Although they may not know it, there has been a time in everyone’s life where they have experienced micro sleep. If you’ve ever been awake longer than you should, then you have definitely knodded off when it wasn’t convenient for you. Sometimes you may knod off for a second or two, and then wake up with a sudden jerk.
That is the definition of micro sleep, involuntarily falling asleep for up to ten seconds, then suddenly waking up. This is a result of extreme fatigue. No matter what people say, sleep is mandatory, and when you do not get enough of it, the brain will force itself to rest. This is because certain neural networks in the brain need sleep to function. If your brain needs to take short 3 second naps to compensate, it can and will.
The worst part about this phenomenon is that we may not even know when it is happening. In fact, you can even experience micro sleep if your eyes are open. People often have two or 3 second bursts of micro sleep while they are awake doing something. A study conducted by the University of Wisconsin in 2011 revealed that during micro sleep, certain nerve cells “fall asleep” while the rest of the brain stays awake.
Micro sleep is the reason why people fall asleep behind the wheel when they’re driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration considers fatigued driving to be just as dangerous as intoxicated driving. They also stated that 6,000 people are killed in car accidents each year because of drowsy drivers. All of those accidents may not of necessarily been caused by someone who was sleeping behind the wheel. A person’s reaction time is severely impaired when they are sleep deprived. Think about how many lives could possibly be saved if people got the amount of sleep that they need.
The key takeaway of this article is that if you feel the sensation of micro sleep coming on, GO TO SLEEP! Pull over and sleep if you need to. If you are at work, try to take a nap on your lunch break. Sleeping for just 20 or 30 minutes is better than slugglishly moving through the day going in and out of episodes of micro sleep.
Security Guard Image courtesy of Brad and Sabrina- https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bank-Security-Guard-Sleeping.jpeg