Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Adjusting to Sleep Deprivation

A reader asks:
As a fan of your blog, I had a quick question that I was hoping I could get your advice on. I’m a 20 year old male, living in Australia where it’s currently a Wednesday night. On Saturday night I will be attending the final session of a fitness and self protection course I signed up to at college. According to friends of mine who had done the course before, the final session is akin to basic training for army recruits! (Here’s where you come in)

I’ve been told by friends that practically from Saturday night to Sunday lunch time they deprive you of sleep and run you through non stop intense fitness exercises like running, push-ups, sit-ups etc.

What I was thinking of doing was perhaps changing my sleeping pattern so my body will effectively not be missing out on sleep. Let’s say I stayed up tomorrow night (Thursday night), slept all of Friday, stayed up all Friday night, and slept all Saturday - come Saturday night my body will expect to be awake and it won’t be as gruelling – right? Would this be effective? Is this enough time for my body to adjust or would I just be making things worse?

It's too short of a time for you to adjust your biological clock- the body is only capable of adjusting 1 hr each day. You are essentially facing 2 problems- 1) sleep deprivation and 2) circadian rhythm dysfunction (you will be expected to be active during a time when your body expects you to be asleep).
I recommend that you keep your normal sleep schedule and then try to take a 2-3 hour nap right before your final course begins. If allowed during your course, caffeine and Provigil would be helpful. Bright light exposure during your course, if possible, would also be helpful.
Hope this helps
Michael Rack, MD

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