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    Thread: What does it mean when people say that you "can't make up for lost sleep"?

    1. #1
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      What does it mean when people say that you "can't make up for lost sleep"?

      I sometimes see people claim this on various sites that are in some way focused on sleep, and I think it sounds kind of weird.
      If you can't make up for lost sleep, then why do you feel completely rested after sleeping a couple hours longer than normal for a couple days?
      When someone says that you can't compensate for lost sleep it kind of sounds like you can never feel rested again once you have stayed awake all night once, or something like that.

      Do they mean that loss of sleep causes permanent damage to the brain in a way that doesn't directly affect how rested we can feel?
      Or what's going on here?
      Last edited by Laurelindo; 09-09-2014 at 06:16 PM.

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      I used to wonder this too, then one day I thought about it kind of differently and it made sense. It means that the negative health effects you experience as a result of lost sleep have already taken their toll on you, and "catching up" on sleep, so to speak, won't necessarily reverse this damage, at least not on a linear scale. The damage is already done. Think about it like this, imagine there is a robot that has self-healing abilities that are only activated during its sleep. If the robot does not get very much sleep one night, it cannot perform this self-healing, and so it's body or frame suffers because of it. Even if the robot sleeps more the next night, the lack of sleep the previous night kept the robot from repairing itself and so the damage is already done. Sure, it will heal itself more the next night, but imagine if it had been able to heal itself both nights? The logical answer is that there is clearly some kind of deficit experienced.
      Last edited by snoop; 09-09-2014 at 11:35 PM.

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      The possibility for permanent damage is very real.

      There was a large scale investigation in the way mice reacted to chronic deprivation and results don't fare well. Significant sleep loss led to enhanced death of brain cells in the brain stem, up to 25% within three days sleep deprivation.

      The effect sleep deprivation has on humans is likely to be in some way permanent. The amount of brain cells lost is probably not noticeably but will be once you reach middle age, when you stop producing as much brain cells. Sleep deprivation doesn't make you sluggish permanently, but based on the results is would seem that the cumulative effect after years of sleep deprivation can pose a very real degradation of cognition and memory functions. In a study with sleep deprived humans, recovery times could take over three days before standard cognitive functions had returned.

      It makes sense, our brain builds up chemicals that need to be flushed and memories that need to be dealt with. If you take those processes away you are going to do some damage, and like with joints or teeth some of that damage is irreversible.
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      Not much left to say after the excellent reply by DutchRaptor.

      Notice that the cognitive toll of lack of sleep is must more serious but less noticeable than the physical one. What studies point to is an apparent capacity to recover the physical aspects and the perception that one is feeling well after, but a very poor ability to perceive cognitive effects derived from lack of sleep. I can't recall the details exactly, but subjects with sleep-deprivation had very bad results when predicting their performance on tasks after a week of sleep loss. Naturally, the more adverse the circumstances, the higher degree of brain damage results from it.
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      Quote Originally Posted by nito89 View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by zoth00 View Post
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      So what I got from this thread. Lack of sleep can damage your brain. But it is not so severe compared to cognitive negatives as Zoth said. But, to me, the cognitive retardation that occurs from lack of sleep is less of an issue since a good 12 hours of sleep seem to make up for that. What alarms me much more is potential damage one can do as dutchraptor pointed out. Is there really irreversible damage being done? I certainly woulden't want to experience any of this cognitive retardation that is very obvious with lack of sleep to be a permanent state when I'm older!

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      Thank you for your answers, I had one more question concerning this:

      I have found myself getting a worse and worse sleep schedule lately - I go to sleep at 6 AM in the morning and get up at like 1 PM or sometimes even 2 PM the next day.
      And my schedule at university is not that demanding at all right now, since I have changed programs, so I am finished with a lot of the courses already - so basically I have a lot of free time and usually I don't need to get up for any early seminars or anything.
      And I am kind of getting tired of these sleep habits, and the best way for me to get a better schedule is usually to get up at my desired time in the morning, no matter when I go to bed that night, so that I physically force myself to go to bed earlier the next night, and so on.

      Now I wonder, how damaging would this be?
      I have done this a couple times in the past as well, and it does tend to work for some time, I just need to stick with it.
      Let's say I go to bed "when I feel tired" tonight, and then no matter what time this would be, I still get up at 8 o'clock or something tomorrow morning.
      Would this one night have any dramatic negative effects, or is it only truly damaging when you sleep poorly several nights in a row?
      Last edited by Laurelindo; 09-26-2014 at 03:09 PM.

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      It's damaging in the long run. The question here is whether you plan to continue such behavior, and how often it occurs.
      If you spend multiple years following a schedule such as that it will make an impact, a few days a year probably won't account for much.

      The reason it's emphasized at a day to day basis is because you tend to forget about other days when thinking of sleep schedule. The effects might only add up after 100 nights (random value), and this leads some people to believe they can just skip nights because they will likely never reach the value. I have a good sleep schedule and must have already had a full two weeks of days where I didn't get the right amount of sleep since the beginning of the year. You can imagine how fast it might add up for someone who doesn't have a good sleep schedule.

      In general it's probably also a good idea to get a regular sleep schedule while you're in college and should be fresh for everything you learn.
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      So I am going to be screwed then? Lost a lot of sleep during college, just because my major was really busy. And have not been getting 8 hours lately. Will have to start getting more sleep and look into this.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Laurelindo View Post
      Thank you for your answers, I had one more question concerning this:

      I have found myself getting a worse and worse sleep schedule lately - I go to sleep at 6 AM in the morning and get up at like 1 PM or sometimes even 2 PM the next day.
      And my schedule at university is not that demanding at all right now, since I have changed programs, so I am finished with a lot of the courses already - so basically I have a lot of free time and usually I don't need to get up for any early seminars or anything.
      And I am kind of getting tired of these sleep habits, and the best way for me to get a better schedule is usually to get up at my desired time in the morning, no matter when I go to bed that night, so that I physically force myself to go to bed earlier the next night, and so on.

      Now I wonder, how damaging would this be?
      I have done this a couple times in the past as well, and it does tend to work for some time, I just need to stick with it.
      Let's say I go to bed "when I feel tired" tonight, and then no matter what time this would be, I still get up at 8 o'clock or something tomorrow morning.
      Would this one night have any dramatic negative effects, or is it only truly damaging when you sleep poorly several nights in a row?
      Your sleep pattern is messed up. What you need to do is stay up for 1-2 nights straight until you can barely hold on but BE DILIGENT. Wait until about 10PM, and you will fall asleep right away. Then you should be able to adjust. It is just like jet-lag. Also I noticed that depression has a large effect on sleep. I used to be depressed and I couldn't sleep until like 5AM usually, even if I wasn't feeling bad. And then I had no energy in the day. Depression sucks man.


      EDIT: I saw this and freaked out: I don't get much sleep. So try this, you can stay up late and make an exception in your sleep schedule but only if you have an immediate good record. As in, if you have been getting good sleep for at least a week you can do it. That way you can never exceed the limit without knowing. I HAVE TO GET TO BED BYE.
      Birds of the night..

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