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Total Sleep Deprivation Studies

Updated on December 9, 2019
Pamela99 profile image

I spent 22 years in the nursing profession, and I enjoy writing about medical issues. I'm also interested in history, genealogy, and travel.


Sleep Loss Effects on Brain

I have written various articles about sleep, but now there is a new study that shows what sleep loss does to your brain and cognition brain function. The Oxford dictionary defines cognition as “the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.”

A 2014 sleep study stated 35% of American adults rated their sleep quality as poor or fair and 45% said they had trouble falling asleep. Another 53% state they have trouble staying asleep and 40% reported snoring was a problem.

Adequate sleep is considered to be the most important thing we can do for ourselves, that is more important than exercise and diet. When your body is asleep a vast amount of housekeeping is done, so your brain needs sleep more than your body does. One study said: “Sleep loss is no longer considered an emblem of productivity or success.” Chronically losing sleep will prevent you from being able to do essential work efficiently.

“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

— Benjamin Franklin

Michigan State University Study

This first study was done by Michigan State University and it named the ‘effects of total sleep deprivation (DST)’. The researchers worked with 140 tested people who were well rested. They had 77 people stay awake all night in the lab and 63 people went home to sleep normally. The researchers then administered tests after this one night of sleep deprivation. The researchers were particularly interested in the subject’s ability to pay attention as this is necessary to perform multiple tasks.

The two tests were:

  1. The Psychomotor Vigilance Task measuring attention

  2. The UNRAVEL method “a measure of placekeeping, a higher-order process that involves memory operations and supports performance in a wide range of complex tasks”

They were tested in the evening, and they again the following morning. The sleep deprived people performed much worse on both tests. The UNRAVEL evening test had a 15% error rate but the sleep deprived had a 30% error rate. The rested group’s tests results were the same on both occasions.

In addition, the sleep deprived people had numerous lapses of attention. The placekeeping errors doubled and the lapses in attention tripled for the sleep deprived people. One of the researchers stated that not every task we attempt suffers from sleep deprivation, but many do in multiple areas. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to a serious cognitive decline and dementia over the long term.


University of South Florida Study

The University of South Florida study surveyed 130 employees working in the information technology field. They also had to have at least one school-aged child to participate in the study. The subjects reported that 16 minutes less sleep than usual resulted in worse quality sleep, and they had more cognitive issues during the following day. Poor sleep resulted in increased stress, particularly when trying to balance work and home.

This study found empirical evidence as to why workplaces need to make more effort to promote their employee’s sleep. People that sleep well stay focused and on-task with fewer errors or even interpersonal conflicts. They also found that the consequences of less sleep was not as apparent when the employee had the next day off from work.

These Sleep Experts Explain How to Get the Best Rest

Does Weekend Extra Sleep Help?

It is possible to sleep more on the weekends to make up for lost sleep but the journal of Current Biology stated that weekend sleep puts people at risk for gaining weight. When people catch extra hours on the weekend they snack more than usual and also have an increased risk for diabetes.


Final Thoughts

When people are sleep-deprived they must exercise caution in everything they do because errors may occur at work and even when driving a motor vehicle. Errors can have severe consequences. Studies of adults and children with sleep deprivation has shown a development for some types of psychiatric disorders.

Some people need 8 hours of sleep and others might need 6 hours, so it is important to establish a routine of going to bed at the same time each night to determine how many hours of sleep you need. Try to find what works for you as some people feel good as early risers and others are night owls. Each person has to figure out what routine fits into their schedule, so they feel rested and they can be productive each day without too much stress.

What Would Happen if You Didn’t Sleep?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Pamela Oglesby


Submit a Comment
  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    3 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Maria, I am glad you found this article helpful. Sleep for nurses can be a problem. I worked different shifts as required and having a good sleep plan is tough. I hope the article helps your students.

    I appreciate your your very nice comments. Have a very Merry Christmas, Maria. Love and hugs.

  • marcoujor profile image

    Maria Jordan 

    3 weeks ago from Jeffersonville PA

    Dear Pamela,

    A good night's sleep is a gift, one that I never take for granted.

    I am tucking this article away for when the semester starts up again.

