What are some secrets of sleep that can benefit EMS providers?

Fatigue is a risk factor for medical errors and driving collisions; here are some tips to improve your sleep


A question posted on Quora asks, “What are some of the best-kept secrets of sleep?” Read an opinion on the topic, and add your own thoughts to the comments.

1. There is no such thing as too much sleep. If your body thinks you've had enough, it will just wake up.

2. 4 consecutive hours during the night is the minimum requirement for cognitive function. Not good or effective cognitive function, but still. Any less and you may as well be drunk because that is the level of functioning that your brain is at. I know this is true for college-aged students; I'm not positive about other age groups.

3. Sleep converts day to day experience to long term memory.

4. People who have other mental health [issues] usually have inconsistent sleep patterns. I've heard from a UC Berkeley lecture on sleep that your brain converts "negative" memories first. So if you consistently get too little sleep, you're more likely to have a bleaker outlook on life because your more "positive" memories weren't effectively converted to long term storage.

5. One sleep cycle is approximately 90 minutes. After 45 minutes, most people are in deep sleep. If you wake up in the middle of this, you're usually groggy and it takes a while for you to come out of it and wake up fully. The time it takes to come out of it usually aligns with the amount of time left in your sleep cycle.

6. Naps should either be less than 40 minutes OR the full 90. You really don't want to wake up from deep sleep.

7. Something like 40 percent of people aren't natural nappers -meaning they just can't nap. And that's okay! It just means that you need to treasure your night sleep even more and give yourself the time you need.

8. Some people say that napping makes them groggier and more tired before. Here's the science: when you're super sleep deprived, you're running on adrenaline. When you finally sleep a bit, you're rested enough to realize how tired you actually are. It's not the sleep that's making you lazy. You just have a lot of sleep debt.

9. Sleep debt: if you can, sleep without an alarm clock. If you sleep longer than six to 10 hours, you probably have a lot of sleep debt piled up. For example, say you're a person who needs nine hours to function. If you only get eight hours every day for a week, it doesn't seem like much during the day; BUT that's seven hours of sleep debt that's piled up. This is probably where sleeping in on the weekend comes in.

10. You need approximately half an hour of sleep for one hour awake. This ratio is what gives us the eight hours thing: 24 hour day, 16 hours awake, eight hours asleep.

11. If you've payed off all of your sleep debt, you should be able to go to bed and wake up the next morning without an alarm.

12. The exact time length for sleep varies from person to person, so when you're relatively well rested, and have paid off much of your debt, experiment with naps and with night sleep to see how much you actually need.

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