Sleep Deprivation Has Been Around Since the Dawn of Time

In 16th century Scotland, it was used to test and torture accused witches. It was a popular form of confession-eliciting torture called waking the witch. After staying awake for days, their hallucinations caused them to spin false tales of flying and shapeshifting into animals.

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Marie de Manaceine, a Russian scientist, experimented with sleep deprivation on puppies in 1894. The puppies were deprived between four and five days of sleep. Unexpectedly, after the experiment, all the puppies died. Sleep deprivation was a legal and standard practice of US military torture until 2009. A common method is to use a heretic’s fork, such as the one pictured above. These are not the only things that can cause sleep deprivation, however. (Mann).

Many sleep disorders can cause sleep deprivation. In fact, sleep deprivation and sleep disorders are both very general terms. Sleep disorders can refer to any condition that affects one’s quality and/or quantity of sleep; sleep deprivation refers to a state where one doesn’t get enough sleep or don’t get enough quality sleep. There are many symptoms of sleep disorders that are easily spotted, whether it is in oneself or others. Some of these symptoms include irritability during the day, difficulty staying awake, feeling tired while driving, difficulty concentrating, slow reactions, difficulty controlling emotions, and more. The more symptoms one has, the more likely they are to have a sleep disorder. Some common sleep disorders that may lead to sleep deprivation include insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome. (Smith, et al.).

The National Sleep Foundation has a recommendation for sleep durations depending on one’s age. A chart is shown above with the following information. Newborns are recommended to sleep for 14-17 hours daily. Infants should sleep for 12-15 hours daily. Toddlers should sleep for 11-14 hours daily. Preschoolers should sleep for 10-13 hours daily. School-age children should sleep for 9-11 hours daily. Teenagers should sleep for 8-10 hours daily. Adults should sleep for 7-9 hours daily, and adults over 65 years old should sleep between seven and eight hours a day. (Nat’l Sleep Foundation). Many sleep disorders can end up leading to sleep deprivation or already have it as a side effect. As mentioned above, these disorders include insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome. Other causes of sleep deprivation can include personal choice, medications, family obligations, and illness. Someone may avoid sleeping to socialize with their friends, finish a school assignment, or stay late for work. One might also be staying up because of their young children. Everyone has their reasons to stay up late occasionally, but doing it often can be detrimental to one’s health. (Dept. of Health & Human Services).

There are many side effects of not getting an adequate amount of sleep. There can also be different symptoms depending on age; however, I will be focusing on adults and teenagers. Some of the less serious effects in adults include yawning, grogginess, and reduced work efficiency. More serious effects can include slower reaction time, poorer judgment, reduced awareness, and microsleep. This can be very dangerous because it may lead to drowsy driving, which, in some cases, is at least as dangerous as driving drunk. In fact, going 24 hours without sleep is similar to having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reading of 0.1%. This is greater than the legal limit of 0.8% BAC. (Dept. of Health & Human Services).

Scientists have previously assessed three different categories to measure the effects of sleep deprivation on a person’s performance. These categories include cognitive performance, motor skill performance, and mood. The test subjects had to perform exams of logical reasoning, mental addition, visual search tests, and word memory tasks to measure their cognitive performance. These exams may have included word searches, math problems, or being given verbal instructions that had to later be recited. Motor skill tests may have included reaction times, simple treadmill walking, and manual dexterity tests. Reaction times may have been tested by tossing a football at one of the test subjects. Dexterity tests may have been executed by using a specific hand to place pegs in a board (such as the one below) while listening to specific instructions. For testing the subjects’ moods, the scientists could simply ask the subjects. (Pilcher and Huffcut).

Treatments are only required when a person can physically not get to sleep. The reason for this may be physical or psychological. Treatments can include medications, cognitive and behavioral treatment, or something as simple as changing one’s nighttime routine. Medications can include benzodiazepines, non-benzodiazepine hypnotics, and melatonin; this, however, is not always recommended due to the fact that some people can form dependencies on these medications. Benzodiazepines are anxiety-reducing sedatives. Cognitive and behavioral treatments may include relaxation techniques or stimulation control. Stimulation control can include changing one’s nighttime routine. (Davis). It is recommended to have one’s bedroom at around 65?° Fahrenheit for optimal sleeping conditions. It is also recommended to not have electronics on close to the time one goes to sleep or even in the bedroom. If one does have electronics in the bedroom, they should place them away from the bed, as the blue light from screens can suppress melatonin production in the body. A lack of sleep can be extremely detrimental to one’s health. Humans spend about one-third of their life asleep, and one in five adults fails to get an adequate amount of rest. As Jaeda DeWalt once said, Sleep deprivation is physically miserable and creatively cathartic, as internal landscapes rise up from their dormant ashes. Sleep is just as important to our health as drinking water or eating, and people don’t treat it as such.

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