Imagine you are reading your favorite article in a newspaper while having breakfast, and suddenly your eyes close, and your head drops. Still, you manage to avoid your head getting smacked on the table as you are out of your few seconds' sleep!
“OMG, what was that?” You may ask. The experience mentioned above is called microsleep. This article will teach us about microsleep, its causes, prevention, and treatment. Let's dive in!
What Is Microsleep?
What is microsleep? Microsleep is a sleep episode that occurs when a person is awake but unconscious. It shows that the person is tired due to insufficient sleep. So, what does microsleep feel like? During a microsleep attack, the person's brain cannot register sleep activity as it lasts only a few seconds. And that's why a person may experience body jerks or head falling forward, closing of eyes, or yawning without even realizing it. These episodes can occur anywhere, at home, or while working or studying outside.
So, is microsleep dangerous? It can be dangerous when someone experiences a microsleep episode while driving or working in industries. People working night shifts or truck drivers are affected mainly by microsleep issues. Many people take caffeine pills and play loud music to avoid accidents, but these remedies show short-term results. Getting enough sleep is an ideal solution to prevent microsleep.
Why Do Microsleep Episodes Happen?
What are the microsleep causes? Sleep disorders, shift work, and medications are some of the microsleep causes you must consider before starting any treatment. Keep reading to know the details.
Many people suffer from sleep disorders such as sleep deprivation and excessive daytime sleepiness. The most common reason, lack of sleep, often causes microsleep disorder. If a person is sleep deprived even for one night, they may experience a microsleep attack.
Shift workers are at higher risk of microsleep attacks. The reason is that overnight work timings affect the person's circadian rhythm, thus decreasing their sleep quality. It can lead to a high risk of accidents and mistakes in the job at hand. Moreover, shift workers can experience a lack of focus. Imagine a fatigued and distressed nurse on night duty, handling operation theater equipment with sleepy eyes. Dangerous, right!
Moreover, the person's decision-making ability gets affected, reducing their productivity. Also, as the brain is mostly tired, it fails to receive information and react on time. If avoiding shift duty is impossible, try evidence-based strategies, such as:
- Take brief naps in the middle of long shifts.
- Educate yourself to recognize the microsleep warning signs.
- Take breaks in a restful environment.
- Work in temperature at 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Request your employer for dedicated physical space with beds and comfortable chairs.
Sleep Disorders and Medications
Sleep disorders can affect a person's sleep quality and daytime alertness. Moreover, insufficient sleep makes your brain ineffective in remaining alert and conscious. The following sleep disorders can cause microsleep episodes in a person.
- Restless Legs Syndrome
- Sleep Apnea
- Circadian Rhythm Disorders
Medications such as Psychotropic and Non Psychotropic drugs, Antihistamines, Benzodiazepines, and other prescriptions can also cause daytime sleepiness. However, an article recommends avoiding driving activity until you understand how a new drug may affect you to prevent microsleep episodes. Sometimes adjusting the dose or changing the medication might help.
Boredom and Normal Circadian Slumps
Do you remember a boring lecture that made you yawn unconsciously? We bet you do! It's proof that a monotonous and boring routine can cause drowsiness and sleepiness. For example, the following tasks such as:
- Repetitive work
- Long drive
- Riding in an airplane
- Sitting in one place for longer
It usually happens when your natural circadian rhythms slow down mid-afternoon, late at night, or in the winter months. And hence, many car or truck accidents have occurred at dawn or midnight.
Microsleep and Sleep Deprivation
Are microsleep and sleep deprivation co-related? Yes. Sleep deprivation is the most common cause of microsleep. When a person accumulates sleep debt by working late at night or scrolling social media, the body doesn't get the much-needed 7-8 hours of sleep. Thus, the brain gets tired and tries proactively putting you to sleep in the daytime. Unfortunately, it can lead to accidents when you feel sleepy while driving.
Prevention and Treatment of Microsleep
Are there any ways for the prevention and treatment of microsleep? Research shows that an IoT-based SMART Alert System is created to detect drivers' drowsiness and prevent microsleep accidents. Also, automatic detection of microsleep episodes is carried out with wakefulness tests. Below are the following things you can follow to avoid microsleep episodes.
- Learn to listen to your body. Whenever you feel tired or sleepy, avoid overworking.
- Take micro naps to refresh yourself.
- Avoid long drives when you haven't slept the previous night.
- Follow a healthy sleep routine.
- As per Ayurveda, if you have 'kapha' prakriti (body constitution), do yoga and meditation. Try Udvartana (dry massage) or light Abhyanga with olive or mustard oil.
- Soothe your senses by splashing the eyes and trying 'Nasya,' which means putting oil in the nostrils. Breathework will also help you get quality sleep.
- Learn the new drugs' effects on your body and try to reduce the dose by consulting your doctor.
- You can also ask for alternative medicines.
When to Talk to Your Doctor
Have you tried the above-mentioned preventive ways to avoid microsleep episodes? If yes, and you still find yourself feeling tired and drowsy in the daytime, consult your doctor. They will examine the root cause of your problem and suggest alternative medicines or treatments depending on the underlying cause. Do ensure you follow a healthy sleep routine. It will be easy to combat microsleep issues.
Altogether, microsleep is when you have accumulated sleep debt for several or even one night. You don't realize the consequences until your brain momentarily tries to put you to sleep. So, care for your health and get 7 to 8 hours of sleep. If you work shift duties, pay attention to microsleep warnings. Learn to listen to your body and prevent microsleep attacks. As the quote says, "Prevention is always better than cure!" Isn't it true?