Are You In Sleep-Deprivation Denial? Virtual Reality Experience Proves Its Impact

Are You In Sleep-Deprivation Denial? Virtual Reality Experience Proves Its Impact

Sleepless at CES? Why, yes, many people were. From the late-night parties to the long days of walking the show floor, the 2016 International Consumer Electronics Show was filled with drowsy show-goers looking for the next “it” thing in technology.

I was at the show with Sleep Number, unveiling our latest smart bed. But that wasn’t our only initiative. We also partnered with WorldViz to develop a custom, immersive virtual reality simulation which allowed CES attendees to test a “walking” virtual reality program. Through HTC’s new Vive, individuals were able to experience a simulation of the effects of sleep deprivation. It’s a strange phenomenon, really: Attendees were very eager to experience sleep deprivation virtually — even though many of them were literally sleep deprived.

As a sleep researcher, I strongly believe that quality sleep drives our health and wellness. Yet many people still don’t understand the implications of only getting five to six hours of sleep, even if it’s just one night.

Sleep deprivation is felt by people in different ways; and we may not notice them as much because we mask the effects of sleep deprivation with caffeine. But, rest assured, the effects are still there and continue to stack up. For example (as the VR experience showed), being awake for 18 hours is like having a BAC of .05 (delayed reaction times, blurred vision and trouble concentrating).

Additional research shows that if you get six hours of sleep per night for two weeks straight, your mental and physical performance declines to the same level as if you had stayed awake for 48 hours straight — compromising your memory, mood and decision-making.

I have three main tips: first, you need to prioritize getting those seven to eight hours of sleep. Next, you should optimize it (avoid screens an hour before bed and don’t consume caffeine much past noon). Finally, perfect your sleeping environment: it should be dark, cool and quiet. And don’t underestimate the importance of your mattress and pillow, which should ensure a proper head, neck and shoulder alignment. A fitful eight hours of sleep on a poor mattress is NOT the same as a restful eight on a quality one.

Check out this video about the effects of sleep deprivation to see for yourself. Sleep well!


Editor’s Note: Sleep Number is a sponsor of The Huffington Post’s Sleep + Wellness section.

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