A new study may not only make you want to head to bed on time tonight, but also try to make sure you don’t get any interruptions during the night. Why is that? It turns out that not getting enough sleep can be just as detrimental as repeatedly getting woken up at night. (This may be an obvious finding for many parents, but it’s still reassuring to see scientific data justifying the crankiness of a newborn’s parents.)
Specifically, this study found that having one interrupted night of sleep (8 hours in a bed but with four interruptions, where each interruption needed a 15-minute, purposeful response) is just as bad as having a night with only 4 hours of sleep. This was measured by testing cognitive abilities and attention spans the next day through an activity online, as well as self-reporting moods. Overall, awoken and sleep-restricted volunteers similarly omitted more answers and made more mistakes when doing the activity, and reported more depression and fatigue, compared to when getting a night with a solid 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
While previous studies have reported an association between being woken up during the night and both being in a bad mood and having impaired cognitive functions the next day, this was the first study to find a causal link.
So if you’re able to get to bed on time so you can get 8 hours of snuggle time with your pillow, be sure to have that cell phone muted and other interruptions blocked or you might as well have stayed up another 4 hours!
For further reading:
- Michal Kahn et al.’s article “Effects of one night of induced night-wakings versus sleep restriction on sustained attention and mood: a pilot study”
- ScienceDaily’s article “No rest for the bleary: Interrupted sleep can be as physically detrimental as no sleep at all”
- Teisha J. Rowland’s book Biology Bytes: Digestible Essays on Animals Both Commonplace and Bizarre