Life moves pretty fast. Accidents, errors and other unanticipated circumstances can arise quickly and, if not handled correctly, can just as quickly ruin your day, or your year. There is, however, one simple thing that everyone can do to help them anticipate, identify and react to risky situations: sleep!
The Dangers of Sleep Deprivation
We’ve all had to sacrifice sleep for one reason or another. Most people don’t realize, though, that relatively common levels of sleep deprivation can drastically raise the risk of car accidents. According to AAA, your car accident risk doubles if you’ve gotten 5-6 hours of sleep the night before. Getting less than 4 hours? That increases crash risk by a factor of 12. Been awake for just 21 hours straight? You are as functionally impaired as you would be with a blood alcohol content of .08, the legal limit for drivers in most states. Most workplace accidents are also related to poor sleep in some way, and for the same underlying reasons.
Poor Sleep on the Brain
Sleep deprivation impairs several brain networks that control cognitive function, resulting in reduced alertness, difficulty directing attention and, ultimately, in very short periods of sleep during waking life. These microsleeps, which can occur when someone is in the middle of a routine task, often go undetected but have an unpredictable impact on information gathering and processing. A chronic lack of sleep also directly impairs short-term and working memory, which often results in a failure to adapt established problem-solving strategies to new situations, even when these strategies are no longer optimal or even practical.
The Sleep-Deprived Personality
Beyond cognitive function, falling behind on sleep can alter your personality and behaviors as well. The abilities to recognize and respond to threats, estimate the difficulty of future tasks and evaluate the severity of consequences when making decisions are impaired when sleepy. Sleep deprivation increases the perceived value of potential gains while decreasing the perceived value of potential losses, leading to risk-taking behavior. Moral judgement is also perturbed, which leads to corner-cutting and a lack of consideration for the needs of others. Interpersonal skills are impacted as well, due to the misinterpretation of both verbal and nonverbal cues as well as a tendency to miscommunicate.
So, healthy sleep supports your decision-making, reaction time, concentration and ability to identify danger. It keeps your brain working correctly and ensures that you feel and act like yourself. By getting the right amount of sleep, you can drastically reduce your chances of being involved in an accident, or committing an error, while improving your health and setting yourself up to live a longer and happier life.
How Healthy is Your Sleep?
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Having Trouble Sleeping?
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University of Pennsylvania Medical School: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3564638/
Harvard Medical School: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780444537027000075?via%3Dihub
Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2016/02/theres-a-proven-link-between-effective-leadership-and-getting-enough-sleep