Summary of sleep debt

William Dement and Christopher Vaughn in “Sleep Debt and the Mortgaged Mind,” relates sleep debt to a loan. The authors tried to stress the importance of understanding the serious if not fatal consequences of sleep deprivation. We must not only learn to recognize the dangers of sleep debt, but how we should manage it as well. The Authors in this well written article went into details of how we should pay back or sleep debt, and learn from tragic incidents in the world as well as our life’s.

The authors begin the article with a National tragedy that everyone has at least heard about, the Exxon Valdez Disaster. Where the oil tankers spilled millions of gallons of crude oil and it was said to be due to the ship master's alcohol consumption. In fact, the cause of the crude oil spill was from the third mate, whom was extremely slept deprived. When in fact the in it’s final report that National Transportation Safety Board found that sleep deprivation and sleep debt were the cause of the accident (Dement and Vaughn, 498).

When the report from The National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research finally was finished, it identified that sleep deprivation was the “direct cause” of the Exxon Valdez oil spill (Dement and Vaughn, 498.) Although there is an abundance of knowledge about sleep, Dement and Vaughn stated that there is "none is more important than the topic of sleep debt"(498). Sleep debt to this day still remains a concealed and misunderstood on how big of a problem it is in society today. Sleep deprivation also played an important role in the NASA explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.

Although technical complications were the main reason behind the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger (Dement and Vaughn, 499). It was due to in adequate data on the O-ring function at low temperatures and the decision to launch to the space was a catastrophic error in judgment by NASA managers (Dement and Vaughn, 499). The managers at NASA were also at fault due to the fact their jobs require them to give up sleep.

The authors believe that unfortunately it will take another major tragedy before the sleep commission can make everyone act on the issue of sleep deprivation and it fatal consequences. Dement warned student that “drowsiness should be a dramatic warning and to get out of harm’s way instantly” (499). Dement and Vaughan criticizes educational organizations for not teaching students about sleep debt, sleep deprivation, and sleepiness issues; although, the information has been around for more than two decades (Dement and Vaughn, 500). They compare sleep to hunger:

If you do not fill your appetite until you are satisfied, you will remain hungry. If you don’t get an adequate amount of sleep, you will start to rack up sleep debt (Dement and Vaughn, 500). If a person tries to ignore sleeping, a person body will become like a ticking time bomb and the brain will try and force your body to sleep to pay off the debt you owe to yourself. Supposedly, every hour of sleep lost has to be paid back eventually. For example, if you only get five hours of sleep one night, you have to sleep thirteen hours the next night in order to regain those lost hours of sleep (Dement and Vaughn, 501).

However, if you sleep a couple extra hours over the average eight hours needed every night you will become even more tired. Researchers have used the “Multiple Sleep Latency Test” to measure how long it takes an individual to fall asleep. Most individuals fell asleep after one to five minutes but had interruptions every ten to fifteen minutes (Dement and Vaughn, 501). In short, people need to recognize how much sleep they are losing. Regardless of what we might think we do not sleep of a large sleep debt that has occurred over a large number of sleep deprived nights in one night of twelve or thirteen hours of sleep our bodies do not work that way.

The authors stress that everyone needs to know the negative outcomes of sleep debt. The authors use an example of a friend who was also a professor at Stanford University (Dement and Vaughn, 503). The friend was in a bike race, did not get very much sleep for several days during the race (Dement and Vaughn, 503). After the race he slept for nine hours for two nights in a row, he awoke feeling rested for the drive home, but he started falling asleep while driving down the mountain (Dement and Vaughn, 503).

Their friend saw a sign for a restaurant ahead he already knew that he was drowsy and was looking forward to that hot cup of coffee and relaxed and that is when the unthinkable happened (Dement and Vaughn, 503). The car went over a ledge, and he managed to walk away with only some cuts and a paralyzed arm (Dement and Vaughn, 503).

This example was a severe case of the physical debt of sleep deprivation. Another research project was conducted to test the links between alcohol and sleep deprivation while on the road. In a study conducted by the Henry Ford Hospital of Sleep Disorders discovered a big difference if you have consume a small amount of alcohol after a single eight hour shift, compared to what the average college age student does of going two nights with much sleep and consuming alcohol make you severely more sleep then consuming alcohol after only eight hours (Dement and Vaughn, 504).

People are not aware of drinking and driving while having a large sleep debt to repay. Even a small amount alcohol with a large sleep debt can cause an effect called “fatal fatigue” which makes them a danger to themselves and other (Dement and Vaughn, 504). Sleep debt is an important aspect of almost every road accident with alcohol involvement. When you do not make payments on your loan, a debt accumulates. It continues to do so until you pay and pay in full. Dement says the same thing happens each night when you do not get your full eight hours in.

The authors want to inform the readers that everyone could have some sort of sleep debt even if they are unaware. They suggest going to bed early instead of staying up late doing pointless activities. The mind and body would feel rejuvenated once waking from a good night’s rest. Sleep deprivation is something that everyone should start taking more seriously so that we can avoid any more catastrophic nation or person tragedies in our world.

Work Cited Dement, William C. and Christopher Vaughn. “Sleep Debt and the Mortgaged Mind.” Writing and Reading Across The Curriculum. eds. Laurence Behrens and Leonard J. Rosen. 11th ed. Boston; Longman, 2011. 497-05. Print.