Maximizing Performance with Minimum Sleep

Do you find yourself working long hours, skipping sleep for overnight transmitter maintenance or to work on systems that can't be touched during the day? If so, you may be interested in a study by researchers at the Stanford University Medical Center. They conducted studies to determine the hours for sleeping if sleep-time is limited.

According to the study, when you sleep does make a difference. Christian Guilleminault, MD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the School of Medicine and lead author of the paper that appears in the May issue of Sleep Medicine, said, "The results were surprising. We had suspected that the more sleep-restricted the participants were, the sleepier they would be--regardless of when they went to bed. That's not exactly what we found."

Two groups of men were allowed four hours of sleep per night for seven days. One group slept from 10:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. The other group slept from 2:15 a.m. to 6:15 a.m. All participants were affected by the lack of sleep, but the early morning (2:15 a.m. to 6:15 a.m.) group had better rates of sleep efficiency (percentage of time spent sleeping in the four-hour window) and sleep latency (amount of time spent falling asleep). They also had significantly higher scores on various wakefulness tests, which included staying awake during a series of daytime nap studies. Performance in a driving simulator was tested as well as memory.

One of the more striking differences between the groups was the early morning group was not impacted by sleep deprivation until the sixth day of the study.

For more details on this interesting study, see the Stanford University Medical Center public release Stanford researchers identify best hours for shut-eye when sleep must be limited.