Interrupted Sleep Could Be Just As Bad As Pulling An All-Nighter, Scientists Find

Getting interrupted sleep is better than not sleeping at all, right? That conclusion sounds feasible, but it unfortunately doesn’t match up with the conclusion made by a team of researchers from Tel Aviv University.

While performing the first study of its kind, scientists found even a single night of interrupted sleep causes negative effects on a person’s mood, and also starts to interfere with cognitive abilities. What’s worse, lead researcher Professor Avi Sadeh was quoted in Time discussing his belief that when people consistently are not able to achieve anything better than interrupted sleep, that’s equivalent to not getting any sleep at all.

Sadeh clarified how it’s already known that the negative effects of inconsistent sleep periods have cumulative effects. However, parents who have babies that don’t sleep through the night, and doctors who are on-call at odd hours are just two potential groups who have no choice but to sleep when they can, and usually not for long stretches of time.

For the purposes of this sleep study, participants slept one night for eight consecutive hours. The next night was drastically different, because it involved interrupted sleep. The slumberers were woken up by phone calls four different times. Additionally, they were asked to complete a 10-15 minute computerized exercise and fill out a survey before letting their heads hit the pillow again.

The exercise was designed to check a person’s attention span and cognitive abilities, while the survey measured his or her emotional status and mood throughout the stints of interrupted sleep. Finally, the study subjects were required to wear wristwatch-like devices that measured sleep patterns. Just that one night of the interrupted sleep caused problems related to cognitive function, mood and attentiveness.

Researchers also found the problems connected to interrupted sleep were consistent regardless of age or profession. So much for college students thinking that because they’re young, they’ll be able to handle all night studying sessions and still feel sharp the next day!

Sadeh says despite the fact that there have been five decades of research related to sleep deprivation, this study is unique because it focused on what happens to people who are forced to endure interrupted sleep.

Luckily, there might be good news on the horizon for new parents who are perhaps more familiar than they’d like to be with the effects of interrupted sleep. Sadeh’s next goal is to focus on infant sleep disturbances, in hopes of uncovering details that might make interrupted sleep less of a reality for weary mothers and fathers who tend to youngsters through the night.

[Image Credit: Philosophy News]