Why skipping sleep is as bad as being drunk

Why skipping sleep is as bad as being drunk

There’s something admirable (albeit disturbing) about individuals that can function on as little as four hours sleep, however, forgoing one night of sleep is cognitively the same as being too drunk to drive.

According to a study published in the Occupational and Environmental Medicine journal, moderate sleep deprivation causes impairments equivalent to those of alcohol intoxication.

If sleep was missed for up to 17 to 19 hours, performance was equivalent or worse than that of a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.05%.

After longer periods without snoozing, performance reached levels equivalent to a BAC of 0.1%, reaching above the legal limit to drive – The Huffington Post reports.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that healthy adults with normal quality of sleep should get 7 to 9 hours of sleep a day, depending on their age.

William David Brown, a sleep Psychologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, says that an increasing number of Americans are sacrificing sleep each year. Sleep deprivation can affect brain functions, memory, heart health and increase proneness to diabetes and depression. As reported in NPR, Brown says: "About a third of your employees in any big company are coming to work with an equivalent impairment level of being intoxicated.”

Mike Grandinetti, a former Silicon Valley worker, told the publication about the time he spent at one start-up where “the boss routinely demanded all-nighters and walked around with a baseball bat to enforce a sense of urgency.”

Although leaders such as Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin and Thatcher got by on little sleep – a phenomenon dubbed as the ‘Thatcher gene’ – going without sleep can actually increase errors and displace focus.

In addition, a lack of sleep costs the UK economy up to £40billion a year, according to research by RAND Europe, which found that sleep deprivation is resulting in a combination of absenteeism and presenteeism.

Marco Hafner, a research leader at RAND Europe and the report's main author, comments: “Our study shows that the effects from a lack of sleep are massive. Sleep deprivation not only influences an individual's health and wellbeing but has a significant impact on a nation's economy, with lower productivity levels and a higher mortality risk among workers.”

The research found that sleep deprivation equates to over 200,000 working days lost annually, and with yesterday marking National Sickie day the importance of a deep slumber mustn’t be underestimated.

15% of Brits admit to taking a nap at work, according to a poll conducted by Hillarys, and forward-thinking organisations are already advocating the benefits of napping at work, by having nap pods and designated sleep areas in their organisation.

With absenteeism fresh on our minds, take a look at our February issue where we spoke to Dr Christian Jessen about the importance of rest – and what you can do to encourage employees to get some much needed relaxation time.

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