Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
Cumulative Sleepiness & Subjective Blindness to Sleepiness (#1 of 3)
June 20, 2022

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A Healthy Child Needs a Healthy Brain, A Healthy Brain Needs Healthy Sleep

If you have not already done so, please read Blog Posts 1 through 5 that describe how sleep is important and beneficial. I will post specific information for parents and children based on my book, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.” Please do not be put off by my book’s length. This is a reference book. Read only the topic of interest to you.

Blog 84Cumulative Sleepiness & Subjective Blindness to Sleepiness (#1 of 3)

Cumulative Sleepiness & Subjective Blindness to Sleepiness

A 2003 paper of experimental sleep deprivation is the basis for the notion of cumulative cost of sleep loss and subjective blindness to sleepiness:

“Sleep periods chronically limited to 4 or 6 hours per night progressively eroded the effectiveness of psychomotor vigilance performance, working memory performance, and cognitive thought performance.  It appears that even relatively moderate sleep restriction-if sustained night after night-can seriously impair waking neurobehavioral function.  Claims that humans adapt to chronic sleep restriction within a few days are not supported by this study.  Surprisingly, by the end of 14 days of sleep restriction, when performance was at its worst level, subjects reported feeling only slightly sleepy. These findings for subjective sleepiness suggest that once sleep restriction is chronic, subjects either cannot reliably introspect with regard to their actual sleepiness level or they do not experience a sense of sleepiness.  Regardless of the explanation, the lack of reports on intense feelings of sleepiness during chronic sleep restriction may explain why sleep restriction is widely practiced–people have the subjective impression they have adapted to it because they do not feel particularly sleepy.  Sleepiness ratings suggest that subjects were largely unaware of these increasing cognitive deficits, which might explain why the impact of chronic sleep restriction on waking cognitive functions is often assumed to be benign.” 

The word ‘progressively’ means that impairments worsened day-by day; with more days of sleep loss, more impairments occurred.

If parents lack self-awareness about their own sleep loss, then it should come as no surprise that they might fail to appreciate subtle harmful effects of sleep loss in their children.  This is such an important point; I wish to restate it: It is possible that some parents are so unaware of how impaired they are by their own sleep deprivation that they ae unable to appreciate the extent to which sleep deprivation is harming their child. 

I suspect that this explains why otherwise observant and loving parents (who are nevertheless short on sleep themselves) allow their child to become sleep deprived, with all of its attendant problems.  And if the children are too often mildly short on sleep, they themselves might not develop a strong sense of how different it feels to be completely well rested versus mildly sleepy.

Please see Blog Post 13 for more information.

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