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Posts Tagged ‘sleep’

Minding One’s Hrs and Zs

Work a weird shift and you can assume your sleep will be off. Angela Bowen, research assistant at the Sleep and Performance Research Center at Washington State University Spokane, calculated as much in a study presented this week at SLEEP 2010, the 24th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC, in San Antonio.

Using mathematical modeling, Bowen compared the sleep and fatigue one might expect between typical working schedules and less desirable ones. Start work between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., and you can expect to get eight hours of sleep in. But pull a shift between 8 p.m. and midnight, and you might be working on less than five hours of sleep.

Flickr image courtesy of Fabbio--

“In comparison to day time schedules, the night schedules had much less predicted sleep and greater fatigue on shift,” Bowen writes in an email from San Antonio—and yes, she’s having a wonderful time.

What’s surprising is that, if you’re going to take a graveyard shift, you’ll want to make it a true graveyard shift and start after midnight. It’s a timing play and it lets a worker sleep right before going to work, arriving rested.

The research has implications for so-called hours-of-service regulations, which currently aim to reduce  fatigue by limiting the hours one works in a day. Such regulations ignore the body’s circadian rhythms, says Bowen. If her modeling is validated in real or simulated work environments, she says, it can be used to recommend more sleep-friendly schedules.

The SLEEP 2010 abstract supplement is available for download on the website of the journal SLEEP at

Go here to read some of the news coverage of Bowen’s study.

This is your brain with not enough sleep

How does your brain work with too little sleep? As police officers, firefighters, nurses, grad students…and most parents…all know, sleep deprivation can cause your mind to react in odd ways. New research by Washington State University scientists has found that the sleep-deprived mind works differently than previously thought.

Hans Van Dongen (right) with Gregory Belenky

Gregory Belenky, M.D. and Hans Van Dongen of the Sleep and Performance Research Center at WSU Spokane use handheld devices to check the sleep habits and reaction times of their sleep study volunteers. Photo by Robert Hubner

Hans Van Dongen and his colleagues at WSU Spokane’s Sleep and Performance Research Center have found that some executive functions of the mind, such as working memory, are essentially unaffected by as much as 51 hours of sleep deprivation. Other functions are highly affected, including information intake, where information becomes distorted before it’s processed in the mind.

Van Dongen’s work appears in the January 2010 journal SLEEP. You can read more about the sleep deprivation research at WSU Today.

To read about WSU’s sleep research, visit Washington State Magazine‘s Spring 2006 feature, “The Secrets of Sweet Oblivion.” 

In the Winter 2009 feature “How We Eat is Who We Are,” you can read about WSU researcher Jim Krueger’s analysis of weight gain and sleep deprivation. (See the sidebar of the article.)


Impact of sleep deprivation different than once thought (WSU Today, Feb. 10, 2010)

WSU Sleep and Performance Research Center