    The great majority of my nursing students struggle with a regular sleep pattern. This truly is a Catch-22 situation. Hoping this article will penetrate their thought processes. Informative - a must-read!

    Love and thanks,


  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    4 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Flourish, i remember those days of very little sleep also. I think this is a very good new study so people will realize how important a night's sleep can be each and every night. I appreciate your comments.

  • FlourishAnyway profile image


    4 weeks ago from USA

    This has important implications for workers who work double shifts, soldiers, or doctors in training. Of course, it also impacts new parents. I recall those days with exceedingly little sleep.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Davika, It is surely good for you to get enough sleep so that you feel good Thank you for your comments.

  • DDE profile image

    Devika Primić 

    5 weeks ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

    Interesting about sleep deprivations. I need a good sleep to function well without the required amount of sleep I become moody and irritable.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Lora, I agree that having a consistent bedtime is half the battle for a good nights sleep. Thank you for your generous comments.

  • Lora Hollings profile image

    Lora Hollings 

    5 weeks ago

    Sleep deprivation impacts our mental and physical health and our ability to function as well as our emotions. The importance of sleep cannot be emphasized enough. Consistency in going to bed at the same time every night seems to be a key factor in helping us get all the stages of sleep that we require. Excellent article, Pamela! I found the sleep study that they did at Michigan State really interesting and learned much from watching the videos too. Thanks for sharing such important information.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Chitrangada, It is not always easy when to sleep well when you are stressed. I am glad you found this article informative. Thank you for your comments

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Rajan Singh, Yes, I agree with you and I think many people have come to that conclusion. Thank you for your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Ruby, I am glad to hear your sleep well, and I lost sleep frequently as an RN also. I appreciate your very nice comments.

  • always exploring profile image

    Ruby Jean Richert 

    5 weeks ago from Southern Illinois

    Thank goodness, I sleep well. I remember when I was in R.N. training ( many years ago ) I didn't sleep well, I would get out of bed to study. Your article is well researched and helpful. Thanks for sharing.

  • rajan jolly profile image

    Rajan Singh Jolly 

    5 weeks ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

    Thank you for sharing this information. I believe sleep quality is as important as the number of hours one needs to sleep each night to work at the optimum level.

  • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

    Chitrangada Sharan 

    5 weeks ago from New Delhi, India

    An important and informative article about the importance of sleep and sleep deprivation.

    Well, I do face the lack of sleep sometimes. But that is due to some stress or something. Sleeping well is so important and you have shared some valuable information here.

    Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Alyssa, Reading is a good way to relax before sleep, so it mst work for your. At least you know what works for you. Thanks for your comments.

  • Alyssa Nichol profile image


    5 weeks ago from Ohio

    Very interesting! Sleep is so important and it's taken me a long time to value it haha! I'm in bed by 9p each night because I get up early to see my husband off to work. I like to relax in bed and read for an hour or so before falling asleep. It helps me unwind from the day. I've found that if I go right to sleep at 9p, I'm more tired during the day and have to take a nap than when I stay up a little later reading. It's weird to me, but I think it's just what my body has become accustomed to.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Ms Dora, Some people will not pay attention to their sleep patterns and others want to live the best quality life possible.

    I am glad you like the article and your comments are appreciated.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Linda, The cat was my favorite photo too.

    I think we do need to realize how important sleep is to our daily functions. Thank you for your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Gail, Your sleep sounds so erratic that i don't know what to think. Maybe sleeping pills for a while would help you establish a good sleep schedule. Probably not drinking too many liquids late in the day may help with the bathroom problem, but I have no other suggestions. I appreciate your questions and wish I could give you a better answer but I am not a doctor.

  • profile image


    5 weeks ago

    I am taking a sleep study test Sunday night. I have one sleeping pill to sleep so they can monitor me. I hope I can sleep. I have a very erratic sleep issue. Sometimes I wake up every two hours to go to the bathroom. Sometimes I sleep through the night. Sometimes I cannot sleep at all. It is very difficult. Any thoughts?

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 

    5 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

    Thanks for sharing the information about the importance of sleep. It's something that we all need to keep in mind. The study that you mention is interesting. I love the photo of the yawning cat!

