Sleep researchers the world over are losing sleep over a 'restless' world which is toeing the 'time is money' philosophy. Working round the clock and sleeping less, the body is actually sitting on a time bomb, researchers say.
According to Fred Turek, a sleep expert from the Northwestern University, prolonged sleep deprivation hampers the body's capacity to compensate for lost sleep.
Fred Turek carried out an experiment to study the effect of prolonged sleep loss on rats. He linked it to previous experiments conducted on humans. The study revealed that losing sleep regularly destroys the ability of the body to catch up on the lost sleep.
During the study, the rats were kept without sleep for 20 hours and then they were allowed to sleep for four hours. In the first night following the experiment the rats portrayed a good recovery and fell into a deep sleep soon. But when the disturbed sleep pattern continued for 3 days, the rats were failed to fall into a deep sleep. At the end of the five day study, the rats were unable to compensate for the lost sleep.
The story was the same with humans after a study conducted by David Dinges, a researcher at the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Medicine in Philadelphia. Forty eight healthy people were put through an experiment- some study subjects got two to four hours of sleep at night while the rest got a complete 8 hours of sleep.
At the end of two weeks, the people who had lost sleep got used to the lack of sleep and did not feel tired during the day. They were unable to fall into deep sleep and compensate for the lost hours, also did not complain of fatigue.
But test scores had a different story to tell. Those sleep deprived had trouble with concentration, and their memory had taken a beating.
"The ability to compensate for lost sleep is itself lost, which is damaging mentally and physically," Turek says.
Experts underline the importance of a scheduled bedtime and recommended hours of sleep - 8 hours for adults and 10-11 hours for children. Sleep deprivation opens a pandora box of health problems - obesity, hypertension, blood pressure, trouble with concentration, depression, and also an enhanced risk of accidents.
Prolonged sleep loss affects concentration. Whether the damage done is of a permanent nature is still not clearly known, but consistent sleep loss affects performance.