Planning a late night study session? 'Storing sleep' before pulling an all-nighter may improve your physical performance and cognitive function, a new study has claimed. There are many consequences for not getting enough sleep, from driving performance (falling asleep at the wheel) to obesity, diabetes and increased risk of other.
For athletes and the general population, there is decreased performance, higher rating of perceived exertion during exercise and a reduced willingness to exercise.
"It is very common that people in western populations, especially those in professional fields, are sleeping less than six hours per night," said Guillaume Millet from University of Calgary in Canada.
"For some of us, there are many occasions when we need to be even more sleep deprived for a short period of time. We wanted to see what would happen if people could sleep more and benefit later," said Millet. Long-distance drivers, health workers, those working in the military or in aviation and ultramarathon runners could potentially benefit from what the researchers refer to as sleep extension.
The subjects were 12 healthy men, young and good sleepers who slept the same number of hours during the week and on the weekend, suggesting they were not chronically sleep deprived.
They were awake during 38 consecutive hours. They did cognitive tests regularly, as well as a fatigue test where they tried to maintain a given force level for as long as possible.
They also performed the same protocol twice; once with their usual amount of sleep and once where they were asked to be in bed for two more hours (for example, going to bed at 9 pm rather than 11 pm) in the six nights before the 38 hours of sleep deprivation. The researchers found that physical performance was improved when the duration of sleep was extended, likely due to the fact the subjects felt the exercise was easier.
The researchers also showed the sleep extension period had a beneficial effect on cognitive function and sleep pressure, which is measured by the time elapsed from the start of a daytime nap period to the first signs of sleep, called sleep latency.
"Although this needs to be confirmed in further studies, we believe that the longer the exercise, the more beneficial extra sleep may be – especially in a particular sport competition where sleep deprivation is prevalent, as in ultra-endurance races where sleep can be a limiting factor," said Millet.
"We also believe that the beneficial effect of sleep extension would be accentuated in people who are chronically sleep deprived," Millet added. The study was published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.