I’ve never been a particularly sound sleeper, so I almost always feel at least a little bit tired, and a little bit unsure if I am getting enough sleep. I had no idea exactly how tired I was, though, until I watched "The Sleep Test" video from Professor Richard Wiseman of University of Hertfordshire. Conclusion: Good gravy, how bad is my sleep debt?
The video shows you a picture of a city street made up of simple shapes and bright colors. At first, you might not know what you’re looking at (or, indeed, why you’re looking at it) — but if you’re in good sleep health, you’ll probably notice a few things about the scene. If you’re not, then, well… see what happens for yourself. According to Wiseman, people suffering from sleep deprivation regularly conk out in one- to 30-second blackouts called “microsleeps.” If you missed a few key details about the picture in the video, guess what? That’s you, microsleeping. That is also me, which I find mildly horrifying. How much am I missing during my day-to-day existence? Am I losing 30-second intervals of time? Yikes!
It’s especially sobering news given what we know about the effects of sleep deprivation. This infographic from the Huffington Post shows you the big picture, but to sum it up, not getting enough sleep does everything from make you hungrier to cause you to actually lose brain tissue. And it’s not something just adults suffer from, either; according to recent studies by the CDC, only 31 percent of teens are getting the recommended eight hours of sleep on school nights, which is messing with both their physical and their mental well-being.
But there’s some good news, too — if you’re a new parent, that is: According to Geekosystem, one of the evolutionary reasons babies are so fretful at night is to keep Mom and Dad from making new babies. Wee ones have a better chance of survival if they have fewer siblings — or at least if their parents wait a little bit between kids. So, y’know… there’s that.
Wiseman offers a few tips on how to improve your sleep on his website; I’ve tried most of them in the past (except the jigsaw puzzle one — that’s new to me), and unfortunately I didn’t have much luck with them. Either I’m not doing them correctly, or I just suck at sleeping. I have, however, been getting a kick out of recording my movement and sound production over the course of each night via the Sleep Bot app — even if it’s not helping, it’s at least useful to see which nights I slept more soundly than others. Maybe over time, I can figure out what I’m doing during the days before nights of really good sleep versus nights of really bad sleep.
There’s always counting sheep, right?