As anyone who has unwittingly drifted off at their desk will know – tiredness can really creep up on you when you least need it.
But a new study is offering some good news: it claims to prove that we can bank sleep – and store it up in advance of a tiring event.
Researchers in the US invited a group of volunteers to adjust their sleep patterns so the effect could be monitored.
For a week, one half of the group were allowed extra sleep, while the others were told to keep their sleeping patterns the same.
Then, the following week, they were all sleep-deprived.
“After this week of either extended or habitual sleep per night, all the volunteers came to the lab and they were given three hours of sleep, per night, for a week,” explained Tracy Rupp from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.
They were then given tasks of varying complication, and tests showed that those who had banked the sleep were “more resilient during the sleep restriction”.
“They showed less performance deterioration with regards to reaction time and alertness than the group that had been given the habitual prior sleep,” said Ms Rupp.
The tests even showed that a week after the experiment the pre-stored sleepers were recovering better from their sleep deprivation than the habitual sleepers.
“What we’re basically saying is if you fill up your reserves and pay back your sleep debt ahead of time, you’re better equipped to deal with the sleep loss challenge.”
For business people, the research suggests an end to the end-of-the-day slump. But for the military, it could be a life saver. …