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Weithers 

    5 weeks ago from The Caribbean

    Thanks for this article, including the caution. Many people I know ignore the information about sleep deprivation. Will watch the video of the sleep doctors later. Thanks for providing it.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Bill, I think you may will probably live to a ripe old age as you have no health problems and sleep like a log. Hope Bev's quality of sleep improves. i sympathize with her.

    I appreciate your comments and hope you have a great week.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Lori, I hope you can find a way to go to sleep earlier and get an adequate amount of sleep.

    I have one of those sound systems I turn on at night and now I am listening to rain, which is helpful to me. Having apnea definitely complicates your sleep problems.

    I hope your quality of sleep improves, I really appreciate your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Nell, I suppose hallucinating could happen with a continuous lack of sleep. That would not be good if you were driving!

    I appreciate your comments. Have a great week.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Linda, I think not being tired during the day is good but maybe you might try going to bed a bit earlier since you can't really sleep in. I think 6 solid hours would be better for you. I can always go to sleep but staying asleep is another problem. I am not as sharp either but maybe that is age; I just don't know.

    Thanks for commenting, Linda.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi MG Singh, I am happy that this article was helpful for you. I appreciate your comments.

  • emge profile image

    MG Singh 

    5 weeks ago from Singapore

    Wonderful informative article about sleep. Lots of facts that I didn't know. Thanks a lot.

  • Carb Diva profile image

    Linda Lum 

    5 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

    Pamela, I don't know if I am sleep-deprived or not. I have no problem staying awake during the day, but I know I'm not as sharp as I used to be. With luck, I get 6 hours each night, but it's not 6 uninterrupted hours. There's no such thing as sleeping in at my house (at least for this mom).

  • Nell Rose profile image

    Nell Rose 

    5 weeks ago from England

    Interesting stuff. I do remember reading a few years ago that people who go without sleep start hallucinating in the day purely because it's a form or dreaming.

  • lambservant profile image

    Lori Colbo 

    5 weeks ago from Pacific Northwest

    Sleep deprivation is the worst thorn in the flesh in my life. Getting to sleep is very hard, add to that apnea and I am a mess. Almost on a daily basis I wake up exhausted. When the time changed last month I took a nosedive in mood (I have a mood disorder to begin with). You are right that quality sleep is the most important thing to good health. My doctor said medication and sleep are numero uno to my mood stability.

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

    I'm happy to report this is not something I have to worry about. I sleep like a log, same time every night. Bev, on the other hand, needs to read this article. :)

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Eric, Your son does need more sleep as a growing boy. I think your doctors are right. I feel pretty good with 7 but more often than not I get 6 or 6.5 hours.

    I suppose some don't follow the Circadian rhythm due to work hours, but others just don't follow any pattern, then wonder why they feel bad. I appreciate your comments, Eric.

  • Ericdierker profile image

    Eric Dierker 

    5 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

    I am mandated by physicians to get at least 7 hours. They say 9 is fine for my son. I insist on his ten. We use no alarms. I am asleep but I assume my 40 something wife is around 6.

    I am amazed that some do not follow Circadian rhythms,.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Thanks Clive. Have a good week!

  • clivewilliams profile image

    Clive Williams 

    5 weeks ago from Jamaica

    Very Informative article.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Umesh, I am glad you like the article and will share it on Facebook. Thank you for your comments.

  • bhattuc profile image

    Umesh Chandra Bhatt 

    5 weeks ago from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India

    A nice article. Worth sharing with my followers in facebook.

    Anyway thanks.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Liz, There have many bad accidents due to lack of sleep. I know when I travel I don't sleep very well in most hotels and the bed feels so good when I get back home. We are leaving Thursday for a trip, so lack of sleep is ahead.

    I appreciate your comments. Have a great week, Liz.

  • Eurofile profile image

    Liz Westwood 

    5 weeks ago from UK

    After a week away in different hotels with lack of quality sleep, this article resonates with me. I remember a tragic accident of a car crashing onto a railway track causing a derailment of a train many years ago. It was attributed to lack of sleep for the driver of the car. I also have friends with fitbits who monitor their sleep patterns.


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