Specifically, the study focused on participants sleeping fewer than six hours for eight consecutive nights. Researchers studied the sleep patterns of nearly 2,000 middle-aged adults who were relatively healthy and well educated. Among them, 42% had at least one night of sleep loss, sleeping 1.5 fewer hours than their typical routines.
Participants were tasked with recording their mental and physical behaviors in a diary for eight consecutive days, allowing researchers to review how sleep loss causes wear and tear on the body. Participants reported a multitude of angry, nervous, lonely, irritable and frustrated feelings as a result of sleep loss. They also experienced more physical symptoms, such as upper respiratory issues, aches, gastrointestinal problems and other health concerns.
Soomi Lee, lead author and assistant professor in the School of Aging Studies at the University of South Florida, reported that the biggest jump in symptoms appeared after just one night of sleep loss. By day three, the mental and physical effects of sleep loss worsened, with the research showing that the human body got relatively used to repeated sleep loss. However, that changed on day six, when participants reported that the severity of physical symptoms was at its worst.
"Many of us think that we can pay our sleep debt on weekends and be more productive on weekdays," said Lee. "However, results from this study show that having just one night of sleep loss can significantly impair your daily functioning."