compare to “carb loading.”
Sleeping Longer Led to Quicker Cognitive Processing:
Those who slept longer were less tired. In fact, they evaluated their own fatigue, daytime drowsiness and tension as one-third lower after sleeping longer. They also were 13 percent faster on a test of cognitive processing speed. That difference could matter in the middle of a ball game.
SLEEP 2017 conference June 5, 2017
Other Consequences of Sleep Deprivation:
Baseball players aren’t the only ones who might benefit from sleeping longer. Sleep-deprived individuals appear less attractive to others (Sundelin et al, Royal Society Open Science, May 17, 2017). More worrisome, people who get inadequate sleep are more sensitive to pain (de Oliveira et al, Journal of Endocrinology, July 2017).
Effects on the Body:
Athletes who are sleep deprived due to travel or competition anxiety don’t learn motor skills as quickly (Pallesen et al, Perceptual and Motor Skills, Jan. 1, 2017). In addition, they perform poorly on a “maximal incremental test” of exercise capability (Antunes et al, Physiology & Behavior, Aug. 1, 2017). Middle-aged people who don’t sleep long may lose strength in their bones and muscles (Lucassen et al, PLoS One, May 1, 2017).
Effects on the Brain:
According to rat research, sleep deprivation makes Alzheimer disease worse (Chen et al, Neuroscience Letters, May 22, 2017). Moreover, people prone to migraines frequently report poor sleep (Kim et al, Journal of Headache Pain, Dec. 2017). In one experiment, people deprived of sleep felt moodier and less alert (Stocker et al, Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, May 1, 2017). They also did worse on tests of visual motor speed, reaction time and visual memory.
All of this research suggests that many of us should be sleeping longer. To accomplish this, we should avoid consuming caffeine and alcohol late in the day, turn down the lights in the bedroom as we prepare for bed, put away electronic devices before bedtime and maintain regular sleep schedules (de Oliveira et al, Journal of Endocrinology, July 2017).