As reported in a recent issue of Scientific American Mind, sleep deprivation can result in “power failures” in the brain. Study participants were deprived of sleep for one night and then received functional MRI scans while doing simple visual tasks. Researchers noted that the participants who stayed awake all night had periodic power failures in their brain, which they defined as a sudden, diminished capacity in certain areas of the brain for several seconds.
When you’ve been extremely sleep deprived, you have probably experienced such a loss of cognitive control as well. Your mind seems to drift off completely for a few seconds before you can regain control. We might call this “zoning out.” Another term that scientists use to describe these instances are “microsleep episodes.” Your brain is craving more sleep and, in a manner of speaking, is trying to catch up on a little shut-eye.
When you notice that you are having cognitive “power failures” frequently during the day, that is a signal to ask yourself whether you are getting enough sleep. Your brain is trying to tell you something-time to listen up!