Staying awake too long can have similar affects to that of drinking alcohol

Friday, March 17, 2023

“Being awake for 17 hours straight decreases your performance as much as if your blood alcohol level were .05,” Chief Scientist and Sleep Laboratory Manager, Associate Professor Denise O’Driscoll said.

World Sleep Day (17 March) highlights the importance of a good night’s rest and this year’s theme is Sleep is Essential for Health. Lack of sleep can have massive effects on the human body.

Prof O’Driscoll knows how a good night’s rest can be life changing. Alongside diet and exercise, sleep is fundamental to our physical mental and social well-being.

Studies have shown that chronic sleep disturbance significantly heightens the risk for the development of mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The risk increases with insomnia, habitual sleep loss, obstructive sleep apnea and other sleep disorders.

Prof O’Driscoll notes there are some actions we can take to give ourselves the best chance for good sleep.

“Limit your amount of alcohol and caffeine before bed. When they’re in your system, you tend to spend less time in the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep which is important for memory, emotional processing, and healthy brain development,” she said.

“Keeping a regular bedtime and wake time is key to having restful uninterrupted sleep.”

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Activities that are stimulating should also be avoided before bed.

“Putting electronic devices away at least one hour before bed is important to help wind-down before sleep. So no phones or tablets.”

Restful sleep can be impacted by a multitude of issues. At the Eastern Health Sleep Lab, Prof O’Driscoll uncovers those challenges and how people can get back to getting some good ‘shut eye.’

“Patients attending Eastern Health Sleep Services present with any number of sleep disorders for investigation and treatment – from insomnia to obstructive sleep apnoea, where patients can have breathing pauses during sleep up to hundreds of times a night,” she said.

“Eastern Health Sleep Services is a NATA accredited service with a six bed state-of-the-art Sleep Laboratory at Box Hill Hospital. An overnight sleep study measures electrical activity of the brain, some specific muscles, the heart, breathing, oxygen levels, snoring, and leg movements. It is used to determine wake and sleep, as well as patterns of breathing and limb movements while you are asleep.”