Sleep And Fatigue

Sleep is essential for restoring the normal balance between the different parts of the central nervous system. During sleep, the body's physical functions are rested and some renewal takes place; sympathetic nervous activity decreases and the muscular tone becomes almost nil; the arterial blood pressure falls, the pulse rate decreases, the blood vessels in the skin dilate and the overall basal metabolic rate of the body falls by up to 20%. On average, most humans need physiologically about 8 h of sleep per night; however, in modern society most adults report an average of 7-7.5 h sleep per night, with 75% reporting daytime sleepiness (Rosekind et al., 1994).

Sleep loss can be acute or cumulative. In an acute situation, sleep loss can occur either totally or as a partial loss. It can accumulate over time into what is referred to as 'sleep debt'. As little as 2 h of sleep loss can result in impairment of performance and levels of alertness. Sleep loss leads to increased reaction time, reduced vigilance, cognitive slowing, memory problems, time-on-task decrements and optimum response decrements. It has also been shown that performance variability increases with sleep loss.

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