Setting the clock back one hour in autumn can divide us into two categories with our peers: those who claim not to need much sleep (and who seemingly thrive on minimal hours of rest), and those who are left wondering how that could be possible.
In a previous post we highlighted the importance of sleep and the dangers of not getting enough:
- Losing 2 – 3 hours of sleep can result in performance similar to the effects of 2 – 3 beers (based on 8-hours per night being measured as an adequate amount of sleep)
- Driving while sleep deprived can increase your risk of fatality
- Less sleep can make you less motivated
- Lack of sleep can be correlated with lack of willpower
To those of you who resonate with none of the above after a night of less than 8 hours of sleep and claim to thrive on minimal sleep, there is bad news alongside some possible good news. First of all, you may be going through your day more tired than you realize.
Fox news cited a research study, conducted by psychologists, radiologists, and neurologists at the University of Utah, on people who claim to not need much sleep in an article called “The truth about people who brag they don’t need much sleep.”
“The researchers saw something interesting in the brain scans of short sleepers that they didn’t see in the ‘normal’ group: During their time in the MRI, their brain waves exhibited patterns more typically of sleep than of wakefulness.
[…] The researchers think that people who regularly get by on less sleep may have brains with wake-up systems that are perpetually in overdrive […]”
The brain patterns that showed more typically of sleep than of wakefulness (in people who claimed not to need much sleep) suggests the possibility that these people had nothing to stimulate the brain during the MRI and therefore unknowingly dozed off. As Dr. Anderson of the study points out, “People are notoriously poor at knowing whether they’ve fallen asleep for a minute or two.”
What this means for those who claim not to need much sleep is that their brains could be unknowingly dozing off when left periodically unstimulated; such as while driving, doing repetitive tasks, or perhaps during EPPP preparation if ones study habits are not engaging.
Though researchers claim that more research needs to be done on the subject, they found some good news for short sleepers:
“There was some good news for short sleepers, though. Those who said they felt fine on shorter sleep schedules also had brain scans that showed enhanced connectivity between parts of the brain associated with external sensory information and memory.”
It is concluded that this enhanced connectivity “suggests short sleepers perform memory consolidation more efficiently than non-short sleepers” meaning they can more efficiently form a short-term memory into a long-term memory. Therefore, maybe some brains are able to do in short spurts of time throughout the day what other brains do during sleep.
Because EPPP preparation can turn into long hours and may at times feel monotonous, it is important for the short sleeper to stay stimulated while studying and to allow the brain time to rest. This tip goes for normal sleepers as well.
Stay engaged while you study with short-term goals and productive breaks. For example, reward yourself for completing a short term goal such as getting through a certain number of flash cards in one session. When taking breaks, do something that requires less mental energy and avoid digital distractions. Some examples of productive rest could be to take a walk, shoot a few hoops, or take a relaxing bath.