The Negative Effects of Sleep Deprivation

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The Negative Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Most people are familiar with the after effects of a night or two without sleep. Without sleep, people are less efficient and more irritable. It's even difficult for them to think. A recent study by the University of California in San Diego reveals that brain activity is actually altered following sleep deprivation.

Parts of the brain, for instance the frontal lobe, did not function when the subject was severely sleep deprived. However, other parts of the brain, like the prefrontal cortex, exhibited more activity than normal, possibly to compensate for this non activity. The sleepier the subject, the more active the prefrontal lobe became.

This reversal of activity was evident in many regions of the brain. This reveals that the brain does try to compensate for the effects of sleep deprivation. However, lack of sleep does adversely effect the electrical patterns of the brain and it cannot function normally.

Another study, this one from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in 1997, also demonstrates that lack of sleep causes difference in how we think. Thinking slows down with lack of sleep, not only during the night, but also the next day. This can cause safety concerns for people who work or drive at night. This may be because people are using some of their resources to fight off a need for sleep.

In March, 1998, students at Colchester Sixth Form College in Britain also tested the results of sleep deprivation. Certain functions were, indeed, slowed down, like typing skills. Speech became slurred and reaction time slower. However, much to their surprise, they discovered that there was an improvement in math skills, short term memory and the ability to sort papers.

Carlyle Smith, a professor of psychology at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario suggested yet another adverse effect of sleep deprivation. Students who studied hard all week and then stayed up all night partying on the weekend lost as much as 30% of what they had learned during the week.

Sleep deprivation, however, is almost a way of life for most students, especially as final exams loom on the horizon. In fact, much of society suffers to some extent from sleep deprivation. There just doesn't seem to be time during the normal day for career or job duties and the time we would like to have for play.
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