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Is sleep deprivation sometimes ok

09-09-2013

Sleep deprivation has got a pretty bad rap, from being blamed for the Chernobyl disaster through to causing you to feel grumpy and irritable all day, people all around the world suffer the negative consequences of sleep deprivation all the time. Even in the short term sleep deprivation can have a wide range of harmful effects and over the long term it can have a range of serious impacts on an individual’s health and wellbeing. This begs the question, is there anything good about sleep deprivation, is there any time when it is useful or serves a purpose?

We have all suffered from sleep deprivation at some time or another, whether it has been caused by our young child or is simply the result of stress. Whether it has been a single night or weeks and months of disturbed sleep. It doesn’t take long for people to realise how damaging sleep deprivation is, even missing a few hours in one night can leave your feeling tired, slow, grumpy and confused. Sleep deprivation has been blamed for a number of big disasters including the Chernobyl nuclear incident and the Exxon Valdez oil spill, it has also caused numerous smaller accidents and injuries. While we know a lot about the negative aspects of sleep deprivation, you never hear about any good points. Is that because there aren’t any, or because they are rare and unknown?

Well there are actually two areas where sleep deprivation can help, though it should be pointed out that they are both very specialised and also that while they help in these two areas the people will still suffer all the same negative consequences of not sleep.

So what are they? The first is for people who struggle to put on weight, people who have a limited appetite. There are people out there who have disorders that limit their appetite meaning that they will not feel hungry and struggle to bring themselves to eat. Sleep regulates appetite and researchers have found that for people with appetite issues sleep deprivation can actually help them to gain a better appetite. Unfortunately they will still suffer from all the same negative impacts of sleep deprivation that we all suffer from, but as a short term measure to help them gain weight it can be useful.

The other area is in long distance running. They have found that long distance runners who are also sleep deprived limit the amount of muscle fatigue, damage and inflammation that they suffer. The reasons for this are not entirely understood at the moment but the results have shown that those long distances runners that do not sleep as much will not suffer the same levels of muscle fatigue, muscle damage or inflammation as their peers who are sleeping. Again though, they do still suffer all the other negative consequences of sleep deprivation.

Sleep deprivation has many negative aspects, the two positive aspects are very limited and lack widespread benefits but they do exist.
 


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