The other day while cruising online, I stopped dead at a quote from a Harvard researcher named Charles Czeisler:
“We now know,” says Czeisler, “that 24 hours without sleep or a week of sleeping four or five hours a night induces an impairment equivalent to a blood alcohol level of 0.1%.”
The article, “Too Little Sleep: The New Performance Killer,” about the effects of sleep deprivation, prompted flashbacks to last summer and a bit I wrote in July about Summer Nationals in Atlanta:
We’ve all started cataloguing our cognitive deficits. I need to speak more slowly than usual—if I don’t, the words that come out of my mouth are not quite the words I’m trying to say, sometimes not even close. We’re being very careful going up and down the BC stage steps. More of us are muttering to ourselves the way Tanya and I were last night, attempting to be hyper-conscious of what we’re doing.
Our relative down-times, like waiting for pools to come in once the 8:00 events are out, are almost the hardest to cope with. It’s better to wander the hall or do a Starbucks run than just sit. If we stop moving, we become aware of how tired we are, which is dangerous—if I just sit still, I realize that about 75% of my brain just wants to let my eyes fall shut so I can sleep.
According to this article, sleep deprivation affects higher-order reasoning first, and energy that would otherwise be devoted to solving problems is instead used just to stay awake.
Makes me wonder what improvements in the quality of national tournaments we could make if our bout committees and armorers and referees weren’t constantly teetering on the edge of exhaustion, if we were functioning at the equivalent of, say, only half the legal DUI limit.