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Lack of sleep can make you feel drunk

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Feeling tired is something many New Zealanders are familiar with - 55% of Kiwi’s say they never wake up refreshed. Studies have shown that every five hours you spend awake is roughly equivalent to one standard alcoholic beverage in terms of how your brain will perform. After 20 hours of being awake, your performance is impaired as if you have exceeded the legal drinking limit.

Friday March 14 is World Sleep Day, an annual event organised by the World Association of Sleep Medicine (WASM) to raise awareness of sleep-related problems. This year’s theme "restful sleep, easy breathing, healthy body" aims to lessen the burden of sleep problems on society through better prevention and management of sleep disorders.

Sleep experts advise not to drive after a sleepless night. Sleep deprivation leads to an increase in the stress hormone cortisol, a small drop in body temperature and compromised immune function. A sleep-deprived brain in return acts like a brain under the influence of alcohol. In a hand-eye coordination task, each hour you are awake sets you back as much as an extra 0.004 per cent alcohol concentration in your blood.

"Getting less than five hours of sleep is effectively like being inebriated. Perception of the world is subtly different when overtired as sleep impacts brain function more than it does the body," says Sleep Specialist Dr. Alex Bartle.

Currently 13% of New Zealanders aged 20-59 suffer from insomnia - symptoms include trouble falling asleep, staying asleep and being unable to function properly throughout the day. Younger people seem to suffer more in this situation that older people because they don’t deal with sleep loss as well.

Snoring can also be a common cause of sleep deprivation for sufferers and their partners. It is a symptom of a more serious sleep disorder - sleep apnoea. This condition causes dangerous pauses in breathing at night. Slow wave sleep, often referred to as deep sleep can also be affected and impair mental performance triggering insomnia and non-restorative sleep, the worst kind of sleep.

Dr. Bartle says, "We spend nearly one third of our life sleeping and the number of people in New Zealand affected by sleep deprivation or sleep disorders is growing. It is important to recognise if you have problems sleeping or wake up consistently tired or not feeling refreshed."

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