WORKPLACE / MAR. 26, 2014
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Lack Of Sleep: It May Be Causing More Than Fatigue

Many of us toss and turn in bed. Others, work well into the night; awaking with the sunrise. The fact is, many of us are not getting an adequate amount of sleep. Well, what's the big deal? If you can't remember the last good sleep you had; you may not only be less productive, you may be doing damage.

Brain Cell Study

This week, a new study was published in the Journal of Neuroscience. As reported by Forbes, mice who stayed awake too long, actually destroyed brain cells. This has been the first study of it's kind; showing that animals can endure irreversible brain damage from sleep deprivation. There is now a concern that the same may be true for humans.

The study was carried out at the University of Pennsylvania, by researchers from the Centre for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology. They found that staying awake for long periods, destroyed specific brain cells (LC neurons). These brain cells are responsible for keeping us awake and alert. They had the mice mimic late night and shift work; resulting in cell death. The mice slept four to five hours within a 24-hour period. After three days, the mice had lost 25% of their LC neurons (decrease was seen in the brain stem).

They did however, find a protein that protects the LC neurons against sleep deprivation. This could be the focus for future treatment. The best preventative measure however, is to get enough sleep. Your body continues to work while you're asleep. Sleep is crucial to; re-energize, support immune function and repair tissue.

How Does This Relate to Work?

It is no surprise that lack of sleep, affects mental capabilities. Fatigue is something that we have all felt. If we do not get sufficient sleep; our mood can change, we lose our ability to focus and cognitive-functioning decreases.

The average American is getting less than seven hours of sleep a day. It was reported that 37% of people were so tired during the day, that it inferred with their daily activities. This is hindering our ability to; problem solve, listen, concentrate, handle stress and process short-term memory.

It is not only our cognitive abilities that we should be concerned about. Workplace accidents increase as amount of sleep decreases. It has been shown that 70% of highly fatigued workers, are more prone to experience an accident in the workplace.

What can you do?

The obvious answer is, get more rest. Adults should be sleeping 7-9 hours per 24-hour day. This is not always possible, so there are other measures that can assist you.

  1. Plan ahead; complete your most mentally demanding tasks when you're most alert.
  2. Taking short breaks and exercising on your lunch break.
  3. Eat Healthy! You need sufficient energy input while awake.
  4. Turn your cellphone off while you're asleep. Disturbing your sleep is a large factor.
  5. If you are in a noisy neighbourhood, invest in some ear plugs.
  6. Don't use caffeine as a crutch. Numerous coffees a day, is not the answer.

How many hours of sleep do you get each night? Comment below!

 

 

 

 

References

Haiken, M. (March, 2014). Lack Of Sleep Kills Brain Cells, New Study Shows. Forbes. Retrieved on March 25, 2014, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/melaniehaiken/2014/03/20/lack-of-sleep-kills-brain-cells-new-study-suggests/

Harvard Medical. (December, 2007). Sleep, Performance and Public Safety. Division of Sleep Medicine. Retrieved on March 25, 2014, from http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/consequences/sleep-performance-and-public-safety 

National Sleep Foundation. Sleep, Performance and the Workplace. National Sleep Foundation. Retrieved on March 25, 2014, from http://www.sleepcenterofgreaterpittsburgh.com/downloads/Sleep_Performance_the_Workplace.pdf

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/barkbud/4126277314/

 

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