SEP 26, 2018 12:38 AM PDT

Why the Sleep-Deprived Resemble the Drunk

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Cheating a full night's sleep is something we've all done. College students do it when they're cramming for their final exams, parents do it when their child is sick at night, and the reasons for staying up keep piling on. Inevitably, when we're fighting the urge to sleep, a strange sense of drowsiness sets in. The feeling has been likened to being drunk, and neuroscientists say this isn't actually too far off.

Sleep deprivation does a number to the brain. It impairs cognitive reasoning, motor function, and the ability to focus. Without enough sleep, the eyes blink frequently and the mind wanders. It's no wonder then, that sleep-deprived, fatigue drivers cause an average of 100,000 crashes per year.

A recent study found that going 17 to 19 hours without sleep impairs a person's performance to a level equal to someone with a blood alcohol level of 0.05 percent. And it worsens exponentially, equivalent to 0.1 percent blood alcohol level with longer periods of sleep deprivation. So, consider this next time and insist on getting your beauty rest before getting behind the wheel.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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