This Is What Happens To Your Brain When You Work On Less Than 6 Hours Of Sleep

You may think you feel fine, but sleep deprivation undermines you on the job.

By Monica Torres


“If you got fewer than seven hours of sleep last night, you are a little bit sleep-deprived. And you will probably deny that and say, ‘No, I’m fine.’ But if we were to bring you into one of our sleep labs and have you do some performance tests, we would be able to see that you are not as good at doing those as you are fully rested,” said Jeanne Duffy, a neuroscientist and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders.

Once sleeplessness becomes a pattern, you may not even realize you are impaired. “Let’s say you are getting eight hours of sleep a night and then you suddenly start getting six. You really notice it on the first day or two after that. And then you stop noticing it,” Duffy said about chronic sleep deprivation. “And it’s not because you’re not impaired by it. It’s because you sort of have a new frame of reference.”

But there are real tradeoffs you make when you forgo sleep. When you stay up too late bingeing a show, or worrying about your job, or taking care of a child, your performance at work the next day is compromised.

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