If you lose a night of sleep, you could be twice as impaired, WSU study suggests

For those of you who have trouble falling asleep at night, a new study is saying that’s not good news.

Washington State University researchers had 14 people stay up for a day and a half, and then tested their reaction times.

Researchers say lack of sleep slows down reaction time, and a study at WSU shows how impaired an insomniac could be if they didn’t get sleep at all.

The study had 14 people stay awake for 38 hours. Half that group suffered from chronic sleep-onset insomnia, a type of insomnia where people have trouble falling asleep at night within 30 minutes of laying down. The other group that was tested were normal sleepers before the study.

Devon Hansen, a WSU research professor said that a “normal” sleeper is someone that can sleep soundly and sleep seven to eight hours on a regular basis.

The participants stayed at the WSU sleep lab for five days and four nights. For the first night, they let the participants just sleep and acclimate to the place.

“We also can keep an eye on them when they are being sleep deprived because, inevitably, when people are kept awake for long periods of time, they’re going to fall asleep,” Hansen said.

Staff kept an eye on them with many cameras. One sat right in front of participants at a computer, where they took a reaction test every few hours they were awake.

“When sleep-onset insomnia patients are in the lab and are sleep deprived, throughout the middle of the night, they show twice as much impairment as much as a normal healthy sleeper that’s also being sleep deprived,” Hansen said.

This came as a surprise to Hansen and the rest of the researchers.

That’s because when everyone lacked sleep, researchers thought insomniacs would do well or better than those who can sleep regularly. Researchers thought insomniacs were used to less sleep.

“That was very unexpected, we did not expect to see that these folks with insomnia would be more impaired than individuals, healthy, normal sleeper individuals,” she said.

There are several different types of insomnia. This specific study focused on sleep-onset insomnia.

“That’s part of the issue with insomnia research in general, because there’s several different subtypes of insomnia,” Hansen said.

If you do suffer from insomnia, Hansen said even though life can get in the way sometimes, it’s best to try and keep the same sleep schedule.

Hansen hopes to look at other types of insomnia in another study.

To learn more about this study, you can click here.