Microsleep


| 6 Comments
asleep-at-the-wheel.jpg
image from: http://www.silverbearcafe.com

I am sure you have all had moments when we're awake, but swear that you're sleeping. For me, this happens a lot during class time or when I'm watching a movie. It's only a short period, but often times it can seem like hours. I've always been curious to know what is really happening to me as well as why. I found out this is called microsleep. Microsleep is defined as "an episode of sleep which may last for a fraction of a second or up to thirty seconds". Microsleep can occur at any time, but is usually caused by sleep deprivation. 

Just a few months ago a Metro North train derailed in the Bronx. This accident killled four and injured 75 people. Researchers have been studying the case and trying to find out what happened to the driver during the time of the accident. He recalls being in a daze, until suddenly he was hitting the breaks. In this article by ABC News, they suggested that the driver was in microsleep. During microsleep a person is in a sort of "auto-pilot" they explained. I find this study extremely interesting because there's no real way to know what happened during that accident. Although they can make assumptions, they have no evidence to test. What third variables could have contributed to this accident if it were microsleep.

I did some more research on the issue and found some interesting information on the Huffington Post Healthy Living Section. Dr. W. Christopher Winter, a director at the Martha Jefferson Sleep Center. "Sleep scientists define sleep onset as the first time you have 15 seconds of sleep in a 30 second period." This basically means that throughout that period we experience microsleeps throughout the longer period. It turns out that for most of that time period, we are actually awake. The Doctor also explained that you are not very likely at all to occur this dangerous microsleep if you are well rested. The only people to usually experience this are extremely sleep deprived people.

To do more research on this topic I watched some videos of actual experiments with drivers who were sleep deprived. The particular video I chose to share, shows a man being instructed to follow directions while driving. Although he was comfortable driving around, once obstacles were thrown into the situation he realized that his reaction times were quite weak. His driving proves the deadliness of sleep deprivation. They also monitored his frame of mind throughout the study. Over the 2 hours of the study, he was actually asleep for 25 minutes! I could not believe this, I was so alarmed. His sleep occurred while he was waiting in between tasks. Below is the link to the video which I suggest watching, it's extremely interesting and telling.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=haTApXretfg

So next time you are driving when you feel sleepy, think again. You may actually be physically asleep during your drive. This is putting yourself as well as everyone else on the road in danger. Now rest up for the next few weeks before finals, you don't want to be in microsleep during those tests! 





.




6 Comments

This actually occurs to me quite frequently, I didn't know there was an actual name for it! It is a very strange sensation! Perhaps there are ways to prevent this from happening such as making more time to add a couple of extra hours into your daily sleeping routine? Check out this article for some ideas! http://wonderwoman.intoday.in/story/how-to-avoid-microsleep!/1/85636.html

This is really interesting because it's happened to me! I use to always be one to go to bed early and get up early. Last year, I started staying out later with friends but then still having to get up early for school. It got to the point where I was barely sleeping at all every single night and I was exhausted everyday. On week nights my mom told me I always had to be home by 11. I begged her the one night to stay at my boyfriends a half an hour away because I was too tired and she didn't believe me and thought I was just trying to spend the night. After a few threats from her, I decided I'd probably be fine and tried driving home. After driving for about ten minutes I started dozing off and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I slowly realized my eyes kept staying shut longer and longer until they were shut for about 15 seconds while I was driving. I ended up pulling over and getting picked up, but I definitely shouldn't have been driving in the first place and people need to be more educated about how serious it can be to drive when you're so deprived of sleep.

This blog is very interesting and I didn't realize that this occurred because of sleep deprivation. I'm not sure if the incident occurred or if it was just incorrect information but as far as I know the derailing of the train occurred a couple days ago (specifically December 1st) not a couple months ago. Nonetheless, it's terrible that lack of sleep caused 4 people to lose their lives and several others were injured. The video on the test drivers was very cool and actually quite frightening. It's concerning to think that so many people who are on the road could be those who are not well rested and could potentially cause an accident. Many people have even been known to say that they do not remember driving to a certain destination because they were unaware of their surroundings.

This happens to me frequently, and I attribute it to my abnormal sleep schedule as a student. I have found myself dozing off in class, on the megabus, while watching a movie, just feeling tired not even realizing I'm asleep, and then all of a sudden jerking awake. Being in this awake but also asleep state, I wonder if it is unhealthy for your brain. Sleep deprivation certainly has unhealthy affects - read more about them here:
http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/02/13/8-effects-of-sleep-deprivation-on-your-health/

I actually fell asleep driving this summer, and it was one of the scariest experiences I've ever gone through. I was driving home late at night after working a few hours early in the morning, going to a wedding reception outside in the heat, and then going to see friends in the evening. It was around 2 a.m. and I was completely exhausted and couldn't wait to get home and go to bed. I was on the exit ramp getting off the highway to go home and i fell asleep for what seemed like a split second and crossed a low-lying median into the oncoming traffic lane. I did not hit anyone, but I did cause some damage to my car. My Dad came and asked 30 questions of if I was drinking and driving, which I hadn't been, and changed my tire for me and took me home. Everyone has heard people warn that driving while being sleep deprived is as dangerous as drunk driving. After my personal experience, I find that statement true. If I would have fallen asleep still on the highway I probably would have killed myself or someone else, and I definitely would have totaled my car. I was lucky and simply had to buy a new wheel (about $150 dollars to fix it altogether).
This study, performed in Australia focused specifically on how sleep deprivation influences young drivers (participants were ages 17-24). The study was observational, and asked the 20,000 participants to fill out a questionnaire on their sleeping habits, and then over a two year period saw if any police-report accidents occurred. The conclusion of the study was that sleep deprivation, especially in young adults, leads to an increased risk of accidents, more so during the night when it is dark than during the day. With the large sample size and looking at the methods of the study, reverse causation is ruled out, and confounding 3rd variables causing the crashes is possible, but not highly likely.

This is really interesting because this happens to me all the time. Falling asleep for 5 minutes and waking back up feels like I was sleeping for an entire hour. In this article they talked about sleep deprived peoples brains going in a sort of off line state while the rest of the brain appears awake. Certain aspects of performance such as what you were talking about with driving are affected as specific groups of neurons are falling asleep within the brain. As we talked about sleep in class and how it’s a rapidly reversible state of reduced responsiveness which reduced motor activity and reduced metabolism goes to show sleep deprivation can affect more than just an individual’s motor skills. Also, when I’m sleep deprived I notice that not only do I have very vivid and realistic dreams but my roommate says I talk very clearly in my sleep and I usually wake up feeling more tired than I was the night before.

Leave a comment

Subscribe to receive notifications of follow up comments via email.
We are processing your request. If you don't see any confirmation within 30 seconds, please reload your page.

Search This Blog

Full Text  Tag

Recent Entries

Preventing allergies before they start
Allergies affect so many Americans, and some people suffer from so many different allergies that it limits the activities…
Sea Turtles in Danger!
Being one of the oldest species living in the world today, sea turtles need to be protected. These animals help…
Have scientists found relief for autism patients?
Chances are, you know someone who has been diagnosed with autism. It has impacted so many lives all over the…

Old Contributions