Sleep Deprivation

Christian Yoon

Sleepy Time Tom
Pilcher and Huffcutt's Meta-Analysis

Webster's Dictionary Definitions


Pilcher and Huffcutt's Meta-Analysis

Sleep deprivation is an experience most college students go through at least once during their studies. A cursory poll of my friends and fellow students has shown that all of them have experienced, and expect to experience again, some form of sleep deprivation. Due to the common nature of this affliction in my life and the lives of my peers, I have decided to research the different effects of depriving sleep. According to Webster's Dictionary, sleep deprivation is a general lack of the necessary amount of sleep. Princeton University defines sleep deprivation as a form of psychological torture. In 1996, June J. Pilcher and Allen I. Huffcutt published an article named Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Performance: A Meta-Analysis; in their research Pilcher and Huffcutt apply a technique known as meta-analysis which allows them to mathematically analyze the effects of sleep deprivation. The following table from Pilcher and Huffcutt's paper shows the critera for their analysis.

Pilcher and Huffcutt Table 1
Pilcher and Huffcutt, Table 1

Pilcher and Huffcutt developed their study of three kinds of sleep deprivation: short-term (<=45 hours), long-term (>45 hours), or partial (<5 hours in a 24 hour period). They also organized a series of tasks (simple, complex, short, and long) to test their subjects' cognitive and motor performances, as well as their mood. This study disproves several psychological studies that claimed that sleep deprivation has minimal effects on human functioning. Only around 9% of the group that was sleep deprived could perform on the level of the control group (which of course had been getting adequate amounts of sleep). The following table shows the results of the experiment.

Pilcher and Huffcutt Table 2
Pilcher and Huffcutt, Table 2

The research also shows that sleep deprivation has the greatest effect on the subject's mood, a smaller effect on cognitive performance, and the smallest effect on motor performance. However, even in the area where they were least affected, the sleep deprived subjects performed much worse than the control group. Also, partial sleep deprived test subjects did much worse in their performance tests than those with short or long-term sleep deprivation. Motor ability seemed to be affected at a constant rate with any kind of sleep deprivation but mood and cognitive abilities were affect much more by partial sleep deprivation.

Webster's Dictionary Definitions


Webster's Dictionary lists a number of different effects that can be caused by sleep deprivation. The list includes aching muscles, blurred vision, clinical depression, colorblindness, daytime drowsiness and naps, decreased mental activity and concentration, depersonalization/derealization, weakened immune system, dizziness, dark circles under the eyes, fainting, general confusion, hallucination (both visual and auditory), hand tremors, headache, hernia, hyperactivity, hypertension, impatience, irritability, lucid dreaming (once the subject sleeps), memory lapses or loss, nausea, a condition of the eyes involving involuntary rapid rhythmic eye movement known as nystagmus, psychosis, pallor, slowed reaction time, slurred/nonsensical speech, weight loss/gain, severe yawning, and symptoms similar to Attention-deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and alcoholic intoxication. In 1996, the University of Chicago Medical Center performed a study which showed that a human's ability to metabolize glucose was impaired by sleep deprivation which could lead to early stages of Type 2 Diabetes. A study performed in 2000 showed that sleep deprivation actually boosted activity in the parietal region of the brain which is explained by the brain trying to compensate for the lack of sleep. This increased activity is associated with an improvement on memory, but in sleep deprived subjects, the increased activity did not improve the memory performance of the subjects and their test results were lower than those with adequate sleep. Sleep deprivation also seems to have links in impairing growth and increasing obesity. This occurs because a significant lack of sleep disrupts different hormones that affect growth, metabolism, and appetite. Sleep deprivation has a myriad of uses. The most obvious is the scientific use of sleep deprivation in a controlled way to study the functions of sleep and other biological mechanisms. Other uses include torture, treatment for depression, and training for military personnel. The only other reasons listed for uses of sleep deprivation are voluntary applications, mainly for school students. This lack of sleep can be linked to the well-known "freshman fifteen" because of the affected metabolic hormones as well as the increased food intake during the later parts of the night. Studies show that sleeping earlier obviously helps prevent students from falling asleep in class and correlates to higher grades.



Ultimately, sleep deprivation is a condition that is very detrimental to the health of those who go through it. Students go voluntarily deprive themselves of adequate amounts of sleep due to procrastination, work, or sacrificing time to sleep for recreational or personal activities. However, these decisions that students make are not worth the possible repercussions and health problems.