Sleep has always been somewhat of an enigma to the scientific community. In fact, scientists still don't know why humans actually need sleep, though research has shown that most humans need between 6-8 hours of sleep every day to operate within their normal capabilities. Research and surveys have shown that only about 30% of Americans get the recommended amount of sleep each night, which means about 70 million of us are sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation can have profoundly negative impacts on your ability to perform even the most basic tasks. Research into the effects of sleep deprivation has shown a number of faculties that are impaired by a lack of sleep.
Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Your Brain
Sleep deprivation can harm the brain's functions in many different ways. Below are a number of basic impairments that are caused by a lack of sleep.
- Memory loss – The hippocampus is the part of the brain that learns and remembers new information. It is believed that the brain "replays" information learned earlier in the day while you sleep, so a lack of sleep negatively affects your ability to retain information.
- Mood swings – Sleep deprivation can cause people to become unnaturally irritable and emotionally volatile. People who are deprived of sleep are more likely to pick fights or act violently.
- Hallucinations – A rested brain prevents sensory overload by separating stimuli and filtering out what is not relevant. Without enough sleep, the brain has trouble performing this basic task and the result can be anticipating objects that are not actually there.
- Poor decision making – Research has shown that people who are deprived of sleep tend to make riskier decisions. Scientists have actually seen the prefrontal cortex (the brain's "reward center") light up when sleep-deprived people are faced with an economic decision. This suggests that they expect to win more when they are tired than they would while well-rested.
- Decreased attention span – When a well-rested person gets bored, there is the tendency to "tune out", but sleep deprived people have also shown an impairment in visual sensory processing, meaning there is an entirely different level of disengagement for someone lacking sleep.
Sleep Deprivation & Truck Drivers
Sleep deprivation has long been a problem for commercial truck drivers. Often asked to work long hours in order to make deliveries on time, it is not uncommon for truck drivers to be operating their truck while suffering from mild or severe sleep deprivation. Truck drivers and their employers have a responsibility to make sure that the driver is able to safely operate the vehicle. Part of that responsibility calls for making sure that all drivers are properly rested before they start their shift.
If you have been involved in an accident with a commercial truck and the truck driver was sleep deprived, the driver and the trucking company can be held liable for allowing the driver to operate the vehicle while impaired by a lack of sleep. You should consult with an experienced truck accident attorney about the facts of your case to learn whether or not you are entitled to compensation. Contact our attorneys for a free case evaluation.