Brain Health,

#213: Sleep Deprivation with Dr. Paul Whitney

January 05, 2018

If you did fine without it, they wouldn’t call it “Deprivation”

We live in a 24/7/365 go-go-go culture.  And, admittedly, there’s a lot to look at.  But taken to the extreme, the whack-a-mole nature of demands on our attention leads to cutting back on one all-too-compressible block on our schedule: the amount of sleep we get daily.

Sleep Deprivation is a major, global, and growing problem.  You’ve seen the articles about going without sleep “being like you’re drunk” and weakening cognitive performance in a way that is difficult to recover from.

But — as Professor Paul Whitney explains:

“Sleep deprivation is not a blunt instrument.”

Not all areas of the brain are equally affected, nor all our abilities when we’re sleepy.  (In some cases, there may even be upsides.  See Episode #91.)

Dr. Whitney, from Washington State University, studies the fine-grained details about a lack of sleep’s effects on vigilance, psychomotor performance, situational awareness, mood, and a variety of other factor which don’t always move in lockstep.

  • What should you absolutely avoid doing while over-tired?
  • What can you possibly get away with?
  • How do naps stack up against night-time sleep?
  • What does sleepiness do to our emotions?
  • And on the grand scale of Big Problems, just how big a problem is having a sleepy public?

I’m tempted to say “this interview is worth staying up for”… but I won’t.  Instead, give a listen once you’re wide awake and can be ready to deal with any surprising detours.  😉

Not science, but fun

In the Ruthless Listener Retention Gimmick, I mentioned this creepy Halloween-esque story that cropped up in our sleep deprivation research.  Good for watching alone late at night in a graveyard, if you’re into that sort of thing.  The Russian Sleep Experiment

Show Notes
  • 00:00:36

    Episode introduction: Sleep Deprivation with Dr. Paul Whitney.

  • 00:01:54

    This Week In Neuroscience: Incidence of dementia in urban versus rural areas.

  • 00:05:05

    5-Star review shoutouts.

  • 00:05:45

    SDS news and updates.

  • 00:07:52

    Guest introduction: Dr. Paul Whitney.

  • 00:08:55

    Interview begins.

  • 00:10:40

    How the brain behaves when you are asleep.

  • 00:12:25

    Sleep deprivation and sustained attention.

  • 00:13:35

    The more subtle effects of sleep deprivation.

  • 00:15:10

    Differences between acute sleep deprivation versus on-going sleep deprivation.

  • 00:17:32

    Growing public awareness about the importance of sleep and factors that work against people acting on this increased awareness.

  • 00:19:06

    Naps and sleep hygiene.

  • 00:20:38

    Individual differences in the effects of fatigue and sleep loss.

  • 00:22:45

    Sleep deprivation and mood.

  • 00:23:37

    The Task Impurity Problem.

  • 00:25:55

    Genetic variations in resilience and vulnerability to sleep deprivation on particular tasks.

  • 00:27:26

    Frontal striatal pathway and cognitive control.

  • 00:31:23

    The three possible variations of DRD2.

  • 00:34:25

    The Psychomotor Vigilance Test (PVT) and sleep deprivation.

  • 00:36:17

    Baseline metabolic measures and other indicators of getting sleepy.

  • 00:38:40

    Local Use Theory and the selectivity of sleep deprivation effects.

  • 00:39:58

    Dr. Whitney's final comments and advice on sleep deprivation.

  • 00:42:55

    Morning people and evening people.

  • 00:43:49

    Interview wrap-up.

  • 00:44:40

    Ruthless Listener Retention Gimmick: Sleep in sea elegan worms.

  • 00:47:40

    Episode wrap-up.

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