120 Sleep Deficits and Harm

Based on research by Dinges, et al., 1988; Dinges, et al., 1997, , adapted by Juanita N Baker, Ph.D.

Are you surprised that a single treatment improves memory, increases people’s ability to concentrate, strengthens the immune system and decreases people’s risk of being killed in accidents is free, with no side effects?

Few Americans regularly obtain eight or more hours of sleep each night. This chronic sleep deprivation can be disastrous. Laboratory experiments show that sleep deficits dramatically impair memory and concentration while increasing levels of stress hormones and disrupting the body’s normal metabolism. Plus long-term sleep deprivation puts people at greater risk of motor vehicle accidents and disease.

Psychologist David Dinges and colleagues recruited healthy young volunteers to sleep in a laboratory for 10-20 days. They randomly assigned the volunteers to receive different amounts and patterns of sleep over time, controlled access to stimulants, and constantly monitored the amount of sleep volunteers were actually getting. Dinges learned that people who get fewer than eight hours of sleep per night show pronounced cognitive and physiological deficits, including memory impairments, a reduced ability to make decisions and dramatic lapses in attention.  Naps did improve cognitive functioning, BUT did not repair the negative mood that results from sleep loss.

Think. What would you have to do to get your full 8 hours sleep?


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Dinges, D. F., Whitehouse, W. G., Orne, E. C., & Orne, M. T. (1988). The benefits of a nap during prolonged work and wakefulness. Work & Stress, 2, 139-153.

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For more details see:


American Psychological Association, February 2014

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