Now that I have finished my one act play (I know one person who has read it completely, thank you Amanda) I can now move on to more pertinent matters: sleep deprivation. For some reason, I just can’t seem to get enough of the stuff. I wake up during the night, cursing, tossing, turning and swearing against ever drinking caffeine or staying up late sitting in garages shooting the shit till three in the morning. Sure, I got a lot of drawing done (and ripped my pants during a sword fight) but I got out of bed rather much too late in the day and with a perpetual fog and haze of SOMETHING creeping in over my head.

Brain haze for days.

What was that fog and creep? Sleep deprivation! Lack of sleep apparently “dumbs you down” according to this article at WebMD. The articles goes into detail:

“Sleep plays a critical role in thinking and learning. Lack of sleep hurts these cognitive processes in many ways. First, it impairs attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem solving. This makes it more difficult to learn efficiently.

Second, during the night, various sleep cycles play a role in “consolidating” memories in the mind. If you don’t get enough sleep, you won’t be able to remember what you learned and experienced during the day.”

This explains why I’ve rapidly become stupider and stupider over the last year! I swear, my reaction time is slower, I retain fewer memories and I simply don’t seem as “sharp” or as “funny” as I used to. It’s interesting because last night, I felt sharp most of the night…until it became clear to me I was howling nonsense at the moon by about 1:00.

Kinda like this but nowhere near as bad ass.

Now, I realized that sleep was an important part of keeping your brain in check and working reasonably well. However, it seems like there may be even more serious problems with sleep deprivation. Sure, memory loss is an obvious problem but it’s amazing to consider how serious that memory loss can actually be:

There are different types of memories. Some are fact-based, such as remembering the name of state capitals. Some are episodic — based on events in your life, such as your first kiss. And some memories are procedural or instructional, such as how to ride a bike or play the piano.

For something to become a memory, three functions must occur, including:

  • Acquisition — learning or experiencing something new.
  • Consolidation — the memory becomes stable in the brain.
  • Recall — having the ability to access the memory in the future.

Both acquisition and recall are functions that take place when you are awake. However, researchers believe sleep is required for consolidation of a memory, no matter the memory type. Without adequate sleep, your brain has a harder time absorbing and recalling new information.

Sleep does more than help sharpen the mind. Studies show that sleep affects physical reflexes, fine motor skills, and judgment, too. One study showed that participants who were sleep deprived were more likely to think they were right when they were, in fact, wrong.

Studies involving memory tests show that after a single night of sleep, or even a nap, people perform better, whether on a test, in the office, on the athletic field, or in a concert hall.

Shit. No wonder it’s getting harder for me to remember people’s names, numbers and faces. Sure, I hit 30 this year (*can’t trust me any more*) and the body does have some fall off in respectability and effectiveness when you hit that number. Lately I’ve also been eating like crap: I partially blame the fact that I work as a newspaperman which might possibly explain why I have little time to sit down and cook a great meal.

But my lack of focus may have much more to do with my lack of sleep. I’ve been kicking around a few intriguing writing ideas but haven’t been able to get any of them done. I’m ten pages short of finishing up a “Seinfeld” fan script. I wrote 100 pages on a book that I’ve now abandoned due to finding most of it unreadable. My fiction is so melodramatic and turgid. Why?

Maybe it’s because of a lack of sleep! Or maybe it’s because of a lack of sex. Or maybe it’s because lack of sleep can lead to less interest in sex, according to the first article I referenced. That would explain why I haven’t wholeheartedly pursued anything with a girl since March or so.

In my sleep deprived state, I thought they were wrestling.

So, do you have any interesting sleep deprivations stories to share? I find that I tend to ramble (no shit) and find my mood decreased, leading to unhappiness for the day and a slight lack of energy and drive. How many of you feel sleep deprived these days?