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How long to recover from deficient sleep?

After seven days of recovery from a 10-day period of deficient sleep, participants in a small study had fully recovered their pre-sleep deprivation reaction speed, but not any other measures of function.

While research has addressed recovery after chronic sleep deprivation, it has been unclear how much time is needed to fully recover from prolonged periods of deficient sleep.

To shed light on this topic, researchers from the University in Kraków, Poland, conducted a small study with several healthy adults who underwent 10 days of purposeful sleep restriction, followed by seven recovery days of unrestricted sleep.

Participants completed the study in their normal day-to-day environments and wore wrist sensors to monitor daily patterns of sleep and activity.

They also underwent daily electroencephalography (EEG) to monitor brain activity and answered questions to measure reaction times and accuracy.

After seven days of recovery, the participants had not yet returned to pre-sleep deprivation performance on most measures of functioning. These included several EEG measures of brain activity, rest-versus-activity patterns captured by wrist sensors, and accurate answers. Only their reaction times had recovered to baseline levels.

While the researchers note that it is difficult to compare these results with other studies that employed different methods, the findings contribute new insights into recovery from chronic sleep loss.

Future research could expand to a greater number of participants, investigate longer recovery periods, and disentangle the order in which different functions return to normal, they state.

Image credit | Shutterstock

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