Sleep deprivation

26th October 2019. Reading Time: 8 minutes General, Stuff paranormal investigators need to know. 1578 page views. 0 comments.

From our reaction time to our perception and judgment being affected, even mild sleep deprivation can have an adverse effect on a person. Let's look at what sleep deprivation does to the mind and the body.

Nothing screams passion more than driving several hours to a location for a paranormal investigation. You get up at the crack of dawn, high on adrenaline, and drive to your destination. You have a 12-hour overnight investigation. Why would you sleep? You have access to this amazing place, so you want to make the most you can of the time you have. Maybe you catch an hour or two of sleep before wrapping up and heading home or to your hotel for the night. The next day or at the end of your trip, you feel like you have been hit by a truck! Commonly after a paranormal investigation when a person feels crappy people call it a 'paranormal hangover'. "Working with energy will do that to you" is usually said. While I do believe this to some extent, it is important to understand that we will also feel like this the next day for a much simpler reason ......... We are tired!  While we may feel the physical effects of attempting to communicate with spirits, we also have to acknowledge what staying up all night does to our bodies. Some of the things we are feeling or thinking are not paranormal at all, they are a result of sleep deprivation. To understand things a little better, let's look at how sleep deprivation not only affects our bodies but also our brains.

Why we need sleep

As much as it can be an inconvenience to many of us who are too busy to even scratch our heads, we as physical beings need to sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation:

We tend to think of sleep as a time when the mind and body shut down. But this is not the case; sleep is an active period in which a lot of important processing, restoration, and strengthening occurs. Exactly how this happens and why our bodies are programmed for such a long period of slumber is still somewhat of a mystery. But scientists do understand some of sleep's critical functions, and the reasons we need it for optimal health and wellbeing.

One of the vital roles of sleep is to help us solidify and consolidate memories. As we go about our day, our brains take in an incredible amount of information. Rather than being directly logged and recorded, however, these facts and experiences first need to be processed and stored; and many of these steps happen while we sleep. Overnight, bits and pieces of information are transferred from more tentative, short-term memory to stronger, long-term memory—a process called "consolidation." Researchers have also shown that after people sleep, they tend to retain information and perform better on memory tasks. Our bodies all require long periods of sleep in order to restore and rejuvenate, to grow muscle, repair tissue, and synthesize hormones.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

What causes sleep deprivation?

It is not just a matter of not sleeping one night. While this does cause sleep deprivation, so does not getting your recommended hours of nightly sleep. It is recommended that an adult has between 7 - 9 hours of sleep per night. This is continuous sleep, not broken sleep. Who can say they actually get that on a nightly basis? I know I can honestly say I don't get any more than maybe 2-3 hours of solid sleep and maybe a total of 5-7 hours of broken sleep. And I wonder why I am always so tired? Between working, having a social life, and looking after your family, it is quite likely you are not always getting enough sleep. Add to the fact that those of us who are attending paranormal investigations are most likely doing so on a weekend or our days off from work. They are also usually at night. Because it is a day off, you have probably done something else that day as well. You are probably already tired before you even leave to go to your investigation. You may think to yourself that if you sleep in on a Saturday morning, that will be enough to compensate for the night's upcoming investigation. While this does of course help, unless you have consistent and healthy sleep routines, you are possibly sleep-deprived before you even think of going on an investigation. Throw into the mix the fact that when you are heading out on investigations on a regular basis, that it tends to throw out your body clock as well, it is probably a couple of days of weird sleep patterns. By the time you get your body clock back on track, you are already back at work and facing daily challenges again. To put it simply, it doesn't take much for you to become sleep-deprived.

Symptoms of sleep deprivation in adults include:

  • Constant yawning
  • The tendency to doze off when not active for a while; for example, when watching television
  • Grogginess when waking in the morning
  • Sleepy grogginess experienced all day long (sleep inertia)
  • Poor concentration and mood changes (more irritable)

What sleep deprivation does to our minds

Let’s say that a person who needs eight hours of sleep per night only gets six. This two-hour sleep loss can have a major impact including:
Reduced alertness
Shortened attention span
Slower than normal reaction time
Poorer judgement
Reduced awareness of the environment and situation
Reduced decision-making skills
Poorer memory
Reduced concentration
Increased likelihood of mentally ‘stalling’ or fixating on one thought
Increased likelihood of moodiness and bad temper
Reduced work efficiency
Loss of motivation
Errors of omission – making a mistake by forgetting to do something
Errors of commission – making a mistake by doing something, but choosing the wrong option
Microsleep – brief periods of involuntary sleeping that range from a few seconds to a few minutes in duration.

As you can see, just 2 hours of lack of sleep can make a huge difference in how a person thinks and reacts to things. Our judgment and perception can be altered. The older we are or if we have vision problems means that our vision can become impaired the more tired we are. I know that I am long-sighted. I can see just fine without my glasses, but I wear them or my eyes get tired and I get headaches and blurry vision. Sometimes I don't wear them at all during the day if I am not doing any screen work, but I almost always wear them at night. When I am tired, my vision can be blurry. I learned early on during investigations that in particular, the dark was not my friend when it came to my sight. It always seemed like when I was tired, I was seeing things moving around in the darkness, something at the time I thought were shadow people. I was at the point where I didn't wear glasses then but during that time I was prescribed glasses and wore them to an investigation. I found all of a sudden my vision was a lot better with my glasses when I was feeling tired. I no longer was seeing the moving things in the dark, something again that only seemed to happen when I was tired. It took a little while for me to make the connection, but I got there in the end.

You are more likely to get moody or snappy when you are tired. Sometimes this can happen to people on a paranormal investigation and a person says it is very out of character for them to behave that way. Your patience kind of wears a little thin when you are tired. Sometimes there is nothing worse than being trapped in a room with strangers you don't know or maybe there is someone that you clash with or don't like and you snap. Sometimes people attribute this to a spirit's influence. It is probably more likely they are just a bit cranky because they are tired. I can get quite emotional when I am really tired. The silliest thing can tip me over the edge where I am literally crying over nothing. I have seen this happen before as well during an investigation. We look at it as a form of emotional transference where a person feels they are feeling the emotions a spirit wants them to feel. The person affected doesn't know why they are crying so it is put down the spirit. What if they are really just a bit sleep-deprived and emotional?

In fact a lot of the above symptoms relating to sleep deprivation I have seen people blame on a spirit affecting them. I have even seen people fall asleep and blame it on a spirit making them tired. The funny thing is that we get really defensive over being tired. You know when you say to kids oh you are very tired and they snap back with the typical 'I'm not tired!', we as adults do this too. The insinuation of us being tired implies that we are not in control and we don't like that so we get defensive. Maybe we don't feel like we are tired because we tend to not notice if we are used to running on empty. Maybe a person only associates tired with the feeling of exhaustion which is a different thing.

I myself have experienced things I cannot explain. I know explaining them to someone else will probably mean that in most cases they don't believe me. I have had people tell me things were in my head or have given me another explanation. That very well could be what happened to me, but I feel like within myself it was something more. So I am not at all telling people that they are just sleep-deprived and need to get some rest. What I am saying though is that we need to take some responsibility for ourselves when it comes to the paranormal. Not everything is paranormal. I think we need to look at things in context and not just jump on the paranormal bandwagon every time we feel something during an investigation. The reality is that we are all probably sleep-deprived. Driving a long distance or staying up late to do an investigation doesn't help.

At the end of the day, no one knows their body better than you. You know how you feel and react when you are tired. We tend to not make these associations when we are out investigating. So when something happens during an investigation, step back and ask yourself, 'Is this how I react when I am tired?'.

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